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Sermon April 2, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1296

April 2, 2017 Acts 9:1-19

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript. This series is based on the Book Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola)

 

“The Voice of Jesus: To Paul”

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: Playing Hide and Seek

It may be hard for us to admit about ourselves, but we all hide from God. We may not want to believe it, but we do. It is a hiding of degree, but each of us hides in one way or another. We certainly hide if we do not know Christ. We hide even when we know Christ because deep down in our souls we know that we still sin, we were born into sin, and we fear being found out in our sin. We hide because we fear the unknown of full vulnerability before God. We hide because we really want to live our own way. We hide for all kinds of reasons, even reasons unknown to us.

Whether we admit that we hide or not, the good news is that God is always seeking us. If we are playing hide and seek in our lives, God is always “it”. God is always coming to find us. This play of hide and seek began in Genesis 3,

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

We have been hiding ever since.

 

Yet, God has been seeking ever since. God sought out Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and many more in the Old Testament. Jesus sought out the disciples when he called them to follow. Jesus told parables of God’s will to seek, like the lost coin and the lost sheep. Jesus said in response to Zacchaeus’ salvation, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Perhaps if our study of God’s word and our prayers and our worship and our pursuits of God are not bringing us closer to God, perhaps those are the very things we are using to hide! I know it sounds strange to say it that way but people have been hiding from God within religious practices for centuries. Paul is a classic example. He was hiding in his religion, hiding within his Judaism, hiding in his credentials. But Jesus sought him out with a blinding light and a voice from heaven.

...he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

Jesus speaks to us with a seeking voice. For Paul and his traveling companions, it was an audible voice they all heard. For us it may be a voice heard through Scripture or the many ways we have discussed in this series. Jesus will speak through all the ways we try to hide. We might hide from God behind our sin, behind our faithlessness, behind our masks, or behind our fear. No matter how we hide, Jesus is seeking after us with a persistent voice.

 

 

 

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: In What is Not Seen

We may hear the voice of Jesus in the things we cannot see or when we cannot see. What Paul thought he could see – the threat of Christianity, the threat to his Jewishness, the threat to established religion, he thought he could see rightly. But when he met Jesus he was blinded, so that he really could see the truth from which he had been hiding. Paul was blinded in order to hear the voice, blinded to take stock, blinded for 3 days – like Jonah in the whale, like Jesus in the tomb, Paul’s old self was dying in order to be raised from the darkness to a new light. Paul was learning what true faith was about.

 

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Paul thought he could see clearly, but it took a blinding experience to open his eyes. Later Paul gained all the assurance and conviction he needed. He wrote to Timothy about his faith,

I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me (2 Tim. 1:12).

From Saul to Paul is one of the greatest conversion stories in the history of the church. He went from seeking to end Christianity to becoming one of its greatest teachers. It took the voice of Jesus to do it. It took a change of vision.

What we are finally seeking to hear is not just he voice of Jesus in the history of the gospels, but the living Jesus of post-resurrection and post-ascension, that is, the living Jesus with us today. Sometimes God takes us through a valley of darkness in order that we might see something new or hear something from Jesus. We listen for the voice of Jesus in what cannot be seen for we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), yet another word from the apostle Paul.

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: Through the Listening of Others

The final way we might hear Jesus’ voice from Paul’s story is through the listening of another. Ananias heard the voice of Jesus and then Paul heard Jesus through this new mentor. Paul needed help to hear further. He needed to hear Jesus on the road and in his blindness. He heard Jesus again through Ananias. Paul was an educated religious leader, schooled in the Old Testament, and high on the list of qualified Pharisees. But now he needed to learn of Jesus, learn the faith, learn everything over again as it pointed to the true Messiah. He needed mentoring. He needed discipleship.

We talk a lot about the greatness of Paul, but in this story we see the greatness of Ananias. Imagine for a moment if you were asked to go see someone who was out to persecute Christians. That is what Ananias was asked to do. We hear nothing more about Ananias in the Bible, but what we hear is one who trusted the voice of Jesus even in the face of meeting the enemy. Ananias became the voice of Jesus to help Paul begin his new journey in discipleship to Jesus.

We can hear Jesus through the voice of our teachers, mentors, preachers, helpers, grandmas, parents, friends, and other voices. We may hear the voice of Jesus through ancient and modern writings, through art or movies, or other means that we may not imagine possible. Like Paul who could not see at the time, we might hear Jesus’ voice in ways we cannot see, through mentors who seek to open our eyes anew to the word of Christ.

 

  • Hearing Aids

Our hearing aids for today differ from what we have heard in the past. Instead of presenting positive ways we might enhance our hearing, I want to suggest some warnings or dangers to hearing Jesus. The first is dangerous pride.

 

*Dangerous Pride

A danger in hearing the voice of Jesus is pride. We can easily become arrogant thinking that we are special. It is a huge temptation for when we think more highly of ourselves than we should we also may turn our ears off from hearing Jesus. With every new insight we gain into Christ or faith or Scripture, we also need a strong dose of humility. The voice of Jesus is not to puff us up in arrogance, but to build us up in love.

 

**Dangerous Counterfeits

Also dangerous are the false voices we are prone to hear every day. Jesus does speak to us. But just as Jesus speaks to us, so too does the devil try to lead us astray. So too does the world seek to steer us into unrighteousness. The Scriptures remind us that Satan disguises himself in order to deceive, 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14). We need to learn to recognize how Jesus speaks and what Jesus speaks so that we might not be deceived. Satan even quotes Scripture to try to trick Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness. But the Bible gives us ways to discern. For example James 3:13-18,

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The devil and other deceitful voices do not come in peace or gentleness or open to reason and full of mercy.

We need to also be aware that we are prone to deceive ourselves as well. We can let our pride get the best of us or we might let our passions hook us into falsehood.

Let us continue to work toward discerning between the voice of truth and deception.

 

***Dangerous Misses

The danger to hearing aids are the misses be might make. Missing proper interpretation of Scripture. Misunderstanding what the Lord may be telling us. Misunderstanding the situations of our life. We need lots of help in our lives to find our way. We need mentors like Paul had in Ananias. We need to measure what we hear from Jesus with Scripture and with what others have said in the past, like the great reformers. We need to discern the times of joy and times of sorrow. We need to recognize that Jesus speaks to us in the light and in our darkest times. We need one another, the voice of the church, to help us grow and listen and follow Jesus. We need help! Let us seek that help in all the ways we have been encouraged to listen and in all the ways we have learned to discern the voice of Jesus.