We’ve been having Bible study at the Coffee Connection downtown for a couple months now and it seems we have a new set of people every week. We have been studying in Romans but it was time for a shift, so we read through most of Acts 9 last night. You know the chapter, the one that recalls Saul/Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
Saul was a very religious and intelligent man. Being a Hebrew of Hebrews, as he identified himself, he knew the scriptures and yet he didn’t even know Jesus when he spoke to him that day. Saul was on a tear locking up all who called upon the name of Jesus until Jesus himself confronted him. Suddenly Saul found himself on the ground blinded by a great light. He heard a voice asking him “Why are you persecuting me?” Of course Saul didn’t know what was going on and said, “Who are you?” I like how Jesus responded. He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!”I love how Jesus completely identifies with his followers.
As the story progresses God tells a man named Ananias to go and lay hands on Saul in order for him to regain his sight. Ananias had only heard bad things about Saul, and how he was mistreating and locking up Christians, so he wasn’t too excited about doing what God was telling him. In the end Ananias was obedient and went to pray and lay hands on Saul. Saul’s sight was regained, he was baptized, had a little something to eat and immediately began preaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Just like that he had been converted and immediately switched teams. Which led to his being persecuted just as Jesus said he would.
Sometimes it’s tough to see Christ in other people especially when seeing all of their faults comes so easily. Ananias only knew what he had heard about Saul and how mean and nasty he was, but God was calling him to look a bit deeper and see Christ in him. Sometimes we have a difficult time seeing through other peoples bad attitudes or disgruntled dispositions don’t we? Maybe we’ve been hurt by someone and now they’re claiming Christ has changed their life.
There are some who think having discernment means being able to see someone else’s sins or shortcomings. This simply isn’t true because even lost people can see that. True discernment is when you can see through those things and see Christ in them. While it may be difficult at first the Holy Spirit in us is longing for us to see what he sees. People’s lives aren’t changed because someone points out all of their faults. Real transformation takes place when we get them to focus on Christ in them. He is our hope of glory!
Later on in Acts 9 we read where Paul was now being threatened by the Jews, and the Christians were still a bit uneasy about him. He found himself on the outs with everyone until Barnabas came along. Barnabas came up beside him and introduced him to other believers assuring them Paul was on their side. So Barnabas was instrumental in the early days of Paul’s Christianity. He joined his faith and trust with Paul’s and encouraged him.
So which one are you? Are you Saul, full of anger and threats? Are you an Ananias, who does what God tells him even when he is unsure? Or are you a Barnabas that comes along beside someone to encourage them and introduce them to others?
There is never a shortage of drama at the Christian County Jail, but tonight was a little different. We are working our way through the book of Acts in our small group Bible study. After one of the guys read through the chapter my partner Brian Coatney suggested they put on a play about what we just read.
At first I wasn’t sure the guys were going to go for it, but once they agreed the rehearsals began. We usually meet in a gym so there is plenty of room. Brian and I moved over to one side and let them get together and discuss their parts. For about 30 minutes or so the five guys in Bible study stood with Bible’s in hand and discussed how to go about their presentation while Brian and I talked of other things.
As we waited for them to be ready I could see a guard in the control tower and it made me think about his perspective of what we were doing. All he could see was the five guys standing huddled together at the free throw line and the two teachers off by themselves talking. From his vantage point, and not knowing really what we were doing, I bet he thought to his self “What kind of Bible study is this?” The time finally came when the guys were ready for the play; so Brian and I turned to pay attention. You could feel the excitement and anticipation as one of them started to read as his job was narrating.
The first part had only three characters Jesus, Saul and Ananias. You could tell they wanted to really get into it when Jesus said in a low authoritarian voice “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul was kneeling on the floor covering his eyes from the effects of the great light that subsequently left him blinded. He said, “Who art thou, Lord?” as he looked up hesitantly. Meanwhile Ananias was getting ready to enter. As he laid his hands on Saul, so he might receive his sight, Saul took a little creative license as he rubbed his eyes he said, “Thank you Lord, Hallelujah!” which was met with a joyful response from the sold out capacity crowd of two.
As the scene shifted to the last half of the chapter and the new characters Peter, Aeneas, Tabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek, and some of the other widows, the excitement was growing. There was a little confusion as to who was who for a moment. Someone said, “You’re Aeneas aren’t you?” This was met with the reply “No, I’m the dead girl!” Of course anytime a full grown, obviously alive, man says, “No, I’m the dead girl!” it’s sure to provoke a laugh.
The dead girl Dorcas lay on a bench as Peter and the other widows played out the scene. The guy playing one of the other widows held out his hands to show Peter the garments Dorcas had created, but Peter wasn’t even looking that way. Just another one of those missed cue’s that makes for a great amateur play. As the play came to an end Peter turned to the others and said, “Ya’ll gotta get out” and with that he turned back to the dead girl, laid hands on him and helped her to his feet. As the narrator read “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord…” THE END
As Brian and I walked down the hall to leave he said, “This will be one of those things I’ll remember when I’m in the nursing home.” We talked about the play on the way home and had a great laugh. I know those men will remember it too, and I’m sure they now have an insight into Acts 9 that will never be taken from them. When it was all said and done I felt it was an honor to be one of the two audience members at the Christian County Jail’s production of Acts chapter 9.
Written by Louie
The man we commonly know as the Apostle Paul thought he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do. We find out in Acts 9 he was breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Yet, he thought this was what God wanted him to do, because he thought the followers of Jesus were blaspheming by claiming Jesus as God.
While on the way to Damascus to lock up Christians Paul, then Saul had a run in with the risen Christ. Saul was knocked off of his horse and blinded. Jesus questioned him saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Of course Saul’s response was, “Who are you Lord?” The Lord answered and said, “I am Jesus who you are persecuting: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks (goads).” Not only was Saul not doing what God wanted him to he was even hurting himself in the process.
When someone plowed with oxen they had a pointy stick or object with which they prodded the ox along to complete the task at hand. If the ox became stubborn or agitated they might kick back. The goad would be there and would pierce into their foot or leg and cause them pain, thus discouraging that kind of behavior. Here we see while Saul thought he was doing God’s will he was in fact fighting against him. It wasn’t going to turn out well for Saul if Jesus didn’t intervene.
Here in Acts 9 we read of Saul’s conversion. This is what true repentance looks like. He was on his way to lock up and mistreat Christians one minute and the next he was a Christian himself. Wow! That’s what God can and will do in someone’s life once the light comes on for them. Repentance means “to change one’s mind.” Saul (Paul) definitely changed his mind once he saw the error of his ways.
Later on when Paul was an older man writing what we call 2nd Timothy he shared with Timothy, a young minister, what he had learned throughout his life of being a chosen vessel for God. In 2 Timothy 2:25 Paul told Timothy in “meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” So Paul, the one who found it hard kicking against the goads, now instructs a young man named Timothy with the wisdom he has gained. Timothy is a young pastor and he is dealing with people just like the rest of us. There are people that are sometimes stubborn, sinful and prideful and you guessed it they are also in opposition to themselves. That is why God has to be the one to grant them repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and it isn’t something we can conjure up on our own it only comes with the light God sheds upon us.
Once we have come to see our thoughts and ways in light of God’s revelation we then turn from them and go a different direction. It isn’t until we see our viewpoints, ways and attitudes as sinful to us that we are willing to stop them. God will continue to shine the light our way but it isn’t until we see things his way that a change occurs. Until then we are just like Paul and the others that live our lives in opposition to God and subsequently oppose ourselves.
Written by Louie