Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
As we have been going through our series “Living in the Reality of the Resurrection” we have seen the risen Savior intersecting and transforming people’s lives, during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension. Last time we looked at the ascend and saw the Savior heading to heaven and we may be tempted to think that it’s over, but today we will see that the Savior is still touching and transforming lives with His truth. It’s here that we come to the conversion of Saul a man who despised the disciples of Jesus Christ. Yet as he was on his way to put these believers in prison he met Jesus and we see his transformation from sinner to servant, as he goes from persecuting to preaching. It’s here that we see that the war on terror is not a new thing. There have always been those apposed to the Almighty. Now I want you to imagine for a moment that a group of terrorist is on their way to target your church. Their plan is simple death and destruction. Knowing that they are on their way you fall on your face prostrate before God in prayer, but here is the question what would you pray for? That God would punish them and somehow strike them dead or that God would protect you supernaturally by sending His angels to set up guard around you? Would any of us pray that they would be converted and saved from their sins? Would the focus of our prayers be saving our skin or saving their souls? Its here in Acts 9 that we meet a radicalized rebel named Saul. Who as he targeted God’s people for animation met the Almighty and had the trajectory of his life radically redirected. Saul’s salvation is especially significant to us today because it’s here that we see that God has the power to transform a terrorist from a killer to a Christian. The scripture starts with Saul’s:
Saul was a Pharisee who believed that he needed to kill Christians because Christianity was a threat to Judaism. As a result he actually believed he was doing God’s will by wiping out followers of the “way.” In his mind, believers in Jesus were heretics and blasphemers. Saul was very religious, radical and filled with rage, in that regard, he was like many terrorists today who thinking that those who didn’t believe like they do should be eliminated. When Stephen was martyred in Acts 7, we read that the executioners “laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” In Acts 8:1, we learn that Saul not only stood guard over their outer garments, he was complicit in their actions: “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” Last time we saw that after Stephen was slaughtered, persecution broke out against the church and the apostles scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. We saw how God used persecution as a passport to scatter and sow the seed of His Word wherever they went. Acts 9:1 gives us a window into what kind of man Saul really was: “Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers” It reveals the venom in his voice and the hatred in his heart, he didn’t just despise Christ’s disciples he wanted them dead. Verses 2-3 tell us that this wasn’t just an ideology or a philosophy it was a practice. Saul was committed to his cause, he was willing to travel hundreds of miles to terrorize and terminate the followers of Jesus Christ. He was on a mission to murder, armed with the legal documents needed to destroy the church. Just like radical terrorists today who are moved to murder based on sharia law. Like Saul they have the law but they don’t have love. He was religious but he didn’t have a relationship with God; he thought he was doing “God’s work,” but he wasn’t doing God’s Will. Maybe that describes you today? You may be zealous and passionate about your mission but you’ve missed the Messiah. Or maybe you’re just far from God because you are so busy pursuing your purpose that you have missed His plan. Is your religious passion based on a love for the Lord or is it fueled by anger, hatred and bitterness? Sadly today many Christians are more defined by what they are against instead of who they are for.