I have been intrigued this week thinking about Saul of Tarsus' (later called the Apostle Paul) conversion experience, his profound encounter with God on the road to Damascus. This was such a defining experience for Paul, recounted several times in the Scriptures, that even the term "Damascus Road experience" has been adopted into common language! This experience in many ways became the center of his prophetic witness to the world, as well as a core teaching for the Church.
He met the risen Lord Jesus (resurrection got his attention!) He would go on to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by Ananias (another significant and meaningful experience for Paul). But also, in the words Jesus spoke, "Why do you persecute me? . . . I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:4-5) Paul begins to get a revelation of the mystical union between Christ and His followers. It unfolded to become the mystery once hidden but now revealed, Christ in us the hope of glory (see Eph 3:2-3). This began to shape how Paul understood and saw God's plan and purposes.
He sees the true nature of the Body of Christ, the people of God as now living in union and fellowship with God himself. This is why he comes out fighting against any form of division, infighting or hurtful words and actions within the church. To do so he says, is to be hurting yourself because of this union, but perhaps more significantly, hurting the Lord himself as we all belong to Him. He has confidence in this prophetic message because it was exactly what he was doing until the Lord himself brought it to his attention so dramatically!
When I think about my own conversion and early experience of Christ, I can see how that has also shaped my prophetic message in many ways. I remember a time as a young Christian responding to an invitation to go forward for prayer ministry for anyone sensing a call to ministry/leadership. As I stood at the front and people laid hands on me and prayed, I quickly became aware of a presence, a real weight upon me. I remember widening my stance thinking 'there's no way I'm gong to fall over in front of everyone'! But the 'weight' just seemed to increase until I couldn't resist any longer. I fell back into someone's arms and they mercifully helped me down until I was laid out on the floor.
I think that God was simply wanting me to relax into a place, really into Him, where he could begin the real work he wanted to do. As people continued to pray I became quite oblivious to their presence and even to the presence of a full congregation! But what I became most conscious of was the Lord himself, right in front of me, speaking to me from the cross. I gazed upon his tortured body but his face radiated profound love. I don't really remember specific words spoken but I felt cocooned in the Father's love, through the Son's love.
I balled my eyes out, with deep sobs that lasted quite some time. I think people around me were a but concerned about what was going on but for me, there was a deep sense of connection and intimacy with the Father. He was 'touching' some deep pain in me but in a way that was so liberating and freeing. It was as if I was having open heart surgery in the Spirit that introduced me to a love that I had never experienced before, so pure, so generous, so vulnerable.
Grace, Mercy & Peace,