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Transformed
Acts 9:1-9 NASB

 

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, [2] and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. [3] And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; [4] and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" [5] And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, [6] but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do." [7] And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. [8] And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. [9] And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 
 

Few people's lives illustrate the word "transformation" like Saul of Tarsus. 

Before his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, Saul was the poster child for Judaism. If they had elections for that sort of thing, Saul's peers would surely elect him as the "Most Valuable Member" at his Synagogue. They would do so because of his pedigree and his zeal. 

Paul did not convert to Judaism, he was born into the faith. In fact, as a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the aristocracy of the Race. Benjamin was the son of Jacob's old age from his favorite wife Rachel. He was Jacob's favorite son and his descendants lived their life with a special pride in their ancestry. Saul was as proud to be a Benjamite as an American would be proud to discover they descended from George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Saul had more reasons to be proud than his lineage, he was a righteous man. From a child, Saul was raised to be righteous. His parents circumcised him on the eighth day, just as the law prescribed, and unlike other Jews who became Hellenized under the reign of Rome, his family retained the distinction of speaking Hebrew, their mother tongue. They were "Hebrews of Hebrews."

As Saul matured, he became a Pharisee. Because of the conflicts Jesus had with the Pharisees, we often have a negative connotation about Pharisees. But to a Jew, there was not a higher goal to attain than to be a Pharisee. They were "separatists," adherents of the law who sought to live blameless lives before God. During Saul's time, they were about 6000 strong in Jerusalem, the largest and most influential religious party within Judaism. Saul was blameless in matters of the law. In other words, Saul wasn't just a "blue blood," or a person with pedigree, he was living out his destiny, to be the best Jew he could be.

Not only was he living out his destiny, Saul was zealous to destroy those who would threaten the way of life he was born into, he devoted his life to destroying those who perverted Judaism with claims that the Messiah came, was crucified and rose from the dead.

One afternoon, Saul was traveling to Damascus to round up any people belonging to "the way," bind them and bring them back to Jerusalem where they would receive a fair trial before they were executed. On the road, he didn't meet anyone belonging to "the way," but he did meet someone who claimed to be "the way, the truth and the life"-he met the resurrected Lord. 

A bright light-the bright and morning star-blinded him, and Saul dropped to the ground. Disoriented, Saul heard a voice from heaven asking why he was persecuting Him. 

Saul would never be the same. The blinding light, helped him to really see. Saul left his life as a Pharisee and converted to "the way." Before he died for his faith, he became a church planter, establishing the very churches he worked so hard to destroy.

His life was transformed. In an instant.

Sometimes, that's the way it works. God turns a person's life around instantaneously. That's what happened with Craig.

Actually, Craig's name could have been named Leroy Brown, because he was the baddest man in his whole town. Craig didn't just use drugs. He didn't just sell drugs, Craig was a drug enforcer-the guy that collects money from dealers who don't pay the supplier. He was one bad dude.

Craig lived on the outskirts of town with his wife and three children in a 24-foot travel trailer. When his children made a decision for Christ, Pastor Richard came out to his trailer to see if he could baptize them. Craig refused to come outside to talk to the preacher, so Richard asked if he could come inside.

Craig was wearing dirty blue jeans, had long greasy hair, tattoos all over his body and a permanent scowl on his face. This has got to be the meanest man I've ever seen, the pastor thought, what am I doing here? There was no place for the Pastor to sit. Craig sat in his chair and the preacher stood.

Pastor Richard worked up his courage and said, "Your children made a decision for Christ down at the church this week and we'd like to baptize them." Craig's answer was short, but not so sweet, "No, we're Catholic." 

We'll, that's that, the Pastor thought as he left the trailer. But Richard didn't give up. Instead he developed a friendship with Craig. 

A few weeks into the friendship, Richard shared the plan of salvation with Craig. Craig's answer was "no," but he did agree to let his kids be baptized.

Richard didn't stop trying.

It took some doing, but Richard convinced his buddy Craig to go to a Promise Keepers event with him in Stockton, CA. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, "bad, bad Leroy Brown" gave his life to Jesus. That was on a Friday, the next Sunday, Pastor Richard baptized him.

"Everybody knows what he was," Richard said, "and now nobody can believe what he's become." Today he's clean and sober, has a legitimate job and always has a big smile on his face. Everywhere he goes, he talks about Jesus. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

His life was permanently transformed, by the same one who confronted Saul on the road to Damascus.

Just like He did with "Judy."

Judy slipped into the service late and took a back row seat in the small church on Hilton Head Island. Her cheeks were hollow, her skin was leathery and she had a distant look in her eyes-like nobody was home. Judy looked old for her age. Years of drug abuse robbed the twenty-six-year-old of her youth and vitality. She needed help, so she turned to the Lord. At first, she fidgeted in her seat, but soon, she sat still and listened.

When Christ saved her, He turned her life around. She didn't just forsake her past lifestyle, she began ministering to those she knew from her former life. The first person she led to the Lord was someone she introduced to drugs in her "other" life.

I wish, I could tell you that Judy is busy spreading the gospel today, but I can't. Eight months after her conversion, she died in a tragic accident. She shared her small bed room with her Saint Bernard dog. The dog, and her space heater used up all the available oxygen in the room and she died in her sleep.

Her death, tragic as it was, was not it vain. "At the funeral," her pastor said, "homosexuals and drug addicts attended. Her death opened the door for us to minister to her friends at the funeral and afterward." (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

The Apostle Paul wrote: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philip. 1:21 KJV) For the eight months Judy lived after her conversion, it was for Christ, and we she died, she gained an inheritance that was fit for a child of the king.

The transforming power of the resurrection can turn a persecutor of the church into a church planter and a drug enforcer into a spiritual man who prays with others, and a person who gets people hooked on drugs into a person who gets people hooked on Jesus.

And sometimes that transformation takes place in an instant. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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