Summary: God selects unusual people with whom to partner in his work -- Saul of Tarsus and US!
1. [During one of those "teachable moments," a young mother asked her son why they should be quiet in church. The boy replied, "Because so many people are sleeping." Ouch!
2. On behalf of myself and all preachers who may have driven you to sleep in a sermon, please accept my apology. You see, the word of God is anything but dull and it is a shame to present it as such.
3. We are on a great adventure with God and we get glimpses of God's actions in the lives of Bible heroes:
a. What if Abraham had declined God's call and stayed in Mesopotamia or Haran?
b. What if Moses declined God's call and stayed in Pharaoh's house?
c. What if Saul of Tarsus had declined Jesus' call and remained blind?
4. William G.T. Shedd said, "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
5. Paul learned that great lesson and reminds us not to play it safe as believers, but to trust God -- Galatians 1.13-17
I. An Unlikely Alliance
'If God intended man to live on bread, why didn't he create a bread tree?' And the answer, in effect, is that God could have created a tree that produced crusty loaves of bread, but he prefers to offer us a grain and invite us to buy a field and plant the seed. He prefers that we till the soil while he sends the rain. He prefers that we harvest the crop while he sends sunshine. He prefers that we grind the crop and knead it and bake it while he gives us air in our lungs and strength in our arms. Why? Because he would rather that we become partners with him in creation. And the same is true in regards to the salvation of the world. (Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come)
A. God has Chosen to Ally Himself and His Cause with People
1. An invitation to Come -- Matthew 11.28
2. A Declaration to Go -- Matthew 28.18-20
B. Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus' Movement in the World
1. Made up of Willing People
a. Exceptional Righteousness (Matthew 5.20)
b. Converted to Child-likeness (Matthew 18.3)
c. Born again of water and Spirit (John 3.3, 5)
C. Our Job as the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth:
1. The First commandment -- Love God (Deuteronomy 6.4ff)
II. An Unlikely Apostle -- Saul of Tarsus
[Apostle is a "sent one" (missionary today); שליחים "shl'chim" a position in the synagogue]
A. His Exclusive Motivation -- Galatians 1.11-14
1. Pedigree -- Hebrew of Hebrews, etc. Gamaliel as Rabbi
a. Consenting to Stephen's Death (Acts 8.1)
b. More: Community Organizer for the Deed -- Acts 7.58
1) Robes with tassels (authority) at Saul's feet
2) He had authority over them (a zealous synagogue)
B. His Unexpected Turn -- Galatians 1.15-16
In a NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him. Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way." Delcavo was one who ran correctly. In the same way, our goal is to run correctly; to finish the race marked out for us by Christ. We can rejoice over those who have courage to follow, ignoring the laughter of the crowd.
1. New Insight -- Jesus IS Messiah
1. The Book of Acts tells our story
a. Some of us have always been close to God (as Jews) -- keep our focus on Jesus
b. Some have been far off and brought near to God (as Gentiles) -- keep our focus on Jesus
2. What if we followed the pattern of Acts 1.8 in our partnership with God?
a. Jerusalem -- People closest to us
b. Judaea -- Extended Family
c. Samaria -- People a Little Different
d. Ends of the Earth -- People VERY Different
3. Action Steps:
a. Read one of the gospels completely through this week (Matthew 28 chapters; 4/day)
b. Pray for People you know that need the good news
c. Pray for God to reveal to you People who need the good news
d. Look for opportunities to serve in the name of Jesus or tell his story
[A friend of mine opens doors with a simple greeting. When asked how he is, he replies, "Blessed."