Summary: When we have an encounter with God, changes happen. The first thing to change is our vision, our purpose in life. It is fascinating to study how the vision of Paul changed every time he had an encounter with God. It can happen to you. It will happen to you.
Encounter with God Series
Your Vision Changes when you encounter God
A Video version of this sermon can be found at https://youtu.be/FftAW4i9e_Q
Good morning and welcome.
This is the third sermon in the series of sermons on encounters with God. We started the series by looking at four biblical perspectives of encounters with God. Just as a reminder, we discovered that
1. If we are not watchful, we might miss an opportunity to encounter God
2. Having an encounter with God is entirely upto us (Because He is always there and always ready)
3. God encounters are for everyone
4. God encounters are not a one time experience. It needs to be had over and over again.
Last week we looked at the deeply personal nature of the encounters. The encounters are always one-to-one with the maker. We also saw that every encounter results in significant changes in our lives. These changes could be drastic as it happened in Paul’s life or gradual as it happened in Jacob’s life. But change will happen.
As I indicated last week, in my book Not-So-With-YOU, (https://www.menorahleadership.com/not-so-with-you_book/) I have categorised these changes into three imperatives. These imperatives are Vision, Character, and Relationships.
Today we will dig deeper into the imperative of Vision. Vision is usually associated with leadership. But it is required for each one of us. Each one of us need to be able to answer the question of what is the purpose of my life on earth? So while visioning is an important aspect of leaders, it is equally important for each one us. Let us see what happened to Paul and his vision, his purpose in life when he had the encounter with Jesus.
A change in vision is very evident in the life of Paul after each of His encounters. His first encounter on the road to Damascus, completely changed vision and his purpose in life. The opening verses of Acts Ch 9 describes his vision before the encounter. Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2, NKJV). And then on the road he has the encounter. His change in his vision for his life is immediate and dramatic. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:20-22, NKJV). Please note that immediately after the first encounter with Jesus, Paul is still confounding the Jews. He is still preaching in Synagogues. His vision changes from persecuting Christ to preaching Christ, but he is still narrow in his new found vision.
This changes during his second encounter. Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance 18 and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ 19 So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. 20 And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ 21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles’ (Acts 22:17-21, NKJV).” We can see here that even though his vision/ his purpose took a 180 degree turn, Paul still wanted to witness in familiar surroundings. He is making a strong case for himself to stay in Jerusalem and preach the gospel there. He thinks that his previous connections with Jews will work and might be in his favour. In other words, he is reluctant to expand his horizons and impact. That is where Jesus makes it very clear to him that His purpose for him is to witness to the Gentiles and not to the Jews. Paul’s vision changes from witnessing to familiar crowd to witnessing to the unfamiliar crowd. This is the impact of his second encounter.
As we saw last week, his third encounter confirms his vision to go to a different environment again. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome. (Acts 23:11, NKJV) .” Let us analyse this again. By Paul’s own statement, Paul had wanted to go to Rome many times. Those of you who have studied the timelines of the different epistles will know that the Book of Romans was most probably written when Paul was in Corinth, in Acts Chapter 20. In that letter, written much before he reached Jerusalem in Acts 22 and 23, Paul confirms his desire to visit Rome and to witness to them. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also (Romans 1:8-15). So Paul had a personal vision to witness in Rome, but many hurdles came his way. It is in Jerusalem , after facing the mob fury, and after surviving a division in the Sanhedrin, and when he was the most in danger of losing his life either to the mob or to the Sanhedrin, that Jesus encounters him and confirms Paul’s vision of going to Rome. But after the confirmation of his vision, things begin to happen. It is fascinating to read the circumstances that keep changing around Paul to make this vision come true. God takes him through a tumultuous journey filled with accusations, trials, procrastinations, dangers, famine, tempests, shipwrecks, snakebites etc., These are described in Acts Chapter 23:12, immediately after his third encounter with Christ, till Paul lands at Rome in Acts 28:16.