Points Covered: Characteristics of a transformed life. How is transformation possible? Transformation of Apostle Paul.
Introduction: Can anybody be really transformed? What do you think when you think of a better or transformed life? Man is chasing after a better transformed life. The world comes up with various methods to transform people’s lives.
Phyllis Diller, the comedian actress had a very expensive facelift. In an interview she said that it transformed her life. I don’t know about that. I do know it transformed her face. Annabel Giles, British model, TV presenter and actress said that plastic surgery had changed her life for better.
People say, I got a new job and I am a transformed man or I will get over my financial problem and I will have a new transformed life. Some say, if I lose weight I will have a transformed life.
The advertisements say, if I use certain products I’ll be a new man or a new woman. Some people think that when they fall in love that transforms them. Yea, it does for a while. Some say it is education that transforms. If we could educate people we can change our society. So we educated people and now we have smarter criminals. All of this is hopelessly superficial transformation.
Can you actually take a person and make him a good one? Can a shattered broken relationship be put back together as good as new or even better.
I mean, can’t we transform man somehow? God has something to say about it Jeremiah 13:23 Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. God says that it is against your very nature to change. Man doing anything and everything to try to alter what he is, is unsuccessful.
Will a new deodorant soap do it? Jeremiah 2:22 Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord. Soap doesn’t do it. Very superficial.
You say I know what will change the world, love and friendship. What the world needs now is love. Jeremiah 9:4 Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Believe me, this world is full of con men. Everybody that talks about love doesn’t do it.
You say well, if you can’t really love everybody or have good friends, maybe then what we need to do is have firmer laws and correction methods. Jeremiah 2:30 In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction. God said, I tried correction and that didn’t do it.
Soap doesn’t transform you. Love does not transform us. And even rules, discipline and punishment doesn’t seem to do a whole lot. Somebody said, “I guess the only way to transform people is to smash them, crush out their personality.” Proverbs 27:22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them. You can’t press upon man a crushing debilitating experience and expect to turn him into something wonderful.
There is no outside force that can change man. None. You know why? Man doesn’t have an outside problem, man has an inside problem. Isaiah 1:5 Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? (Listen, here’s the problem.) Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.
We cannot transform people on the outside. It’s got to be something on the inside. Only God can do it. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! God is in the business of transforming lives.
And we come in Acts Chapter 9 we find God transforming the life of Saul. Now, Saul, just let me give you what kind of a guy he was. Just let your imagination run over these thoughts.
The world’s worst sinner. Saul claimed to be the world’s worst sinner. Now we know we sin, but I doubt whether any of us would announce our sins. But Saul claimed to be the world’s worst sinner, and he really had a lot of things to support that claim. He lived his life to hurt, to injure and if need be, to kill people who disagreed with him. In fact, by his life he blasphemed God and he made good people who loved God suffer torture. He was a bad man, very bad. Acts 26:9-11, Acts 8:3
Saul worked for the dirty politicians in Jerusalem. He as a man who was the hireling of dirty politicians. He worked for the crooks in Jerusalem. He was very, very evil, but you know something? That man was absolutely, totally transformed, totally transformed. And it wasn’t superficial, it was deep.
Listen to what the same man said to a group of Christians in a little city called Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 7Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8so we cared for you. The same ones he was killing if need be not too long before.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. You see, here’s a change. This man is a whole new man. Something drastic has happened in his life.
Philippians 1:18 The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Now all of a sudden this person who hated Jesus Christ is rejoicing when He’s preached. He was absolutely and totally transformed. In fact, the Christians fell in love with him. When he left Ephesus they fell all over him and cried like babies because they loved him so much. Now what in the world could change a man like that? Only Jesus Christ, only God.
Now, as we look at Chapter 9 of Acts, we’re going to see the characteristics of this man’s transformed life. This is a pattern for all transformed lives, this is one of those chapters that gives for us some great insights into the basics of the Christian experience.
Characteristics of a transformed life.
1. Faith in the Savior.
Real transformation came in Saul when he put his faith in Jesus Christ. Saul was on his way to Damascus to kill Christians. That’s exactly what he had in mind. And on the way, the Lord Jesus Christ stopped him in the middle of the road to Damascus just prior to coming to the city. He fell on his face. At that point Christ revealed Himself to him. He saw Jesus Christ in blazing glory. At that point, he believed that Jesus was who He claimed to be. The Messiah who had died and risen and was alive and he put his faith in Jesus Christ and the transformation took place on the Damascus Road.
1 Timothy 1:14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. He said, I was changed because of Christ Jesus. It was the grace and the mercy and the hope and the love and the faith all wrapped up in Jesus Christ that changed my life. Transformation then comes by faith in the Savior. There never will be a transformed life apart from Jesus Christ.
Only God could say to the prophet Ezekiel, “I’ll take out the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I’ll put my Spirit within you.” Only Jesus could say Nicodemus how to be born again. How to have eternal life. The new birth, new creation, transformation can come only in Jesus Christ.
And this man Saul of Tarsus was changed in that moment. He became a new creation. He who was dead in sin became alive to God. He who was insensitive to divine truth began to taste that God is good. He who was blind began to see. He who was in darkness stepped into blazing light. He who did only evil continually began to have a desire to do good. The hell bound became the heaven bound, the rebel became the son.
And it all happened in an instant on a Damascus Road. So if you’re looking for a transformed life, the only place you’ll ever find it is by personal faith in Jesus Christ.
That was the positional transformation. He was a new man. Then there became some practical things that needed to be adjusted as he went and the transformation continued. Because you see, the transformation then is a process of being conformed to Jesus Christ and that’ll finally be complete when we see Him face-to-face. The transformed life begins with faith in the Savior.
2. Fervor in Supplication.
Fervor just means energy, passion, drive. Supplication means prayer. I believe that one of the characteristics of a truly born again saved individual is prayer. Prayer is a response to salvation. I don’t think that prayer is something you have to beg Christians to do. I think that if you’re really born again, you do it. A true Christian can be determined on the basis of fervor in supplication.
Saul was blinded by the sight of Jesus Christ. Somebody’s leading him by the hand. He’s stumbling around and he goes into Damascus and he finds his way to the house of a man by the name of Judas, not Iscariot. Acts 9:9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. The Lord told him to go there and three days he is without food and drink.
Those were days when he concentrated on Jesus Christ. Those were days when the shock of the transformation began to settle in his brain. He began to understand what had happened so rapidly and so dynamically.
Now as he’s sitting somewhere in this house of Judas on Straight Street, meanwhile God is beginning to move on the heart of another man called Ananias. Acts 9:10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. I mean, he obviously knew that was not the voice of Mrs. Ananias. Ananias realized it was God. Most believers would have asked, “Who is it please?” The last person we expect is God to speak to us.
I think Ananias was a leader, if not the leader of the church in Damascus. That he was a primary kind of person there. I think it was Ananias that Saul was after.
Acts 9:11 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. Now Judas was probably another Christian. But Saul is over there praying in Judas’ house.
Have you ever thought of the worst enemy to Christianity in your life and then just written him off? I’m sure that these Christians hadn’t even thought to pray for Saul of Tarsus. And here he is over there, God’s got a hold of him. He’s down at Judas’ house and he’s praying. Listen, the second thing in the transformed life is fervor in supplication.
You know what prayer is? Prayer is communication with Jesus Christ. Paul spent three days in communion with Christ, that’s prayer.
I believe that somebody who is really born again, somebody who really comes to Jesus Christ finds himself lost in communion with Him. It’s just this constant kind of life flow and communion with Christ.
Now this isn’t the first time Saul prayed. He used to pray like a Pharisee depending on his own self-righteousness. Now he prays like a broken contrite sinner depending on the mercy of God. It’s just the first time he got through to God.
A transformed life is a life in constant contact with God. If somebody says, I’m a Christian, but they have no desire to commune with God then I don’t think their Christianity is legitimate.
For the Christian, prayer is like breathing. It’s very easy to breathe. You don’t go to sleep at night saying I hope I remember to breathe while I’m asleep. Now it’s hard to hold your breath. Now in terms of prayer, that’s exactly what it is. Prayer is just breathing. It’s harder not to pray for a Christian than it is to pray. Because when you’re not praying, you’re holding your spiritual breath. If you’re really born again, it is normal to just relax and let God get involved with us.
Prayer is like crying is to a baby. When the baby is born, you don’t teach it how to cry. It comes in crying. You say why do babies cry? They cry, in my experience, because they want something. God has just supplied for babies the knowledge and whatever it takes to yell and the caretakers usually responds.
For the Christian it’s much the same thing. Prayer for a new Christian is not learned by a manual. It’s like crying. You come into the world and you have needs. As a Christian you have needs and the very normal thing for a Christian to do is just to start saying God I have needs. And so we cry a lot. And I wonder sometimes if you’re not crying whether you’ve ever been born.
And I think that’s proof of the transformation and incidentally, prayer is not one-sided conversation. God answers it doesn’t He? Now God may take three days to do it, but He always answers. And it’s beautiful to realize this, that all the time Saul is over there praying, God’s working on the answer somewhere else.
Have you ever just had some kind of situation in your life and you start praying and you think God’s so way from us. In the case of Saul, God had been working with Ananias. Don’t ever assume that when it doesn’t happen now, it isn’t happening with God. It is. It is. God works in His own way and in His own time. So Saul’s over there and he’s praying, but God’s getting it ready and Ananias is going to deliver it.
Acts 9:12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight. God gave Saul a vision and in his vision, he saw a man named Ananias coming along and touching him and receiving sight.
So Saul’s had a vision. Ananias had a vision, God’s got two corresponding visions. Two men who not three days before were utter enemies are now on a course to hit head on. Now that’s God’s control. So God ordered the events. For three days, Saul prayed and God moved to answer his prayer. Believe me people, part of the transformed life is fervor in supplication. When you’re really transformed you spend your time communing with God and God speaks back to you.
3. Faithfulness in Service.
Another sing of a transformed life is faithfulness in service. Now Ananias had lived in Damascus and I’m sure since the time of his salvation he’d been faithful in service to the Lord. It’s very apparent to me that he was a servant of the Lord from his sensitivity to the voice of the Lord when the Lord said Ananias, and he went. When the Lord spoke, Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.” He was ready. At the moment Saul was saved, what’s the next thing he said? Now I’m ready to serve God.
There are people who are saved for 10-20 years and is of no service to God. Then there are also Christians who from the moment of their salvation live the life of full service till the day they died. And a classic example is a man named Saul. Saul committed his life to Jesus Christ at the very instant of salvation and he never took back claim to his life until the day his head was laid on block and an ax head severed it off. He never took it back. Faithfulness in service.
Ananias was skeptical to go. The Lord accepts the lingering doubt in Ananias’ mind. Acts 9:15 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.” Ananias, get on, get going.
I like the fact that God demands immediate service from Paul. Acts 9:20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
Can’t you imagine how He hears, someday Lord once I get the fence painted and the garage fixed, I’m going to go witness that neighbor.
Somebody else is going, Lord, I’d like to teach a class of people. I’d like to start a Bible study, but you know as soon as I get over the hump on this new job and some day.
God isn’t interested in some day. God wants your love and the investment of your life now. God said Saul is saved and now is to go preach. There wasn’t any difference between his salvation and his call. It happened just like that.
Saul didn’t postpone his service. He did it when God called him. Now there were times, of course, when there was a postponement. He went to the Arabian Desert for several years while God refined him, but he began immediately to do what God wanted him to do. He set his sight there. Sure there was preparation, there was education, there was time to grow. But nevertheless, he pursued the call immediately.
You know, there are needs that we have here in this church. There are needs around the body of Christ everywhere and they’re not being fulfilled because everybody’s going to do it in the future. That’s no good.
God doesn’t want your service tomorrow. Because He’s not interested in it. There’s nothing to do for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself the Bible says. He wants you today.
Remember the old statement “saved to,” what, “serve.” “Saved to serve,” that’s true. When you become a Christian, immediately whatever your vocation was it becomes your avocation. Whereas a Christian the thing that you are to be known for is just that your Christianity. That’s the key.
Let me close with a verse. 1 Corinthians 4:1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. If you’re a Christian, you ought to be known by your service to Christ. If you have none, you’re a contradiction in terms.
When somebody points to you, they should say oh there’s James, he works over at Accenture. Well, look at that, that’s Annie and she is a teacher. No, no. Oh that’s James, he’s a minister of Christ. Oh look at that minister of Christ Annie. That’s what we should be known as.
1 Corinthians 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. The world ought to know us by our service to Jesus Christ, by that we should be identified.
What are you doing for Him? What kind of service do you have? How are you using your spiritual gifts? Where are you using your abilities? If you’re not you’re a contradiction in terms. The transformed life, faith in the Savior, fervor in supplication, faithfulness in service. Let’s pray.