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September 19, 2018, 7:37 AM

When The Lord Works...

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“He began to preach… the Jews conspired to kill him” (Acts 9:20, 23).

Saul’s preaching would become one of the mightiest instruments employed by God for the establishment of Christianity in the world. Reading Acts 9:19-25, where that ministry begins, is like standing at the source of a winding river that will gather force as it moves to merge with the ocean. Such an exciting career could not have begun peacefully. Saul’s ministry was strongly opposed from the beginning. When the Lord works, the devil gets busy. Two things are evident in this passage:

1. The Lord’s work – an astonishing conversion: “All those who heard him were astonished” (v. 21). The Lord Jesus split Saul’s life in two parts, just as He has divided all history. There was Saul, B.C. – Saul the persecutor. No one ever hated Christianity more intensely or assaulted it more violently. He is well described as “the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name” (v. 21). The Christians at Damascus knew that Saul had journeyed there “to take them prisoners.” But instead Saul had been taken captive by Jesus! There was also Saul, A.D. – Saul the preacher. Recovered from blindness and filled with the Spirit, “at once he began to preach in the synagogues” (v. 20). He came to persecute and stayed to preach. Saul’s message: “Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 20). Who Jesus is, uniquely God’s Son, and what Jesus does, deliver men from sin – this is the whole burden of Saul’s earliest preaching. It’s the message the world needs most! Saul’s method: “proving.” He reasoned and persuaded, proving from Scripture, the only formal source of authority his hearers would acknowledge, and proving from experience, for only the risen Jesus could have produced such change in Saul. From persecutor to preacher, murderer to missionary, hater to lover, this was Saul’s astonishing conversion. Jesus Christ can effectively transform every sinful life yielded to His Lordship.

2. The devil’s work – a not-so-astonishing conspiracy: “The Jews conspired to kill him” (v. 23. Sadly, this reaction was not so astonishing because (a) they had killed the Master, they would have no qualm killing His servant; (b) human nature, under the domination of sin, seeks to destroy whom it cannot intimidate, as Saul’s own B.C. career so bloodily demonstrated. Christians must expect trouble. When you become a captive of Christ and a witness of grace, the devil will oppose you tooth and nail. Evil can be persistent. “Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him” (v. 24). But when God wills to deliver, a way forward can be found. When the devil closes the gate, God can open a window. Saul was “lowered… in a basket through an opening in the wall” (v. 25). The converted life and initiated ministry would be left free to bear fruit in other places.

Therefore, from this passage two vital lessons emerge. (1) To know Christ is to make Him known! “At once he began to preach.” The instinct of the redeemed is to tell about the Redeemer. (2) To proclaim Christ is to provoke the devil. “The Jews conspired to kill him.” The devil doesn’t want any gospel work going on. He will try to stop it any way possible. He will even use well-meaning religious folks to stop God’s agenda. It boils down to this – we are in a war! Whose side are you on today?

Let’s pray: Speak, Lord, for your servant hears. Grant me ears to hear, eyes to see, a will to obey, a heart to love; then declare what you will, reveal what you will, command what you will. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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