2018-07-01 – Acts 9.19-31 – Ripples of Conversion

19b 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.

23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

26 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

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.

2018-07-01 – Acts 9.19b-31 – Ripples of Conversion

Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today. God bless you all.

As we are preparing to celebrate our countries Independence Day this coming Wednesday, I am reminded that although we live in the Land of the Free, there has been and will be much cost to bare to keep it free. I have traveled all around the world, and I can say with confidence that America is a most amazing country. I love my country and I know that although we are far from perfect, we have much to be thankful for. I also know that our country was founded upon Christian principles. Although we have made some significant and much needed changes over the years, those same Christian principles still exist today. I don’t care which side of the political isle you reside, when you apply God’s Word to the situations we face, He is glorified, and we will continue to be a blessed nation. Amen?

We are going through the book of Acts, and last week we read how Saul was chosen by Jesus to serve him. Jesus appeared as a bright light to Saul and asked him “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me so?” Right then Saul figured out that he had been wrong all along. He had been going after Christians and persecuting them, all while he was thinking he was doing God’s will. Jesus corrected Saul’s understanding of the situation that day. We all might benefit by having a little correction at times couldn’t we? Well Ananias later met with Saul, who had been temporarily blinded, and God used Ananias to restore his sight, and subsequently Saul was baptized into the faith. What a wonderful message it was, as it set the foundation for Saul becoming the greatest advocate for Jesus to the world.

Please turn now to Acts 9:19 (pg 128 of the Pew Bibles), which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, but let us start with prayer.  

19For several days [Saul] was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 

We see here in these first two verses that it was only a matter of a few days that Saul went from being a Persecutor to Apostle. The Jesus that he thought was dead was indeed not dead. Not only was He not dead, but He was the living Lord of the universe. Jesus is not a mere man or a high-ranking angel in human form as some like to think. He is truly a man and God at the same time, something that we could never fully grasp. He is God Incarnate which means God in the flesh. Jesus became fully human by taking on human flesh. He was conceived in Mary’s womb through the Holy Spirit and was born a babe. Jesus experienced normal aging, He had natural physical needs and human emotions. He died a physical death, and He was later resurrected with a physical body. Jesus was human in every way except for sin, as He lived a completely sinless life.

When Jesus took on the form of a human, His nature did not change, but His position did. He humbled Himself by laying aside His glory and privilege. Saul realized this now, and just like he was boldly defending the Jewish church before, he is now starting to become Christ’s biggest ambassador and advocate.

Notice our first verses here says Saul immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” The fact that he didn’t wait until he was fully made part of the new Christian church, or given instruction of “the Way” as they were called at the time, before he went out and started proclaiming is just amazing. Also amazing is the fact that Saul didn’t just proclaim Christ on the streets, he went right to the synagogues where the Jewish authorities gathered. Saul was on fire for Jesus and wanted to tell the world what he now knew now to be true. I would argue that if we truly knew with such assuredly what being saved meant, we too would be so excited to proclaim Jesus everywhere we went.

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, who was well known, not just in Jerusalem, but throughout all Judea and Israel as being the havoc maker for anyone who went against the Jewish religion, is now a havoc maker for Jesus Christ. The focus all of a sudden changes for the Jewish authorities from going after all Christians, to now going directly after Saul, who was to them one of the biggest traitors of the faith that they had ever known. Saul was confounding the Jews verse 22 says. And this is exactly what Jesus said would happen. Paul later wrote 1 Corinthians 27 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”. Saul proved that Jesus was the Messiah & Savior that they were looking for. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of the synagogue where Saul was proclaiming Christ.  I could almost imagine that some were just aghast as Saul was delivering his message, thinking “is this the same Saul that we know?” “How could he go from persecutor to preacher in such a short time”. To that the answer is simple, God!

23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

They Jews now despised Saul, they considered him a traitor, and they desperately wanted to kill him. Verse 23 says “after some time had passed”, when actually it was about three years. We know that from Saul’s later testimony. Sometimes we need to dig a litter deeper in scripture to derive the facts and timelines. Saul was having a big impact on Damascus and Arabia for Christ. The Jews in Damascus wanted to kill him, whereby causing Saul to head for Jerusalem where he would meet up with the first Christian church family, the Apostles and disciples.

26 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 

Finally after three years Saul gets to meet the church family. I have no doubt that the Christians in Jerusalem had heard about Saul, that he was converted by Jesus Himself and was speaking powerfully for Jesus in Damascus. However, now the same Saul that caused all the grief in Jerusalem by having Stephen killed and even went house to house in Jerusalem, pulling Christians out and having them put to death, was now standing before them, making application to join the disciples. That had to be a very difficult scenario. It would be similar to if Hitler after the war came and asked the Jews to be his friends and trust him. I can’t imagine that many would be willing to give up their hate and hurt to allow him to become part of the inner circle of Christians in Jerusalem. That had to be a difficult deliberation for those early Christians. Could you imagine if a known killer came to our church and asked to not only join the church, but to become a pillar of the church? That’s what they were facing that day.

But then Barnabas steps in and decides to be an advocate for Saul. Scripture doesn’t say how Barnabas knew about Saul’s conversion, but he knew enough to trust Jesus even in this and he presented Saul to the Apostles. This is the same Barnabas that you might recall gave a piece of land to the first church just as it was getting started. The name Barnabas means son of encouragement”. And he was doing that with excellence. The Apostles were Jesus’ chosen. They had a special appointment by Jesus for the early church. When Barnabas presented Saul’s case and the Apostles heard the details of Saul’s conversion, they knew he was the real deal. Saul was a true and chosen disciple of Christ.

This message today is called Ripples of Conversion. Saul’s conversion was causing ripples in the fabric of the newly formed Christian church. As I rec my own conversion, it wasn’t as dramatic as Saul’s but still it caused ripples nonetheless.

How about you? When you accepted the Lord and starting making changes to your lifestyle, did you experience any Ripples of Conversion? It is normal that your friends and family and coworkers should see something different in your character. That naturally causes them to maybe take a step back and re-evaluate your relationships. I would dare say if it doesn’t cause any ripples, then maybe you really didn’t change anything. And if you didn’t change anything in your character, then what difference did conversion make? The fruit of the Holy Spirit now living within the believer, has to cause some ripples. Saul’s conversion experience in these verses show how impactful the Holy Spirit can be.

28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Saul didn’t slow down when he was finally accepted into the Christian church in Jerusalem. In fact he was just getting started with what became many years of ministry. The Greek Hellenists are the same group that was causing challenges in the church when it first was formed. They must have been some tough to get along with kind of folk. Here it says they were even trying to kill him. Saul just can’t even turn around without somebody trying to kill him. But fortunately the church members were looking after him and sent Saul off to Tarsus. Interesting to know that Tarsus is where Saul’s family was from. Tarsus was one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast, and I have no doubt that Saul continued to make an impact there as well.

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.

As I understand it, because of all the turmoil surrounding Jesus being crucified and later resurrected, and all the commotion the Jews caused in scattering the Christians, then persecuting them, which Saul took part in; the Romans subsequently clamped down on the Jews so much that they effectively enforced a time of forced peace throughout the area for a while. Because of all that, the new Christian church had a period of peace for which they were able to further build up to carry out the Great Commission, and even evangelize Judea, and the rest of the world.

This makes me reflect upon our society today, as there seems to be much persecution going on in the world and even in our country. People are starting to attack verbally and even physically against Christians and it breaks my heart.

I am sure it was worse for the early church, but just as peace followed persecution then, maybe there is still hope for us as well. Maybe there will be a period of peace following this period of persecution. I don’t know, but I trust in God, for He knows everything, and He loves us so. Amen?

There are a few points I would like to call your attention to that are realized by our verses today.

  1. Saul had a lot of Ripples of Conversion, and we will to. When a person accepts Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord, it will have an impact on their life. There are the initial ripples, like maybe putting up with some ridicule and losing some “friends” as you make positive adjustments to your character. And then the ripples as you live out your life because you are not just like the rest of the world anymore. The Holy Spirit will continue to cleanse your character and lead you through this new “Born Again” life. We should expect that, and embrace that dynamic. God’s Word says we are to be in the world but we are no longer of the world.
  2. Like Saul, God gives each of us a purpose and a mission, however there is most always a pause first. We know that Saul was immediately converted by Christ Himself, yet he had to wait blindly until Ananias came; he had to wait for the people to trust him; he had to wait to go to Jerusalem; then he had to wait to be accepted by the church until Barnabas stood up for him. We should be patient for trust to build. However while we are waiting, we should still be proclaiming and sharing the Gospel just as Saul did.
  3. Just as Barnabas stood up for Saul and became a sponsor or bridge between Saul and the apostles; New Christians (especially those with tarnished reputations) will need sponsors too. People who will come alongside them, encourage, instruct, and introduce them to other believers. Find ways that you can become a Barnabas to the new believers God sends our way.

In Conclusion, As we are preparing to celebrate our Independence Day 4th of July, Please realize that as we live in the United States of America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Here we are blessed to be able to worship where and when and how we wish to worship. We should never take that privilege for granted. In fact, just as the new church in Jerusalem had that period of peace where they were able to live in the “comfort of the Holy Spirit”. Like them, we should be taking full advantage of it for the pleasure of our Savior and for the benefit of leading others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby saving them from destruction and leading them to an eternity of heavenly peace and joy. Are you with me?   Will you please stand with me now.    Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father..