Dr. E. Dale Locke
Sermon Series: Chapter Two
Week 5: A Fork in the Road
Stanley Jones, the universally admired Christian missionary and evangelist of the 20th century describes in his spiritual autobiography Song of Ascents how his life was transformed from ordinary to extra-ordinary once he gave his life to Christ.
1.What makes the difference between an ordinary life and an extra-ordinary life?
Stanley Jones’ friend chose not to give his life to Christ when E. Stanley Jones did, because he said he ‘wanted to live his life first’.
- Why do you suppose some people feel that way about giving their life to Christ?
In the “Ethics of Belief,” mathematician and philosopher William Clifford argued that “it is best to abstain from making a decision based on insufficient evidence.” In other words, Clifford states that proof is always required for belief to be present.
On the other hand, philosopher William James, in his writing “The Will to Believe” argues that we have a right to believe in some cases, even when supporting evidence may be not always be present. This is true for us, especially when the decision is:
- Live (when the possibility exists)
- Momentous (when it is important)
- Forced (when making no decision is not possible)
- What does Pastor Dale mean when he states that ‘Not deciding is a decision.’?
Read about the conversion of Saul in Acts 9:1-20
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 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. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 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. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 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.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God
- Why do you suppose God chose to use Saul of Tarsus to be His chosen instrument, given his background?
- Consider what it must have been like to have been Ananias when the Lord called him in a vision and told him to place his hands on Saul to restore his sight, and share your thoughts.
- Have you ever been called to do something that didn’t make sense to you? Tell about it.
Earlier in the book of Acts we get a glimpse of who Saul of Tarsus was before his conversion.
Read Acts 7:57-8:1
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
- What do you notice in this reading about Saul? About Stephen? About what occurred as a result of the stoning of Stephen?
Later in his life, Saul of Tarsus writes to the Romans as Paul the Apostle. Read Romans 8:1
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…
Clearly, Saul of Tarsus, the condemner of Christ-followers, now Paul the Apostle, has experienced a 180 degree shift in his beliefs.
- After reviewing the details of these scriptures describing Saul’s transformed life, do you think someone can ever be outside of God’s grace, or ‘disqualified’? Why or why not?
Review Acts 9: 15: This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
- Do you have a re-defining moment? What part of your life’s story can God use to make you His chosen instrument to proclaim His name? How can it be used?
Read II Corinthians 5:16-21
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- What does it mean to be ‘in Christ’?
- In what ways can you represent Christ, as His ambassador?