Matthew 26:20, 26-29
– Jesus reclined at the table… / Relationship to Jesus meant t-i-m-e.
– As they ate… Jesus broke bread and blessed it / Prayer was in the middle of dinner not beginning
– All of you / All the disciples ate and drank, including Judas
– I will not drink again… / Jesus pauses joy
– September 11, 2001
– Job change
– Moved away from home
– Had an abortion
– Felt a lump and later diagnosed with cancer
– Met a friend… (providential relationship)
– Lost a friend or family member
– Went to church… went on mission trip/camp
– Prayed to surrender life to Jesus Christ
– April 3 Instruction with practical teaching (Matthew 7:21-29)
– April 10 Interaction with providential relationships (Acts 1-2)
– April 17 Implementation with personal disciplines (Acts 2:42-47)
– April 24 Investment with purposeful service (Acts 6:1-7)
– May 1 Incidents with pivotal circumstances (Acts 9)
God orchestrates so many events and experiences in our lives that call us examine them in light of eternity and encounter Christ in personal faith.
God often uses negative circumstances to bring new life.
- Pivotal circumstances are defining moments that determine who you are; it is a moment that has never left you the same. It influences the perspectives of your past, inspires the actions of your present and instructs the ambitions of your future.
- The greatest defining moment a person can have is to encounter the living God. Have you had such an encounter?
Today’s message will examine the pivotal circumstance of a couple individuals’ lives for how God would lead them toward faith and following Him.
EXAMINE Acts 9
9:1 But Saul…
Luke, author of Acts, previously introduced Saul as one who approved of the stoning of Stephen (7:58-8:1). Now in this chapter Luke shows that Saul is continuing the persecution and is perhaps the chief persecutor of Christians.
9:2 “Saul, breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord… men or women – went to high priest and asked for letters to the synagogues
– Saul was an angry man – “breathing threats and murder – against men or women”
– Saul was ardent in religion – “against the disciples of the Lord”– He asked high priest to arrest & attack those of another religion. He traveled “from Damascus to Jerusalem” which was 135 miles or a several day journey. In modern day terms, Paul was a religious terrorist.
o Saul was zealous for God persecuting Christians but his zeal was “not in accordance with knowledge” Rom. 10:2
o Saul made converts of type Jesus warns about saying, “Woe to you, teacher of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15
è Reputation is not what you want it to be but what others perceive.
o Spouse hopes for good marriage but how does other spouse view you?
o Parents want to be role models but what do their children see?
o Friends and acquaintances only know you through your words and deeds not your intentions.
o – – – > intentions are incomplete reflections of character
è Note that Christians were known as those belonging to “the Way”. Early Christians were not just culturally following a religious tradition but were counter cultural, going in an entirely different direction and living for a unique purpose for Jesus Christ. What is your way, passion, zeal, fanaticism?
9:3 “Now as he went on his way… suddenly a light from heaven flashed around”
While Christians followed THE WAY, Saul followed his own way – in the wrong direction away from God. Yet, God initiates contact with Saul.
#1 God is the initiator of every incident of pivotal circumstances (Acts 9:1-5)
The encounter that Saul has with God was entirely God’s initiative and pursuit of Saul. In fact it was in spite of Saul’s counter pursuit of God – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, Who are you Lord?”(Acts 9:4)
– God called Saul by name. He knows Saul’s life from birth (Ps 139:13; Jer 1:5), watches His actions (Proverbs 15:3), and is convicting Saul of his sin and calling him to trust in Christ.
o Similar to Adam (where are you? Gen 3:9), Moses (Ex 3:4-6), Samuel (“speak Lord, for your servant hears” 1Sam 3:10).
o Saul’s vision was not just a shining light but a view of the Savior & Lord Jesus. Later the emphasis will be on Saul’s seeing Jesus (Acts 9:5, 9:27, 22:8, 26:15; 1Cor 9:1; 1Cor 15:5-8).
Saul’s encounter with the Lord is a question, “Why are you persecuting me?”(Acts 9:4), “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).
Saul’s persecution of Christians was actually persecuting people. Jesus wanted Saul to see there was a different mission for his life. Saul kicked against the goads –farmers prodded animals with a goad (poking stick) and when the animal kicked back, its rebellion would result in further suffering of the goad being driven further in its flesh. Likewise, when we rebel against God we are missing His purpose for our life.
*Side note: the way we treat others is as though we treated Jesus (cf. Mat 25:40, 45).
o Imagine Saul’s surprise, shock, and shame
- Like a parent disciplining the wrong child
- Like a person getting to end of life alone and with deep regrets
o à Have you heard God’s voice? God is constantly speaking but are we listening? Saul was not taking time to listen to God’s voice in his life and so God had to knock him on his face and forced to see his own spiritual blindness (“falling to the ground” Acts 9:4, “Saul saw nothing and for three days was without sight” Acts 9:8))
o Why do we wait for a crisis in life before we sit still before the Lord? If we do not prioritize God then God will pause His favor and blessings.
o What is the ox goad God is using to poke and prod your life to hear and heed His voice?
#2 God uses pivotal circumstances to open our eyes to His mission (Acts 9:6, 15-16)
The purpose for God’s encounter with Saul was to redirect his life mission. Saul was not to stop but spread the gospel message.
9:6 “But rise and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.”
Sometimes God does not give you all the answers for your calling; yet we’re still called to obey.
9:15-16 “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.”
Most of us enjoy hearing God has a wonderful plan for our life but few, if any, embrace that God’s plan may involve hardship and suffering.
Yet, it was through Paul’s suffering that God spoke the loudest.
“[I’ve had] far more imprisonments, countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches… For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor 11:23-28; 12:10)
As Christians, we are called to let God use our mess for His mission. Saul’s (Paul’s) pivotal circumstances of his testimony in Acts 9 is repeated no less than 7 times in Scripture, as a testimony not to his own strength but rather his complete ignorance and weakness overshadowed by God’s great grace.
– Acts 9:1-9 Saul’s conversion
– Acts 9:27 Saul testimony to disciples
– Acts 22 Paul arrested & testifies before Jews
– Acts 26 Paul’s defense before Agrippa & Festus
– 1 Cor 9:1 “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”
– 1 Cor 15:8 “last of all He was seen by me also”
– Galatians 1-2 Paul confirming his apostleship
è God can change anyone: church brats, addicts/alcoholics, stubborn husbands, promiscuous daughters, failing parents, and even religious terrorists.
è When we meet God in a pivotal circumstance, it becomes an opportunity to share with others.
– Mary “for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49)
– Samaritan Woman “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29)
– Blind man “I was blind but now I see” (John 9:25)
– “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” Psalm 107:2
– à Commit to allowing your life for His mission and not your own. Life is a mission trip, take it.
#3 God uses pivotal circumstances to deepen our roots to His body (Acts 9:10-31).
Saul’s pivotal circumstance led to
– Faith (9:17)
o “Brother Saul”
o Ananias prays for Saul and helps him understand the gospel in order to receive the Holy Spirit.
o Saul meets disciples (9:19, 26, 30)
o Saul meets Barnabas (9:27)
o Saul testifies that Jesus was the Christ (9:22)
o Jews (outsiders) plot to kill Saul (9:23-24)
o Disciples (insiders) disbelieved Saul (9:26)
– Discipleship & Mentoring
o Barnabas and Disciples mentor Saul, who would become the greatest theologian and missionary.
è God gives pivotal circumstances for your personal faith and following Jesus. Yet, God uses the church to further instill the development and depth of your calling.
o African proverb: If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
o Church body functions best when all parts work together.
è In Acts, the early Christians lived as salt and light in the community but never to the exclusion of their faith community.
o Idea of a Christian not participating or serving in church community
o Idea of a Christian withdrawing from church so a person could focus on their other priorities.
There are defining moments, forks in the road, valleys of decision where you must choose to follow God’s way or your own wan.
– Paul: God uses “goads” to provoke you toward faith
– Ananias: God uses surprises for you to invest rather than withdraw from His activity in your life.
pivotal circumstance: PZ