Summary: A sermon examining the amazing fact that Jesus calls us unto salvation.
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!!