The Conversion of Saul: God's Power to Change a Life

amen so if you would open Acts chapter 9

let's read the story okay starts in

verse 1 now we're gonna be reading about

the Apostle Paul but he wasn't always

called Paul he was called saw before

that his name changed so let's start

with that says meanwhile saw was still

breathing out murderous threats against

the Lord's disciples he went to the high

priest and he asked him for letters to

the synagogues in Damascus so that if he

found any there who belonged to the way

that's one way they referred to

Christianity the way whether men or

women he might take them as prisoners to

Jerusalem as he neared Damascus on his

journey suddenly a light from heaven

flashed around him he fell to the ground

and heard a voice say to him Saul Saul

why do you persecute me who are you lord

Saul asked I am Jesus whom you are

persecuting he replied now get up go

into the city and you will be told what

you must do the men traveling with Saul

stood there speechless and they heard

the sound but did not see anyone Saul

got up from the ground but when he

opened his eyes he could see nothing so

they led him by the hand into Damascus

for three days he was blind and he did

not eat or drink anything now in

Damascus there was a disciple named

Ananias and the Lord called to him in a

vision Ananias yes Lord he answered the

Lord told him go to the house of Judas

on straight street and asked for a man

from Tarsus named Saul for behold he is

praying in a vision he has seen a man

named Ananias come and placed his hands

on him to restore his sight Lord

answered Ananias I have heard many

reports about this man and all the harm

he has done to your holy people in

Jerusalem and he has come here with

authority from the chief priests to

arrest all who call on your name as if

the Lord didn't know all that

information by the way but the lord said

to anodize go this man is my chosen

instrument to proclaim my name to the

Gentiles and their kings and to the

people of Israel I will show him how

much he must suffer for my name then

Ananias went to the house and entered it

placing his hands on Saul he said

brother Saul the Lord Jesus who appeared

to you on the road as you were coming

here has sent me so that you may see

again and be filled with the Holy Spirit

and immediately something like scales

fell from sols eyes and he could see

again he got up and was baptized and

after taking some food he regained his

strength now so i'll spend several days

with the disciples in damascus at once

he began to preach in the synagogue's

that Jesus is the Son of God all those

who heard him were astonished and us

isn't this the man who raised havoc in

Jerusalem among those who call on this

name and hasn't he come here to take

them as prisoners to the chief priests

yet Saul grew more and more powerful and

baffled to Jews living in Damascus by

proving that Jesus is the Messiah after

many days had gone by there was a

conspiracy among the Jews to kill him

but saw learned of their plan

day and night they kept close watch on

the city gates in order to kill him but

his followers took him by night and

lowered him in a basket through an

opening in the wall when he came to

Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples

but they were all afraid of him not

believing that he really was a disciple

but Barnabas took him and brought him to

the Apostles he told them house all on

his journey had seen the Lord and have a

Lord had spoken to him and how in

Damascus he had preached fearless Lee in

the name of Jesus so Saul stayed with

them and moved about freely in Jerusalem

speaking boldly in the name of the Lord

he talked and debated with Hellenistic

Jews but they tried to kill him when the

believers learned of this they took him

down to Cesare sent him off to Tarsus

then the church throughout Judea and

Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was

strengthened living in the fear of the

Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit

it increased in numbers praise the Lord

how's that for a conversion huh we're

gonna be talking about this sometimes

the worst bad guys make the best good

guys amen jesus said those who've been

forgiven much love much and that's what

we see here with the Apostle Paul right

he was traveling on his way to persecute

Christians to arrest men and women and

drag them to jail in other texts he says

he would sometimes try to force

Christians to blaspheme that he actually

supported in the execution of Christians

for their faith sometimes the worst bad

guys know see God has a sense of irony

that the church's biggest enemy becomes

its greatest champion in the Apostle

Paul and God still does that today see

as we were saying God is all about

changing people amen god is all about

taking people and turning their

lives around can anyone say amen to that

in your own life now has anyone may be

experienced God's ability to meet you

right where you are you'll notice that

God didn't mean the Apostle Paul in a

church or at a synagogue he was on his

way to arrest people who were part of

the way ironic part of the church when

God met him right where he was you see

sometimes God finds us even where we're

hiding from him you know the story about

how Adam and Eve were hiding in the

bushes and the Lord says where are you

and he tracks us down and he finds us

and he says you have a different purpose

than you know and God sees to it that we

meet him God has done that with some of

you some of you I would say all of you

all of us are not here by accident we're

here because God has found us because

God has brought us here doesn't matter

how old you are it doesn't matter what

you've done or what you are currently

doing God has found you and has a

purpose for you and that is what the new

covenant is all about God changing

hearts God converting people if you

solve your Bible open if I could ask you

to turn to the book of jeremiah chapter

31 Jeremiah chapter 31 there's more

about the idea of conversion of God

changing people in Jeremiah 31 in verse

31 God talks about how things are going

to change from the Old Covenant to the

new covenant from the old testament to

the New Testament this is what the Lord

says in verse 31 of Jeremiah 31 he says

the days are coming declares the lord

when i will make a new covenant with the

people of Israel well aren't those

beautiful graphics by the way you guys

are doing a great job I will make a new

covenant with the people of Israel and

with the people of Judah Judah it will

not be like the Covenant I made with

their ancestors when I took them by the

hand to lead them out of Egypt

because they broke my covenant though I

was a husband to them declares the Lord

this verse 33 this is the Covenant I

will make with the people of Israel

after that time declares the lord I will

put my law in their minds and write it

on their hearts I will be their God and

they will be my people no longer will

they teach their neighbor or say to one

another no the Lord because they will

all know me from the least to the

greatest declares the Lord for I will

forgive their wickedness and will

remember their sins no more isn't that

amazing see God says I'm gonna do what

people can't do you see we try to change

ourselves don't we and whenever been to

the self-help section of a bookstore no

and I love a good self-help book right I

got no problem with some good self-help

I need some help I need advice I'll get

it anywhere I can find it but

Christianity is not fundamentally about

helping myself you ever heard the phrase

god helps those who help themselves

right you know that that's actually not

in the Bible that's actually said by Ben

Franklin who's not in the bike there's

not a book of Ben Franklin right even

some people yeah god yes God does want

us to take responsibility for for our

lives and to seek to change and what not

but at the end of the day god helps

people who know they can't help

themselves and know they needs God's

help to be forgiven and changed amen I

can't do it myself I can't just tweak my

personality and make myself more like

Jesus I need to be forgiven for my sin I

have fallen short the Bible says we have

all fallen short of the glory and fall

short of the glory of God there's a

separation I need forgiveness I need

medical reformation inside me I can't

just make a new year's resolution and

try to be a better Christian I need God

to change me from the inside out that

God would write the law in my mind and

put it on my heart that's what

conversion is all about it's about a new

birth a new heart the prophet Ezekiel

again in the Old Testament says I will

give you a new heart and put a new

spirit in you I've removed from you your

heart of stone and give you a heart of

flesh God is in the business of doing

heart transplants amen and that's what I

want and that's what I've seen and

that's what we live here every day it's

about God doing that surgery inside of

it's a spiritual change it's a personal

change because it's all about focusing

on Jesus and it is transformational in

nature doesn't just adapt you it changes

you and transforms you now in the book

of Acts we read about a few different

conversions that are key conversions

because they're people that open up a

whole new field of God's work the one we

read about last week anyone remember

what we talked about last week those

were here and by the way it's all it's

all online if you need it but we

preached about the conversion of a

particular man and remember who it is

you can yell it out yeah the guy going

back to Africa going back to Ethiopia

the Ethiopian eunuch amen and ironically

this man a prominent official in his

government a eunuch would become the

father of Christianity in his region and

has viewed that way in church tradition

isn't that ironic next week we'll be

talking about a man named Cornelius who

is a Roman general Roman centurion and

ironically even though he represents

Roman oppression over Israel he becomes

the the source of God bringing

reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles

wouldn't talk about general Courtney

ilyas next week but this week we're

talking about Saul who was persecuting

the church the church's greatest enemy

becomes the church's greatest champion

it's an amazing story and it's worth

talking about so he was not just a bad

guy he was a really bad guy he was the

worst of the worst back to Acts chapter

9 the Bible says in verse one that saw

was breathing out murderous threats so

he wasn't just arresting Christians he

was breathing out murderous threats have

you ever found yourself breathing out

murderous threats against people or not

you I'm gonna get that guy if it's the

last thing I do none of us here have

ever done that of course he's breathing

out gotta get those Christians gotta get

him there's this there's this spewing

quality to it there's a fuming he

doesn't just oppose Christianity there's

a fuming quality to it he is he is

passionate about it he's the worst of

the worst think about it think about

people you might know who are just

anti-christian they are really breathing

out murderous threats about those

Christians the Apostle Paul actually

doing it in our own generation the

equivalent would be and I know I'm being

kind of light-hearted about this but

this is very serious in our generation

right a generation where martyrdom is

becoming part of the daily news no this

is the ancient version of that breathing

out murderous threats he's traveling

when God meets him on the way now he's

looking he's got documentation he's

going to arrest Christians he's going

from Jerusalem he's traveling up to

Syria to Damascus where he's going to

arrest some Christians and God appears

to him on the way

and again to look at how it happens then

suddenly a light from heaven flashed

around him is the same image of when

when the angels appeared in the heaven

to the shepherds when Jesus was born

suddenly that light flashes around them

and he fell to the ground and he heard a

voice speak to him now this is something

that God had done at other points in the

Old Testament God appeared like this to

to Daniel at one point as it as an angel

glowing like lightning the Bible says

Daniel fell down on his face trembling

like a dead man and the angel needed to

lift him up there's other places in the

Jesus himself when they went up the

Mount of Transfiguration remember it

says his clothes turned white gleaming

like lightning they were glowing so

bright you couldn't look at them Jesus

this is what's called in theology terms

one of my favorite theological words

ethea funny this is when God appears

visibly to a person Jesus the light this

is the middle of the day and the light

shines so bright that it blinds him it

outshines the noonday Sun this is a

theophany it's bright it's terrifying

it's loud and it results in people

falling over physically you ever been

near a lightning strike some of you

might want to try to forget that

experience I'll never forget I was up I

was up a volcano in Costa Rica just

randomly and there was an lightning

struck just near me and it wasn't even

cloudy it was must have been just

forming it was just starting to form a

storm took me totally by surprise I'll

never forget the terror and the end the

startled that that brings well that's

what happened here spiritual lightning

struck that's what happens when God

visits people at certain times it's not

a very happy theophany is it when you

think about God appearing to you would

think that would be pretty cool wouldn't

you wow yeah get to see the Lord most

people who have those experiences in the

Bible

end up falling unconscious and are

terrified because God's presence is an

awesome scary thing especially when you

are making a living killing Christians

right now he falls down and he's blinded

he's knocked over literally blinded he's

undone and he's rebuked look at what the

voice says to him Saul Saul stopping

right there the repetition of the name

God doesn't do that all the time in the

Bible just in certain cases where he's

really trying to get someone's attention

like Abraham remember the story where

he's about to kill Isaac the angel

crawls out Abraham Abraham right in

other words stop don't do it when the

prophet Samuel was a little boy before

he knew the voice of the Lord he's

sleeping and a voice says Samuel Samuel

basically wake up I've got something to

say to you Jesus when he's talking to

Mary and Martha remember that story

Martha Martha you're worried and

distracted by many things I think

there's a softer tone there but there's

a similar kind of I've got something to

say to you Simon Simon Satan has asked

to sift you all like wheat and you will

deny me three times so when God really

is trying to speak to you sometimes he

repeats your name twice I believe he

does that with us when he calls us Greg

Greg I've got something to say to you

God has something to say to us so he

appears to Saul Saul Saul why do you

persecute me now this is a rebuke but

it's also I believe there's pain in his

voice why are you persecuting me just a

little side thing i would say here i

believe and then the by the scripture

teaches that Jesus is present in the

church that the church is not just an

organization we together become the body

of Christ where his hands were his feet

we become

Jesus's physical presence on earth in a

way through His Holy Spirit through us

so that's why when you hug a person in

Jesus name you're taking the members of

Christ and doing that that's why we're

called to honor God with our bodies and

to live in holiness because my body is

actually part of Jesus on earth it gets

kind of weird so every time a person

suffers for the gospel I was martyred

Jesus feels that she says Saul why do

you persecute me there's pain in his

voice and saw was like um who are you

lord and I a big question I have

wouldn't he know by now he's persecuting

Christians and Jesus I why do you

persecute me he his life is being turned

upside down he's being knocked over he's

being challenged he's this great man is

becoming small remember how last week I

said that I learned something new when

we were reading my daughter's children's

Bible this is one of the things I

learned Saul changed his name after this

he was called people nope alright anyone

know what the word Paul means for the

word Paul means I didn't I didn't till

night I was till but Noah's children's

Bible taught me the name Paul means

small you see before God can lift us up

he needs to knock us down right you know

before God can make us great we need to

become small Paul was led in to the city

by the hand blind like a little child he

was fasting and blind he didn't eat or

drink anything for three days his whole

life had been turned upside down and he

was just in utter shock God is about

turning our world upside down see

conversion isn't just about making

little changes to our life conversion is

about a

medical transformation and some kind

times God needs to deconstruct you

before he can reconstruct you amen

anyone been there baptism the symbolism

of baptism people go down into the water

and come up again anyone know what that

symbolizes why we do that yeah it

symbolizes death and rebirth the before

I can be born again I need the old Greg

needs to die i right I've used this

illustration before I don't even know if

it's a true story but I love it and it's

just a fun story a guy after he was

baptized in a lake he took a big rock

and he heaves it in there big splash

anyone else why did you throw the rock

in there is that that's the tombstone

the old Greg is dead and I'm a new

person now I'm born again death and

rebirth a toad we're not talking about a

little paradigm shift we're talking

about a paradigm smash right the

previous way the Apostle Paul had viewed

the world and lived his life needed to

be utterly destroyed before he could

start from scratch now God does that

with everybody that he calls to serve

him in different ways now it's not so

dramatic necessarily for all of us for

some of us it might be much more subtle

and much smaller things I remember as a

teenager going through a season where I

was experiencing I think I was 14 15 and

and I think I experienced some

earth-shaking tragedy like a girl like

not wanting to date me or something you

know something that turns your world

upside down

how can I survive and live right for a

thirteen-year-old for tlk that is a life

changing it and I'll never forget also

just feeling like different some

different things weren't going well in

my life and God was showing me you know

what maybe you need to not base your

life um you know whatever her name is

all right maybe your life should be

based on something a little more solid

than that now that's a very small thing

but it's not so small for the person

who's going through it but the point is

God takes our lives and shows us that we

base our lives on false foundations

don't we our life for many of us is

based on our our job or our money or our

health or a particular relationship and

God is saying there's nothing wrong with

these things in your life but they're

not God they will fail you at some point

base your life on the real God so

sometimes God needs to deconstruct

before he can reconstruct remember the

beautiful testimony of a man who used to

attend the church they've moved to

California but he is now a very

accomplished rocket scientist as an

engineer rocket he's a real rocket

scientist even people say it's not

rocket science well he does rocket

science right when he was studying at a

very prestigious school hardcore atheist

hardcore atheist he had a whole

philosophy of atheism why there is no

God and one day and he struggled with

very severe personal issues as well and

one day he fell to his knees and he said

god I just can't go any further if

you're real you're gonna have to show me

and this man completely sober had a

vision

of a cloud-like substance in his room I

mean a literal vision that he could

analyze it this thing this cloud this

this this liquidy kind of substance

started moving through him and he could

feel it like in a sensory way as it was

moving through him he knew that it was

God visiting him and as it was moving

through him in his mind he was thinking

everything I have believed up to now is

I'll use the word garbage and then there

was a voice that said you are not alone

then it disappeared he went to his

computer hit a button AAA came up one

thing led to another and 25 years later

he's a great man of god now that's a

very dramatic story he had a theophany

right we don't all have theophany but we

all need to realize everything I have

believed up to now at some point we need

to realize that I have been basing my

life on something that is not reliable

and things need to change now the

Apostle Paul realized that he was

knocked over before he could be lifted

up again and then he experienced this

new birth the Bible says behold I will

make all things new when God undoes your

past he can rebuild your present in a

way that no one else can and it's an

amazing thing we believe in this now

like I said not everyone's going to have

a theophany not everyone's going to have

lightning strike you not all of us are

going to experience dramatic change but

there are certain components to it

there's something that we call

conviction which is where the Holy

Spirit begins to show me what I need to

change in my life God starts to show me

that I'm not the nice guy I

thought I was right I never forget as a

fourteen-year-old searching spiritually

going to confession with a priest right

I was doing confession confessing our

sins to one another is a good thing so I

was going to confession i was raised

Catholic and I said Father forgive me

because I know that even though i might

seem like i'm nice or a good person i

have pride in me and I feel guilty about

that and God was showing me some of the

subtle ways that my heart fall short was

falling short of his glory we need to be

convicted we need to repent and admit

that I'm a sinner and admit that we need

a savior to know you need a Savior means

you know you need to be saved we need to

realize that there's repentance there's

having our eyes open there's putting our

faith in Jesus there's calling on Jesus

and receiving him and there's an inner

change that happens in us we all need to

go through that process it's going to

look different for each of us right

because some people are raised in the

church and you never went away and

started killing people praise the Lord

some people think they need to do

something really you know heinous and in

order to be okay to become a Christian

because all the exciting testimonies you

know I was used to kill people I used to

whatever no you don't have to go out

there and do those things you're plenty

sinful just as you are really freaking

you know you're just a boring Center you

know you're just it's okay don't have to

go do those bad things just just know

God even though I'm a church person

I have never gone that route I still

know I'm a sinner and I need forgiveness

and that's every bit it's even more

beautiful in many ways but we still know

that we're being forgiven for much even

though we haven't had an exciting movie

worthy story amen but sometimes the

dramatic thing really works I tell you

the reason why we open up the altar here

and we invite people to come up for

prayer isn't just to provide an

emotional catharsis it's because we know

that the Holy Spirit is really moving

and sometimes five minutes and God's

presence can do more than five years of

therapy can we believe then and and

someone who profoundly believes in

therapy is saying that right I believe

in psychology I believe in process I

believe in all these things that we need

it but I also believe that an encounter

with God's presence sometimes break

through things the years of work and

effort can't do I have seen amazing

things happen when a person will just

let themselves be come undone in the

presence of God the gospel really works

God really changes people and I'm not

ashamed of the gospel because it is the

power of God for the salvation of

everyone who believes no matter who we

are now the Apostle Paul as he

experiences this this conversion also

experiences what we would call a

commission see God changes him and calls

him to a new life he calls him to

ministry now we have a question in our

discipleship materials who are the

ministers of congregation Lion of Judah

right discipleship level one people what

is the answer to that question who are

the ministers of congregation line of

Judah everyone in the congregation every

born-again believer of this church is a

minister of this church we believe in

something called the priesthood of all

believers

that each one of us no matter how young

or old we are is called to serve God but

we just don't know it and sometimes

we're resisting that and and where we're

going against it turn with me if you

would to acts 26 the Apostle Paul tree

tells his story in acts 26 acts 26 in

verse 13 the Apostle Paul is telling the

story when he's on trial of how he

became a Christian and we'll start in

verse 12 acts 26 verse 12 in one of

these journeys the Apostle Paul now is

saying i was going to damascus with the

authority and commission of the chief

priests about noon King Agrippa that's

the King he's standing before as I was

on the road I saw light from heaven

brighter than the Sun blazing around me

and my companions we all fell to the

ground and I heard a voice saying to me

in Aramaic Saul Saul why do you

persecute me it is hard for you to kick

against the goads and then he says who

are you lord now I'd like to stop there

for a minute that image to kick against

the goads you see I'm not a farmer so I

don't know what that means I had to look

it up but apparently you you're driving

some oxen who are pulling a plow and

there was something called the gold

you've heard about being goaded on it's

a long stick with a pointy metal tip on

it and apparently they would stick it

into the ox's you know backside to keep

it moving in the right direction now

some ox's oxen excuse me some oxen

didn't appreciate being poked in the

back with a goat right and what would

they do they would kick they would kick

against it with their foot I guess I

again I have trouble imagining this but

apparently that's the way it would be

and as they would kick the goat would go

in deeper so in other words the more you

kick the more it hurts now why would God

say to the Apostle Paul it is hard for

you to kick against the goads why would

that be the case could it be that God

had been prodding him God had called him

to a particular direction a particular

purpose and God was poking him saying go

this way and the harder you resist the

more it hurts the more you try and I try

to go against what god has for us the

harder life is can anyone yeah I you're

already saying hey we can say amen to

that right some of us have tried this if

you haven't tried it yet to just don't

write if you're young just when there's

the little push just just just obey cuz

if you don't you'll just going deeper

but some of us have experimented with

trying to go the other way that God is

pushing and we have learned the hard way

that the gold hurts it pokes it's a

painful thing when we try to go against

what god has for us there are people I

believe each person on this earth was

created for a purpose to serve God and

to glorify Him and as we resist that our

life gets more complicated because we're

going against what we were made for

right I have met people on the streets

involved in criminal endeavors who are

leaders on the street and I know this

person is called to preach this person

is called to be a leader in the kingdom

of God but they're using it in the wrong

direction and life is miserable because

they're resisting what God

for them don't resist what God has for

you go with it because what God has for

you in the right way that's how you're

going to be happy that's how we're going

to be fulfilled and realized by doing

what God has called me to do it's hard

to resist what God has for us but God's

calling is also hard now if you go back

with meat or actually is it still there

keep reading with me in acts 26 if

you're there it tells a little bit more

of the story of what Jesus said to the

Apostle Paul when he was down on the

ground and experiencing the vision in

verse 15 that I asked who are you lord I

am Jesus whom you are persecuting the

Lord replied now get up and stand on

your feet I have appeared to you to

appoint you as a servant and as a

witness of what you're seeing and we'll

see of me I will rescue you from your

own people from the Gentiles I am

sending you to them to open their eyes

to turn them from darkness to light from

the power of Satan to the power of God

so that they may receive forgiveness of

sins and a place among those who are

sanctified by faith in me and then the

Apostle Paul goes on to say I wasn't

disobedient to this vision from heaven

God had a calling for the Apostle Paul

and he says I'm going to send you and

you're going to be used by that now this

calling is not optional right now I

think for most of us God calls and we

can say no and it'll be miserable for us

because we'll lose out on what God has

but in this case this was not optional

right the Apostle Paul the image being

used really in this vision is the

Apostle Paul is being taken as a

prisoner of the lord think about it

isn't this ironic he's on a journey to

take prisoners and as he goes God

arrests him and captures him he did not

say Saul would you like to be a preacher

to the Gentiles no he is command

you will go I will send you and then the

blindness and he's being led in the

image is being led in Chains I believe

he has been taken prisoner on the way

now ironically even though now he is

traveling to take prisoners in the

future he will travel to set people free

praise the Lord but for now he is under

arrest it just listen to the language

being used the language being used you

will be led in to Damascus and there you

will be shown what you must do again

it's the language of necessity you have

no choice in this matter you are a

prison the Apostle Paul would refer to

himself as a prisoner of the lord and he

would say woe to me if i dont preach the

gospel because i must preach i am

obligated to both jews and greeks he's a

prisoner of the lord now even though God

doesn't do that with each of us with the

same heavy hand in the same way if we

have put our faith in Jesus and been

forgiven the Bible says we have been

purchased by the blood of Jesus we no

longer belong to ourselves we belong to

the one who died for us and rose again I

can't sit down and say well what will I

do with my life what are my plans no as

a soldier of the Lord as a belonging of

the Lord you stand before him and say

what are your order sir they say God I

really would like your orders for me to

become a pastry chef in Paris and God

said no you're going to become a tuba

player in Arkansas died in a way

whatever God tells you to go that's

where you go whatever God tells you to

do that's what you do we belong to

him and that is it sounds miserable

doesn't it some people who are not

Christian say you poor Christians you

have to do whatever God tells you to do

that's awful unless God knows best for

me unless his plan for me is really the

best plan for me and when I try to do in

my own way things don't work out too

well a prisoner now there's another

image used back in Acts chapter 9 if

you'd look at verse 15 with me now the

Lord is speaking to Ananias and he says

the Apostle Paul and this is acts 9 15

the Lord said to Ananias go this man is

my chosen instrument to carry my name to

the Gentiles and their kings and to the

people of Israel a chosen implement in

the Greek this word is never before this

in the New Testament at least used of

people it's always used of things it's

used of a plate a dish an object an

instrument and God says this man is now

my mind he's my thing he's my eye he

belongs to me now after this you read

about the Bible saying that we're called

to be vessels of the Lord remember the

image used in the book 2 Timothy is

saying in a household there's many

different types of vessels you have

styrofoam plates you have plastic plates

you have fine china you have nice

glasses you have cups we should cleanse

our self and seek to be sanctified so

that we would be a vessel of Honor for

the Lord amen because we belong to him

we are an implement in his hand that's

what God is saying to the Apostle Paul

you will be my chosen vessel and his

mission will be to carry the message

before the Gentiles in the NIV if it's

up there 915 the way they translate it

is

I disagree with they say the he will be

my chosen instrument to proclaim my name

before the Gentiles but the word used

there in the original Greek this is one

of the few cases were usually the

translations fine but in this case it's

the word for carrying the message for

carrying and it's usually used for

carrying something that's hard to carry

like burying a child or carrying the

cross it's the word that's used for that

in the same way you will carry this

message and I will show you how much you

must suffer for my name the call of God

on our life god's way is best way but i

can't promise you it'll be easy

following God does involve suffering

does involve persecution the Apostle

Paul we've talked about it he took quite

a beating for his faith serving God is

not the easiest way to live but trust me

it's the best way to live because when

we do where the people God has made us

to be and even though it's hard I know

I'm fulfilling my purpose that suffering

in a way is sweet in that way and as we

said sometimes the worst bad guys make

the best good guys because God shows

that he can do this with anyone the

Apostle Paul said to Timothy he said I

think God chose me and picked me as the

worst of the worst because if God would

use me the chief of sinners then he

could use anyone know so if you think

you are disqualified that actually

qualifies you because your own

weaknesses your sins your failures your

weaknesses show that if God did it with

me

do it with you and you'll be able to say

that in a way that other people can't

because you've been there you know how

hard it is and you can say God did it

through me now sometimes a person who's

been called from really hard things can

feel that guilt hanging over them they

can feel like a second-class citizen the

Apostle Paul said much later in a letter

to the Corinthians he said I'm the least

of the Apostles and I don't even deserve

to be called an apostle because I

persecuted the Church of God he probably

remembered the faces of some of the men

and women that were put to death under

him and it haunted him and he said but

you know what it's by the grace of God

that I am Who I am I don't deserve this

I didn't become Who I am because I

deserve it but it's by God's grace grace

means undeserved favor it means loving

you in spite of what I've done right

because by the grace of God I am Who I

am and God's grace to me the Apostle

Paul says was not without effect I

worked harder than all of them now and

he's not but then he stops himself to

wait my way to it it was the Lord

working through me but there is a verse

where Jesus says the one who has been

forgiven much loves much and he was

forgiven much and he served the Lord

intensely he knew that he was God's

prisoner he knew that he was God's

vessel he said I have been crucified

with Christ and I no longer live the

life I live in the body I live by faith

and the Son of God who loved me and died

for me he said I have a mission I have a

race to run serving God is like a race

and I've got to win that race and the

Apostle Paul said my life counts nothing

to me if i might finish the race my

previous resume being a Hebrew of

Hebrews a great scholar and all that

that's rub

it's garbage that I my gang Christ and

be found in him not having a

righteousness of my own but that which

comes through faith in his is from God

and as a price but I want to be like him

in his death and be conformed to his

image in his resurrection as well a holy

ambition and he says the only reason I

live is to serve God the Apostle Paul

said he said when he was in jail and

they were like why aren't you afraid

he's like cuz if they killed me I go to

heaven he's like that for me to live is

Christ to die is gain says but hi amen

he says but I know for your sakes I'm

gonna have to stick around a little

longer got some more to do down here but

I'd really rather be up there he said

the Apostle Paul knew that his life

belong to God now I want to talk about

this even though his conversion was

sudden and dramatic there's a long

process that comes after that and I want

to talk about three key people as I

bring this home that were part of the

Apostle Paul's process okay the first

one Ananias okay Ananias the prophetic

man who received a prophetic message who

went to Paul the house where Paul was

and prayed for him now and I you know

what the name Ananias means I've learned

this also from the children's Bible it

means grace it's from the same word for

Hannah in the Old Testament grace

Ananias was the person to welcome Paul

into the kingdom of God he was the first

face Paul saw when his the scales fell

from his eyes and he saw he saw Ananias

he was that welcoming person i hope we

be a congregation full of Ananias that

when people after they've been knocked

down and deconstructed and they're blind

then the scales fall they look up that

they see your face looking at them

smiling saying welcome now Ananias

didn't wanna do that at first right I

love what the Lord says keep in mind by

the way I believe in the gift of

prophecy I believe God still speaks in a

very direct way he says Ananias I want

you to go to straight street in Damascus

how specific is that I want you to go

down to Boylston Street I want you can

go two blocks on the left you're going

to see a particular address going

precise that street by the way straight

street is still in Damascus in Syria

today they think they know exactly what

street is being talked about right after

all these thousands of years how does

Ananias respond when God calls him to go

pray for Saul what does he say but Lord

this is saul it's in this hilarious it's

like it's like God doesn't know it's

like but but Lord anytime you say but

Lord there's a little bit of a problem

it's like your kid saying but Dad you

know it's it's usually nothing Goods

gonna follow after that right usually

there's a reason why there's discipline

the fire so but Lord he's come here to

arrest us he's really bad he's killed

your servants God do you know what

you're doing God's like thank you very

much Ananias I I know all about that I

did create the universe right you know I

know what he's been doing and I know

what I'm doing a day cuz after that he

just says go right just go I think

there's a little bit of annoyance and

that go but you know what I I think

that's in the Bible to show us we're not

always so eager to welcome the people

God brings to us because some says but

God this is the guy who you may come to

church and bump into someone you knew

from before and maybe it wasn't such a

nice encounter right I've had that I've

seen this happen over and over again a

small world even may be with someone

back in another country who ke soul mile

right who did something

you know and there's some history

between you and you like but god no not

that we need to God like you welcome the

people that I welcome okay you receive

them I have a purpose for this man and

he's praying by the way and he's seen

you in a vision so I don't have any plan

B you're the one okay so he goes why

would God do this why does God bring

other people to us when we're new

believers I think the first word is Paul

needed the validation to be explicitly

spoken by a person to him he went to him

and his first words were brother saw

brother saw now for us that doesn't look

like a big deal because we use that

phrase all the time don't we at a mono

so and so rather so and so but you know

what I looked I and the word you know

referring to Christians as brothers and

sisters is all over the Bible but I

couldn't find any other example in the

whole new testament of anyone addressing

someone as brother so and so I mean it

might be there and I just missed it

right but it's not common see he needed

somebody to say to him my brother

brother and put his name after it

brother saw I challenge you to be an

Ananias for people when people have

experienced God another thing is

affirming and validating the experience

he had had Jesus who appeared to you on

the road I know that what you

experienced is real I believe it's real

and you're my brother people need to

hear that folks now they might be brand

new they might have a lot of rough edges

still but they've really met Jesus and

they need somebody to call them brother

or sister so and so and so he affirms

his experience and he affirms his

calling now I think there's another

person though another purpose beyond

affirmation I think there's a role of

impartation see what does Ananias do

he speaks to Saul what does he do he

puts his hands on him have you ever had

somebody lay their hands on you and pray

for you you ever had someone do that if

you're a kid raised in a Christian

household you've probably had that

happen when you were asleep a lot right

and you were vaguely aware of it

happening hopefully but there's

something powerful about laying on hands

and the Holy Spirit is passed on now

it's not that the Holy Spirit comes from

you but the Holy Spirit is in the

Christian and as that laying on of hands

happens there is an impartation and the

saw was healed of his blindness people

come to us and they need healing they

need somebody after they affirm them to

touch them and to pray for them and to

let the Holy Spirit come upon them and

heal them being Ananias for somebody

please bnn anions there's that

impartation and then afterwards Ananias

says what are you waiting for get up

call on Jesus and get baptized Ananias

helps people okay it's time make the

commitment began to take the plunge next

time but Saul needed somebody to invite

him to do that so let's be Ananias asst

for the people now there's another

person very briefly I want to talk about

when Saul came to the Apollo right away

he starts preaching right I don't know

when I became when I had my conversion

experience at the age of 16 I right away

went home and told my parents everything

they needed to know about salvation and

everything that was wrong with their

previous religiosity how do you think

that went over right you know it's a

it's almost like the teenage rebellion

only towards Jesus it's kind of weird

get up and then I'm

and I'm you know talking to them I'm

talking to my friends I'm telling

everybody and you know what know a

couple people sort of listened but

mainly you know my parents thought I was

in a cult and I lost a few friends okay

the Apostle Paul full of fire starts

preaching which is good we should start

just sharing and he's built in power and

anointing and he's preaching and then

what do they do do they convert they try

to kill him right and they will continue

trying to kill him for the rest of his

life right so sometimes we need to know

that our calling isn't never gonna

sometimes there's gonna be some process

right then he comes to the Apostles and

what do they do do they welcomed him Oh

Saul you're a believer now welcome of

course they don't believe he's a real

Christian who is the one there is one

guy named Barnabas that I want to talk

about who is the one who gives Saul a

chance and he sits down with him and

says so tell me what happened and he

hears his story and he believes his

story and he sees the hand of god in his

life and he brings Saul to the Apostles

and he takes all under his way you know

we need more than just an altar

experience if people are going to grow

as Christians they need a Barnabas they

need a Christian mentor and friend who

will take them under their wing and say

I believe in what God has done in your

life and I will welcome you into this

community there are some people who

won't come to church unless you sit next

to them to let them know I invited you I

want you here you're welcome here

because people come in and they feel

like I don't belong no they need someone

to come alongside Barnabas walking with

him discipleship classes it's not just

about classes it's about the

relationships that form I know if people

will get to know other Christians that

there's going to be life that will be

trans

third we need to be Barnabas's we need

to be Ananias asst but there's one other

person who was part of this story and I

want to close with this this is a person

that we don't see in these chapters but

he's the reason all of this happened his

name was Steven you see just a little

time before the Apostle Paul had his

conversion experience he was guarding

coats as people stoned to death a

Christian named Stephen and as this man

was dying for his faith the first

Christian martyr he's on his knees and

the and Saul is right there part of it

all and Stephen looks up to heaven and

says Lord do not hold this sin against

them Stephen prayed for Saul and that's

why Saul became Paul many of us are here

because somebody prayed for us somebody

suffered for us somebody stuck with us

let's be a congregation of Stephen as

well God has called us to be a place of

encounter where people meet Jesus and

that's not going to happen automatically

God uses his community to be part of

that to be Stephen to be Ananias to come

alongside people to believe in them to

pray for them that we would be a place

where people meet Jesus where they're

transformed and where they find their

destiny and we get to be part of this

it's the most exciting show in