Summary: Easter 3(C) - The risen Jesus changes lives by forgiving our past and directing our future.
THE RISEN JESUS CHANGES LIVES
April 30, 2006 - EASTER 3 - Acts 9:1-20
Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord, those who are called and chosen by our Savior Jesus Christ: God’s grace, mercy and peace:
Whether we realize it or not, for each and every one of us here today and for each and every believer throughout the world, a great change has taken place in our lives. It is just as great a change as explained in today’s text in the life of Saul. Saul, of course, later is called Paul. We look at his conversion as a great miracle when the Lord Jesus Christ changed his life. He has done the same for us. When we were born into this world, we are born as enemies of God. We were born with hatred toward God and his word in our hearts and in our lives. By God’s grace, he changes our life through baptism and by the power of his word. We are made God’s children. This change is dramatic. We may not always remember this great change at our baptism. For most of us, if not all of us, we are brought into God’s kingdom at a very, very young age.
This change is still just as dramatic as the change that takes place in Saul. The change is from darkness to the light. The change is from death to life. Jesus changes us from a child of Satan to a child of God. Scripture says, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). This living and enduring word of God is still alive today in our hearts and in our lives. We are going to study the simple fact that is often denied by people in this world: THE RISEN JESUS CHANGES LIVES.
Jesus changes lives by --
I. forgiving our past, and by,
II. directing our future.
I. FORGIVING OUR PAST
We are quite familiar with the apostle Paul. Today’s text calls him Saul today, because it indicates just how evil and wicked he was. The thoughts, the intentions, the attitude of his heart and life were very clear. Listen again how chapter 9 begins: "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Saul went to the temple to get the arrest warrant from the high priest. This was no small task. He had to have some proof or some reason for an arrest. Saul said, "They followed the Way." Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Now it wasn’t like Saul was going to walk uptown or to the next town looking for people. Damascus was 150 miles northeast of Jerusalem. This is how intent Saul was. With twenty miles being approximately a day’s walk, it probably took seven or eight days for a one-way trip to Damascus from Jerusalem. There would be a few days to look for those blasphemers as Paul considered them. Then there would be the journey bringing them back. There is no way you and I would think this Saul would ever, ever change.
Saul had great plans. He goes and gets the letters, starts on his journey, but God’s plan, of course, is quite different from Saul’s plan. We are told: "As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground." He was wondering what was happening and said, "Who are you, Lord?" because the Lord had said to him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Saul didn’t know who "me" was and asks, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord tells him very clearly: "I am Jesus, whom you have persecuted." Note here that once again we are given proof positive that Jesus was not in the tomb. Jesus did not die and stay dead; but he rose again. Now, he is alive and well and still doing his Father’s work. He is going to change this man’s life -- forever!
Our text tells us Saul gets up and the change is immediate. He can’t see. He is blind. "Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing." So he is taken into Damascus and he stays there. The Lord speaks to Ananias, one who is a follower of the Way. The Lord Jesus wants to send Ananias, his disciple, to help Saul. Ananias doesn’t want to go, because this was not the first time Saul was after the followers of the Way, those who followed Jesus. Listen to Ananias: "’Lord,’ Ananias answered, ’I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’" The followers of the Way are the ones who call on Jesus’ name. They were different from the Jewish people now. They were living in the New Testament time of grace. They were living in the faith of the power of God’s resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.