June 12, 2016
John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
In Acts 9:1-25, Luke tells us of Paul’s conversion, the greatest story of personal change in human history. Paul’s story causes each of us to ask, “What has Jesus changed in my life? Has Jesus made a real difference in my experience of life today, this week, this month, this year? Or is He just an add-on in one little corner of my life?”
The differences Jesus made in the life of Saul/Paul:
1. Saul persecutes. Just as Saul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), he was “still” (Acts 9:1) murderously hating and persecuting Christians, even with the expressed permission of the Jewish high priest (Acts 9:2).
2. Saul Is penitent. With a vision of Himself, Jesus brought Saul to repentance on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-16). Even his name changed: from Saul (referring to a Jewish king) to Paul (meaning small, little, humble). A believer, Ananias, from Damascus must have been changed himself as he obeyed God’s leading, faced the feared persecutor of “those who belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2), and “place[ed] his hands on Saul” for healing (Acts 9:17,18).
3. Paul preaches. God not only reached Saul, but converted him. All of who Saul was, changed. Suddenly it made sense to Saul that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he obeyed God’s leadership from that point onward, “to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
4. Paul perseveres. As Paul persevered in believing and preaching, the persecutor became the persecuted (Acts 9:16). He now followed a new pattern for the rest of his life: preaching, persecution and escape.
How does Paul’s experience plug into our lives?
Two differences that Jesus Christ should make in our lives:
1. Jesus Christ can save anyone. No matter who you are, Jesus can bring meaningful, personal change.
Saul had sincere reasons for his strong resistance to Jesus – his Jewish heritage with its language, its culture and its Law. After all, he was a rising star among the Pharisees, even trained by Gamaliel, one of the greatest rabbis who ever lived.
Jesus clearly claimed that salvation is found in Himself, not the Jewish Law. To a Jew like Saul, Jesus’ claims were blasphemous. Saul was the hardest of the hard to reach. Jews are very resistant to the Gospel even today…..yet Jesus reached Paul and converted him.
In facing Jesus, Paul was confronted with his guilt of murdering others for their faith and starting a movement persecuting and executing God’s people. Although Paul had done great wrong with so much that could not be undone, Jesus forgave him, saved him, and gave him new life.
If Jesus can reach Saul, he can reach anybody. There are many, many stories of Jesus reaching the most unlikely of people…even today in Iran and Northern Sudan.
Jesus can reach even us! Some of us grew up in Christian homes and some not. Jesus found some of us when we least expected it. Do not give up! Keep praying. Jesus can reach anyone. Jesus offers total forgiveness that we can experience right now. He not only reaches us; He saves us from darkness within and without. For those who are already Christians, be ready to step in and do your part.
Some of us have still not received God’s forgiveness. We need to find peace with God and know His love daily in our hearts. We need to live with new purpose and a new heart.
You might have reason for resisting Jesus, but you could not have half the reason that Paul did. Is the Holy Spirit speaking to you and you know that you are not right with God? Stop now and pray.
2. Jesus changes the way we see everything. Just as Paul changed in every way, based on his new relationship with God, we discover that change is the natural fruit of our conversion, too.
Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, wants to change everything in our lives — our finances, our friends and family, our self-image, our actions, our purpose. Jesus brings real life and truth into everything we do—not only in church.
Have we actually accepted His gift of forgiveness and salvation? Has Jesus changed the way we see everything?
Prayer: Holy Spirit, show us ways you want us to change. We invite you to do more. Help us to turn our will to You and obey Your voice of Truth in our lives so that we can be continually transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.