Monday, August 6, 2012

The Damascus Road Experience

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Acts 9:1-10, 17-18.

Saul was from a prominent Jewish family and had all the right credentials and connections. He was well educated and was extremely religious However, the religion he followed was the Pharisee’s brand of Old Testament legalism. Saul actively persecuted those who followed the grace filled teachings of Jesus, even to the point of participating in the stoning of one of the deacons of the church.

Verse 1 -Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest
             Acts 8 shares a powerful story of how lay people in the church were making a difference in the world through sharing their faith as they went about their daily business. Acts 9 contrasts how Saul was being cruel to the church, even as the church was being such a positive influence on others.
             The Greek word for “breathing” is empneomapeiles, which actually means “breathed in.” The implication is that with every breath that Saul breathed in, he became angrier and more hateful toward the things of Christ.
             Knowing that his radical views were not consistent with how people should treat each other, Saul looked for powerful allies to make his viewpoints seem more main stream. He went to the high priest, Caiaphas. That is the same high priest who had Jesus crucified. Not exactly an impartial leader!
             We live in a culture that is becoming more and more negative toward Christianity. It seems that many people are becoming more and more angry and hateful toward Christians with every breath they breathe. Look at the recent hate speech directed at the CEO of Chik-fil-a. Bigots and narrow minded haters from the left attacked him for simply saying that he believed in traditional marriage. He did not attack anyone or say one negative word to or about anyone. He simply stated what he believed about marriage and his critics went crazy. They knew their views were bizarre, so they sought to recruit key leaders to their cause in hopes of making their viewpoints seem normal.
             This should not surprise us; after all, Revelation describes how bad it will get as the return of the Lord approaches. We are also reminded of Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” No matter what the mainstream media may say, evil is still evil, sin is still sin, wickedness is still wickedness, and no amount of shouting, yelling, or boycotting of chicken sandwiches will change the truth from being the truth. And just because a famous celebrity or politician believes a lie and proclaims in on the Internet and nightly news, that lie does not suddenly become truth.

Verse 2 - and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
             When Saul realized he could not accomplish his evil on his own, he sought official recognition for his campaign of terror, and he got it! He was not content to just practice his beliefs on his own, he felt compelled to impose them on others. Saul wanted to enforce his will on the 50,000 Jews who lived in Damascus. In Saul’s time, Damascus was a 6-8 day journey away from Jerusalem. Why would Saul want to travel so far to silence Christians?
             We should not be fooled into thinking that those who want to remove Christianity from public life in our nation will be content to just do it in their own little corner of the world. They feel compelled to make all of us accept their ungodly view of the world. Why?
             Saul was propelled by the power of Satan to attack the church of Christ. Today, those who lead the attack on Christianity are also fueled by the power of the evil one. Satan seeks to devour our world for his own evil purposes (1 Peter 5:8).
             In Saul’s time, Christianity was called “the Way.” This was a reference to Isaiah 40:3 and refers to the HOPE that those who follow Christ have. The reason the enemies of Christ are so hateful is that the HOPE they see in us convicts them of their sin. Instead of turning from their sin, they try to destroy our HOPE.

Verse 3 - As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.
             Saul was nearing his goal of destroying the church in Damascus when God intervened.  Acts 22:6 tells us that it was near noon when God showed up. When the LIGHT OF CHRIST shines on a person, everything changes!

Verse 4 - Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
             Saul got knocked off his high horse, literally! Sometimes God has to knock people off their high horse in order to get their attention. It is not because He is a mean or angry God; it is because He loves His enemies so much that He will do what it takes to give them a chance to change their ways before it is too late.
             Notice that the Lord said that Saul was persecuting Him. When someone attacks the church, they are attacking the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Men, if someone attacked OUR bride, how would WE respond? Jesus loves the church, just like a groom loves his bride. So when God’s enemies go after the church, they should not be surprised when Jesus knocks them off their high horse. Modern day opponents of the church will face the judgment of Christ.

Verse 5 - “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied.
             Saul asked “who are you?” – Who did Saul think it was?  Notice Saul said, “Who are you, Lord.” The Greek word for Lord in this verse actually just means “sir” and was a sign of respect, not deity. But five minutes before this event happened, Saul would not have even given God respect. Things were about to change very quickly.
             The response to Saul’s question was “I am Jesus!” Jesus did not need to debate Saul to prove His existence or His power; He just had to speak His name to Saul.  There is power in the name of Jesus.
             At the name of Jesus:
Sinners repent – Acts 2:38
Those same sinners are justified – 1 Corinthians 6:11
We find newness of life – John 20:31
New believers are baptized – Acts 8:12
The sick are healed – Acts 3:6
The uneducated become leaders – Acts 4:13
Christians are united – 1 Corinthians 1:10
Demons flee – Acts 16:18
EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that JESUS is Lord! – Philippians 2:10

Take a moment to think about the power of the name of Jesus.

Verse 8 - Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.
             Saul was so shaken by the name of Jesus that his whole carefully constructed evil world came crashing down around him. He was temporarily blinded by the light. The once proud, well educated, wealthy, leader had to be led around by the hand in humility and timidness.

Verse 10 - There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias! Here I am, Lord! he said.
             Saul needed someone to help him understand what Jesus was doing in his life. The Lord spoke to a faithful Christian named Ananias. We know little about Ananias other than he was a deeply committed follower of Christ (Acts 22). But when the Lord asked Ananias to help Saul, his response was, Here I am, Lord. We know that Ananias was nervous about helping Saul (verses 13-14) because of Saul’s reputation of hating and hurting Christians. But God had big plans for Saul (verse 15) and Ananias was a part of them.
             When we feel led of God to witness to a person, it may well be that God has recently knocked them off their high horse and they are flailing around blindly looking for answers. God may choose to use us to show them those answers. We may be nervous, but we must respond in obedience.

Verse 18 - At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.
             Ananias went to Saul and prayed for him. Scholars are unclear if literal “scales” fell from Saul’s eyes or if this was merely a metaphor for him finally being able to clearly see that Jesus was real and had a plan for his life. Either way, Saul went from being an enemy of Christ to a follower of Christ.
             Saul’s first response as a new believer was to be baptized. Baptism is the first step of obedience to the Lord and the outward way that we express our inner faith in Christ. Believers who have not yet been baptized should do so as soon as possible.

The rest of the story:
             Saul eventually changed his name to Paul.
             He became one of the most effective apostles in the early church.
             He started churches all over the known world.
             He wrote nearly half the New Testament.
             He literally changed the world!
             Incidentally, modern “haters” just cannot stand Paul, they “breathe out” hate against his writings every chance they get.

             Christ centered churches offer HOPE by making a positive difference in the world.
             Those who are under the influence of Satan will hate Christ centered churches.
             We must keep witnessing to the “Sauls” of this world so they can have the opportunity to become “Pauls” through the name of Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for making this scripture so lively on Sunday. Love the "horse trot."