BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For Sunday January 29, 2012
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO CHANGE
(Coming to know JESUS will change your life)
Before we can help a person to change, we must first show that person our love for them, just as they are. In Acts chapter 9, verses 1-22, Luke gives us a vivid description, of the most famous, and perhaps, the most sweeping transformation of any human being in the annals of biblical literature. Here, Luke chronicles the story of how Saul (Paul) was converted by JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, one day on the road to Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and also, the capital of Syria.
Scripture tells us that Saul, who was apparently an important figure to the Libertines, a group of freed slaves who had converted to Judaism, was an archenemy of the Christians, who referred to themselves as “Adherents of the way”. If you remember the Libertines were the group that was directly responsible for the death of Stephen back in Act 7. Saul embodied a deep hatred for this so-called “Sect of the Nazarenes”, who were gaining much in popularity following the death, of first, our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST at Golgotha, and then later, Stephen at Jerusalem.
The strong preaching and teaching of the original Apostles of CHRIST, and other early Church leaders such as Barnabas, Philip, and the like, had catapulted the Christian doctrine of “Good News” into a legitimate threat against the powerful Church of Judaism at Jerusalem. The Gospel of CHRIST was swiftly becoming accepted by vastly increasing numbers of Jewish converts, who were formally associated with Judaism.
Here in Acts chapter 9, we find Saul, on a rampage, eager to destroy any of the followers of CHRIST who crossed his path. He goes to the High Priest and requests letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking their cooperation in the arrest of anyone proclaiming to be a follower of CHRIST that he found there. He wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains to, either jail, beat, or stone them to death.
However, as Saul was nearing Damascus on this mission of hate, he is overcome by a brilliant light from Heaven, beaming down to the earth and causing him to fall to his knees in helpless wonderment. Suddenly the voice of JESUS rang out saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me? When Saul asks, “who are you?” The voice replies, “I am JESUS, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men with Saul also heard this voice, but they saw no one, and they all stood speechless in utter amazement. Saul, now blind, rises to his feet, and is led by his companions, into Damascus. He abided there for three days, going without food and water.
There was a believer in Damascus, by the name of Ananias, whom the LORD spoke to, in a vision. HE instructs Ananias to go over to “Straight Street”, the main thoroughfare in Damascus in those days, to the house of Judas, where Saul was residing. A protesting Ananias, who already knew of Saul’s exploits against the Christians, is further instructed by CHRIST to pray and lay hands on Saul, so that he would be healed of his blindness. Ananias reluctantly goes and finds Saul and lays hands on him, as CHRIST instructed him, and the scales fell from Saul’s eyes. Saul is then baptized, and remains in Damascus with the believers for a few days. After being filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, Saul immediately begins to preach about JESUS in the Synagogues saying, “JESUS truly is the SON of the LIVING GOD!”.
It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and then, becoming accustomed to practicing the word of GOD. Getting to know CHRIST transforms our lives into something wonderful and new, and then, our commitment to that change, catapults us into everlasting freedom from Fear, Self, Other People, and finally, Sin. GOD is not willing that any should perish, and so HE, in HIS wonderful grace, offers this opportunity of change, to all mankind.
SHOW YOU CARE
(CHRIST’s followers show caring and compassion)
Acts chapter 9 closes with Luke’s account of when the Apostle Peter traveled to the town of Lydda, one of his many stops along his itinerant missions around Judea. Today this city is called Lod, and it is located just south of Israel’s international airport. Here Peter encounters a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter’s miraculous healing of this man, in the name of CHRIST JESUS, caused many Jews in Lydda, and, in the nearby plains of Sharon, to convert to the Christian faith and accept CHRIST as their LORD and SAVIOR.
While Peter was in Lydda, an endeared Christian woman by the name of Tabitha (“Dorcas” in the Greek language), who lived in the nearby city of Joppa, became ill and died. Dorcas was widely known for her ministry in working with the poor. After hearing of Peter’s miraculous healing of Aeneas in Lydda, two men were sent there to try and persuade Peter to take the eleven-mile trip to Joppa and, perhaps, perform another miracle by restoring the beloved Dorcas to life. They had faith that, through Peter, GOD, could and would, raise this beloved woman from the dead, just as CHRIST had done a few years earlier, with HIS restoration of Lazarus.
Upon his arrival in Joppa, Peter was taken to the upper room where Dorcas’ body laid in state, awaiting its burial. The room was filled with weeping widows whose lives had been touched by Dorcas’ charity, caring and compassion over the years. After entering the room, in the tradition of Elisa the prophet (2 Kings 4:33), and our LORD JESUS CHRIST (Luke 8:51), Peter sent everyone out.
He then knelt down and began to pray before turning to the deceased, commanding her to get up. Dorcas opened her eyes and Peter took her by the hand, helped her up, and then called the others back into the room to see that she was indeed alive.
Because of these miraculous events, news spread throughout the land of the goodness of GOD, and how HE can work in the lives of those who believe on CHRIST JESUS. It was events like these that, Luke tells us, catapulted Christianity from being a tiny, little-known Jewish sect, in those days, into a major religious movement, by the end of the first century. And it all began with the real-life examples of charitable, caring people like Peter, Dorcas, and originally, CHRIST JESUS, HIMSELF.
When we show others that we care for them, we are exercising the same form of evangelism that was used to springboard and spur the growth of the Christian Church into the formidable mechanism that it is today. Miracles have never been solely for those believers who benefited from them personally, but rather, they are most often used by GOD, to help non-believers make the decision to come to CHRIST.
By showing others that we care for them, we are really showing our love for JESUS. In fact, we don’t really love JESUS unless we are willing to take on HIS task and to take up our cross. And the biggest part of performing that task lies in us learning to love and care for one another in the traditions and examples of CHRIST and the CHRIST-like people of scripture who preceded us.
(1). After Paul (Saul) met JESUS that day on the road to Damascus, he experienced
a complete change and turnaround in his life, from how it had been up until that
point. JESUS can truly affect all of us that way if we give HIM a chance, by
inviting HIM into our lives. If you really want to see a change in the way things
have been going in your life without a commitment to CHRIST, you can start by
praying this prayer of salvation with me, right now, directly to CHRIST JESUS;
“LORD JESUS I need you. I thank YOU for dying on the cross for my sins. I do earnestly repent for my trespasses against YOU, and I open up the door to my life, and invite YOU in, as my LORD and SAVIOR. I thank YOU for forgiving my sins, and then offering me Eternal life. I accept YOUR offer of Salvation, and I want YOU to take control of the throne of my life, and make me into the kind of person, YOU want me to be. Amen”.
(2). Show someone you care by exercising evangelism through right behavior.
(3). By showing love for others, we show our love for CHRIST.
Commit to listening for GOD’s calling on your life, and pray to GOD for discernment to correctly identify what the SPIRIT is leading you to do. Strengthen yourself through GOD’s word so that you will be better able to recognize the differences between those things that are within the will of GOD, and, those things that are not.
KEY VERSE: Acts 9:5-6
DEVOTIONAL PASSAGES: Luke 4:17-21, Luke 5:4-11, Matthew 7:24-29