Acts Series #16
Back to the Beginning:
When Church Was Church
A Crisis Of Belief
In his Best Selling Bible Study and Book, "Experiencing God", Dr. Henry Blackaby taught that
1) God is Always at Work Around Us
2) God Pursues a Love Relationship with Us
3) God Invites Us to Join him in his Work
5) God's invitation … leads you to a Crisis of Belief that requires Faith and Action
Heb 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
Dr. Blackaby says that
1. An Encounter with God requires faith
2. Encounters with God are God-sized
3. What you do in response to God's invitation reveals what you believe about God
4. True faith requires action
Our journey through Acts of Full of people facing a Crisis of Belief but we see it today in the story of Paul's Conversion
Read Acts 9:1-19
I see three pictures of this crisis of belief in the word today
I see an Unbelievable Message
An Unreachable Man
An Unwilling Witness …
Let's look at these 3 first
1. An Unbelievable Message
The grace of God through Jesus Christ is an unbelievable message
It is Foolishness
1 Cor 1:18-28
?18? For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ?19? For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
?20? Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? ?21? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. ?22? Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, ?23? but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, ?24? but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ?25? For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
?26? Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. ?27? But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. ?28? He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are,
When we hear the simplicity of the gospel, we want it to be harder than it is
We figure, as did Paul, that it must require MORE than simply to believe in and receive the gift of Grace through Christ
We want to embrace our own theology; whether it was the Law; the Old Covenant that Saul embraced, or it is our own theology of today
- "God will accept me if I'm a good person"
- "My good deeds will even things out"
- "It doesn't matter what I call 'God' it's all the same"
- "I'm not hurting anyone so I'm ok"
We have a tendency to fight for the right to believe whatever we want
So the Message of Jesus Christ brings us to a Crisis of Belief
What are the Ramifications if I abandon MY way for THE Way, Jesus?
Saul had never heard a message like the one Stephen and the Apostles preached
It MUST be blasphemy … but why SO Angry?
Because deep inside he thought this MIGHT be true …
And if it is … then everything in my life MUST change
Can I change my theology to embrace the Theology of Jesus Christ?
It is an unbelievable Message
1 Cor 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned
Grace, Grace, God's Grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, Grace, God's Grace
Grace that is greater than all our sin
The message of Jesus Christ is an Unbelievable Message and brings us to a Crisis of Belief
But in Saul from we find …
2. An Unreachable Man
Saul held the coats and gave approval when they killed Stephen
There is NO WAY that HE would be reached by the Gospel of Grace found in Jesus Christ
So, Peter and Andrew, James and John, followed Jesus, but Saul? Never. They were unschooled unlearned men, but Saul?
Saul was a Pharisee, trained by the great Jewish Pharisee Gamalial. He had devoted his whole life to the Law of Moses
He will never abandon this Doctrine for this new unbelievable message of Grace
Saul hates the Message,
he hates the followers of Jesus
he drags them to prison and has them beaten and killed
He is NOT reachable, so don't waste your time
Saul faced a Crisis of Belief
At Stephen's death,
at each imprisonment, he faced a crisis of belief,
do I believe in what I am doing?
On the Road to Damascus he was knocked down and blinded and spent 3 days in darkness … So Saul … NOW, what do you believe?
Maybe you are here today in the midst of a Crisis of Belief
Your system of beliefs have left you with greater doubts
Your wisdom has left you with more questions than answers
You have been plodding along trying to maintain your truth but it just doesn't feel right
You are at a crossroads, a Crisis of Belief, are you going to push ahead?
Are you going to turn right/left or
Are you going to Turn around?
Up is Down and Down is Up?
What if you are living upside down?
You may be making correct decisions based on faulty truth … and if so … you will NOT get what you expect
Saul was an unreachable man, maybe you have thought or others have thought that YOU were unreachable or someone you know is unreachable
But we also have a another guy here, someone we don't pay much attention to in this story usually
but someone I think WE relate to in the church more than anyone else and more than we would like to admit and that is Ananias
3. An Unwilling Witness
Have you ever been an unwilling witness?
God is about the business of redeeming the World to himself
In that great mission of Salvation and Grace, God in his wisdom has chosen to call us to join him
Jesus said: "Go, Teach, Baptize"
Jesus prophesied "you will be my powerful witnesses everywhere"
Jesus says "Go talk to THAT GUY"
"Go Witness to HER"
and sometimes we say … "NO"
We say "What IF …"
What we are saying is
"I don't Trust"
"I don't Love"
An Unwilling Witness has NOT failed to hear or understand, they just don't like what they have heard
What did God say … ?
To the House of Judas on Straight Street …
God why don't you be more clear about where you want me to go?
Saul of Tarsus is there praying …
Has seen you in a vision
Place your hands on him to restore sight
Well … why don't you be more clear on WHAT you want me to do
A. Fear - I'm Afraid
I have heard many reports
All the harm he has done (to your saints) God why would you want to mess with him?
He has come here with Authority … to arrest - God … what if he arrests me?
B. I Don't Trust -
I'm not sure God can take care of me
I don't know if that's really what God expects or wants
C. I Don't Love
I don't Love them
I don't Love God
Obedience is about LOVE
We may have an unbelievable Message - one that seems too good to believe
We may know Unreachable People
We may even be at time Unwilling Witnesses
But it's NOT all up to us, because in the midst of an Amazing unbelievable message
We have an
4. Unstoppable Grace
1 Cor 3:19,20 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "he catches the wise in their craftiness" 20 and again, "the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile"
1 Cor 1:18
?18? For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Can I remind you of
?1? The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
?2? for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
?3? Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
?4? He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
?5? He will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God his Savior.
?6? Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah
?7? Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
?8? Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
?9? Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
?10? Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty-
he is the King of glory. Selah
When it comes to the Grace of God who are WE to say who is Unreachable?
After All of his protesting God gives the invitation again …
V15 GO! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name
Unwilling became Willing
Unreachable became Reachable
Unbelievable became WONDERFULLY Believable and Simple
THEN Ananias WENT - Obedience
Obedience changes everything
… He said "Brother Saul, Jesus … has sent me so that you may see and be filled … Immediately … scales fell … he could see … was baptized
God is in the business of reaching the Unreachable through his Unstoppable Grace
Nebuchadnezzar was unreachable until he came face to face with the God of Daniel and was humbled and then said, "how great are his ways, how awesome his wonders, the strength of his Kingdom is enduring forever"
Cyrus was an unreachable pagan too who eventually testified to the greatness and wonder of Jehovah God
Zacchaeus was unreachable, a bitter little man, sold out to the Romans, yet Christ came to his house and his whole household came to Redemption through Christ
The Woman at the Well in Samaria was unreachable as a woman, as a Samaritan, as a Wayward Woman, she would never trust a man and surely not one out of Israel, yet she trusted Christ, drank from the Living Water, and brought her town to Christ
Jesus said in Luke 18:25-27
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God 26 those who heard this asked "who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus replied "what is impossible with men is possible with God"
The Eye of the Needle was an area of the wall where a Shepherd would let his sheep pass through one at a time and he would remove burrs and other impurities from their wool. But it was only big enough for one sheep at a time and definitely NOT big enough for a camel to pass through.
Jesus was saying that what is impossible for OTHER shepherds is NOT impossible for the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ.
He can even get the impossible camel past the gates, clean, pure, and acceptable before a Holy God
Is the Arm of the Lord too Short?
Isa 50:2 … was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into desert;
Isa 59:1-2; 19-20
Surely the arm of the Lord is NOT too SHORT to save nor his ear too dull to hear but your iniquities have separated you from your god … 19 from the west, men will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along 20 The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord
It is a Crisis of Belief
How Big is God?
Big Enough to Reach the Unreachable?
Well … then are we willing to Join him?
Abraham was willing so from an unbelievable source was born the line from which the Messiah would come
Joseph was an unlikely but willing source and his people were saved as was that part of the world through his God given wisdom and his obedience against unbelievable odds
Moses began as an unwilling, angry, and frightened invitee into the plan of Salvation for his people.
Yet, when willing to follow he became part of God setting his people free and the law given him was a picture of the sacrifice of Christ and gift of grace
David was willing to face an unbeatable enemy and live a life after God's own heart and from his household came the Messiah
A group of fisherman, husbands, fathers, a tax collector, and others were given the invitation to become Fishers of Men and they turned the World Upside Down with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Here - Ananias had every human expectation and right to be cautious, afraid, indifferent about Saul, even angry and unwilling,
But the Cross of Christ removes every reason
NOT to believe the message
NOT to believe that anyone is capable of being reached
And Any reason to be Unwilling to Join Him
Because of the Cross …
Love explains the Message of Grace
Love says anyone can come
Love says I MUST Join him
It is a Crisis of Belief
Can God save HOW he wants? Yes it is a Believable Message
Can God Save whomever will Respond in Faith whenever he will? Yes there is no person unreachable if they will respond to the Unstoppable Grace of God.
Can God USE whomever will Join him as a Willing Witness? Yes God and A Willing Witness responding to his invitation to Spread the Unstoppable Grace is an amazing thing
You stand at the Crossroads in a Crisis of Belief
You who are doubting the Message should take the Way of the Cross and Believe the Message of the Lord that Grace is available for you
You who are unwilling and believing that someone is Unreachable need to make the choice to believe that Love Compels you to Join God and reach out to the Unreachable with the message of Grace
It's Not about you,
It's not about them
It's not even about the message
It's about God, the Unstoppable Grace of God
Love Compels you to say "YES!"
Yes to the Message
Yes to Everyone who Needs to Hear
Yes to Join in his Mission of God of Unstoppable Grace