Day 183

Transform Your World

Wisdom Psalm 79:1,8–13
New Testament Acts 22:1–16,21
Old Testament 2 Kings 5:1,9–16

Introduction

Our friend from Scotland, Dez, told me, ‘I was a doorman; a bouncer. I was quite a violent guy. I took a lot of drugs. I was a cocaine addict. My life revolved around fighting, taking drugs, partying and living in that cycle.’

He said, ‘One night I had taken a massive overdose. I felt like I was having a heart attack. My heart was jumping out of my chest. And I cried out in what I didn’t know then was a prayer: to live. And I woke up the next day and I never touched coke again.’

After that, Dez kept meeting Christians. One in particular was Fiona, who really lived out her faith. He asked her out a few times, but she said ‘No’. Mainly because he wasn’t a Christian.

She gave him a Bible and he started reading: ‘I started tearing through it trying to find something and I ended up finding Jesus. Suddenly, my whole life made sense.’

He called Fiona and asked her to take him to church. There he heard about Alpha. ‘On Alpha, I met Jesus and it changed my life. I was this drug-fuelled, violent person and now I love people and love God. I just want to share my story.’

Dez studied Theology and now works for Alpha Scotland.

And, he married Fiona. He is now a happy husband and a loving father.

Dez sums up his complete transformation: ‘Jesus turned the questions I had about whether God exists into a belief that God cares about me. I have changed from a violent, loveless drug addict to a man who is happily married and full of love. I’m now running Alphas for all types of people, from gangs to grannies, and I’m seeing their lives changed.’

Wisdom

Psalm 79:1,8–13

1 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
 they have defiled your holy temple,
 they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
8 Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
 may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
 for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, God our Saviour,
 for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
 for your name’s sake.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
 will praise you for ever;
from generation to generation
 we will proclaim your praise.

Commentary

Pray for the transformation of your nation

Change is possible. God can transform individual lives. He can also transform cities and nations.

In the sixth century BC, the people of God went into exile: ‘God! Barbarians have broken into your home, violated your holy temple, left Jerusalem a pile of rubble!... We’re nothing but a joke to our neighbors, graffiti scrawled on the city walls’ (vv.1,4, MSG). As the psalmist considers the destruction of the temple and the exile, he sees that God’s name is dishonoured.

In the UK today, we see churches being closed and God’s name dishonoured. God’s people are once again the object of scorn and derision.

The psalmist prays, ‘How long do we have to put up with this, God?... we’re at the end of our rope. You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break. Your reputation is on the line. Pull us out of this mess, forgive us our sins – do what you’re famous for doing!’ (vv.5,8–9, MSG).

This is a prayer of desperation. It is also a prayer of faith. God has the power to transform the situation. Dare to dream about a time when God answers your prayer for your nation: ‘Then we your people… will praise you forever’ (v.13).

Prayer

Lord, as we look at our city and our nation, we cry out to you for help. May this nation be a place where, once again, your name is honoured.

New Testament

Acts 22:1–16,21

1 ‘Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defence.’
2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Then Paul said: 3 ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 ‘About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?”
8 ‘“Who are you, Lord?” I asked.
‘“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 ‘“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked.
‘“Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 ‘A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 ‘Then he said: “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
21 ‘Then the Lord said to me, “Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”’

Commentary

Testify to the transformation in your life

You have a testimony about the transformation Jesus has brought to your life. It may not be as dramatic as Dez’s story or the apostle Paul’s. Nevertheless, your story of a relationship with Jesus is powerful.

Once again, Paul was in trouble. The crowd had been ‘stirred up’ (Acts 21:27). People had made false assumptions about him (v.29); they were trying to ‘kill him’ (v.31). They beat him (v.32) and arrested him (v.33). He was ‘secured with two chains’ (v.33, AMP). He faced mob violence (v.35). How did he respond?

He told them about Jesus. As so often, he told his testimony, sharing what Jesus had done in his life. It is a very good model of how you should give your testimony whenever the opportunity arises. The Holy Spirit is living within you and he always brings about change in our lives as he transforms us into the likeness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). When you have an opportunity to tell your story, what should you say?

  1. Tell them what you were like before
    Identify with your audience. Paul identifies with his audience. He speaks in Aramaic (Acts 21:40). He stresses the parts of his life that the people of Jerusalem would identify with. Because he is speaking to Jews, he speaks only of his Jewish qualifications: ‘I am a good Jew... I’ve always been passionately on God's side, just as you are right now’ (22:3, MSG).

    Paul points out that he used to persecute Christians putting them in chains, flogging them and having them thrown in prison (vv.4–20), just as they were attempting to do to him at that moment.

    When you give your testimony, find points of contact with your audience. For example, Alpha testimonies often begin with elements of their story that others can relate to, or which are likely to resonate with the guests. They start by saying things like, ‘I was an atheist… I was an alcoholic… I was a drug addict… I was antagonistic to the church.’

  2. Tell them what happened to you
    Paul then gives a very detailed account of what happened to him when he encountered Jesus. He heard Jesus’ voice when he appeared before him on the road to Damascus. Jesus asked him questions and gave him commands. Paul listened and did as Jesus instructed.

    We encourage people to describe their conversion in very concrete terms, as Paul does in this passage. It is the details that make it real and powerful.

  3. Describe the difference Jesus has made in your life
    Ananias told Paul to be a ‘key witness to everyone you meet of what you’ve seen and heard. So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God’ (vv.15–16, MSG). The one who had gone around persecuting Christians was called to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (v.21).

    Again, we encourage people who give their testimony to describe in a concrete way, the transformation Jesus has made in their lives. There is great power in the story of a changed life. Telling your story is a way you can play a part in transforming the world around you.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the power of a testimony. Help me never to grow tired of describing the transformation Jesus has made in my life.

Old Testament

2 Kings 5:1,9–16

1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. ... He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.’
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed”!’ 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’
16 The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

Commentary

Recognise that transformation is an act of grace

God performed several miracles through Elisha. There were feeding miracles (4:38–44), an axe-head floating (6:1–7) and blinded Arameans (vv.8–23). Not only were miracles performed through him, but he also had an extraordinary prophetic gift: ‘Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom’ (v.12). In the middle of these accounts we read of a remarkable transformation in a Syrian general’s life.

Naaman was general of the army under the king of Aram. He was ‘a truly great man’ (5:1, MSG). But he had a problem; ‘he had leprosy’ (v.1). He hears about the possibility of healing through the power of God via a young servant girl (vv.2–4).

He is used to getting things by using his power and his money: ‘So he went off, taking with him about 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothes’ (v.5, MSG).

When he eventually gets to meet Elisha’s messenger, he is told, ‘Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be as good as new’ (v.10, MSG). Initially, he loses his temper and stomps off (vv.11–12). He expected to be healed in a grander and less humbling way. Pride can keep you from receiving everything God wants to give you.

However, encouraged by his servant, he dips himself in the Jordan seven times and ‘his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy’ (v.14). He is utterly transformed. He says, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel’ (v.15).

He offers to pay for his healing. Elisha refuses to accept anything. Gehazi makes the terrible mistake of trying to make money out of God’s grace (vv.19–27). Healing and transformation are a gift from God by grace. They cannot be earned.

Prayer

Father, thank you for your miraculous power to heal and to save. Help me to have the same attitude as Elisha and never to try to take any credit, whether material or otherwise, for myself. Thank you that transformation comes by grace. It is a gift of your undeserved love.

Pippa adds

2 Kings 6:16

‘“Don't be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”’

If you feel surrounded by difficulties and under attack remember that, when everything seems to be against you, God has a mighty army that can come and deliver you.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 79:9b, MSG

Pull us out of this mess, forgive us our sins— |do what you’re famous for doing!

Thought for the Day

Dare to dream about a time when God answers your prayer for your nation.
reader

App

Download the Bible in One Year app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Sign up now to receive Bible in One Year in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

Sign up now
reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on the BiOY website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible in One Year Commentary is available as a book.

References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

Bible in One Year

  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS

Change Language

Bible in One Year is available in the following languages:

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more