ACTS 9, "When God Interrupts Your Life"
In our busy, fast-paced world, we are well acquainted with interruptions. Most of these interruptions, though, are distractions and not interventions. As we unpack the well-known story of Saul's conversion in Acts 9, we discover that when God interrupts us, it is to commission us for a new way of living, a way that ends up being our salvation-- and sometimes, it leads to someone else's salvation as well.
[Catch up on the PODCAST here.]
TEXT: Acts 9:1-8 (CEB)
““Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 5 So he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! 6 But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.’ 7 (Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.) 8 So Saul got up from the ground, but although his eyes were open, he could see nothing. Leading him by the hand, his companions brought him into Damascus."
Saul is a picture to us of...
The Enemy of God, Interrupted By God, and Commissioned by God.
How are we like Saul?
- We, too, are the enemies of God.
We were living against God, but God made a way to reconcile us. Now it is we who treat God likeour enemy even though God no longer treats us like His enemy.
Sin is not simply "horizontal"-- against others-- it is also "vertical", against God. If we only see "sin" as horizontal, we will build a morality based on what doesn't harm anyone else while we persist in way of living that will destroy us.
- God's interruption in our life has been our salvation!
Romans 5:8, 10 (NET)
“But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?”
We respond to God's interruption through repentance.
“[Repentance] means not self-pity or remorse but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity. It is not to look backward with regret but forward with hope—not downwards at our shortcomings but upwards at God’s love. It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become…To repent is to open our eyes to the light….To repent is to wake up.”—Bishop Kallistos Ware, “The Orthodox Way”
Repentance is not about begging for God’s mercy; it’s about glorifying God’s grace!
- That's why we continue to learn to confess our sins
- That's why werepent not merely for actions but for attitudes.
Acts 9:10-19a (NET)
“Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias,’ and he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 11 Then the Lord told him, ‘Get up and go to the street called “Straight,” and at Judas’ house look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. For he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he may see again.’ 13 But Ananias replied, ‘Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call on your name!’ 15 But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.'"
Ananias is a picture to us of...
The People of God, Interripted by God, and Commissioned by God.
How are we like Ananias?
- Following Jesus is going to challenge our comfort.
Imagine being asked to go to someone's house who represents your enemy, or even a threat to you and your way of life. Could you call them, "Brother" or "Sister", as Ananias does with Saul?
- Following Jesus is going to test our patience.
Saul was blind. We have patience with the physically blind, but can we learn patience an kindness to the spiritually blind?
We participate in God's interruption through obedience.
“What does it matter if our own plans are frustrated? Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way?”— Dietrcih Bonhoeffer, “Life Together”
1. How is God at work in your life
2. Are there places in our lives where we are living against God or independently of Him? How can we grow in our confession and repentance?
3. Is God leading us to places that we would not choose? How can we allow Him to use us to "interrupt" someone else's life with love and forgiveness and healing?