Summary: Before Paul became a Christian, he was full of energy for the wrong thing, but once he was tamed and changed by Jesus Christ, he used his energy for the right cause. Three ways Paul was changed by Jesus.
Today I’m starting a verse-by-verse message series of the book of Romans. It will probably take us a couple of years. We are going to take a journey through this wonderful book over the next couple of years. This book has really changed history. If you have ever been to St. Augustine, Florida, you probably know the man after whom that city is named. It was the year 386 A.D. when Aurelius Augustine was teaching rhetoric at a school in northern Italy. By his own testimony he was living a debauched lifestyle of sexual orgies and drunkenness. His mother, Monica, was praying for his salvation. One day Augustine was very despondent. As he was sitting outside he heard children playing a game in the area next door. Part of the little saying in this game was, “Pick up and read, pick up and read.” He heard that and walked in the house. He was staying with someone who had an attraction to Christianity and he picked up what we are going to be looking at today–the book of Romans. He opened it and his eyes fell on Romans 13:13-14. “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” This young man who was living a sinful life, suddenly his life turned around and Augustine became one of the early theologians in the Christian church.
1,200 years later an Augustinian Catholic monk and professor of theology at Wittenberg University in Germany named Martin Luther, was reading the book of Romans. It led Martin Luther to understand you don’t get to heaven by taking the sacraments or by buying indulgences from the Catholic Church. He came to the firm conviction that salvation is by grace through faith, and he gave 95 statements of what he believed. They are called the 95 Theses. He nailed them to the door of one of the buildings at the University of Wittenberg. Those hammer blows are echoes that have been heard around the world. It was the book of Romans that led to what we now call the Protestant Reformation.
Two hundred years later, in the Anglican Church in England, a young member of the church whom by his own admission was not a Christian at the time went as a missionary for the Anglican Church from England to the American colony of Georgia. He was going to evangelize the pagan American Indians, not realizing was a pagan himself. This man’s name was John Wesley. John Wesley was a total failure as a missionary to the Indians. So he got back on a ship and sailed back to London. Halfway back to Europe the ship encountered a terrible storm at sea. The boat was tossed and thrown about by the waves and they were afraid they were going to sink. John Wesley was afraid he was going to die, and was afraid he was not going to go to heaven if he died. He looked over at a group of Moravian Christians who were holding hands, singing praises to the Lord with smiles on their faces. When he looked at those people who were not afraid to die, he said, “I do not have what they have.”