Happy Elevated Friday! Today we highlight a story of a true Saul-to-Paul like redemption that happened in our own backyard. Rene “Level” Martinez, of Miami, FL, has been a gang leader for the last 30 years of his life. Growing up in a broken home, he chose a life of crime, violence, and drugs and has been in and out of jail many times. Now 44 years old, Rene has narrowly escaped death on numerous occasions. In 2013, while recorded gangster music in his garage, he says he heard Jesus speak directly to him, saying, “I spared you for such a time as this.” At that moment, he saw his life flash before his eyes, the moments he almost was killed, and the many friends he has seen die. Rene said of that moment, “God set me free for a reason. I repented right there.” Afterwards, Rene began trying to change his life around. However, it wasn’t until April 2016 when he was water baptized that everything changed in an instant. He said, “When I went in the water, this was April 10, 2016, that day shifted my life. I ain’t ever been the same. Something incredible in my life happened that I can’t explain. It was Jesus, only Jesus can do it.” Rene has been doing street ministry ever since, leading other gang members out of the life and into the arms of Jesus. He now has a new documentary out about his life and ministry and is in the process of starting a church to minister to men in prison and gangs.
Rene’s story of radical change may seem familiar to some, leaving a life behind to find new life and purpose in Jesus. The miracle of new life is exactly that: a true miracle. Each and every time a person leaves behind their old self to live by and for Jesus, “miracle” is the only word to describe it. In Acts, Peter performs a miracle by calling a lame man to walk in Jesus’ name. When the onlookers are astonished at this miracle, Peter says, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Like the lame man at the Beautiful gate, the miracle of life change in the name of Jesus strengthens us to truly walk for the first time. Today, if you haven’t fully committed to life change in Jesus, do so and walk for the first time.
“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” – Acts 3: 16 NIV