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A normal guy has an encounter with the Living God

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March 31st
Personal Encounter with the Living God
Welcome
Intro -
Well as you might have guessed by this morning that God is alive and active here at Maranatha Baptist Fellowship
Notice that it is not some special program we have implemented or some amazing that our church leadership has come up with
There is nothing these people have done within the church other than be obedient to God!
That is enough though
No these are real men who have had encounters with a very real God
Isn’t it amazing what happens when we get out of the way and allow the Spirit to work how the Spirit wants to work?
This morning I was us to look at another very real man who has a very real encounter with the very real God
This morning we are going to share the story of how Saul became Paul
Acts 9:1–2 NASB95
1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Before we jump right into Paul I think first we need to understand something about Saul
See Saul was on a mission probably like he had been on before
Saul was a very smart and intelligent man, in one of his letters he even refeneces that he was a hebrew amoung hebrews
See Saul was raised in the church of that time in the Jewish church under the jewish law
He knew the law forwards, backwards, inside out, upside down and ever which way in between
Saul knew all about the coming messiah, because he knew of the Old Testament, see Saul was a pharisee
He knew the law so much that he often looked down upon people
which would make sense for him to be against anything thing that rose up and said he didn’t know the law
He thought this new uprising called the Way was wrong and that they were worshiping God in the wrong way
That would make him angry
Acts 7:57–8:3 NASB95
57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. 1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
Saul might say oversaw the stoning of Stephen because Stephen raised up and spoke truth which according to Saul was wrong because Saul knew the truth and was raised in the church
Saul was so much against the Way against Christ that he sought those people out to get ride of them because they were wrong in his eyes
Saul was so filled with hate that he went and got blank arrest warrants and was hoping to fill them up
They just don’t hand out blank arrest warrants, the courts today have to believe that you probably did do the crime
See Saul was raised in the church and knew of the law and knew of the coming Messiah
See church I believe that we have churches filled with Sauls
Not angry people looking to arrest or kill Christians
but I think we have people who have been raised in the church and have maybe even prayed a prayer at some point in their lives
think they are saved because they are raised in the church
think they are saved because they know all the right answers
Saul almost missed salvation by 18 inches
The distance from your head to your heart
See Saul had a head knowledge of God, had a head knowledge of the law, had an understanding of when and who the Messiah would be
Church I am here to tell you a head knowledge won’t get you into heaven
There isn’t an entrance exam when you die and stand at the gate
Church it is all about who you know!
Saul almost missed salvation by 18 inches
But
We like the But here becasue it means that you and I are never out of reach from Jesus
It means that we are never dirty enough for Jesus, it means that we are never bad enough for Jesus, it means that we are never far to gone for Jesus
See the but here is the grace you and I need and desire because it is the grace of God that is extended to Saul
Acts 9:3–7 NASB95
3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” 7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Saul a regular man had an encounter with the Living God
Saul is going about his business headed to town to arrest as many Christians as he has warrants and while on his trip
He encounters a blinding light
The blinding light is unique because it isnt an angel
In most other stories it says that an angel appeared, which meant they could be seen
Rather the blinding light is Jesus because no one can look on the glory of Jesus
Saul is blinded because he cant look on the glory of Jesus
No one else can see the glory of the Lord either
Jesus’ question to Saul is unique specifically to Saul
see Saul thought he was doing the work of the Lord because he was arresting people who he thought were worshipping the Lord wrongly
He thought he was doing right because he was living according to the Law rather then the relationship with Jesus
How easy it is for us to get wrapped up in the lie, which is why its all about the personal relationship rather then the cooperate religion
Saul was so wrapped up in the lie because it was all what the high priest said rather then what Saul thought for himself
Church do you see how important a personal relationship with Jesus is because then it stops being about what Jeremy says or your pastor says but about what you can study and investigate for yourself
Jesus though asks Saul why are you persecuting me, not why are you persecuting my people or the church but me
He was telling Saul that rather then persecuting Gods people or people in general Saul was persecuting Jesus
Then Saul answers Jesus
Saul though has to have some inclination of who it is because Saul asks who is it Lord
There are two different thoughts here that Paul didn’t know it was Jesus and that he did know it was Jesus
Somewhere is the middle is probably correct, because Lord was a common response to hearing from an angel
I would think Saul at minimum knew it was from God maybe not Jesus himself but was from God
None the less in the middle of living his life and doing what he thought was right because again Saul grew up in the church
Saul knew of God but did not know God
Then Saul has a unique encounter with Jesus himself
Jesus then tells him that he is in the wrong and what he needs to do
He will go into the city and await further instructions
Jesus tells Saul that he needs to have faith in Jesus
That Saul will need to depend on Jesus for answers from this point forward
Acts 9:8–12 NASB95
8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 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.”
Lets change directions for a few minutes to fill in the story
Saul is led into the city that he was going to arrest people in and left there in the dark and silence for 3 days and 3 nights
Where else in scripture have we seen this
Church I hope by now you have caught on that Saul is experiencing the death of himself
We do baptism to show you what happened on the inside of the heart, Saul is blinded for 3 days and doesn’t eat for 3 days
Then we get to a disciple of Jesus’
Ananias is a follower of Jesus and was probably going to be arrested by Saul if Saul could find him
Jesus though calls His disciple to go and extend grace to this man
Jesus calls Ananias to go and help this man who just a few days ago was headed to this very town with blank arrest forms, and I am pretty sure they didn’t have the laws we have today to protect the person being arrested that we have today
Acts 9:13–16 NASB95
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.”
Ananias sort of has this dialogue with Jesus because he has a personal relationship with Jesus
Ananias explains to Jesus that this man is a dangerous man and not a very nice guy and that he had heard some stuff about him
First like Jesus needs any explanation as to who Saul is
Jesus goes on to explain to Ananias a little bit about what is going on
Jesus shares a little bit about what the plan is because there is this intimate personal relationship with Ananias
What a beautiful picture of what it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus that you can talk with Him in this nature
This is the sort of a relationship we talk about
Ananias doesn’t challenge Jesus but talks with Him like he is a friend of Jesus
I mean we sing about it all the time but in our relationships I bet it isnt like that
Acts 9:17–19 NASB95
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,
Ananias goes to the house on straight street
Ananias is obedient because he has probably experienced God in the past and knows that when God calls you to do something you need to do it
Ananias goes and helps Saul regain his sight and then shares with him what is going on
That God has called him to come and help him
Then is says that he is babptized and eats something and is stregnthen
because church this is just the begining for Saul who goes onto become Paul who writes the majority of the New Testament
Church he goes on to be an amazing man of God an apostle for Jesus, he goes on to share Jesus with the rest of the world
All this happens church because a normal man has an encouter with the Living God
See church sometimes there are sauls in the church who think they are saved becasue they know a lot about Jesus
Really they need an encouter with Jesus
They need an encouter with the living God
I would warn you, if you are looking for the blinding light, or the firey bush, or the talking donkey you might be waiting or looking in the wrong spot, because they were only ever mentioned once in the Bible
Just becasue Paul encoutered God through the blinding light doesn’t mean you will
To those of us who are believers in Jesus sometimes there are people who hate us and are mean towards us or have hurt us and Jesus calls us to extend grace to them
We need to be like Ananias and exntend grace to the Sauls of this world
Invitation
This morning our invitation is going to be a bite more upbeat because I do beliee God is on the move
As the band comes up
maybe you are here and have never asked Jesus into your heart, we want to invite to the front here and there will be people down front who can help you with that
maybe you are here and need to make some other decision like church membership or ministry decision
maybe you are here and simply you need to spend sometime at the altar in prayer with your Savior Jesus
the altar is open
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