Pastor David Moore
Old Testament reading: Isaiah 29:13-21 (NRSV)
The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.
Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’ You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?
Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest? On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.
Theme: The story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
New Testament reading: Acts 9:1-19 (NIV)
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and 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. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord”, Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
In Acts, Luke gives us various conversion stories to find the common thread. ~D. Moore
The three common threads today are:
1. Untamed God – “Lord, who are you?”
2. A stubborn fact “I am Jesus.”
3. A radical relationship “Whom are you persecuting.”
Saul believed in a God he wanted to believe in, and a God agreed with him on just about everything, His own, made-up God. Sure, it was back in the OT, but in reality, Saul was not looking to follow God, only to have God’s stamp of approval on the things he did. ~D. Moore
People create the sort of life that they like, who agree with their point of view of politics, morality, sense of humor, and then when confronted by something uncomfortable in the Scripture, say that’s not the sort of God I believe in. ~D. Moore
Our deepest need is for the God who is not a product of our own heart. ~D. Moore
The good news is that Saul sought the biblical God, and that God broke through. A conversion occurs when we give up the God we have converted in our minds. ~D. Moore
Here is a test: does God speak to your life things you don’t want to hear? If He does, that’s usually the real God. But if God always agrees with you, and never requires a change or obedience to a command that stretches you, or makes you uncontrollable, this is likely not the real God. ~D. Moore
1) Unless you have a God that challenges you, when forgiven, you will never be changed into something better. It is the untamed God that begins a conversion, not a god tamed by you. ~D. Moore
2) The stubborn fact: I am Jesus. A historical reality, not a subject experience. What converted Saul was the knowledge that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. ~D. Moore
The moment Saul knew Jesus rose from the dead, he converted. He lost control of His life, and his life wasn’t his own anymore. He belonged to Jesus. ~D. Moore
Modern folks who have complicated, good questions; maybe there is an answer, maybe there isn’t. The real question is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection is the stubborn fact. ~D. Moore
3) The third thread in a conversion is a new radical relationship. Christ lives in us such that it is Jesus who is being persecuted when His followers are suffering. Jesus has such a radical relationship with His followers that whatever is true of them, is true of Him. They are in me, and I am in them, I am with my followers. ~D. Moore
Romans 6:8: We have died with Christ we shall also live with Him.
Ephesians 2:6-7: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Conversion has to be this acknowledgement that we are not and will never be good enough for God. Christianity is not achieved, it is not earned, it is accepted. ~D. Moore
When we hurt God’s people, He hurts. We all suffer. As we do, Jesus feels it, because we are His. Only Christianity claims their God suffered. ~D. Moore
This week: Think about the three threads of Paul’s conversion. Is God changing you? The converted life is about honoring an untamed God, true to Scripture, confronting the stubborn fact of the resurrection and understanding and living in the reality of Christ in you and you in Christ. That is the converted life. ~D. Moore