- Sermon Notes
Be Transformed by The Light
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. 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 that 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
When we come to 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 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 that you can’t imagine them becoming believers, but this story from Acts 9 tells us to not stop praying for them. No one is beyond the reach of God.
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.
Just like Saul, our hearts need to be flooded with light. The light of God’s word shines on our hearts so we can discern where we are stuck or need to grow. Jesus is the Living Word, and our relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives so that we are transformed into the potential that God already sees in us and has planted in us.
I. What is Your Damascus?
- Saul had quite the resumé. He was born in Tarsus, of the tribe of Benjamin, probably named after King Saul, who was also from the tribe of Benjamin.
- He was also called Paul, which means “little.” That was more than likely the Roman form of his Jewish name. He was born a Roman citizen, but Jewish.
- He was trained by Gamaliel, one of the greatest teachers in all the history of Judaism. No doubt Saul would’ve been one of his top students.
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 with the Son of God.
- Saul was running hard towards his goal: destroying the church. He thought this was a lofty goal. He was driven by the duty he felt towards God, his conviction, hatred, and anger. 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”
- At this instance, Damascus was his destination, focused on fulfilling that which he thought was the right thing to do.
- Many today are also furiously running towards something, their own Damascus. They might be on a focused journey hoping to attain recognition, happiness, goals, or fulfilling their ambitions.
- We will however see that God is and wants to be actively involved in our journey. He wants us in a living relationship with Him in all we do so that we can be transformed.
A. God meets you on the road
- Verse 3 – All of a sudden, the light of God illuminates Saul’s road to Damascus, and everything changes.
- Jesus confronts Saul with a very important 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?
- God knows where you are. He knows about your journey and your plans and your ideas. The Bible is full of stories of God meeting people on the road.
- When God met Jacob at Bethel, he changed his whole trajectory. Although he was still going to his uncle Laban, his paradigm had changed. Where he was at first defined as being a deceiver, he was now defined by God’s promise and covenant towards him, that he would be the father of a great nation.
- Jesus meets the men on their way to Emmaus and changes them from ones who are depressed and disheartened to men with joy and vision.
- We also know the famous story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well. She went to the well to quench a physical thirst, but after Jesus met her, she had drunk from the living water that would never run dry.
- Verse 5 – Saul asks a very ironic question. “Who are you, Lord?” All the time he thought that he was serving God and doing everything he was doing for God, yet the deep truth that is revealed by this question is that he does not know He did however perceive that this was a godly holy moment.
B. When God meets you, everything changes
- When Saul was blinded in the physical, his spiritual eyes were flooded with light. Everything was turned upside down. He starts to see his life from God’s perspective and God’s plan. He meets Jesus, and it changes everything.
- He later explains this to the Ephesians so they could understand God’s heart. When you see God’s heart, it changes you.
Ephesians 1:17-19, For I always pray to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the deep and intimate knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints, and so that you can know and understand what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength.
- When you get this revelation of the deep and intimate knowledge of Him, of the riches of our glorious inheritance, His greatness, and power, everything changes.
- One of the greatest revelations one can have is the answer to the universal “Why?” Why am I here?
- You start to understand that this is the purpose and aim of life: to know God and to live in an intimate relationship with Him, fulfilling his purpose and living for his pleasure.
Revelation 4:11“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are, and were created.”
- This Scripture can easily be misunderstood if we don’t understand the character of God. Some people read the Scripture and the picture comes to mind of a spoiled child selfishly playing with something for his own pleasure until he is bored with it and then easily discard or destroy it.
- This is not what our God is like. We know this because Jesus sacrificed himself, the most unselfish thing one can do.
Illus. – Those of you who have children might agree that it is your heart to have a good relationship with your kids. Birthed from your love for them, it brings you joy and pleasure to see them living a fulfilled life, although it might at times have its ups and downs. To see them grow and mature and be part of the journey brings great joy.
- As human parents, this is something ingrained in us as part of our godly nature God designed us with. Yet, although we might try our utmost best, our limited flawed nature can never begin to compare to the measure of God’s love and how He sees us and take pleasure in us.
- We were created for His pleasure, in the sense that God has so much love that He wanted to create beings made in His image whom He could lavish his love on, be in relationship with, and be loved in return.
- We, and His relationship to us, was of such great value that He poured himself out unto death so He could save us and restore the beautiful life and relationship to us that He envisioned.
- Our best life is living the purpose we were created for.
Illus. – Imagine you painstakingly create the next-generation computer. All the hardware is perfectly designed to complement each other in achieving the purpose of this machine. You create the operating software to be capable of playing games, doing office work, running designing software, and all the other necessary functions. Then the day to switch on this incredible machine arrives…
II. Surrender to God’s Leading
- Jesus told Saul to go to Damascus and that he would be told what to do. Saul, being blind, surrendered to God’s leading and was led by the hand into Damascus where he was for 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.”
- When you come to that place where you see yourself for who you are without Christ, it changes things.
- He had to become blind to all other things so his eyes could be opened to God’s heart and purpose.
- 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.
- 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.
- Paul was still led to Damascus, but his purpose and his vision changed.
- 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 into you and poured out through you to everyone around you.
A. God sees what we do not see
- The Lord then speaks through a vision to a man named Ananias and told him he must go to Straight Street in Damascus, find Saul, and lay hands on him so that he might regain his sight.
- Ananias doesn’t want to do it because it’s Saul, the enemy of the church. But the Lord responds, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
- The Lord told Ananias that as a chosen instrument, God would do many things through him to touch many people’s lives.
- Ananias could not see this. I am sure that at this stage Saul could also not see this, but God sees it.
- 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.
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 on behalf of those whose hearts are perfectly His.
B. Align with God’s purpose
- Verse 20 – After Saul’s conversion, healing, and baptism, he embraced his new purpose. He immediately began proclaiming the truth about Jesus. God used all his past and turned it around for His glory.
- God used his training as a pharisee to be able to use the scripture to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. He grew in knowledge and strength to the point that he confounded those who opposed him.
- Even the fact that he was the most fervent persecutor of the church was now turned around. If someone like him who had such a hatred for the Christians was converted and now vehemently stood on the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, then there had to be truth to it.
- We cannot always see the reason for the journey we had to take and the experiences we went through, but God does. His power and omniscience can turn ALL around for good and for His glory.
- Our heart’s desire and prayer should be: “Jesus, shine your light of love and purpose into my heart so I will see you for who you are and be found in You.”
Acts 9:1-31 NASB
1 Now [a]Saul, still breathing [b]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 [c]voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he [d]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 [e]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 [f]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 [g]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, [h]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 who had 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 [i]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; [j]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, [k]moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the [l]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 [m]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.