Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 10:38 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Will Uphold You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 22:1-21 (Select vv. ESV).
Paul knew, by going to Jerusalem, that he faced the possibility of much persecution and even death for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation. Yet, he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go, so he went. In Jerusalem he was beaten and arrested on false charges. On his way to the barracks, he asked the commander if he could speak. Permission was granted him, so he began to speak to the crowd. He told them how he used to persecute followers of The Way (of Christ and of his gospel) to their death. He told them that, on one occasion, he was on his way to Damascus to bring the followers of Christ back to Jerusalem to be punished. But, then…
Appointed for You (vv. 6-11)
“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
Paul met Jesus on his way to Damascus. This meeting altered the course of his life. He would no longer be a persecutor of Christians, but he would now be among the persecuted. He once tried to malign The Way, and to put to death the followers of Christ. Now he was to become a fierce proponent of the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ alone, and an encourager of the saints of Almighty God, and a great leader in the early church.
This is what it is like when we meet Jesus Christ during the course of our lives, while we are on the path of sin. If we put our faith and trust in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and to cleanse us from our sins, he will transform us like he transformed Saul, who then became Paul. We were following the way of the flesh, but now we follow the way of the Spirit.
When Paul was confronted with his Savior, he responded by asking who Jesus was. When he told him, Paul immediately asked what he was to do. He did not resist the Lord, or his voice, but he was willing and ready to obey. And, this is what our heart response should be to our Savior’s voice, as well. When we believe in Jesus, our hearts should want nothing more than to please him, to follow him, to obey him, and to go wherever he sends us.
In this account of Paul’s testimony, he stated that Jesus told him to “Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.” In chapter 26 of Acts we have yet another account of Paul sharing his testimony. In that account he specifically enumerated exactly all that he was appointed to do:
But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:16-18).
Although we are not all apostles of Jesus Christ and/or great leaders in the church, this is really the commission given to all of us, for we are all the Lord’s servants and witnesses, if we have believed on Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives. And, we are all commissioned with taking the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples of Christ of people of all nations, teaching them to obey Christ. And, Paul’s assignment here is just about the best summation of the gospel of Christ that I know of.
Basically, the message of the gospel is that, not only did Jesus die on a cross that we might be set free from slavery to sin, escape eternal punishment, and have the hope of eternal life with God, but he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:15, 21). Coming to faith in Jesus Christ means being turned from sin to righteousness, and from the power and control Satan had over our lives, to walk in surrender and obedience to our Lord God and Christ, Jesus. This happens in our lives in order that we might receive forgiveness of our sins, and a place among the saints of God. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sin. A saved life is a changed life in death to sin, and in being resurrected to new life in Christ Jesus.
Receive Your Sight (vv. 12-16)
“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Saul/Paul not only received physical sight, but he received spiritual sight, for his blinded eyes were now open, and he was turned from darkness to light, etc., that he might receive forgiveness of sins. This was a spiritual transformation of his heart accomplished by the Holy Spirit at work in his heart, as he cooperated fully with that work of grace in his life. He did nothing to earn or to deserve such a great salvation, and yet he had to willingly submit to the Lordship of Christ, and surrender to God’s will for his life, and obey what he was told to do in order that he would receive this eternal life and forgiveness of sins, and become one of the Lord’s followers, servants and witnesses.
So many people today are crying “works-based salvation” if we mention repentance or obedience in the context of God’s saving grace. And, yet, the Word of God teaches us that our faith in Christ means we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This doesn’t happen automatically. We have to put feet to our faith, and allow the Spirit of God to transform us from our old way of living for the flesh to the new way of the Spirit. And, we have to cooperate with the Spirit in submission to God’s will for our lives, and obey what the Lord says to do. If we are going to be the Lord’s witnesses, too, we have to open our mouths, and allow the Spirit to speak his words through us, and be sensitive to divine appointments, and be willing to speak when the Lord says, “Speak!”
Go! I am Sending You (vv. 17-21)
“When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
When God says “Go!” We need to go, for he has a very good reason for sending us wherever it is that he wants to send us. Sometimes it is because we are beating a dead horse where we are, i.e. the message of the gospel we are sharing is falling on deaf ears, and the people are not listening or they will not accept our testimony about Christ, or they may be fiercely opposing us. And, so, God sends us another place where at least some people will listen, who will respond to the message of salvation from sin via faith in Christ. And, yet, sometimes God says to stay, and to stand strong against all opposition, and to keep on speaking and not be silent, because God is going to use us, even if we can’t see the immediate results.
Either way, our Lord is always watching out for us. If he has a message he wants us to give out, he will make the way for it, and nothing will stop it. So, even if all looks hopeless, we just keep speaking, and we trust our Lord to use it for his glory in people’s lives. And, when opposition arises, we trust him to give us the words to say, and to know how to respond, and the wisdom to know when to stay and when to leave and to go someplace else.
I Will Uphold You / An Original Work / November 4, 2011
Based off of Isaiah 41:8-20; Ephesians 6:10-18
You are My servant; I’ve chosen you.
I’ve not rejected you; I’ve been true.
Do not be fearful; I am with you.
Don’t be alarmed, for I am your God.
I will give you strength, and will help you.
I will uphold you with My right hand.
All who’re against you will be disgraced.
Those who oppose you, they will perish.
Enemies you search, but will not find.
They war against you; nothing will be.
I am your Lord God, who takes your hand;
Says, “Do not fear, for I will help you.”
The poor and needy, water they need.
Their tongues are thirsty; no drop to drink.
I will give answer; not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow from within.
My living water I will outpour
On those who seek Me; and Me adore.
Jesus provided the sacrifice;
For our sins blood bought; He paid the price,
So we’re forgiven all of our sins,
When we invite Him to come within.
He cleanses us from our impure hearts.
His life within us gives a new start.