The Worst to the Best
Intro: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Contrast that with a personal testimony.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Who was one of the most influential Christians of all time?
Did Paul seek God or did God seek Paul?
The apprehension of Paul the Apostle.
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. 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.
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
To persecute Christians is to persecute their Master.
1. Sometimes the worst are called to be the best.
Did he attract attention to himself by being so vehement?
No repentance to make the encounter happen.
Intelligence and talents can be used powerfully to work in both directions.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Again, did Paul choose God and God choose Paul?
2. Most righteous people struggle with God on the way to the cross.
“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross. If he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Man-soul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar, but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”
― A.W. Tozer
Some fear the call of God and give excuses…
Same as Moses (“Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13),
Jeremiah (“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Jeremiah 1:6)
Obedience is the safest place to be.
“This man is my chosen instrument… I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Did God choose Paul because he was so extreme, so wicked?
Paul did’t argue with God about his calling.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:12-14
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
― C.S. Lewis
3. Being chosen by God is a crucible and privilege.
crucible – a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 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.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
The strongest testimony is when the worst become the best.
Telling what God has done. (Blind beggar in John 9, I once was blind…)
4. The one who encounters Jesus fears no other.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus…
Not worried about his past, not worried about what people thought, totally fearless and empowered. Single-hearted obedience.
Peter heals Aeneas and raises Dorcas to life and the word of God spread…
And if God really did pursue his people long before we pursued him, then doesn’t it serve to reason that he would be ahead of us on everything else as well.
If God sought you out at first, don’t you think he will continue to carry out and finish the work he started?
5. God finishes what he starts
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Application: What has God started in you? What has God called you to?