Summary: How does our Christian journey match up to St. Paul's? Comparisons between how we prepare for a automobile journey and lif'e's joureney. Jesus is superior to any recovery or rescue service on offer!
An Offer you Can’t Refuse? Acts 9 v1-25
I don’t know what criteria the vicar uses to allocate preaching slots, as I seem to get more evenings, I assume part of his strategy is to make sure I help swell the smaller number of attenders in the evening! However I am delighted to be able to start off this, the first in the series of evening talks on “Faith in Action”. It was exactly a year ago at the evening service I spoke about Paul my hero, that is of course St. Paul not the vicar! I used the same passage of scripture given to me for tonight’s talk. Although I was tempted to use my original notes to save time, as I doubt many remember what I said, I have decided to come in from a different angle, so to speak! This is the passage I always use when sharing my testimony at other churches as it relates very much to my own Damascus Road experience which made me accept an offer I had on numerous occasions refused! I have been sharing my testimony for over 28 years, I must have spoken at well over 600 different venues in the UK and abroad and virtually without exception, someone always says to me afterwards “Aren’t you lucky to have such an amazing testimony”. Although it is a privilege and a pleasure to travel around sharing it, my answer to them is “No! First I don’t as a Christian believe in luck and secondly I’m envious of those whose testimony is as simple as ‘somebody told me’ or ‘I read about it’ and accepted the gospel message. Wow! what a testimony of pure faith! I like Saul, needed a kick up the backside to come into the realisation of faith.
Although not all Christians will have a Damascus Road experience, all Christians are on journey, a spiritual road leading to God’s Kingdom. Figuratively, some may be cautiously negotiating along a country lane, even stuck behind a slow moving vehicle like a tractor. Others may be watching out for speed cameras as they zoom along in the fast lane, or should I say the over taking lane of a motorway. Traditionally most people who attend an evening service have already become Christian even if just starting their journey. Therefore this evening I want to concentrate more on getting the best from the offer rather than accepting the offer, as most here have already done so. I hope that makes sense!
However if there are any here who have yet to start that spiritual journey, I hope you may be encouraged to do so! At the lunchtime Carol Service I briefly spoke about the dangers of buying counterfeit good for people, for example watches and cheap perfume from someone selling out of a suitcase on a street corner and some of the consequences.I then closed by using the illustration of when you go into a reputable store to buy aftershave or perfume, you can experience the quality and fragrance before you buy, a free trial so to speak as they spray it on the back of your hand. Tonight I also encourage you why not give Jesus and the Christian faith a try, what have you to lose? Only your life! Jesus is the only thing that comes with a lifetime and beyond guarantee!
So what can we can we gain from looking at not so much the person of Saul who then changed his name to Paul after the Damascus Road experience but his example. Hopefully we can make our journey easier, not necessarily more comfortable, because we are not promised an easy ride as Christians! Psychologists have discovered that the majority of people’s attitudes change once they get behind the wheel of a car! However road rage isn’t something new! Saul had it on his way to Damascus, although his murderous threats were not caused so much by other drivers cutting him up but because they dared to follow a different route to God. In v2 we are told he would persecute all who belonged to the Way, the term for those who followed the way of Jesus before the term Christian was used. According to the New Testament, those who followed Jesus as his disciples were first called Christians by those who did not share their faith, in the city of Antioch (acts 11 v26.) An excellent choice of a word, meaning, belonging to Christ. As I shared in my previous talk on Paul, many people over the centuries have given him a hard time, as they have misinterpreted his teaching and struggled with his zealous passion. I have even heard some Christians say “well it’s only what Paul thought” as they read his letters to the churches. We are on dangerous ground when we eliminate scripture that doesn’t suit us! Although like all of us, Rev Paul isn’t perfect, he does makes a stand against those who try to water down and liberalise Biblical truths, we need to support him in this. Although I not suggesting Paul does the same, another Anglican vicar I know has just resigned from the C of E due to the liberal attitudes regarding civil partnerships & church blessings! Is it right for a Christian to be passionate or even zealous about what they believe in?..... Too right it is!..... In this age of so called new enlightenment, it is often quoted “it doesn’t matter what people believe in, as long as their belief is sincere” Many, even some church leaders, believe all road lead to God. Although I don’t encourage or suggest we take up Saul’s example of ethnic or religious cleansing, we must understand where his emotion, his passion came from. He was convinced the new way, Christianity was a real threat and blasphemy towards his Jewish beliefs which he held so close to his heart. He wasn’t prepared to tolerate what he thought was false teaching and rituals, certainly today he would have been far from PC, politically correct!