Incredible Conversion - Acts 9:1-19 NIV
Continue the Acts study - Sequel & Requel. Our 21st today. Why study this? Most important conversion in Acts. Biggest change. 3rd most important after Jesus birth and Jesus on cross. 5 lessons.
#1 - There is no such thing as a ____________ conversion to Christ.
“As [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'” Acts 9:3-4 NIV
When someone gets saved, what is the picture you have in your mind? A prayer? An altar? A class? A signature card? Being talked into something? The truth is that there really is no "typical." Acts is filled with story after story of different ways that people came to Christ in 1st century. Why do we start here? Because often times our own bias about the who and the how keep us from seeing possibilities as Jesus sees them. Certainly none of the early Christians would have seen Saul as the most likely candidate to follow Jesus. He was the greatest enemy of the church! "Who" is it that you can't see "how"? Ask God to help re-arrange the who and how in your mind to the possibilities that He sees!
#2 - Let's never forget - __________ is entirely capable of speaking for Himself.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city,
and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5b-6 NIV
We sometimes think that Jesus was done speaking in the gospels. Or in the first chapter of Acts. But if you have a red-letter edition of the Bible, Acts 9 is filled with red print. Jesus still speaks to us today. It may not be through a flash of light that knocks us to the ground, it may be the still small voice of Jesus' Holy Spirit - but Jesus still speaks for himself. What a privilege to hear His voice! Imagine what Christianity would be like if it were simply a matter of following rules. Imagine if it was just an ethical standard. Just a religion instead of a relationship!? The entire rest of the story - and our last 3 points of this talk are all based upon the foundation that Jesus still speaks today. And we hear Him. And He hears us! Don't let the significance of this escape you! Celebrate it!
#3 - The validity of my ______________ is not measured by how many others hear it.
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.” Acts 9:7 NIV
Jesus really did speak. And Saul really did hear Him. Yet the Bible also tells us - goes out of its way to tell us - that the men traveling with Saul did not hear Jesus' words. They heard noise. But not speech. Why is this important? What's the first thing we say when we are with someone and we either see or hear something incredible. Did you see that? Did you hear that? There is greater validation when we are in a group who hear or see. We question ourselves (and our sanity) if we are the only one.
This raises a good question. When we hear something, how do we know that it's God speaking and not just the pizza we ate last night?
“Do not quench the Spirit... but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19,21 ESV
Throughout history Christians and Christianity has gotten itself into trouble when we think we've heard a special message from God, but it wasn't. And yet we maintain that our Christianity is alive and that God still speaks. So how can we tell? "Test everything." What does that mean? And how do we "hold fast to what is good?"How do we know the good?
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NIV
God the Holy Spirit will never contradict Himself or His Word. When we hear something that we think may be God speaking, we go to His Word. We ask God the Spirit to show us how what we are hearing is consistent with what God's Word says. And especially if we think we have heard God speak, but what we have heard is NOT consistent with what the Bible teaches, we can be assured that what we heard was not God!
Is this this "word from God" one way only? Can I talk too?
#4 God may not tell me everything I think I should know but _____________
“But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 NIV
We have another conversation between God and a man, this time between God and Ananias. Stop and think about how important he was to God's plan! There would be no Paul without Ananias! It was up to Ananias to take Saul in and to teach him what he needed to know in order to become a Christ-follower. The difference between Saul and Paul is not just the difference of S&P but of Ananias! When God needed his key man, He sought out Ananias! So this is important for us to see. Did Ananias simply salute and proceed with God's instructions? NO! He stopped and checked with God - God, you do know this is an evil dude, right? It's OK to talk back to God. To check in. Are you sure? Did I just hear you right? Do you know what you're doing? The important thing is that in the end, Ananias had a close enough relationship to trust God and to obey God's instructions.
#5 - The final decision of __________ or ________ is not made by us.
It is made correctly by God. Who we think are friends could be foes. Who we are convinced are foes could be friends. Allow God to be your filter!
“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you ... has sent me.'" Acts 9:17 NIV
Every single outside indicator that Ananias had was that this man Saul was an evil, murdering enemy who would most likely take Ananias' own life. Yet Ananias followed God's lead. Notice he called him "brother." How hard must that have been, especially if Ananias had lost anyone important to him because of Saul's murderous ways. But notice what came next after "Brother Saul?" It was the LORD Jesus. People do not get saved based upon our assessment of their goodness or merit. How?
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 NIV
None of us are deserving. We were all enemies of God at one point.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2 NIV
John also reminds us that the same atoning sacrifice that atoned for us also atones for others too - even up to the whole world. That includes your enemies and those who you are sure don't deserve it. They don't. Just like you don't. And I don't. We do not decide who is friend or foe of God. Only God decides! Who around you might be a friend of God?