Summary: In Acts 9, Paul encounters Jesus and his life is changed. His story involves his sin, his salvation, and his service.
Encountering Jesus (6)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 2/8/2015
Two thousand years ago, Jesus entered our world and changed everything.
Jesus is the most famous person in all of history. More songs have been sung to him, artwork created of him, and books written about him than anyone who has ever lived. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him! H.G. Wells, who is famous for his fiction novels like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, once said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure [of all time].”
But more important than Jesus’s impact on history is his impact on humanity. Everywhere Jesus goes, he leaves changed lives in his tracks. Over the past five weeks, we’ve examined the stories of five people whose lives dramatically changed after an encounter with Jesus. A theologian who grew weary of his religion, a five-time divorcee looking for love in all the wrong places, a blind man who longed to see, a little tax collector who was more than a little curious about Christ, and a woman caught in the act of adultery—their lives were touched and forever changed by an encounter with Jesus.
Jesus’s influence isn’t relegated to the past. You can visit the website—www.jesuschangedme.com—and watch video testimonies of Muslims, atheists, athletes, addicts, drug dealers, celebrities, rappers, sports legends, moms, dads, and people from nearly every walk of life. Each of their stories share one thing in common—they experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus.
No one can relate to their stories better than the man formerly known as Saul. Jesus already died, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven by the time Saul met him. But his encounter with Jesus was as real and life changing as each of the other five stories we’ve already scrutinized. His transformation was so thorough that even his name was changed. Saul became Paul.
While his story stretches across nearly the entire book of Acts, Paul himself concisely relates the essential elements of his story while on trial before King Agrippa. Separating his story into three segments, Paul begins by describing a life saturated in sin.
• PAUL’S SIN
Trained from an early age in the Hebrew Scriptures, you might expect Paul to be a man of peace, but you’d be wrong. In his own words, Paul describes his transgressions this way: “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities” (Act 26:9-11 NLT).
For years, Paul was the greatest threat to early Christianity. Pay-rolled by Jerusalem’s leading priests, he passionately pursued Christ-followers from one city to another, flogging them until they renounced their faith in Jesus. Those who remained firm in their faith, he sent to prison…or worse. Paul doesn’t confess to killing anyone with his own hands; rather he stepped aside and let his minions bloody their hands instead. He was no less a religious terrorist than the Muslim’s beheading Christian in the Middle East today.
Not many of us have committed crimes so violent or vicious. Yet, like Paul, our past is swarming with sin. You lose your temper. You lust. You buy a drink. You kiss the woman. You follow the crowd. You rationalize. You break your promise. You buy the magazine. You lie. You covet. You stomp your feet and demand your way.
Sin isn’t just savagery. It’s also subtle. It’s David disrobing Bathsheba. It’s Adam accepting the fruit from Eve. It’s Abraham lying about Sarah. It’s Peter denying that he ever knew Jesus. It’s Noah, drunk and naked in his tent. It’s Lot, in bed with his own daughter. It’s the teenager in the backseat. It’s the alcoholic buying “just one”. It’s the boss touching his secretary’s hand. The husband searching for porn. The mother losing her temper. The father abandoning his children. The gambler losing his money. The Christian losing control.
The symptoms may be different, but the sickness is the same. Each of us are infected with sin. Jesus—the Great Physician—examines our hearts and fills out our charts: “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22 NLT). He speaks of our problem in pandemic proportions. “No one is righteous—not even one” (Romans 3:10 NLT).