But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. – Acts 7:55-58
During a conversation earlier this week, someone said to me – quite confidently – “Adults don’t actually change.”
Adults don’t change.
This phrase has haunted me ever since. Though I knew it to be untrue as soon as she said it, I wonder how often we act as though it’s true. How often do we hopelessly look in the mirror and think, “This or that thing about me will never change. I’ll never experience freedom from that sin. This is just who I am.” How often do we look at others and make the same judgments?
In Acts 7, a young man named Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was there in full support of the violent murder of this Spirit-filled Christ follower who would not stop preaching and teaching the Gospel.
One can only imagine the mocking, angry, confused faces of those who watched Stephen – full of the Holy Spirit, face aglow – in his final breath say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” It must have seemed so foolish! To die for the sake of a man named Jesus who had claimed to be the Savior of mankind!
Through the power of the Spirit of God, Stephen understood the wisdom of God.
Saul did not.
Over the next two years, Saul ravaged the church in Jerusalem, persecuting Christian after Christian, hating the Gospel and believing it was foolish, in the name of a God he thought he knew.
And then, on the road to Damascus, Saul was changed forever.
A murderous, zealous adult…changed forever by the Holy Spirit.
I have to wonder if Stephen’s glowing, peaceful face flashed through Paul’s mind as he was writing parts of 1 Corinthians.
…we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 2:7-10
Do you see how miraculous this is? Paul came to understand that which Stephen knew to be true – that God’s eternal reality was infinitely better than anything his mind could conceive!
The entirety of Scripture – and the story of the Gospel at work in the world since the Bible was written – tells us that adults DO change.
The Spirit of God changes us! When we receive the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus, He transforms us through renewing our minds to make us more and more like Christ.
When we, as Christians, struggle with sin, it’s often because we lack faith. We fail to believe that God truly has prepared something extraordinary for us. We think something right in front of our faces might be better. Or we believe the lie that adults can’t actually change.
But we serve a God who – even in our sin – pursues us and uses our failures for our good and His glory. (Thank God for this truth!) Stephen’s death and Saul’s persecution of the church resulted in Christians fleeing Jerusalem and taking the message of the Gospel to people and places far away from home. Even in the looming darkness of that time, God was building His kingdom, and in the process, lovingly took Stephen home and adopted Paul as a son, filling him with His Spirit.
It seems fitting to end with this message Paul wrote to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Adults do change, because we serve a never-changing God who changes us through the power of His Spirit. We are not merely human. We have the mind of Christ. This is the impossibly good truth of the Gospel.