Be Welcoming

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Even though Paul was a murderer, he had an experience with God that changed him. God used Ananias to welcome Paul into the faith and reveal God’s larger purpose for the soon-to-be apostle.

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This morning we are jumping into a new 4 week series where we are going to explore biblical understanding of friendship and mentorship in the life of Paul the Apostle. Through looking at his relationships with Ananias, Barnabas, Timothy, and Lydia.
Before we look at Pauls relationship with Ananias today let me give you a little backstory of Paul. First before He called Paul he was first known as Saul.
The book of Acts chronicles the birth of the Church. In Acts 1 & 2 the Holy Spirit is given to the Church and the result is power demonstrated in miracles, signs, and wonders along with explosive growth as a result of many salvations.
This explosive growth continues to challenge the Jewish religious establishment and the result is conflict. In Acts 8 we see a man named Saul mentioned. Sual was a zealous Jew who hated the Church. Even so much that he was consenting to the death of a man named Stephen who served Christ.
Saul brought great persecution and murders against the disciples of the Lord even asking for letters from the high priest to bring bound to Jerusalem any who he found that believed on the Lord. This is where we will pick up the story. Acts 9:1-9.
Open your bible to the book of Acts 9:1-9.
What a crazy encounter Saul has! How would you like to experience what he went through? Out there acting crazy and Jesus appears out of nowhere, knocks you to the ground, and starts questioning you.
My favorite part of this story is seeing a man change through one encounter with Jesus. Saul is breathing threats and murders against the disciples in one moment has an encounter and becomes a disciple in the next moment. It’s beautiful! It’s the power of the Gospel! That you can be one thing in this season of your life, and then in a moment of encounter with the Lord he can change you.
But I want to draw your attention back to an important verse in the story. Look at Acts 9:6 “So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.””
Acts 9:6. Saul has a powerful encounter with Jesus, but Jesus said he would need someone to tell him what he must do. We need to ponder the importance of this instruction from the Lord. No doubt Saul needed the personal encounter with Jesus to be knocked off his current path. But beyond the encounter he need to be discipled, mentored and trained.
That is the same for all of us. We need an encounter with Jesus. Like Saul that might not be in the church that we have the initial encounter, but beyond the encounter we need people to disciple us to know what to do.
Jesus in a moment brings freedom and newness of life to us, but if we want to continue in that freedom we will need to learn how to change our thinking and the patterns of our lives. This is the process of discipleship.
Let’s pick back up the story in Acts 9:10-19.
God had a plan for Saul’s life but he needed direction. Saul needed someone who had the ability to hear from God. God brought Him Ananias. It is the same for all of us. God has a plan for our life! He wants to use our life to do great things for His kingdom, but we need people in our life that have the ability to hear from God that can give us direction.
Maturity is not automatic. It is a process. We begin with obedience to God’s basic instruction. For Saul it was go into the city and I will tell you what to do. Today many times its go to Church and I will tell you what to do. Get involved in a small group and I will tell you what to do. Our obedience positions us to be mentored and discipled.
There is an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.
There is much truth to this statement. Hunger for growth always causes a teacher to appear. The teacher may be a person around you. It may come through a book God asks you to read. God may lead you to a teacher online. There is no limit to the potential sources of teachers for your life. We simply need to walk it out in obedience with hunger to mature.
I want to shift perspectives in this story for a moment. We have looked at what it takes from Sauls perspective. I want to shift briefly to Ananias and speak to leaders and teachers.
Leaders and teachers take notice of the initial response of Ananias. God speaks to him in a vision giving him specific instructions concerning Saul, and his response is God do you know who this man is and what he has been doing?
He was afraid of Saul. He was so concerned by Saul’s past that he began to question God in the middle of a Vision. That seems somewhat foolish, but I think its important for us to understand our humanity. We must remember as leaders and teachers to keep our eyes off the outward appearance and focus on the word of the Lord. 1 Samuel 16:7.
1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.””
Remember that God is looking at the heart. He is doing a work in peoples lives. They may be rough around the edges, but like Ananias He wants to use you to mentor and disciple others. Know that often you will have to push through the external doubts and trust God.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Just be available. Respond like Ananias Here I am Lord. Be obedient to what God asks you to do in each situation. Like Ananias be a person who hears from God, and gives Godly direction to others. In this God will use your life for His glory and to advance His kingdom.
God has plan for peoples lives but will we allow Him to use us to serve others.
Something beautiful that I found as I studied this week is that the name Ananias means God is Merciful. How fitting is it that God uses a person whose name reveals his desire for Saul.
Saul is out there acting foolish, doing life in a way that God doesn’t desire. In a moment God opens his eyes to see the truth and then shows him mercy in the person he sends to him.
It is the same with all of us. At some point everyone of us either have lived or are living like Saul in opposition to the things of God. In that moment we fully believe that what we are doing is right. But can I tell you today that every one of us need an encounter with Jesus.
We need an encounter with God to move us from opposition to alignment. From antagonism to faith.
I want to leave you with two questions this week.
When you have your encounter with Jesus will you make the decision to position yourself to be discipled?
I have seen many try to do it on their own. One of the downfalls of the American church is that the independent spirit of Americans seeps into their faith. The mentality that I can do it on my own. The result is a faith that doesn’t last. God wants to be merciful and help you grow, but it will come initially through someone else’s ability to hear from God.
Even as you grow and mature. New Seasons will require new mentors. We will always have need of someone speaking into our lives. The question is will be allow them to?
Will be an Ananias when God challenges us to serve people that are being brought into His kingdom?
If we have gained maturity in Christ we can not afford to sit back and watch. Every believer is called to disciple others. We are to be an example an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. We are to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. We are not to neglect the gift that is in us. We are to meditate on the word. Giving ourselves entirely to it that we may show progress to all. We must pay attention and continue in sound teaching so that will save both ourselves and those who hear us. (1 Timothy 4:12-16)
Let us refrain from judging by the outward appearance and through meekness and wisdom instruct those who God entrust to us. We are called to bring Glory to God. Through consistent obedience to His word we will do exactly that.
Let’s Pray!
1) Pray for Encounter with Jesus
2) Salvation
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