Hello, and welcome to Friday’s podcast. It’s been wonderful to journey with you through the Bible this week. Tom picks up the baton next week and I for one am really excited to hear what God has got to say to us as we continue to dig into Acts.
We’ve been considering this week what it means to witness, to show Jesus to those around us. Drawing this all together let me ask each of us listening today a question: Who do we say Jesus is?
Our passage today is Acts 9:1-9; we are going to focus on verses 3-6:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven 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.”
Today’s passage is surely one of the most well known parts of Acts – the conversion of Saul. It’s an amazing story – you can hear it read out in full at the end of this podcast. And it’s amazing because Saul, this man who is right at the heart of this movement to drive Christianity out, has this intense and incredible encounter with the resurrected Jesus. So much so that he ends up being temporarily blinded and unable to eat or drink. His name is changed from Saul to Paul. He goes from being a persecutor of Christians to a prolific church planter. It’s simply an incredible story of forgiveness, transformation and hope.
And at the heart of it – there is this moment where Saul is blinded by what is described as a ‘light from heaven’. It’s like that moment when you step out of a really dark room, like when you go to the cinema and you step back out into daylight. It’s so bright in contrast to where you have been that it takes a few moments for your pupils to dilate, your eyes to re-adjust and for you get your bearings.
For Saul this moment on the Damascus road was that moment of spiritual re-calibration. The moment his view of God was suddenly changed forever. The moment where Saul experienced the power, the awesomeness of God as he heard the voice of the risen Jesus speak – ‘I am Jesus, why are you persecuting me?’ In that moment, Saul’s view of who God was/is – it was completely reset. See, Saul thought he understood who God was. Scholars would say he was a devout Jew, a Pharisee, an expert in the Law and the Prophets, a chief Hebrew amongst Hebrews. This was a guy who thought he knew everything there was to know about God. Who had spent his whole life searching for this God, trying to behave in such a way that he thought would please God, living his whole life in accordance to his view of the law God had given his people. And yet he had got it so wrong. Something had to change and on that Damascus road, it did! God turned up and Saul encountered a God who was so different, so other to who he thought God was – that everything suddenly changed forever. He experienced the grace and the power of God in the person of the risen Jesus. The rest, as they say, is history.
Already this year on the podcast, in our sermon series and through the Grow Project, we’ve been encouraged to think about our God story – that point in our lives when we discovered Jesus and how our lives have changed as a result. These are things we should continually come back to and reflect upon on. As I was sharing with our youth team recently, we need to embrace our story. All of us have one and no one can take it away. Our story is God given and deeply powerful. It’s unique to us and yet in his wisdom God places people around us whom it will connect to… if only we would take the opportunity to share it. Hopefully these podcasts are encouraging us to do just that.
And at the heart of each of our God stories, we’ll have in one way or another asked ourselves this question: Who do we say God is? It’s an important question to ask because how we view God defines how we witness for God. We can only tell people about what we have seen or experienced for it to be authentic, lived out and real.
So this day and in the weeks ahead, let’s look to seek God more earnestly, let’s mine out the scriptures, devote more of our time to prayer and invite him into our lives afresh. Let’s ask him to reveal Himself to us again. To gives us a bigger and fuller picture of who God is and a renewed confidence to go out and tell our story of his great story to a world that so desperately needs to hear and experience the reality of who our God is.
God, thank you that we have a story of where you revealed yourself to us. We pray that this day and in the weeks ahead that as we seek your face through the word, through prayer, through our times wrestling with our faith in community, that we would experience and know you afresh. That we would not just have a story of where we’ve experienced you in the past but a story of God revealing more and more of himself to us in the present. We pray that you would give us the confidence and conviction to share our story, that journey with those we connect with. May we be your witnesses. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
READING: Acts 9:1-9
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out 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 who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven 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 travelling 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 anything.