Friday, May 31, 2013

Damascus Road Decision

1Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,6but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”7The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.


Here we are at this  point in Paul’s life, and  we see he has reached an important moment in  a kind of  fork in his road.  He has been given a wake up call that  would change his life forever.  As we just read in Acts 9, we see that  Paul was on his way to imprison christians who followed “the way” to persecute, and arrest them. To him, and  to many others like the priest in the Sanhedrin.....Christians were a threat to The Jewish ways.....and …...they were a threat to Israel......and to the God they served.


Paul, or at this time in his life Saul actually thought he was serving his fellow Israelites, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the most honorable way. The Priest and Paul both missed the same thing the others in the Sanhedrin missed.... the law they were living by had made them slaves to death... this changed happened when their God sent Jesus Christ, who beat satan when tempted in the desert  who destroyed death upon the cross, and gave victory to those willing to be free from the slavery of sin.


Let’s go back in time here a little and see how this all started....let’s take a look @ the life of Paul.  He was born in a greek-speaking area of the Roman Empire.  His Dad was with the straitest sect of the Jews, more specifically born of  the tribe of Benjamin, We also know Paul’s dad was also known as a  Pharisee, who knew the Old testament better than the back of their hand, and this was passed down to Paul and we read in  acts 23:6.  In  Philipians 3:5 it says about Paul: I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin--a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. Even though Paul’s dad was 100% jew, he was also a Roman Citizen. This of course made paul a roman citizen..how we’re not sure... It’s possible that Paul’s dad won it, or paid for it, but in the end Pau’s dad was a roman citizen, and that made paul one as well. Paul & his family lived in Tarsus in cilicia which was well off & well connected city. Here in Tarsus; Paul went to a good school, and was educated well.  In fact after learning to be a tent maker he continued his  education at his dad’s wishes....which  would lead him  to the sacred  jewish school in Jerusalem at around 13 yrs old.  He would spend his schooling years learning under a well know rabbi.   So now we see that  Paul was very educated, and it was safe to say he knew the scriptures, better than the back of his own hand.  Acts 24:5 tells us that after a short return to Tarsus, Paul is again drawn back to Jerusalem after Jesus Death. Not for school, but because of an uprising.  He had been hearing of a growing group....a sect of sorts. They would be”Nazarenes”.  I would call them Jesus Freaks, but they we’re indeed called christians. In Acts 6:7 we read: “ So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”  the Word of God now became the Good news of Jesus Christ, and the  jewish priests, and many others were becoming christians. This was a threat to the sadducees and the pharisees, ((or in todays world i like to call them the Republicans & the democrats)), they certainly had very different ideas and beliefs about the same God. The way they believed, and there very way of life, and they were the 2 controlling institutions in the Sanhedrin.  Along with Paul, also felt threatened by this Jesus movement, and would not take this lightly.
In fact it would seem that Paul took the whole christian movement serious, and took it personally.... kind of like a personal attack on his way of life, and all he had ever been taught.... So Paul would now make it his  personal mission to end this Nazarene sect.... now..... before it took over Israel, and the rest of the world. On Paul’s pursuit to persecute he finds Stephen who the bible records in Acts 6:8 was full of grace & power performing great wonders,and in the next verse, verse 9 we read:  Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.  Stephen is teaching to all with ears to hear..... that the members of the synagogue were just full of hot air. They attempted with scholars to trick Stephen but he was so full of God’s wisdom with an excellent heart condition that nothing could stop Stephen and the good news message he was proclaiming. As we read in Acts 6:10  they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.  He was call for them to repent and turn to Jesus the true salvation for their souls, and they were calling for his Head....his death.. why ?.because there heart condition was full of hate & sin as Acts 7:54 says:  they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.  Paul was right there with them, and stepped up and lead the way....Paul, and according to Acts 7:58-60  they drove Stephen  out of the city, and stone him to his death, at the approval of Paul.... but verse 60 show Stephen praying to the Lord, to give forgive them for what their doing. Stephen had such a heart conditioned in Christ Jesus, then he fell asleep , and went home to heaven.  So now Stephen is home with Jesus, and Paul has led the way to have him murdered by stoning.  I say murder...because they truly had no just cause to stone him....just like there was no just cause to crucify Jesus Christ.  Now....it gets even more heated......


In Acts 8 we read that this became a great day of Persecution for the Christian Church in Jerusalem.  In fact Paul was now going  house to house, and finding christians who he could persecute and lead off to the courts....to the jails....to their deaths.   Why did this happen ? It’s because Jesus came, and change the whole way of life as the jews knew it...now there sin exposed, and their heart condition is not good, but of hate.
We were told by Jesus who said it like this from John 15:18 in  the New living translation “ "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”  Acts 9:5 reminds us when you persecute one of Jesus believers, then you persecute Jesus.


Now we see that Paul is amped up.... this would lead  Paul going to the high priest and asking for letters...documents if you will.... in other words...certified permission to go to damascus and arrest....persecute....kill if he needed  any christians who would oppose him or the Sanhedrin ...and with letters in hand...down the road the went....


This time in history was a wonderful  explosion of the new believers.  the Gospel message really took off....Christians were growing at a rapid rate, after the death of Jesus on the Cross.  Even though they were persecuted and punished, they still grew.  It really took off once Peter gave is first sermon to the masses at Pentecost in Acts 2:14-36.   This happened with a fisherman who had his share of mistakes & regrets thoughout his life;  He was shown to be a working mans man, a go it alone kind of guy , and a do it on his own because he really didn’t trust many people. he saw messiahs come & go promising a better life, but they never delivered.  Meanwhile he grew more angry toward the Romans who took more than their fair share in taxes. One day with Andrew....Peter is talked into taking Jesus out in his boat...and so out on the water Jesus was teaching, and Peter was not believing.  Then Jesus tells him in Luke 5:4 to cast the nets out again for fish. Peter was not happy about this as we read in verse 5 he had already had a long outing fishing with no good results...still Jesus tells Peter to cast the net out again.  Andrew must have helped coax Peter into doing this..or Peter decided he would prove Jesus a fake and call him out on this. Whatever the reason, Peter threw out the nets again...in verse 6 Jesus shows a miracle to Peter  with a massive catch of fish.  Then verse 8 we see Peter bow before Jesus as the true messiah. Peter believed in Jesus that day, and followed him, and his gospel message. but still lacked much faith, and understanding of what the Messiah’s mission was all about.....we will see Peter in a much different light...when he finally understands when he has a Damascus moment of his own.


So now we read about Peter’s fork in the road on his Damascus road decision in  Luke 22:55-62 of Peter’s moment in the courtyard: Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too. But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him. little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not! After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me Three times.  and Peter went out and wept bitterly.  The NIV version says Peter disowned him three times.



Peter and Jesus make eye contact when this happens.   Peter realizes in a heartbeat that he has betrayed his teacher....his Saviour....Jesus..... who is about to take the sins of the whole world up on the cross, as been persecuted by his own disciple; Peter.
Most there that night were looking for a way to punish Jesus, convict him of a crime.  Instead of standing up for Jesus, Peter helped the enemies cause.  Just as Paul was persecuting Jesus on the Damascus road.
Although we don’t hear the words from Jesus “Peter, Peter why are you persecuting me.”  We see this is exactly what Peter did........


Let’s jump forward to the present.  To a man who had to face his own Damascus road.  A man who has a young boy grew up in the christian church.....whose dad drove the church bus....and mom helped out with the children church.  A young boy who didnt act like a good young boy.  This young boy would learn stories of the bible on sunday, and run with a bad crowd on monday stealing quarters out of his dad’s jar to buy cigarettes..so he could be cool smoking at the age of 7.  Who would go on through his life....ditching school.....ditching church....and ditching God.  As this young man grew in years...wisdom would not follow him...but God was watching him...as he began to mess around with marijuana, and even sell marijuana to make money.  He would get into fights, make fun of misfortunate others, say dirty words to girls, and do whatever it took to look good infront fo the crowd he was hanging out with.  All of this while people who knew me....knew I went to church . This person would later run out of the luck he was living on, and end up in a homeless shelter...no home...no friends...no food.... then one day i went out to tent city, because this man was holding a bible study, calling it Exodus Ministries. I heard his story of rejecting, and then finding Jesus.  I realized then...all the while i was playing church...i was persecuting Jesus by pleasing the devil with my deeds...saying im a christian, and misleading many people about Jesus with my actions.  That was persecuting Jesus....that person if you don’t already know was me....that shelter is the one right down the road.
During that bible study in tent city....i had that same shot in my heart that Peter felt when Jesus looked at him, disowning him three times....or how Paul felt after that shot of light...exposing his heart condition, and how he was persecuting Jesus.......


We are or  have persecuted Jesus....the New Living Translation puts it like this--Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
the bible says in Romans 3:10 not one person is good...no not one.  We have all somewhere and sometime in our lives crucified Jesus.  Many of us have come to that crossroad....that fork in the road on our Damascus Road.  Where our hearts were struck with Jesus light....we stopped dead in our tracks....and we realized...that out heart was in poor condition.  It needed a jolt of God’s light  to begin brand new.  We realized that jolt of light was Jesus, and he had an unlimited lifetime of unspeakable joy waiting for us at the end of our journey......When it happen to me...my life changed....i saw the world....life....people very different.  I realized i was working for the wrong team...i also realized that there we’re new missions ahead of me, that would not die with me....they would live on forever...and i would live on forever....i finally realized....that the fork in the road on my Damascus Journey-- was really a brand new start of my life...and the rest of it would be forever.....



Where are you in your Damascus Journey ?--Have you reached that fork in the road ??-- Have you looked at your heart condition, and realized you’ve been going against Jesus ?? -- The Journey can be exhausting....it can be confusing--You might be carrying alot of heavy bricks of sadness and burdens.  Jesus already paid the price for them....in full--- Now you just have to come to him, and dump them off at the cross.-- Jesus says  "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”.
The Bible also says: Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (john 14:1-3)  I know you can feel lost on your Damascus road, and just like Thomas in verse 6 when he ask Jesus “which is the way Lord.”  and Jesus says to Thomas--to Paul---To Me--and now to You.  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.


It’s time to come to Jesus---he’s has been waiting for you your whole life.  If you wandered back on the other trail, thats ok--Jesus is waiting for you back on the other trail--ready to continue where you two left off.-- He wants you back...If your ready to give your bricks...your heart...your life to God right here on your Damascus road....click here @ Steps 2b Saved to learn how you can start a new journey on a new road that leads to a new life in Jesus...Forever.
                                                       
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the  Holy Bible, NLT  or ESV Translation Use discernment (Acts 17:11, 1 Thes. 5:21).

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