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Acts 9:1-31

That the Blind May See

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • March 29, 2014

Acts 9 tells the story of an amazing conversion. The number one enemy of the church is himself going to become a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. One of the great lessons of this story is that no one is beyond the reach of God. You might know people you think are impossible, you can’t imagine them actually becoming believers, but this story tells us to not stop praying for them. No one is beyond the reach of God. God is on the move and pursuing their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

That the Blind May See

Acts 9:1-31

In Acts chapter 9 we come to perhaps the most famous conversion in the New Testament. You remember from chapter 8 that when Stephen was dragged before the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin, he accused them of being stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit. Immediately the place erupted in anger.

Stephen was dragged out of the city and stoned to death. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” When they looked at his face it was as the face of an angel. Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”

As they were stoning Stephen, they laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. He was in hearty agreement with putting Stephen to death.

This event touched off a firestorm of persecution against the church, led by none other than Saul himself. Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house and dragging off both men and women, putting them in prison. Saul became enemy number one of the church.

When Stephen accused the Sanhedrin of being hard of heart and resisting the Holy Spirit, he was including Saul. What a contrast; here was Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, his face like the face of an angel, seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God and asking that God not hold this against them. Then there was Saul, resisting the Holy Spirit, so hard of heart he even dragged out women from their homes and had them stoned as well.

Saul is spiritually blind. He is resisting the Holy Spirit, he’s kicking against God, he is hard of heart and no light can enter his soul. You have to wonder what impact Stephen’s death had on Saul. Would he keep seeing Stephen’s face over and over in his mind? Clearly God was trying to get his attention.

When we come to know chapter 9, the church has been scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria and beyond, but Saul is pursuing them even in these other cities. He asked for letters of authority from the high priest to the synagogues at Damascus so he might find anyone belonging to the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem.

It’s on this journey to Damascus that Saul will get knocked off his high horse. It’s here on this road he will he will have a “come to Jesus meeting.” That’s because he will meet Jesus Himself who will literally blind him with light.

There are many who are spiritually blind and one thing is for certain, God is trying to get their attention. Many are resisting the Holy Spirit, they are kicking against the goads. But when God is on the move and pursuing by the Holy Spirit, you can become even harder of heart by greater and greater resistance to God, or you relent and give your life to the King.

This is the story of an amazing conversion. The number one enemy of the church is himself going to become a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Here’s one of the great lessons of the story, no one is beyond the reach of God. You might know people you think are impossible, you can’t imagine them actually becoming believers, but this story from Acts 9 tells us to not stop praying for them. No one is beyond the reach of God.

My dad was one of those impossible people. I never thought I would see his shadow cross the threshold of a church. He was an alcoholic; abusive, and I will admit it, I hated him. But did a work in him and in me. God gave me the privilege of leading him to faith in Jesus Christ and to baptize him my own hands.

Saul is going to meet Jesus. The pursuer is being pursued. The great antagonist will become one of the greatest advocates for the name of Christ. Saul, later named Paul, will write more than half of the New Testament.

I. Open the Eyes of Your Heart

Galatians 1:14, I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

  • What Saul learned was religion, but what he needed was forgiveness and a personal relationship to the Son of God.

A. A good question; “Why?”

  • When Saul was knocked from his horse he heard a voice in Hebrew saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” This is a great question. Why?
  • This is a good question for all of us. Why do you do what you do? What drives you? What motivates you? What are you trying to accomplish? What is the purpose and significance of your life?
  • Saul was driven by anger. It was the core of his existence. He said so himself.

Acts 26:11, “And I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities”

  • But all of Saul’s zeal and all of Saul’s anger was wrong. Wouldn’t it be terrible to hold on to anger and to bitterness and then find out it was wrong?

Romans 10:2-3, I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

1 Corinthians 2:8, If they had understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

  • But here’s the point, they should have known. God was trying to get their attention the whole time, but they were hard of heart and dull of hearing.

Illus – They are like children that hold their hands over their ears and close their eyes and starting making noises so they can’t hear or see.

  • Stephen said that they were just like their fathers, always resisting the Holy Spirit and uncircumcised in heart and ears.

Matthew 16:3, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”

Acts 26:14, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Psalm 32:8-9, I will instruct you and teach you in the way with you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check.

Illus - You know what a mule is famous for; stubbornness.

B. Love is the answer

  • Saul was blinded and was led by the hand into Damascus where he was three days neither eating nor drinking, but he was certainly praying.
  • What would he pray? I have to believe it went something like this, “My Lord God, I am so sorry. When I think about what I did to those people who were only trying to love and serve You, I am so ashamed. Please forgive me. I don’t deserve to live.”
  • There is a brokenness that is good. When God is breaking your heart, then He is on the move and good things will come.

2 Corinthians 7:10, Sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation…

  • When you think about the great forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, it is amazing. None of us deserve it. God’s grace is seen because He gives us what we do not deserve.

Illus - There is a story of a soldier in Napoleon’s army that deserted him and received a sentence of death. His mother came to Napoleon and begged for mercy. “He does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon responded. “If he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy,” the mother cried. Mercy was given.

  • Paul understood that he received what he didn’t deserve, and it forever changed his life. As it should ours as well.

Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Philippians 3:13-14, Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • Love is the answer. Paul received God’s love and was going to live in response to it. Too many people are held captive by what has happened in the past.
  • Why do you live the way you do? What motivates you? What gives meaning and significance to your life? Love is the answer; God’s love poured out through you to everyone around you.

II. It’s Worth it All!

A. You are a chosen instrument

  • The Lord told Ananias that as a chosen instrument, God would do many things through him to touch many people’s lives.
  • We may not be called as Paul was to bear His name before kings and nations, but we are called and chosen so that God, through us, would touch people around us.
  • If you want significance, purpose and meaning in your life, it’s found right there. Touch someone’s life with the love of God; make a difference.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. But I found mercy has an example for those who would believe.”

Illus - When I look out at the people of this church, I see so many, especially young people, with such potential; that God would use you as a chosen instrument to be a champion for the purpose of God. It’s worth it all!

2 Chronicles 16:9, The eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the whole earth in order to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are perfectly His.

B. Suffering comes with love

Illus – There is a famous story about the sons of Isaac, the twins, Jacob and Esau. When Esau came in from the fields and was famished, Jacob offered him a bowl of red stew in exchange for his birthright. It wasn’t worth it.

  • David understood very well. He captured the value of living for God when he wrote…

Psalm 84:10, One day in Your courts is better than thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God then dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Acts 9:1-31     NASB

1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and 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 get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." 7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for 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 harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." 15 But the Lord said to him,"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened.
 
Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." 21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and whohad come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. 23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

 

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30 But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

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