Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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31. From Sinner to Servant – Part 3

Acts 9:10-31

10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” 13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” 15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” 22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. 24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall. 26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown. 31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.

Not only did God save Saul but He also sent:

  1. Support

The Lord now calls out to a disciple named Ananias in a vision in verse 10. Notice that unlike Saul, Ananias doesn’t have to ask who is speaking to him because Ananias knows the Lord. Interestingly, his name means, “Jehovah is gracious.” He was about to find out what grace really means. His assignment is found in verse 11: “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.”Notice the change in Paul from persecuting to praying. If we say we are saved it should show, conversion should result in change. But instead of obeying Ananias objects because his focus is on his doubts and not on the Deity. Doubt is one of the greatest obstacles to obedience. You would think Ananias reaction would be one of rejoicing and praise not one of protest. Because not only has God rescued His servants He has rescued Saul. Why was Ananias dominated by doubt instead of delight because like many of us he made his decisions based on public option instead of God’s plan. Are you going to listen to worldly wisdom or God’s Will? Are you obeying or objecting? How does the Lord deal with his disobedience, He reiterates His command and reassures His child: “Go This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” Ananias obedience results in Saul being freed from the bondage of blindness. Your choice to obey or delay doesn’t just affect you. There are two things that Ananias does to communicate acceptance and support. First, he places his hands on Saul and second, he calls him “brother.” Through touch and words of inclusion, he gives Saul the support he needs. Never underestimate the power of touch it is one of the most powerful tools we have to encourage. Also, your words can carry incredible weight; with them you can restore or ruin relationships. Who do you need to reach out and touch with God’s truth? It’s here that something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes as God restored his sight. Some of you are what I call cataract Christians, you say that you believe but the truth is you are blinded by your bigotry.  Ananias called Saul his brother, not just a friend but part of the family. Some of us are so focused on the color of people’s skin that we don’t see the soul. And our blindness will be what binds us. Saul went from darkness to light, and his first response to redemption was to be baptized. Notice that belief always precedes baptism. Saul is saved and then he is soaked; delivered and then dunked. What about you if you are a believer have you been baptized? Saul didn’t just need support physically but also emotionally and spiritually, when we drop down to verses 26-27 we see that when Saul returned to Jerusalem, the disciples did not accept him, why? Because they were focused on fear. They were following their feelings of fear, I think that describes many Christians today who live based on fear instead of faith. But there was one disciple who wasn’t focused on fear and doubt, Barnabas. Instead of focusing on his prejudice he focused on Saul’s preaching. Saul was a transformed man who went from spreading terror to spreading truth. The problem with America is that we are letting terror dictate our decisions instead of truth. We have become bigoted believers, we are ok with sending mission teams to other parts of the world because we believe Muslims need to be saved but would we be ok with those same people coming to our church? In God’s family we shouldn’t act like enemies we should embrace one another. We all need someone who will help us feel included, who are you helping get connected? Are we a caring congregation or a calloused one? Are you being a Barnabas especially to those with bad backgrounds? It’s interesting to note that there is more space in Scripture devoted to convincing Ananias to be accepting than there is to the conversion of Saul. There should be no foreigners in the family of God. Jesus saved Saul, but the saints almost sent him away because he didn’t fit the mold. The truth is that we are all made in the same mold, only some are moldier than others. We have lost our way today because we are allowing fear to move us instead of the Father. As a result, we are trying to preserve a way of life instead of preaching the Word of life. Scripture tells us that after being saved and supported Saul:

  1. Served

We were not saved to sit and soak but to serve, “immediately he began preaching about Jesus”Saul went from persecuting to preaching. Salvation changes everything and serving should be the natural outflow of our salvation. It’s not just about a change of destiny from hell to heaven, but a change of direction from our wants to God’s Will, and a change of desire from hurting to helping. Saul started as a slave to sin, but he ended as a servant of the Savior. Who or what are you serving, is it self, sin or the Savior? The story of Saul reminds us that anyone can be saved, that your sin is not greater than the Savior. It’s not about what you have done it’s about what Jesus did on the cross. You may be religious, you may be rebellious, or you might just be a regular person but regardless you need to be saved. Some of you today need to repent of your sin and be saved while for others you need to repent from your prejudice and pursuing the wrong plan and start following the Father instead of your fear.

 

 

 


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30. From Sinner to Servant – Part 2

Acts 9:3-9

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

It’s here in the midst of Saul’s murderous mission that he meets the Messiah and second, we see his:

  1. Salvation

The real War on Terror is a spiritual battle for souls and our problem is that we have become so focused on the persecution that we have lost sight of the plan. Isis isn’t the problem they are just the puppet in the hands of the Prince of darkness. The solution to the problem of persecution wasn’t the eradication of Saul it was the salvation of his soul. It wasn’t the termination of Saul but the transformation of Saul that turned the tide. What are you praying for, is it just for safety and security or the salvation of souls. Now I want you to notice not just the power of God here but the plan and timing of God. Verse 3: “As he was approaching Damascus on this mission a light from heaven suddenly shone down”God’s miracle comes in the last mile, in the final moments of Saul’s mission. Why not when Saul first set out, why did Jesus wait until the end of his journey? I don’t know but I know His plan is perfect. The question is do we trust God’s timing? You see sometimes we have to come to the end of ourselves before we can come to the beginning of God. Some of you have been praying for a loved one for what seems like a life time and you are ready to throw in the towel because you have gotten focused on your time table and you are no longer trusting in His timing. You’re focusing on the results not on the Redeemer. The point is that regardless of when God intervened Saul could not stop God’s purposes. Later in Saul’s life in Acts 26 as he shares his testimony of God’s transformation in his life with King Agrippa we learn that it was about noon when this light from heaven flashed around him and that it was brighter than the sun. Previously when we looked at the Lord’s ascension we learned that the cloud that enveloped Jesus when He ascended into heaven was likely the very Shekinah glory of God’s powerful presence. It was the glory of God that got Saul’s attention and it did three things in his life, it:

  • Reduced and humbled Him

God didn’t just blind the bully with His brilliant Light he brought him to his knees. Someday ever knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord. One of the most painful and yet profitable places we can be is flat on our faces before the Father. Sometimes God has to reduce us before He can rescue us. Its here that he hears a voice repeat his name twice: “Saul, Saul.”God repeated the name of Moses twice in Exodus 3 when he came before the burning bush to get his attention and warn him not to come any closer for that the place he was standing on was holy ground. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha”and “Simon, Simon”in order to correct them. What about you does the Almighty have your attention? When Saul got up he opened his eyes but could see nothing. His friends then take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. What a picture, the tough terrorist now led like a child. Not only did the light reduce him but it also:

  • Revealed his heart

The Light didn’t just pierce his sight it pierced his soul with this probing question “Why do you persecute me?”Saul had been certain and confident that he was doing God’s work until he was confronted with the truth. He went from being convinced that he was right to convicted over his wrong. When he asked who was speaking to him the answer must have shaken him to his soul. He thought Jesus was dead and that members of the Way were mistaken. And then he hears the words, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”The phrase “I am” hearkens back to Exodus 3 when God Himself states: “I am who I am.”Jesus is the Great I Am. Also, I don’t want you to miss the connection between Jesus and his church. What is done to Christians is done to Christ. Jesus not only feels the pain of our persecution He takes it personally. Jesus reminds us that we are either for Him or against Him, you are either with Jesus or at war with Jesus. The light of the Lord revealed not only the hardness of his heart but also his hate. You can try to hide the hate of your heart behind your radical religion, but God’s light will reveal your real heart. God’s light didn’t just reduce and reveal its real power is seen in that it:

  • Redirected the heart of a Rebel

Saul is now commanded to get up and go into the city and there awaited further instructions. Instead of being moved by anger and hate he is now being moved by the Messiah. No longer is it the letter of the law that is his authority but the Lord. Who or what are you listening to? I am not defined by my socioeconomic status, my skin color, my sex or even what society says, but by my Savior. Only the Master’s opinion matters. What voice are you listening to? You see Saul discovered that he was a sinner and that the Savior was alive. He went to arrest others with the law and was himself arrested by love. How do you know if you are living in the light, are you more motivated by the letter of the law or the love of the Lord, are you a legalist or a lover of God? Sadly, there are many who claim to be passionate for Christ  but like Saul they are not living in the light they are living in legalism.