Do you believe there are people that are so sinful they cannot be saved? Let me answer that question for you with a big fat NO! We serve a loving, merciful, and forgiving God whose grace extends forever.
How do you feel when you hear stories about murderers, criminals and predators coming to faith in Jesus? Sometimes people can be judgmental, bitter, angry, and self-righteous in their responses. Some believe that there are some who’s sin is so great that they could never be saved. I believe that regardless of what someone has done in the past; God’s grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness is available to all who encounter Jesus Christ and respond to his call to become a follower of Him.
Maybe some of you here today may have been considered by someone at one time too far gone to be saved. Maybe some felt you were too deep in your sin and believed that you could ever change your evil and sinful ways. I was. There was one person in my life who considered me beyond salvation and ironically after some time become one of my best friends. There was another person who prayed diligently for me, and I believe I became a Christian because of his prayers. Both eventually became by best friends, mentors, and role models. Thom and Drew were unique individuals. I have shared stories with you about them regularly. I am thankful for them because they cared enough to invest in me as a young believer.
Drew is one of my best friends. He lives in the state of Washington. He is an artist and creates the artwork for Saddleback Kids Stories of the Bible video series. Drew and I became friends early in my teenage years. We used to hang out all the time. However, there was a point in our lives where we went in opposite ways (he became a Christian and I wanted nothing to do with Christianity) but we still remained friends. He watched out for me during my rebellious years. I look back and I remember that I did many stupid (and irresponsible) things as a college student. I was living in rebellion. I lived a reckless and sin infested life. To say I was a rough individual would be an understatement. I lived in complete abandonment of rules and regulations. Fortunately, and thankfully, Drew was there to watch out for me. He cared about me, he was concerned for my safety and most of all he wanted me to meet Jesus. In an odd sort of way Drew had a servant’s attitude as he would accompany me to parties and bars to make sure I stayed out of trouble. He shared Jesus with me often and I would just pass him off as a Jesus freak. My other friend Thom, would often say to Drew, “Why do you waste your time on Jeff? He is never going to change.” Thankfully Drew did not believe that, nor did he give up on me. Eventually Thom came around and realized I was worth the investment.
I am not only thankful for the prayers and investments of Drew and Thom, but I am also thankful for the grace of God. I am thankful for Ephesians 2:8, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
No one in this room today who is a born-again follower of Jesus can say, “I am a Christian because of something I did.” Not even one of us is so good, pure, moral, and holy that we deserve God’s grace and not one of is so far gone, sinful, or lost to receive God’s grace. We should rejoice and be thankful for the God’s extending grace.
Saul to Paul (Sinner to Saint)
Acts 9:1 - 9
Vs. 1: The Apostle Paul truly understands, appreciates, and loves the grace of God. This was not always the case though. He may not have fully understood grace until he has his encounter with Jesus Christ. Paul loved grace. Grace – “God’s unmerited kindness shown to undeserving humanity.” Grace what a beautiful word. God’s grace, it is a beautiful theological truth. Without grace we are all lost.
However, Paul was not always a grace loving, Jesus preaching, messenger of hope that we know him to be.
Before Paul had his Christ encounter, he was one of those individuals that many believed was too far gone to be saved. Before he became the Apostle Paul he was known as Saul. He was an aspiring Pharisee who was quickly making a name for himself. We are introduced to him in Acts 7 as the young man who looked on with approval while holding the cloaks of the elders and scribes who stoned the Apostle Stephen.
Early in his career Saul launched a campaign against this newly rising Christian movement that ravaged homes, threatened, murdered, and arrested men and women and threw them into prison. It was all done with the approval of the religious leadership of his time. This tyrant caused a great dispersion among believers (which we now know was part of God’s plan) who fled for their lives and relocated to different Jewish and Gentile cities. Charles Swindoll writes, “He hated the name of Jesus, so much so, he became a self-avowed, violent aggressor, persecuting and killing Christians in allegiance to the God of heaven.”
Saul was born a Jew in the city of Tarsus. In his youth he went to Jerusalem to study under the teachings of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), who was perhaps one of the most notable of first century sages. Saul was totally committed to the Law as interpreted and understood by the Rabbis, and he became a member of the sect of Pharisees with high aspirations. To Saul, followers of Jesus were heretics, and they were an abomination to the God he served. In response to this he joined in the persecution of the Christian church. He would stop at nothing to accomplish the goal of destroying Christianity.
Paul’s Christ Encounter
Vs 2, 3: Saul approaches the high priest and asked for letters to the synagogue at Damascus to seek out and arrest anyone who was a follower of Jesus. He set out for his 150-mile journey (It would take him about a week). But, on the road to Damascus Saul encounters the risen Jesus Christ and has a life-changing and altering conversion experience that changes his life radically. He literally became a new person with a new outlook and purpose.
Vs 3 - 5: “a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, lord?’ Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting
At this moment Jesus, in his grace, reached down and called the man who was persecuting his people to become one of the people he was persecuting. Isn’t grace amazing? In God’s never-ending grace he stops a murderer (Saul) dead (pardon the pun) in his tracks and calls him to become that which the murderer despises. Jesus tells him to stop his crusade against Christianity and do what he is told to do. In one fell swoop he went from murder of Christians to a messenger of the grace of Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles.
This all happens with men who were traveling with Saul, and they stood there speechless because they could hear what was going on but not see anything happening. This encounter was a time where God pours his grace on Saul, and he is converted to Christ. His life will never ever be the same again.
In this short passage we witness an event that has reshaped the face of Christianity. We watch a murderous tyrant come face to face with the savior and he has a salvation experience that completely changed his world. Paul understood that day that all he had devoted his life to destroying was in fact a movement of God. Before he encountered Jesus Paul was completely dependent upon himself and his works for his righteousness. Eventually he realizes that all the law keeping, and rule following was all for naught. Paul writes late in life in Philippians 3:4 – 11… Paul acknowledges that his conversion and transformed life is all a result of God’s grace. He says if anyone could boast in the flesh of his works it would be him. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he realized it was all loss in relation to the grace of God. Paul knows and acknowledges that salvation is only attained by God’s grace.
GRACE! It is the gift from God, it is not something we deserve, He has given it to us regardless of who we are or what we have done. Salvation does not depend on how good you are, how popular you are or how little you sin in life. It depends solely on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and our response to His offer of the gift.
God has an abundance of grace and love for you. This love and grace were displayed on the cross of Calvary. Even when you were entrenched in your sinful ways and living in complete disregard for Jesus it didn’t take away the reality and truth that Jesus gave His life for you. God’s love for you is never ending. Jesus didn’t die on the cross based upon your response to Him, He did it so you and all humanity who believe could receive redemption, life, and eternal joy.
You and I have been saved by grace. We didn’t deserve to be saved; we deserve hell. God’s unmerited favor was shown to you and me, He provided a way. He gave us THE gift from God.
Regardless of your past we need to realize that our salvation is based solely upon what Christ did for us (His grace). When you were called by God it was because He first loved you, not vice versa. Your response to Him is based upon your conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, that leads to repentance, and the realization that you are indeed sinful and in need of a savior.
Nobody in the room is so sinful or so far removed from God that He cannot extend his hand of grace to you. God’s grace has the power to transform. God’s grace has the power to turn sinners into saints.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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