Say Bye to Your Friends and Family; Say Hi to God

Acts 9-10

            Yesterday, we took a look at how Saul, the author of nearly half of the books of the New Testament, was introduced to the scriptures.  We were introduced to a devout Jew who was persecuting the Jesus followers.  Today, we get a taste of redemption, as Saul dramatically turns his life around.

            Before we get that taste of redemption though, we open up chapter nine with Saul still breathing out threats to the Jesus followers.  Saul went on a bit of a scavenger hunt trying to find anyone who belongs to “the Way”.  “the Way” is just another “way” (ha, pun intended), to refer to the group of people who followed Jesus, as the term “Christian” was not a thing at that point in time.

            On Saul’s diligent scavenger hunt to persecute the group of Jews who followed Jesus, he went to the city of Damascus.  On his way to Damascus, Saul has a vision of none other than Jesus himself.  Again, this is the kind of stuff that the movies are made out of!  He ended up being blinded by the vision, and he didn’t eat or drink for three days.  Then a man named Ananias came and restored Saul’s sight through the power of God, and Ananias confirmed to Saul what had taken place.  Saul is also baptized and received the Holy Spirit.

As a result of this vision that Saul has of Jesus, he performs a complete 180 in his life.  He went from being a man who hunted Jesus followers to becoming a man who tried to create as many Jesus followers as possible.  He repented of his sins immediately and started proclaiming this message of Jesus in the synagogues.  This obviously created some confusion and amazement from the people, as just a couple of days ago he was seeking to have these same types of people killed and imprisoned!  Saul was so on fire for Jesus, that now nonbelieving Jews were seeking to put Saul to death.  What a crazy, dramatic turn of events.

Chapter nine then goes straight from Saul leaving Damascus to arriving in Jerusalem.  Luke, the author of Acts, chose to leave out a three-year gap.  Yep, you read that right.  There was a three-year gap between Saul leaving Damascus and arriving in Jerusalem.  We get this notion from Galatians 1:16-18.  After Saul left Damascus and before Saul arrived to Jerusalem, he spent about three years in “Arabia”.  N.T Wright talks about this three-year gap in his biography on Paul.  If you are an avid reader, then I would strongly suggest this book.

It is very possible that Saul spent a chunk of this three-year gap at Mt. Sinai getting ready for his upcoming ministry.  It’s pretty cool when you consider Moses and Elijah spent valuable time with God on Mt. Sinai as well.  I’m sure this time for Saul was extremely valuable, as he prepared to do so many good works for God and his Son Jesus.

It’s important that we find that quiet, alone time with God to prepare for our ministries as well.  I find that as a husband, dad, pastor, son, friend, and more, that it can be difficult to find that quiet, alone time with God.  Truth be told, it does not happen unless I am very intentional about it.  I’m guessing the same could be said for you as well.  I strongly encourage you to intentionally find and make that quiet, alone time with God.  Sometimes the best thing for us is to step away from our spouses, children, parents, friends, and coworkers, and have a close, intimate encounter with God.  I find that the best spot for me to do this is out by myself at our nearby park.  I’m guessing the experiences that I have with God out in his creation, by myself, are similar to the experiences that Moses, Elijah, Saul, and Jesus had with God.  So, get out there and say bye to your friends and family for a bit, and say hello to God.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

We haven’t even touched on Peter at all yet.  Peter did a number of awesome things for the LORD in chapter nine and ten, these include: healing a paralyzed man, raising a woman from the dead (Yeah, Jesus isn’t the only one who was resurrected in the New Testament), and sharing the gospel message with a group of gentiles.  We could discuss these great acts of Peter for quite some time.  Instead, I’d rather us conclude and focus on this aspect of Saul spending that alone time with God for three years and preparing for his revolutionary ministry.

Please, please, please, find and make that quiet, alone time with God.  You can spend time reading God’s word, praying, meditating, and reflecting on all that God has done and will continue to do in your life.  For our southern friends who aren’t freezing outside, go find a park and spend that quiet time with God.  For our northern friends who live in the cold, shut yourself in a room by yourself with a cup of hot cocoa and spend that quiet, alone time with God.  Or, you can buckle down and spend a couple hours in the cold at the park with a jacket and blanket.  I mean Jesus spent 40 days without food; surely, we can spend a couple hours outside even if it is a little cold.

Get on out there!  Say bye to your friends and family; say hi to God.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 9-10.

Tomorrow we continue with Acts 11-12.

Damascus Road Illumination

Acts 9

Acts 9 3 4

Saul was a man of deep convictions. He was deeply convicted that he was doing the right thing in the eyes of God. Not only did he feel he was right in the eyes of God, I believe he truly thought his vehement persecution of Christians was God-honoring work. Perhaps he even thought he was on a special mission from God. Saul was a Pharisee and Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the law. I think the law was like a blanket of security for him, a metaphorical checklist that he could check off point by point and be assured he was in good standing with God. How dare these Jesus followers, pushing their radical message of grace and echoing the teachings of Jesus that the contents of one’s heart far outweighed any outward action. Heresy! Something HAD to be done!

 

Is it possible that we are deeply convicted about something that we feel is God-approved- or even God-honoring- that in fact might not be? While we are not likely to have a flashing, blinding light from heaven to illuminate our paths and pinpoint the error of our ways, rest assured, our Heavenly Father does illuminate our paths. We have assurance from the well-known verse found in Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (NASB). We are also told in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NASB). Our Damascus Road illumination often comes in the form of scripture. We must be brave enough to continually compare our convictions up against scripture and prayerfully consider if those convictions resonate with the heart of God. In many ways our Christian walk is like a perpetual Damascus-road experience- if we are open to it. If we allow Him, God will continually refine our hearts and shape us. We read in Isaiah 64:8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

 

The beauty of being a Christ-follower is that we can have a new identity in Christ. We become a new creation. Saul’s conversion was marked by a change in name to Paul. Does our name-tag still read Saul? Or are we continually striving to be a Paul for Christ?

-Kristy Cisneros