Fairmeadow Community Church of The Nazarene
October 17, 2021
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  • Acts 9:1–22 NRSV
    1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

    Saul was determined to wipe out The Way

    The namesake of Israel’s most insecure leader, was following in his footsteps. A young Pharisee who wanted to make a name for himself saw an opportunity with this band of nobodies who were shaking up the religious scene. His methods were clearly whatever it takes to stop them:
    Acts 9:1–2 NRSV
    1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
    First I just want to point out that followers of Jesus were said to be members of The Way. Remember, Jesus had said: I am the way, the truth and the life. I don’t know if they came up with this name or if they were tagged with it, but it’s an interesting choice. Unlikely people following a surprising savior in a whole new way of life. The way. A way of peace and love and joy in the Holy Spirit. But also a way of invitation and welcome and challenge to live differently.
    So, of course, threaten to murder them and get papers to arrest them, even planning to drag people in Damascus all the way back to Jerusalem. So there’s no doubt Saul was committed. He knew the Scriptures inside and out, but other things were higher on his agenda.
    Simply knowing the Scriptures alone can’t make up for the absence of genuine faith in Jesus.
    Listen to Paul writing later about his state of mind at this time...
    1 Timothy 1:13 NRSV
    13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
    1 Timothy 1:15 NRSV
    15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.
    Even John Wesley was an ordained priest in the Church of England and had been a missionary to Georgia here in the U.S. BEFORE he actually found true faith...
    Mr. Wesley dates his conversion from May 24, 1738. His mind had been particularly impressed during that day with certain passages of Scripture which had occurred to him; and “in the evening,” he says, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
    Wesley, J. (1872). The Works of John Wesley (Third Edition, Vol. 5, p. xiv). London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room.
    So as I’ve been talking about this whole series, knowing the Scriptures is important, but knowing Jesus is more important. Saul was in the state of unbelief. In that state, the world still had a great pull on him. John Wesley had not yet fully trusted Christ, so he was in constant fear and confusion despite his position.
    The Scriptures point us to Jesus. That is their purpose. We should study them as much as we are able, but we should not worship the Bible.
    The author we call Luke wrote his gospel and this book of acts “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
    John wrote his gospel saying:
    John 19:35 NRSV
    35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)
    John 20:31 NRSV
    31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
    The goal is faith. Faith in Jesus. Apart from faith in Jesus you can’t fully understand the Scriptures. Paul knew so much but he could not have been more wrong. So God intervened in a unique way for a unique man at a unique moment in history.
    Acts 9:3–9 NRSV
    3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
    So Saul, was blinded by the light from heaven. He was called out directly by Jesus.
    Later as Paul tells this story to King Agrippa at Caesarea he shares another important detail:
    Acts 26:14 NRSV
    14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’
    Acts for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 13–28 Paul’s Conversion (One More Time) (Acts 26:12–23)

    To begin with, he warns Paul about the difficulty of ‘kicking against the goads’ (verse 14) like an ox, angry at the metal prods that are pushing it in the right direction and kicking out at them, thereby making things worse. The point is not simply that God is wanting Paul to do something and, like an obstinate ox, he is refusing. The point is that the crucified Jesus is himself doing a new work through his resurrection, and that Paul, in persecuting the church, is like an ox kicking against the direction the Driver intends the whole ox-train, plough and all, to be travelling.

    So Saul is trying to serve the right God and studying the right books and is very committed to what he understands. But the absence of deep faith in the true messiah has left a void and he’s trying too hard to fill that void. As it turns out he’s literally persecuting Jesus.
    Remember over in Matthew 25 when Jesus said, if you do it unto the least of these by brothers you do it unto me and when you don’t do it to the least of these by brothers you don’t do it unto me? Yeah, here’s most likely what Jesus is talking about. You persecute my followers, you persecute me and I’ve got their backs, Saul. So this is going nowhere.
    Basically he’s saying: realize how blind you are over this next three days. Realize how wrong you’ve been. Get yourself ready for what comes next...
    Okay so Saul’s mind is blown. Someone else’s mind is about to get blown...
    Acts 9:10–16 NRSV
    10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
    Ananias. Just a dude following Jesus for all he’s worth over in Damascus, the place Saul is going to arrest people. Probably one of the people he would have abused and imprisoned.
    It’s vision time again and Jesus says: Ananias! Ananias says: Yes, Lord. Always the right answer.
    Go to the house of Judas over on Straight Street and ask for Saul of Tarsus because he’s praying and has seen a man named Ananias laying hands on him and praying for him to receive sight.
    Ananias: Uh, cool, Jesus. But I think I’ve heard a bunch of stuff about this guy. He’s done some bad stuff to your holy people in Jersalem and he’s here to do more to US!
    Jesus: Go! This is my guy and I’m going to do great things through him and I’ll take care of everything else.
    And just like Philip, even though it’s such weird request, it says this:
    Acts 9:17–18 NRSV
    17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized,
    Yeah, so the chief of sinners gets wet for Jesus! Can I get an amen?
    And hey a cheer for Ananias for being a very cool and very forgiving and very obedient and very bold man of God, amen?
    But all praise and glory to God above for being so full of grace and mercy, watching over his people and preparing the way. For taking what seems like the most impossible moment and bringing out the best in everyone and turning things around radically!
    The Devil thought he had this little band of believers isolated and down for the count. But he. did. not!!!! Ha! Jesus was just. getting. started.
    Friends, I don’t know what you’ve done in your past that makes you doubt that God can use you. But Peter and Paul are standing there, saying: he used us. He can use you. Don’t fight against God. Trust God.
    We are all up against some very interesting circumstances right now. But we serve the same God. He specializes in flipping the script and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. God will do his part. IF we do our part like Ananias, he will turn darkness into light. He will give spiritual sight to those who are spiritually blind. Hard cases. Tough guys.
    Does Jesus have disciples in Munster, and Hammond, in Highland, Lansing and Dyer, and St. John and Crete? People who will obey and trust and sacrifice in times of uncertainty? People who will hold steady by the grace of God and not lose heart?
    I believe he does and I believe great days are ahead because of our great God.
    Acts 9:31 NRSV
    31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
    Let it be so, here, Lord. Let it be so in our lives so it can be so in our community.
    Let’s not kick against the goads. Let’s stay in step with God’s plan and see what God will do. Let’s pray...
      • Acts 9:1–22NRSV

      • Acts 9:1–2NRSV

      • 1 Timothy 1:13NRSV

      • 1 Timothy 1:15NRSV

      • John 19:35NRSV

      • John 20:31NRSV

      • Acts 9:3–9NRSV

      • Acts 26:14NRSV

      • Acts 9:10–16NRSV

      • Acts 9:17–18NRSV

      • Acts 9:31NRSV

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