Jesus is actively and powerfully engaging with his world!
- 3 May 2022
- Stuart Robinson
Acts 9: 1-20
St. Peter’s Watson’s Bay.
I have some wonderful news for you this morning and it is this: the Risen Jesus is actively and powerfully engaging with his world and transforming his people.
And our reading from the book of Acts chapter 9 gives us an insight into one remarkable instance of his love, and his grace, in action: the conversion of St. Paul.
Here’s some background:
In the Gospel of St John, chapter 21, the resurrected Jesus appeared to his friends after his betrayal, murder, and burial, and he prepared a barbeque of fish and bread and shared it with those friends on the shore of Lake Galilee!!
Please don’t allow that fact to simply evaporate into the ether.
The Jesus you follow, was no legend.
He rose from death, and presented himself as a whole person to those he knew and loved.
And it was the third time that Jesus had appeared to his disciples after he’d risen from the dead (John 21:14) …and the appearing continued, we are told, for another six weeks (or so) before Jesus bodily ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9).
But that is not the end of the story: the risen Jesus is actively and powerfully engaging with his world and transforming his people today.
Not only did Jesus then send his Holy Spirit to embolden and equip his friends for ministry and witness (and this sermon series is leading to that great event – Pentecost 5 weeks hence) but Jesus himself – after his ascension, intervened directly in the life of a murderous young man Saul (or Paul as he came to be known) that he might open doors for the gospel across the entire world.
And it is all of grace.
By that I mean God-in-Christ took the initiative and literally opened Saul’s eyes to the truth of his resurrection.
In his misguided zeal, Saul wanted to put down the Jesus cult – known as ‘the Way’ (verse 1).
Saul was sincere; sincerely wrong.
And Jesus revealed himself – in a flash of blinding light and in an audible voice – as the Lord whom Saul had been persecuting.
And Saul was converted.
- We know Saul was because immediately he obeys Jesus’ commands and is led into Damascus (verse 8).
Saul has a new resolve to follow Jesus.
- We know Saul was converted because his attitude is now one of reverence – not rebellion: in Damascus he spends his time praying and fasting (verse 9, 11).
Saul has a new reverence for God.
- We know Saul was converted because he readily receives Ananias (whom God sent to pray for Saul’s healing) as a ‘brother’ (verse 17)…testament also to Ananias’ trust in God – for Saul was known to all as a violent and dangerous man (vv 13-14).
Saul has a new relationship to the church.
- We know Saul has been converted because once Ananias prays for him, and he is filled with the Holy Spirit, and is baptised, he immediately began preaching that Jesus is the Son of God (verse 20) – in fulfillment of what Jesus said to Ananias, that Saul (also known as Paul – 12:9) was God’s chosen instrument to proclaim his name to Gentiles (people like us), to global leaders, and to the Jewish people – at much cost to himself (9:15-16).
Paul has a new responsibility to the world.
In God’s grace, Paul is converted.
His life is transformed.
We know this because of:
And all of it, is a function of the risen Jesus’ wonder working grace.
Has that been your experience?
Have you encountered Jesus’ wonder working grace?
Have you known –
- a new resolve to follow Jesus
- a new reverence and devotion to God
- a new relationship with the church
- a new responsibility to tell others about Jesus – even if it means they will think less of you?
That was certainly Selina Shirley’s testimony.
Selina Shirley was born on August 24, 1707, in Chartley, England.
Baptised as an infant into the Anglican Church, Selina lived a privileged life while growing up in English high society.
At age twenty-one, she married the Earl of Huntington.
Selina named among her friends King George II, and Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough.
In her late twenties, Selina met Christ personally through the testimony and encouragement of two young women – friends of hers, who had become Christians under the ministry of the Anglican preachers, the Wesley brothers, and the Reverend George Whitfield.
Her conversion to Christ, was so radical and life changing, that her husband solicited the bishop’s help in bringing Selina back to ‘sanity’ and ‘proper Anglicanism’.
Shortly after Selina’s conversion, one of her high society friends, the Duchess of Buckingham, wrote to Selina and she too sought to convince Selina of her error in listening to the preaching of Whitfield and Wesley.
This pressure to renounce her faith in the risen Jesus only deepened Selina’s commitment to the cause of Christ.
The Countess of Huntington became close friends with the Wesley brothers and with George Whitefield, and she agreed (with them) to use her influence and her connections in high society to throw dinner parties where her friends could hear the good news of Jesus.
Many were converted to a living faith in the risen Christ.
Selina herself also began to personally speak to her friends about the Lord Jesus, and her husband was eventually converted though her ministry.
The Earl of Huntingdon came to faith in Christ shortly before he suffered a fatal stroke at his Downing mansion on October 13, 1746.
Selina was now a very wealthy widow at the tender age of thirty-nine.
And she used her vast resources, among other things, for the planting of 64 new churches and she contributed to the funding of many others. The Countess of Huntingdon died at 83 years of age in London in 1791.
May we pray?
Risen Lord Jesus – as you brought transformation to the lives of St. Paul and Lady Selina, please conform me to the will and purposes of the risen Christ.
In your grace,
- grant me a new resolve to follow Jesus
- grant me a new reverence and devotion to God
- grant me a new relationship with the church – the people of God.
- grant me a new responsibility to the world; to endure persecution and suffering in the advance of the gospel of Jesus.