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A significant change

September 15, 2016

12th Sunday of Holy Trinityconversion-of-st-paul

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

Acts 9:1-20

“When I was directing revival services in Egypt, tells Mr. Stuart Holden, I asked a Highland regiment officer how he became a Christian.
His answer was: “There was a private in our company who was converted in Malta before our regiment left for Egypt.
For this reason we all made fun of him. One night he returned from his sentry post, tired and wet, but before going to bed he knelt to pray. While he was praying I threw my two boots at his head but he kept praying without reply.
When I woke up the next morning I found my boots well polished at my bed. That was his answer to my misconduct.
This way of responding produced in me a terrible contrition and on the same day I gave my heart to Christ and was saved.”

Saul persecuted the early Christians. He handed out justice to them. He sent them to be tortured or killed because he did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. In the church, being converted means that I accept that Jesus is the Son of God and I believe in him as Creator and Almighty God. That’s all; it seems simple, doesn’t it? But for many people it is not. Nor was it for Saul.

Conversion for many is a misunderstood word or concept. They believe it has to do with religious shows, or with extraordinary or magical manifestations. Conversion is simply a spiritual change that leads to a change of thinking and then to a change in behaviour.
According to what the Bible tells us, Saul experienced a remarkable conversion. But that does not mean that all conversions must be that way. That bad man called Saul needed a miracle to become a believer. That is why we often hear of miraculous conversions in people who were especially far apart from God.

And what about us? Those who have been raised in the faith since childhood; are we all converted? Or do we need a conversion?
We can answer this question today with certainty.
The best way to realize if we are truly converted is to answer these simple questions: Do I believe in God? If the answer is affirmative, we proceed with the second one: Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? If we say yes, we can move to the third question: Why do we know that Jesus is the Son of God? Because the Bible tells us. Then we come to a logical conclusion: The Bible is the Word of God. Do we believe this? If the answer is yes, then we can move on to the next question: So if the Bible is the Word of God, the Bible is a book of divine power, isn’t it? Do we believe this? If we believe the Bible is a book that has divine power, what is the best way to take advantage of that book? Simply by reading it. And so we can continue to develop more and more questions that will lead us to two conclusions.
The first is: If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then we are converted.
The second is that if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we start to act according to what God wants of us without realizing it.

Often we crave for changes in our lives. These changes do not come often for people even if they have a Christian education or have attended church for their whole life. This is because there is has been no real conversion. I suspect that every one of us here today is converted. But if by chance there is a person here today that has not yet been able to answer these important questions I invite you to do so and to maybe have the option of being a converted person.

As I said, many times we need a superhuman power in our lives that allows us to solve our problems. If we need changes in our lives, in our families or in our church that may require a superhuman or the miraculous power (of God), we must approach the Word of God and the fulfillment of his Word to the fullest extent of our abilities.

When a person has turned to God, it can be manifested in the simplest of acts.

A milkman who had a habit of watering down milk had been converted. Everyone could verify this, not because he himself changed, but because the milk changed.

A woman who was a long time customer of his noted this and one day asked if he had acquired better cows or straw bales.

“No ma’am, he answered, I have the same cows and they graze in the same fields; the reason for the improvement of the milk is that when I was converted a few weeks ago, the milk also changed.”
Thus, the fruits of true conversion manifest.

You may be wondering this morning: How can I be a converted person? To experience a conversion does not necessarily require an extraordinary event to happen. Conversion means a renewal or start of a relationship with God. I need to be able to say with conviction and honesty: I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe this because it was conveyed through His Word, which is that thick book, called the Bible. Therefore, this book is a divine book. We must begin to read it. How many of us have Bibles? How many of us have updated Bibles that are written in the same language we speak every day? For sure everyone. Where is the Bible in our homes? On the table, on night table or perhaps stored in a library, dusty from lack of use? It’s not important to read the Bible to achieve or have knowledge or information or study. It’s important to read the Bible in order to receive the power of God that we are longing for when we cry out to God for help. This way God can answer our prayers. The Bible is not just any book; it means a connection with God.

The same applies when attending church. Many think that coming to church is an obligation, or a duty, or a tradition or custom. Or it may even be that the church is a chance to meet people and socialize. No, the church may seem like ‘a building’, but it is not. The Bible says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20). Whoever comes to church with this understanding will win; those who don’t come, or even those who don’t come with this attitude will lose the blessing and power of God.
Conversion, as seen in the experience of the Apostle Paul, means a change of thought and mindset. Every time we change our thoughts it involves a change of behavior and a change of life too. When this begins to happen in our lives, God begins to be present in us with all His power. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we are converted and that’s a radical change of life.

I recently read something very funny and sad at the same time: “Some people think that Paul’s conversion was caused by epilepsy —because many want to find a human, logical explanation to supernatural stories narrated in the Bible due to their lack of faith— Well, before epilepsy he was a blasphemer, after epilepsy he began to pray and from that moment he became a saint and a missionary and noble man, then that epilepsy may continue!, the powerful healing epilepsy!

May God allow us to leave this church on this day knowing what it means to be converted. Going to church for our whole life does not necessarily mean that we are converted. For much of his life Paul was a pious and devout Jew. He was religious and followed the letter of the law but still did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God. It was when he experienced this extraordinary event that he could begin to believe in Christ.

A mutilated marble block was abandoned in the yard by a frustrated sculptor and remained there for a long time, exposed to the weather and half hidden by the grasses that grew around it.
But one day the famous Michelangelo found the marble block and saw what it was.
After acquiring the sculptor’s failed work, he began to work on it, transforming it into the admirable statue of the young David with his sling in hand, in the act of throwing the stone that struck the giant Goliath. Such a marvel of art was achieved from a piece of broken marble.
Who can say what the great artist of the Universe, the Divine Sculptor of human character, can make of a broken and imperfect heart that is placed in His hands? The practical question is whether we allow it.

Do we allow without resistance to be meekly shaped by the pierced hands that bought us at the price of His own blood? I wish, above all things, that we can get out of this church with the confidence that we are converted or for us to have the opportunity to give ourselves to Jesus Christ in thought and heart when we get home. That way, we will not only be saved but a fundamental and radical change will begin to work in us and in each of those around us. Believe in Christ and start to read His word and you never will live another experience like that.


One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    September 15, 2016 5:13 pm

    Thank you! Margaret

    Margaret the Joyfull Beader


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