I want us to look today at Paul’s Grand Serendipity. We might call it his AH-HA moment, his defining cross roads encounter, his Epiphany season, and his transformative experience with God. There’s something we can all take home with us from his experience….
Acts 9:2 “Paul (who was formerly called Saul) was seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that If he found those who belonged to “The Way”(the followers of Jesus), whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 So Saul headed toward Damascus.
The Roman government was ruling in Jerusalem and they had made a league with the Jewish religious leadership to snuff out the movement whose allegiance was to Jesus whom they had crucified. But instead of destroying the church, it only grew, the greater the persecution. (God knows how to stir the eagle’s nest when it’s time for the eagle to fly..)
Saul, was the hit man for the opposition and was tracking down the followers of “The Way” who had migrated to Damascus to flee persecution.
It wasn’t hard to find them because they left a trail of new believers everywhere they went….changed lives were in their wake, the healed, delivered and transformed…
Damascus was about 150 miles from Jerusalem, which would be like walking from Key west, to Coral Gables….that would be about 30 minutes by air. Three hours by car and most of a week if you were walking. So, Saul had all that time to scheme and plan his diabolical round up of the followers of Jesus, but God was way ahead of Him.
Listen if God said He’d be with you, He’ll be with you… If God said He’ll go before you, He’ll go before you….If He said He’d be your shield and sword, count on it…. He is the surrounder who surrounds and He’s rock that won’t roll and that rock is your foundation….
The church was out-numbered, it was out-financed, it was out-equipped and out-resourced…EXCEPT FOR THE GOD FACTOR….. ONE WITH GOD IS A MAJORITY….
Paul was about to get a lesson in “little is much when God is in it”….
The Damascus road is a road of confrontation, change and challenge. Paul thought he was the one on his way to confront the Christians and instead, he was about to be confronted by the very truth that he denied.
Acts 9:3 “as he (Paul) came near the city, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice speak to him. "Saul! Saul!" the voice said. "Why are you opposing me?" 5 "Who are you, Lord?" he asked. "I am Jesus, I am the one you are really opposing”. Listen, if you’re living life the Jesus way, confrontation is inevitable! The very ones who are out to confront you, are about to be confronted! I’m sure Paul didn’t mind folks talking to God. But when they took it to the next level to say that God talks to them, then they’re crazy, and delusional nut jobs!(have you found it to be true)
Christians are supposed to be hearing voices… (Father, son, and H.S. and angels as well) God says to “Listen” to Him 331 times in the bible and He tells us to “Hear” Him 347 times. So, why would He say this if He wasn’t speaking something to us…..
The very word of God which we read, was mostly spoken by God to thosewho wrote as God spoke it to them by the Holy Spirit, but for YOU to hear from God in this day and age, is another matter completely for many folks.Think about it….
Yet, the scriptures tell us He is the same Yesterday, today and forever. He changes not, and there is no shadow of change with Him.
God says in Isaiah 28:23 “Listen to Me and hear My voice, pay attention and hear what I say.
God says in Proverbs 8:4 “To you, O people, I call out, I raise my voice to all mankind”.
God says in Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: If any man shall hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and we will fellowship together with one another”.
Believe it Church, God is speaking to all mankind, but like Saul, they are being brought to a Damascus road confrontation, and to a defining moment of personal revelation. In Jesus’ name!!
That confrontation settles once and for all the feeble efforts of trying to explain away and understand the supernatural God with the natural mind.When that light hit Saul, there was no further argument.
John 1:4 &5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend it.” John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The voice that Saul heard…was the same voice that spoke into the shapeless void and created the worlds
It was the same Voice that spoke breath into Adam
It was the same Voice that spoke to Moses from out of the burning bush
It was the same Voice that spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The prophets, heard that voice, and those who stood around mount Calvary, heard the voice cry out from the cross, “It is finished.”
And all Saul could do and all anyone who truly hears that voice can do, is to bow and yield to the only true authority, the Lord Jesus Christ.
You may not see it but that same confrontation is going on all around you in the neighborhood, on your job, in your family…there’s a Damascus road happening….Divine confrontation is taking place…. We all need a vision check-upregularly…. I believe Christ blinded Saul and then healed his sight, to let him know that he wasn't seeing God, himself or others in the right way and he needed a major adjustment.
When our resistance collides with His voice and His light, it is inevitable that change will take place at the core of our being…. (have you checked your vision lately)
Paul himself, expressed it this way… 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old way has gone, the new way has come.”
Paul knew the word, he knew the Scriptures, top to bottom, frontward and backwards, but it didn’t change him, and that’s because he never personally knew the Author.
We are not complete, and cannot become all we were created to be without intimacy with God… That’s why the scripture tells us we have all come short of the glory of God… Even the goldfish can tell the difference in a person who has an intimate relationship with Father God….
The word “Yadda” in the Hebrew means “to have intimacy knowledge of”.There are folks who say they believe in Jesus, they say they are Christians (Christ followers) but they rarely if ever open up their Bibles. When you combine a personal intimacy with Christ and applied knowledge of the Word….BAAM…BAAM… Transformation takes place….
It’s like Power Rangers…. BAAM.. they step over into their power and are able to overcome the enemy, that they couldn’t overcome before!
The old song says, “He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known”. THAT’S YADDA!
That Intimacy produces revelation insight into the Divine will, and understanding of your purpose and destiny.
Hollywood loves a crisis… it’s the stuff that keeps folks hanging on in a movie or Television. They keep you on the edge of your seat, then go to commercial just to torture you. Crisis keeps folks reading to see the end of a story. There’s a crisis in the government, or in the health service, climate change, nations on the verge of war, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and oh yes the polar caps are melting and will flood the whole earth….. God was creating a crisis for Paul….because Crisis produces change….Sometimes when it looks like everything is falling apart, it’s really just starting to come together… When our plans are all coming unglued, God’s plans are getting fastened down and in place…. When Jerusalem was experiencing it’sgreatest persecution, it created the great dispersia, that sent the gospel out into the world as people fled from Jerusalem…. It was a crises that fulfilled prophecy… “This gospel shall be preached in all the world”….
What’s interesting is that the word “Crisis” originally meant “a turning point” or “change of direction” or a “Tipping point”.….
The Damascus road, brings confrontation that leads to a personal crisis, and that crisis presents all who walk it, with the Damascus road challenge.
Paul found out that faith in Jesus, challenged everything in his life.
He is about to come under a new authority in his life….
Acts 9:6 (The Lord said) “Get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." v7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they witnessed the voice but they saw no one there! v8 So Saul got up from the ground, but [although] his eyes were open he could see nothing. And leading him by the hand, they brought [him] into Damascus. v9 And he was three days without sight, and did not eat or drink anything”.
The next thing we read, in this encounter, is that when Paul got to Damascus, God called to a man named Ananias, and Ananias’ response was, “Yes Lord, here I am.” (Sometimes we have to say Yes, before God lets us know what we said “YES” to. Sometimes we have to sign the check, and let the Lord fill in the amount) So, when Ananias said “Yes Lord”.. then the Lord proceeded to tell Him that Saul of Tarsus was at a house on the street called Straight, praying. And God had to move because thousands of Christians were praying for this guy… (they were praying “HELP”) God told Ananias to go to Saul, lay hands on him and pray that he would receive his sight.
So, Ananias answered the Lord with that same calm, confident obedience, we all use when the Lord asks us to step up to the challenge and follow Him when He tells us something we just can’t wrap our head around!!!.
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR ETERNAL MIND?!! (or something like that)
I mean, Lord…Saul just finished whacking Stephen in Jerusalem and he’s killing believers and putting many in jail wherever he goes. And you want me to lay hands on him and pray. I lay hands on him he’s going to lay hands on me, and not in a good way.” “Trust me”…. (Ohhhh, wow, Is there anyone else up there, I could speak to)
It’s far better to let the Lord handle some things, or we may end up like the old retired gambler who was on trial for murder and if convicted, could spend the rest of his life in prison. He found out that a fellow gambler was on the jury and figured that would be the one who would take a bribe. He sent word to the juror that he would be paid $10,000 if he could convince the rest of the jury to reduce his charge to manslaughter.
The jury deliberated an entire week and sure enough, returned with a verdict of manslaughter. After the trial, the accused was given 30 days to turn himself in for sentencing. The accused had the juror come to his house, and told him what a great job he had done and paid him the $10,000. The bribed juror replied that it wasn't easy to convince the rest of the jury to change the charge to manslaughter. They all thought he was not guilty and, wanted to let him go!
(IT’S FAR BETTER TO LET THE LORD WORK SOME THINGS OUT!)
So getting back, to the Damascus road… listen to the Lord’s response to Ananias….
Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel”.
How would you like to be the person who obeyed the Lord and led Billy Graham or Pat Robertson, or Paul Crouch, or Joel Houston, John Kilpatrick or Reinhart Bonke to the Lord.
I have a friend who bought one of those metal detector devices and he goes out on the beach every evening and walks around on the beach when everyone has gone. He has found 300 buttons, thousands of bottle caps and beer tabs, and scores of broken sun glasses and false teeth. But he has alsofound diamond rings, gold bracelets, collector’s coins, and other costly jewelry. Buried treasure, lost treasure, that is there waiting to be found and given value once again. We need some “lost soul” detectors so we can reclaim the Lord’s lost treasures….
Luke 15:8-10 “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Paul wrote 1/3rd of the entire New Testament, became the Apostle who brought the gospel to the Gentile world, and planted churches throughout the Mediterranean region.
What a hidden treasure, God called on Ananias to recover!!!! Although we never hear of Ananias again he is one of the great heroes of the Bible. Everything Paul accomplished for the kingdom, there was Ananias’ finger print on it all, there at the critical juncture at the launching of one of the most powerful, influential personalities in the history of the church, was a man, waiting in the wings, Ananias.
I can’t help but ask what hidden treasure The Lord is waiting for us to discover and recover as he asks each of us as he asked Ananias, “are you willing, will you go”?.
We serve a God who is in the life changing business….it doesn’t matter to Him which road to destruction they may have chosen…. The road of drug and alcohol addiction, or crime, or bitterness, or greed and covetousness or sexual addiction.
COME ON NOW…. He changed us didn’t he….. that same Holy Spirit encounter can transform them as well!
I want you to notice something, Saul wasn’t saved on the road to Damascus because he had this amazing supernatural experience. He was saved three days later, when he called on the name of the Lord as Ananias presented Christ to him and baptized him.
There are many folks I have talked with who have had special encounters and experiences and some have had miracles, and they think they are saved because of these supernatural encounters. But they go on in their lives and live no different than they did before. What does the scripture say about this?
Let’s hear the Holy Spirit’s first message after the day of Pentecost, which was the launching of the church.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. v39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.”
Now, water baptism is the outer witness of the inner work of repentance which opens the soul to the invasion of the eternal life which Christ gives by the Holy Spirit. (repeat that) Baptism is about a new walk of obedience to our Lord and Savior.
Without the work of the Holy Spirit, by faith, we go in the water dry and come out wet and that’s all that really happens….
Having a miracle in your life, or a supernatural experience, won’t save you… it is repentance of sin and receiving Christ as Savior alone, that brings salvation….
The Damascus road encounter got Paul’s attention and brought him to a different place in his priorities and values, but with only that, he would have missed the power within his life to transform and truly change his world view and save his soul.
Paul is certainly speaking from personal experience when he says in
1 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things become new.”
One of the evidences of the reality of Saul’s conversion was his immediate identification with and joining together with the church.
Perhaps nowhere else is the radical change in Paul’s life more apparent than in his attitude toward the followers of Christ. Previously Saul had sought them out to persecute them, even kill them, but he now sought them out to worship and fellowship with them in God’s house.
And it was Paul, the transformed persecutor of the church, who wrote…
Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) v24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: v25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another and so much the more, as you see the day approaching”.
Paul is saying “don’t neglect church attendance”… in the church building and outside of it!!!
We are told that from day one, when others stood back and were a little nervous about this former persecutor, coming to church…. Barnaba immediately joined himself with Paul and befriended him, and showed him true Christian love and acceptance.
When many of the apostles stood at arms length, Barnabas defended him and stood for him. Do you think perhaps, Paul may have stayed with it and remained faithful because of the faithful friend he found in Barnabas.
What if we marked on our calendar each day, “FGT” and make every day a FGT day. That stands for “Find God’s Treasures”.. and how about adding “BAF” to that which stands for Be A Friend to someone who needs a friend…..Be a Barnabas!
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…. God sees the apples on the trees in the seeds of the apples on all the apple trees for infinity….
The word God deposits within us is like that apple seed….It has the power to reproduce itself for infinity!!!
The bible is filled with little things that people gave and they did to make the big things happen….
I can think of how Rahab the harlot, hid the Israeli spies on the wall of Jericho, saving their lives, and then let them down by a rope…just a little thing….with big results!
That guy who gave Jesus the donkey on Palm Sunday, just a little thing, to fulfill prophecy…but with historical results!
What about the little boy's lunch that Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children. Just a little thing with miraculous results!
I also think of the little woman’s oil and meal that fed a prophet and supplied for an entire community in time of famine…. That shouts “little is much when God is in it”!!
It’s so true that One sows, another waters and we all rejoice in the harvest!!
To a childless couple, great news would be “You’re expecting”…. To a couple waiting for their mortgage to be approved, it would be, “You are now a home owner”…. To a teen-ager great news would be, “Here’s the keys to your new car”…. To the early church, it would be, “Saul has accepted Christ as his savior”!!!! He’s a believer now!!
More than two hundred years ago Adoniram and Ann Judson and Luther Rice heard God's call and left America to go to India. On arrival, they were baptized by William Carey. But were not allowed to serve in India, so Judson and his wife, went to Burma. Because their support would no longer come from the folks who sent them out as missionaries, Rice returned to America to raise money. Through his efforts the Judsons were able to continue on in Burma. The couple served for six years before they saw their first convert."
Henry Blackaby said: he visited (Burma) in 1999, and found that there were 700,000 who were the result of Judson efforts. Rice who raised the funds and the Judsons, could never have imagined that they would help start something which would reach so many for Christ!
In Bill Gaither’s song “Joy comes in the morning”, one verse says,
“To invest your seeds of trust in God in mountains you can't move,
You have risked your life on things you cannot prove, But to give the things you cannot keep for what you cannot lose, is the way to find the joy God has for you.
Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning. Weeping only lasts for the night. Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning. The darkness now means dawn is just in sight.”
Each of us are on our own personal Damascus road today. It’s aroad that will bring crisis, which is a place of change in direction, a turning point, and a tipping point. Nothing will be the same again, because we will not be the same as we have our own encounter with Christ there.
I wrote a little verse while I was preparing this sermon that says….
“Where does the road you are walking lead? Do you know who has brought you there? Have you made the stops that He’s prepared? Have you gathered His treasures so fair? Have you heard His voice as you walk that way? Can you see it’s beauty so rare? When you enter that beautiful city, and the saved all around you appear, what a joy when someone comes up and says, “It was you who invited me here”.
Prayer…..Lord, we open ourselves to the fullness of Your wisdom and guidance. We receive the knowledge we need at this time in our lives that we might serve You and serve those around us. Our greatest desire is that we may bring glory to Your great Name. Forgive us for the times we have taken Your presence for granted on our Damascus road. Make us more aware of the One who made all things and holds all things together.
No matter what has happened, I know that beginning today, it can be different. Give me an understanding heart, that I may see the precious lives that you treasure all around me. Lord we cry out in behalf of the people, all around us, that their eyes may be open to Your truth so they might receive Your mercy and forgiveness. Help us, that as we walk in love, You would shine through us to dispel the darkness, so that all can run into Your transforming light.
Father, You are able to bring forth every kind of good fruit and bring our loved ones, friends and neighbors into the peace of mind and spirit, they so long for. Bring this city to revival and restoration. May we be strengthened with Your glorious power so we have the endurance and patience we need, to enabled us to share in the inheritance that belongs to all Your people.Shine through us and may Your light never dim. Christ with me, before me, behind me, in me, beneath me, and above me. Christ on my right, on my left, when I lie down, and when I rise up. To Him be all the glory, In Jesus Name…