One of the most dramatic chapters in the Bible is found in Acts 9. It is the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who after his conversion to Christ became known as Paul the Apostle. As Saul of Tarsus he was a zealous enemy of Christ. Acts 8 ends with Saul consenting to the brutal stoning of the Christian martyr Stephen. Fueled by his hatred of Christianity, the Scripture records, “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this Way [Christians], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Saul’s plan was to see more Christians silenced and Christianity snuffed-out from the earth. Little did Paul know, as he made his way toward Damascus, his life was about to take an abrupt detour that would change the course of Christendom!
In Paul’s own words he recalls the life-changing incident, “And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me” (Acts 22:6). “And [I] fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And [I] said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:3-5). The Resurrected Christ confronted Saul with his life and his kicking against the pricks. “Kicking against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, which was familiar to anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The prick or goad was a pointed stick that was used to urge some stubborn animal to move. There were at least four pricks Saul kicked against: (1) The extraordinary life of the historical Jesus, (2) the bold life of the Christians, (3) the serenely, victorious death of Stephen (4) and his own dissatisfaction with the Jewish religion. Those four “pricks” were inescapable for the restless conscience of Saul, culminating into an encounter with Jesus Christ.
The rebellious heart of Saul, who became Paul, was captured and transformed by holy-love and there prostrate in the dirt the Bible records, “And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’” (Acts 9:6). “And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do” (Acts 22:10). Later standing before King Agrippa, Paul recalled the Lord’s instructions to him, “For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [for unto] the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:16-17). Paul adds, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:18). From that day forward Paul lived his life in obedience and service to Christ and reaching others for the sake of the Gospel. He put Christ and others first, with no thought of his own welfare, esteeming others above himself (Philippians 2:3).
When meditating on Paul’s encounter with the living Christ, one discovers differences in his response with those who today spout the Meism Gospel. The Gospel to which Paul surrendered was anchored in a Christocentric question, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The Gospel of Christ, which Paul proclaimed, was first and foremost about obedience to the Living Savior who died for the sins of humanity and to whom all men owe a debt of gratitude. Paul’s encounter with Christ produced in him a profound obligation to share the glorious message of Christ’s redeeming holy-love with Jew and Gentile. The Gospel Paul espoused was about being a living sacrifice no matter the cost, even if it meant the loss of one’s own life. The Gospel Paul preached was not about being focused on saving one’s self from difficulties, but in spite of difficulties pointing others to the salvation in the resurrected Savior. The Gospel Paul declared was not about becoming comfortable in one’s sins, but repenting and forsaking the very sins for which Christ died. The Gospel Paul expounded was not about using people to get what one wanted, but helping others to discover their need of Christ. The Gospel which motivated Paul to sacrificially travel the globe proclaiming, was not about clinging to vanishing earthly possessions but admonished others to focus on the riches found in Jesus Christ. The Gospel for which Paul willingly gave his life was not about getting one’s way, but about walking obediently in His way. The Gospel that transformed Paul was not about self, but glorifying the name of Christ (I Cor 6:20).
On the other hand, the Meism Gospel preached in many circles today is Humanistic, it is all about self and putting self first. The Meism Gospel is about what can Christ do for me, not what I can do for Him. The Meism Gospel is more concerned with earthly possessions, not in laying up treasure in heaven. The Mesim Gospel is about Christ being my bell-boy, not me being His surrendered servant. The Meism Gospel is about Christ being accommodating of me in my sin, not about turning from my sin. The Meism Gospel is about other’s honoring and recognizing me, not me esteeming others above myself. The Meism Gospel is about how the church can benefit my life, not about how I can serve the church and benefit those who are members. The Meism Gospel is about giving excepting something in return, not giving out of gratitude because Christ saved my soul and if I happened to receive something in return that is an added bonus. The Meism Gospel is about God yielding to my will, not me in sacrificial obedience being yielded to His will. The Meism Gospel protects self at all costs, not about protecting the honor of Christ at all costs. The Meism Gospel is easily offended, not in extending forgiveness to others. The Meism Gospel puts self-interest first, not what is the best interest of the whole Body of Christ. The Mesim Gospel exalts self, it does not exalt the Name that is above every name, the name of Christ.
It is clear to see, the Gospel of Meism is so consumed with self-interest that it causes one to take their eyes off the true Gospel of salvation, surrender, sacrifice, soul-winning and service to the risen Savior. Since the Meism Gospel is self-absorbed it stifles one’s compassion, is annoyed with inconveniences, paralyzes evangelism, is at home with self-sufficiency, and is apathic about the welfare of the Church if it is not feeding their “needs.”
Without question we need a return to the glorious Gospel of the living Christ, which Gospel resulted in Paul in surrendered worship asking, “Lord, what would you have me do?” Paul writes to the Corinthians that “you do not belong to yourself” (I Cor. 6:19). Christ purchased us with the price of His own blood in order to set us free from the pursuit of the false gospel of Meism. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).