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May 28, 2021 9:00 am


Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 28, 2021 9:00 am

When most people think of the apostle Paul, they picture this bigger-than-life, champion of the faith. But before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was a pretty undesirable character!

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Today on Summit Life with JD Greer. God's not trying to pay you back. He's trying to bring you back. What God is doing for you is not retribution.

It's restoration. God gave the retribution to Jesus so that what he could give to you was loving discipline to bring you back to himself. And I know it's painful and I know some of you have been going through that. It's not about God hating you. It's about him loving you. It's not about him paying you back. It's about him bringing you back. And I just got to ask, are you listening? Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. I think it's safe to say that when most people think of the apostle Paul, they picture this bigger than life, champion of the faith.

He's probably about six foot seven, rugged, beautiful, and a model citizen, right? But today Pastor JD explains that before Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a pretty undesirable character. We're rejoining our teaching series titled Scent that we began earlier this year as we discover God's transforming grace. If you missed the first half of this study back in March, or if you'd like to download the complete unedited message transcripts, visit us at Now, let's get started with our message simply titled Paul. This weekend, I want to give you four symptoms, if I could, of the spirit of God being at work in you on signs that you are about to be converted if you never have been.

Four symptoms, I guess, that you're coming down with a case of regeneration or, you know, giving you signs you get sick. These are signs that you're going to get saved. They are going to be found here in the story of Paul, who is going to be called Saul in this story because his name is going to become Paul. But you're going to see these symptoms that begin to arise in him.

And I want you to think about them in light of your own life. Acts chapter nine, verse one. But Saul, still breeding threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and he asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any belonging to the way, which was the first kind of name given to the Christian movement, now it's a cult, the way, men or women, that he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Now, as he went on his way, he approached Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice say to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? First of all, really quickly, would you notice how Jesus takes persecution against his church?

Why are you persecuting me? He did not think of the church as an it. He did not even think of it as a group of people. He thought of the church as me because he has so united himself to his church that they're one and the same. And that's going to throw Paul off because he's going to say, ah, who are you, Lord? I would never have persecuted someone as bright and shiny as you. Because he didn't understand that that was Jesus, that there was no distinction between him and them. Now, I realize that I'm not talking to a lot of people who are in an active role of persecution against the church the way that Saul was. So here's how I want to say this to you. There is no separation between love for Jesus and commitment to his church.

None. Jesus calls the church me. He calls the church his bride. The way we say it around here is you cannot love Jesus and hate his bride any more than you could tell me, JD, we love you. We'd like you to come over to our house for dinner, but that skank Veronica, we hate her. You and I are going to have problems if you say that to me.

Right? And I say that because I'm talking to many people in our community that say they love Jesus but are only marginally involved in the church. And I'm telling you, there is no question at all based on the Bible that you should be very involved in a local church. I'm not saying it has to be this one, but you need to join. You need to get involved in ministry.

You need to become a contributing member. And I know a lot of you consumers don't like that because you prefer fast food, have it my way, one-night stand kind of spirituality, but I'm just telling you you're in sin. There's just no question about that at all because it is him and them, they're one and the same. You say, well, the church embarrasses me. Well, it embarrasses Jesus too. And so do you, by the way.

Right? And if he's going to identify with something broken and embarrassing like you, the church, why would you think you're too good to also identify with the church? In fact, here's one of the first signs that God's grace doesn't work in you. You get disgusted with the church. The second sign you move up a level is when you then get disgusted with yourself.

That's maturity. And then the third sign is you then re-enter the church this time, not as a Pharisee to condemn everybody because you're so much better than them, but you enter as someone who is broken and a beggar who needs grace just like everybody else. And you realize this is a hospital for people like you. Verse five. And so Saul said, who are you Lord? And he said, I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city.

And you will be told what you are to do later. When Paul would recount this in Acts 26, he would tell this, but he would report that Jesus actually said another phrase in between those two phrases. It's not recorded here in Acts nine.

It's this phrase, Acts 26 Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Now what are goads? That's not goats by the way.

I didn't misspell that. What are goads? Goads are, it was a little sharp pointed stick that when an ox was pulling like a plow and they wanted the ox to move faster, they would take this goad and they would jab it in the back of the leg of the ox. And so the ox of course, doesn't like that.

So the ox would turn around and kick against it. And what Jesus is saying to Saul is that there have been these things that have been prodding and pricking at your heart and you are kicking against them. What were those things? The death of Stephen. That was one of them. He'd seen how Stephen died.

He'd seen the joy on Stephen's face and heard the love that was in his heart. And that bothered Paul. He had unanswered questions about Jesus because he saw that these Christians were explaining that Jesus had come according to a lot of prophecies given in the Old Testament. And there was a lot of things that were not adding up and making sense.

And he knew that his answers were not sufficient. He'd seen how Christians die. He had the Holy Spirit working in his heart and his response was to kick against those things.

And the way that he expressed that was through violence against the church. Verse seven, the men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. Cause you see, that's what happens in conversion. People around you encounter the same things, but they cannot discern the voice of God in it. They hear the same sermons. They meet the same people. They go through the same experiences.

They read the same books, but in those things, you're hearing the voice of God, but they're just hearing noise. Verse eight, so Saul rose from the ground. Then although his eyes were open, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days, he was without sight and neither ate nor drank.

Get the picture. Saul, the mighty, now kneeling before God. Saul, the one who thought he saw so clearly, now being led by the hand because he is blind. Saul, the one who seized others, now seized himself by the Lord Jesus Christ. Saul, the hammer who broke others, now himself broken on the anvil of Christ. Saul, by the way, would soon change his name to Paul, which means small. You know, Saul was a strong Jewish name.

It was the name of the first King of Israel who stood, scripture says, head and shoulders above every other man. Saul, the mighty has become Paul, the small. Verse 10, now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, here I am, Lord. And the Lord said to him, rise and go to the street called straight. And at the house of Judas, look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying. And at this point, Ananias said, excuse me? Oh, a minute there. I thought you said Saul of Tarsus.

Yeah, good one. That'd be like Jesus appearing to you in a dream five years ago and said, hey, I want you to go down to the local 7-Eleven. I got a guy there. I want you to meet. I want you to take him to church. I want you to let him stay at your house for a few little, a few weeks. You're gonna do a Bible study with him. His name is Osama bin Laden, kind of a tall guy wearing robes, going to have a ZZ top looking beard, turban.

You cannot miss him. And you're gonna be like, uh, excuse me? What are you talking about? That's the shock that Ananias is going through right now. He is praying. And he's seen in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him.

That's you by the way, Ananias, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, Lord, I do not mean to object, but I've heard many things about this man, how much evil he's done to your saints at Jerusalem. When he shows up at your house, he's not there for Bible study and prayer.

He's there to haul you off to prison. And here he has authority now from the chief priest to bind anybody who calls on your name. But the Lord said to him, go, because he is a chosen instrument now of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and Kings and the children of Israel.

For I'm going to show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. So Ananias departed and entered the house and laying his hands on him. He said, brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy spirit. And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes.

And when he opened his eyes this time, everything looked different. So he arose and was baptized. Four signs that you are being converted. Four realizations that you have that show that the spirit of God is at work in you. Number one, you realize that God has been pursuing you. God has been pursuing you.

Paul had these goads that were prodding him, pricking his conscience. Some of you have those things this weekend. Maybe it's unanswered questions that you've had about life or death or God. Maybe you've seen the joy in a Christian friend's life, joy as they go through pain. And you've thought, I won't have that kind of joy if I ever go through that pain. Maybe you've seen the love in a Christian community, whatever.

You're here this weekend. And maybe it just happened again in worship at any of our campuses. There's something that stirs in your heart that is a love that almost feels like it's pressing in on you. And you're not even sure what to say about it. You're not too sure what to call it, but you realize that is the spirit of God. Sometimes by the way, these goads are painful and you resist them and you kick against them.

C.S. Lewis, who might quote here a lot, a lot of Christians do, was an atheist literature professor at Oxford in England when he came to faith in Christ. Now, one of the things that Lewis would write about, if you've ever read much of Lewis's stuff, this is a theme that reappears over and over and over again. And what he writes is he would talk about how he learned to see that for years, God had been pursuing him. And he said, sometimes it was really painful and I hated it. In fact, he called himself in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. He called himself the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England. Drug into the kingdom, kicking and struggling, resentful and darting my eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.

Somehow that never makes it on everybody's board of favorite C.S. Lewis quotes. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is one of the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis tells this story about Eustace, who's the main character, one of the main characters in that novel, who is a boy who's made some evil choices, developed an evil heart, and he manifests that by having, he becomes a dragon. And so he doesn't want to be a dragon anymore. He wants to be a boy again. And so he tells Aslan, who is the lion who represents Jesus in the Chronicles, tells him that he wants to be a boy again. So Aslan takes him to this pool of this crystal clear water and tells him he needs to bathe in it. And then Lewis, now speaking in Eustace's voice, scholars will tell you that what Lewis is doing here is he's telling his own story in the mouth of Eustace. Listen to this.

The water was as clear as anything. And I thought if I could just get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain. But the lion, Aslan, told me that I must undress first. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper. And instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully. In a minute or two, I just stepped out of that skin.

I could see it lying there beside me looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe. But just as I was going to put my foot into the water, I looked down and saw that the skin on my feet was all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly, just like it had been before.

So Eustace repeats the process a second time and a third time, but each time the skin comes back and he starts to despair, then the lion said, you will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you that, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay down flat on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt in my entire life. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off, just as I thought I'd done myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt.

And there it was now lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been. Then the lion caught hold of me. I didn't like that very much for I was very tender underneath now that I had no skin on, and he threw me into the water. It smarted like anything, but only for a moment. After that, it became perfectly delicious.

And as soon as I started swimming and splashing, I found that all the pain had gone. And then I saw why, I'd turned into a boy again. You see, that's what's happening with some of you, is you've tried self-reform. You've tried to clean up your life, but now he's prodding you, and he's been ripping away skin from you, and it's painful. I know, I know I've been through it, but listen, he's not punishing you. He punished Jesus in your place.

So what he's doing now is he's bringing you back to himself. The way we say it around here is God's not trying to pay you back, he's trying to bring you back. What God is doing for you is not retribution, it's restoration. God gave the retribution to Jesus so that what he could give to you was loving discipline to bring you back to himself. And I know it's painful, and I know some of you have been going through that at all of our campuses. This is what is explaining what's happening to you. It's not about God hating you, it's about him loving you.

It's not about him paying you back, it's about him bringing you back. And I just got to ask, are you listening? Because the lion has a hold of you. Second realization, number two, you have been blind. You've been blind. Paul's blindness is given to us as a picture of all people that are separated from Christ. You see, there are primarily two forms of spiritual blindness. The first one is what we call irreligious blindness.

This is not what Saul has, he has religious blindness, I'll get to that one in a minute. But irreligious blindness is where you think that your way is better than God's. You really feel like you don't really need God, and so you pursue a life that we call sin. Sin just means that I'd rather be in charge than God because honestly, I think I make a better God than God. So I'd rather make my own rules and live by my way instead of his way. I often tell you that the middle letter of the word sin, I, is a pretty good definition of what sin is. I want to do what I want to do instead of what God wants me to do. And usually when you pursue this kind of life, things are great at the beginning.

Yes, they are. At the beginning, at the beginning, it's like I told you before, my youth group growing up, when I was a teenager, there was this old country preacher who used to preach at our youth group every once in a while, and he would stand up there. I remember, he'd be like, yo boy, sin ain't fun. And I'd be like, well, you ain't doing it right. I'm like, you follow me around, I'll show you how to do it.

It's fun. But see, then you wake up one day and you realize that you got a string of broken relationships. And then if you're honest with yourself, you admit I'm not really happy.

And then you start blaming everything. You're like, well, I just can't meet the right guy. I'm not living in the right city. And so how many young professionals I see that move around from, oh, we got to go to Atlanta because that's where the action is. Oh, and I got to New York City. I got to go to Los Angeles or I got to go to Charlotte or wherever.

Those are great places to live, but I'm telling you what you're looking for ain't there. It's not there. You've got to understand that God is waking you up out of your blindness. And yes, it hurts, but I'm praying that God will open your eyes, some of you, and show you that you thought God was the enemy and he's not. You've been blind and you wake up this weekend. The second form of blindness is religious blindness.

That's what Saul has. And that's where you think you can be good enough to earn God's approval. That if you just try hard enough and keep the rules good enough, then God will accept you.

Let me give you a quick theology lesson so I could explain to you why that's blindness. When we sinned, when our grandparents, Adam and Eve, sinned, a couple of things had happened to us. One, we spiritually died, which means the heart, our heart of love for God died, and it got replaced by love for all kinds of other things that we love more than God. So it's like John Calvin says, the human heart is an idle factory, always coming up with new things that we should prioritize over God. And so the result was God's laws to love him and honor him and serve him, they became burdensome to us.

They became wearisome. They felt unnatural. And when we force ourselves to keep them, our heart kind of chafes against it.

The analogy I've used with you before is this. I've told you, it's like if I was going to try to bend a metal bar up here in front of you, like a weightlifting bar, if I was strong enough to bend it and I put so much pressure on it that I could bend it and I got it down here into kind of a U shape, one of two things would happen. Either I would lose my grip or I'd, you know, run out of energy. And the moment that I took my hands off of it, it would snap back up to its original position, or I would put so much pressure on it that it would snap in the middle.

Right? And I've told you, that's what happens when God's laws come into an unregenerated heart. One of those two things happens. Either when the pressure is gone, you go back to the original shape of your heart. So for example, the teenager, when he or she is around the right people, they're acting one way, but the moment they're with their other friends, their heart goes back to its original shape. Or when you no longer are afraid of hell, then your heart goes back to the things that you want to do. Or you become a religious hypocrite doing things on the outside that you don't feel like on the inside. Right? Or you get to a point where you snap spiritually.

How many times have I seen that happen? I'm sick of all these rules. I cannot wait to get out of my parents' house. I'm going to go to college.

I'm going to do what I want. That's why 80% of the people that leave evangelical churches, when they go to college, don't follow God because their heart's never been changed. See? It has nothing to do with their friends. It has to do with their heart. And that's what happens to a spiritually dead heart. You become a hypocrite. Here's the other thing that happened to us when we sinned, is we had a sense of our nakedness. I've explained this one to you a bunch of times, but let me just really quickly review it for you. You see, in reality, we were naked before we sinned, but our nakedness didn't bother us.

Why? Because we were clothed, I've told you, in the love and the acceptance of God, and clothed in His love and acceptance, our nakedness didn't bother us. But the moment that was stripped away, then we had the sense of our nakedness and we felt shame. We felt guilt.

We felt like something is wrong. And I've told you, what do normal naked people do? If you sense that you're naked and exposed, what is your reaction? If you're normal, you're looking for clothes, right? Now, I've told you this, you wake up at Walmart, 3 a.m., you're sleepwalking. You wake up like, I'm buck naked in the middle of Walmart.

You don't pick up stuff you need for the house while you're there. You go over to the clothing section and you figure out something to put on, right? So we had this sense of nakedness. And so the clothing that we turned to was good works. I've got to show God that I'm worthy.

I've got to cover this sense of nakedness. I'm going to be good enough to earn His approval, which means, listen to this, it means that ultimately our good works are done for self-justification, which means really that we are self-interested in our works, which means our works are not really good for God's sake. They're good for our sake.

So it's just a means of serving ourselves. But the contrast of this is that the gospel, Jesus dying in your place, clothing you in His righteousness for a new life and a new heart. You're listening to Summit Life and a thought-provoking message from Pastor JD Greer. If you missed any part of the message today, you can listen again free of charge.

And you can download the complete unedited transcript by visiting us online at In addition to these daily messages, we've also made other free resources available on our website, like sermon transcripts and blog posts. JD, I know it's always your goal to develop fresh, engaging resources that help our friends go deeper into the gospel.

Yeah, we always have a free resource that you can download on our homepage, We get there, you'll find years of archives, of articles and Summit Life broadcast. But we don't want Summit Life to be a replacement for your local church, of course. There is something about being a member of a local body. And even if you feel like it's not a perfect church, it's a community, it's the bride of Christ and you should be connected. But we think we can maybe come alongside you and better equip you to serve in your local church and deepen your knowledge of the gospel and your love of Jesus. If we can play that role, not as a replacement too, but a supplement of your local church, then that's something that we're honored to do. And let us know how God is working in your community. I'm going to tell you that, Molly, there are a few things that we love as much as hearing from our listeners how God is working in their lives and how He's using some of the things that they're hearing here on Summit Life to transform them, to empower them, to assist in that growth process that He is pursuing in your life. Jesus loves you and we're delighted to be able to be a part of His work in your life. So let us know about that at

We would love to hear from you. And in light of what we've been learning over the past few weeks, we're excited to give you one final opportunity to get Pastor JD's new 20-day devotional titled Rushing Wind, Understanding the Holy Spirit. It gives a thorough biblical answer to many questions about the Spirit and how we can better understand this often neglected part of the Trinity.

And Summit Life is the only place to get this new exclusive resource. We'll send you a copy with our thanks when you donate to support this ministry right now. Your gift of $25 or more goes a long way in helping us bring this gospel-centered teaching to the radio and web. And we are so grateful for your support. Ask for a copy of our new devotional titled Rushing Wind when you give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or get a copy when you donate online at I'm Molly Bedovitch. Thank you for being with us this week. Be sure to join us again next week when we continue looking at Paul diving back into our teaching series called Scent. We'll see you right here Monday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-17 10:32:12 / 2023-08-17 10:43:17 / 11

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