Finding the Truth Under the Layers
The Apostle Paul’s conversion was dramatic, literally changing his entire life in one moment. Saul (Paul) was not just any Roman guy! He was wealthy, powerful and highly educated, one of the ‘beautiful’ people. He had the power to order murder and it happened. Then came his encounter with Jesus. There he was, just minding his own business, traveling to another city to persecute more Christians. The NIV Bible, in Acts Chapter 9, says he was “breathing out murderous threats” and obtaining letters enabling him to arrest more Christians.
Paul’s Conversion Changed His Entire Life
Suddenly, Saul found himself on the ground and blind. Jesus spoke to him asking Saul – why are you persecuting me? Saul (or Paul) immediately addressed that voice saying – Who are you, Lord? He knew this was someone far more powerful than him and addressed him with respect. Saul became Paul. At some point not long after his conversion, he went into seclusion for about three years. He states that he did not go to Jerusalem to the apostles. Instead, he went somewhere in Arabia, or the desert, and learned from Jesus. Later, he did go to the apostles and they confirmed that the gospel he had been taught was exactly what they were teaching and what Jesus had taught.
Paul’s Conversion Included A Private Retreat With Jesus
Think about it. You’re Harvard educated with multiple degrees. You have money and power. Then one day, an invisible force knocks you to the ground, blinds you, and everything you have believed is suddenly peeled away. The blindness caused by money, power and worldly knowledge is healed by seeing the light of Christ. However, you need to go away for a private retreat in the desert with Jesus for a few years! Wow.
Paul’s Dramatic Conversion was Followed by A Long Process of Taking off the Lies and Putting on the Truth
The result of Paul’s conversion and the subsequent process of unlearning was that he counted everything from his previous life as trash – he counted all things as loss – in comparison to the prize of winning Jesus, of apprehending Him. For Paul, nothing else mattered. All the false layers had been removed and he had seen Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In addition, he understood all the lies because he had believed and lived them, and then been set free from them. This gave him a greater ability to help others find the truth and recognize the lies.
The long and short of this is contained in the Scripture, written by Paul, about renewing our minds.
“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image.
Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind.
As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing and complete.” Romans 12:2 The Voice
The Unlayering of Paul was a Process of
Putting Off and Putting On – That’s What Renewal Is
Paul talked about the principle of taking off and putting on in Ephesians 4. We are to put off the old man and put on the new one. The armor of God is to be put on and used; lies are are to be replaced by truth; our mind should be renewed and renewal is a process of taking off the old and putting on the new. Paul knew exactly what this process involved because he had done it.
While our experience in unlayering and unlearning probably won’t be as extreme as Paul’s, it’s still necessary. The great thing is that it isn’t just a negative process. We aren’t just getting rid of things, we’re replacing them with something better.
Something Better Than Spinach!
If I have learned something that wasn’t true, then I need to replace it with the truth! If a burden was placed on me, I take it off and put on the yoke of Jesus. His burden is easy and light! That’s the wonderful part about the process. God is not a God of “no’s and don’ts.” He’s the God of “yes and do.” If He asks us not to do something it’s because there is another, far more wonderful alternative – a positive one that will be for our good. Rather than eating spinach, He offers a huge, gooey piece of chocolate cake. Ok – if you don’t like chocolate, make it whatever you want it to be. You get the idea.
Our Goal is Eternal
For us and Paul, the process of unlayering is a “taking off” and it is always balanced with putting on. Whatever you left behind is nothing compared to what lies ahead. Find the truth. Find it in every area of your life. Put it on you like a cloak. Throw the lies at the foot of the cross and walk in freedom. Paul’s eyes were set on the heavens and Jesus. That was what mattered. His life was hard but his joy was evident in every word he wrote. There is no promise of a trouble-free life here on earth. There is the promise of a future filled with the joy of life in Christ; of grace, mercy, peace, freedom, and eternal life with Christ.