Scriptures: Acts 9:3-5, Philippians 3:5-7 & Acts 26:12-15
Pastor Clyde’s October 9, 2016 Sermon
(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.
(5) circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; (6) as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
(7) But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
(12) “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. (13) About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. (14) We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
(15) “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.
1. Several years ago, I went whitewater rafting with my sister and brother-in-law and my nieces and some friends.
2. We went to the Nantahala River in North Carolina.
3. It was our first time and the rapids were not the fastest rapids around. I think the fastest rapids were like 4-5 but most of them were 3.
4. So we had 2 rafts and one guide. The guide told us that we could elect a person to be the guide on one of the rafts if we wanted to do that.
5. If we wanted to have a guide on both rafts, it would cost a little extra. Well, when you mention money around the DeLoach family, you know what we will pick.
6. We elected my brother-in-law, Weston, to be the guide and I was in that boat with my young nieces and I can’t remember who else.
7. The guide told us to stay right behind him and we would be ok.
8. Right! It is not so easy to stay right behind a guide in whitewater.
9. If you get just the slightest bit off, then things get crazy. Pretty soon we were going down the rapids backwards and sideways and all sorts of ways.
10. We were not worrying about following the guide; we were worrying about staying in the raft.
11. Finally, we got stuck on this rock in the worst rapid we had faced. The guide pulled his raft to the shore and was shouting instructions.
12. Our great Indian guide decided to get out of the raft and push us off the rock and fell in the water.
13. Fortunately, that did push us off the rock and we went down the rapids backwards once again.
14. We managed to get to the quiet water and pull Weston out and get to shore. The guide was laughing and said, “I have never seen anyone go down those rapids that way before.”
15. I remember that story because my sister came to visit me last week and we told stories to each other.
16. It is also a reminder that we can take off on our own, ignore God, and get into trouble.
17. I want to start a new sermon series today that looks at how the apostle Paul started going in the wrong direction but got turned around.
18. Paul gave his life to living out his faith in Jesus Christ.
19. Of the 27 books in the NT, 13 are attributed to Paul. He is probably the most influential person in the history of Christianity next to Jesus himself.
20. He was probably born around 29 AD and martyred around 65 AD.
21. We have the book of Acts which dedicates the last half of the book to Paul. It was most likely written around 80 AD.
22. Therefore, we have much to learn about Paul from material written less than 20 years after his death.
23. More important, we have the letters of Paul which were written starting in 49 AD while he was still alive, obviously.
24. So what do we know about Paul?
25. We know that he was born of the tribe of Benjamin and circumcised on the 8th day. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee, and full of zeal for his faith.
26. He was born in Tarsus which is in Asia Minor in what is today Turkey. It is located on a river about 12 miles from the sea.
27. It was a very important city. It was situated on a major trade route which took goods from Egypt, Syria, and much of the Middle East north to Asia Minor.
28. There was a mountain range there but it had a natural pass that the people had enlarged.
29. It was a very large city due to its location.
30. In 64 BC, the Romans took over the city and, to ensure the loyalty, gave Roman citizenship to all men who owned land.
31. Equally important, the children of these men inherited Roman citizenship.
32. Many people moved to Tarsus to gain citizenship.
33. Under Augustus, the Romans allowed the people to go without paying taxes.
34. You can see why it grew rapidly. Growing up in Tarsus, Paul gained benefits and was exposed to all kinds of people.
35. There were amphitheaters, universities, and Greek games were held there.
36. One point that I want to make here that I will come back to later. Living in Tarsus, with all of its privileges and influences, made up one of the puzzle pieces of Paul’s life.
37. We all have puzzle pieces that make up our lives.
38. God looked at the puzzle pieces of Paul’s life and said, “I can use those.”
39. Paul also was able to study under one of the greatest teachers and rabbis in history—Gamaliel.
40. That was another puzzle piece.
41. Let me tell you something. God looks at your life and no matter what is there, he says, “I can use that.”
42. Do you have alcoholic parents? Do you suffer from depression? Have you experienced the ups and downs of sin? Do you have a special education?
43. God can look at all and any of it and say, “I have just the place where those puzzle pieces will fit.”
44. Paul also knew Greek because of where he was from; God used that.
45. Other things eventually took over Paul’s life.
46. Jesus had died and was resurrected. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached and 3000 were added to the church.
47. Christianity was beginning to grow and the Jewish leaders became worried. They began to harass the new church.
48. Then, in Acts 6, we read the story of Stephen. He is arrested and condemned to be stoned to death.
49. In the Misnah, it tells us how they stoned someone. The first accuser would stand on a hill about 10 feet tall and hurl a huge stone against the person on the ground.
50. Then, the other accusers would follow suit until they were dead.
51. Paul was there to hold the coats for them.
52. In Acts 9, Paul goes even farther. He has been persecuting the church in Jerusalem but he wants letters to allow him to go to Damascus to persecute the church there.
53. Why did he want to go to Damascus? There were other people who claimed to be the Messiah and the Jewish authorities did not go after them.
54. I think that Paul was ambitious. He spoke of his zeal in Philippians.
55. He wanted to make a name for himself.
56. Have you ever suffered from ambition? Do you look to see if people notice you?
57. As a pastor, it is hard not to compare statistics with others.
58. The key is that we need at some point to use our ambition for God.
59. Jim Collins says that the greatest leaders figure out that it is better to use your ambition for the good of others.
60. Damascus is roughly 125 miles from Jersusalem.
61. It tells us in Acts 26, that Paul starts out on the road to Damascus—3 times in Acts.
62. In Acts 26:14, Paul says that Christ asks why do you persecute me and then, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
63. What in the world is a goad? Many people of that time used oxen to pull carts.
64. They had a sharpened stick that they used to prod the oxen. They did not want to hurt them.
65. If the oxen kicked their back legs in response to the goads, then it hurt them.
66. God is goading us right now. He is moving us in the right direction.
67. Do not kick against the goads!
68. David Wilkinson told the story of sitting next to a man on a plane.
69. They had a nice talk until the man asked David what he did for a living—Preacher.
70. I knew it, said the man. Every time I take a flight, I wind up sitting next to a Christian. I can’t escape it!
71. Maybe you need to surrender.
72. Sometimes we have all kinds of goads. People talk to us about our smoking or our adultery.
73. We wake up with hangovers and guilty feelings. We lose our jobs or get expelled from school.
74. What is the goad in your life?
75. Finally, Paul is struck blind. He, the one who was so ambitious, is now blind and helpless.
76. He is truly being goaded now. He is helpless.
77. A man once came up to me after church and told me that he had two DUIs in one week. Then he found Christ. That is quite a goad.
78. Paul is instructed to go to a street named Straight, to the house of Judas.
79. There, Ananias lays hands on him and heals him and gives him the HS.
80. Ananias did not want to go because of who Paul was, but he went anyway.
81. Who was the Ananias in your life?
82. Paul often used many arguments to get people to Christ but I imagine this experience was always used.
83. He was going the wrong way and Jesus appeared to him but he was left blind and helpless.
84. It was the action of Ananias, in obedience to the HS, that saved Paul.
85. God was telling Paul that he wanted him, that he was no mistake.
86. He told me once that he wanted me, an alcoholic, that I was no mistake.
87. God can use all your puzzle pieces. He will goad you. He will give you an Ananias.
88. Will you be an Ananias to someone else?