Summary: Turning around can be difficult and painful. I mean let’s face it when you have to turn around there is usually only one good reason. You have realized you’re going in the wrong direction. This is exactly what happened to a man named Saul
“The Power of a Proper U-Turn”
Early in our ministry my wife and I did a lot of work with youth and children. There was a camp in Northeast Arkansas we would take them to each summer located in the mountains. It was beautiful. As many times as we went there I would usually make the same mistake. When you’re almost to the camp you go over a large hill and then the turn to the camp was very sudden and always seemed to be a bit hidden, so I would miss it. Would have to go up the road a brief distance to make a U-turn. If someone else was going to drive and we were giving him directions, we would say, go over the top of the hill, travel about a half-mile and then make a U-turn and you can get to it. It was almost easier to just include the U-turn in the directions.
My wife used to say every time I turn around one of our kids is leaving home. I don’t like this. I turn around and David has joined the Army, I turn around and Brian is gone, I turn around and Ross is gone and now Allison. I said well you know what the problem is don’t you? You gotta stop turning around.
Turning around can be difficult and painful. I mean let’s face it when you have to turn around there is usually only one good reason. You have realized you’re going in the wrong direction. This is exactly what happened to a man named Saul. Let me give you six quick facts about him.
• Saul was from the city of Tarsus.
• Saul studied under the Greek scholar Gamaliel.
• We first meet Saul when Stephen was martyred. I will come back to that later.
• Saul was personally responsible for the death and persecution of many believers. He was a very feared man.
• Saul came to Christ. His conversion was so powerful that he received a new name, Paul the apostle.
• Saul/Paul wrote about one half of the New Testament.
The first word that comes to my mind when I read this story is the word change. We all go through change. From the time we are born until the time we die, we go through two things. (1) Constant change. (2) fighting that constant change.
Most of the change is gradual and we don’t notice it so much but when we look at family pictures and we look closely in the mirror we see the change. But the change I am talking about today is not just on the outside. We all change on the inside as well. I’m talking about the deep places where we hurt; inside of us.
Occasionally I gave you a word from the original language to help us get a bigger grasp on a certain concept. So today I want to give you the Greek word Metanoia. It means to have a change of mind. You’re currently thinking one way about something and suddenly your mind changes and you get some perspective and your thoughts completely change. We sometimes call it doing a 180 because the change is so huge. In fact in Paul’s day the word metanoia was used in the military. They were marching in one direction and the captain would shout metanoia and the soldiers would do an about-face and head in a brand-new direction. The Greek New Testament word is metanoia. We say it in English as repentance. And of all the changes we make in life this change is the one that matters the most
The three things I want you to notice/see about this radical change we call repentance. (1) All of us have a past. Some move on. Others don’t. Saul did. Saul, who became Paul was younger than Jesus. We think about five years. But this would’ve placed him in his early to mid 20’s at the time of Christ’s death. The Scripture here is very blunt as it says that “Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” He had gone to the high priest and asked him to write letters to the churches and if they came across anyone who was a follower of Christ, he would then be allowed to take them as prisoners. So Saul went all over, door-to-door at times arresting those who believed in Christ.
One of those who was brought in was a man named Stephen. Stephen is listed as one of the apostles in the book of Acts. The Bible tells us that he was full of God’s grace and power and did great wonders and signs among the people. Stephen was arrested and brought to court. They put false witnesses on the stand; those who would lie intentionally but the Scripture says that when everyone looked at him, he had the face of an angel. They ask him about the stories he had been telling and he launches into a long explanation of over 50 verses where he explains why he believes in Christ and he closes his speech by blasting them for what they have done to Jesus. The Bible says that when they heard all of these words that they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. Dentists tell us that some people grind or gnash their teeth when they are angry or are on edge. It is an angry reaction. And often we are not even aware we are doing it. So they took Stephen away to be stoned to death.