Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 9:1-19 “Damascus Experience”
Last Sunday, when we started a new year, we noticed that old one was gone! When new things happen, old things have to go! In other words, if we want to accept the new reality, the old paradigm, old self, old world have to be destroyed or shattered. Biblically speaking, we call this the “Damascus Experience.”
The term comes from the experience that Saul had on the road to Damascus. Saul witnessed the death of Stephen. Do you still remember that terrible scene where people stoned Steven to death? He died when he shared his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah and the Savior. People still had a strong enough conviction against Jesus to kill those witnesses of Jesus!
Saul did not stop there. Saul was still making murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there relating to Jesus, whether from men or women, he might take the writers of the letters as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 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.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 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. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink.
This is the first part of the “Damascus Experience”. Even though his physical eyes were blind, his spiritual eyes were now opened. Even though he did not eat or drink for three days, he was fed spiritual foods by God to change his world-view. He now could see Jesus from a different perspective! His old conviction that Jesus committed blasphemy by claiming to be God was shattered. Now, he had a new conviction that Jesus was God! The risen Jesus actually destroyed the power of Sin and Death!
This happened not only to Saul. It also happened to a pious Jew called Ananias. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 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. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” Ananias resisted! He also had his old view about Saul.
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. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” God had a different vision and plan! God’s vision was bigger than Saul’s old conviction and Ananias’ old opinions! When God is doing a new thing, it is bigger than the sum of our old paradigms and we have to forgive our enemies and accept strangers!
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.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
In the Old Testament we have this passage: “So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’ ” (Isaiah 19:21-25)
Egypt was the nation that Israel (the chosen people of God) left to become a worshipping nation! Assyria was the country that destroyed northern Israel! They were enemies of Israel! However, in his vision, Isaiah saw a new reality and prophesied that someday they would all come together to worship God!
Responding to this new reality that God is showing and leading, now what do we need to do? I would encourage strangers and non-believers to come to our church. I would share this Good News with them: “You matter to God and you are accepted and forgiven by God!” Would you also address strangers outside of your safe circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances and do the same? Would you at least talk to those that you do not know to share your joy in Christ?
• With whom are you going to share your joy of salvation?
• Who are the ones that you do not want to be friends with?
• Are you willing to share the Good News with them for the Lord?
Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 9:1-19 “Damascus Experience”
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