God's Love - Salvation

June 8, 2014   Acts 9  Saul’s Conversion  

 

      This illustration was shared by Fred W. Parsons.    A grandfather found his grandson, jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice.     When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his little chubby hands and said, “Out, Gramp, out.”    It was only natural for Grandfather to reach down to lift the little fellow out of his predicament; but as he did, the mother of the child stepped up and said, “No, Johnnie, you are being punished, so you must stay in.”  The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do.    The child’s tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart, but the mother’s firmness in correcting her son for misbehavior must not be lightly taken.    Here was a problem of love versus law, but love found a way.    The grandfather could not take the youngster out of the playpen, so he crawled in with him.    Love finds a way and so it is with God. 

      Adam and Eve chose to sin and they tried to hide from God but God came and down and worked with them.  Mankind since then has chosen to go their own way and basically has spurned God.   We have rejected God and God’s rule over us.   Man chooses to go his own way and do his own thing.   God promised Adam and Eve He would make a way for man to be saved.   God raised up a nation that was in slavery in Egypt but God came and rescued them.  God led them out of Egypt with his powerful hand.  God was with them and led them with a cloud in the day time and pillar of fire at night.  God is always present with his people.   Later 3 Jewish lads were thrown into the fire and God was with them in the fire so that they were not harmed.  Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den but God was there and the lions did not harm him.  In the New Testament God sent his son to be as one of us though Jesus was sinless.  God literally God walked and talked with us.  God experienced pain, suffering, hunger and grief.  In Jesus God experienced the things that you and I face everyday – the trials of life.  God has proven his love for people. 

      God loves us not as man loves but loves us with perfect love.  God loves with an unconditional love.  He loves us whether we love him back or not.  God is the greatest deal around.  People look for love.   Many folks get married today and it is with conditions. For many it may not be stated but the under lying truth is that she says I will love you as long as you look young and are strong as you are today.  I will be with you as long as you are successful and can pay all the bills.   Your business and income must always be good.   If you make a bad business decision and lose everything I am gone.  When your gray hair comes and your hair goes so will I.   When your eye sight, hearing, health are not doing so well I am going to reevaluate things.   And in his mind he is thinking as long as she maintains her beauty with no wrinkles and her good figure we will do well.   She has to keep a perfect house and perfect kids and of course things need to go well in the marriage relationship or I will be considering other options.   I want her to look at age 60 like she was at the altar.   Time changes things and it changes us and on and on it goes. 

    I am so glad God is not like that.  His love is different.  He will take you at 9 years old or at 99 years old.   For those that are 99 and they scorned God their whole life and if they have a change of heart God will accept them.  If you spent your whole life ruining your health God will take you.  If you ruined your life with drugs, or sex, or didn’t keep your body up and you come to God he will accept you.  That is never an excuse to sin because sin harms you and those around you.  Sin pollutes the world and sin destroys.   That is why God hates sin but God loves the sinner. 

    Some folks think they have to clean up their life in order to have a relationship with God.   The reality is that when we come into God’s family God cleanses us and God gives us a new power.  God gives us a new life and he grants his Holy Spirit to us.   You can never get clean enough to be worthy of God.   The best thing we can do is just turn our life over to God.  God here I am take me.   God here I am and I cannot live the kind of life that is good and pure without you so help me.  People say that religion or church is a crutch.  Well Jesus said if you sin you are a slave to that sin.  Sin is a crutch.  The world needs to see its crutches.  For those on drugs it is the next fix and for those that drink it is the next drink and on and on it goes and life can mean little or nothing without it.   For some unless I have that life does not mean anything. 

     Some folks think I can never live up to those guys in the bible.  Look at Abraham the father of faith who obeyed God and was willing to offer his son Isaac.   Abraham believed God and He is the founder of the whole Jewish race.  Did God choose Abraham because he was perfect?   Abraham twice said Sarah was his sister because she was so beautiful and he was concerned that they would kill him to get her.  It looks like at one point that he went to Egypt when God did not tell him to go there.  Some believe that he worshipped idols at least in the beginning of his life.   His father had idols.   Some of us could say well I could never be like Moses.   Moses was not perfect in fact God would not allow him to go into the Promised Land because at one point Moses did not honor God and obey God.  Moses got angry and responded in anger.  We look David the great king of Israel who killed Goliath.   Was David perfect?   Well David was a man after God’s own heart but he was also an adulterer and a murderer.   He repented of those things but he was not perfect.  

    Did Jesus choose the disciples because they were perfect?   No Jesus did not.   The night before Jesus was betrayed the disciples were talking about who was the greatest among them and Peter brags the night before Jesus is betrayed that he would never deny Jesus and then denies Jesus 3 times in a few short hours.  After Jesus was crucified Peter and several of the disciples go fishing.   But Peter after Jesus goes into heaven is filled with the Holy Spirit and preaches to thousands and they turn to Jesus.   Was Pete then perfect?   Well Paul charges Peter that Peter did not act properly around the gentiles when Jews were present.   God works with and loves imperfect fallen people.  James tells us that Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are and he prayed fervently that it would not rain and it did not rain for 3 and ½ years.   That was because of Israel’s sin and idol worship.  These men and people were folks like us.  God gets the glory.  God is the one who does great things and he uses broken people.  God loves to bless.   These men we looked at were not great men who loved and gave themselves but they were loved by God and that made them great.   It was the work of God in their life.   They were not awesome in and of themselves but God did awesome things in and through their life.   I am not an awesome guy.  God called me preach and it is His word and His power that makes the difference.  It is not me.  It is about Jesus and not me. 

    And of course we come to Saul who later becomes Paul.     Did God choose Saul because he was this great guy?   Was Saul a goody too shoes?   Neigh No Saul at this point was a monster.   Well before he had this experience with Jesus he persecuted Christians.  Saul was on a mission his whole life.  At this point in his life he thought he was doing God a big favor by persecuting Christians.  His goal was to destroy this group that believed that Jesus was God and that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.   Saul harassed them and threw them in jail.   He was present when Stephen was stoned to death.  He was working with all his might.   He lived and breathed persecution.  Another passage in the bible tells us that there was veil that prevented him and the Jews from seeing truth.   We all have a veil over us to one degree or another.   That veil is a spiritual blindness.  We all have some blindness to the spiritual world but for many they do not see God and eternity and so they live for themselves.   They live far from God.  

      Jesus touches Saul.   No one is too hard for God to reach.    I suspect the Christians of his day thought he was impossible to convert.   They were afraid of him and rightly so.   I bet if a poll was taken in those days asking who Christians thought would be impossible to reach that good ole Saul would top the list.   This man is impossible.   I wonder what Peter, James and John would have said.    Yup Paul was known.     It is not a big deal for God to save someone like Saul or anyone else for that matter.    God desires to save the most despicable people that we know of.    God desires to do a lot more in the world and yes God desires to save a lot more people.   He is not willing that any should perish.  

      God shook up Saul’s life.   Think about it.   Saul is knocked off his donkey.   He is blinded for a few days.   For 3 days he did not eat or drink anything.    I wonder what Saul thought about for those 3 days.    Maybe thoughts like am I ever going to see again?     What is going to happen to me?    I have been so wrong in my life.    I have supported the killing of God’s people?    Saul had a major change in philosophy.   He had a major change about what he thought about God and Jesus.    He was changing his mind about the Jewish religion.    Saul was going to Damascus with the goal of persecuting Christians and he has an experience with Jesus.   He is blinded so he ends up going into Damascus blind and with someone holding his hand.   He was riding high on the donkey on his way in but that was to change.   Paul went from high and mighty to the dirt.  That is a good place to find God.  Often that is the only place that we can find God.   It is when we do not know what to do and we hit rock bottom and then we begin to look up.   We realize that we cannot handle it on our own.  God can change a person very quickly.   God can change the most difficult of people in no time.   In one minute Saul is on his way to persecute the church the followers of Jesus.   In a matter of a minute or so he is dead set against Jesus and then talking to Jesus. 

       There was a big change in Saul’s life and often big changes are not easy.   Saul made some fast changes.      Saul had to admit how wrong he was.   Saul up to this point thought that Jesus had died and that was that.   He thought that this new sect that was preaching Jesus was totally wrong.   Jesus was not raised up from the dead Saul believed and the best thing he could do for God was to destroy this teaching and remove it from the land.   Saul thought he was on the inside track but he was wrong.   He thought he was doing God a big favor by destroying God’s people.   Saul was a very learned man but spiritually he was ignorant of Jesus and spiritually he was blind.    But a little chat with Jesus changed all that.   God’s voice changes things.   God spoke and the worlds and galaxies were created.   Jesus speaks and demons flee.   Jesus speaks and the storm stops.   Jesus speaks and people are healed.  Jesus spoke and Lazarus was raised from the dead.  When Jesus speaks lives and things are changed.   Jesus spoke to Saul and Saul becomes a changed man.   It was the same voice had caused the Soldiers to fall backward in the Garden of Gethsemane    This same voice had cried out, “it is finished” as he paid the price of redemption on the cross.     This same voice cries out to us today.  

     This voice told Saul you are persecuting me.   When you beat up Christians you are beating me up.  God is involved in our life today.   When you hurt God hurts.   Jesus told Saul when you hurt them you hurt me.    Paul had to admit that Jesus is Lord.   Saul had to admit that Jesus was alive.   That shook his life up.   Saul learned in just a few minutes that everything he based his life on was wrong and it changed his life.  The persecutor became a preacher.  The Pharisee became an Apostle. Amazing what a couple of moments with Jesus will do to a person.  Saul did not choose Jesus but Jesus chose Paul.  God can do the same thing today for people and for you.  Thank God that we can know Jesus today before we leave this world.   Jesus loves you. 

     Jesus is calling to you today.   I want to come in to your life.  I want to walk with you.  I want to help you.   I love you and I died for you.   If you confess your sins I will forgive your sins and make you right with God and with others.   I can give you direction and help you.    I can give you peace and fill your life with love.   There is nothing in your life that is too hard for me.