December 2, 2013
INTRODUCTION – Our role as witnesses and dot connectors. As weak as we are, God wants to use each of us more than we could ask or think.
But our limitation as converters – – we can persuade and explain and exhort; but we cannot convert. We cannot stop someone in their tracks and take their breath away, and cause their whole life to pass before their eyes. Only Jesus can do that. And the good news is He continues to do that.
Problem of doubting hard core unbelievers can be converted
I. Saul’s Conversion
A. Saul – pre-conversion –
Acts 7:58 (read) – Saul was young and known among all the stoners of Stephen – he appears to be one of their comrades in crime;
Acts 8:1 (read) – Saul was in hearty agreement with the murder of Stephen – (vs. 1) So murder of a completely innocent man who had harmed no one and committed no crime meant nothing to Saul. He might as well have thrown the stones himself;
Acts 8:3 “But Saul began ravaging the church = entering house after house, and dragging off men and women and then putting them in prison” (cf. Acts 22:4 – “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.”
Living Bible – “Saul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate the believers, even entering private homes and dragging out men and women alike and jailing them.”
NIV – “But Saul began to destroy the church. …”
Acts 26:9-11 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
He was on a wild rampage fueled by hatred and self righteous zeal
Saul was making threats of murder against the disciples of the Lord (9:1) “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord….”
“All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill.” The Message
“But Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord….” J.B Phillips Translation
So Saul didn’t just stop with Stephen’s murder. He was thirsty for more.
He was young, full of passion and zeal, full of anger and hatred, violent, no mercy or compassion towards women at all.
Now who do you know, who are you praying for or reaching out to – that stacks up with Saul?
B. Saul’s encounter with Jesus – Acts 9:3-6 (read it)
1. We shine, He blinds! Yes we are the light of the world, but we are like a cell phone in the dark, and Jesus is like the Sun in all its power and radiance – He literally blinds people when He wants to vs. 3
Consider the power of His light and radiance as seen in a few passages:
Transfiguration – Matt. 17:2 “And He was transfigured before them, and His face shown like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.”
Paul in Acts 26:13 “….a light from heaven, brighter than the sun.”
I Tim. 6:16 “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen!”
2. When Jesus speaks – life stops! Jesus spoke; Saul heard; and Saul knew it was no man’s voice. “Who are you Lord?” (vs. 5)
“The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is majestic.. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.” Psalm 29:4,5
3. When Jesus speaks – He reveals and He deals. Jesus both identified Himself and spoke to Saul’s sin “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (vs. 5) When Jesus speaks – He doesn’t gloss over a person’s sin and just speak of His love. He first makes sure the said person knows who is addressing Him, then proceeds to deal with specific sins or acts of rebellion. In fact – from what Luke tells us in Acts ch. 9, and from what Paul tells us later when he shares his testimony – – there is little mention of love, though he does say in his first letter to Timothy, “…Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Saul eventually became smitten by the amazing grace and love Jesus had for him, but that came after he acknowledged Jesus for who he was and took responsibility for his grave sins against Jesus – in the form of persecuting His body.
4. Jesus gives orders immediately. Jesus– being God and Lord – commanded Saul to enter the city and wait for further instruction. When He truly converts, He very quickly commands (vs. 6)
C. Saul’s response to Jesus’s words – 9:7-9 (read it)
1. Saul obeyed Jesus Christ by getting up, though he could see nothing (vs. 8) He later speaks of his obedience to King Agrippa when he was testifying before him in Acts 26:19. I mention that just to say Saul was not a robot. He wasn’t forced into submission, though Jesus certainly gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse as they used to say in the Godfather movie.
2. When he got to whatever room they took him to, he went for 3 days without anything to eat or drink. (vs. 9) He knew this whole thing really needed to be processed and that he was under orders that must not be ignored or put off. (vs. 9).
II. Kirsten Powers’ Conversion – Kirsten Powers is a contributer to USA Today and a columnist for Newsweek/the Daily Beast. She is a Democratic commentator at Fox News. In 2005 journalist Ben Smith wrote that Powers was “emerging as one of the Democratic Party’s national voices.”
III. C.S. Lewis’s Conversion – A brilliant academic, he was educated at Oxford University, and returned there following service in World War I to become a Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Magdalen College. Later, in 1954, he was appointed to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence.