May 6, 2018 – Saul – An Encounter with Jesus

Acts 9:1-24

Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. The man Saul, changes his name to Paul in to have a name that would not hinder his ministry to the Gentiles.

Saul, didn’t grow up as the great missionary, apostle and writer of almost a third of the New Testament. Saul was the exact opposite, but one day, God reached down and touched his life.

Born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents in 6 A.D. in the town of Tarsus, he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem to study the Torah under Gamaliel, one of the most prominent Jewish scholars of his time. Saul was so dedicated that at a relatively early age he was admitted to the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling group of Jewish leaders.

Saul was zealous and ambitious, probably in his twenties we read in Acts chapter 7, that when Stephen, the first Christian Martyr was stoned to death, a young man by the name of Saul, stood by and approved of his death.

Saul’s ambition drove him to persecute Christians, and he decided to go to Damascus to round up followers of the “Way”. As Saul gets close to Damascus, he is blinded by a light from the sky. This light is so powerful that it knocks him to the ground. And as he is lying there, a voice from heaven speaks to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Saul had an immediate understanding, but he needed clarification, and the voice responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Can you imagine the fear, guilt and the shame as Saul realized that Jesus was risen, and that he was the son of God?  It all made sense, he must have been in fear that surely Jesus would kill him now, but Jesus graciously doesn’t leave him there as he immediately continues, “rise up – go to the city and you will be told what to do”.

Jesus takes attacks on the church very personally. When we hurt a fellow Christian, someone who is part of the body of Christ, Jesus takes it very personally. Jesus feels the pain, when his body, the church is slandered, persecuted or ill-treated. Never think it is a small matter to ill-treat another believer, whether it is in business or gossip, it is always a very serious matter.

Saul encountered the risen Christ and it transformed him. Saul was blinded, so bright was the encounter with Jesus that he could not see. I believe that Saul didn’t just see a bright light, but he actually saw the risen Christ, what he saw was Jesus in his current glorified being. Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, is so glorious and so powerful that he is brighter than any sun, or any light we could imagine (1 John 1:5).

Saul later writing in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrected Christ, was speaking from experience. He was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrected glorious body.

Saul is led into Damascus, where he refuses to eat or drink, he is blind and trying to process all that just happened. He goes through this mourning period of 3 days. And just like Jonah who was in the fish for 3 days, Saul was being reborn, he was being born of the Spirit, being made new so that God could use him for His Glory.

In verse 10 we are introduced to Ananias, we know little about him, but we are told he was a disciple, a follower of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who makes other followers of Jesus.

A disciple is an active follower, not just a passive student.

Ananias was looking for people to win to Christ and to disciple. But I doubt he ever expected to encounter someone like Saul. Saul was praying, and his prayers were being answered as God directed Ananias.

Don’t ever think prayer is not the most valuable thing you can do with your time.

Ananias, knew exactly who Saul was and he responds with some hesitation, But 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.” Acts 9:15-16.

God chose Saul. Whether you agree with the doctrine of election or not, the apostle Paul in his later writings, made it abundantly clear that he was chosen by God and not the other way around.

Saul was called to be a suffering servant, Jesus made it very clear that Saul was going to be persecuted for his faith. But this is nothing new and a clear expectation of all who would follow Jesus as Lord (John 15:18-20).

As Ananias prays for Saul, something like scales fall from his eyes, these were a physical manifestation of the healing that took place, but the miracle of his spiritual eyesight was far more important. As Ananias prayed for him, Saul’s spiritual blindness was lifted, and he was able to see the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.

In verse 20 we have the evidence of Saul’s conversion, as he immediately began to tell others about Jesus. He went into the synagogues and declared boldly that Jesus was the Son of God. The priests had obviously heard about what had happened on the road, but now they were seeing the evidence of a life transformed by Jesus.

And the people ask the question, “Is this not the man?”  When you encounter Jesus, those around you should ask the same question. You may not have been a terrible person in the eyes of those around you, but the change in your life must be evident to everyone. Your priorities change, when it comes to how you spend your time and your money, people will notice your commitment to the things of the Lord.

Have you had that life changing encounter with Jesus, where he changed your priorities and your goals in life?

Saul had priorities and goals, being a driven man, he was motivated to eradicate Christianity. But when he encountered Jesus, all that changed, and he was never the same again.

Lessons from the life of King David Part 1; April 03, 2016

King David part 1 Title.2-01

1 Samuel 16

The world is full of many rags to riches stories. We love these stories, we make movies about the characters, and we teach our children to look at them as role models.

But the truth is that we only recognize greatness once it has been achieved in man’s eyes. The process, the humble beginnings, the hard work and the pathway of insignificance is mostly ignored by the world.

In the same way a person that God is forming for his purposes is often ignored and sometimes even ridiculed for their humble position and low standing in society. But God knows and God is working in all of us if we would just let him, to become someone that can be greatly used by Him.

This week we are starting a five part series on David, the warrior king of Israel, who was used by God to firmly establish and expand the nation. David was also the only person in the Bible who had the title; “a man after God’s own heart” as we see in Acts 13:22.

David came from humble beginnings, yet God saw him and called him to serve as King. In this narrative we have three main characters.

Saul was the king that God had given to Israel, but after Saul’s disobedience God rejected him (1 Samuel 15). Samuel is the great prophet of God and was more than simply a seer, he was regarded as a judge, highly respected and highly feared as well. And then we have David, his father Jesse was a man who lived in Bethlehem. Jesse had eight sons and David was his youngest son.

These events took place in 1024 BC, David himself was somewhere between 20 and 25 years old. The first time we see David in the story, he is described in a remarkable way (v 12). But he was the baby of the family and didn’t have much respect with his older brothers.

When Samuel went to Bethlehem, the leaders of the town trembled when they met him. They wondered if he was coming in judgment. I am sure that all the town of Bethlehem knew that the great prophet was in town and that he had chosen to invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Something was up! The seven older sons of Jesse were probably eager to be in the spotlight. Samuel told them to consecrate themselves in preparation for the sacrifice. This was a ritual washing and probably putting on clean clothes. I can imagine them dressing in their Sabbath best trying to impress the great leader coming to town. But where is David the youngest son? He is still tending the sheep, he knew about the sacrifice, but he faithfully kept on doing what was required of him. This is key, David didn’t try to arrange to be in the presence of Samuel. He didn’t ask someone to do his chores for him, he didn’t try to promote himself.

After all the brothers are rejected, finally as a last resort, David is thought of. Oh, yeah… there is one more son.

As they call David in he is probably covered in dust and smells of sweat and dirty sheep. Notice that he is not consecrated, because in God’s eyes he is already consecrated. He has a pure heart and God looks on the inside, where man looks on the outside.

Samuel sees him and God tells him that David is the one. So Samuel anoints David. As Samuel anoints David, he is filled with the Holy Spirit (V13). Something supernatural happened, the Spirit of the Lord came in power as David was anointed. The ESV bible says, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

It must have been a surprise for his father and brothers. It is unlikely that Jesse, or anyone else in the family, including David completely understood what had just happened. But the Lord was preparing David to be the leader of the nation. From a humble shepherd boy to a mighty warrior king.

David was already a man of integrity and courage, but now God added the power of His Spirit on him. David began to shine and he began to be noticed. Notice how Saul’s attendant recommends David in glowing terms in verse 18. David’s recognition quickly gets him favor and promotion in the service of King Saul. He rises to be one of the Kings Armor bearers.

Notice the progression here, from humble shepherd, to being selected, to being anointed and empowered by God, this humble shepherd is recognized and finds favor in the Kings courts. David was rejected and put down by his brothers, yet he was chosen by God. God had planned for David to be the next King even before he had been born. He was destined for this. (See Psalm 139:16)

What is remarkable in this chapter is David’s humility, not once do we read that David stood up and called attention to himself. He did not promote himself, rather he was recognized by God and man.

What a contrast to the world we live in. Our world says; “be noticeable, promote yourself, market yourself, tell the world how good you are.” But David is silently confident, trusting in the Lord.

It is much better to be promoted by God than to be recognized and promoted by man.

Too many people today try to push themselves into prominent places without first proving themselves at home in the small matters. Character that God uses is developed in the life of obscurity.

God was preparing David while he was faithfully doing his work as no one noticed. But isn’t it interesting that what we do when no one notices, becomes what everyone notices.

People notice the outward manifestation of our inward life.

Our time spent with the Lord each day prepares us for the plans that God has for us.

What is God preparing you for? As God is preparing you, remember that how you serve today is just as important as what you will be doing in the future.