We continue our sermon series entitled “The Greatest Comeback”. Preaching from Nathan Gordon. Service led by Beverley Sills.
Throughout history, there have been notable individuals whose names evoke a sense of anger, disgust, and disdain. Adolf Hitler was the central figure behind the Holocaust which killed over 6 million Jews and is widely considered the most deplorable man in human history. Many others are infamously known for violent acts of terror and countless others are not widely reported.
The question before us today is, are there candidates whose actions merit the title of ‘irredeemable’ which simply means – “not able to be saved, improved or corrected”.
Context of Acts 9
Saul embarked on a confrontational mission to arrest and persecute anyone professing faith in Jesus Christ. Saul’s reputation preceded him as a man who would reign down terror on anyone belonging to the group called ‘The Way.’ However, the hunter would become the hunted as Christ himself would confront him about his actions. Jesus wanted to change Saul’s heart to become an agent of peace instead of war. Saul would be called to share the Gospel instead of persecuting its very message and disciples.
Ananias a disciple of the Lord was instructed to go and lay his hands on Saul for him to regain his sight. However, Ananias struggled to understand why the Lord wanted anything to do with a man who found so much joy in persecuting the church. Surely Saul was not worthy to be received into the ministry with his track record?
Just like Ananias, there may be occasions in our lives where we struggle to see how someone can be restored or forgiven for the things they have done. Although there are consequences for actions, we must always remember that God is rich in mercy and grace and is slow to anger and quick to forgive. As hard as it may be to let go of past hurts, we must remember that forgiven people, forgive people.
The answer = LIMITLESS HOPE
Through this wonderful story, we see the limitless hope that comes through embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We must never limit the power and potential of God to save anyone.
“Little did Ananias suspect that this dreaded enemy would be the channel of God’s richest blessings to his Church throughout all ages until the coming of Christ.” – Pulpit Commentary
Because of the limitless hope through Jesus and the gospel always remember….
No one is exempt from God’s mercy – v13 – 15
- As bad and evil as someone may be in our estimation we don’t have the right to exclude anyone from the mercy of God
- Ananias was focused on the reports of Saul’s past that he struggled to see the potential of his future through Christ
- The Lord’s response to Ananias’ concerns was simply – Go! “This man is my chosen instrument”
Challenge – We have to be careful with writing people off as irredeemable because with God all things are possible. Even the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon he or she can receive!
God can turn our mess into a message – v18 – 19
- Saul not only regained his physical sight but Jesus gave him a change of heart to see things differently.
- The fact that Saul was baptised is a clear indication he truly embraced the message of Christ and understood his persecution of the church was done in ignorance.
- Saul who became Paul is widely considered the most influential New Testament writer after 13 books attributed to his name.
Challenge – viewing people through God’s lenses of grace allows the door of mercy to remain wide open for a change of heart. Keep praying for those who are doing things that are wrong and even evil. Like Paul, Jesus can change our mess into a message of hope that can touch many more lives for Christ.
“Broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending”.
- At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul seems like a very unlikely candidate to become a Jesus follower. What does Acts 9 suggest about those who are hostile to Christ? How does this encourage us to continue to serve or reach out to those who are hostile or intimidating?
- Think of Ananias and his initial response to minister to Saul. Discuss an example of when you found it difficult to connect with someone because of their perceived bad reputation? How has faith in Christ helped and the word of God to reach out to the unreachable?
- Who was the unlikeliest person you knew who became a Christian? How did it happen?
- What was your understanding of God before your conversion? How did that understanding change after your conversion?
- There are many people around you who, like Saul, hate the church and all those who call themselves Christians. Are you willing to be the Ananias to the people like Saul around you? How are you doing in loving those around you who do not like what you stand for?
- During the sermon the term irredeemable was used. Do you think this term applies to past individuals like Adolf Hitler and others who committed acts of evil? Is there such thing as an unforgivable sin? – read Matthew 12:22-32 as a guide to discussing this question.