Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes For Sunday’s Message; January 29, 2017; Acts 7:54–Acts 8:3

We will continue to explore what it means to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit guidance and transformation.

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Acts 7:54 – Acts 8:3

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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In today’s Scripture reading we heard about the persecution that broke out against the young church, and it is in this context we meet the future apostle Paul: the man who has influenced every one of us gathered in this sanctuary today.

There are only a handful of people about whom we can make such a claim: Jesus himself, the Disciples, Mary Magdalene, and, of course, Paul. There may be one or two others….

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Paul influenced every one of us because his teachings and his example have influenced every man and every woman adhering to Judeo-Christian beliefs since the times of Jesus, and these men and women are our “cloud of witnesses,” our ancestors, great-grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles.

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So what do we know about Paul up to the point that we meet him in today’s Scriptures. We know that he was a devout Jew, he was well educated in what today would be called a “progressive” seminary under Rabbi Gamaliel.

Acts 5: 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. … 38 … I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

– Words of Gamaliel.

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Paul describes that stage of his life, before he met Jesus, in Acts 22:

NIV2010 Acts 22:2 I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

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Paul had strong opinions, Paul had strong faith, and in today’s scripture we see that Paul was convinced that he was doing the right thing in persecuting the church.

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So how did Paul get from that place of wanting to make sure that none of us know about Jesus to being someone who influenced, inspired, and helped all of us to understand Jesus?

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What happened in between was the event of Paul’s conversion when he met Jesus on the Road to Damascus, which was followed by the process of Paul’s conversion.

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Paul’s meeting Jesus for the first time is described in the Book of Acts, chapter 9.

NIV2010 Acts 9: 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. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

{{{ … }}}

NIV2010 Acts 9: 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

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In that meeting God revealed something to Paul that contradicted his deep seated beliefs. That revelation challenged Paul to stretch beyond what he already knew and had done, “something like scales fell off his eyes” (Acts 9:18). That revelation inspired Paul to break the barriers and boundaries established by his upbringing, convictions, and education. In response, Paul became a follower of Jesus and made it his life’s work to spread the good news. Notice that Paul did not give up his belief in God, nor did Paul contradict his roots. I am not saying that Paul did not have to work through the emotions and feelings of betrayal, of abandoning his roots, and guilt for hurting innocent people. But by working through these emotions and realities he learned something new about God and about himself, and that knowledge set him free…

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Paul’s conversion happened sometime between 33 and 36 C.E. The Epistle to Romans was written between 55 – 57 C.E.

In Romans Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (12:2)

Most of us think that we are rational human beings and deeply believe that we make rational decisions at least most of the time. Unfortunately this is not true, studies have shown that human beings have a tendency to make decisions emotionally[1].

When proven wrong, we tend to defend our actions and words no matter what; we try to justify ourselves in the hope of appearing right, and we are scared of appearing weak.

{Illustration: Luke 10:29 – Intro to the Parable of the Good Samaritan – “Trying to justify himself…”. The Parable of the Good Samaritan was given to us because someone was trying to preserve appearance of being right and strong}

It is hard for us to change our opinions and beliefs because opinions and beliefs are emotional, not rational.

Paul’s conversion and twenty years of ministry resulted in these words from Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul had to live through a struggle between the events described in today’s reading, when Paul met Jesus for the first time, and the time towards the end of his life when he wrote the epistle to Romans.

To me these 37 words (I quoted NIV2010 translation) describe the process of Paul’s conversion, twenty years of ministry and interaction with other Christians and non-Christians, growth in his understanding of God, growth in his faith and his personal growth as a human being.

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Last week we talked about Thin Places. I think that Paul’s Conversion was a Thin Place for Paul.

That Thin Place experience taught Paul to submit himself to God who is always doing a new thing. As a result of his submission and understanding, God continually used Paul’s life as a beacon of hope and encouragement to others.

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Today I want to leave you with couple of questions:

  • When was the last time that “something like scales” fell off of your eyes and your mind was opened to something new?

  • How did this new knowledge manifest in your life?

  • How does God use you as a beacon of hope and encouragement to others?

  • When was the last time that your mind was renewed and you had a new understanding?


[1] See Dr. Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (New Your, NY: Harper Paperbacks, 2006), page 57

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