Sunday, March 25, 2012

From Acts to Revelation Part 22 – Saul

From Acts to Revelation
Part 22 – Saul
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

Saul was introduced to us as a young man working with those who stoned Stephen at the end of Acts 7.

They laid their cloaks at his feet while they killed Stephen, and the scriptures tell us that Saul consented to his death.

Because of the persecution lead by people like Saul, the church in Jerusalem dispersed, traveling to Judea and Samaria.

This is where we learned of the Apostle Philip having to travel to Samaria to teach about Christ because of Simon the sorcerer, and where we also learned that, just because someone confesses Jesus and is baptized, it does not necessarily mean that their hearts are right with the Lord.

Peter made that clear to Simon when he told him that he had no part of the ministry because his heart was not right with the Lord. He was still in his sin and had not repented.

We then saw Philip speak to the gentile Ethiopian, whose heart was right with the Lord, but had not confessed Christ, nor been baptized. After speaking with Philip, he did so, and received salvation.

Today we are going to look at Saul, and how his hate for followers of Christ grew to the point it consumed him.

Sometimes, when a truth is presented to us, it has such a profound effect on us, that it becomes difficult to accept. The bigger the truth, or the bigger our “self”, the more difficult it is to allow God to do a work in us.

We will see how, God, judged Saul, not by his actions, but by his heart, and how Saul, through obedience, became a servant to the Lord.

Today we will ask ourselves the question, Is my heart like Simon's, unwilling to let go of my sin, or the Ethiopians, which was right with the Lord? Secondly, if my heart is right with the Lord, am I obeying Him so that I may serve Him?

Acts 9:1-7
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
   “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

1.      Saul continued his murderous threats and work towards the followers of Jesus
1.      He even went to the High Priest for a letter allowing him to bring followers who fled Jerusalem, back to Jerusalem as prisoners.

2.      His hatred for followers consumed him.

2.      Saul determined for himself what he was going to do with his life.
1.      We can make choices in life.

2.      We can “follow our dreams”

3.      Saul's dream was to lead the persecution against the followers of Christ.

3.      There was a problem with Saul's life, and plan
1.      His heart was right, although his life was not.

2.      Just like the Ethiopian, Saul's heart loved the Lord, but he had not confessed Christ, nor been baptized, and his life and actions were that of a lost soul.

3.      No matter how one tries, without Christ, your life, and your actions are all lead by your flesh because you do not have the Holy Spirit.

4.      Those who are lost, live according to their flesh, which is sinful.

5.      Galatians 5:19-21 tells us the fruits of the flesh are;
1.      Sexual Immorality - sex for anything other than what God intended – incl. porn
2.       Impurity
3.      Debauchery - excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures
4.      Idolatry - putting anything/anyone before God
5.      Witchcraft - not just magic, controlling/manipulating others to do your will
6.      Hatred
7.      Discord – disorder, disagreements (arguing to prove your point)
8.      Jealousy
9.      Fits of Rage
10. Selfish Ambition – selfish dreams, desires and wants
11. Dissensions – causing conflicts
12. Factions – creating cliques in the church (including some/ excluding others)
13. Envy – is resentment and bitterness (Simon's sin)
14. Drunkenness
15. Orgies
16. vs 21 “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

6.      Saul was living a life that followed his flesh.

4.      We NEED the Holy Spirit to live Godly lives
1.      When our hearts are right, and we confess Christ, like the Samaritans, we too can receive the Holy Spirit!

2.      THEN, we can live Goldy lives, serving the Lord, and our lives will bring forth FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT as in Galatians 5:22-23
1.      Love - (I Corinthians 13 - ACTION)
2.      Joy – in ALL circumstances as displayed by the Disciples
3.      Peace – regardless of the world around you
4.      Patience – lack of this is selfishness, and strong will
5.      Kindness – in how we treat others
6.      Goodness – in what we DO for others
7.      Faithfulness – trusting always in the Lord
8.      Gentleness
9.      Self-Control
10. vs 23-26 “Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. “

5.      The LAW (of Moses) is to judge the SIN (fruit of the flesh) of man.
1.      But those in Christ, will not be judged by the Law!

1.      Because Saul's heart was right the Lord continued to try and reach him
1.      God had obviously reached Saul before, which made Saul serve God as he was.

2.      The scriptures tell us, “Draw close to me, and I will draw close to you...” - James 4:8

3.      Saul's heart was right, but he was living by his flesh, he had not submitted to the Lord.

2.      So the Lord, judging Saul's heart, looking past his actions, reached out
1.      On Saul's Journey, a light from heaven flashed around HIM.
2.      HE fell to the ground.
3.      HE heard a voice say to him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?”
4.      This happened to SAUL, directly...personally, between he and the Lord.

3.      Saul cried out, “Who are you, Lord?”
1.      And the Lord answered, using the name that Saul hated...
2.      “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

4.      Now that Jesus has presented Himself to Saul, Saul has to make a choice
1.      Saul's heart was right with God, though he had not yet confessed Christ
2.      He now had to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord God!

5.      To be a servant of God, we must;
1.      Confess Christ
2.      Repent of our sins
3.      Allow God's Holy Spirit to do a work in us
4.      Live by the fruits of His Holy Spirit (not to be led by our flesh)
5.      and OBEY

6.      The Lord now gives Saul a command to obey
1.      “Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
2.      The Lord appeared to Saul and invited him to follow.

1.      As it was with Saul, many of us can relate
1.      Those around Saul saw and heard nothing
2.      Many times in our lives, when we hear the Lord calling us, our friends are confounded.

2.      Saul SAW and HEARD the risen Lord!
1.      He accepted the Lord Christ was Jesus
2.      He obeyed His command
3.      He would soon be serving the very one he set out to destroy

3.      Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess!
1.      Either in this life, or eternity.
2.      I chose NOW!

Today we will ask ourselves the question, Is my heart like Simon's, unwilling to let go of my sin, or like Saul's, willing to confess and repent so that I may have Salvation?

Secondly, if my heart is right with the Lord, am I obeying Him so that I may serve Him?