Acts 9:1-19 What Happened Next? Being Converted 19/7/15 8/10 Allesley
1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
Being Converted: My Story “Out of the Blue”
Being Converted from Resistant to Responsive. Saul! On one hand we might be reassured that God does not need the Church to act to convert people. All we need is a series of blinding flashes! Why doesn’t that happen? Is it too expensive, too difficult, too straightforward for God? No. It’s not the best way! The church is God’s “best way” of proclaiming the gospel! Saul is only where he is on the road to Damascus because of the Church. He has been provoked by Christian people acting in the power of the Holy Spirit. Tongues, preaching the Word, healing, proclaiming Jesus is alive. Generosity. Self sacrifice of Stephen has provoked Saul beyond endurance. Do you think Saul would have been so angry “breathing out murderous threats” if they had kept their religious views to private Sunday morning meetings?
Saul has something to teach us today. Conversion! From being outside and resistant to the Good News of Jesus he becomes responsive to Jesus voice and to His church. He too is baptised into the Family.
Being converted from cool to hot – from interest to commitment.
For some people talking about Jesus, or any religion, just leaves them cold.
But many people are interested in spirituality/ religion. But who has an interest in religion (i.e. an investment)?
The old illustration of the Full English Breakfast: The chicken is cool, it has an interest in a fried breakfast – but the Pig is Hot, fully committed!
Saul is at least committed. He's putting his money where his mouth is. No hypocrisy here like those who join the stoning but then just go back to work. He is Hot on the trail. The believers who are not frightened off have a commitment they find it Hot – I wonder how many just decided play it cool, to keep it quiet after Stephen's stoning?
What about us? Cool or Hot? Baptism reminds us about commitment, not interest. Its Hot not Cool.
Being converted from Lifestyle Choice to Living Lord. Big to Small.
In the Bible, and in most anthropological studies, human beings are individuals who are members of a family, a tribe, a community. The “belonging” is very important in being fully human. In out days this is constantly being undermined. Margaret Thatcher famously said “There is no such thing as Society: there are only individuals”. She reflected a growing individualism and a disintegration of human society. People are more and more looking for “my way, my fulfilment, a personal journey at the expense of the corporate identity. This is not God's Way.
Saul pursued those who were in “the Way”. He was following in “the Way” as they fled away from Jerusalem.
But when he met Jesus, his true state was revealed. Not leader but a follower of God’s trail. Not a hunter but hunted by Jesus; Not clear sighted but blind. Not independent individual but one needing the Church he was trying to destroy to come and restore him. Saul, asks “Who are you – Lord”. He has stopped being a lord. He has become small. That's what Paul means. When we baptise someone we are not acknowledging a lifestyle choice, we proclaim that someone is part of the Body of Christ the living Lord. We celebrate the fact that we need Him and one another.
Being converted to a new relationship.
See how Jesus knows his name, calls him by name. Twice. He is known as an individual.
See how Saul’s first question is relational, based on finding out more about Jesus; “Who are you?”
Saul may have seen Jesus in the flesh – we don’t know. But now he begins a new relationship with him. Relationships are such a pain sometimes. Your lives are inextricably mixed. “Till death do us part”. That’s what the Church should have with Jesus. That’s what we should be doing – living in the everyday presence of the risen Jesus along with all our sisters and brothers. That's why Baptism is so important. I am not just an individual. I am more than that. I am part of the family of God and I need you, as you need me, to grow into the fullness of the likeness of Christ. The family likeness. No one can do this alone.
- God can act in your life – and mine “out of the blue” - he's been at work all along. Not Resistant but Responsive.
- Don't be Chicken – not just interested but committed to Jesus and His .He does not want you to be “cool” but “hot”
- Be Small – depend on Him and on one another.
- Listen – He is calling your name. Invest in this New Relationship.
What happened next?
People, families, communities, society were all affected – and continue to be affected by this irresistible force.
We call it “Love”