Summary: Saul has now experienced what we would call an Extreme Makeover. This is the power of sincere repentance.
Acts: 9:1 9b-31
Saul has now experienced what you and I might term as an extreme makeover. You’ve seen that program I am sure ... in a recent episode they took a house that looked like this ... in very poor condition and literally in a matter of days they turned it into a house any of us would be proud to live in. A complete makeover.
In a matter of a few days this is exactly what has happened to the man we now know as the apostle Paul. The word the Bible uses for this is the Greek word metanoia. The English word is repentance. It means at least two things (1) to have a change of mind. We thought one way ...now our thinking has changed. (2) it was also used as a military term as soldiers were marching in one direction they would do an about face and would turn and walk in the opposite direction.
This is what had happened to Saul of Tarsus. Walking on the road to Damascus a light shone on him causing him to be blind for 3 days. He had just left the stoning of Stephen for which he was clearly responsible. No doubt God was dealing with him. Stephen had such a powerful testimony because even as they hurled stones at him just before his death Stephen was crying out Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. With this on his mind God speaks and Saul is ready to listen.
3 days later the scales fell from his eyes ... his eyes are opened now to the truth. He turns his life over to Jesus and is immediately baptized. Saul does not waste time. At once he starts preaching. Clearly he is a changed man. Saul was certainly not a stranger to the synagogue. With his background as a Jew Saul had been to the temple many times ... Now he is going to the temple to tell everyone that Jesus is the son of God after all. In fact this is the starting point of his ministry.
1. When God calls us we must start right where we are. However we must not stay where we are. Discipleship means growth. Just as a baby is not born full grown .. although I did read this week of a baby boy born in Indonesia who weighed in at 19 pounds. Here is a picture of the baby alongside one of normal weight. But this is of course unusual. Growth is actually a slow process. It takes time. It takes nurturing. We make mistakes along the way ... but God tells us we have to begin right where we are.
Every one of us have what we might call a circle of influence. For some the circle is very large, for others it may be small but we all have one. God has placed people in your path that perhaps only you can reach because of your connection with that individual. We call this friendship evangelism. It is the way I have learned to help people come to Christ and I have found it to be effective.
Here is how it works. We start with someone with whom we are already acquainted. We know them. They know us. They trust us. This is a key issue. The greater the trust lend the more likely they are too accept your testimony. We can place these relationships in 4 categories (1) Friends (2) Relatives (3) Associates and (4) Neighbors. These are our FRANS. Then once we lead this person to Christ we then must see that they are placed in a group where they can be discipled and can grow in the faith. Like this baby we saw, we cannot leave them alone and expect them to survive. Everyone who has been born again and becomes what Paul later calls a babe in Christ ... they need to be nurtured in the faith.
So each of us must start right where we are and we must allow our F-R-A-N to start where they are.
2. When God calls we must not forget our roots. However we must never allow them to control us or hold us back. We cannot expect everyone to share our new convictions. Just as it took time for us to come to Christ they need time as well. This is an area where we must be careful. There is perhaps no bigger obstacle than spiritual pride that can prevent someone coming to Christ.
Listen to what the scripture has to say about pride ...
Proverbs 11:2. Proud men end in shame.
Proverbs 13:10. Pride leads to arguments.
Proverbs 16:5 pride disgusts the Lord.
One version says, first pride, then the crash, the bigger the ego, the harder the fall!