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Acts 9:1-31

Acts: The Story Continues  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:54
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Acts 9:1-31 Saul’s Conversion Intro Letourneau “For 25 years or more, I’ve been traveling this land of ours and a few foreign countries trying to teach and preach by word of mouth and example, that a Christian businessman owes as much to God as a preacher does… I speak in churches and auditoriums large and small across the land, usually about six times a week, and most often I start out by saying, “I am just a mechanic whom the Lord has blessed.” The true legacy of this man is not in the massive company he created, or the innovative machines he designed. It’s in the fact that his identity, his purpose, and his message were rooted in the Gospel message. His identity is in the Lord’s grace (...who the Lord has blessed), his purpose was defined in sharing the Gospel (by word of mouth and example), and his message is of, first and foremost, what the Lord has done for him (...owes as much to God…) Letourneau is not alone in this. This is the work that the Lord does in the heart of every Christian through conversion. (etc) When God saves us, by His grace, the conversion bestows an identity, gives us purpose, and informs our message. The most famous conversion story is that of Saul in Acts 9:1-31. As we read through this, we’re going to observe just how God converts the heart of a sinner. When reflecting on his conversion (as he often did), Paul saw the big picture. He saw exactly what was happening behind the spiritual scenes. Much of the New Testament is made up of the writings of Paul, exhorting, challenging, and teaching new believers around the (then) world. In these writings, we see some of the best-explained and most well-known expressions of God’s grace through conversion. Let’s pair the immediate example of Paul’s conversion, with the big-picture explanation given by Paul in Ephesians chapter 2. 9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Background information) Ephesians 2: 1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] This is much the same state as we are without Christ. Without Him, we do whatever we think is right. We are sinners, breaking the law of the Lord through ignorance and/or rebellion. Paul uses the word “dead” for a reason here = we have no possible way to save ourselves. We are like babies playing in filth. There is a real danger here, however. Saul thought that he was saved. He had been raised in the culture and tradition of the religious leadership, and he was known for his zeal for following God. He was actively seeking to destroy blasphemy - something many of us don’t have the courage to do today. He believed with his whole heart that he was serving the Lord, when in fact he was not. For us, sitting here in this building, we might not relate to the “rebellious sinner” who needs a savior. But, we might relate to Saul - believing we are serving the Lord, when in fact we are not saved at all. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he 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 rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. In this part of the story, we see Saul meet God. He knows it’s Him, he hears His voice. This is a powerful display. But what’s happening behind the scenes? Ephesians 2:4-9 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. God could have easily killed Saul right then and there. However, he did not. He instead chose to use an awesome display of His power to stop Saul in his tracks. Yet in his grace (definition) He gave Saul salvation. Not only that, he gives us a new identity in Christ (seated next to Him…) When God saves us, by His grace, the conversion bestows an identity. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, 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 evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. to bind all who call on your name.” 14 And 15 But here he has authority from the chief priests the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” (Explain) Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. When God saves us, He also calls us to complete the work He has set in place for us. As we can see here, Christ has a specific plan for Saul. He also has a specific plan for us. Matthew 28:19 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” When God saves us, by His grace, the conversion gives us purpose (explain) 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” immediately he proclaimed 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. 23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket. 26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And were seeking to kill him. he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. (explain) When God saves us, by His grace, the conversion informs our message. “By accepting God as your partner, no limit can be placed on what can be achieved. But God is no remote partner, satisfied if you go to church on Sunday and drop some religious money - the small change that goes to the church - on some platter. He isn’t overwhelmed if you read the Bible once in a while and obey the Golden Rule. That isn’t active Christianity, but just a half-hearted way of getting along. When you go into partnership with God, you’ve got a partner closer and more active than any human partner you can ever get. He participates fully in everything you let him do, and when you start putting on airs and thinking you’re doing it with your own head of steam, He can set you down quicker and harder than a thunderbolt. There’s nothing dull about being in partnership with God.”
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