1 ¶ Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest
2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 ¶ In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord— Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here— has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"
22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
Sermon Series: A Murderer Set Free
Part 1: Forgiven and Invited Home
Have you ever thought you were right - only to discover you were wrong?
Forrest Gump tells the story of a man who was angry with God
No not Forrest - Lt. Dan
Lost his legs in Viet Nam
Later we see him shaking his fist at God
Lieutenant Dan thought he was right about God abandoning him - he was wrong
He eventually was set free
New legs and a new life
Saul was an angry young man… who thought he was right
Raised as a Pharisee
Young and driven
Angry with those who threatened his culture and heritage
Christianity was rocking the boat
He knew he was right and he fought it
Persecuted those who were believers
To death itself
Lives were taken
Stephen - the first
Listen to his own words
9 "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
Changed - completely - A murderer was set free.
First, There is a Moment of TRUTH
A brilliant light shines in the darkness
Truth always shines the light in the dark corners of life.
We all have dark corners.
There is a moment of truth in every person’s life
For Billy Graham: Sat in choir loft and listened to a preacher
For music player in Mqt: sat in Billy Graham service
For Rick Stacy: it was Feb 12, 1960
The critical question is whether you stand in the light or skitter for the darkness
Then comes "A poignant question…"
Why do you persecute me?
Why do you fight me when all I want to do is love you?
KJV - adds a phrase "it is hard to kick against the pricks"
A shepherd guides his sheep by prodding them with a stick to get them to go the right direction.
Move in the right direction or kick and fight
Saul fought and damaged many around him
Who are you hurting by your fighting God?
Certainly yourself - but there are always others - parents, children, even people you don’t know.
Finally there is "A terrible realization…"
Paul was blinded physically by the light but he could see for the first time in his life.
I see what I have done!
He was deeply moved
This kind of realization has been the ruination of many men
Answers for Skeptics
There are some things that are impossible for even God
He can’t make a rock so heavy that he can’t carry it
You can’t get so far from God that he can’t forgive you
The Amazing Reality
Ben Franklin and Poor Richard’s Almanac
When Ben Franklin wrote, "God helps those who help themselves," for Poor Richard’s Almanac, he couldn’t have known that it would still be used 200 years later.
As helpful as those words may seem, they are not, as many suppose, in the Bible.
Perhaps a closer Biblical rendition might be "God helps those who can’t help themselves."
That is certainly what he did for Saul and that is certainly what he can do for you...
God helps those who cannot help themselves.
1 Timothy 1:12-13
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."
Jesus forgives and invites to his home all who have fought Him - even those that have struggled against him the hardest.
There was a place for Saul
There is a place for you
There is a place for every person