Intro: Saul of Tarsus is the man whose life is the focus of our text. The majority of us call him Paul. Paul transformed into a powerful weapon in God's hands after he was saved.
• At that time, God used Paul to start churches all over the world. • Paul preached the Gospel to lost people over thousands of miles. • For the sake of the cause of Christ, he went through terrible pain. • Because he was a powerful and faithful preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and spent many years in Roman prisons. 11:22-28. • Paul wrote at least thirteen New Testament books, and if he wrote Hebrews, fourteen. • To say that Paul was the greatest Christian to ever live is not an exaggeration. Paul, on the other hand, wasn't always a Christian. Paul was referred to as Saul of Tarsus prior to meeting the Lord. • A zealous Jew was Saul of Tarsus. • The name Jesus Christ was detested by Saul of Tarsus. • The Gospel displeased Saul of Tarsus. • The belief in the resurrection was detestable to Saul of Tarsus. • The church displeased Saul of Tarsus. • Saul of Tarsus committed murder. • Saul of Tarsus was a lost man who did not believe in the Gospel and was headed to Hell. • How many members of the early church were of the opinion that Saul of Tarsus would never be redeemed? • How did early Christians actually take the time to pray for Saul of Tarsus's salvation? • How many of the early Christians thought of Saul of Tarsus as a hopeless case who would never believe in Christ? • Do you believe that Saul of Tarsus was beloved by anyone in the early church? • Do you believe that anyone in the early church ever prayed in Saul's name? • Do you think anyone in the early church had faith that Saul of Tarsus would accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior? • The majority of those in the fledgling church probably saw Paul as an hopeless case. • The majority of them probably saw him as a man to be feared, not as a man who should be loved and the Gospel preached to. • I imagine that those early believers had given up hope in Saul of Tarsus long ago. • They probably thought he would never be saved. If this man's story has anything to teach us, it is that everyone has hope. • The story of Saul teaches us that even in difficult situations, there is hope. • Your loved ones can have hope. • Your friends can have hope. • Your coworkers have reason to be hopeful. • The people you've prayed for all these years can still have hope. • Some of you have prayed for specific individuals for a long time. • It's possible that you've come to think of them as difficult cases for which there is no hope. • It's possible that you've been tempted to give up praying for some of those people. • You might be discouraged to the point where you wonder if they will ever be saved. If nothing else, the story of Saul ought to give you hope for the people you think are hopeless cases. • The story of Saul teaches us that God loves sinners. • It serves as a reminder that we can always act now. • It serves as a reminder to us that there is hope as long as there is life. • It serves as a reminder that the God of the Bible is a God of grace, love, and mercy, and that anyone who comes to Him in faith will be saved! • It serves as a reminder that God is always working to bring the lost to faith in Jesus, even when we think nothing is happening! Today, let's revisit Saul of Tarsus's story. Pay attention to the aspects of his story that instruct us about Hope for the Hard Cases. I want to discuss The Case of the Hatredful Pharisee in my sermon. Keep in mind, as I do, that even if you've lost your friends, family, and soul, there is still hope. I. V. 1-3: SAUL OF TARSUS'S LIFE PROBLEM Like everyone else who ever lived, Saul of Tarsus had real problems. The majority of Christians perceived him as hopelessly lost due to the combination of these issues. A. Saul's Self-Righteousness: Saul of Tarsus was extremely religious. In Phil, he discusses his religious accomplishments. 3:4-6; Acts 26:5. Saul tells us in those verses all the reasons he needed to be confident in his religion. In accordance with God's Law, Saul was a clean person. He stated in Phil. 3:6 that his life was "blameless" in regard to the Law. That phrase means "without fault or defect." Saul of Tarsus upheld God's Law to the greatest extent he could. • He was a Law fanatic. • He was an attorney. • He followed the rules. • He practiced law. • There would have been nothing wrong with Saul of Tarsus's life if you had examined it and attempted to find fault with him regarding God's Law. Saul's relationship with the Law was problematic because he believed that following the Law would save his soul. Saul was of the opinion that keeping the Law would earn him God's favor and that God would accept him and save him because he had earned it. The issue with Saul's thinking is that it is completely incorrect! The majority of people worldwide share this idea. The same flawed ideas underpin the majority of religions. • The truth is that religious deeds do not save anyone, Eph. 2:8-9. • Following the Law does not save anyone, Rom. 3:20. • Deeds alone cannot save anyone, Titus 3:5. • It is a lie to think that doing good deeds or strictly adhering to God's laws will guarantee one's salvation or access to heaven. Why? James 2:10 says that no one can keep the Law. We are always guilty of falling short of God's perfect standard, no matter how hard we try. What exactly does God require? He expects perfection in every way! You can go to Hell for just one sin. In point of fact, to be guilty before the Lord, you need not even have sinned. Why? Adam erred! All of Adam's descendants carried his guilt from his sin. Sin does not make us sinners. Because we are sinners, we sin! The fact that everyone who enters this world is born a sinner and is condemned before they ever do anything right or wrong does not change by keeping the Law, Rom. 3:10-23; Rom. 6:23; Rom. 5:12. People of self-righteousness populate our world. If you are one of them, and you are trying to please God and get to Heaven by doing good deeds and following a list of rules, let me remind you that no one is saved unless they believe in Jesus Christ and His Gospel (John 14:6); Rom. 10:9. B. Saul's Sinfulness: Saul of Tarsus would have claimed to be a righteous and holy man. Saul of Tarsus was, in fact, a lost sinner in need of a Savior. Although he was unaware of it, he had broken several of God's commands. The sixth commandment, which states, "Thou shalt not kill," was broken by Saul. 20:13. Also, Levi. According to Proverbs 19:18, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself:" My name is LORD. Saul of Tarsus believed he was on good terms with God. He was of the opinion that his self-righteousness and outward observance of the Law of God were sufficient to win God's favor and save his soul. He was mistaken! Saul did not consider the fact that despite his outward obedience to the Law, his heart's sin remained. regardless of how hard he worked; regardless of the good he did; Saul of Tarsus was still a lost sinner who needed a Savior, no matter how many rules he followed. The issue that Saul faces is a problem that affects everyone in our world. We are sinners who require a Savior, whether we are aware of it or not. We can't get out on our own. To please God, we can never be good enough. We will never be able to please Him. John 3:3 says that the new birth is our only hope; 7. According to Acts 16:31, the only way we can be saved and have our sins forgiven is if we turn to Jesus Christ and believe the Gospel. We will be saved, have our sins forgiven, and be restored to God in that moment. This is made possible by His grace, not by our efforts, Rom. 10:13! C. Saul's Spite: Resentment is always the result of religion without redemption. In the life of Saul, that was the case. He rejected the truth that he heard. When he heard the Gospel, he was against it. He became enraged at those who did believe in Jesus because he refused to believe in him. Saul's heart's sin made him cruel and ruthless. • Saul of Tarsus detested both the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ and Jesus himself. • Because Jesus claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, the Son of God, and the only way to salvation, he detested him. • He detested the Gospel because it asserted that Jesus rose from the dead and died on the cross to atone for sin. • Any notion that a man was the Savior offended Saul of Tarsus. He was of the opinion that strict observance of God's laws was the only way to be saved. Saul of Tarsus was enraged by any preaching that only urged people to believe in Christ. Saul of Tarsus did everything in his power to destroy the church of God, the Gospel, and Jesus Christ because he detested both him and the Gospel. As hard as he had ever worked to keep the Law, Saul worked to destroy the church. Take note of what he did. • According to Acts 7:58, he took part in Stephen's stoning. • According to Acts 8:1, Saul was "consenting" to Stephen's demise. To consent means "to be willing to; to be satisfied with" Saul was content and pleased by Stephen's passing. • Saul "made havoc of the church," according to Acts 8:3. The meaning of the word "havoc" is "to ruin, destroy, devastate." • According to Acts 8:3, Saul broke into people's homes and took believers into custody. Haling translates to "to drag." Even using violence to accomplish his goals was Saul. • Saul openly "threatened" believers, according to Acts 9:1. • According to Acts 9:1, Saul killed believers. • According to Acts 9:1–2, Saul obtained warrants from Jewish authorities allowing him to harass Christians and arrest them. • According to Acts 26:9, Saul did everything in his power to oppose Christ's name. • According to Acts 26:10, Saul testified against believers and arranged for their assassination. • Saul forced believers to "blaspheme" the Lord who saved them, according to Acts 26:11. • 1 Tim. Saul, according to his own testimony, was: "A blasphemer" means someone who denigrated God. "A persecutor" is a person who causes trouble and harasses other people. "Injurious" means someone who talks and acts badly toward other people. - An "unbeliever" is someone who doesn't have faith. - Don't overlook this: Saul of Tarsus believed! He believed in himself—in his goodness, in his self-righteousness, in the law, and in his capacity to uphold it—and he had faith in all of these things. Acts 9:13 says that the early church feared Saul of Tarsus because of all this; 26. The early church dismissed him as a lost cause, a hopeless case, and a person who would never be saved because of his condition and his aversion to the Gospel. Acts 9:26 states that the church had little interest in Saul of Tarsus even after he had been saved. You're praying for people like Saul of Tarsus from time to time. • They may be serious sinners. • They might appear to be good people. • They may be people who have faith in their good deeds. • They might be people who have faith in a career they chose in the past. • They may be a variety of things, but they absolutely do not rely on the Gospel and Jesus Christ for their salvation. That type of person is lost. They require salvation. These aren't hopeless situations. They can be saved by God. You will discover that there is hope for the difficult cases in your life if you watch Saul's story unfold. I. The Issues That Arose in Saul's Life II. V. 3-5: THE POWER OF SAUL'S GOD Saul of Tarsus was far away from the people of God. • Their cries went unheard by him. • He could not hear the Gospel. • He didn't see the truth, which was right in front of him. • On the other hand, while man was unable to reach Saul of Tarsus, God knew precisely where he was. • Saul's life was forever altered when God intervened. A. How God Met Him: While Paul was on his way to Damascus to detain Christians, God met the resentful, self-righteous Pharisee. He was obscured by a bright light. He was knocked off his horse. The Lord speaks to Saul of Tarsus as he lies on the ground. According to verses 4-5, the Lord confronts Saul about his persecution of God's people by stating that attacking God's people is the same as attacking God himself. Saul's life is turned upside down in a split second! He is being conversed with the very Christ he has denied, detested, and attacked. Additionally, he confronts him regarding his sins. Saul wasn't thought to be able to be saved. No one believed that the Gospel could reach Saul. We believe that God cannot accomplish anything. He is able to touch anyone, at any time, anywhere. Never give up on God! He is able to convince the heartless of the Gospel's saving power. Continue to pray for your loved one. Keep talking about Jesus with your friends. The light can go out, saving them when you and they least expect it! B. How God Convicted Him: The Lord tells Saul, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," when he speaks to him. An "ox goad" is the "prick" that he is referring to there. A long stick with an iron point at the end was known as an ox goad. When the oxen refused to move or follow orders, the driver would use it to push them along. Saul of Tarsus had a strong will, like an ox with a strong head. • The Gospel had been ignored by him. • The Christians' pleas for mercy had gone unheeded by him. • He had shut out the Gospel's truths with his heart and eyes. • He has knowingly ignored every fact about Jesus' identity and actions. • He had rejected the Lord Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, despite the fact that he was aware that it was accurate. • Saul went through a lot of pain while doing these things. God prickled his heart each time he gave his consent to the death of a believer. • God touched Saul's heart when Stephen passed away. • The cries of the wife and children were like stakes in Saul's heart when he dragged a father away from his family. • God used the death of a believer who refused to deny the Lord Jesus Christ to touch Saul's heart. Although Saul of Tarsus appeared to be hardheaded and uninterested in the Gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ, God was secretly working in his heart. He was being led there by God so that he could confess Christ as his Savior and bow down to the Lord. And exactly that is what he did! C. How God Changed Him: Saul of Tarsus can be riding high and low at the same time. Saul refers to God as "Lord" in verse 5 because God humbled him and brought him to repentance. The salvation of Saul is kind of unexpected. He is like a cheap suit when he meets the Lord. Saul is prepared when the Lord speaks because the work of conviction that the Lord has done in his heart has accomplished its goal. He believes and is saved right away by God's grace! Hallelujah! Some of you pray for people who are lost, but you don't see much happening in their lives. They do not appear to be any closer to the Lord than when you first began praying for them. Others may appear to be worse than they actually were. When you don't see your loved ones coming to the Lord, it can be very disheartening to keep praying for them. You really have no idea what God is up to. You have no idea how their lives are affecting them. You are unable to observe the Lord's work in their lives. They might be closer than you think to that moment of faith and repentance. Continue to pray for them. Put in more effort. Don't stop praising them until they reconcile with the Lord. And let us not give up on doing good deeds: if we do not faint, we shall reap in season," according to Gal. 6:9–10. The Lord is revealing to them their sin and their need for a Savior through the events of life, the secret work of the Holy Spirit, the word of God, your testimony, the testimony of other believers, and a thousand other things. Keep believing and praying! When God's power will break through their death and darkness and bring them into His life and light, you never know. I. The Issues in Saul's Life II The Might of Saul's God, Third V. 6–9: PROOF OF SAUL'S CONVERSION The encounter between Saul of Tarsus and the Lord Saul of Tarsus was born again after asking the Lord a straightforward question during that brief encounter. Which evidence do we have? Can we say, "That proves Saul of Tarsus was saved?" if we can find something tangible in his life? There is a lot of evidence. Let me show you a few pieces of evidence that show Saul was saved when he met the Lord Jesus. A. Proven by His Works: The Lord Jesus issued a directive to Saul in verse 6. Saul followed the straightforward instruction to the letter. In verse 9, he went to the city and remained there for three days without direction. He never wavered. He did as the Lord told him, and God sent a man to teach him and help him become more like the Lord (vv. 10–19). He did not waver in his obedience to the Lord until the day he passed away. John 14:15 states that he was saved because of his obedience to the Lord. B. Proved by His Words: In verse 20, Saul begins to serve the Lord by preaching the Gospel as soon as he is saved. Saul, who would later become Paul, took advantage of every opportunity to spread the word about Jesus throughout his ministry. He introduced Jesus Christ to governors, kings, soldiers, and common people. He explained to them how Jesus saved them by dying and rising again. He talked to them about God's love, grace, and mercy. He shared everything he knew about the God he discovered through Jesus Christ with them. He stated it both orally and in writing. He used to despise the Gospel, but now he talks about it a lot. He ended up talking a lot about the very Lord he tried to destroy. His words demonstrate that his faith is true! C. Proven by His Way of Walking: Even after Saul was saved, he continued to live for the Lord. He simply gave up trying to live a clean life in order to please the Lord and began living a clean life out of love for the Lord. Saul embraced a new life of love for all of me, abandoning the sins of self-righteousness, hatred, and murder. His life was forever altered as a result. Saul's holy character demonstrated his devotion to the Lord. • When God saves a sinner, the same kinds of changes take place in their lives. John 3:3 says that he gives them a new life. He transforms them into new beings, 2 Cor. 5:17. They get a new heart from him. Eze. 36:26. The works, words, and actions of the saved demonstrate their salvation. That's what we want for all of our difficult situations. That's what we hope to see happen for everyone we pray for and bring to Jesus. When they do approach Him, He will result in that in them. Conc: Do you have any difficult issues on your heart right now? • Do you have any loved ones in your life whom you want to see saved and serving God above all else? A Son? A Sister? a relative? a colleague? • Are there times when you want to give up on them? • Do you ever question whether you should continue to pray for them? I want to urge you to continue praying for them. • Keep praising their names in front of God. • Keep referring to Jesus to them. • Continue to live in front of them. • Who is aware of God's current work in their hearts? • It is unknown when He will confront them and use His tremendous power to convert them. • Will you bring them back to Him again? • Would you kindly come to God right now if He has been working in your life to persuade you to come to Him for salvation?

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