Surrendering to Jesus will transform your life. It will still be hard but you will have the support of Jesus and the promise of Heaven.

 

Super Missionary

From Persecutor to Persecuted

Acts 9

 

A little boy was asked by his Sunday School teacher why is it important for us to be quiet in church. The little guy answered, “Because people are sleeping.”

Don’t fall asleep today –

 

Before Paul was a super missionary he was Saul, a Jewish Pharisee persecuting the Church. Saul is his Jewish name and Paul is his Greek name, he was a Jew born with Roman citizenship.

 

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

 

It was almost a week’s travel (120 miles) to get from Jerusalem to Damascus. It is said that there were 40,000 Jews living in Damascus and about 40 synagogues.

Saul was serious about stopping the spread of Christianity.

But he was about to meet Jesus.

 

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.”

 

Paul prayed and fasted for three days until the preacher arrived to share what he must do.

 

Acts 9:9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 

Listen to Saul’s own words about his conversion as he is making his defense before the crowd in Jerusalem after he was falsely arrested.

 

Acts 22:12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

 

We too can be converted like Saul. Hear the message of the gospel and be baptized washing away our sin.

Paul was not saved after three days of praying and fasting. Paul’s sins were not washed away until he obeyed Ananias’ instructions – the same instructions that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost – “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

 

Saul’s story is an amazing conversion story – from persecutor of Christ to preacher of Christ to being persecuted for Christ.

 

We all have a conversion story – some are heart breaking because of the hurt you endured and the scares you have before you found forgiveness – some were raised in Christian homes and have fewer scares.

God’s grace is the same – we were a sinner who needed our sins washed away.

 

I want to share some stories – not conversion stories but transformation stories. Stories where people turned to God but I don’t know that they were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins like Saul.

 

No one is to far gone to turn to God – How many classmates find out that you are a Christian and say “Really – wow – you have really changed” Praise God!

 

Transformation stories –

Do you know Norma McCorvey?

In 1970, Norma McCorvey was a young, pregnant woman in Texas – who was recruited to be Jane Roe of Roe v Wade which was decided in 1973.

It is interesting the abortion bill that bears her name but she never had an abortion.

She was pro-choice (anti-life) and in a lesbian relationship.

Operation Rescue moved in next door to the Dallas clinic where she worked she became friends with some of the workers and their children.

She is now pro-life, not practicing the sin of lesbianism, and has a belief in Jesus.

 

I read about Rosaria Butterfield this week.

As a leftist lesbian professor who despised Christians and now she is a Presbyterian’s ministers’ wife.

She wrote, “The word Jesus stuck in my throat like an elephant tusk…. Those who professed the name commanded my pity and wrath. As a university professor, I tired of students who seemed to believe that “knowing Jesus” meant knowing little else. Christians …always seizing opportunities to insert a Bible verse into a conversation with the same point as a punctuation mark: to end it rather than deepen it. … Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus,”

 

I also read about Nabeel Qureshi this week.

“Allahu Akbar. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Nabeel says, “These are the first words of the Muslim call to prayer. They were also the first words ever spoken to me.”

He left his Muslim faith to believe in Jesus. He says, “But I still couldn’t walk through the door. How could I betray my family after all they had done for me? … not only would I lose all connection with the Muslim community around me, my family would lose their honor as well. My decision would not only destroy me, it would also destroy my family, the ones who loved me most and sacrificed so much for me.

 

 

I am not claiming these people are Bible Believing Christians – I am saying there life was transformed and they now claim to know Jesus.

 

Each person was befriended by someone who believed in Jesus and they accepted what they were taught.

Who are you becoming friends with so you can teach them the truth about Jesus?

I admit I am a bit isolated at this point in life – I haven’t always been and won’t always be. I have to find time to walk in non-Christian circles. Most of you have many contacts with people who do not know Jesus.

Know that no one is so lost that they can’t turn their life over to Jesus.

We have people in or was in our congregation that were rebels, drunkards, homosexual, etc; some who lived their whole life (middle age to senior saints) away from God and the church.   I am sure many thought they will never surrender. Guess what they did surrender.

 

As the Apostle Paul was a super missionary after his conversion you too can be a super missionary.

Realize that God saved you from your sin – He gave you hope and a promise – He will do the same for your family member and friend.

 

Let me share one more story – this one is a true conversion story.

A man who was a serial killer – he killed at least 17 young men and was serving 15 life sentences for his heinous crimes. Two different Christians wrote him and sent him study material while he was in prison – he studied and wanted to become a Christian. A local preacher was called and studied with him and immersed him into Christ for the remission of his sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Praise God a murderer set free. A sinner saved. A few months after he became a Christian he himself was murdered in prison.

Do you know who is with Jesus now? Jeffrey Dahmer

 

If Jeffery Dahmer can repent of his sins anyone one can.

If God can forgive him – God will forgive anyone.

Paul was a murderer and he was forgiven and God used him in great ways.

 

No one is too far gone to be brought to repentance – don’t give up on anyone.

 

What if Ananias refused to go and preach to Saul in Damascus? God would have sent another – but Ananias would have been sinning against God just like Jonah.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

 

As Christians we are a new creation – that is exciting – we are new.

Like a butterfly we were a worm, a sinner, who entered a cocoon, baptism, and emerged a beautiful new creation.

 

Now that we have been transformed God has committed to us a message.

2 Corinthians 5:19 … And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

 

If we don’t preach and teach the good news of Jesus the world will not know. Your family will not know.

There will be a cost when you stand up for the truth but there will be a greater cost if you don’t stand up for Jesus.

 

Matthew 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

 

Do you want to be disowned for eternity or disowned by your family on now?

 

When we stand up for Jesus we will suffer – Paul suffered greatly (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

Ultimately he was imprisoned and beheaded. All the Apostles but John were killed – John died of natural causes after he survived being boiled in oil and then exiled to Patmos. James was beheaded.

 

The early church Fathers tell us that:

Matthew was killed by a sword in Ethiopia

Peter was crucified upside down

Nathanael was whipped to death in Asia.

Thomas was stabbed to death in India

Matthias was stoned to death in Jerusalem

Phillip was crucified.

Andrew was crucified in Greece, it is said he continued to preach while on the cross for 2 days.

 

Other leaders suffered the same destiny.

Mark died in Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets.

Luke was hanged in Greece.

Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.

 

Christians around the world are suffering but they remain faithful to Jesus.

Will you be faithful to Jesus even if that means you will suffer?

 

1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. … 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

 

The Apostles rejoiced in their suffering and we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer also.

The Apostles expected to suffer and so should we.

Peter said don’t be surprised at suffering – He knew what Jesus said.

 

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

Do we want to mature in Christ or have it easy?

If we don’t suffer we will not know the peace of Christ and experience Jesus’ overcoming.

Remember what Paul said as he sat in prison?

 

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Do you want peace, then trust God in the midst of suffering.

 

In order to suffer for Christ you must be in Christ.

You are hearing the good news of Jesus – will you surrender to Jesus like Saul did.

 

Ananias told Saul to “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away”

 

Get up as we sing and have your sins washed away.