"Not the Man I Used to Be"

Saul to Paul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:16
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In his short time of proclaiming Christ, Saul has a group of converts who are able to help him escape by lowering him through a window in a basket.
What a strange turn of events for Saul.He came to Damascus to destroy the church. Saul, not only had great power, but also all the authority to do so.
A powerful entrance with great authority, that ended with a humility filled ride as a fugitive in a basket and into hiding.
This was a new life for Saul. This is what conversion looks like. The English word, conversion, comes from the Latin word, convertere.
This word simply means, to turn around. This is what has happened to Saul. He has had a turn around.
The Saul to Paul conversion is far from the norm. It began from a direct post resurrection visit from Christ and it involved an immediate turn towards Christianity.
This was without any evidence that he was on a journey towards Christianity. No this was a journey towards stamping out Christianity. In this end, Saul simply surrendered.
Saul's surrender did not come without a price tag and scrutiny along the way.
Today we will start to get a peek into what Jesus meant when he told Ananias that Saul would suffer for the name of Jesus.
This was just the beginning and yet in God's great providence, He allowed Saul to see that He was with him, even in the scrutiny.
Fist we will see that God used the spiritual gift of one brother to alleviate scrutiny.
Second we will see an unlikely brotherhood come together for a common cause to keep the gospel on the move.
Finally we will see that a church on the move is one filled with strength, encouragement, and grows and all this is facilitated through one source.
This morning we begin with the gift of Barnabas and how he played in the role of helping Saul from being Saul the avoided to...

1. _Saul the encouraged_

Read: Acts 9:26–27
Acts 9:26–27 ESV
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

1. Saul the encouraged

At the very beginning of Saul's new found faith we see that he is informed that he will suffer. This was no different for any other convert in the early church.
This was a common teaching to all disciples, that discipleship leads us to a cross. Or as Deitrich Bonhoeffer said, "When Jesus calls us, he bids us come and die."
We have learned to this point that the early church was persecuted often and that being the minority would leave you to be defensive and protective.
This seemed to be that way it was for the church in Jerusalem. By the time he gets to Jerusalem they have heard the news of him and they were skeptical to say the least.
It did not matter how effective his message had been in Damascus or that he was beginning to understand the what persecution felt like.
It did not matter the disciples of Damascus hid him and protected him, the disciples of Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with this murderer. Saul was not finding welcome.
Illus: My first years in the church were good and stressful (Making amends early on, Becoming a para 4 years later)
It did not matter that Saul had legitimately changed, there was no welcome for him in Jerusalem.
It had to have been an emotional journey for Saul to return to the very place that he loved, grown up, and had much power.
He had to assume that he would deal with the un-trust of those disciples he was reaching out to only to see that they were all afraid of him.
Even though this was the current situation God sends a solution.
Enter Barnabas. He is known as the encourager and an encourager he was. God has blessed him with this gift of encouragement and it was time to extend it to Saul.
Barnabas recognizes the it was going to take more than the words of Saul to make any kind of impact to these disciple of Jerusalem.
They had to be looking at him and thinking, "He has to be a spy! He is just looking for a way in to take out the leaders!"
Barnabas shows two traits of encouragement. First he takes a very big risk. He trusts Saul's conversion was legit, but also takes him into the inner circle of the believers.
He takes him to where the apostles were. Had Saul proven to be a spy then this would spell to be a drastic move.
Secondly, he does not send Saul in to fend for himself, he also speaks on behalf of Saul and speaks on his behalf.
He tells the story and simply gives his stamp of approval for Saul.
Barnabas is not so much giving them new information, but rather, communicating with authority that Saul was trustworthy and called by Jesus.
There is a major role for the encourager in the church today.
We can probably imagine what it was that Saul felt like during this time, dejected, lonely, and looking for any kind of encouragement along the way.
How many of you, especially in your early walk, have come along this way and because of your past have felt this?
It starts with loneliness in the very place where you should find acceptance and turns into despair and bitterness as people focus in on the past.
Here is some truth for you. God provides healing for these people in the church through encouragers.
This gives way to opportunity for the Barnabases' of the church to stand in the gap for the Sauls' that are coming in.
The church needs you to rise up! We need encouragers now like never before because it is the Saul's of this world that we are seeking!
Where are our Barnabases' to welcome them in and tell their story?! The story here is Barnabas was willing to take a risk.
We need to take some risks too. We need to be in the business of accepting the risky and leading them to share the good news.
Illus: We have former addicts leading addicts in Fred and going into the prisons. We have Ed and Barb serving donuts and coffee each week.
The list is bigger than them but it needs to get bigger and bigger, especially if we are going to impact those around us.
It is because of this new brotherhood, we see an unlikely scenario unfold. We now move from Saul not only a partner in the gospel message but also he was...

2. _Saul the trusted and protected_

Read: Acts 9:28–30
Acts 9:28–30 ESV
28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

2. Saul the trusted and protected

He is now embraced by both Hellenistic and Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem.
It was because of this he was now able to continue to speak with such boldness for the gospel and also to break through the barriers that were keeping him at bay in the past.
He was now a part of the circle and a teller of the good news. He was once trusted to go about freely and speak boldly in the city.
But just as quickly, this same group of people who had conspired to kill Stephen when he preached the good news, is now out to do the same with Saul.
Thankfully his new found brotherhood of friends saw this and realized that Jerusalem was to hot for Saul to remain so they protected their new brother.
They took him down to Caesarea and boarded him on a ship to go to Tarsus. Tarsus is where we will leave Saul until 11:25. It is unrecorded testimony that is taking place there.
It was a free city and a leading city of culture, schooling, and would be a fitting place for Saul to spend time to get to know and understand this faith that he would someday die for.
Finally we see that a church is on the move and that a church on the move is a...

3. _The Spirit filled church_

Read: Acts 9:31
Acts 9:31 ESV
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

3. The Spirit filled church

Normally when Luke writes about the church he is speaking of the local congregation but here he is very clearly speaking of the church universal.
The whole church was on the move and the HS was behind every step of it! The church was strong and mighty. It was filled with encouragement and ready to grow and grow and grow.
I was recently asked why the church struggles growing. It is not the first time I have ever heard that question before and I am sure it will not be the last.
But I shared with them a portion of an article from R.C. Sproul that I will end things out with this morning.
I’m still amazed whenever I see the bumper sticker that reads, “Visualize world peace.” The idea is that if I, and enough other people, create the right mental picture of peace, it will soon come to pass.
It’s astounding that some people actually believe that silly technique will bring about such a desirable goal.
Then, there’s the popular “Coexist” bumper sticker. You may have seen it, the one spelled out with the symbols of different religions—the Islamic crescent forming the C, the Christian cross forming the T, and so on.
The idea seems to be that if we religious people would just stop focusing on our differences, we could achieve world harmony.
If we understood that our beliefs are all ultimately the same, all of the problems of war and strife would go away.
The funny thing is, we’ll reject such sentiments when they appear on a bumper sticker, but we’ll accept them elsewhere.
How many business seminars promise increased profit if we only focus on the positive or visualize a goal?
Eastern mysticism, where much of the bumper-sticker theology we’re talking about finds its ultimate origin, dresses it up with more acceptable religious practices.
Meditate regularly, repeating a mantra as you visualize the oneness of all things, and the human race will move toward unity. But there's also a version sold to us as the Christian key for victorious living.
Speak your desire, claim it’s yours in Jesus’ name, visualize it will happen, and then it will be yours.
Your healing, wealth, relationship success, happy family, improved marriage will come as soon as you name it and claim it or practice the power of positive thinking.
We’re looking for the right technique, the secret that will turn our wishes into reality. We laugh at the world’s spiritual magic, only to baptize it and practice it ourselves.
We’ll read Scripture hoping to find the shortcut to spiritual growth while missing the true but non-shortcut answer—the key is not in the Bible; it is the Bible.
One reason we look for spiritual shortcuts is related to our modern age where shortcuts and rapid results abound.
We can quickly relieve pain with medicine, find our way to restaurants with our smartphones, and get immediate answers to our questions online.
These aren’t inherently bad things, but they tend to foster false expectations. If technology can relieve our illnesses and make our jobs easier, it surely can give rest to our souls, right?
We assume the answer is yes, and there are all too many “experts” out there who’ll encourage that assumption. Just look at the self-help section at your local bookstore, even at your local Christian bookstore.
Book after book promises to hold the key to our happiness in twelve steps or less. The fact that none of the promises pan out doesn't deter people from buying those books or new authors from repackaging old, ineffective answers in fancier dress.
But we can’t ultimately blame our search for shortcuts on modern technology.
Our innate desire since the fall for autonomy, to be masters of our own fates, drives us to search out soul-building techniques that will improve us.
We see our faith not as an end in itself but as a means to greater fulfillment.
Evangelists routinely implore people to come to Christ, saying that He will make them happier, more confident in themselves, and more spiritual.
Jesus becomes a means to improve our marriages and finances while releasing us from all manner of compulsions and negative character traits.
Can Christ do all those things? Of course He can. But Jesus is not a means to other ends—He is the end, the goal of our lives.
He doesn’t come into our lives to give us special techniques to make our lives better; He works in and through us, changing us for the sake of His glory.
He provides believers no mystic secrets to take them to a higher plane of spirituality.
There’s no hidden truth available to only a few, no method that guarantees quick maturity in Him as long as we master it.
We’re saved by grace alone and justified by faith alone, but having been saved, we don’t just wait around to die.
Christianity is about spiritual growth as well, and spiritual growth involves effort—the hard work of sanctification.
We manifestly don’t work for our regeneration or our justification. Both acts accomplished by God alone. Only the Holy Spirit can change our hearts.
Only the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of the Son of God secured by His perfect obedience to the Father, can secure our right standing before God. Sanctification, however, includes our efforts.
We say it is synergistic because both God and we are doing something. Yet, we aren’t equal partners.
As God works in us, we work as well, pursuing Him in prayer, relying on the means of grace—the preached Word and the sacraments—seeking to be reconciled to those we have offended.
There’s no shortcut for sanctification. It’s a process, and one that all too often seems overly plodding, with progress taking years to discern.
God’s work is easy for Him. He doesn't look for shortcuts because He never grows weary. We get tired and frustrated, however.
We’re tempted to look for the simple path, the quick answer, the effortless way forward. But there is none.
Sanctification requires diligently attending to the means God has given us. The growth may be slow, almost imperceptible at times, but it is sure.
No technique of the devil’s can stop the process of Christ making us into His image. Those whom He calls He sanctifies.
Casually attending to the things of the Lord will not result in our nurture. Visualizing or seeking a secret formula won‘t help.
We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that Christ, by His Spirit, is working in us.
So how are you worshipping God? I believe that God is getting ready to do something very remarkable here at CPCC.
I don't quite know how to put my finger on it but I know it is for this time and for this church and you are going to be a part of it.
So, who do you say that He is? Is that reflected in your life today? Is it reflected in this season? If there is ever a time to hear about Jesus, now is the time!
Are you reflecting Him this season? What are people going to see?
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