Pick A Side
There is a Twix Candy commercial where the candy consumer is encouraged to “pick a side”. The lightheartedness of the ad is based on the fact that both sides (the left and the right) are the same. But in choosing which way to go in our spiritual journey, the two sides are vastly different. The two options have no similarities at all. One path leads to Life Eternal while the other leads to Eternal Damnation and Torment.
In Acts 22, the Apostle Paul shares his testimony about a time when he was strongly encouraged to “Pick A Side”. At the time the encounter occurred, his name was Saul. He was on a mission to persecute, imprison and sometimes support the deaths of those who believed in Jesus Christ.
While on this quest, Jesus Himself interrupted Saul's journey to the city of Damascus. This is Saul speaking:
Acts 22:6 AMPC - But as I was on my journey and approached Damascus, about noon a great blaze of light flashed suddenly from heaven and shone about me.
Saul had official letters that gave him authority to capture Christians in Damascus, chain them and take them to Jerusalem for punishment.
Acts 22:5 AMPC - As the high priest and whole council of elders (Sanhedrin) can testify; for from them indeed I received letters with which I was on my way to the brethren in Damascus in order to take also those [believers] who were there, and bring them in chains to Jerusalem that they might be punished.
Saul thought he was on the right side and the winning side. But his choosing a side was based on erroneous thinking. He had head knowledge but lacked spiritual insight. In life, we all choose a side. Even those who think they haven’t, have. By not choosing to walk fully with and for the Lord, they have chosen the side of darkness. Jesus offers light but He doesn’t twist people’s arms to make them “see” or receive the Light. It’s an individual choice. We all must “pick a side”. (See Acts 8:1-3 and Acts 9:1-6 for more details about Saul’s actions.)
On the journey to Damascus, the Presence of the Lord addressing Saul was so strong that Saul was knocked to the ground. He was obviously confused about what was happening. But he did recognize that the Presence was greater than himself because he addressed the Presence as “Lord”.
Acts 22:7-8 AMPC - And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me [harass and trouble and molest Me]?
And I replied, Who are You, Lord? And He said to me, I am Jesus the Nazarene, Whom you are persecuting.
It is clear from the narrative that Jesus was speaking expressly to Saul. Jesus called him by name. Plus the men traveling with Saul saw the blazing light and heard a sound. But they could not distinguish the voice or understand the words Jesus spoke.
Acts 22:8-9 AMPC - And I replied, Who are You, Lord? And He said to me, I am Jesus the Nazarene, Whom you are persecuting.
Now the men who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear [the sound of the uttered words of] the voice of the One Who was speaking to me [so that they could understand it].
After Jesus identified Himself to Saul, Saul asked a second question. The first question was, “Who are you?” The second question was, “What do you want me to do?”
Essentially, Jesus’ answer was, “I want you to pick a side.”
Acts 22:10 AMPC - And I asked, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord answered me, Get up and go into Damascus, and there it will be told you all that it is destined and appointed for you to do.
It is interesting to note at this point everyone on the trip continued as they were before this divine encounter took place. The same number of people continued on the journey. The destination was still the same. The route they traveled to get there stayed the same. But the purpose for the trip is now totally changed. The spirit with which they are approaching the city is very different than it was when they began the route. The traveling companions are the same. The distance to travel is the same. But the expectation, the purpose and the agenda have been tremendously altered.
The surprise that Saul would eventually learn is that he was still going to have incredible involvement with the people he originally set out to engage. What a turn of events! Instead of persecuting the believers at Damascus, Saul would soon become one of them!
After Saul reached Damascus there is no more mention of his traveling companions. Some of you reading this are strategic in the Kingdom of God like Paul (his name was changed after he was converted). There are those who started the journey with you, traveled with you, went the same road that you went and arrived at the same places with you. But at some point you and those former companions chose different sides. Of the men on the road to Damascus that day, Jesus only spoke to one of them. Of all the disciples in Damascus who were faithfully serving the Lord, the Bible only records Jesus speaking to one of them. That man’s name was Ananias. During the three days of Saul’s conversion experience the Bible only records Jesus speaking directly to Saul and Ananias.
Certainly other people are greatly affected by a professed believer’s obedience or disobedience. A man named Judas who lived on Straight Street must have heard from the Lord. He hosted Saul at his home for at least three days. (Acts 9:11) Whose life is affected by the decisions you are making? Ananias was not eager to be in Saul’s company because of Saul’s reputation of severely mistreating the people of God. But Ananias obeyed the Word of the Lord. (Acts 9:10-19)
Does your relationship with the Lord cause people to draw closer to the Lord or drift away from Him? Does observing you cause people to love Him or leave Him? Are you a strategic tool in the hand of the Lord? Does your life help others to become stronger in God? Or are you a stumbling block in the toolbox of the enemy? Do you make it hard for people to trust God and follow His way? Is the way you live helping or hurting the Kingdom of God? Do your actions and words promote peace or pain?
Which team are you making stronger? The team of the devil or the team of the Lord? Some people “say” they are a fan and supporter of one team. But when they think no one is looking, they often sport the “colors” of the other team. What “colors” are you wearing? The “colors” of peace, kindness, love and patience? Or is your spirit draped in the “colors” of the enemy? Do you stir up strife? Do you fly off the handle in anger? Are you harboring unforgiveness in your heart?
Some people say they are fans of one team but their actions and words give strength and popularity to the other team. Colors are one way of identifying with certain groups. Many organizations show their solidarity by the colors they wear. Gangs do it, fraternities do it, schools do it, politicians do it and sororities do it. Where does your loyalty lie? It is a serious offense in some groups for a member to be seen in an opposing group's “colors”. Yet, many who profess to be Christians, flaunt the devil’s “colors” frequently and shamelessly. They speak harsh words. They refuse to apologize or forgive. They show favoritism to those who might promote them. They are self-absorbed and short-tempered.
As members of Team Jesus, we ought to be easily identified. It should be easy for people to recognize us by our worship, our conversations, our lifestyles, the places we go and our prayer lives.
The reputation of the entire team is negatively affected when one or more members display characteristics associated with the other team. In other words, don’t act like the devil. Be honest, not deceitful. Be trustworthy, not shady. Be loving, not hateful or indifferent. Be generous, not stingy. Help people, don’t hate them.
We are encouraged to choose the Lord’s side. Be loyal and faithful to His Words. Live His Teachings. Employ His Wisdom. Share His Love.
Moses challenged the Hebrews to pick a side and then stay devoted to the One Who chose them. Jesus chose you. Return the favor and choose Him.
Exodus 32: 26 KJV - Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
Are you on the Lord’s side?