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Unlikely Converts—three characteristics

Updated: May 11, 2021

Week 19 in the Word – May 7, 2021

Have you ever met an unlikely convert? Or are you one yourself? Saul of Tarsus may have been the most unlikely convert in the Bible. He was a persecutor of the early Christian church. As a Jew, he considered Jesus to have been an imposter and he was passionate about putting to death those who followed him. One day, traveling on the road to Damascus, Saul saw a great light and heard the voice of Jesus from heaven. He was converted and, changing his name to Paul, ended up writing much of the New Testament and dying as a martyr for the One he had formally opposed. [You can read the whole story in Acts 9].

Paul was not the only unlikely convert. In this week’s Bible readings, there are other converts that surprise us. One was a Syrian military commander. Another was a Samaritan woman with a rocky history for broken marriage and cohabitation.

What makes an unlikely convert? There are several possible characteristics.

1. Unlikely converts may have a history of being in serious opposition to the gospel. They are not neutral. They have invested time and energy in taking sides against God and the message of the Bible. Maybe they have spoken out publicly against the church or Christian doctrine. They consider believers to be naïve, unsophisticated dummies while they see themselves as part of the enlightened elite.

2. An unlikely convert may have gone very deep into a life characterized by immorality. Their very identity is built around their life of sin. It is hard to imagine him or her recognizing their wrong, humbling themselves, confessing their sin and getting off the wide road and getting on the narrow road (Matt. 7:13-14).

3. An unlikely convert may have the delusion that the narrow road is the most miserable and unsatisfying life imaginable. They believe that happiness is found in the material things of this world or the pleasures which a lawless life offers. In our reading this week we will meet characters that exemplify some of these characteristics. Some come to believe, and some do not but their resistance to believing is obvious.

But God… He has all power, and He can change the hardest heart and the most resistant mind. Never underestimate the power of God for salvation to all who believe. By the way, Paul, the most unlikely convert ever, wrote that in Romans 1:16.

Looking back

Last week we finished II Samuel and began 1 Kings, coming to the end of King David’s life and reign. We read about Solomon’s glory days but also his ignominious decline which set the stage for his son, Rehoboam’s diminished kingdom. The once impressive united kingdom of Israel is now divided into the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. These will coexist for a few centuries before both kingdoms will be subject to invasions and captivity by the foreign empires of Assyria and Babylonia respectively.

In the New Testament, we finished Luke and saw how the resurrected Jesus Christ revealed Himself to His disciples, taught them how the Scriptures pointed clearly to Him and all that had transpired. He then commissioned the disciples to be His witnesses to all the world proclaiming the gospel message of repentance for forgiveness of sins. Luke closes with a brief reference to His ascension into heaven.

Looking ahead

Our Old Testament readings this week will take us through the end of I Kings and into II Kings. We will be meeting some of the kings who followed Rehoboam on the throne of Judah and some who followed Jeroboam on the throne of Israel. A bright spot in this history is the ministries of the prophets, Elijah, and Elisha. They were both powerful messengers of God’s truth authenticated by numerous miracles.

In the New Testament we will begin reading the gospel of John with its focus on Jesus as God the Son, the Word who became flesh. John’s concern is to present Jesus in all His glory so that readers might believe that He is “the Christ the Son of God and that by believing you might have life in His name” (John 20:21).

Tip of the week

Clear your desk. Guess how long it took?

I have an unusually large desk (almost 15 sq. ft). For months I have been piling “important” papers on it-- journals and magazine articles--I must read. Someday. There was so much stuff that the surface area left for me to work was only 2 sq. ft.

Every time I began going through the mess, I would get distracted by reading one of the magazines or doing a project that needed finishing. Meanwhile, the desk never got cleared. I was inefficient. It bugged me and slowed me down.

Then one day I remembered a tip I read years ago about clearing up a desk. You get a cardboard box. You put everything on the desk in the box. You label the box with a date and store it out of sight. Then with a clean desk you go back to work. If you are missing something specific you look in the box to see if its there.

In six months, you throw the box in the trash. It has only been two days, but so far, I haven’t missed anything in the box. My desktop is clear, and I feel so much better when I sit down to work. The Bible says “…all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). The quote is out of context, but the principle still applies. What I could not do for months, I did in 9 minutes.

Figure 2 Nine minutes later. A clean desk!

Week of May 7-13, 2021

May 7/Day 127 Born of God (I Kings 14-15; John 1:1-28) Audio here. May 8/Day 128 Stop Limping and Follow Christ (I Kings 16-18; John 1:29-51) Audio here. May 9/Day 129 Foolish Views of God (I Kings 19-20; John 2) Audio here. May 10/Day 130 Seeking Darkness or Light (I Kings 21-22; John 3:1-21) Audio here May 11/Day 131 Life or Wrath: Which Will It Be? (II Kings 1-3; John 3:22-36) Audio here May 12/Day 132 Two Unlikely Converts (II Kings 4-5; John 4:1-30) Audio here May 13/Day 133 Authority and Faith (II Kings 6-8; John 4:31-54) Audio here If you do not have a copy of my book you may want to order one here. However, you may also access the daily audio recordings generously provided by my friend and pastor Charlie Evans in the chart.

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