Sermon Transcript



Well, by definition the word “sincerity” means the absence of deceit, the absence of hypocrisy, the absence of pretense.  And for that reason, sincerity is an attractive virtue.  In fact, we use it every time we engage in some formal correspondence.  When was the last time you wrote a letter and you signed it “sincerely yours”?  Or as I learned this week, the Brits, they sign it “yours sincerely.”  They’ve got to be different, right, or we’ve got to be different from them.  But we’ve all done that before, “sincerely yours.”  It’s a nice way of just saying that what I said to you in that letter comes from a heart absent of deceit, absent of hypocrisy.  Some people say that sincerity is all you need when it comes to religious belief.  That it’s not important what you believe as much as it is just being sincere.  That that’s what you need is just to be sincere before God, and He’ll take care of all the rest.  The problem with that is you can be sincerely wrong.  And maybe we’ve all had that experience where you believe something, and you found out later, well, it wasn’t exactly like that or it wasn’t true.  The danger with sincerity is the highest virtue is we can be sincerely wrong.



Nobody was more sincere in his faith than Saul of Tarsus.  If you would ask anybody…did Saul of Tarsus believe what he believed to be true?  Was he zealous and passionate and sincere about his Judaism?  Did he believe that what he was doing by breathing threats and taking murderous action upon the early church…did he believe that he was doing the work of God?  Absolutely.  In all sincerity he did.  Saul of Tarsus, the terrorist from Tarsus 2000 years ago.  And I don’t use the word “terrorist” as hyperbole, as exaggeration in any way, shape or form.  That’s exactly what he was- a religious zealot, a religiously motivated terrorist breathing threats, bringing murderous action upon the church of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, starting with affirming the martyr Stephen.  Remember, it was Saul of Tarsus who stood there like a valet at a hotel holding your coat.  And he affirmed those stones that were thrown at Stephen, the first martyr.  That was Saul of Tarsus.



From that point forward, persecution broke out in Jerusalem, and the early church scattered to Judea, to Samaria, ultimately to the ends of the earth.  But some of them went all the way to Damascus.  And Saul of Tarsus caught wind of that.  He knew that there were some followers of the way.  They weren’t called Christians yet, but followers of the way, no doubt called that because of what Jesus said about Himself, that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and no man comes to the Father but by Him.  But some of those followers of the way had scattered all the way to Damascus, 140 miles from Jerusalem, a six to seven day journey by foot all the way to Damascus.



And the Bible tells us in Acts 6 that Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus with some letters in his hand.  You see, he needed additional authority granted to him by the chief priests to go up over Mount Hermon and down into what is today modern Syria to the city of Damascus in order to carry out his terrorism.  And he had those papers in hand with the Bible tells us in Acts 9 Saul of Tarsus got stopped in his tracks.



And Acts 9 contains the greatest story of religious conversion in human history.  Nobody would have ever thought that Saul of Tarsus would come to faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s like saying Osama Bin Laden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to come to faith in Christ next week.  Nobody would have thought that.  You’ve got to be crazy.  These men are sincerely and religiously zealous about what they believe, and they believe they are doing the will of God by persecuting Christians.  And this was Saul, Saul the terrorist of Tarsus 2000 years ago.



Well, what did Saul learn on the road to Damascus?  And what can we learn from his story?  I’ve read the story hundreds of times perhaps, just like you.  And I tried as best as I could to come at it from a fresh perspective this week.  And I wrote down seven unmistakable things that Saul learned on that road to Damascus that day.  That on whatever road you’re on or whatever road I’m on are important for us to learn as well.



Number one, Saul learned you are no match for the power of God.  Look at it in verse 3 and 4 again.  It says, “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.  And falling to the ground, he heard a voice.”  The power of just a light that shone on Saul.  Now, some people say—some historians and even meteorologists say—that the journey to northern Israel…to the Mount Hermon area and then over Mount Hermon, down into the valley and off into Damascus…that from Mount Hermon on the weather can get really frightening.  It’s maybe a little bit like Tornado Alley in Oklahoma.  It’s just the weather capital of the United States.  The weather is really weird there.  This is kind of like that.  Lightning storms were frequent in the area.  But I don’t think this was a bolt of lightning.  It certainly wasn’t a spotlight.  This was the kind of light from heaven, the scripture says, that stopped Saul in his tracks, probably, we might say, the shekinah glory of God, just the manifestation of the presence of God in such a profound way that it stopped Saul in his tracks and reminded him, “Saul, you are no match for the power of God.”  Saul might have thought he was all that, but he learned on the road to Damascus he ain’t all that.  God is all that, and God showed it in a very dramatic way.



Chances are you and I are not going to have this dramatic of an experience when we come to faith in Jesus Christ.  But God showed Himself in a very dramatic way to Saul that day and reminded him that he is no match for the power of God.  Pharaoh learned in the Old Testament he was no match for the power of God.  The prophets of Baal learned in Elijah’s time that they were no match for the power of God.  And here Saul of Tarsus learns that he is no match for the power of God.  It’s a good reminder for you and me.  We’re not match for Him.



Secondly, Saul learned he was spiritually blind.  The Bible goes on to say in verse 7, Acts 9, “The men who were traveling with [Saul] stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.  So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”  Underline that phrase “although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.”  You know, it’s possible to have your eyes wide open, to have physical sight and yet be spiritually blind at the same time.  And I believe this whole experience that Saul of Tarsus went through was God’s way of saying to him, “Saul, you’ve had perfect physical sight all this time, but you have been spiritually blind.”



And spiritual blindness is one of the conditions that the Bible warns us about over and over and over again.  Jesus even illustrated it in one of the miracles that He performed in John 9 where He healed a man who was born blind.  Do you remember the story where the disciples come to Jesus, and they’re kind of asking all the wrong questions?  They say, “Hey, Jesus, here is this man born blind.  Who sinned, this man or his parents?”  They had a real narrow theology about pain and suffering in this world.  And Jesus says, “No, you’ve got it all wrong, guys.  It’s not that his parents sinned or that this guy sinned and that’s why he was born blind.  It was so the glory of God could show up at this moment.”  And He healed the man who was born blind.  And from that day forward, you know, all of the religious leaders were questioning the man and bringing him before the council and making him testify.  And he says, “I don’t know what happened.  I just was…once I was blind, but now I see.”  And that was his testimony.  And it was not only true of him physically, but it’s true of every believer in Jesus Christ who comes to faith in Jesus Christ.  The scales come off your eyes.  And you were once spiritually blind, but now you see.



Helen Keller, the famous blind person, said, “There is something worse than being blind.  It’s having sight but no vision.”  I’ll turn that around a little bit and say there is something worse than having physical sight.  It’s having your physical sight, perfect 20/20 vision perhaps, but being spiritually blind.  And the miracle of faith in Jesus Christ and the conversion that that brings about in a person’s life is going from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight, from spiritual darkness to spiritual light.  And this was true of Saul of Tarsus.  It was true of John Newton, who penned “Amazing Grace.”  Do you remember those words?  “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind…I was a blind slave trader thinking that I was doing what was right, but I woke up one day and met Jesus Christ.  And I realized just how blind I was and how arrogant I was in my spiritual blindness.”  This was Saul of Tarsus.  Any of this ringing true in your own experience?  You're no match for the power of God.  And you realized before you came to faith in Jesus Christ or perhaps even at this moment before you even meet Jesus, you're as spiritually blind as blind can be.



Third thing that Saul learned was that God knows him by name.  In verse 4 the first words that he hears…he hears a voice, a voice that was not recognizable to him at first, and I’ll explain why in a moment.  But the voice said initially two words, “Saul, Saul.”  Now, when you’re mama called your name once, you came running as a kid, right?  Or your daddy, you know, when he…he or she calls your name twice that means you're either in trouble or they're trying to get your attention.  “Saul, Saul…”  At a very basic level, what it means is God knows your name, Saul.  He knows your name.  He knows you personally.  He not only knows your name, but He knows your whereabouts.  He knows everything about you.  He is intimately acquainted with your ways.  “Saul, Saul, I know you by name.  And, Saul, I know exactly where you’re going.  I know those letters you have in your hands.  I’ve been watching you closer than what you think.  I know you by name, Saul.”



In John 1 there is a story about a guy named Nathaniel that met Jesus.  He’s one of those disciples we don’t know a whole lot about, maybe one of the quieter disciples.  But his friends Philip first tells Nathaniel about this rabbi from Nazareth that they think is the Messiah.  And Nathaniel is the one who famously said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Because Nazareth had the reputation of being on the other side of the tracks.  And when Philip said to his friends Nathaniel that this rabbi named Jesus from Nazareth might be the Messiah, he said, “Ah, you’ve got to be kidding me.”  But one day Nathaniel was walking toward Jesus.  And Jesus looks at Nathaniel and says, “Ah, Nathaniel, an Israelite in whom there is no deceit, a sincere man, sincere in your faith, sincere in your Judaism.”  And it kind of threw Nathaniel back a little bit.  He’s like, “Who is this guy who can look inside my heart and tell me I’m a sincere man?”  And Jesus looks at Nathaniel and says, “Oh, Nathaniel, before I even met you I saw you sitting under the oak tree over here.”



Now, they didn’t have social media 2000 years ago.  I walked into church this morning and somebody made a comment about where I was earlier this week and said they were there about an hour later.  And it kind of made me feel a little creepy, but I remember I posted something on social media.  That’s the world in which we live, right?  Well, they didn’t have that 2000 years ago.  But Jesus had enough insight to know who Nathaniel was, what was in his heart, where he had been.  And it put Nathaniel back a little bit, because it was the first time anybody knew him for who he really was.



How easy it is for us to put these protective layers around us.  We have a lot of acquaintances, don’t we?  We have all these followers, you know, on Facebook, on Instagram, all these friends.  But not really.  We have a lot of acquaintances, but we’re good at putting these protective layers around us to protect ourselves from anybody knowing the real us.  Well, I’ve got news for you today.  God knows your name.  He knows everything about us.  He knows where you’ve been.  He knows the desires of your heart.  He knows the intent of your heart.



Hold your place here in Acts 9, and let’s go to the book of Psalms, Psalm 139.  I love Psalm 139.  It’s one of my favorite in the psalter, and partly because it’s just good theology written in Hebrew poetry.  And it highlights really three aspects of God’s nature: His omniscience, we say- He knows all things; His omnipresence- He is everywhere at all times; and then His omnipotence- He is all powerful.



It starts with His omniscience where the psalmist says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”  And then the psalmist says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”  He goes for omniscience now to omnipresence.  “Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”  And then David goes on to talk about the power of God, and all of it was a comforting presence to David.



But maybe you're not David.  Maybe you're Saul.  And you learned God knows your name.  You learned that GPS doesn’t stand for global positioning system, but God’s positioning system.  He knows everywhere you’ve been and where you’re going.  And that’s not a comfort to you.  It’s a haunting realization to you.  It’s haunting to everybody on this side of the cross until they come to faith in Christ and surrender to Him.  It stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks for God to say, “Saul, Saul.”  “Who is this who knows me?  Who is this who calls out my name?”  And he fell on his face before God.



Here is a fourth thing that Saul learned.  Your battle is with Jesus.  “Saul, Saul,”…and then here comes the question…“why are you persecuting me?”  And Saul answered back “Who are you, Lord?”  Now, be careful, because I know most of our translations that word “Lord” or that title is capitalized, leaving us the impression that Saul might have recognized this to be Jesus.  And he is calling Him Lord.  Actually, the translation could just as easily be “sir.”  “Who are you, sir?”  He hears this voice.



And then Jesus identifies Himself.  He says, “I am Jesus,” and then repeats the question…or the statement this time (0:19:00.1), “whom you are persecuting.”  “Saul, whatever issue you have with these early Christians, the way-goers, the people that you're going after in Damascus…whatever issue you have, your issue is with Me.  Have I got your attention?”  And this is true of anybody who is maybe mad at God or disappointed with Him in some way.  Usually we aim our anger or disappointment maybe at a church that hurt us or an individual Christian or those rightwing whatevers.  No, your issue is not with any of that or any of those people.  Your issue is with Jesus.  Take it up with Him.  He says, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  He made it very, very personal.  You see, one day every one of us will stand before Jesus, either as our Savior (0:20:00.0) or as our Judge.  And today is the opportunity to decide which one He will be to you.



It’s interesting that the apostle Paul never forgot this experience, this dramatic experience on the road to Damascus.  And he frequently throughout the rest of the book of Acts and as he ministered would come back to this experience.  You just read through the New Testament, and Paul, by way of sharing his personal testimony, often went back to this story of his conversion.  Two occasions are found in Acts 22 when he is making his defense in Rome, and elsewhere in Acts 26 when he is making his defense before King Agrippa II.



And in 26 and verse 14, Saul remembers something that Jesus said to him that Luke doesn’t record.  Saul remembers it this way.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me, and why are you kicking against the goads?”  Now, anybody in the 1st century would understand very quickly what a goad was.  An ox goad is a long stick that has a point on the end.  And if you’re plowing your fields and you’re using a couple of oxen to do it, if those oxen are not doing it right or if they’re kind of getting lazy or tired, you would goad the ox.  You would stick that pointed end into their back hind to kind of goad them to go a little faster or a little bit straighter.  And some ox will kick against the goad.  They don’t like being goaded, so they kick back.  And when they do, sometimes the goad goes a little bit deeper into the flesh.  And Jesus says to Saul, “Saul, you’ve been kicking against My goad for years.  Why are you doing that?”  And Saul’s memory of this suggests that Jesus had been after him not just on the road to Damascus, but for years and years and years.  I mean, as Saul as breathing his threats, as Saul was holding the coats of those who threw the stones at Stephen…we don’t know exactly where, but we know this.  God is coming after us, right?  The hound of heaven, one poet said years ago.  He’s like the hound of heaven that just keeps pursuing us and keeps pursuing us and keeps pursing us, goading us on occasion and goading us again.



And the Lord is saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?  And why, after time after time after time after I’ve been goading you, why do you keep kicking against Me?”  What a great question that is for anybody here today that’s still, after repeated goading from God, kicking against Him.  You’re kicking against Him.  Your battle is with Jesus.  And because He loves you, friend, He is going to keep coming after you.  And sometimes the goading gets painful.  I know it does.  But it’s because He loves you so much.  He loves you enough to understand that where you are right now is a lot worse than being in relationship with Him.  And He has eternity in view, and so He is going to keep goading and keep goading until you stop kicking against Him and you surrender to Him.



The fifth thing that Saul learned- Jesus is alive.  Say that with me.  Jesus is alive.  This Saul had been, with all sincerity and with all religious zeal and passion…he firmly believed that this Jesus who died on the cross went into the grave and that was the end of Him.  He thought that all this talk about a resurrection was silliness.  And for that reason, he believed that he was doing the work of God.  He had read the Old Testament.  He was an expert in the Law, a Pharisee of Pharisees, having learned under the feet of Gamaliel.  And he knew that the Old Testament said, “Cursed is the one who hangs on a tree.”  And for the Jews, they could never imagine their Messiah being crucified on a cross.  What they missed in the Old Testament, even in Isaiah 53, is that He would first come as a suffering servant, yes, cursed of God, receiving the curse that belonged to us and paying the penalty for our sins.  And then He would rise triumphantly from the dead, ascend to the right hand of the Father, and remind us, “I’m coming again, this time in victory and to set up My kingdom rule.”



But Jesus is alive.  The reason we call Saul of Tarsus later the apostle Paul is because one of the criteria for an apostle is that he has seen the risen Christ.  And Saul of Tarsus experienced and saw the risen Christ that day in an unmistakable way.  We don’t call anybody an apostle today.  The age of the apostles has passed because, well, none of us has visually seen or experienced the risen Christ in this way.  Just as a reminder, Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  The resurrection is everything, friends.  And I hope you’ve come to that place of settled conclusion in your heart that Jesus is alive.  And if you haven’t, study the evidence for yourself.  Don’t take my word for it.  Certainly take the Word of God for it, but examine it.  Put yourself on the jury and examine the evidence.  And ask yourself, can you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ after examining all the evidence?  And can you believe beyond a reasonable doubt?  And the answer is yes.  But you've got to come to that settled conclusion that Jesus is alive and He will gloriously save you.



Sixth thing that Saul learned that day is God has a plan for your life.  Look at it in verse 6.  Jesus goes on to say, “But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”  In other words, “Saul, I’ve got a plan for you.  I’ve got a plan for you.”  A little bit later down in verse 15 He goes on to say that this Saul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  Big picture here.  God has a plan for your life.  And He has a plan for you and for me just as He had a plan for Saul for the remainder of our time that He sovereignly chooses to leave us on this earth.  Otherwise He’d take us to heaven right away, right?  There is no other reason for us to be here other than to fulfill the plan that He has for us and for us to carry out the mission that He has given to us as believers in Jesus Christ.  Eight words, one mandate that no follower of Jesus can ignore.  “Go therefore and make disciples of Jesus Christ.”  Of all nations.



And that’s why we’re here.  And God has a plan for your life, and He has a plan for my life.  One of the famous kind of ways of sharing the gospel says God love you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  I agree with every bit of that.  I’d probably take the word wonderful out, because the plan that God had for Saul involved a lot of suffering and pain.  Jesus said, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  I know nobody wants to sign up for that, but just remember three S’s associated with being a follower of Jesus- self-denial, suffice, and perhaps even suffering.  Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciples, deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me.  Follow Me even into an experience of pain and suffering.”  Certainly the apostle Paul did.  And tradition tells us that when he was in prison in Rome, that Nero finally sent the orders to sever Paul’s head from his body.  And believe that’s the way the apostle Paul died.  But he was a chosen instrument of God, to “carry My name before the Gentiles.”  And the apostle Paul, who was formerly Saul of Tarsus, the terrorist of Tarsus, became God’s instrument for carrying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.



What plan does He have for your life?  You may have lost all sight of that.  You may have lost all hope.  You say, “Well, God doesn’t have a plan for me.  I don’t know what my plan is.”  Well, remember the words of Jeremiah 17:9 to the nation of Israel when they were in their Babylonian captivity and they had lost all hope, maybe all vision for God’s plan.  He says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  They couldn’t see that in the circumstances that they were in, but it gave them enough hope to live another day and to get themselves to God and to that future and to that hope.



The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man plans in his heart [or a woman plans in her heart], but the Lord orders his steps.”  What plans do you have?  What agendas do you have that are governing your will to where maybe you’ve been kicking against God’s plans a little bit?  But it’s time for you say, “Not my will, but thine be done.”  It’s time for you to pray, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done.”  It’s time for you to take the plans that you have for your family, for your career, for your future, and hold them loosely, because you’ll never experience the thrill of fulfilling the purpose for which God created you and walking in His plan until you let your fingers gently unfold, and say, “Father, take it all.  Take it all.  Our Father, who art in heaven, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.  You take my plans.”



It’s interesting in verse 6 there, “But rise and enter the city.”  And Jesus says, “You will be told what you are to do.”  That made me pause this week, and it made me think, you know, up to this point in Saul’s life nobody told Saul what to do.  Saul told Saul what to do.  He was the captain of his own ship.  Nobody told that man what to do.  And the arrogance with which he went breathing murderous threats.  But in the life of every believer in Jesus Christ there comes that moment of surrender where you say, “Not my will, but thine be done.  God, I’ve been trying to control my life up to this point.  Now You tell me what to do.”  Have you reached that point, friend?  You’ll kick against the goad every time until you reach that point of complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh, we call Him Lord, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And we imagine a little throne that He sits on.  But there is only one throne in our heart.  And we crawl up back on that throne as often as we can.  And we say, “My kingdom come, my will be done on my little corner of the earth.”  And the Lord is waiting for us to say, “No, Lord.  You tell me what to do.”  It’s a moment of surrender to the plan that God has for your life.



There was a seventh thing that Saul learned that day, it’s important for us to learn, too.  And I would say it this way.  The church of Jesus Christ is now your family.  And I want us to pick it up in verse 10 of Acts 9.  The story goes on to say, “There was a disciples at Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’  And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’  And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying.’”  I’ll bet he was.  Saul was praying like he’d never prayed before.  “‘And he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’  But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.’”  You can’t blame Ananias for asking the question.  Verse15, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’  So Ananias departed and entered the house.  And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight.  Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.”



Go back to verse 17 and circle the words “Brother Saul.”  That’s family language.  Ananias is one of the unsung heroes in the New Testament.  It’s probably not the Ananias of Ananias and Sapphira that we read about earlier in the book of Acts.  This is Ananias of Damascus.  An Ananias that was probably in Jerusalem.  And when the persecution came in Acts 8, he, along with many others, scattered into Judea and Samaria.  It’s how the gospel began to spread into other areas.  And Ananias and many others ended up in Damascus.  This is the only thing we read about of Ananias in the scriptures.  But Ananias, though hesitant to reach out to the infamous Saul of Tarsus, becomes the instrument that God uses to welcome Saul into the family of God.  Do you understand the risk that he took and even the depth of what he was saying when he said, “Brother Saul”?



I remember years ago the first church that I served in Texas, it was one of those brother/sister churches, you know.  There were some people there, good people, lovely people of God, who would refer to me as Brother Ron and Sister Cathryn.  And we’d smile.  It’s kind of a cultural thing in some churches.  We don’t necessarily do that here.  But if we did, it’s very biblical.  Because throughout the New Testament we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are part of the family of God.  That’s powerful, friends.  If you call God your Father and Jesus Christ your Savior, you’re my brother.  You’re my sister.  And you're welcome in this family.  Don’t let anybody tell you different, all right.  You’re welcome in this place.  Even if you don’t call God your Father and Jesus your Savior, you’re welcome to come here and investigate Christianity.  But especially if you call God your Father and Jesus your Savior, we’re family, friends.  And with that comes all the blessing of family life and the challenges, too.  And don’t look at me like you don’t have challenges in your perfect family, okay.



About a month or so ago we had a Jones family reunion around my nephew’s wedding.  And it was a great time for family to get together.  There were two members of our extended family that hadn’t talked to each other for years.  And we were all kind of wondering, you know, leading up to this.  We knew one was coming.  We weren’t sure the other was coming.  But about a week before got word that both of them were going to be there.  And then we were all kind of, like, “Shh, don’t draw attention to it.  Just let it all happen and see if they talk to one another or maybe avoid each other.”  We didn’t know.  But God did a wonderful thing, and He brought those two extended family members together, and they had a great time.  And they're now talking to each other more than I talk to them on a regular basis.  And it’s great.  Why?  Because we’re family.  And you don’t give up on your family.  It’s the only family you’ve got.



And maybe because we come from broken families and strained families, our understanding of the depth of the theology of what it means to be part of the family of God is fractured in some way.  And so we have these protective barriers around us.  And “so-and-so hurt me years ago.”  You haven’t talked to them in years.  Are you kidding me?  They're part of your family.  “I’m leaving this place.”  Are you kidding me?  You can’t give up on your family.  And I know the family of God is broader than just one church.  But every part of the family of God expresses itself in a local setting we call our church family, right?  I hope that means something to you.  All the blessings that come with family life and, yes, all of the challenges.  And we have to work through those things, right?  No church is perfect.  I’d mess it up if I went to a perfect church, and so would you.



But Ananias reaches out to, of all people—are you kidding me—Saul of Tarsus?  And call him Brother Saul.  And I tell you this.  It changed Saul’s view of the church he was persecuting.  I think the guy just had to have melted in the presence of those words.  And all the caricatures that he had of the church and the people of the way and the people that he was persecuting, that just all went aside when he met one person, with Ananias that spoke to him with grace and called him Brother Saul.  Oh, that that would be true in this family of God, let alone the family of God worldwide.  That we would be quick to welcome people into the family of God who call God their Father and Jesus Christ their Savior.  We are children of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  “To as many as received Him,” that is Jesus, “to them He gave the right to become children of God.”  What a powerful image that is, and one that we need to take to heart with us.



Few of us will ever experience the dramatic road to Damascus thing that Saul of Tarsus did.  But don’t think that your conversion to Jesus Christ is any less miraculous.  Maybe you’ve been kicking against the goad for many years.  And there has been circumstances maybe that you call your road to Damascus where the Lord humbled you enough to where you said, “Lord, tell me what to do.  I’m tired.  Oh, I’m tired of trying to figure this out myself.”  And you’re humbled.  You come to the cross of Christ.  And what you find are the doors of heaven swinging wide open.  Wide open to somebody who calls Jesus Lord.  And the doors of this thing called the church that you thought was this evil entity…the doors of the church opening wide.  And you’ve got a big family you knew nothing about.  Maybe you get to experience what it means to be part of a family like you’ve never experienced before.  And may all of us in faith in Christ act like brothers and sisters.  You don’t give up on your family, do you?  No, I mean, you mend ways and make it happen.  You act like the family that we are, because there ain’t nothing more important than family, right?  And especially the family of God.



“Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:28 MSG