Summary: Deals with what happened to Saul when he encountered Jesus. The same can happen to anyone.
David P. Nolte
The song by The Newsboys rightly said,
“My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive!
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion.”
But, back in 1884, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, declared that “God Is Dead.” That morbid concept spilt over into the 1950' s and ‘60's but it gradually died out. I remember seeing bumper stickers that said, “Your god is dead? Sorry about that. Mine is alive and well!” and, “My God is alive; I just talked to Him this morning!”
Admittedly, declaring the existence and vitality of God is a proposition founded on faith. But so is denial of God! Both are “I believe ...” statements. I know that there are unbelievers who go beyond that and categorically declare, “I know absolutely that there is no God.” Pardon me for being blunt, but that is an ignorant and arrogant statement unless they can demonstrate knowledge of every single fact and truth that exists – bar none. If only one fact escapes them, that one fact could very possibly be the existence of God. That’s why the Psalm says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” Psalm 53:1 (NLT).
In my book, God has proven Himself to be very real and very alive. That is the operational conviction for this sermon. I have seen too many answered prayers and too many radically changed lives and too many miracles to doubt that God is and that He is alive.
Since God is alive, we ought to want to encounter Him in faith. So, let’s turn to the text to see what can happen when we have a personal encounter with the Living God. Saul was heading to Damascus to persecute Christians when he met Jesus.
“As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’” Acts 9:3-6 (NASB)
Now, some 30 years later he writes, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NASB).
When Saul (whom we know as Paul) met the risen and living Jesus things changed; from the moment of that encounter he was never the same. The same holds true with all who encounter Jesus by faith.
I. SAUL MET MERCY AND GRACE:
A. He testified, “I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
1. A quick reminder:
a. Mercy means not getting the punishment we deserve.
b. Grace means getting the forgiveness we do not deserve.
2. The two go hand in hand and we are therefore saved from wrath and saved to eternal life.
B. Paul thought he was honoring God when he violently opposed and oppressed followers of Jesus.
1. But he came to realize his unbelief was ignorance and that he needed mercy and grace. He had come to know the truth.
2. Sincere wrongdoing is still wrongdoing – sincerity does not create truth nor does it transform evil to good. Wrongdoers need mercy and grace.
C. Saul said that the grace of the Lord was more than abundant. God’s grace is always sufficient and is always operational, not merely a kind feeling toward us.
1. Grace saves us because we are saved by grace through faith and never by works we have done.
2. Grace enables us to handle difficult trials because instead of removing Paul’s thorn in the flesh, some bodily ailment, God said “My grace is sufficient.”
3. Grace provides for us so we can share with others because, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB).