Series Code: ASIC
Program Code: ASIC180012A
00:20 It's great to come back home.
00:21 You see, I was born in Orlando
00:24 a long time ago in the last century.
00:27 Actually the last millennium, right?
00:28 And anyway, it's great to come back
00:30 to this coast and be here
00:31 in a place that I love very much.
00:33 And it's a privilege
00:35 to be able to share with you this morning
00:38 our Sabbath School lesson.
00:40 And when they sent me the email and said,
00:42 "Would you teach the lesson?"
00:43 I'm thinking, "Oh, man, what's it going to be about?"
00:45 They said, it's going to be about Paul.
00:47 And I think you have that in your wheelhouse
00:49 a little bit about Paul, and I thought,
00:50 "Well, but what about Paul?"
00:52 You know, there's a lot of different aspects about Paul,
00:54 and so I kind of kept checking the website,
00:57 you know, to see what was going to be
00:58 the Sabbath School lesson,
00:59 and they just don't give
01:01 a lot of information out months ahead of time.
01:03 And finally, the church I attend
01:05 in Southern California,
01:07 I saw the lesson in book of Acts,
01:08 and I looked in,
01:10 and can you believe what it was?
01:12 The Conversion of Paul.
01:15 I said, "Wow, thank you, Lord.
01:17 I know something about that."
01:18 And there we have it,
01:19 that beautiful statue because, 18 years ago,
01:22 I had the privilege of actually
01:24 filming the life of Paul on location.
01:26 And I know some of you have seen that
01:28 around the world,
01:29 and we went to six different countries
01:31 filming, tracing the footsteps of Paul,
01:33 and that image you just saw
01:34 actually is from a church in Damascus,
01:38 and there was something about that image
01:39 that caught the ruggedness of Paul, you know?
01:42 I don't know if they can bring it back up
01:43 on the screen, but it's a...
01:45 You can just see the ruggedness of Paul,
01:47 and he's not a soft guy 'cause he's traveling,
01:51 and how far would he travel?
01:54 I want to just see if some of you
01:55 followed my Footsteps of Paul series
01:57 on 3ABN or Hope Channel.
01:58 Any idea how far he traveled?
02:02 He didn't do the small group, you see?
02:04 Over 13,000 miles,
02:07 and it wasn't in United or American, all right?
02:11 Mostly by foot, sometimes by steamship?
02:15 No. Sometimes by sailing ship.
02:18 And that was even rougher because multiple shipwrecks.
02:22 But we're getting ahead of our story, aren't we?
02:24 And so we want to go back
02:25 and look at the story of Paul's conversion.
02:30 And so we have a memory text,
02:31 let's see if we can have you memorize it.
02:34 Let's see if we memorized it.
02:36 This man is My chosen instrument
02:39 to proclaim My name to the Gentiles
02:42 and their kings and to the people of Israel."
02:46 And so that's the words you're going to hear
02:47 in a little bit
02:48 as we trace his story from Ananias,
02:51 a disciple in Damascus.
02:52 "But go!
02:54 And you're going to proclaim My name to," who?
02:58 It was your memory text.
02:59 "To Gentiles."
03:01 And not only to Gentiles but to their...
03:03 "Their kings."
03:05 And would that happen?
03:06 Of course, it would.
03:08 He'll even go before Nero a couple of times,
03:11 and we think about people in Caesar's own household
03:14 being converted.
03:15 But did you notice, there's something
03:17 very interesting about the text?
03:18 It didn't end there.
03:19 Did you notice what the next phrase was?
03:22 "And to My people, Israel."
03:26 We think Paul's just the apostle to the Gentiles,
03:28 but no, no, no, he had a message
03:31 for God's people Israel as well.
03:34 And he brings and unfolds
03:35 the beautiful message of justification.
03:37 But we're getting ahead of ourselves
03:39 because we're going to talk about that
03:40 in just a moment.
03:41 So the question is, "Who was this man?"
03:44 God chose him from all the believers
03:47 to be His chosen instrument.
03:49 Who was he?
03:50 What prepared him for this position
03:53 that he would have?
03:55 What prepared him to evangelize both Gentiles and Jews?
03:59 And so let's explore that this morning.
04:04 As we were filming the Footsteps of Paul,
04:05 I had the privilege of going to all these places.
04:08 I'd been to most of them before,
04:09 but the year before I had pastors on tour,
04:13 and we were filming in Tarsus, and we have this...
04:17 When I get to Tarsus,
04:19 there's first century AD main street.
04:22 We'll pull that up on the screen.
04:24 1st century AD main street, can you imagine?
04:27 Saul walked on that street as a little boy.
04:31 Did he go to picnics with his mom and dad
04:33 down by the river?
04:35 I don't know, but he walked on that street.
04:37 And the text is so interesting.
04:38 I love the way that King James puts it,
04:40 "I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia,
04:43 a citizen of no mean city."
04:46 I was smiling, you know what?
04:47 They had a sign at the edge of town,
04:49 "Mean people, stop, you can't come in."
04:51 You got to check your meanness.
04:52 That'd be a nice city to live in, right?
04:54 No mean city.
04:56 But the other translations captured a little bit better.
05:00 No ordinary city.
05:02 "A Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city."
05:07 What was so unusual about this city?
05:10 "No ordinary city," Saul would say maybe on trial.
05:14 What was so special?
05:15 Well, it's on the map
05:17 because of its unique geography.
05:20 Here we can see a map of the ancient world.
05:22 You see Tarsus, you see the little green area,
05:24 that's the low place.
05:25 And it's there because it's...
05:27 What was the province?
05:29 He said, "I'm a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia."
05:33 And so there's upper Cilicia, and there's lower Cilicia.
05:36 The green area where Tarsus is is lower or smooth Cilicia,
05:39 and then there's upper Cilicia up in the mountains
05:41 and beyond the mountains and to the Anatolian plateau.
05:46 And here it was very special
05:47 because of its unique geography,
05:50 its unique geography.
05:52 The mountains are snow-capped most of the year there.
05:57 There's only one pass for 200 miles,
06:00 and it's carved by this river that we see on the screen,
06:04 the Cydnus or the cold river.
06:06 It was so cold that when Alexander the Great
06:08 marched through, he went swimming,
06:10 and caught pneumonia and nearly died.
06:13 And so I've been swimming in the river,
06:14 and it was pretty cold, I have to say.
06:15 But here we can see a Roman bridge
06:17 because this was the only pass for 200 miles.
06:21 So Alexander the Great marches through that pass,
06:24 Mark Antony marches through that pass,
06:26 everybody who was anybody
06:27 with an army had to march through there
06:29 because it's the only way for 200 miles.
06:34 Those of you in the medical field,
06:35 cilia, does that ring a bell?
06:38 I remember doing the five day plans years ago,
06:40 and we had super cilia in our throat and so on
06:43 that would catch the tars and so on.
06:45 And we'd tell people that's why you don't want to smoke, right?
06:48 It's not very good.
06:49 So it means hair.
06:50 It's the Roman province of hair.
06:52 How'd you like to be from that place, huh?
06:54 The Roman province of hair.
06:58 In the Anatolian plateau in Cilicia,
07:01 they developed a special breed of goat
07:04 grown nowhere else in the world.
07:06 And when you use that cilia or that goat hair
07:09 for making your tent,
07:10 it allowed smoke from your camp fire
07:12 to pass through,
07:13 sunshine to string through, and it repelled rain.
07:17 It was the Gore-Tex fabric of the day.
07:21 And there's one outlet for 200 miles,
07:23 and it's at Tarsus.
07:25 So I've often wondered, was Paul actually sewing tents
07:29 or was he a purveyor of Gore-Tex
07:32 because he'd have the best connection
07:34 in the world for the finest material
07:35 in the world for making goat hair tents.
07:39 And so Saul positioned from a cosmopolitan city,
07:46 a city that was a center of stoic philosophy,
07:49 and now he's positioned with an income
07:53 wherever he would travel,
07:55 a purveyor of cilia or goat hair.
07:59 And here we bring up one more slide.
08:00 You can see what I was talking about.
08:02 You see Tarsus, and you see Antalya.
08:04 You might remember Antalya is where Perga is?
08:07 You remember what happened in Perga?
08:09 Something very significant.
08:11 John Mark got nervous
08:13 about what Paul and Barnabas were preaching,
08:16 and he went back to Jerusalem to Peter and to the others.
08:20 You know what they were doing?
08:22 They were baptizing Gentiles
08:25 without making them become Jews.
08:29 And it created a huge controversy
08:30 in the church
08:32 because some said you have to be a Jew
08:34 to accept the Jewish Messiah.
08:36 Paul and Barnabas said, "No, no, no!
08:38 This is bigger than Judaism."
08:40 And so John Mark forsook them there at Antalya.
08:43 But it's over 200 miles from Tarsus back to Antalya.
08:47 And there's only one outlet for that goat hair,
08:50 and Paul had that connection.
08:51 And so as I said,
08:53 Alexander the Great marched through,
08:56 Mark Antony marches through,
08:58 Mark Antony actually makes it the headquarters
09:01 of the Eastern Roman Empire.
09:03 And it's here, you can see the mountains off
09:05 in the distance still with some snow in June.
09:08 And it's here that Mark Antony
09:10 first meets Cleopatra in that dramatic time
09:14 when she comes up sailing on her barge dressed as Venus.
09:18 So who was this man?
09:19 Well, we see he's a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia,
09:22 this cosmopolitan city.
09:25 He's familiar with stoic philosophy,
09:26 it's the center of stoic philosophy
09:28 at that time in the whole world.
09:31 He's trained as a businessman.
09:33 But if you're Jewish,
09:35 why would you name your kid Saul, right?
09:38 That guy...
09:42 Because he was from what tribe?
09:44 And who was from Benjamin?
09:46 Saul, the first king.
09:48 So it's the most illustrious person
09:51 to come out of Benjamin,
09:52 and so they named their son Saul.
09:58 Saul was also a Roman citizen.
10:03 And later on in the story,
10:05 we'll find that he was not just a Roman citizen,
10:07 he was what?
10:09 He was born a citizen, remember?
10:14 The centurion says, "I paid a lot for my citizenship."
10:17 I was born a citizen.
10:20 How would a Jewish family
10:21 living so far away from Jerusalem
10:23 become Roman citizens
10:24 that their son would be born a citizen?
10:28 The local idea is that probably his family provided tents
10:32 for the Roman army of Mark Antony,
10:35 and they bequeathed on him citizenship.
10:37 All we know is...
10:38 We don't know for sure, but we know
10:39 he's born a citizen,
10:41 and he has special rights because, as a citizen,
10:42 he had a US passport, right?
10:44 He could go anywhere.
10:45 He could do anything.
10:48 And then, as a citizen,
10:49 you couldn't be beaten without a trial.
10:52 As a citizen, you couldn't be crucified.
10:56 Quicker form of death would be decapitation.
11:01 And so he had special privileges.
11:06 And so Acts 22:3 says,
11:08 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia,
11:12 but brought up in this city."
11:13 This city of Jerusalem.
11:15 "I studied under Gamaliel
11:16 and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors.
11:20 I was just as zealous for God
11:23 as many of you are today."
11:25 And so now he's on trial,
11:27 and he says, "I was born in Cilicia,
11:30 but my father sent me here."
11:33 I have to be careful.
11:35 He was sent to a special college, right?
11:37 Where the top scholar of the day,
11:39 the top Pharisee,
11:40 his name is Gamaliel, where he taught,
11:43 and he was educated under his tutelage
11:46 there in Jerusalem.
11:49 And he says, "I was trained in the law of our ancestors."
11:53 Gamaliel, you might recall,
11:55 was very hesitant about passing judgment
11:59 on the Jesus movement.
12:00 But his pupil was not.
12:03 He didn't hesitate.
12:05 He saw the threat,
12:06 the heresy the Nazarene sect brought to Judaism,
12:10 and he was determined to root it out.
12:13 And so
12:15 he says that he was very zealous for God.
12:20 He was active in identifying
12:23 and ferreting out the Nazarene believers
12:26 and purifying Judaism.
12:27 What was his problem?
12:29 What was his problem with the Nazarene sect?
12:33 Well, it's very interesting.
12:35 Later when Paul will write to the church of Corinth,
12:38 he will explain what the problem is,
12:40 he says, "We preach Christ crucified,
12:44 a stumbling block to Jews
12:49 and foolishness to Greeks."
12:52 Why foolishness to Greeks?
12:53 Well, you see, the Greeks believed
12:55 that if God could be moved with empathy
12:57 because of the human condition,
12:59 then humans would have power over God.
13:01 Therefore they would be greater than God.
13:02 So God can't have any feelings towards humans.
13:05 So it's foolishness in philosophy to believe that.
13:08 But it's not foolishness for Jews,
13:10 it's a what?
13:12 What is it? Right.
13:14 What? It's a...
13:16 Why is it a stumbling block?
13:19 And so the cross is a stumbling block for Jews.
13:24 And so
13:26 we go back to Deuteronomy,
13:28 and we see that Deuteronomy has a precept.
13:33 Deuteronomy 21:23, "Anyone who is hung on a tree
13:38 is under a curse."
13:41 That's what the law says.
13:43 Now let's go back to the story of Jesus
13:46 and the authorities
13:48 that brought Jesus before Pilate.
13:49 And what does Pilate say?
13:52 Well, before that, he says, "You take Him and judge Him."
13:55 And what did they say?
13:58 "We have no right to execute a man."
14:00 Is that right?
14:02 The Jewish people have no right to execute a man.
14:04 What happened three and a half years later?
14:07 What happened with Stephen?
14:09 It took...
14:10 Saul engineers the deal, take him out,
14:14 they stone him and kill him.
14:16 But the authorities didn't want Jesus to be stoned,
14:19 the Jewish method? of capital punishment.
14:21 They wanted him to be hung on a tree
14:24 because the law said you will be cursed
14:27 if you're hung on a tree.
14:30 And so they went to the authorities
14:31 to have them pass it
14:33 because that's the Roman method of capital punishment.
14:36 And even to this day,
14:38 the cross is a stumbling block to Jewish people
14:41 because the law says you're cursed
14:44 if you're hung on a tree.
14:46 And so Saul is zealous for the teachings,
14:48 he's zealous for the scriptures.
14:51 And so he doesn't believe that.
14:53 As a matter of fact, he gives us his testimony
14:55 in Acts 26.
14:57 All of this, by the way,
14:59 was in your Sabbath School lesson.
15:00 So I hope that you've enjoyed the lesson.
15:02 And here we have it.
15:04 Acts 26:9,
15:05 "I too was convinced
15:07 that I ought to do all that was possible
15:09 to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
15:12 On the authority of the chief priests
15:14 I put many of the Lord's people in prison,
15:17 and when they were put to death,
15:18 I cast my vote against them."
15:24 Saul's personal testimony.
15:26 He was all-in for uprooting the Nazarene sect.
15:32 He recognized the threat it would bring to Judaism,
15:36 and he was all-in for purifying the sect
15:38 of this misguided and deluded belief.
15:41 He was zealous, he was a good man,
15:44 but he was misguided.
15:47 And so I want to pause and ask this question.
15:51 What are you zealous for this morning?
16:01 What are you zealous for?
16:04 He was zealous for purifying the church,
16:09 keeping the church pure
16:11 and had led him to eat up believers,
16:15 put some in prison, kill others.
16:19 Oh, but you would never do that,
16:20 would you?
16:23 Well, we may not do it physically,
16:24 but we can certainly do it with our words, our actions.
16:31 Be careful what you're zealous for.
16:35 When I was at Wildwood in the last century,
16:39 back in the early '70s,
16:40 Alderfer Z had a wonderful little saying
16:42 that I loved,
16:43 "Don't major in minors." Don't major.
16:49 You know, there's a lot of things
16:50 that we can be diverted into.
16:53 In little controversies, we can be diverted into.
16:56 Yesterday, in our class, yesterday afternoon,
16:58 we talked about witnessing in your neighborhood,
17:00 and we shared the verse that whatever the heart is full of,
17:05 the mouth speaketh.
17:07 Fill your heart with Jesus, right?
17:10 And then your heart's going to speak about that.
17:11 A lot of interesting diversions to get into.
17:16 Don't major in minors, major in sharing Jesus.
17:21 And so Saul says,
17:24 "I cast my vote against them." What does that mean?
17:29 Cast my vote.
17:30 At least some of us still believe
17:32 that Saul was actually a member of the Sanhedrin,
17:33 and he had a vote in what the outcome would be,
17:36 and he voted to have them executed.
17:40 Scripture doesn't say,
17:42 but it seems reasonable
17:43 that perhaps he was a member of the Sanhedrin.
17:45 And so he engineers this experience with Stephen,
17:48 that beautiful testimony of Stephen, Chapter 7.
17:50 And remember what happens when he comes down?
17:54 after they respond negatively to what he's sharing,
18:00 Stephen says something powerful in Acts 7:56, he says,
18:06 "Look, I see heaven open
18:10 and the Son of Man..."
18:14 Help me.
18:16 "Standing at the right hand."
18:17 Now what does scriptures say
18:18 when Jesus ascended into heaven?
18:20 What did He do?
18:21 He sat down at the right hand of the Father, is that right?
18:26 And so when He ascends into heaven,
18:27 He sits down at the right hand of the Father.
18:28 What's He doing now?
18:30 He's standing.
18:32 What's happening?
18:34 First believer in My name is about to give up His life.
18:38 Can you imagine?
18:40 And Stephen looks up.
18:41 But it's not just that, what is Stephen quoting?
18:45 Daniel 7:13,
18:49 "I see the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven."
18:54 And they flip out, they say, blasphemy,
18:56 they tear their robes because he's blaspheming.
19:01 We think about Stephen being stoned.
19:04 Can you imagine the magnitude of that moment?
19:06 First believer.
19:08 Later on, people are going to be martyred,
19:10 they look back at that
19:12 and they have courage from that.
19:14 But let me ask you a question.
19:16 You think there were any trumpets
19:17 blowing in Jerusalem when Stephen got stoned?
19:20 You think Stephen's family...
19:22 Let's just suppose he has a wife and kids.
19:23 Do you think that they thought it was a great thing
19:26 when he got stoned?
19:29 But we can see the other side of the story, can't we?
19:32 Do you know what our job is?
19:34 To trust whatever happens, right?
19:37 We're on a journey,
19:38 good things will happen, bad things will happen,
19:40 but we need to learn to trust whatever happens.
19:43 And Stephen did learn to trust.
19:46 His family might not have understood,
19:48 but he's standing.
19:50 How incredible!
19:51 And then Stephen prays, verse 59,
19:56 "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed,
19:59 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'"
20:07 Can you imagine resurrection morning?
20:12 Stephen comes up out of the grave, he says,
20:16 "What are you doing here, right?"
20:19 And Saul says,
20:20 "Hey, Steve, you'll never guess what happened.
20:22 After you died, you won't believe it."
20:24 While he died, Saul was holding the garments,
20:27 he's casting his vote, he's being executed.
20:29 You'll never believe.
20:31 That's when I say, grandmas,
20:33 you may never know
20:35 the influence on your grandchildren.
20:38 And, guys, you may never know the influence
20:40 on the people you work with.
20:42 You know what?
20:44 Our call is to be faithful, right?
20:46 Our call is to walk along the way.
20:48 Our call is to walk with joy with Jesus.
20:51 Our call is to be faithful and leave it to God.
20:56 Stephen will be shocked on resurrection morning.
20:58 What are you doing?
21:00 Can you imagine that conversation?
21:02 Because it was something about his face
21:04 lit up like an angel that he could never shake.
21:08 He could never shake.
21:10 I have to say, you know,
21:11 I had a lovely spiritual grandmother.
21:14 I was born here in Orlando,
21:16 but grew up in my teenage years in North Carolina,
21:18 and she was a Bible worker in a little tiny church
21:19 in Salisbury, North Carolina.
21:21 And if you've read that book of John Earnhardt,
21:25 she's the grace that gave Bible studies
21:27 to the young John Earnhardt, who was about 16,
21:30 and Chris' wife was much younger,
21:32 and they were about to have a baby.
21:33 And the Adventist doctor said, "You should take Bible studies
21:35 and have your life turned around."
21:37 So she was just this glowing witness
21:38 all the time.
21:40 And what an influence you can have,
21:42 grandmas and grandpas,
21:44 aunts and uncles, moms and dads,
21:46 you know, don't give up, don't give up.
21:49 I tell you,
21:51 if time lasts in our program,
21:52 I'll tell you my story
21:54 about what happened as a result of their prayers.
21:57 But we will now look at Acts 26
22:00 because he's so...
22:02 He's trying to stab his conscience
22:04 about what happened with Stephen
22:05 and so he says in Acts 26:11,
22:07 "I was so obsessed with persecuting them
22:10 that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
22:12 On one of these journeys, I was going to Damascus
22:15 with the authority and commission
22:17 of the chief priests."
22:18 And so Damascus is 150 miles away.
22:20 We can see the road that he would go,
22:22 we're going to trace that road because he's obsessed,
22:24 he's trying to get out of his mind
22:25 what happened with Stephen, and now he's walking,
22:28 he's a Pharisee,
22:29 probably walking by himself from the guards
22:32 and not riding a horse by the way.
22:34 If he's riding a horse,
22:36 he's going to be unclean, right?
22:37 A horse is unclean.
22:39 Sorry, I know a lot of you have horses.
22:40 But if you're a Pharisee,
22:41 you don't want to be riding an unclean horse.
22:43 And so he's walking.
22:46 Now the direct route go right up through the mountains,
22:47 right up through Shechem and Samaria.
22:49 You can kind of see the mountains
22:51 there on the map,
22:52 Samaria, and then you kind of cut down,
22:54 but you got to go through the Samaritan area.
22:57 A Pharisee would not want to eat the food of Samaritans,
23:00 those despised people,
23:01 and so they would walk down to Jericho.
23:04 They'd go two to three days out of their way to go north
23:07 to avoid Samaria.
23:09 And so as he walks down to Jericho, he's obsessed,
23:12 but Holy Spirit's convicting him.
23:15 I wonder, do you think he had interrogated
23:17 that short guy down in Jericho?
23:19 What was the guy's name? Zacchaeus.
23:22 You think he didn't interrogate Zacchaeus?
23:25 And he's got to cross the river,
23:27 and he crosses the river there,
23:29 and that's where John the Baptist
23:30 was baptizing Bethany beyond the Jordan.
23:33 I'm seriously saying, how in the world
23:35 could this son of a priest
23:37 be taken in by this base heresy?
23:40 Can you see?
23:42 And what's the Holy Spirit doing?
23:44 Convicting, convicting, He's trying to shake it.
23:47 And he's got to walk up the Jordan River
23:48 and he comes to the Sea of Galilee.
23:50 And as he goes around the Sea of Galilee,
23:51 he's got to go right through the town of Magdala.
23:53 That's where Interstate 95 goes,
23:55 right through it, called the Great Trunk Road
23:56 of Via Maris.
23:58 He goes right through Magdala.
23:59 Had he interviewed her?
24:01 Does she still hold onto her crazy belief
24:03 that some guy named Jesus could be killed
24:05 and come back to life?
24:08 He's just shaking his head.
24:10 In my mind, I like to imagine
24:11 that he then comes around to Capernaum.
24:17 And there in Capernaum,
24:18 he made pause for the Sabbath.
24:21 And if he did, he'd teach in the synagogue.
24:24 Does he think about all those stories
24:26 that happened there?
24:27 Can you imagine the incredible stories?
24:30 Who was the pastor of this place?
24:35 What's happened to him? What's the story of Jairus?
24:37 His daughter died
24:40 and Jesus brought her back to life.
24:42 And by the way, who built the place?
24:46 A Roman centurion who said,
24:47 "Don't bother coming, Lord, just..."
24:50 "Speak the word.
24:52 I'm a man of authority."
24:54 And can you imagine the first Sabbath
24:56 in the gospel story
24:58 that Jesus is presenting in the synagogue.
25:01 You know what happened? It was right there.
25:03 Remember what happened?
25:04 Something that I hope doesn't happen this morning.
25:07 A guy came running down the middle aisle,
25:09 Jesus Nazarene!
25:11 Satan throws a demon possessed man at Him.
25:14 He just speaks the word.
25:16 Is Saul familiar with the stories?
25:18 I just imagine as he shirks it all off,
25:20 and he's...
25:21 He leaves the Sea of Galilee 700 feet
25:22 feet below sea level, he starts going up the hills,
25:27 because he's on a mission to go to Damascus.
25:30 But as he walks, he ponders, he thinks,
25:34 "How could Stephen pray,
25:38 'Lord, forgive them for what they're doing.'
25:46 What was it about Jesus that so transformed Stephen?
25:51 Was he aware that Jesus said the same thing
25:54 about His executioners?
25:59 He approaches the city.
26:01 Can you imagine his heart rate increasing?
26:03 A hundred and fifty mile walk.
26:05 Any one of you been on a 150-mile walk lately?
26:08 A hundred and fifty mile walk.
26:09 He gets there, he's on the hills
26:10 overlooking Damascus.
26:12 Now Damascus is the largest oasis
26:14 in the world.
26:15 It doesn't really rain there.
26:17 They have the water that comes from the snows
26:19 and from the mountains and so on
26:21 but doesn't rain very much there,
26:22 the largest oasis in the world.
26:23 He gets there, and he's excited
26:25 because he's zealous to root out the Nazarene sect
26:29 from the Jews
26:32 and get rid of this cancer that's spreading.
26:35 And as he gets there, he's overlooking the city,
26:37 what happens, remember what happens?
26:39 A light brighter
26:42 than the noonday sun flashes.
26:46 He says, "Oh, that was interesting,"
26:49 Now what does he do?
26:52 Falls to the ground.
26:54 He falls to the ground.
26:57 Holy Spirit has been pricking his conscience
27:01 for a 150-mile walk.
27:03 And now the Holy Spirit powerfully hits him.
27:06 It all comes together and he falls down.
27:10 And so we read the words there in Acts 26:12,,
27:13 "Saul, Saul why do you persecute Me?
27:18 It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
27:21 And so all religious art has him on a horse,
27:23 but I doubt he's on a horse.
27:25 Doesn't say he's on a horse, but he falls down,
27:27 and the other men, they see the light
27:30 or they hear the voice,
27:31 but they don't know what it says.
27:35 "Why do you persecute Me?
27:37 It's hard for you to kick against the goads."
27:39 Now as we were filming this series on Paul,
27:41 I'm thinking,
27:42 "Lord, this is a hard text to understand
27:44 because the King James is even a bit stranger.
27:50 Lord, we need to have an ox herder."
27:53 And so there's a little clip
27:54 I'm going to ask them to play right now.
27:56 There's a little bit of audio with this clip,
27:57 if we can pick up that audio, and it's about a road,
28:03 actually a Roman road that Paul walked on
28:07 in the second missionary journey.
28:08 Maybe it won't play, but there's a road.
28:12 And this road was very special.
28:15 There we go.
28:17 This road is very, very special.
28:18 It's actually a Roman road
28:20 that Paul and Barnabas walked on.
28:22 Where we had seen this in a book
28:24 called Biblical Anatolia.
28:26 I went up and looked for it 25 miles north of Tarsus,
28:28 I found it in the foothills below this Cilician gates.
28:32 And we were filming, and then this guy came by,
28:34 and he walked off into the sunset.
28:35 I got back and said,
28:37 "Was that an actor that you had?"
28:38 No, I said, that's the guy who lives out there.
28:40 That became the signature shot
28:41 of our series in the Footsteps of Paul,
28:43 and he doesn't know how famous he is
28:44 because people see him around the world.
28:50 I've been praying, "Lord,
28:52 we need somebody to illustrate an ox herder for the series."
28:56 Would you believe after the guy walks that way...
28:58 And here he goes on the screen talking to me.
29:02 Nice guy, I tried to explain
29:03 where I was from and what I was doing
29:05 and he didn't speak any English.
29:07 And in Tarsus, can you see they wear their pants,
29:10 you know, it's kind of pre hip-hop,
29:13 you know, the crotch comes down to the knees.
29:16 Interesting stories about that.
29:17 But anyway, a very nice guy.
29:19 Didn't speak any English, and he walked off.
29:23 I was praying for an ox herder,
29:24 and you believe after he walked into the sunset,
29:26 look what came down the road the other direction.
29:30 Hadn't even told the camera crew about it,
29:31 but fortunately, the oxen came,
29:33 and, you know, they kind of made fun of me
29:35 getting surrounded by oxen in some of the outtakes.
29:38 But after they passed by, look what happened?
29:41 You see our guy?
29:42 What's he got in his hand?
29:45 He's got a goad,
29:47 and he's got a sharp point on it
29:48 called a prick,
29:49 and he's picking them, right?
29:51 He's guiding them, and so the Holy Spirit,
29:56 "Saul, Saul,
29:58 it's hard to kick against the pricks
30:00 or hard to kick against the goads."
30:03 Moms, hard for our children
30:08 to kick against the Holy Spirit.
30:09 You know, to be lost,
30:10 you got to fight the strongest power
30:12 in the universe, the Holy Spirit
30:14 'cause the Holy Spirit is trying to do, what?
30:17 To lead you to repentance.
30:20 But, you know, when we're praying for people,
30:22 just like Saul, they resist, right?
30:24 He's resisting, he's fighting it.
30:26 Don't give up, keep praying, all right?
30:29 Keep on praying.
30:31 And so our guy comes behind with the goads.
30:34 They had also put these little sharp points
30:35 on oxen carts,
30:37 and they put a young oxen in there,
30:38 and they'd put them into the harness.
30:39 And maybe he kicked that cart, and guess what.
30:43 He wouldn't kick it he second time
30:44 because he kicked that little sharp stick
30:45 with the point on it, right?
30:48 And so the Lord said,
30:52 "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?
30:53 It's hard for you to kick against the goads."
30:57 Holy Spirit's trying to lead him to repentance,
30:58 and he's struggling with that.
31:00 And so Saul cries out and says, "Who are You, Lord?"
31:05 He says, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
31:10 The Holy Spirit is leading into repentance.
31:12 Well, let's read the next verse.
31:14 "The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless.
31:16 They heard the sound but did not see anyone.
31:19 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes,
31:21 he was blind."
31:23 Can you imagine?
31:25 He gets up,
31:27 he's overwhelmed by the theophany,
31:29 and now he gets up and cannot see.
31:32 Can you imagine the fanfare
31:33 he must have left from Jerusalem?
31:35 He's on a mission from the chief priest,
31:37 going to Damascus, a prestigious city.
31:40 And now can you imagine, the next verse,
31:43 "As they led him by the hand, blind, into Damascus.
31:49 And for three days,
31:50 he did not eat or drink anything."
31:52 That's actually a Roman gate.
31:54 And that Roman gate opens on to the Via Recta,
31:56 the Straight Street.
31:57 He's led down there,
31:58 and he's put into an end on Straight Street
32:01 in the house of Judas, remember?
32:06 And there he sits in the darkness, blind.
32:10 Well, I was going to tell you a story
32:12 about my first time on that street.
32:14 Maybe I have a moment, I'll tell you that story.
32:15 It's an interesting story.
32:18 I was on a solo journey
32:19 from Athens to Damascus in 1988.
32:22 And I got to Damascus,
32:25 and I went to the Umayyad Mosque.
32:26 The Umayyad Mosque at one time
32:28 was the largest mosque in the world.
32:29 It was a church of Justinian,
32:30 and it was converted into a mosque
32:32 after the Muslims conquered Damascus,
32:34 and they had a very interesting minaret out there,
32:36 and I'll tell you about that in just a moment.
32:38 But inside of this church
32:39 was the head of John the Baptist.
32:41 And so when you go there today, guess what,
32:44 there's a shrine for John the Baptist's head.
32:46 And Muslims come from around the world.
32:48 We can see it on the screen.
32:49 They come from around the world
32:50 and they pray there at the shrine
32:53 that has the head of John the Baptist in it.
32:55 Very interesting.
32:56 Well, I'd hurry about the minaret
32:58 and we'll go to the next slide.
32:59 The minaret actually is the Southwest minaret.
33:02 And what's interesting is Muslims believe
33:04 that Jesus will return in the sky
33:07 and land on that minaret in Damascus
33:10 when He comes the second time.
33:12 Yeah, interesting, 150 miles from Jerusalem.
33:15 And so they believe He'll come there
33:17 and land on that minaret.
33:18 And so I was trying to get pictures of that.
33:19 When you go into a mosque,
33:21 you ought to take your shoes off now.
33:22 I had some Saucony running shoes,
33:24 and they'd been up Mount Olympus,
33:25 they'd been up Mount Sinai,
33:26 and they'd been then up the Mount of Olives,
33:28 and they'd been up the mountain over Damascus,
33:29 and I thought I'm going to bronze these shoes.
33:30 You know, These shoes have been everywhere.
33:32 I came back and guess what happened?
33:34 Shoes had been stolen.
33:38 So I said, "At least I have the memories, Lord."
33:39 Well, now I'm shoeless.
33:41 So the guy is giving...
33:43 He's speaking in English.
33:44 It's being translated into Russian to a tour group.
33:46 When he was done with this tour,
33:47 I went over and said, "I just want to make sure
33:48 I've got the right minaret out here,
33:50 the southwest minaret."
33:51 And so we became friends,
33:53 and he found out that my shoes had been stolen.
33:56 He said, "You must come to my house,
33:59 and I'll give you a pair of sandals
34:00 to fly back to New York in.
34:02 And guess what street he lived on?
34:05 Straight Street.
34:06 That's right, and so Saul is there
34:08 in the Straight Street,
34:09 and he is there,
34:12 and he's sitting inside in the darkness.
34:14 And so we look at our text here in Acts.
34:18 "In Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias.
34:22 And the Lord called to him in a vision, 'Ananias!'
34:25 'Yes, Lord,' he answered.
34:28 "The Lord told him, 'Go to the house of Judas
34:30 on Straight Street and ask for a man
34:32 from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying...'"
34:36 I know who that guy is.
34:38 He's come here to ferret out the believers,
34:40 he's coming, you know, right?
34:42 I can't go and do that.
34:44 He'll kill me, he'll harass me, take me back to Jerusalem.
34:50 And so it goes on and says, "'Lord,' Ananias answered,
34:52 'I've heard many reports about this man
34:53 and all the harm he has done to Your people in Jerusalem.
34:56 And he has come here with authority
34:57 from the chief priests to arrest all
34:59 who call on Your name.'
35:00 But the Lord said to Ananias,
35:02 'Go! This man is My chosen instrument.'"
35:03 Here's our memory text.
35:05 "'My chosen instrument
35:06 to proclaim My name to the Gentiles
35:08 and their kings and to the people of Israel.'"
35:12 Ananias, what was Ananias...
35:13 What did it say in the very first part of the text?
35:15 He's a what? A disciple.
35:17 And what do disciples do?
35:19 They do what their Lord asks, right?
35:21 And so he goes.
35:22 And can you imagine?
35:26 We have the next verse,
35:28 "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it.
35:30 Placing his hands on Saul he said,
35:33 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road
35:36 as you were coming here has sent me
35:39 so that you may see again
35:41 and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'"
35:42 Can you imagine?
35:44 What do you think Ananias and the believers
35:45 had been praying in Damascus?
35:49 May his bus run off the road, right?
35:53 May pirates attack him and kill him?
35:57 Do you think they had the courage
35:58 to actually pray for what God had in mind?
36:01 I doubt it.
36:03 And when he comes in, they don't believe it.
36:08 They were bracing for the enforcer.
36:10 And so he goes and he prays.
36:12 And the next verse says,
36:14 something like scales fell from Saul's eyes
36:18 and he could see again.
36:21 He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food,
36:24 he regained his strength."
36:27 And by the way, it wasn't just physical scales,
36:29 they were spiritual scales, spiritual scales
36:32 of misunderstanding Bible verses, right?
36:38 He was misguided.
36:39 There was a zeal that had to fall away
36:41 because he was very zealous,
36:43 he was just misguided and misdirected.
36:47 Now he can see physically and spiritually, and he says,
36:51 "Now what are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized."
36:53 My first time in Damascus, I took that picture in 1988.
36:56 I had pastors there around 1999,
36:59 and I told our young tour guide that I wanted to go
37:02 on Sabbath afternoon by the river
37:04 and do teaching for my pastors,
37:06 you know, to get them reoriented
37:08 on what we've been seeing in Syria.
37:10 And the young guy said, "What river?"
37:12 I said, "You know, the river that flows down
37:13 to the middle of town, you know,
37:15 it goes right down."
37:16 He had never seen that river
37:17 because they now use all the water for drinking.
37:21 The city is so big.
37:23 But the next verse is so incredible.
37:25 Acts 9:20, "At once, he began to preach
37:28 in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God."
37:34 He is preaching.
37:35 Can you imagine, this is a guy
37:36 who was to root out the Nazarene,
37:38 and now he's preaching that Jesus is the Son of God!
37:41 The enforcer is now teaching this,
37:43 the people are perplexed.
37:44 Is that a trick? Is it a ruse?
37:45 Are they just trying to get our names
37:47 so he can arrest us later on?
37:48 what's going on?
37:50 And I love the next verse.
37:52 Verse 22, "Yet Saul grew more and more powerful
37:56 and baffled the Jews living in Damascus
37:58 by proving that Jesus is the..."
38:03 Now sometimes we say Christ like it's Jesus' last name.
38:06 Forgive me for saying this.
38:08 We say Jesus Christ like it's,
38:09 you know, first name, last name.
38:11 What does Christ mean?
38:13 Messiah. Messiah.
38:14 Jesus, He's proving that Jesus is a Messiah, how?
38:18 The scriptures.
38:20 What was He using?
38:26 He was using the Hebrew scriptures
38:27 because there was no New Testament.
38:29 Let's fill our minds with the Hebrew scriptures
38:32 so that we too can share with Jewish people
38:37 that Jesus is a Messiah.
38:38 Well, it gets hot in Damascus.
38:40 He slips away, he goes down into Arabia.
38:42 He spends three years there pondering, pondering.
38:46 And now all the rabbinical training
38:47 that he has comes into focus
38:48 as he sees Jesus as the Messiah.
38:51 And so we'll skip over that verse.
38:52 Maybe he went to Petra, maybe went to Palmyra,
38:55 we don't know where he went,
38:56 but now all the rabbinical training
38:57 from Gamaliel focuses in on Jesus being the Messiah.
39:02 And then we're going to skip down,
39:03 Debbie, to, "After many days had gone by,
39:06 the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan.
39:09 Day and night
39:10 they kept close watch on the city gates
39:12 in order to kill him.
39:14 But his followers took him by night
39:15 and lowered him in a basket
39:16 through an opening in the wall."
39:18 It gets so hot when he comes back.
39:19 He's preaching that Jesus is the Messiah.
39:21 The Jewish people are so baffled
39:23 that they go to King Herod and they say,
39:24 "Do away with this guy."
39:25 And they locked the city gates.
39:27 And can you believe the very people
39:28 he came to destroy,
39:31 their hands are now used to deliver Saul?
39:35 And he escapes and he goes to Jerusalem.
39:37 Can you imagine the Hallelujah moment
39:39 when it gets to the General Conference
39:41 in Jerusalem, right?
39:43 "You know, they sent me out to do this
39:44 and now I'm coming back..."
39:45 Can you imagine what he's expecting the welcome?
39:49 Is it the most significant event that's happened
39:51 since the resurrection of Jesus in the church?
39:53 You bet.
39:55 This rabbi trained by Gamaliel.
39:58 But notice what it says in the Bible,
39:59 "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples,
40:03 but they were all afraid of him,
40:07 not believing that he really was a disciple."
40:11 Imagine the shock.
40:13 Hadn't they heard the good news?
40:14 Wasn't the internet up?
40:18 Weren't there any phone calls?
40:19 But they shun him.
40:22 They don't believe his conversion is real.
40:24 Has that ever happened to you?
40:28 You know, folks, let's have our eyes open
40:31 to who is God bringing into our communities, right?
40:34 Don't shun them, reach out and love them.
40:38 Reach out and love them.
40:39 And so the next verse says,
40:42 "But Barnabas took him
40:44 and brought him to the apostles.
40:46 He told them how Saul
40:47 on his journey had seen the Lord
40:49 and that the Lord had spoken to him,
40:50 and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly
40:52 in the name of Jesus."
40:54 It must have hurt to be rejected
40:55 and shunned like that.
40:58 Who comes up? What's the guy's name?
41:01 Barnabas. What does Barnabas mean?
41:05 Son of encouragement because he was an ASI member.
41:09 He sold his property
41:11 and he gave everything to the believers, right?
41:13 And they divided, and there was there was stuff
41:14 to go around, and so...
41:16 And they nicknamed him.
41:18 No longer you're called Barnabas,
41:19 you're gonna be the son of...
41:21 His real name is Joseph, right?
41:23 He was from Levi family in Cyprus.
41:26 But no longer will you be called Joseph,
41:28 you'll be called son of encouragement.
41:31 Are you a son of encouragement?
41:34 Are you a daughter of encouragement?
41:36 So many discouraging words are spoken among us.
41:40 In our churches,
41:41 there's all little so many discouraging words.
41:43 I want to be a son of encouragement,
41:45 don't you?
41:46 You think back to people who encourages in your life.
41:51 You know, I had a grandma,
41:52 if I want to eat chocolate for breakfast,
41:54 she said, "That's great."
41:55 She had encouraged me, encouraged me, prayed for me,
41:59 try to tell me a better way, and it made a difference.
42:02 But our next verse says, "So Saul stayed with them
42:06 and moved about freely in Jerusalem,
42:07 speaking boldly in the name of the Lord."
42:10 And after Barnabas vouches for Saul,
42:15 Saul's brought into the community,
42:16 he's preaching there, and it's been 15 days,
42:19 and it's exciting,
42:20 and then he goes back up to Tarsus
42:22 where he stays
42:23 until his old friend Barnabas
42:26 comes up and gets them,
42:28 and then they go off on their first missionary journey.
42:30 Oh, they go down to Antioch, and then they all
42:32 might go on their first missionary journey.
42:34 And the church has revolutionized
42:36 by what they're doing.
42:37 And so he speaks boldly in the name of the Lord.
42:40 And so Saul would later write
42:41 to his son in the Gospel, Timothy,
42:43 he would write and say,
42:44 "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves all acceptance.
42:49 Christ Jesus came into this world
42:51 to save sinners
42:53 of whom I am the worst or the chief."
42:57 No matter how good Saul was later,
43:00 no matter what he accomplished, he still remembered one thing,
43:02 his roots.
43:04 I'm the chief of sinners.
43:07 He wasn't majoring in minors, was he?
43:09 That's the issue.
43:11 We're all from the same cloth.
43:14 Now I love the story of Saul,
43:19 his dramatic conversion.
43:21 Some of you read in the program about my conversion.
43:26 And as I said earlier,
43:27 I kind of grew up around Adventism.
43:29 I had a grandmother who said,
43:30 "If you will finish pisgah' I'll buy you a Harley,"
43:33 pretty good deal, right?
43:35 Unfortunately, I got a one-way ticket to jail,
43:38 busted for marijuana in 1970,
43:41 and couldn't get back
43:43 into my little school in North Carolina
43:44 because they didn't want drug offenders in the school
43:48 even though I was a young adult.
43:50 And so I started a whole different direction
43:52 down a different road and became very, very involved
43:56 in the counterculture, and the flow of drugs
43:58 for our small town in Salisbury,
44:00 which is where there are more millionaires
44:02 in that county than any county in North Carolina
44:03 because of Food Lion stock.
44:06 Interesting, there's a little funny story there.
44:08 And I was going a whole different direction,
44:12 but I had a grandma who was praying for me, right?
44:16 My grandma was praying for me.
44:17 And while I could reject the Christianity
44:19 and most Christians I knew, and say, us, in that day,
44:22 some of you are old, like I am, plastic society.
44:26 It's not really genuine,
44:28 not real,
44:29 I could reject that or I rejected it anyway.
44:32 But I couldn't reject...
44:33 I knew hers was genuine, and she was praying for me,
44:35 and I'll never forget,
44:38 went to a lot of rock'n'roll festivals.
44:39 It's amazing, what doesn't get out of your mind.
44:42 I did all kinds of things that I'm not proud of,
44:45 but I wouldn't open my eyes in prayer,
44:47 and I wouldn't eat pork.
44:49 Shoot drugs, but I wouldn't do that other.
44:53 And so I went to see
44:55 what I thought was a greatest show on earth,
44:56 The Rolling Stones tour in 1972.
44:58 It was in Charlotte, North Carolina, July the 6th.
45:00 And I'll never forget what happened
45:02 because Stevie Wonder played.
45:03 Now he's taking a lot of hallucinogenic drugs.
45:06 Stevie Wonder played,
45:07 and they moved the equipment, and I saw...
45:09 I don't know what was there, but I saw two serpents
45:10 playing on the floor.
45:12 Now, "Oh, no,
45:14 even Mick Jagger knows there's a devil."
45:18 And then I heard a voice saying, "Yes, I'm real,
45:20 and you sold your soul to me.
45:21 You've committed the sin against the Holy Spirit."
45:24 Heavy, well, they always clap for an encore,
45:28 and the roadie came and said, "Thank you, we're through."
45:30 And the devil said, "And you are through,
45:31 you have to die tonight for your sins."
45:32 I'm a sinner, no doubt about it.
45:34 Well, my whole group left, and I hate to say it,
45:36 I was driving, and so I drove our group
45:37 back out to the farm,
45:38 and they partied, and I pondered,
45:40 and the next day I went to my grandma's house.
45:41 She had those old Conflict of Ages series
45:43 with the pictures,
45:44 I was so spaced out, I couldn't...
45:46 All I could do is kind of thumb through the pictures.
45:47 And I ran across a picture
45:49 of Jesus speaking
45:51 to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
45:52 Remember what He's doing?
45:54 He's stepping on the head of the serpent.
45:56 I got a little bit...
45:58 "Maybe He's stronger than the serpent."
46:03 Well, I kind of verbalized something
46:04 to grandma about what happened.
46:06 She gave me Desire of Ages.
46:07 I took it down to Atlanta and took a friend home.
46:08 And while I was there, I started reading.
46:10 I remember reading that beautiful quote,
46:12 "Jesus was treated as we deserved to be treated
46:15 that we might be treated as He deserved to be treated.
46:18 He was condemned for our sins which He had no share
46:19 that we might be justified by His righteousness
46:22 and by His stripes we are healed."
46:23 I said, "Wow."
46:25 If that's what You're like, I want to get to know You."
46:28 So I gave my heart to Jesus there,
46:30 and went back.
46:31 And anyway, went back and had one last party.
46:34 And my best friend, who was 40 years old,
46:36 an African American guy with a nose ring
46:38 in North Carolina, 1972, and he said,
46:41 "You can't get away from it, can you?"
46:42 I said, "Oh, Lord, please help me."
46:44 Last time I did that.
46:45 So I just want to say grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, children,
46:50 praying for your parents,
46:53 don't give up, right?
46:55 God did an incredible thing on the road to Damascus
46:58 in the life of Saul.
47:00 He can do the same in your family.
47:01 He did in mine.
47:03 He did in my life, I know,
47:04 and He can do it in your family's life too,
47:05 don't give up.
47:07 Keep praying for them. Let's pray together.
47:08 Father in heaven,
47:10 thank You so much for the incredible miracle
47:12 that happened on the road to Damascus,
47:13 how You spoke to this Jewish rabbi
47:16 trained by Gamaliel
47:18 and how that his life was turned around.
47:20 Thank You for doing that in my life.
47:21 Give these folks courage, I pray.
47:23 As I pray for their children, and loved ones, and family
47:26 that they too might find that joy and peace in Jesus
47:29 that we have is my prayer.
47:31 In Jesus' name, amen.
47:33 So God bless you as you walk in
47:35 not only in the footsteps of Paul
47:36 but in the footsteps of the one
47:38 that Paul was following Jesus Himself, right?
47:40 And bless you in your journey.