The following sermon digs into Acts chapter 9:1-19
No matter how healthy or unhealthy you are—regardless of how many parts of your body don’t quite work the way they’re supposed to—do you ever take the parts of your body that do work properly for granted? Let’s say your ears don’t work as well as they used to. It’s easy to focus on the struggles that come along with poor hearing, but if your sense of smell is excellent, do you spend as much time thanking God for your keen sense of smell as you do wishing you could hear more clearly?
How about eyesight. Some of you know the struggles of trips to the eye doctor and prescription lenses. But I’m also guessing a good number of you have never seen an eye doctor. And, while some of you may have relatively poor eyesight, I’m fairly confident that not one of you is truly blind.
Whether for you its “20/20 vision” or lenses as thick as the glass in a 1940s Coca-cola bottle, any amount of sight, is a blessing. If you’ve ever been in a cave or room where there was absolutely no light, you know what I’m talking about.
When I lived in East Tennessee, I had a chance to go spelunking in one of the Smoky Mountains’ many caves. It was night to begin with, but once we were deep inside this cave we all turned our headlamps off. I remember waving my hand in front of my face and at first it’s some kind of illusion. You really do think you can see your hand in front of your face because you know it’s there. But very soon you realize you cannot see anything and become very thankful for your headlamp and spare batteries. I can’t imagine trying to find my way out of that cave without a source of light.
Before becoming a Christian, the Apostle Paul was known by his Aramaic name—Saul. Saul grew up in a town called Tarsus. Tarsus was and is located in southern Turkey about 12 miles from the Mediterranean Coast. If you can picture the modern day nation of Turkey, you might remember that it borders the north-east corner of the Mediterranean Sea. Tarsus is just north of that north east corner. As Paul grew up and studied Judaism, he sat at the feet of the most highly respected Jewish teachers, including a very famous Jewish teacher named Gamaliel. Paul could hear the people who taught him when they spoke. As far as we know, he could smell the world around him and taste the food he ate. He could see as he traveled from place to place. Paul’s physical senses functioned just fine. And yet, Paul was blind.
As he grew up in the Jewish faith, a new sect known as “the Way” was springing up all around Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages. As Paul persecuted the followers of “the Way” he thought he was serving God. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Prophets like Elijah would have been role models for Paul. Last week in Bible Study we looked at the prophet Elijah. One of the examples we looked at was Elijah’s showdown at Mt. Carmel with the 450 prophets of a Canaanite god called Baal. Elijah issued a challenge to those 450 prophets. They would each build an altar and sacrifice a bull on that altar. Then they would pray to their respective deity to ask that fire be sent to consume the sacrifice. Of course nothing happened as the prophets of Baal prayed and cut themselves. But when Elijah prayed, the Lord sent fire from heaven that consumed not only the sacrifice but the entire altar Elijah had built. The people who had come out to watch this began to shout “The LORD he is God, The LORD he is God!” Elijah then commanded the people kill the 450 prophets of Baal, and they did.
Why would Paul have viewed Christianity any differently from the way Elijah viewed Baal worship? To him, this new sect was just another example of people abandoning his God. Why not round these Christians up to kill them too? You see, Paul’s eyes worked, and yet he was blind.
Jesus talks about this kind of blindness in John chapter 9. (Briefly summarize Jesus healing the man born blind, the Pharisees investigation to see if this man really was born blind, the man’s testimony, etc. Then read the following.) “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
These Pharisees were blind to the truth. And so was Paul.
You may not be spiritually blind, but have you ever taken your spiritual sight for granted? Of course you have! So have I! Have you ever heard the phrase, “Stop to smell the flowers?” We often get so busy in this life that, spiritually speaking, we just don’t “stop to smell the flowers.” We have the gift of spiritual sight. We have the God given ability to read God’s Word and see our sin pointed out to us and see the peace of forgiveness given to us in Jesus, but we’re too busy. There is relaxing to do. There are activities to enjoy. There are places to go and people to see. Time in God’s Word can wait.
It’s not a sin to be busy. But it is sinful to allow busyness to blind you. You and I can see, and yet, much like spelunkers in a cave we often turn out the lights to the point where we can no longer see.
And while we’re at it, let’s consider worry/anxiety/fear for a moment. Through the God-given gift of faith, we’re blest to see the hope of an eternity in heaven. When you boil it down to the simplest level, what do we have to worry about!? Heaven is ours! But we do struggle with fear, worry and anxiety—don’t we?
The story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is not the story of a man who could see, stricken with blindness only to then have his sight restored again. It’s the story of a man who was hopelessly blind but then was given a LIFE – Free From Blindness! The Risen Jesus gave sight to a man like Paul—a man born spiritually blind. Why would he withhold that same sight from you!? He hasn’t. You are able to see your sin. You are able to see the forgiveness Jesus won for you. You are able to see the hope of heaven that your Risen Savior is preparing for you as we speak.
Keep the lights on. Your God has given you a LIFE – Free From Blindness! There is no reason for you to walk around in the dark. This week, I have a challenge for you. Connect time in God’s Word to light. When the sun rises and brings light to a new day, allow that new light to remind you to open your Bible so you can read it for a few minutes. As the sun sets on another day gone by and you flip switches and turn knobs to shed light in dark room of your house, allow those light bulbs to remind you to open your Bible so you can read it for a few minutes. Allow your God the opportunity to shed his light into the darkest corners of your life.
Thank God, for your LIFE – Free From Blindness this week. Enjoy that gift of sight!