Saul's Miraculous Conversion


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 9:1-25

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

When Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed. In this study, we’ll examine the details of one of the most famous events in the Bible, and how it changed the course of history.

Transcript (automatically-generated):

And as we pick up our study in the Book of Acts, the focus now moves from Philip back to Saul, who, if you recall, was the driving force of persecution against the Church at this time. And today we will read about the miracle of his conversion. And that is indeed the only proper term for what took place. A miracle because Saul believed he was on a mission from God, stamping out a blasphemous perversion of Judaism in Jerusalem, Israel and even neighboring countries. Saul was zealous to the extreme.

He was a man possessed and of singular focus, and his focus was destroying the Church. His miraculous conversion would change the course of human history. He would be transformed into the apostle we know and love today as Paul, who would plant churches, preach the Gospel wherever he went, work miracles, train pastors and author about a third of the New Testament. In this study, we'll learn what exactly happened that caused this radical transformation.

We'll pick things up at the beginning of Acts, chapter Nine. As we refocus our camera on Saul, we find him doing the same thing he was doing when we last encountered him. It says now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Years later, Paul would write in his first letter to his protege Timothy that at this time he was living as a blasphemer, a persecutor and an arrogant man. He thought he was stamping out blasphemy, but in reality he was guilty of it himself.

In his own words, he was acting out of ignorance, in, unbelief. He genuinely believed that he was doing the right thing. He was one of those Jesus warned his disciples about when he told them, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. When Paul looked back on this time in his life. He told Timothy that he was the worst of sinned because he had persecuted the Church of Jesus.

Not content to merely persecute believers in Israel. We read in the rest of verse one that he went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues and Damascus so that if he found any man or woman who belonged to the Way underlined the Way. He might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Damascus is in Syria, and it had a large Jewish population at the time. Saul was so zealous to persecute the Church that he got letters of introduction from the Sanhedrin addressed to international synagogues, asking them to help him hunt down believers and extradite them to Jerusalem.

In verse two, we find the first unique term in Scripture for Christianity, the Way. It derives its term from the words of Jesus, who said, I am the Way, the truth and the life. Those who followed the Way were followers of Jesus. From the very beginning, the Church understood that to be a Christian means living your life a certain way, walking through what Jesus called the narrow gate, seeking to walk in the ways of Jesus, taking up your cross and following after Him. The first term for Christianity implied the active following of Jesus as Lord.

There was no notion that one could somehow be a Christian and not actually follow Jesus. There was no concept of accepting Jesus as one's savior and then walking wherever you wanted, living your life however you wanted. There was an assumption that those who belong to Jesus follow Jesus. They walk in the way. As we mentioned in our previous study, faith that does not transform the life is not saving faith.

Would you write this down? It's your first villain. Followers of the Way understood from the beginning that being a Christian implies actively following Jesus. It's in the term itself the Way. It implies actively following Jesus.

Verse three. As he, Saul traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Acts 22 six tells us this happened in the middle of the day. Later, scriptures will tell us several times that Saul actually saw the Lord Jesus in his resurrected and glorified state. It was blinding, but Saul at once understood that he was encountering God.

Do you remember in the Book of Acts who the last person was to see the resurrected and glorified Jesus was? Stephen, as he was being stoned to death. While Saul watched over the cloaks of the men he had inspired to execute Christianity's first martyr, stephen cried out, look. I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. And with his final breath, Stephen prayed, lord, do not hold this sin against them.

And at this moment, we see the grace of God answering Stephen's prayer and intervening in the life of the least likely candidate, Saul. Had we followed Saul's actions after the death of Stephen, we would have thought his prayer had accomplished nothing. Stephen had prayed for God's grace to lead men like Saul to repentance. But what had happened next was the exact opposite. Saul had become even angrier, even more greatly enraged against the Church, and he had persecuted them even more vigorously.

But that wasn't the end of the story, was it? And that's why we don't give up on praying for people. We don't know what the Lord's plan is. We don't know what he's up to in their life. We do know that he loves them.

We do know that he died for them, and he wants them to be part of his family. So don't give up praying in chapter one. Don't give up praying in chapter two. Don't give up praying in chapter three. Keep praying.

Keep praying. It doesn't usually happen this dramatically, but God is always the initiator of the work of salvation. He planned the means of our salvation. He came to the earth to save us, and through His Spirit He convicts us of sin and reaches out to us in mercy. He orchestrates circumstances in our lives to illuminate our need for Him.

He moves Heaven and Earth to save us, and yet he honors our free will, offering salvation as an invitation, not an order. The only thing we bring to the table is the sin that made our salvation necessary. And the answer yes, please, to the question, would you like to have your sins forgiven, your dead spirit raised to life, and be adopted into my family to live with me forever in paradise? Yes. That's our part.

That's our contribution. Yes, please. I would love that. Paul explained this to Titus in his letter writing. For we too were once foolish disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.

But when the kindness of God, our Savior, and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Verse four. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to Him, saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Who are you, Lord? Saul said he knew at once it was the Lord speaking to Him.

Can you imagine if you picture this in your mind, cinematically, can you imagine how terrifying this question would have been? You know that God is speaking to you because he's addressed you by name. His glory is so overwhelming, you've been knocked to the ground and are unable to stand. You are powerless, you can barely see. So brilliant is his Radiance.

And then you hear his voice speak to you and ask you, why are you persecuting me? Why are you persecuting me? Saul is terrified, but he's also confused, because the only people he's been persecuting are the Way, and they're blasphemers. And because he doesn't understand the question, he says, who are you, Lord? And if he was terrified before, imagine how he felt when the voice of God replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting."

I can't imagine the shock and the horror that must have come upon Saul like a wave when in an instant he realized he was wrong about everything.

Jesus was the Messiah, and his followers, whom he had been persecuting, were in fact the true followers of Yahweh. He was the blasphemer. He was the enemy of God. When Saul recounts this moment in Acts 26, he adds the detail that the Lord also said, it is hard for you to kick against the goads. Goads were sharp, pointy sticks that were used by farmers to poke at the back of the legs of the oxen as they walk behind them, to keep them moving forward.

And the picture God was painting was of an ox trying to kick against a goad, and in so doing, just hurting himself. He's just stabbing his own leg over and over again. And so in loving and gracious compassion, god was saying, saul, you're fighting against me. I'm God. You're only hurting yourself.

The weight, the gravity of this revelation must have fallen upon Saul's soul like a weight of bricks. He must have felt nauseous and sick to his stomach. If he had never had a panic attack, I'm confident he had something like one in this moment, as he likely gasped for air, desperate just to catch his breath. I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting with one sentence. Saul's stubborn will is broken, and his heart is crushed into repentance.

We see this in Acts 22, where we learn that Saul's response to this revelation after catching his breath was to ask, what should I do, Lord? What should I do? Completely broken. Completely surrendered. Saul's response to the truth was the same as the men who were convicted by the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.

You may recall, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, brothers, what should we do? That's what genuine repentance looks like. That's the question that naturally flows from a truly repentant heart, because true repentance doesn't just say, Sorry, my bad. It wants to know if there is anything that can or should be done to make things right, to course correct. And when Peter revealed to the men of Jerusalem what they had done in partaking of the murder of the Messiah, and when Jesus revealed himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, both times, both parties had no idea what to do.

Their question comes from the place of what could I possibly do to make up for this? What could I possibly do? In Acts, chapter two, peter told them, believe in the Lord Jesus. Repent and be baptized, and you'll be forgiven. And he'll fill you with his spirit, because there's nothing you can do to make up for this.

You can only thank Jesus for dying for you. Would you write this down? True repentance includes a desire to do whatever is necessary to make things right. True repentance includes a desire to do whatever is necessary to make things right. Saul's.

Question. What should I do? Lord also reveals that he rightly understood that calling Jesus Lord means serving him as Lord. It means placing him in authority in your life. And Saul's response to the revelation of Jesus as Lord was to ask him, what do you want me to do?

In other words, you are Lord over me right now, starting right now. And Saul was prepared to obey whatever instruction was given to him. I really do want to be clear on this point. Jesus said, Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don't do the things that I say? If Gospel City is your church, I want to be sure you understand that we cannot call Jesus Lord with our lips and ignore the things he asks.

US to do. We cannot call Jesus Lord and do whatever we want, live however we want, because then he's not our Lord. When we live however we want, it means we are the Lord of our lives. Those who belong to Jesus structure their entire lives around the question what should I do, Lord? And our goal is to live out his answer to that question in every relationship, in every task and in every area of our lives.

Because Jesus is our lord. He's our lord. The Christian's life is built around the question, what should I do, Lord? Scripture says that in marriage two independent people become one flesh. They become one in the eyes of God.

In the book of Revelation, it is revealed that the church is the bride of Christ, meaning that he is one with his church. He is the head of the body of the church. That's why, even though Saul is persecuting the church, jesus asks him, why are you persecuting me? Why are you persecuting me? You see, any attack against the church is an attack against Jesus.

He feels it, he takes it personally. And that's why I think there may not be any more precious group of people to the Lord than those who currently constitute the persecuted church. They are the part of his body that is hurting and he feels it. And he cares deeply, cares deeply about every part of his body that is hurting, because when his body hurts, he hurts with it. He is one with his church.

Jesus'words to Saul conveyed that he wasn't attacking the church, he was attacking God Himself, just as anyone who rejects the Gospel rejects God himself. When we repent and turn to the Lord, this is what we are repenting of, because this is the sin that dams a man for eternity, the sin of rejecting Jesus as Lord. The Lord. Jesus continues speaking to Saul and gives Him these instructions but get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do. The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one.

When we add in details from Saul's account of the same event in Acts 22, and when we look at the time the voice of God spoke over Jesus in John chapter twelve, we can deduce that the men with Saul saw a light and heard a sound, but they could not discern what either of them was. They saw a light, but not the Lord Jesus. They heard a sound, but not the voice of God. Saul alone saw Jesus and heard him speak. Saul got up from the ground and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing.

As the brilliant glory of the Lord Jesus dissipated, the world around Saul did not return into focus and he discovered that he was blind. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. Instead of riding into the city with bravado sending Christians scurrying into their homes. Saul arrives blind, led by the hand of another, completely helpless. As is so often the case with us, the Lord had to break Saul down completely before he could build him back as a new creation.

And, oh, what a man the Lord would build from the ashes of Saul's old life. As MacArthur puts it, the noblest and most useful man of God the Church has ever known. Verse nine tells us he was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink. Can you imagine the myriad of thoughts running through his mind, the sea of emotions stirring within his soul during these three days? He just sits quietly by himself, not eating or drinking, completely overwhelmed by his encounter with the Lord, too much going on in his mind and his soul to sort through or get a handle on.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Anonias. Now, this is obviously not the same Ananias from Acts chapter five, and I say that because that Ananias was struck dead by the Lord in chapter five. This Ananias was a faithful believer. Acts 20 212 tells us that he was a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there. Jerusalem was ground zero of the emerging schism between Judaism and the Way.

But in more distant locales such as Damascus, it seems there were still believers who were living peaceably alongside their Jewish brethren. Ananias was such a man, and he was possibly even still attending a local synagogue in Damascus. And the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias now underline his reply, here I am, Lord, he replied, and I love this recurring theme we find in the book of Acts of the people of God being available to God at any moment. Annanias reply is, what can I do for you, Lord? And of course, if you're going to call him Lord, there can be no other response, for it would be an oxymoron to reply, not now, Lord.

Get up and go to the street called Straight. The Lord said to him, to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. This is obviously not the same Judas who betrayed Jesus. It was a common name at the time, but for some reason, as the Gospel spread, became a significantly less popular name. We learned here that for three days, as he was fasting, Saul was praying.

He was engaging in fellowship with the Lord, repenting, weeping, questioning, pouring out his heart to the Lord, as would be his practice in prayer for the rest of his life. The Lord continues instructing Ananias about Saul and tells him in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight. He's expecting you, said the Lord, lord, Ananias answered, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, and he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name. Saul's reputation was well known among believers, and that's why Ananiasa's response is, lord, you got to be kidding. Saul is here for the sole purpose of arresting people like me and trying to get us executed.

Did you not get the memo? Ananias plan for the duration of Saul's visit to Damascus was likely to stay home and hide with the door locked, praying that nobody ratted on him. Those were his big plans for the next couple of weeks to help us understand what this would have been like for Ananias. Imagine being a Jew in Berlin in 1939 and having God say to you, I want you to walk over to the offices of the SS and ask for a man named Heinrich Himmler. Don't worry, he's praying and expecting you.

I don't care how devout you are. We'd all have the same reaction of Ananias as Ananias, and if we're honest, we wouldn't be anywhere near as calm as he would. We would be like it's a no for me. I love you, Lord. Catch up with you later.

I'm running for my life. That's what would happen for most of us. But the Lord said to him, go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings and Israelites. Can you imagine how crazy this would have sounded to Ananias? Saul saul was going to become an evangelist, preach the Gospel that he was coming to Damascus to destroy.

He was going to become an evangelist to Gentiles, to kings. He had to be thinking to himself, did I eat something weird for lunch? Like, what is going on? How do I make sense of this? For those of you who are Bible students and are aware of the Reformed and Calvinist views of this verse, let me just say that when God calls Saul my chosen instrument, he's referring to the ministry he would call Saul, too.

He's not referring to Saul's conversion and claiming that it was involuntary. That's not what the Lord is saying. In the life of Saul and the life of the apostles, we see that the call to ministry is not based on man's desires, but on the call of God. God does what he wants through whom he wants. As a side note, let me make some trouble here.

This is why, for the most part, I disagree with the premise of Bible colleges and seminaries. The idea that by gaining knowledge you can earn a calling is unbiblical. The idea that you can pay money, go to classes, and earn a piece of paper that will make you called by God is unbiblical. It's not how God works, and it's not something you ever see in the word of God. What we see is a divine call from God that is confirmed by gifts that correspond with the call.

Here's what I mean by that. The Lord has called me to lead worship. Oh, that's amazing. Could you sing something for us? This is my testimony.

See, there's not a correlation between the claimed calling and the gifts that are supposed to go with that calling. In the Bible, when someone's called, God provides the gifts that are needed for that call, and then we are told to examine the person's life. For evidence of Godly character and faithfulness, paul gives a list of requirements for elders in his letters to Timothy and Titus. There's a place for education. Absolutely, because when God calls you, you have a duty to live up to that calling as best you can, as faithfully as you can, which often means learning new skills and growing in knowledge.

But that growth happens in response to the calling. The growth can never cause the calling. You can't give someone a list of books and say, Read through the stack, and when you're done, you'll be called. It doesn't work that way. And sadly, I don't know of a single Bible college or seminary that seeks to answer the question, is this person called by God to vocational ministry before they take their money and enroll them in classes?

Paul says that anyone who wants to be an elder must be able to teach. I don't know of any Bible college or seminary that examines the giftedness of any prospective students who desire to be on a pastoral learning track to determine if they have a gift of teaching. Because if they don't, the Word itself says they're not called to be an elder. I don't know of any school that does that.

Trouble completed. God does what he wants through whom he wants. He says in verses 16, I will show Him God saying, I will show Saul how much he must suffer for my name. Saul had caused much suffering for those who loved the name of Jesus, and over the course of the rest of his life, he would suffer much for the name of Jesus. It would start in just a few days, and it would end with his beheading in Rome.

Ananias went would you underline Ananias Went and entered the house. God didn't tell Philip that there would be an Ethiopian passing by on the desert road. He just told Philip to go to the desert road. Did you notice that God never told Ananias what had happened to Saul on the road into Damascus? He just told him, I've chosen him.

Go lay your hands on him. And despite his initial reticence, Ananias obeyed. And I love that. Remember, if we're going to follow Jesus, we don't get to demand to know the full plan before we agree to obey. We agreed to obey the minute we said, he's our Lord.

That was it. Signed our lives over. We don't get to offer our input at the planning stage. I got a few ideas. Lord, check this out.

Jesus owns us. He owns us. He's our lord. We belong to him. We obey Him whatever the cost, even when we don't have full or even partial understanding.

He and Anias placed his hands on Him, on Saul, and said, brother Saul. Do you underline that word, brother? Brother Saul? Those two words choked me up. We don't know what happened in Ananias mind, but he went perhaps somewhere along the way between his house and the house of Judas.

Ananias reasoned within himself that Jesus could do anything, and if he said he would do it, he would do it. I don't know if Ananias walked in full of faith or if Ananias said, man, I don't get it. I think I'm about to die, but I'm going to do it anyway. That's equally valid, by the way, and that's a great exercise of faith, even if you think I don't get it. I don't believe it's going to happen, but I'm going to obey.

I'm going to do what someone would do if they believed this thing was going to happen. Do that as well. Whatever the case may be, Ananias obeyed. He went in ultimate faith in God, and it was an act of radical faith in the power of the Gospel. When Ananias placed his hands upon Saul and addressed him as Brother Saul with his mouth, Ananias confessing, I believe this is as good as done.

The Lord has said he will do it. Then it's done. The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and then underline this and be filled with the Holy Spirit again. This must have been overwhelming to Saul. Instead of experiencing the wrath of God, he hears a follower of Jesus address him as Brother Saul and tell him that God wants to give him back his sight and fill him with his spirit in Samaria.

God delayed giving his spirit to the Samaritan converts because he wanted them to experience Peter and John laying their hands on them, binding them together in the family of God across centuries of hatred between their peoples. It seems to me that God again does something unique here delaying giving his spirit to Saul because he wanted him to have the experience of being visited by Ananias, who would address him as brother and then lay his hands on him. God wanted Saul to understand that being given the Spirit meant that he was now connected to men like Ananias. He was connected to the Church. He wanted Saul to experience his kindness and mercy through Ananias.

This wasn't like Saul's previous career path, where everyone was out for themselves, trying to ascend the social and political ladders to attain greater power and influence and wealth in the kingdom of Jesus. God works through humble servants, and there are no lone rangers. Believers need one another, and the Lord Jesus has made it so by design. The message would be received and Saul would go on to lay down his life for his brothers and sisters in the church over and over again, serving them in love and the same zeal with which he once persecuted them. In Acts 22, Paul tells us how Ananias commissioned him on behalf of the Lord Jesus, saying to the God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will to see the righteous one and to hear the words from his mouth, since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard.

God did not have Saul appointed by any of the apostles from Jerusalem because he was calling him to a unique ministry work. Saul was not to be subject to the other apostles and did not derive his authority from them. He was appointed directly by the Lord Jesus. This is evident in his conversion. And even though he didn't need the affirmation of the apostles in Jerusalem years later, they would give it verse 18 at once something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.

This was a physical representation of what was taking place on the spiritual level in Saul's life. The Lord had shown him the truth, and for the first time in his life, Saul was seeing clearly. In Acts 22, we are told that at this point Ananias said to Saul, and now why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on his name. You have to love Ananias.

Can you imagine the adrenaline ride Ananias had been on in this day from having the Lord come to him and speak to him, telling him to go to Saul, thinking he was going to die if he went to Saul to come into terms that God could do this praying for Saul, then finding out that this was legit. Saul of Tarsus had converted and become a member of the Way and a follower of Jesus and then witnessing a miracle as his sight is restored. I would have needed a nap after that kind of day. The adrenaline surge in the up and down and the fear and the joy and the excitement would have been just off the charts we read. Then he, Saul, got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Those early days must have been filled with such great joy. Saul would have been reveling in the kindness of God and the Holy Spirit in his life. He must have told this story a thousand times, and every time he did, the believers must have praised God and said, surely God is among us. There would have been the richest of conversations about the Scriptures as believers in one of the greatest scriptural minds.

In Israel made new connections between the Old Testament and the ministry of Jesus. We see in Saul something we see, following all genuine conversions, a desire to be around the people of God, to be with them. John said it like this we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death. When we're saved, God's spirit comes into us.

The spirit of the same Jesus who died for his church makes a home in us. Therefore, it is impossible for someone to have the Spirit of God in them and not love the church of Jesus. It is impossible. Would you write this down? God's people love being around God's people.

God's people love being around God's people. Verse 20. Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues. He is the Son of God. We know from Ananias objection in verses 13 and 14 that word of Saul's visit to Damascus had reached the city well before Saul himself arrived.

So the city synagogues would have been expecting him and would have had a rough idea why he was coming. And it cracks me up to imagine and speculate about the scenarios that may have unfolded. I don't know if they called special meetings at the synagogues or Saul just spoke at the regular services. But I imagine a rabbi introducing him and saying something like. We have a visiting brother with us today from Jerusalem bringing an important word from the Sanhedrin brother Saul.

Would you like to share with us about this urgent issue and what we need to do to respond to it? And Saul gets up and says, yes, Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and the Son of God. Everybody here needs to repent and believe in him and be baptized for your sins. No matter how it played out, I am confident there were some very shocked synagogue leaders and Jews when Saul got up and addressed their congregations. Saul was an expert on the Old Testament scriptures.

He was a scholar, a leading scholar in Israel with an amazing academic mind. That Saul was the central figure in persecuting the church means that he would have studied the beliefs of the Way and thoroughly understood them. The essence of his case against believers had been that their claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and the Son of God was blasphemous. But when Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus, it was undeniable that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Paul was able to begin preaching immediately because he knew the Old Testament inside and out, and he knew what the followers of Jesus believed.

He was not some kindergartenlevel believer preaching unintentional heresies with ignorant zeal. He was ready to preach and debate the finest Jewish scholars in the synagogues of Damascus regarding Jesus. Just mere days after his conversion. We read all who heard him were astounded and said, isn't this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests. The man of the synagogue of Damascus knew Saul by reputation.

They expected to see him dragging the followers of Jesus away in chains, but instead they were witnessing him preach that Jesus is the Son of God and watching him fellowship with the people he was supposed to be there to persecute. No wonder they were astounded. It would have been like himler coveting, returning to the SS offices and telling them, my eyes have been opened. We need to love the juice. It was that radical, unthinkable transformation.

Verses 22. But Saul grew stronger. And the original Greek term here points to Saul growing stronger in the Spirit, learning how to be led by the Spirit, leaning upon the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, relying on the Spirit's power. And we see the effects of that in the rest of verses 22, where we read that he kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. Now, how would he prove that Jesus is the Messiah is really simple.

They all agreed that the Old Testament was true. And once you agree on that, it's really not that hard to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Saul was reasoning from the Scriptures with such authority and clarity that the Jews in Damascus could not refute them. His logic was undeniable. When Jesus reasoned with the religious leaders in Jerusalem in a similar manner, they conspired to murder him.

When Stephen reasoned with the Hellenistic Jews and the Sanhedrin in a way that was irrefutable, they conspired to murder him. Guess what happened when the Jews in Damascus couldn't refute Saul's Gospel preaching. After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him. But Saul learned of their plot. So they were watching the gates day and night, ending to kill him.

But his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall. In his letter to the Galatians, Saul explains that the time referred to by Luke in verse 23 as many days was around three years. Following his conversion, Saul stayed in the area and the region around Damascus for three years, sometimes in the city, sometimes further out in the region of the Nabataeans. During this time, Saul was studying the Scriptures. He was praying, learning from the Lord Jesus.

But he was also ministering. He had begun the ministry that the Lord had called him to, and he was preaching the Gospel already. Verses 25 tells us that after these three years, Saul has disciples, men and possibly women, who were following him, as they would have followed a rabbi. Based on some details that Paul shares in his second letter to the Corinthians, it seems that he stirred up some trouble in Damascus and the surrounding regions with his preaching. Hard to imagine from our brother Paul.

Essentially, what had happened in Jerusalem was happening in Syria. The gospel was being preached, and the Jewish religious leaders who rejected Jesus didn't like it. In fact, they wanted Saul dead. If you were a regional governor at this time and you liked your job in your head, you had to stay focused on keeping the peace. Your number one job was keeping the peace and preemptively shutting down any potential rebellions.

For that reason, it seems that it didn't take much convincing for the Jewish religious leaders to get the governor of the region on their side and hatch a plan where a garrison of soldiers were posted to the city gates with instructions to arrest Saul on site. There was only one way in and out of Damascus. Once they had him, the Jewish leaders clearly had some sort of plot in place to murder him. But Saul got word of their plot, and his disciples helped him escape the city under the COVID of darkness, lowering him in a basket out of a window of a house built into the city's walls, away from the watchful eyes of the soldiers stationed at the city's gates. And as Saul ran for freedom, he began his journey toward Jerusalem.

I think in closing of what the Lord said to Saul when he said, it is hard for you to kick against the goats. It's hard for you, Saul. You're hurting yourself. And I want to ask, is there an area in your life, in my life where we are resisting God? We are resisting God.

Knowingly refusing to obey, knowingly refusing to yield, knowingly refusing to walk in his will, telling ourselves, it's not that bad. Whether it be an actual acted upon sin or an attitude or a mindset, I believe that to us, the Lord would say the same thing as Saul you're only hurting yourself. There is nothing that the Lord ever asks of us that is not for our good. We say that again. There is nothing the Lord ever asks of us that is not for our good.

Nothing. And the longer we resist, the more we hurt ourselves. God's not going away. I hate to break it to you. He's not going away because he doesn't give up on his kids ever.

He doesn't give up on trying to lead us in the way towards life and peace and wholeness and joy. And so if that's you, let me encourage you to repent, and let me encourage you with this too. Perhaps you're there and you're thinking, hey, Jeff, I want to do that. I don't even know how to. My heart's just so stubborn.

My heart is just so hard. Listen, the Lord can break you. He can do it. He's not short of ideas. He's not short of resources.

So let's just see what the Lord might want to say to us as we pray. Let me ask Kyle and maureen to come up and let's pray together. Lord, thank you so much for Your word and for the example of Your work in the life of our brother Saul, who we know as Paul. Thank you for the miraculous intervention of Your goodness into his life. And Lord, we know the circumstances are different, but no less miraculous is Your intervention in each of our lives who loves you.

You worked through family, you worked across generations, you've worked across countries, you've worked across all kinds of circumstances. You've worked through pain and hurt and trauma and addiction. You have worked through unfulfilled dreams. You have worked through empty promises mountaintops we thought we would find fulfillment at the top of that ended up being empty. You've done miracle after miracle to bring each of us to you in a unique way.

And so we thank you for it, Lord, and we just praise you for it. And we acknowledge that it's you. It's your goodness. It's your work. It's your initiation.

All we bring to the table is the sin that needed forgiving and all we bring is the words, yes, please. Yes, please. I would love to be part of Your family. And all we bring to the table now, Lord, is the praise that says, thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God.

All we bring to the table is just our lives. Just to say, this belongs to You, God. You're the Lord, you're the pastor. What should we do, Lord? And so we ask in this moment that you would speak to each of us to the depths of our soul, that you would convict us that we would be able to ask in honesty the question, what should we do, Lord?

And then we open up our lives to we say, you can tell us whatever you want. We want to obey. You can ask whatever you want, Lord. We want to give it. You can ask us to lay down whatever you want.

We want to lay it down and Lord, where we don't know how to do that. Help us. Help us, Lord, because we want to be completely Yours. We want you to be honored in our lives. We want it to be evident that when our lives are looked at from the outside, jesus is Lord over our lives.

You're not on a list of five priorities. There's just you over everything. So be that. Do that. Work in us.

Help us where we don't know how, Lord. Be magnified, be glorified, be exalted in our lives, Jesus, as you deserve to be. We love you, Lord. In your name we pray Amen.

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