The Way of Conversion-Part II
The age old question of life as some would like you to believe is, What is the purpose of life. Well I would hope that everyone here knows the purpose of life, it is to glorify God. Now I am also sure everyone here knows what it means to be Saved but what is the purpose of our salvation? Why have we been saved and how should we then live. This morning as we continue to look at Saul’s conversion we will learn the Way of Conversion Provides Grace, Purpose and Sight.
The Way of Conversion Provides Grace, Purpose and Sight
The Way of Conversion Provides Grace, Purpose and Sight
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 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; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,
The way of conversion for Saul hit him out of the blue. Saul was on his way to Damascus and just before he arrived he was struck down by the glory of the Lord. When he arose he found himself to be blind and had to be lead about by his companions. Now as a part of God's way of Conversion it is Jesus who calls and for Saul his conversion was very unique, there is no bright light that engulfs us when we are called to serve God so Jesus uses others to bring about His message of Salvation. That is what we find here in the story of Ananias. Jesus calls on this man to go to Saul and lay hands on him. The purpose of the laying on of the hands is to commission him and to also demonstrate the unity of the church with those who are against the church. Ananias is given a very specific task to perform and this task in a part of God's plan and God's will, not only for Ananias but also for Saul. The way of conversion is God's plan.
Conversion Provides Grace
Conversion Provides Grace
A few observations about Ananias' responding to Jesus and how Jesus alleviates Ananias' concern. First of all Ananias doesn't respond to Jesus in the same way as Saul. Saul fell limp to the ground in sheer terror and he asked who was speaking to him. This is the heart and the attitude of one who stands before God and God's messengers who does not know God. Ananias on the other hand didn't ask who was speaking to him, he didn't fear death because he knew he was secure and he knew it was Jesus. The second observation is Ananias' answer to Jesus' request to go to Saul. He answered in verse 13, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." Notice how Ananias questions Jesus' pick of Saul based on Saul's reputation. Lord not this man, he is an enemy of yours. He hates all who follow you and he has come here specifically to lock us up. Surely this can't be the man you want me to go to. Like Jesus didn't know who Saul was and what he was doing and what he went to Damascus to do. Jesus isn't picking the wrong person. All to often people look at others and say the same thing, Jesus, I know you died for everyone in the world and your love is unconditional and you want me to give the gospel to everyone I come in contact with but really do I have to give the gospel to him. Are you sure? Come on we have all thought that and if you say no well John says you are a lier and the Word of God is not in you. We have all done this. Now here is the thing with Ananias, we do it out of fear, most of the time we do it because we just don't want the person saved. That is an awful way to think and very self righteous I might add. It is not our job to decide who should and shouldn't receive the gospel, that is God's call so give the gospel to everyone because everyone needs the gospel. Even the atheist who rejects God, needs the gospel. And it is not Ananias' place to decide who needs it and who doesn't need it, it is his place to just present it. Actually the gospel was already been presented, all Jesus wants him to do is go and lay hands on him as Jesus' servant to commission Saul and in a sense to welcome him into Jesus' service. He is more then likely also the conduit to letting Saul know what it is that Jesus wants him to do. We don't have the power to change hearts, we don't have the power to decide who does and who doesn't deserve to be saved. If we have the power then we are God, and I am not God.
The third observation here is also in what Ananias says about Saul in verse 14, "he has authority." Now yes this just means he has permission from the high priest but that is interesting how Saul was provided authority from the religious leaders to bind people up but Saul was shown who was truly in charge when Jesus appeared to him. Also notice something else about what Ananias knows. He knows that Saul was coming to bind people. Saul's journey to Damascus was not a secret, the church knew he was coming, and the church knew what he was coming for. News of Saul's ravaging of the church was well known. News of his persecution was told to everyone and people were watching out for his coming because they knew if he entered their town he would be ruthless in binding them up. All that said, why was Ananias still there. Perhaps he was in hiding, very possible, or perhaps he didn't have to leave, also very possible or perhaps he didn't care, he trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior and he knew he would have to suffer for Jesus' sake and he stayed in his home and was willing to be sent to Jerusalem for the cause of Christ. I believe it is the last one based on the context, Ananias doesn't seem to flinch when Jesus calls him, as though he is ready for the call. Possibly waiting on the call home. He knows about the coming of Saul so it would have given him enough time to gird up his loins and run for it and go into hiding outside the city for just a little while. He also knows how ruthless Saul is yet he doesn't run. That is faith and that is not caring about what happens in this life because the life to come is what matters.
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Conversion Provides Purpose
Conversion Provides Purpose
The fourth observation is Jesus demonstrates His authority. Look at verse 15 "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; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." Jesus tells him, it is a command, "Go." This means it is not up for debate, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine." This is Jesus' way, He chooses people and He chooses them for His purpose, they are to serve Jesus. What is funny in the same way Jesus is saying He has chosen Saul as His instrument, guess what, so Jesus has chosen Ananias as His instrument. Not only is it not Ananias' place to chose whether or not Saul should receive the gospel it is also not his place to chose what his purpose is in Jesus' grand master plan for his own life. Jesus has the purpose for us and we need to understand what that is. As Jesus continues to speak to Ananias He says of Saul, "to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel." This man who was out to bind and in many cases have killed those who call on the name of Jesus is now going on the way of bearing the name of Jesus. Jesus has reversed Saul's life. The religious leaders give Saul authority to bind those who call on the name of Jesus, this is a temporal earthly authority. But now the highest authority is given to Saul the authority that comes from the One who has been given authority by God. Jesus says in Matthew's gospel, "all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth" and Jesus freely and graciously exercises His authority over all including the most vile of men on the earth. Notice also in Jesus way of selecting Saul He call Saul to bear His name before who, Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. This is the opposite of the call on the apostles and the disciples. They were called to give the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the outer most parts of the earth. Saul is to go to those who consist of the outermost parts of the earth, Gentiles and kings who are not always of Jewish decent and the last are the sons of Israel. He is called for a specific purpose. This is by Jesus' authority and Saul might not get it yet but he will.
The nation of Israel had those Jesus had called to go out and give them the gospel but as we will find in Acts 10 they have a hard time with it. But Saul on the other hand is the perfect person for the job, the perfect person for the call. He was a Roman citizen which gave him access to these towns. Spoke the Hebrew language as well as Latin and Greek, he could also read and write. All of which came in handy as Saul went from town to town and gave the gospel not only to the Gentiles but also to the leaders because Saul even ends up giving the gospel to Cesar. It is almost like God had a plan. God has a plan for us all. We don't always know exactly what it is and it is not always plain to see but that doesn't mean He is not working to bring us to His end goal.
When it comes to our purpose in life it is all about being obedient to the will of God. It is about knowing God and knowing His Word and putting in action steps that guide us in walking in a manner worthy of His call upon our lives. See when it comes to both Saul and Ananias, they both have one thing in common, they are both told by Jesus what to do. Saul was told to get up and enter the city, Ananias was told to Go. They both listened. This is crucial to the way of conversion and the way of service. There are very clear teachings in Scripture on what to do and what not to do. It is very clear we are not to lie, it is also clear we are not to be drunkards or carousers. So if this is our practice we need to put into practice ways that are not like this. We need to put on the fruit of the Spirit. Another thing we need to recognize in our purpose is that we are a part of the church and God has provided for us many gifts. It is funny I have heard it taught that we have natural gifts and then when we are saved we have spiritual gifts that we can now use for God. The people that have taught this have taught it in such a way that the natural gifts are one thing but Spiritual gifts are what you use for God in the church. So wait the natural gifts are for the world and the Spiritual are for the church. That's like saying Saul now that he is saved when he goes from town to town and the fact that he s a roman citizen and he has an apologetic bent, which means he can argue from reason to the realm of the Spiritual which he utilizes a lot. All of this is what now useless and God didn't instill this in him from birth and now hones it for His own purposes. That is silly. That would be like saying the Getty's are great musicians and fantastic song writers but that is their natural gifts, what do they use for serving God in the church. What is their purpose outside of singing and writing music. Doesn't make sense now does it. There is a purpose for everyone and everyone has a purpose in the church. God has already determined that and ultimately it is for His glory but as we walk this earth we must be focused on God's will for us and what He desires for us to do. How can we use the gifts God has given us to edify one another, encourage and build one another up. That is the beauty of the gospel and that is the beauty of the Christian life which is the opposite of the world. God has a purpose for us and it is for His glory and He will bring it to pass. Our responsibility is to prayerfully figure out what is the will of God for our lives. We need to figure out our gifts and how can we use them to honor God and bring Him glory. It might even be like Saul, you might have to suffer for His name's sake and you need to be willing to be obedient to that. I am not going to ask if you are ready but are you willing? Ananias was and Saul was too.
Look at what Saul writes to the Roman church. Romans 8:28-30
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
"God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God," Do you love God? "to those who are called according to His purpose." Are you called for His purpose? If you love God and if you have been called then it is all for His purpose not your own. It is about God not me, not you but God. God is the One who cause things to work together for our good. This is true. So what is His purpose, let's continue, verse 29, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" See our purpose, see what we are called for, to be conformed to the image of His Son, to be conformed to Jesus Christ Himself. That is our purpose, that was Saul's purpose. Paul continues, verse 30, "and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." God does it and God does it all for His glory. This is the purpose of calling Saul, this is the purpose for Jesus calling Ananias and this is the purpose for God to call us, to be justified and to be glorified.
Paul lays Romans out beautifully, with the doctrine of righteousness spelled out and illustrated through the first 11 chapters and then begin in chapter 12 to chapter 16 Paul provides the application. This application starts like this;
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Conversion Provides Sight
Conversion Provides Sight
Here Ananias fulfills the call upon his life, "he departs and entered the house, and laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." This is the essence of the way of transformation. Transformation from that of a dead man to life, from the realm of darkness to the realm of light. It is like Peter tells us that we have been "called out of darkness and into His marvelous light?" This is a picture of what happens to all of us. We all walk this world with our eyes wide open and we see nothing. We have scales over our eyes that cause our vision to be obscured. It is not until the scales fall off and the Holy Sprit fills us that we are able to see clearly. Our Salvation is an aaha moment. Just like it was for Saul. And not only did he regain sight but he also for the first time gained insight. There was an enlightening of not only his eyes but his mind and heart to the Word of God. He was a zealous man a man full of passion for the law of God but now he is a man full of passion for God, His Word, His Son and because the Spirit has filled him, taken control of his mind, heart, and body, which includes his eyes.
Saul’s time of fasting and repentance has ended. His time of aligning himself with the God's will is over and now it is time to move and time to act so the first thing he does it eat so that he can regain his strength. He is spiritually strengthened and now he needs to be physically strengthened. He is preparing for the long road ahead. Do you know what is funny, I just realized no one needed to tell Saul he was going to suffer for the sake of Jesus' name. Saul was the greatest persecutor of the church and knew exactly how much the religious leaders didn't want this sect to spread. He knew first hand what kind of suffering he would endure because he was in essence the architect of the punishment in this time. So when he eat to regain his strength it was to go out and to fight for the cause of Christ.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.