Monday, May 18, 2020

First Church 3 - A Visionary Church Acts 9

First Church: Seeing Christ

Text: Acts 9

Video Link

Introduction: I am told that the following is a true story it happened about several years ago at a United Airline terminal in Sacramento while the play was making a connection from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Due to the press created by the event United Airlines was forced to make a public announcement on the local news to clear up the matter. 

Here is the incident in the words of a man who witnessed it. “I was flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  By the time we took off, there had been a 45-minute delay and everybody on board was ticked. Unexpectedly, we stopped in Sacramento on the way.  The flight attendant explained that there would be another 45-minute delay, and if we wanted to get off the aircraft, we would reboard in 30 minutes.
Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman who was blind.  I noticed him as I walked by and could tell he had flown before because his Seeing Eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of him throughout the entire flight.  I could also tell he had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached him and, calling him by name, said, "Keith, we're in Sacramento for almost an hour.  Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?" Keith replied, "No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs."

Now picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot, wearing his Ray Ban dark sunglasses, walk off the plane with the Seeing Eye dog!  People began to run to the ticket counters. They not only tried to change planes, they also were trying to change airlines!

No one had to tell the passengers the importance of vision for the pilot of the plane.  Without vision no plane can fly and no churh can a flourish and grow. Go with me to Acts 9 and look a the role vision played in the life of Paul. I believe, what made Paul the man and servant of God that he was, came from his vision of Christ.

The Sight  Acts 9:1-5

Acts 9:1  And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2  And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven  4  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Saul (Paul) Sees Jesus


He fell to the ground in the glory of the vision of Jesus.
Saul’s Vision of Jesus Christ on the Damascus road changed everything, it changed Saul ultimately into Paul, it changed the church from surviving in Jerusalem to thriving in all the known world, it ultimately would change the world itself as Paul’s life and message were recorded by Luke and Paul’s own letters which the Holy Spirit inspired into scripture, doctrine and discipline.
Quote: Oswald Chambers, “The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was not a passing emotional experience, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him. Our Lord said to Paul, in effect, "Your whole life is to be overpowered or subdued by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine."
That day Paul, was not given not just a message or a doctrine to proclaim. He was brought into a vivid, personal, overpowering relationship with Jesus Christ. There would be nothing there without that vision and personal relationship. Paul was then devoted to a Person, not just to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ's. He saw nothing else and he lived for nothing else but to tell others of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Philippians 3:8-10  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Seeing The Savior

We need to see Jesus today, no not with our physical sight, nor some ecstatic utterances or a prophetic revelations. The vision we need in our church and in our lives today is to see Jesus Christ with the eyes of our faith and the sight of our heart, because unless I see Jesus dying on the cross for my sin, there can be no salvation. Unless I see Jesus walking before me as guide in life, I will not live faithfully. Unless I see Jesus at the end of the church aisle waiting for me to respond to His invitation, I will not give my life in service to Him.

We must see and hear Jesus, it may not be as dramatic or historic as Paul’s vision but it must be just as real as Paul’s vision. I must see Jesus impacting my life and directing my path or I will not have what I must have to really serve Him.

Illustration: Billy Sunday Converted Baseball Player

One Sunday afternoon in Chicago, a group of ballplayers entered a saloon. When they emerged, they saw a group of people playing instruments, singing gospel hymns, and testifying of Christ’s power to save from sin.

Memories of a log cabin in Iowa, an old church, and a godly mother raced through the mind of one of the ballplayers. Tears came to his eyes. Presently he said, “Boys, I’m through! I’m going to turn to Jesus Christ. We’ve come to the parting of the ways.” Some of his companions mocked him, but others were silent. Only one encouraged him. He turned from the group and entered the Pacific Garden Mission.

Later the ballplayer told what occurred. “I called upon God’s mercy. I staggered out of my sins into the outstretched arms of the Savior. I became instantly a new creature in Him!
That ballplayer was Billy Sunday the most influential evangelist from the 1890s to the 1930s. He thundered against evil from the Gay Nineties, the roaring 20’s and the speakeasy’s of the Great Depression. He would say, “I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. When I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition.”

Transition: Paul saw Jesus but the vision was just the beginning of Paul’s experience. It was not enough to see Jesus, he also had to surrender to Jesus. 

The Surrender  Acts 9:6-9

6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.  7  And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.  8  And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.  9  And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 

Saul (Paul) submits to Jesus

He did not fully understand but he did fully submit. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
He had no others share his vision but he still obeyed the Lord’s direction.  “Arise and go into the city.”
He was changed physically, emotionally and spiritually by the vision of Jesus. He lost his sight of this world, he lost appetite for the things of this world and he began to pray, seeking the things of the next world, where Jesus appeared to him.

Seeing is Surrendering

Do we Jesus when we come to church?  Do we hear his voice in the message?  Do we see His supernatural work in the changed lives around us?
If we don’t see Jesus power in the events of our life, it may be because we have not taken the next step after seeing our vision of Jesus. We have not fully surrendered to His will and way. We have seen Him, we may have even been saved by Him, but we have not yet submitted to Him and without that surrender, our vision of Jesus will begin to fade in the world around us.
We must submit and we must serve, because if we have seen Jesus, then it is our service that will show others that same vision of our Lord and Savior.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Eph 1: 22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
If the lost are going to see Jesus in their lives it must be the body of Christ on earth, the assembly of the firstborn, the pillar and ground of the truth, that show them Jesus.
When we really see Jesus, then like Paul it will not matter if we understand everything but we will still dedicate ourselves to service. We will be blind to this world but we will see what Jesus wants us to see. We will not need others to go with us, we   our lifehimwill obey because we have seen Jesus. We will lose our desires for the things of this world and we will wait on the Lord.
Seeing the Lord, must always be followed by surrender to the Lord. 

Illustration: Isaiah’s Vision Brings Isaiah’s Surrender

Isaiah 6:1-8 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.  And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.  Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.  Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:  And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

So it was and is with all those who see the Lord, sight must bring surrender and so it must also be in our lives and in our church. If we have seen Him then we must submit to Him.
Transition: Paul saw a vision of Jesus that day, but if you don’t look closely you may miss another vision in the passage, the vision that Jesus saw in Paul.

The Service and the Suffering - Acts 9:10-16

 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.  And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,  And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.  Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:  And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

Jesus Sees a Vision of Paul

Jesus told Ananais that we would show Paul another vision. This was not a vision of Himself to Paul but a vision of Paul. A vision of a man shaped and formed in the fires of sevice and suffering for the cause of Christ.

Paul’s vision of Jesus on the Damacus Road that day, changed him. It drove him to his knees in surrender to the Lord, and it would drive him much, much further than he could ever have imagined. He would travel the world on Roman roads and sail in Roman ships preaching the Gospel of the Resurrected Christ. He would preach to Jews in their synagauges, to Gentiles in the market places and to King in their palaces. He would serve greatly and in that service he would also suffer greatly and he would be changed even more.

Paul recounts some of what he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:23 as he defends his commission from the Lord against other Christians who were attacking Him.

2 Corinthians 11:23-30  Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?  If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

Paul in his service and suffering was shaped and molded until he became the vision that Jesus saw in him when he struck him down on thet Damascus road.  In the last letter Paul is know to have written he now sees the vision that Jesus had of Saul who would become Paul all those years ago.

2 Timothy 4:6-8  For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Becoming What Jesus Sees In Us

Have you ever thought of the person Jesus sees us to be?
Let me tell you about my 6th Grade Teacher, Mrs. Trojanovich. LeeOra and I grew up in Miami, Arizona a small copper mining town that back in the 1900s had been the most important copper producer in the United States. Because there was such a huge operation they needed lots of workers and they imported them from place like Crotian, Wales, Cornwall, and Yugoslavia. We grew up with family that had names like Gergovich, Tabor, Jonovich, Vucsonovich and Cole. Not to mention Sanchez, Moreno and Padilla. One of my teachers was Mrs. Trojonvich and yes she was a tough as her name sounds. Mrs. Trojonovich left a lasting impression on me as all good teachers do, but this was in one particual instance after I had turned in a notebook that was the minimum required to get a C. I got my notebook back and she had put a big red “C” on the front cover and then she wrote. “Kris, when will you begin to live up to your potential?” I realized in reading that reprimand that Mrs. Trojovich saw in me more than I saw in myself.

Don’t you know that Jesus sees in us more than we see in ourselves? Jesus see what we can be if we would only surrender and serve. Yes He also see that we will suffer in that service but His vision of us, can only be molded through the experiences of sorrow, pain and even loss.
We must decide if we will we let the Lord, beat and shatter, melt and mold, shape and mend us until we become the vision He sees in us?
Paul seems to look back at his Damascus Road Vision and then to see beyond it to the vision of Christ for him in …

2 Corinthians 4:6-18  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.  So then death worketh in us, but life in you.   We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;  Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Paul says all we have suffered, all we have lost, all we have wept over and been beaten and humiliated for is nothing, it is but “a light affliction.” Nothing more than a skinned knee or bruised arm. He says it is nothing because he has seen the final vision of Christ for him, of “a far more and more exceeding, eternal weight of glory.”

Paul is saying, “The burden of suffering I carry here is worth it because in comparison to the burdern of eternal glory I also carry, it is nothing.

Paul did all he could to live up to the vision, the potential that Jesus saw in Him. I pray that everyday we strive to do that in our own service to the Lord. “Fulfill the potential, Jesus sees in everyone of His disciples.”

Conclusion: Be Thou My Vision

Perhaps the oldest hymn still being sung today dates back to 700 AD. It is an old Irish Hymn originally written in Gaelic and translated in 1905 into English.  It is noteworthy that such an enduring hymn is about seeing Jesus Christ.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

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