Summary: A first person message in which explains why he preaches Christ crucified.
“Getting Into Shape: When You Lose Control”
Acts 9:1-19; 1 Cor. 2:1-5 & 9:15-18; 2 Cor. 5:13-15
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m glad for the opportunity to preach to you about Jesus. Some of you are here because you’re curious, some because you’re skeptical, and some to check me out. But you’re all here – whether you know it or not – because God brought you here to hear about His Son – the crucified, dead, buried, risen, ascended, reigning Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let me tell you about a man who met Jesus and found his life forever changed, who knows that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation! It’s a man I know well – the man is me. I HAVE BEEN CAPTURED BY CHRIST. I was raised a strict, loyal Jew. “I was circumcised when I was a week old. I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew. As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault.” I even had my training under Gamaliel, one of the best of the best.
It’s not surprising then that I despised, I hated the Followers of the Way – those who believed Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God – that He had died on a cross and then had come back to life. But I knew that couldn’t be right. The Son of God – the Messiah – could not die on a cross. Even Moses had said, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” So If Jesus died on a cross it means He was cursed and could not be the Son of God. To preach otherwise, to claim that Jesus is God is blasphemy. But that’s what these followers preached. And far too many people were being influenced by them – many even willing to die for the cause.
There was one, Stephen by name, whose preaching was upsetting us Jews. When the members of the Sanhedrin heard him, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. He had the audacity to say, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At that “they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at my feet. “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Then he died. Hauntingly strange. Hard to forget. He became a rallying point for the followers.
These fanatical followers were now scattering everywhere – even abroad – to preach Jesus. Since it was my goal and calling to exterminate these Jesus followers I became even more diligent in my rampage against them. I hunted and tracked them down even in obscure and distant hiding places. Having heard that they had gained a foothold in Damascus I went to the high priest, who had jurisdiction over them, and got the needed permission to go seize them, bind them, and bring them to prison in Jerusalem. There I could force them to recant, or have them sentenced to die for blasphemy. So I headed for Damascus.
As I neared Damascus, all of a sudden, a bright light flashed around me and sent me crumpling to the ground. As soon as I hit the ground I heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Stunned and overwhelmed I blurted out, “Who are you, Lord?” Then came the words I’ll never forget: “I am Jesus, whom, you are persecuting.” I saw Jesus – just as surely as his disciples had seen Him after His resurrection. I saw the wounds in His hands and feet; I saw His unmistakable face and knew that Jesus was, indeed, alive. And he was telling me to get up and go into the city.
But as I tried to rise up, I discovered I was blind. I could not see. For the first time in my life, I had no control. For the first time in my life, I was dependent on someone else. For over 30 years I had been in charge; I called the shots. But not now. Now all I could do was reach out for help. When we lose control all we can do is trust and commit to the hand that offers to help us. So my compatriots took me by the hand and led me to the city. The ship of my life had been commandeered; my life was being totally redirected; Jesus was in complete control. In reality, it was Jesus who took my hand.