“What do you want?” the annoyed man seated across the plane aisle asked. Pastor John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard church movement, had been caught staring at him; for he saw the word “adultery” supernaturally written across the man’s face. Then he sensed the Holy Spirit drop a woman’s name into his mind.
“Does the name Jane mean anything to you?” he asked the stranger. The man was stunned and immediately asked him to accompany him to the plane’s cocktail lounge, away from his wife.
As though the situation wasn’t unnerving enough already, John suddenly felt the Holy Spirit give him a serious word of warning: “Tell him if he doesn’t turn from his adultery, I’m going to take him.”
I don’t know about you, but the first time I heard this story, I did not expect it to go well. Yet somehow, before the plane touched ground, this man burst into tears, repented, confessed his sin to his wife, and both he and his wife received Christ.
There are occasional moments in life where God speaks very, very loudly to wake us up to our sin in order to heal us and lead us into repentance. For Paul, that moment came while he was on his way to persecute the church. During his journey, a bright light came out of the sky and blinded Paul as Jesus corrected him audibly. It was this moment of judgment and rebuke that would lead Paul to finally see God clearly.
Bible scholar N.T. Wright has suggested that Paul may have been practicing a popular meditation when this moment happened. In that meditation, one would start by imagining the base of God’s throne and then work their way up to the face of God. Under this premise, when Paul finally got to the face of the God he loved and served, he was surprised to see the face of the God he persecuted every day: Jesus.
Sometimes we need to be startled awake, lest we fall asleep in our sin.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 9:1-9 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Learn more about N.T. Wright’s theory in this video. For Wimber’s story, see chapter 10 of his book, Power Evangelism.