Summary: The New Year is a time for starting over and Paul’s story gives us some guidelines
Wow 2008, the first Sunday of a brand new year. How many people stayed up to welcome the New Year in? And with a new year come commitments to change our lives to make things better or at least different. I don’t know what your resolutions might be but here are some reflections from off the street.
I would suspect that there have been a pile of New Year’s resolutions made in the past week and if the truth was known there have probably been a pile of New Year’s resolutions broken in the past week.
We have probably all verbally or silently, publicly or privately resolved to do something different this year then we did last year. Some will finally decide to give up the demon tabbacy, other’s myself included have decided to do battle with a more acceptable vice and that is food. You ever notice that the Christian argument against smoking and drinking: they are addictive and harm the temple of the Holy Spirit, i.e. our bodies, don’t seem to hold water for gluttony. Interesting.
You say Pastor the reason I’m overweight is that I have a glandular problem. Me too, if you consider the mouth a gland. Actually I decided a long time ago that I’m not overweight I’m under tall so my New Years Resolution is to get taller in 2008.
So what are your resolutions for 2008? Big, little, practical, impractical, what have you decided to change about your life in the next twelve months? On December 31st of this year will you be the same person you are now? A better person? Or a worse person? Will you have won a victory over some area of your life or will you have gone down to defeat? I want to go on record right now as saying I believe you can do it. And I know that you are sitting there thinking “But Denn you don’t even know what I’m struggling with.” You’re right, I don’t, but I know my God and I know that he can give you victory. Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are a partner in faith with the Almighty God?
Do you remember what Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37? That’s right, “For nothing is impossible with God.” And if nothing is impossible with God then all things will be possible with God.
Have you ever heard the phrase “A Damascus Road Experience”? It comes from the scripture that was read earlier in the service. I went online and discovered this definition of a Damascus Road Experience from Wisegeek.com: Common language has adopted this story to allude to the possibility that a person’s fundamental outlook on life could be utterly changed in a single moment.
Now understand this isn’t simply changing your mind, it is a radical change usually for the better that dramatically changes a person’s life. “You know I never really liked Milli Vanilli but after hearing Girl You Know It’s True it was good bye Boy George.” That’s not a Damascus Road Experience.
On the other hand, if you were a Leafs fan all your life and then one day in a single moment of clarity you realized that perhaps the team you actually needed to align yourself with lay further to the east, that would be a Damascus Road Experience.
Hockey aside, the New Year is usually a time for starting over and this morning we are looking at a dramatic and radical shift in the life of a Jewish religious leader by the name of Saul.
The first time that Saul appears is in three little references in the story of the stoning of Stephen. Acts 7:58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. And then in
Acts 8:1 Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. And finally in Acts 8:3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Here was a man with a vision, a goal, an ambition. For whatever reason the church really bugged him. It was kind of like the Grinch and Christmas, except more violent. Perhaps Saul’s heart was three sizes too small.
And it is a continuation of this that we begin our story with this morning. In Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. I don’t know what it was about the church that caused so much animosity within Paul. He was a religious leader within the Jewish faith and maybe he had just heard snippets of Jesus teaching and felt that Christ has come to destroy Judaism and the threat was alive in the teachings of his followers. If that was the case it was a matter of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, because if he had of known and understood the totality of Jesus teachings then he would have understood the truth of the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5:17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”