What happened during the conversion of St Paul? What inspired his spiritual transformation? What can we learn from this story?
The biblical story of the conversion of St Paul chronicles the transformation of Paul the Apostle from persecutor and heretic to a devout follower of Jesus. The conversion of St Paul was set off after an encounter with the risen Christ on the famous road to Damascus, leading to the realization that his doubt of the messiah was misplaced.
Here’s what happened during the conversion of St Paul.
The Conversion of St Paul: What Happened?
The conversion of Paul shows how someone can win the spiritual war in their mind.
Fasting and trapped in blindness after his traumatic Damascus Road encounter with the risen Christ, Paul recognized, with the help of Ananias, the lie that had ensnared him: that Jesus was not the messiah, and even more, that it was his (Paul’s) God-given duty to persecute Jesus’s followers and stamp out this new faith. This realization led to the conversion of St Paul from a heretic to a devout follower of Jesus.
Formerly a persecutor of Jesus’s followers, Paul now recognized Jesus as the messiah and experienced a total spiritual transformation that changed the course of his life. His post-conversion life centered on a new reality. He felt himself to be a totally different person (Philippians 1:21, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, and more). He was no longer a slave to thoughts, emotions, or circumstances. He chose to live in awareness of Christ’s power working in him through the Holy Spirit. He made the Christian believer’s power to destroy strongholds, arguments, and opinions that oppose God, and to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), one of the keynotes of his preaching and teaching. In this way, the conversion of St Paul can teach us how to choose a new reality for ourselves.
The Conversion of St Paul: What You Can Learn
The conversion of St Paul can teach us a few key lessons:
Choose the Mind of Christ
In Philippians, Paul observed that because God has recreated us in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit’s power and the ability (and responsibility) to choose whether to live for the Spirit or for “the flesh” (our old, fallen self-nature with its sinful desire). The ability to change our heart-minds is built into us as Christians.
Here’s how to choose the mind of Christ and escape the devil’s strongholds.
- Choose stillness instead of noise and distraction.
- Choose community instead of isolated autonomy.
- Choose to surrender and trust in God’s goodness instead of fearful anxiety.
- Choose worship instead of cynicism.
- Choose humility instead of self-importance.
- Choose gratitude instead of victimhood.
- Choose to serve God and others instead of resting in complacency.
You can reimprint your neural pathways. New thoughts physically alter the brain by blazing new neural trails. Your brain becomes what you think about.
The specifically Christian implications of these things are staggering. You can choose to create healthier neural connections that are more conducive to joyful, Christ-empowered living instead of anxiety, depression, and defeat. God can heal even a lifetime’s worth of toxic thought grooves. This positive Christian brain change simply requires a combination of your disciplined effort and God’s grace.
In addition to this, you can learn from his attitude of gratitude. Paul had more reason than most to consider himself a victim. He suffered threats on his life, beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck, betrayal by friends, and many more such things, any one of which might be enough to throw many of us into spasms of self-pity and victimhood. But Paul told the Philippian Christians that his difficulties were all joy to him (!) because they had served to advance the cause of Christ. He saw his trials as opportunities for experiencing and sharing God’s goodness.
Take Charge of Your Thoughts
Taking charge of your thoughts is in fact biblically commanded—which reinforces that it’s actually possible. This comes out clearly in the apostle Paul’s exhortations to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). When you act on this biblical command, you give God so much space in your thinking that your negative thoughts shrink by comparison.
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- Satan’s master plan for poisoning your mind with toxic thoughts
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