Pursued By Grace
This week we saw the verdict concerning Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. On April 15th 2013 he and his brother planted several bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 3 people were killed and 264 people were injured. Following the bombings on April the 18th there was shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and police. Tsarnaev was injured but escaped. A large manhunt ensued and on April the 19th he was arrested for the crime. He was charged with 16 separate crimes. He was convicted on April 8th 2015 and sentenced to death on May 15th 2015.
The scripture that we have read this evening records another criminal who was pursued, captured, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned. But this scenario has a much different ending. In fact this story has a beautiful ending!!
In our criminal justice system much time, effort and financial resources are spent attempting to "reform" hardened criminals. Well, when Paul met Jesus his life was more than "reformed" it was "transformed"! And the same has happened to each of us who have met the Savior. If you have not had an encounter with Jesus, the very same thing could happen to you before you leave. I would like to look at the amazing work that Jesus performed in the life of Saul of Tarsus and preach on the thought "Pursued By Grace"
When Tsarnaev eluded the police and went on the run it was for a reason. He knew he was guilty and that he would most likely receive the death penalty, so his intention was to stay on the run for the rest of his life.
Contrary to what many people think, we don't find Jesus...HE FINDS US!!! Those people who are lost are guilty of trespasses and sins and will not willingly seek out the righteous Savior and surrender to Him. But in His amazing love, grace and mercy Jesus Christ will reach out to the lost man and call him unto salvation. This is the picture that is painted for us in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. (A.K.A The Apostle Paul) In this fantastic story we see just what happens when we are "Pursued By Grace"
* I invite you to look with me at Acts 9 verses 1&2 as we examine:
I. THE CRIME - v1 ¶And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
- Saul's goal in life was to tear down everything the Apostles and the other members of the early church were building up. He was not your stereotypical sinner, on the contrary, he was actually a very religious man. Notice how he describes himself in - Philippians 3:5 (I was) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
- Saul was a feared man. He is first mentioned in at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:58 (They cast) him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
- Listen to some other descriptions of Saul before his conversion: Acts 8:1 ¶And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles..
- Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
- Here is how Paul described his life before he met Jesus - Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
- Then in I Timothy 1:15 he says that when it comes to sinners he was "the chief" "
Why did Jesus in His marvelous grace pursue Saul? It was not because he was a Jew or Pharisee. It was not because he was a willing participant in the stoning of Stephen. It was not because of the blasphemous things he said about Christ. It was not because of his persecution of Christians. It was not because of his attempt to destroy Christianity as a whole. Saul's greatest problem was that with all of his "religion" he was a still a lost sinner in need of a Savior! He described religion so well when he used the phrase "traditions of my fathers" in Galatians 1:14. That is what religion is...rules, regulations and rituals handed down from generation to generation. And if you die without Jesus you will find that religion is not enough, what you need is a RELATIONSHIP WITH A PERSONAL SAVIOR!!! Understand this, if you have never been born again you are as guilty as Saul of Tarsus was!!
What is your crime? SIN! And we are told in Romans that "the wages of sin is death"!! But praise God even though we were "dead in trespasses and sins", we are PURSUED BY GRACE!!!! I for one am glad that I have been captured by grace! But maybe you are here and you have yet to encounter the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. I want you to know that there is an opportunity for you to be transformed tonight!!! Whether you know it or not you are being pursued by grace.
*Look with me to verse 3 as we see:
II. THE PURSUIT - v3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
Saul had obtained authorization from the High Priest to apprehend ANY Christians that he could find and bind them and bring them back to Jerusalem. What a picture of grace! God could have written Paul off. In His Sovereignty the Lord could have struck him down and killed him. And if he had died and went to hell he would have gotten just what he deserved! And if you die lost in your sins that is exactly what is going to happen to you. And if it does you will receive your just reward! But that is not God's plan and it is not His desire. God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) - Jesus tells us in - John 3:17 (that) God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
- For this reason, we are PURSUED BY GRACE!!! At the point of his conversion there was nothing that Saul had done that was worthy of salvation. In fact, after all that Paul did after his conversion, he still had done nothing that could have earned his salvation. THAT IS WHY IT IS CALLED GRACE!!! Grace is defined as " the free and unmerited favor of God". Like the song says "He knew me, yet he loved me!"
- Romans 5:8 tells us that "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Saul woke up that day with specific plans for his life. His goal was to destroy the church, not to meet the Christ! Saul didn't "find" Jesus, He was not looking for Him! But Jesus found Saul. Jesus sought him out... Jesus called His name... Jesus changed his life... Saul was pursued by grace! And if you are saved it is because YOU WERE PURSUED BY GRACE!!! And if you are ever going to be saved it will be because you were PURSUED BY GRACE!!!
* What happened when grace caught up with Saul of Tarsus? Notice:
III. THE APPREHENSION - v4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
- As Saul made his way to Damascus something amazing took place.He had a supernatural encounter so to speak! - v3 as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
- Not only did he see this amazing light shining from Heaven, he also heard a voice... the voice of Jesus!! Jesus had caught up with Saul. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Can you imagine what ran through Saul's mind when he realized it was Jesus speaking to him? My first thought would have been "Uh Oh....it's over now!!!" We are told that Saul was "trembling and astonished" when this took place. And my friend, when you encounter Jesus it will do the same for you! When Jesus comes on the scene there is no doubt that it is Him! He will make His presence known in your life in a mighty way! When He calls your name there will be no question Who it is!! If you are here and you are being pursued by grace I can assure you, when Jesus shows up it will be very similar to what we see here on Damascus Road. You won't be expecting Jesus when He approaches you. But out of nowhere He will call your name. He will reveal your lost condition to you. He will show you that you need a Savior. And He will offer you the greatest gift you could ever receive.
- He will offer you salvation and with this offer comes
1. Forgiveness of your sins
2. Deliverance from Hell
3. A personal relationship with Him
4. Abundant life here on earth
5. Eternal life in Heaven
- Great things will happen when you are apprehended by grace. After a criminal is apprehended and charged he is then tried and the next step is conviction. Saul was immediately convicted when He heard the Savior's voice.
IV. THE CONVICTION - 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
- Jesus didn't just call Saul's name, He called Him out! Saul immediately knew who had confronted him. And he immediately and completely surrendered to Him. He asked "Lord, what will you have me to do?". And when Jesus told Him what to do, HE OBEYED!!!
- I was watching "COPS" the other night and this man was running away from the police. He ran into a house and climbed into the attic to hide. The officers knew exactly where he was and they went to him. But he refused to surrender. So they called the K-9 unit and they brought a ferocious German Shepherd with them. They took that dog and put him into the crawl space and it wasn't long before the criminal was willing to do anything they asked him to.
- Saul was overwhelmed by the power of the Savior and he found himself "trembling and astonished". I can't help but think back to the day that Jesus called my name. I attempted to run from Him, but I couldn't get away. And I came to a place of full surrender, I myself was "trembling and astonished". I realized that I had "sinned and come short of the glory of God". I realized that the "wages of sin was death". I realized that the result of that was and eternity in a lake of fire! When Jesus called my named I realized that I was lost and in need of a Savior! And I realized that I was being PURSUED BY GRACE!!!
- Maybe you are here and you have never been born again. But you grasp the fact that you too are being PURSUED BY GRACE. Why don't you follow Paul's example and surrender to the conviction of the Holy Sprit?
Stop trying to do things on your on! Stop trying to clean yourself up! Stop trusting in baptism, church membership or good works to get you to Heaven! Reject the religion, rules, rituals, ceremonies and observances that you have trusted for so long. Put your faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ! Accept the God's great gift of grace - Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Saul would tell you that great things happen when you are "pursued by grace". There on Damascus Road everything changed for him.
1. Jesus gave him a new name
2. Jesus gave him a new purpose
3. Jesus gave him new future
4. Jesus gave him an entirely new life!
And if you accept His offer of grace He will do the same for you!! Once a criminal is pursued, apprehended, arrested, tried, and convicted of his crimes comes the sentencing. This is where a judge will determine the duration of his or her imprisonment.
* After Saul was pursued and apprehended by grace, he too was sentenced. Notice with me:
V. THE SENTENCE - v10 ¶And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
- Yes, when Paul was apprehended by grace he received a life sentence. He would never go back to the things he knew before! From this moment on he was property of the Lord Jesus Christ! And Jesus sentenced him to a lifetime "bearing his name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" Acts 9:15)
- There are many titles that Paul used referring to himself in the scriptures. He called himself: Paul the aged - (Philemon 1:9) A Minister of the Gospel - (Colossians 1:23) A Servant of Jesus Christ - (Romans 1:1) A Soldier of Jesus Christ - (Philippians 2:25) A Laborer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ - (I Thessalonians 3:2) An Apostle of Jesus Christ - (I Corinthians 1:1) But one of the most frequent terms that he used was "A Prisoner of the Lord " (Ephesians 4:1)
- When he penned the Epistle to the Ephesians he was imprisoned at Rome. But he did not descried himself as "a prisoner of the Roman government". Rather, he identified himself as a "Prisoner of the Lord" . He was not bound by a prison cell or shackles on his hands and feet. He was bound by love, service, devotion!! Before he was ever imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ, he was already a prisoner of Jesus Christ! But this was a "willful imprisonment" so to speak!
- I read of a lady who was arrested and placed on a small town jail. She fell in love with the arresting officer and when she was released she married him and they stayed together for the rest of her life.
- Paul was pursed by grace and fell in love with the One Who apprehended him. And he remained with him for the rest of his life! Paul was imprisoned by Jesus on Damascus Road, and he never sought to be free of the Lord’s incarceration.
- Because Paul was captive to the Lord Jesus Christ, he had no will of his own. He had no rights of his own. He had no plans of his own. He saw everything through the eyes of the Lord Jesus. Paul was held in divine captivity and every thought he had ...every deed he performed ...every letter he wrote ...every word he spoke ...every thing he did was carried out according to the will of the One Who held him captive. He lived the remainder of his life for the glory of God! And we know that it was not an easy life. Just after Paul's conversion, Jesus told Ananias that Paul's "life sentence" would involved a great deal of suffering. (Acts 9:16)
- Paul gives us a brief overview of his sufferings in - II Corinthians 11:24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
- With everything that Paul faced he never wavered! He willingly faced the persecution. He not only survived but thrived in prison. He loved his Savior and he was willing to go even unto death for Jesus! God had a plan for this man, and God used him in a mighty way. In fact, He is still using him today!!! He used Him to author 14 out of 22 books in the New Testament. And a good many of them were penned while Paul in prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ. God used him to establish churches in many of the major cities. The shackles that bound him inside the prison could not prevent the influence that he had all over the world. And all of this began with Paul being "Pursued By Grace"
- Those of us who are saved must never forget that we were "Pursued By Grace". And those who have not been saved must realize that because of God's love they too may be "Pursued By Grace"
1) We are all sinners - Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
2) The wages of sin is death - Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death
3) We are dead in our sins and cannot get to God - Ephesians 2:1
4) God has provided a way for eternal life through His Son - "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23)
5) Not only has God made a way for us He comes to us and offers us the amazing gift of Salvation!
"He came to me when I was bound in chains of sin"
"He came to me when I possessed no hope within"
"He picked me up and He drew me gently to His side"
"Where, today, in His sweet love I now abide"
"He came to me, O, He came to me"
"When I could not come to where He was, He came to me"
"That's why He died on Calvary"
"When I could not come to where He was, He came to me"
I thank God that I was "Pursued By Grace"