Sermon Titled “Paul, An Apostle of Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1-2) – Sunday 15th September, 2013
Moving on from the book of Genesis and into Ephesians, Sunday’s sermon was an introduction to the life of Paul, and his conversion from that of Christian persecutor, to that of Christian follower. Paul’s conversion took place around AD30, when the earliest followers of Jesus had created their own small sect within Judaism. Acts 9:1-19 gives an account of Paul’s conversion, and if you’re new to the scriptures, it’s important that you understand the significance of this event.
We are talking about a staunch and zealous Jew, who was so offended by what the early followers of Christ were teaching, that he made it his sole purpose to seek them out and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. The bible says however, that while Paul (known as Saul prior to his conversion) was traveling to Damascus, a light from heaven flashed around him, causing him to drop to his knees.
- vs. 4 – 6 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
When Saul opened his eyes, he could not see, and his companions had to lead him by hand into Damascus. For three days he did not eat or drink, and he remained blind. In the meantime, God spoke to a disciple named Ananias, and instructed him to go and find Saul at the house of Judah. Ananias did as he was told and when he found Saul, he placed his hands on him, and Saul not only regained his eyesight but he was also filled with the holy spirit. The scriptures say that something that looked like scales, immediately fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see. More importantly though, he was baptized right away – and consequently transformed in mind and spirit, by the power of God.
Here we have a man, fiercely determined to destroy anyone who dared follow Christ, suddenly change course and join sides with those he despised. That would be like Kim Jong Un wanting to make a sincere treaty with South Korea, Japan, and the United States – the odds of that ever happening are slim to none. But that’s why Paul’s conversion is so amazing; it shows the power of God to change even the most sinful of men. There is hope for anyone, who is willing to receive God’s grace and mercy. But wait, Paul’s conversion is two-fold, and it’s the second part of his conversion that counts: his baptism!
Accepting God’s forgiveness, and receiving His grace and mercy are key components of repentance, but salvation requires the further step of baptism and a commitment to turn from our “old” ways to follow Christ instead. As you follow the teachings of Paul through the books he wrote in the Old Testament, you’ll see just how radical his transformation was. He was on fire for the Lord, so much so that the rest of his days on earth were spent doing nothing else but preaching and spreading the word of God.
We, on the other hand, may not, and probably will not, have such a radical conversion experience, but Paul’s story is one that a) gives us hope that anyone can be saved, and b) should provoke a desire in us to seek out and fulfill God’s will for us. None of us know how many days we have left in this world, and sadly, many will squander that time away. As I say this, I’m reminded of a scenario that plays out every single week as I run by the clubs in the Kadena Gate 2 area.
Most mornings, before the sun is up, I run from my house, past Kadena Gate 2 towards Camp Foster. I often see men passed out on the sidewalk, or young guys and girls coming out of the clubs and barely able to stand up. The young ones are usually laughing as they stumble their way towards a taxi stand, and I feel sad for them. If you are reading this, and not a Christian, I hope you’ll let me explain.
I was once that young girl staggering out of the clubs, laughing with my friends and barely able to make it to a taxi without having to keel over and vomit. I lived my life at that time, counting the days down till each weekend, just waiting to blow my wages yet again on a couple of nights of hard partying and drinking. In those moments, I always felt incredibly happy, as if life was all about having mindless fun centered around alcohol (with friends who shared the same sentiments), and yet I always felt that something was missing. As I ran by a few drunk men this morning, I think I realized why I always felt that way – because I have a heart, that feels, and a mind, that no matter what, can’t stop thinking and pondering, and a soul, that came….from where?
All of that partying only gave me temporary gratification, but it couldn’t satisfy the needs of my heart, my mind, or my soul. If you’ve never seriously stopped to consider why you have the ability to feel and think as you do, then I urge you to do so. And if you are willing to settle for a theory that denies the existence of an Almighty God as the cause of those human abilities, then I urge you to reconsider and search again.
My conversion happened seventeen years ago, and like Paul, I was given a chance to redeem myself and start living for Christ. Ask my parents, or anyone who knew me before I became a Christian, and they will tell you that I am a much better person today than I was back then. I lived for myself when I was younger, and today I live for Christ, with enormous hope in my heart that Heaven really does exist, and that I’ll one day live there eternally with everyone else who chooses to believe.
But as I said before in a previous post, if it turns out that there is no heaven after all (and I say that, not because I have doubts, but because some reading this might not be believers), it won’t matter, because I will have lived my life with purpose and intent, and absolutely no regrets. I can’t be sure I’d be able to say the same thing if I hadn’t made the choice I did seventeen years ago……