We’re gonna talk about something this morning, something that Joe talked about last week with the conversion of Saul in acts chapter nine, and it’s something where Paul or Saul, and I know I’m gonna say Paul Saul, cuz he’s right in the midst of changing his name soon. There’s something that happens to this man that was different than minor tweaks, different than just getting through something happened that changed everything.
And he was changed by the very presence of God by way of review. Just wanna mention this before we get to our passage to place it in context. The what happens in the book of acts, we looked at acts one eight, acts one eight is kind of the thesis statement for the entirety of the book of acts. As you’ll receive power.
When the holy spirit comes upon you be my witnesses and Jerusalem, Judea, and also marry into the ends of the earth. The rest of the book of acts unpacks. This statement of Jesus. This is why the book of acts is so much about Paul. So much about Peter Philip and other guys. And like, there are so many things going on, but fundamentally this is a book about Jesus living out though acts one eight in the first season or first seven chapters, we looked at what was happening in Jerusalem and this now in the second season, There’s three different storylines happening as the, the gospel begins to expand.
And we see, uh, Philip, we looked at a couple weeks ago, saw, um, turning into Paul is happening this week and last, and then also Peter will be coming in next week as what’s happening is the church is beginning to expand according to the mandate of Christ in acts one eight. And then we’ll see in season three, going to the outermost parts of the earth this morning, we pick up with Paul, right?
As he has had his conversion experience. I’m just gonna call him Paul. I just, I’m just gonna get that outta the way, cuz I know I’m, I’m gonna say the wrong name. So we’ll just go with Paul cuz that’s who he ends up. As we pick up with Paul, after his encounter with Christ in Damascus, this is the fruit.
This is what happened to him after being in the presence of Christ gonna be reading. Versus, uh, starting at the second half of 19 and going to verse 31, this is acts chapter nine. For some days, he was with the disciples at Damascus, and immediately he is talking about Paul proclaimed Jesus in the synagogue saying he is the son of God.
And all who heard were amazed and said, is this not the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those called upon his name? And has he not come here for this purpose to bring them bound before the chief priest, but saw increased all the more and strength and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
While many days had passed the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot had become known to solve. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him. But his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples and they were all afraid of him for, they did not believe he was a disciple, but Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, declared to them.
How on the road, he has seen the Lord who spoke to him and how at Damascus, he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went out among all them at Jerusalem, preaching, boldly the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the heist, but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, again, according to the acts one, a prophecy had. And was being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the holy spirit, they multiplied father. We come before you this morning in gratitude. We come before you thankful for a chance to be in this place.
We know there are people in this room that feel very at home right now. This is a safe place, a comfortable place, a place where they’ve wanted to be during this week. People also in this room who don’t feel comfortable, who are disconcerted with the travails of life are confused with doubts are hurt by people who proclaim you.
And this can be a, either safe. This place is both a safe and scary place to different people this morning. we thank you for a chance to come. And once you remind them that each is welcome Jesus name, amen. Amen. Four things. I want to bring your attention to. Um, simply coming from, as I looked at this passage, the thing that I was most impressed with is what this experience in Damascus road had on Paul.
This moment that, um, Paul had saw them, Paul had on the road to Damascus, literally changed everything. And simply, I, I wanna look at four different things where I can see how being in the presence of God himself makes a profound impact on the life of a person. First thing is the amount of power that comes from the presence of God.
There’s a couple words in here. Verse 21. After they have seen what has happened to Paul, they come and they, they, they, they are astonished verse 21, verse 22. Then they are baffled. This is not a minor surprise to see this person having this incredible turn of events. Joe said this last week, he said today, we hear of the most triumphant days in all of church history.
One of the most triumphant days when Sal of Tarus meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. When the man who was persecuting, the church becomes God’s chief instrument of. Furthering a church. And this is what Joe said all in a moment. The transition that Paul has is an instantaneous one. It is not a long cognitive intellectual wrestling that eventually he, he turns, this is a profound moment.
And the reason is why is because he was in the very presence of Jesus, God of the universe. And you’ll remember the story that we talked about last week on the road to Damascus. He is absolutely floored by a light that is brighter than the, the Noonday sun and all of a sudden he rises out and, and here’s this voice, why are you persecuting me?
And, and SA responds with this. Who are you Lord, as in, I don’t know your name, but I know you are God. And he says, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. That moment for him was the moment that he moved the presence of the presence of God. Changed had the power to change everything for this man acts 22. And then in acts 26, we, we see that Paul was actually, um, arrested and in those passages, uh, Paul goes back and in order to prove the faith, this is a highly intellectual man who knows, uh, who is highly educated, but in order to prove the faith to his witnesses, what does he do?
He goes back and tells this story. This story that is repeated in X nine is in X 22 and act 26. Why? Because this moment more than anything else is what changes Paul forever sociologist for years have been asking the question of the power of culture over individual lives, culture we know and understand, and maybe don’t even completely understand the tremendous impact that it has on ITU.
Each of us, all culture. Right. American culture, Indonesian culture, 21st century culture middle-aged culture, sports culture, art culture, Christian culture, Muslim culture culture has an influence on people. A tremendous amount of mostly slow and immersive influence. This transformation was not one of slow cultural experience.
This is what we are talking about here is not when someone learns how to behave in church or slowly learns the values of Bible through time. This transformation happens because of what Jesus Christ does in a life by his presence. John 9 25. There’s a blind man. Who’s healed by Jesus. And everyone’s in a tizzy walking around, figuring out what happened.
What’s going on. They come to blind, man, like, who did this? Did he do it right? Is he, is he doing it in a right way? And all these questions? And I love this simple answer by the blind man and John 9 25. He, he answered whether he is a sinner. I do not know one thing. I do know I was blind. And now I see that’s the encounter that Paul has had.
It is simply the presence of God that changed everything. Someone close to me that talks about their frustration of not having the gift of faith grew up in the church. I grew up in a church, uh, learned the good things of church. Listened to the music. Saw the Kirk Cameron specials was a paid employee by a church.
Went through the motions, listened to the lessons, said the prayers baptized behaved. Well, someone in this person wants nothing to do with anything of the Christian faith. And in talking to this person, the, the statement is, is said, like I’ve experienced it all and I don’t want it. I don’t believe it. My passion for this person is simply not, oh, I wish they could have heard one more good lesson.
I wish they would’ve heard one more clever ontological argument, but simply I wish that in the midst of all of that, they knew him because this whole. Of church and all of its accruments, most of them beautiful. Simply comes down to, we are a people who need the presence of God himself. And if we dress it up from there, that is fine.
As long as we keep the core of our faith and practice to be about simply knowing him, this is the greatest thing we have, not our systems, our programs, our staff, our authors, it’s him himself transformation will never be a clever advertising campaign. It is experiencing Jesus Christ personally for that is where the power ultimately is.
second thing. The presence of God in Jesus Christ does the type of energy that comes from the presence of God, the type of energy, uh, Paul Paul changed. And this is what I wanna say. Paul changed from having against energy to energy. Paul starts, he is hunting down this disease of Jesus. He is in the text breathing threats.
Literally it says in the beginning after 99, he’s breathing threats, his very breath. He’s wanting to threaten this church. He hates it so much. He’s going from neighboring towns. He’s traveling as Joe talked about last week, all the way, great distances to far away towns, to strangle out this disease, frantically trying to stop this Jesus movement.
He goes from that energy to what type of energy, energy that’s for. It would take months, if not years, to convince many different people that Paul was actually genuine. He, this is the leader of the persecuted church and, and, and he had a force this exa against energy that was so vicious that for him to transform to before just didn’t seem possible.
I think against energy is sourced in fear and control for energy is mobilized by trust and love. And honestly only makes sense. If you have a powerful God on your side, there’s something that happens inside of me, because guess what? I’ve got against energy. And I got four energy, just like all of us do.
There are times when I see things I am so against and, and, and I get so frustrated, right. It. And, but there’s often times when I’m like mobilized against the things. I just can’t stand that I have urgency, desperation, hurry. Everything is on the line. But so often a scripture comes to my mind in Romans and it’s Jesus only, almost always brings this to mind when I’m not practicing it.
still hasn’t used it to affirm my practice. He says this in Rome where Paul says this in Roman says don’t be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good. Don’t spend all your time trying to clean up, trying to convince, trying to determine and, and change all the bad stuff. Invest your energy in the good things.
Spend your time there. The movement of the spirit listen to the movement of the spirit is love. Joy, peace, patience. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. These are things we are moving forward. The things of Jesus, not wasting our time, trying to strangle out things. And aren’t the, the mark of a person living in the presence of God is, um, a, a phrase I’m borrowing from the book brother, Lawrence, which I’ll mention later to called practicing the presence of God.
It’s a tranquility of spirit. It’s not scared. It’s not handwringing, there’s another book. That means a lot to me. It’s by James Davidson hunter who writes the, the title of the book is called to change the world. And he takes a deep look at what actually creates. Uh, change in people and in movements. And, and he says like, like any, any type of movement, I think we always think power changes.
So we have to get in power. And so then we can change everything. But his contention through looking at this very extensively is that actually, if you want to be involved in changing the world, it’s two words that make the difference. Faithful presence, faithful presence, faithfully moving forward, the things of God, faithfully for things, be known not by what
we are every day. Faithfully for presence of God makes more impact in Paul. I call this the, the directional movement of the presence of God. We see that Paul had lost so many things. He lost power, lost financial backing. He lost national support, religious admiration, leadership, and respect from amongst his friends and colleagues and partnership with Rome.
Honestly, we see this in Philippians three, Paul had it made his career was made. His future was made. He had his own niche and he was a young man becoming extremely powerful. He had much to lose by, by leaving and by leaving where he was to where he would be. And we can see how much he lost because the very people who were his comrades and arms are the very people in our passage that turn and want him dead.
They want him to stop, but he was in charge of this movement. He was moving forward in it. But his, the directional movement that he had up rising up is turned around in the presence of God. And you’ve probably, if you heard me speak, you’ve probably heard me say this. I, I can’t believe, I, I believe firmly that spiritual growth, the direction of growth is not up, but it’s down that the, the way of Christ is the downward way.
It is the way of service. It is the way of, of letting go of ego. It is the way of, of releasing. And not that God doesn’t put people in leadership and God doesn’t call people to be leaders. And I’m not saying that whatsoever, but what I am saying is the internal direction of someone who living in the presence of God is someone who doesn’t try to be him.
as someone who’s really, really content with God being God and I’ll play whatever role you need me to play. It is the downward way. This man who is steeped in power, financial backing ation was a rising star, but the presence of Jesus changed his direction. In a moment, the presence of God moves us to trust and vulnerability.
Spiritual transformation in the presence of God is downward from the passage. We see the vulnerability that he would have, right. Immediately. He’s being accused by who everyone, the team of the, the Jewish people that were wanting him to squelch out the church. Now they hate him. Now, the people over here who are a part of the church, they disbelief.
he was an incredibly vulnerable position for a good bit of time. He was vulnerable to being hated, vulnerable, to being plotted against and killed directional movement. I believe we have in the presence of God is down towards vulnerability and trust the lasting fruit of the presence of God. I love this.
You see, at the end of the passage, what happens in that church? Verse 31 at the end of this passage says, so the church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria, again, the very regions Jesus is talking about. Next chapter, one’s gone from Jerusalem now to these regions had peace and was being built up walking in the fear of the Lord in the comfort of this holy spirit, it multiplied.
Paul went from a person creating violence and discord to a person God used to establish strength and peace. This is a place. This is a culture that is touched deeply by the presence of God. It is the culture of God, simply who he is and something that, um, we do in spiritual direction sometimes is which is just a way of counseling of helping people connect with the presence of God in their own lives.
So we asked the question of what’s God experiencing. right. Because a lot of us, we have a lot of personal experience and that’s wonderful. And, and we want to know what we’re experiencing and what we’re dealing with. Extremely vital important, our histories, our stories, our past our presence, what’s gonna happen in our futures.
Those things are a vital importance, but also important if we’re doing, talking about what’s God’s role in this is saying, well, what’s God experiencing right now. This is maybe our experience. What is God experiencing? And there’s some beautiful passages in the scripture about what the culture of God is like, what’s it like in his presence?
What’s it like to be with him? And one of my favorites is in revelations chapter four. And is Joe or Phil here? Joe Parker? Some of you’re like, oh no, my name’s Phil. Oh no. I go by Philip, um, Joe Parker or Phil. I know sometimes they come to the second series, Phil. I’m gonna need you, buddy. You’re you’re killing on those keys, by the way.
You, you didn’t do the stool anymore. You’re up, you’re up top, keeping it lively. Um, that song was so beautiful and I’m like, oh my gosh, that is exactly what we’re gonna close the service with. So can we do the last song you did? We’re gonna close the service with that in a couple minutes. Aren’t you so glad you stayed for the service?
I don’t actually usually call him Phil. It’s usually filibuster landfill. Yeah. That’s usually what I call himself, but I wonder like, we’ll close in a minute, but, but just asking the question, right? Like, well, what’s happening right now. We’re in the presence of each other. You see your friend across the way you, you, you see that person you’re like, oh, I haven’t talked to or checked up on.
And, and what, what happens when we’re in the presence of each other? Like we, oh, we see the joy saw Beth full. Are you in here somewhere? Here’s Beth fuller. Bethel are over there. It’s how Bethel I haven’t seen her in a long time. This morning, we get to be in the presence of each other. It’s a beautiful thing about coming together for worship.
The other beautiful thing which we get to experience is we’re coming together in this unique way to experience uniquely the presence of God. Jesus saying, when you gather together, there’s some unique presence of me that exists. And this song that we sang at the last song, the all in all song I is, is playing a chorus.
The chorus is out of this passage, I believe, or similar to it. One that gives us a view of what it’s like to be simply with him. If you would close your eyes just for the sake of putting yourself in this spot. Understanding this beautiful presence of Jesus Christ that we get to be in. Let’s ask ourselves, what’s it like, what’s it like in the, to be with this God?
After I looked behold, I saw a door standing open in heaven and I heard a voice, which I heard speaking, and it said, come up to me and I will show you what might take place at once. I was in the spirit from the throne, I saw flashes of lightning, rumblings and peels of thunder. And before the throne were seven torches lit on fire, the seven spirits of God.
And before the throne, there was like a, a sea of glass like crystal. Around the throne on each side of the throne, there were four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind the first living creatures, like a lion, the second living creature, like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man and the fourth living creature, like an Eagle in flight, the four living creatures, each of them had six wings and were full of eyes all around and within, and day and night, they never ceased to say, holy holy, holy is the Lord.
God almighty, who was and is, and is to come whenever the living creatures give glory and honor, and thanks to him who seated on the throne who lives forever and ever the 24 elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns the downward way before the throne saying worthy, are you our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things and by your will, they exist and were created.
Won’t you stand with me in this moment in the presence of our God, sing this one more time of the reality that we have in this Christ.
I wanna leave you with a blessing this morning. If you would remain standing also wanna recommend a wonderful book written by a guy in the early 16 hundreds named brother Lawrence called practicing the presence of God. And there’s a lot more of a practical thoughts on how to do this in our everyday lives.
As we remember his presence this day over you, I say, God is not afraid today. He is not uncertain or insecure. God is not needy or lonely. He is not confused by the past or unsure what to do in the presence. God is not. Handwringing about the future. God is safe. God is secure. God is on the throne and cannot be unseated.
All is well in the presence of he who holds all things. Let Jesus’ words speak over us. Come to me. All you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest. My yolk take upon. I will take upon me. Learn from me. I am gentle, humble, and heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy. And my burden is light.
Thank you so much for being here this morning. We are dismissed.