Spots, Stripes & Transformation

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The Gospel trnsforms unlikely people, sometimes it is the convert, other times it is the church.

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A leopard’s spots, a zebra’s stripes, Saul’s sin: One of these things is not like the other!
As the song stated while communion was being distributed,
"When I stand accused by my regrets And the devil roars his empty threats I will preach the gospel to myself That I am not a man condemned For Jesus Christ is my defense”
One of the lies of pop psychology is that “a person is incapable of change.” I have found that change never happens until a person submits himself to change, but even the most hardened criminal is no match for the transformative grace of God.
This is a friend of mine from my first pastorate. His Mom and Ann were best friends, and our kids frequently did play dates. I didn’t seek his permission, so I won’t mention his name, but this is a public picture on his social media. This picture portrays him with a chainsaw because he owns his own landscaping company, but things between preschool play dates and business owner got pretty dark.
After we moved away, he got involved in drugs, did several stints in county jail and was even in state prison for a bit. He submitted himself to a Christian Recovery Ministry that so transformed his life that last month he wrote:
I remember the years where my only contact with my brothers, was through the mail. I had been absent physically and emotionally, for a lot of years, and I missed a lot of "firsts". Today all 4 of us share a pew at church, and I see the absolute evidence of the spirit of God in their lives. Stand in the gap, and don't lose faith. God is so much bigger than anything we think we've lost... He is bigger than time and He is certainly bigger than our mistakes. He took my stupidity into account when He apportioned His grace and set things in motion; thank God He isn't limited by us. He continues to floor me... time and time again. We know that God has a plan for our lives, but the devil does too. Generational curses are broken, devious plans destroyed, and the grace of God reigns. It's a good Sunday!
I share his story because Ann & I prayed with his mother when she didn’t know if she would ever see her son outside of prison. I know that a leopard can’t change his spots, a zebra can’t change his stripes, but God can Transform a hardened heart dead in sin!
Transition: As we gathered around the table a few moments ago and confessed our sins, I trust you believe that God not only forgave them, but has the ability to transform you so you won’t do them again. If God can transform my self-righteous heart, He can still do the miraculous. That is the Big Idea of today’s text
We need to start by admitting how bad things were, so that we will realize how great the transformation was.

Saul Before Conversion: A Problem (9:1-9)

Internal Consistency

1. Saul before conversion was acting consistent with the presupposition that Messiah could not be crucified. If Jesus was crucified, He couldn’t be Messiah and all those who claimed He was should be silenced.

Saul before conversion was acting consistent with the presupposition that Messiah could not be crucified. If Jesus was crucified, He couldn’t be Messiah and all those who claimed He was should be silenced.

WHAT WAS PAUL’S PERSPECTIVE before he was converted (Acts 9)? Elsewhere (Acts 22:2; 23:6; Phil. 3:4–6) he tells us that he was a strict Pharisee, brought up (apparently) in Jerusalem, taught by one of the most renowned rabbis of the day. For him, the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The Law insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. Surely, therefore, the insistence that Jesus is the Messiah is not only stupid, but verges on the blasphemous

2. Acts 7 ends with Saul attending the execution of Stephen, Acts 8 begins with his persecution of the believers and scattering them in attempts of silencing the Gospel. Acts 9 opens and he is still breathing threats and murder against those who follow Christ. (v.1)
3. V.2 he is even seeking permission to go on a pillage and destroy tour to the North (Just past where Philip went on his missionary journey in the previous chapter)
Sometimes it may be hard for us to comprehend the actions of unbelievers. There are many who shatter the boundaries of what we consider simple courtesy. Burning and looting to make a social or political point is beyond my understanding. It is easy for me to become judgmental of people who sin different than my temptations. They may not understand my temptation with food, I don’t get their temptations with what the parable of the Good Samaritan calls, “reckless living”.
4. Just as Saul’s persecution of Christians was totally consistent with his understanding of the Jewish Messiah, people around us pursue behaviors that are totally consistent with their worldview.
5. If they believe there is no God who holds people accountable and that there is no hell as a consequence for sin, why not chase after the pursuits of Ecclesiastes? If you don’t know, Ecclesiastes describes a person trying to find meaning in life apart from God.

External Concern

V.13 reveals that early Christians were very aware of Saul’s threats and actions and were rightly alarmed.
V.4 reveals someone else who is concerned with Saul’s persecution. Jesus claims that when Saul persecutes the church, he is persecuting Him!
Saul’s traveling companions were concerned as well. They heard the voice, but could not see the source. An unidentified voice with you leader falling on the ground and you’d probably have some level of concern as well.
TRANSITION: So while a crucified Messiah was a problem for Paul’s understanding of the world, a Resurrected Savior presented a whole new challenge to his presuppositions! Paul is compelled to transform from a problem to...

Saul After Conversion: A Partner (9:10-31)

When Saul encountered the true Christ (contrasted to the one of “his truth”) transformation was inevitable!

Saul hated the Jesus that he thought he knew, not the true Jesus. People around us also have misconceptions of God. Rather than read God’s revelation of himself in the Bible, they put together bits and pieces and form a God of their own making whom they can ignore.

Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes

Ananias the doubtful Discipler (v.10)

Before Ananias agreed to go to Judas’ house on Straight street, God already has a purpose for Saul. God gave Saul a vision that an Ananias would be coming and God convinced Ananias to go against his better judgement, because He was at work bringing Transformation!

When Saul encountered the true Christ, acceptance by the Church was gradual

V.22 states that the words coming out of Saul’s mouth did not mesh with his reputation.
V.26 he goes to Jerusalem and the disciple there are afraid, disbelieving, and hesitant to let him into the assembly.
We frequently refer to the story in Luke 15 as the prodigal son. I believe it is more appropriate to call is “two sons with prodigal hearts”.
a. The younger son’s prodigal heart revealed itself in foolish living.
b. The older son’s prodigal heart revealed itself in a pouty self-righteousness and indignation.
4. It is easy to see Saul as the one needing transformation, but the early believers also needed a grace reminder! We may be looking out at the people around us who are far from God, but do WE need a transformation so that we have a renewed eagerness to see God’s grace in their lives?

Barnabas the Encourager (v.27)

· 4:36 a Levite
· 4:37 a donor who setup the Ananias & Sapphira incident.
Saul was not hurt or bitter about needing to earn trust. He used his own experience to shape the future selection of leaders in the church. On one hand he challenged young Timothy not to be discouraged, but to patiently prove his trustworthiness
1 Timothy 4:12 ESV:2016
12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
2. On the other side of the equation, he also told Timothy not to be in a rush to award trust.
1 Timothy 5:22 ESV:2016
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
Child protection experts warn that the #1 warning sign of a likely predator is an unwillingness to wait to gain access to children. Narcissistic people have trouble waiting.
3. V.28 Saul doesn’t do anything halfway. Before he persecuted with zeal and now he is preaching with boldness.
4. Vv.23 & 29 reveals that his old crew was the target of his preaching and they didn’t appreciate the new Saul!
5. His new crew is afraid of him and his old crew is plotting to kill him. Who wants to sign up for that duty?
Acts 8 saw Philip Preaching in Samaria & the South. This week we see Peter on a short-term mission to the West

Peter:The Gospel Spreads West (9:32-43)

Just because Saul has been converted, God isn’t done with Peter!
We tend to think of ministry as a relay where a baton gets passed. In reproduction the generations overlap!
Lydda (Lod/Lud) & Joppa

Aeneas was healed (32-35)

I may be reading into the text, but I think the coming to the saints in v.32 implies that he was teaching and preaching.
As he was teaching, he encounters in v.33 a paraplegic. Without a fuss or production, Peter pronounced healing and tells him to get up and leave.
I pointed out last week that signs followed witness, not just wonders to draw a crowd like a sideshow.

Tabitha/Dorcas was raised (v.40)

We don’t know how long she had been dead, but her body was prepared and the mourners had gathered so it is long enough that she didn’t just get the vapors and pass out.
Raised/Restored is probably the heading above this section, Not Resurrection
Transition: God had a plan for Saul, God had a plan for Ananias, God had a plan for Peter to minister to Aeneas and Tabitha. This morning God may be wanting to transform you into a believer. Today God may be trying to transform you into a discipler. Could it be that today God is calling some of us to leave our comfort zone and go on mission?


Saul was not beyond Transformation (reputation & history)
Aeneas was not beyond Transformation (years of paralysis)
Tabitha was not beyond Transformation (body was ready for burial and mourners had gathered)
What are the spots that you can’t get out? What is the hopeless situation you face? Who bears the stripes that you think will never change? Who is the unlikely person on your heart?
The power of the Gospel TRANSFORMS impossible people! (a persecutor, a paralytic & a prepared corpse)
The power of the Gospel TRANSFORMS God’s people! (a doubtful disciple, a reformed Levite 4:36)
My big idea behind this sermon is: The Gospel transforms unlikely people, sometimes it is the convert, other times it is the church!
Are you willing to be Transformed?
Song of Response #313... “Lord, Lay Some Soul
Benediction: 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17 (ESV) — Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
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