A Close Encounter Through Confrontation
Close Encounters Of The God Kind
A Close Encounter Through Confrontation
Faith in UFO’s is often based upon highly debatable evidence, while faith in Jesus Christ is based upon the evidence and facts of the Word of God. Nevertheless, no matter how much evidence and how many facts we have in the Word of God, faith in Jesus Christ still requires one to place his/her trust in the Person of Jesus Christ for salvation. These and other similarities impressed me to use the subject of UFOs as a launching pad for our biblical discussion of “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
In the first three sermons in this series, we worked hard to develop a technical biblical definition for a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.” That definition is
A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.
In the fourth message in this series, we explored how intellect can keep us from wholeheartedly worshipping God.
We then began to explore twelve “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
We have explored God encountering Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the woman at the well, Peter, James, and John, on the Mount of Transfiguration, the two Mary’s on resurrection morning, the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan River, and the church on The Great Day of Pentecost.
(Today we move on to our next to the last encounter in this series. Notice with me please Acts 9:1-22.)
In the passage of Scripture before us, we see God encountering Saul through a miraculous confrontation. Saul, of course, is also known as Paul. Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul was his Gentile name. Since Paul was a Jew, who was also a Greek citizen, perhaps his parents gave him two different names to help him fit into the Hebrew-Greek society of his time. We shall call him Paul, because that is the name by which he is generally known.
God met Paul literally, face-to-face, on the Damascus road. Paul was doing his thing, so God did His thing! Paul was wreaking great havoc, destruction, and terror upon the church of Jesus Christ.
(But who was this Paul, who was such a bad man?)
Well, Paul was a brilliant Pharisee, who had studied the Law in the best seminaries and under the best professors in the land—but he missed the person of Jesus. Paul gives his own educational credentials in
Acts 22:3, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.”
His education is referred to by Festus, the procurator of Judea, when Paul made his defense before him. The Bible says in
Acts 26:24, “And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.’”
If there was ever a person who epitomizes the futility of study and religious education without the illumination and revelation of the Holy Spirit, it was Paul. Whenever I get to a series of sermons that I am contemplating and praying over entitled “The Pharisee Within” or “Jack-In-The-Box Religion,” I want to study this aspect of Paul’s life a little more. For now, let it suffice to say that Paul would have never found Jesus Christ had Jesus Christ not found him through this miraculous encounter. This was an encounter of confrontation! The word “confrontation” means to bring face-to-face or encounter. Jesus Christ came face-to-face, encountered, or confronted Paul concerning the direction and activity of his life.
This face-to-face encounter was miraculous and could not be totally explained. The miraculous nature of this encounter is seen in a number of details:
· Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
Paul later describes this light as brighter than the Sun. This is the Shekinah glory of the Son of God.
· He heard the voice of Jesus questioning him.
· He received instructions concerning his mission and ministry.
· Those with him heard the voice and saw the light, but they did not understand the voice or see anyone.
· He was blinded by the Shekinah glory of Jesus Christ.
· God sent Ananias to him, having prepared each of them through a vision.
· Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. And
· Paul’s sight was miraculously restored.
These things certainly could not be totally or satisfactorily explained. Remember that when Paul shared this experience and began to share about Jesus Christ, Festus interrupted him and accused him of being crazy.
(Let’s continue to apply our definition.)
The fact that Paul could not totally or satisfactorily explain this encounter to others is not important, because Jesus did not encounter him to add to his Pharisaic intellect or credentials, but to give Him a genuine experience with Himself and a God-sized assignment!
· This was not something that Paul could explain away with his brilliant intellect and knowledge of sacred literature.
· This was not something that was subject to the “paralysis of analysis.”
· This was not something that Paul could neatly and nicely fit within his religious box.
This was an experiential encounter with the radiant, living Lord!
· He saw the light;
· He fell to the ground;
· He heard the voice;
· He experienced the blindness;
· He had experienced a vision that had prophesied of this event;
· He experienced the fulfillment of the prophecy in that vision;
· It is assumed from the text that he experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit.
By the way, we see here a pattern of preparation for ministry. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, in the form of a dove, before He began His public ministry. Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit, before they should enter into ministry. And Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, before he began his ministry.
· Paul experienced the regaining of his sight.
This was not an intellectual, positional, religious event, this was a total, experiential encounter with the resurrected Lord! This was an experience that would put flesh on the bones of his great learning.
“Lord please bring clarity to the minds of people who hear this teaching. Let them understand that I am not purposing that people run wild with experience. Help them understand, through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, that I am pointing out that a legitimate experiential encounter with Jesus Christ is clearly part and parcel of biblical Christianity and proper study of the Word of God!”
(Now what are Paul’s genuine responses of worship to this encounter?)
He gets up and goes into the city as he is commanded.
He doesn’t eat or drink for three days. This seems to be some kind of consecration, perhaps for the purpose of understanding or getting more in touch with Jesus Christ.
He yielded to the vision and to the laying on of hands of Ananias. Paul was the one who used to lay hands on men like Ananias, for the purpose of jailing them and even killing them. Now he must submit himself to the ministry of Ananias.
Paul followed the Christian rite of initiation and discipleship. This is also an act of obedience.
· Preaching and teaching.
Paul immediately entered into his ministry; energized by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(But that’s not all!)
Paul’s worship responses brought about a conviction of a liberated future. He was supernaturally convinced and spiritually prepared to preach and teach that Jesus, whom He previously hated, was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the divine Author of eternal Salvation, the Son of God, and God the Son.
This changed Paul forever! Not only did he go on great missionary journeys spreading the Gospel, but also history tells us that he suffered greatly and was beheaded for the Gospel’s sake.
Paul’s worship responses not only brought about a conviction of a liberated future, but also the remembrance of a redemptive past. Each time that Paul gave his testimony, he told the story of this encounter as the centerpiece of his salvation, calling, ministry, and purpose.
(And why did God encounter Paul in this miraculous confrontation?)
To give him a God-sized assignment. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. The words of Jesus Christ are divinely instructive. The Bible records Jesus’ words to Ananias in
Acts 9:15-16, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”
· Paul spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
· Paul was a major catalyst to the unity of Jews and Gentiles in one church.
· Paul wrote most of the New Testament.
· Paul’s teachings put forth most of the theology of the Church.
· Paul suffered for and died for the name of Jesus.
These accomplishments surely add up to a God-sized assignment, i.e. an assignment that could only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Now how do we apply all of this truth?)
Well, there is good news here. Just as Jesus had a plan for the life of Paul and confronted him in a close encounter for the purpose of giving him that plan, so he has a plan for our lives and is going to confront us for the purpose of giving us that plan. Ultimately, so that He may be glorified!
He will often do this in the event of salvation. I have already told you how God encountered me in an unusual way, because of His plan for my life. So, I won’t tell it again.
I can hear some of you saying in your minds, “Of course he encountered you that way in salvation, but does God encounter ordinary believers that way?” I think that question is legitimate, and the answer may be surprising. I believe that every believer is important to the cause of Christ and every salvation encounter is a miraculous confrontation in its own right.
Secondly, I believe we see in Paul a paradigm of God confronting proud, know-it-all people for the purpose of using them in His service.
I experienced this when I was about eighteen. God had already called me to the ministry, but I was set on leaving Akron and doing my own thing. God had spoken to me, but I wasn’t about to listen. But on that summer day, when I pulled out from Burger King, now Ann’s Place, God confronted me in the form of another car that broadsided me and knocked me out of the driver’s seat. God knocked me out of the driver’s seat like He knocked Paul off that donkey!
I had an experience with the Lord. People were telling me what Jesus was saying and what they thought Jesus was pleased with and displeased with in my life. I understood the words intellectually, but they were having no impact upon my heart—but when Jesus showed up that day I understood in the Spirit. As I floated across that car, I knew exactly what God was doing. When I landed there were tears of brokenness and repentance in my eyes. He blinded me to the things of the world and opened my eyes to His things. I sat there crying and saying, “Yes, Lord!”
Oh, I have a Word from the Lord for you today. Just keep on going your own way; keep running from His ministry for you in His church; and God will have a confrontational encounter for you!
(Why does God do this?)
He has a plan for our lives. The encounter will be different for each one of us, because we each have a unique calling of God upon our lives. The intensity of the encounter often has to do with the job that God has given us.
If you are unsaved and things are not working out for you; it seems that someone is in your way and won’t let you do the things that you want; it seems that you are coming face-to-face with circumstances that seem to be orchestrated by a person; it is Jesus Christ encountering you for the purpose of saving you and giving you His plan for your life.
If you are saved and you are experiencing the same kind of thing, it is probably Jesus Christ encountering you for the purpose of giving you a God-sized assignment.
I had an intense salvation encounter and an intense confrontational encounter. Why? Because of the God-sized assignment that He has for me and is working out now!
When God confronts us through an encounter, we should begin to look of the plan and assignment of God!
(There is more good news in this text.)
God encounters the lowest kind of people and enlists them in His service. He encountered this persecutor of the church and murderer of Christians to be one of His chosen vessels. The good news is that God wants us, no matter what we have done in the past. Somebody say, “Hallelujah!”
The government may not want you. Some companies may not want. Your own family may forsake you, but God wants you!
(There is more good news in this text.)
God encountered Paul at one of the lowest points in his life. God also encounters us at some of the lowest points in our lives. So, if you are at a low point in your life, start looking for the encounter and enlistment of Jehovah God!
(Now where there is good news there is bad news.)
If we will not heed the encounter of God’s voice, He will have to orchestrate another, more intense experience. Let me remind us, “If we fix the fix that God has fixed to fix us, He will just have to fix another fix to fix the fix that we fixed!” If God has to orchestrate another, more intense experience to give us His assignment, there will be a confrontation, a knocking to the ground, blindness, a period of waiting, and deliverance at the hands of another.
If God is confronting you for salvation, you have a choice—but God often persists by simply turning up the pressure.
If you are saved, but not involved in the assignment that God has for you, He will have to orchestrate a more intense confrontational encounter.
I am seeing evidence in my study of the Bible, that God intends to put us immediately into service after salvation and water baptism. Of course our service will grow as we grow in the Lord, but it seems that God intends for us to go to work and discover our gifts and grow in our ministries through OJT (On-The-Job-Training). But when we rebel against God’s plan, He takes us through a period of preparation.
· First, He confronts us about our rebellion.
· Secondly, He knocks us off of our donkey.
He takes away the fleshly means of getting where we thought we were going. In this process, He knocks us to the ground. He brings us to a point of humility, in the dirt.
· Thirdly, He blinds us.
He takes away our natural perception, that we might receive His spiritual perception.
· Fourthly, He puts us in a period of waiting.
He wants to teach us to wait and depend totally upon Him.
· Fifthly, He delivers us through the hands of another.
He teaches us that we are not lone-rangers, and that we must submit ourselves to the leadership of the church.
People will think you are crazy, when you have been encountered by Jesus Christ!
(So, what is the genuine response of worship that we should offer to God?)
Well, first of all, whenever God encounters us, whether in a positive manifestation or an encounter of confrontation, we should worship God. Why? Because, God would not confront us if He didn’t love us and have something wonderful that He wants to give to us. The Bible says in
Hebrews 12:5-6, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.’”
If we are children of God, we are going to get a confrontation and a spanking. Because God loves us and wants us to have the best, we are going to get a confrontation and spanking.
(And how should we respond to this?)
Paul obeyed the instructions of Jesus Christ, and we should obey the instructions of Jesus Christ.
Paul did not eat or drink for three days. He consecrated Himself unto Jesus Christ. We, likewise, should consecrate ourselves to Jesus Christ.
· Submission to the church.
Paul submitted himself to the laying on of hands of Ananias. We, likewise, must submit ourselves to the authority of the church.
He immediately began to proclaim Jesus. We cannot proclaim Jesus at the level of Paul, because he had the equivalent of the best seminary education available, but we can proclaim Jesus at the level of our own knowledge and experience. The first thing that we want to do, anyway, is tell our story! We want to tell the story of how Jesus Christ encountered us! That story will encourage us and impact others for salvation.
Have you had “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind?” Do you have a story? Are you telling your story?
I’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ! I have a story to tell of how He met me face-to-face; how He saved me; how He called me; how He put me into ministry; how He equipped me; how He is using me.
Telling our story is one form of worship! When we tell the story of God’s encounter with us, we are proclaiming the person and power of Jesus Christ. That’s why I love to tell my story. It’s a story that worships the person and power of Jesus Christ.
(And what is the impact of this kind of worship?)
This kind of worship will change us forever.
· It will change our direction in life.
· It will change our faculty of perception.
· It will change what we are riding on.
· It will change our object of dependence.
· It will change our pride into submission.
· It will change our employer.
· It will change our employment.
· It will change name.
¨ I thank God that He encountered me one day in salvation.
¨ I thank God that He encountered through periodic fillings of the Holy Spirit.
¨ I thank God that He encountered me in a car accident.
¨ I thank God that He encountered me in a calling.
¨ I thank God that He has encountered me many times in my life as a believer.
We should all thank God for His loving, confrontative, encounters!
(Now is the Day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship