We Can Do That! Can't We?
INTRO: Good morning. The last time we were together we saw how Saul of Tarsus had his sight miraculously restored and became a follower of the Way, after being baptized into Christ by Ananias.
What we are going to look at today is one of the most incredible conversions to Christ we will ever read or hear about in our Christian lives.
I have probably used this story before but it makes a point. This is about little Johnny who had been out playing all day and he came home filthy and covered in mud. He went to his front door and rang the doorbell. His mother answered the door. He said to his mother, "Mom, who am I?" His mother, ready to play the game with him said, "I don't know! Who are you?" "WOW!" cried little Johnny, "Mrs. Johnson was right! She said I was so dirty even my mother wouldn't recognize me!"
The point of the story is when someone is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, not only does it wash their sin away but it changes their whole life to the point that some of their closest friends and family may not recognize them.
I. That is what happened when Saul of Tarsus met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. It didn’t change his appearance but it certainly changed his attitude towards his God and others. Let’s read Acts 9:19-25 – “19. And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. 20. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, "Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?'' 22. But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. 23. Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. 25. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.” [NKJV]
A. Here Saul teaches the basic fundamental of Christianity that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This was the first message of the converted persecutor, and his last one. This is the note that dominated his preaching throughout his noble career that began here.
1. Luke tells us that Saul the persecutor has now become Saul the preacher. Immediately after being baptized, he received food and broke his fast. Then Saul began to be with the disciples.
2. Notice what he did right after becoming a Christian. Luke says, Saul ‘at once’ or ‘immediately’ began preaching in Damascus, then went to Arabia and returned to preach in Damascus again. The miracle Christ performed upon the mind of Saul outshone the miracles upon people’s bodies; giving such a man another heart was more than giving men the ability to speak with other tongues.
B. I read this snippet about a missionary who went to India and was speaking to some young Christians there. He asked one of them how long he had been a Christian, to which the young man replied, ‘one week’. The missionary asked him, ‘and how many people have you brought to Christ?’
1. The young Christian replied, ‘none, I’ve only been a Christian for one week.’ The missionary asked him, ‘when does a candle first give off light? When it’s first lit or when it’s halfway burned up?’ The young Christian replied, ‘as soon as it’s lit.’ The missionary said, ‘yes that’s right and that’s what you must do from the moment your become a Christian.’
2. Folks, the minute we become a Christian is the minute our light should begin to shine for Christ. Our life is changed and as we live for Christ our very life should be showing fourth as a beacon. The minute we become a Christian is the very minute we become a preacher for Christ.
3. I’m not talking about becoming a preacher in terms of standing behind a lectern. I am referring to the fact that every single Christian should be able to tell anyone they meet about how and why they became a Christian.
C. A preacher told about how his young children used to sit in the back yard with their friends and one of them would stand on top of a box in front of their friends and teach them about Jesus.
1. Where is our pulpit? Where is your pulpit? Maybe it’s when you’re on vacation and in a restaurant you get a chance to share your faith with some people that you met. We can do that, can’t we?
2. Maybe it’s when you’re on public transportation and you get chatting to the person on the opposite seat and you are telling them where you are going. We can do that, can’t we?
3. It could be while you’re in your own home, you have friends and family around for dinner and you get a chance to share your faith with them. We can do that, can’t we?
4. We do not need a wooden box to stand on to have a pulpit. Our pulpit is wherever we get a chance with anyone to share the good news about Jesus and how He changed our life around. We can do that, can’t we?
II. Luke tells us that those who heard the former persecutor preach marveled at his preaching. As Saul grew in strength, he successfully answered the challenge of the Jews and was able to prove Jesus is God's anointed Son. Like we have seen time and time again throughout the Book of Acts, when people preach the truth, it’s going to upset other people. The truth hurts sometimes.
A. Luke says that no-one was able to disprove Saul’s arguments, and some of the Jews plotted to kill him. Saul learned of the plot and the brethren delivered him in a basket through the wall and outside the city. This is proof that evidence alone cannot convert any man. Before salvation, there must be, on the part of one who is to receive it, "an honest and a good heart" Luke 8:15.
1. Later in Acts Luke tells us in Acts 9:26-27 – “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”
2. We can completely understand why the disciples were afraid of Saul. After all, it was only a few days ago that this same Saul was going around persecuting the followers of the Way.
3. Have you ever heard the saying ‘a leopard never changes its spots’? It carries the idea that people never change their ways. Once a thief always a thief so to speak.
4. The disciples didn’t believe that Saul was now a Christian, perhaps because they thought he was going undercover to trap more Christians.
B. We should never underestimate the power of God to change people’s lives. How many people do you know in your personal life whose lives are so ungodly you think they would change? How many people do you know who drink and swear all the time?
1. How many people have we met, and because we are wary of them we won’t share the gospel with them? We do not have the right to not share the gospel with certain people because we think they will never change.
2. I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons God chose Saul of Tarsus to become a Christian was to give hope to the very people that we think will never become a Christian.
3. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
4. If God can change the life of Saul the persecutor around, then certainly, He can turn the life of anybody around.
C. A preacher in Scotland said that when he was younger he was involved with drugs and alcohol. All he was interested in was having enough money to buy more. There was no way in the world that anyone could ever tell him that one day he would become a Christian.
1. He said his life was so ungodly, that now he is ashamed to even speak about it.
2. Today he thanks God for a lady named Jane Duncan from the Glenrorth church of Christ who believed that God could change people’s lives.
D. When we take an honest look at our own life, we may find there was a time before we became a Christian that was pretty ungodly. Perhaps the thought of becoming a Christian was far from our minds. Do we thank God for the person who came to us with the gospel because they believed that God could turn our life around? I don’t know about you but I don’t want to go back to the man I was before I became a Christian.
III. Sometimes we try too hard looking for ways to share the gospel with others. We should just remember the time we first heard the good news or the time when a loved one first heard it. Perhaps remember when we saw someone sharing the gospel with a person and that person got it. We can do that, can’t we?
A. If you’re not comfortable sharing the gospel that way, then try Saul’s approach as we find it in Acts 9:27-28 – “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.” What Saul did was share his testimony.
B. I note that we owe much to the loving trust of Barnabas, not merely for his advocating the case of Saul here, but also for his advocating that of John Mark, whom Paul was so ready to reject at a later time.
1. What is revealed of Barnabas in the New Testament justifies the affirmation that he was a good man, full of wisdom, and of the Holy Spirit.
2. In his support of Paul's sincerity, is an illustration of the truth that it is better to trust than to distrust; it is better to believe the best of men than it is to believe the worst of them. Hard to do that at times, isn’t it?
C. Perhaps when you are around people who know you are a Christian, you might get this question: ‘How did you become a Christian?’ That’s an open door right there, isn’t it? That’s an opportunity to plant some seed.
1. Simply by sharing our testimony about the life we had, until someone took the time to share with us that God can turn our lives around for the better.
2. Just like Saul’s preaching in Damascus, the more we do it, the easier it gets, and the easier it gets, the more confident we will become. We can do that, can’t we?
IV. Then we also need to know that it seems from the text that the bolder a person’s preaching becomes, the more people are going to get upset.
A. Acts 9:29-30 – “And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.”
1. Just as Stephen had done in Acts 6:8-9, Saul debated with the Hellenists. Just as with Stephen, they attempted to kill him.
2. When the brethren discovered the plot, they sent Saul to Tarsus by way of Caesarea.
3. I noted an important point here about Saul’s actions. Two times the Jews tried to kill Saul and two times he was taken away for his safety.
B. We know we are to stand firm in the word and we sometimes take that to mean Christians should always stand their ground and never run away from any situation. There are times, however, when your safety needs to come first, especially when God is not finished with you, and God was not finished with Saul. For God’s purpose Saul was not destined to be accepted in Jerusalem; rather his was a call to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Therefore the circumstance of the hatred which naturally arose against Paul in Jerusalem was not removed by God, but was made the occasion of sending him to Tarsus.
1. God had plans for him and when we find ourselves in a situation where our lives are at risk, just remember that unless it’s God’s will, He’s not finished with us, He has plans for us. While all this was going on, when Saul left for Tarsus, God as He always does, is working in the background.
2. Now in Acts 9:31 – “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
3. Luke tells us that a period of peace was enjoyed by the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. He says the church was strengthened, and all the Christians walked in reverent respect for the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
C. Look what happened. Luke tells us that all of this resulted in a further multiplication of the number of disciples. Just because a congregation does not have any new converts at the moment doesn’t mean that God isn’t adding to His number in another congregation of His church in another part of the world.
1. God has added to His number here recently and we get letters about baptisms from West 76th Street all the time. We should rejoice with the angels when we hear someone has been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
2. We rejoice and we pray that Christ will strengthen them in their new walk, no matter whom they are or where they are from.
3. Loved ones, if we were to rejoice only when the Lord adds to His number here at Chardon, I think we would seriously have missed the point. The Lord’s church is bigger than the Chardon church of Christ.
D. Jesus, in His teaching about the woman who lost a coin in her home, says when she found it she rejoiced. He says in Luke 15:10 – “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It’s always a time for rejoicing when someone who is lost comes to God and repents no matter where it happens.
V. At the same time as the Lord’s church is enjoying peace, Luke records that the apostles continued to preach the gospel in Judaea, Samaria and Galilee, and tells of two miracles of Peter. The first of which is recorded next here in Acts 9:32-35 – “Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed,. And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.'' Then he arose immediately. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
A. Here’s a man who has not been out of his bed for 8 years because he was a paralytic.
1. Peter never took the credit for healing him as some today might. Peter told Aeneas that it was Jesus Christ who healed him.
2. This miracle was very similar to one that Jesus performed at Jerusalem where Jesus found a man by a pool who had been a paralytic for 38 years. When Jesus heals him He says to him in John 5:8-9 – “Rise, take up your bed and walk.'' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.” He picked up his mat and walked.”
B. Paul tells Timothy in chapter 3 of his second letter that there would be those who are; “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” A little earlier Paul describes these same people as; “unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,”. Paul is telling us that there will be those who appear to be Godly yet in reality they have a different agenda.
1. I remember reading an article about a well-known preacher in England who claimed he could heal anyone. A woman whose son was diagnosed with cancer went to him for help and he agreed to help. He would heal her son if she paid him £10,000. She remortgaged her house to raise the money and paid this preacher. The preacher performed his routine to heal her son.
2. Two months later the son died. The woman went back to the preacher requesting a refund because he didn’t heal her son. Do you know what he said in reply to her request? He said that ‘she wouldn’t get a refund and that her son was not healed because she didn’t have enough faith.’
3. John tells us that the paralytic who had been that way for 38 years was healed by Jesus, ‘at once’. Luke tells us that Aeneas was healed ‘Immediately’. There’s none of this, ‘you don’t have enough faith’ or ‘just wait a few weeks and you’ll be healed’. Aeneas was healed ‘Immediately’ and news of that healing spread fast. People in the city of Lydda, as well as the surrounding coastal Plain of Sharon, heard the news and they too turned to Jesus.
C. Luke goes on to record Peter’s second miracle in Acts 9:36-39 – “36. At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. 37. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.”
1. Luke tells us that a hard-working, Christian woman, named Tabitha, or Dorcas, who was constantly giving to others, became ill and died. This is interesting because when someone died in Biblical times the bereaved would usually anoint the body for their burial.
2. That’s why Mark records in Mark 16:1 that “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body”.
3. Here Luke tells us that the brethren simply washed her body and laid it in an upper room.
D. The reason I find that interesting is because instead of getting her body ready for her burial, they sent two men to Lydda to plead with Peter to come as soon as possible.
1. When Peter arrives the brethren take him to the upper room where her body lay and she was surrounded by weeping widows who showed him some of her beautiful works.
2. Luke continues with the story in Acts 9:40-41, he says, “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise.'' And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.”
E. How many times have we seen the example of the apostles praying first before they do anything? Peter sent everyone out of the room, knelt down and prayed.
1. How many times had Peter personally been in this position with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? I wonder if he remembers the time when Jesus raised Lazarus back to life.
2. In much the same fashion as he had seen the Lord do, Peter called for Tabitha to arise.
3. She opened her eyes. Saw Peter and sat up. Peter extended his hand to her and helped her up while calling for the brethren to come.
4. What an incredible event this must have been. Imagine being there. I don’t know about you but I couldn’t keep an event like that to myself. I would have to tell others.
VI. That’s exactly what Luke tells us happened next in Acts 9:42-43 – “ And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.”
A. God was working miracles through the apostle Peter and those miracles did what they were designed to do during those days. Many people believed God’s word as He spoke through Peter and they too became Christians. Peter stayed for a time in Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner.
1. As hard as this miracle is to believe for some people, we can be sure that it did happen. Not because we were there but because it’s written in God’s word.
2. Remember what the Hebrew writer says concerning God’s word in Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
God’s word is not just a collection of 66 books for us to read like we would read any other book, its living and active. In other words, it has the power to change your life.
It has certainly changed my life for the better and I know it has also changed the lives of all the Christians who meet here at Chardon.
We all have friends and family members who need to know that it can change their lives too. The question really is more then; we can do that, can’t we? It’s more of a question of; are we willing to do that? Are we?
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Mike Glover
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