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In Acts 9:19–31, we see how Jesus Christ changed Paul’s purpose, problems, and perspective. Just as Jesus did for Paul, so too does He long to change our life as well. We would do well to pay attention to the lessons from this powerful passage in Acts!
The Myth of Herod’s Power and the Fact of His Existence
3 Things that Happen When God's People Pray
The Good Infection: Christianity
Humility in Men and Prejudice in the Church: Something to Be Praised and Something to Be Purged
The Conversion of Cornelius AND Peter
How the Saints Go Marching Out
Saul: The Second Most Important Conversion in History
Extraordinary Living Marked by Ordinary Obedience
The “Illusion” of a False Faith and How to Deal With It. Simon Magus and Tares Among the Wheat
Tale of Two Adams: A Strategy to Change the World
How are we doing? Today we're talking about change. Have you ever changed something? As I was thinking about that, I thought specifically about a renovation my wife and I did once upon a time. We bought this old house and had to change it. I'll tell you how that came about. We were living in an apartment. Our oldest was about to be 2 years old. My wife was seven months pregnant, and we had been looking for a home for about six months in our budget.
She had gone to the grocery store on this particular day and left me in the apartment. As I went home shopping, I found a house on an auction that was about to end online. When she got home, I said, "Congratulations." She said, "What?" I said, "We're homeowners." She said, "What? How did that happen?" I had bought a house. I know that's crazy. It was in need of a lot of work, and we had to do that before our baby came in just a few months, and that was right around Christmas. It was a really hectic season, a real bind I had put us in.
I feel a lot of judgment right now, if I'm honest, so I want to share with you about someone else I read about yesterday. His name is Harry Smith. The reason the article caught my eye is he did the exact same thing. His wife had left the house, and he goes online and buys a house at an auction. I'm like, "Harry and me. Man, I know how this is going to go for you."
He gets the house, and when they walked in for the first time, they found out it was a funeral home. The way they found this out was there was a casket there, and not just a casket but two urns full of ashes. Then right there in the middle of the dining room was a huge embalming table, complete with all of the tools. Could you imagine Thanksgiving dinner over the embalming table? The article was like, "Hey, are you going to put it back on the market?" He said, "No, we're going to make it a home."
As I thought about that, I thought what an incredible example of the change God does in our lives. There's this place of death that he brings back to life, that he gives new life to. He's changing us. As I read this text in Acts 9 this week, I wondered if we fully grasp the change he does. As we live in this world where there's cultural Christianity that surrounds us, do we really understand how different from the world we're supposed to be, or not just supposed to be, that Christ makes us, that Christ does inside of us? Do we fully grasp this change?
I love a quote from C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity. It talks about this change. He says, "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised." You knew those habits you had that God needed to deal with when you come into relationship with him.
"But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself."
The change God is bringing about in our lives is quite a different change than what I believe most Christians anticipate and believe for themselves. He has a plan for you that's different than your plan for you. He has a purpose for you that may be different than what you thought your life would purpose toward. He may want to do something considerably different than what you had thought your life to be about.
The interesting thing in home renovations is often they take a lot longer than one would think. I can say from experience. We're going to peer in through a window into one of the greatest life changes the world has ever seen today, and it just seems to happen so fast. It's like one day this man is an instrument of destruction, and the next day he's the greatest missionary the world would ever know. I'm talking about, of course, Saul, or the apostle Paul.
Is that normative? Is that the kind of change we should expect for ourselves? How does Paul get the courage and confidence to live the life he does with reckless abandon for the name and the fame of Jesus Christ? How does he do it? Is that what God expects from you and me? Those are some of the questions I want to look at as we talk about how Christ changes lives today. There are going to be three points that are essentially observations and applications from this text.
I'm not saying that what happened to Paul should be exactly what happens to us, but I do want to pull from this text the things that should happen to every follower of Jesus Christ, whenever a person comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We're going to look at three changes that should absolutely happen in our lives or that happen immediately in our lives: how Christ changes our purpose, how Christ changes our problems, and how Christ changes our perspective.
Last week, Todd started us in Acts 9, and we got to see Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Saul is his Jewish or Hebrew name. Paul is his Greek or Roman name. He was given two names at birth. That was common in this day. So his name did not change when he converted, Todd shared with us last week. He has always had two names, and he would use his Greek name to be relevant or to persuade the Roman people.
Saul is converted on the road to Damascus. He is going to Damascus to arrest and torture and punish and potentially even kill Christians. He has stood at the death of Stephen proudly, glad that the follower of the Way (a Christian), Stephen, was killed. They threw rocks at him until his heart no longer beat, until he could no longer breathe. Paul was pleased with this, and he got permission from the government to go and get more Christians, more followers of this Way.
Paul is a religious man. He is a Pharisaical Jew. He is a successful man. He's in cahoots with the government. He met a man named Jesus on the road to Damascus who radically and immediately changed his life. Let's see what happens next in verse 19 in Acts 9. "Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God."
Immediately, this man, who tormented Christians, is now preaching the very message that previously he stood opposed to. This is a beautiful truth for us. New converts have an immediate place in the church. If you became a Christian yesterday, you can serve with us here today. We have a place for you. God has need of you.
"All those who heard him were astonished and asked, 'Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?' Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah." This is radical life change up close and personal. It's very difficult for us to step into this text and remember how terribly wicked this man actually was. He says about himself in Acts 22:
"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished."
He has one life mission: punish Christians. That is his purpose in life. This man is an extreme terrorist, and God changed him. Upon being changed, you see he's not crippled by what he has done. He's not struggling to forgive himself. He's not, "Oh, I can't believe I killed Stephen." He just has a new life mission, and he focuses his life now on this new purpose. He immediately received the grace of Jesus Christ, and he took steps forward.
Imagine who this guy is. It would be like the leader of the Taliban or Al Qaeda or Boko Haram. That's who this guy is. It would be as crazy as if one of the leaders of those terrorist groups today woke up and became the figurehead of Christianity. That is the life change we are observing here, and he's an apologist for the faith.
He's not just about all of the "feels" of Christianity. It says he's proving Jesus is the Messiah. He's meeting with very brilliant people and showing them, focusing on the evidence that is available to him, that Christ is the Messiah. His purpose changed. Paul's purpose changed when he met Christ.
1.Our purpose is changed by Christ. The reason we exist, our purpose, is changed by Christ, in the same way this man who was focused on opposing the gospel instantly works to advance it. The question for you is…How has Christ changed your purpose? I'm not asking what would you write in on a test. Like, "Fill in the blank. How has Christ changed your purpose?" "Well, you know, now I live for his glory."
I'm asking literally. Like, those who know you, by observation, as they see you parent, as they see you live with your spouse, as they see you exist in your neighborhood, as they see you work as an employee or an employer, what would they say? "Let me tell you something. This is how Christ changed them." What would they say? How has Christ changed your life?
I think it's important to understand how our purpose has changed, because as I thought about this this week… You need to hear me on this. I think the vast majority of us define success in the wrong way. The vast majority of the world, for sure, but, even more specifically, those who claim to follow Christ don't really understand what success is. What is success?
For many of us, as we think about our lives, when we're all by ourselves and we're like, "Okay, what does a successful life look like?" we define success as excess. We kind of think, "Okay, as I look at my life and I get to the end, if I have more than what I need, then I was successful." That's not at all how God or the Bible or the values we say we've fully bought into define success.
A lot of us are defining success in the most worldliest of terms if we define success by excess. We see this in this season more times than any. The greatest thing about Walmart having TVs for $79 is you can get nine of them. It's like, "I can't have enough. How do I get out there and get more? Deals? Where are deals? I want deals. I need more things. I want to be successful."
You have to understand this. There are going to be a lot of humans, men and women, who get to the end of this race and had a lot of things… They were very significant by the world's standards and completely missed their purpose. Like, the opposite way of their purpose. Fully missed it. Can you think of a greater tragedy than someone living outside their purpose?
So what is success? We gathered with some leaders recently here, and we were just talking about measurables in ministry. Like, "How do we know if we're successful in ministry? What does success look like?" I wrote down, "Believers glorifying God by walking in faithfulness, surrounded by life change."
This is a life well lived: you, as a follower of Jesus Christ, walking in faithfulness. Every day, one foot in front of the other. "God, I want to do everything you would ask me to do." In doing so, you're surrounded… He's using you to change the lives of others and to change the territory you exist in. Believers glorifying God by walking in faithfulness, surrounded by life change. That this would be success.
This means that if you have a big house that's paid for, a successful job, a lot of authority, kids who are really smart, and not just smart but great at athletics, and everything seems to be going well, but you're not doing this, then you've missed your purpose, and you are not successful, according to the only one who matters.
There's a commercial I saw. It was aired in Germany. I can't show it this morning. It's not even in English, but I'll tell you about what it is. There's this woman and her dad, and they're cooking in the kitchen. The dad is clearly chopping something up in the background, and she says, "Hey, Dad, do you like your new iPad?" She had gotten him a gift of an iPad. Then it shows him scraping the vegetables off the iPad, and he says, "Yes, I like it quite nicely."
Then he takes it and washes it off in the sink and places it in the dishwasher. It allows amusement for us, because we see that and we're like, "Oh, that silly guy. He doesn't understand what it's for. He has missed the purpose." Likewise, if we continue living in the way we lived before Christ, we have completely missed our purpose for existence. It is a greater tragedy than someone rinsing an iPad off in the sink or using it as a cutting board. We have misunderstood what our life exists for.
In a moment, in an encounter with Jesus Christ, Paul's purpose is changed, or maybe, better said, he realized what his purpose was. Verse 23: "After many days had gone by…" I believe the reason Luke writes many days there… You can write Galatians 1:17-18 right by verse 23. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians… We know that he went to Arabia for three years before he goes to Jerusalem.
In a minute, he's about to go to Jerusalem in this passage, so we know this passage takes place over at least three years. I'm reading a couple of paragraphs to you, but we know these couple of paragraphs span more than three years. Paul goes to Arabia, where he is discipled by God, where he learns and understands the Way and Christian teaching and strengthens his own ministry. Before we can spend time with people, we must spend time with God. Paul exemplifies that here.
"After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall."
I want you to see this for a minute. He's in Damascus, and the group he was affiliated with now has turned on him, because he has changed teams, and they want to kill him. Cities in this ancient time would be surrounded by a wall. You would come and go throughout the city through a gate. So if you wanted to kill somebody who was coming about the city, all you had to do was stand outside the gate and wait for them to come through, and you could get them, conveniently.
So these people who are wanting to kill Paul are waiting outside the gate, but Christians, followers of the Way, come around him and help him escape by lowering him in a basket… This is the same basket we see in Mark 8, the same basket we see in Matthew 15. It's the basket they would use to collect the leftover loaves. It's like a bread basket. They lower him in this bread basket through a hole in the wall so he can escape.
What an incredible picture of forgiveness this is. These are the very people Paul had previously tried to kill and imprison and persecute and punish, and now they help him. They've forgiven him. I don't know who you're struggling to forgive this morning, but just as an aside… I don't know who in your family they killed. I don't know who they've imprisoned, but we see a beautiful picture of the forgiveness that is expected of us here in this text. So they lower him in this bread basket and help him. Verse 26:
"When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus."
Tarsus is his hometown. So now the apostle Paul, upon conversion, is returning to where he came from to share with the people in his hometown. You can imagine if God would call you to the place you grew up in. "Hey, I want you to go back there to tell them about Jesus." That's what's happening here.
So he leaves Damascus. Why did he leave Damascus? Because Jews were trying to kill him. He goes to Jerusalem, and his time in Jerusalem is punctuated by the Hellenistic Jews now trying to kill him. That's just a sandwich with the meat in the middle being the church rejected him. Do you remember that? The disciples came, and they were like, "Whoa, dude." He was like, "Hey, I want to…"
"Remember Stephen? What are you doing? Barnabas, who's this guy?"
"No, man, listen. I've seen him with my own eyes. He's been preaching Jesus. He's one of us now."
"Barnabas, are you sure?"
"Yeah, guys, listen. He's been sharing the gospel in the synagogues. He met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He's a changed man."
"All right, bro. Well, come on. Join the team. Jump in."
And here he is, and they actually help him escape. It's interesting to me that in this really short section there are two different people trying to kill this man. Not only that, but he experiences rejection in the church. At some point, wouldn't you be like, "Hey, God, I thought this was going to get easier. I became a Christian because I thought my problems would go away." Anyone? But his problems don't go away. In fact, his problems are just changed, and that's my second point today.
2.Our problems are changed by Christ. Before Christ, Paul's biggest problems were Christians. After Christ, his biggest problems are non-Christians. By problems I mean his focus, because his purpose has changed. Before he was a Christian, he purposed his life to persecute Christians, but now that God has changed his life, his biggest problems are those who don't know Jesus, and how he can take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them before they kill him. His problems have changed.
Jesus changes our problems. Very different than the man on TV says. Some preacher might tell you he makes them go away. Honestly, a lot of times they just grow. They get bigger. They get harder. Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I've overcome the world." We don't live for this world, this fallen, temporary world we spend a few decades in. We live for another world, and in this world you will have problems.
There are so many people I talk to who are like, "Yeah, I became a Christian. I joined the church. I had a bad experience. The preacher was stealing money or this Community Group rejected me, so I'm out on that. Yeah, I've left the faith." No, you never were in the faith, friend. If you became a Christian thinking that it was going to be smooth sailing from there, that you weren't going to have to resolve conflict and work hard at relationships, then you've misunderstood. Somebody has misrepresented Christianity to you.
I think this is really important for us to grasp, because I believe a lot of us live our lives in the pursuit of happiness. We woke up this morning, and our end goal is, "I just want to be happy." You even hear people say this. "Whatever makes them happy." The problem with a pursuit of happiness is sometimes it leaves out the pursuit of truth.
It's not about what's true; it's about what makes me feel good. It's not about what is absolutely true and real; it's just whatever would allow me to experience some temporary pleasure. So I'm on a path or a pursuit of happiness, not a path or pursuit of truth. What happens is when you make an agreement with something, thinking that it's going to make you happy, the second it doesn't make you happy, you leave it. You break up with it. You go a different direction.
A lot of people do this with Jesus out of a misunderstanding of what it means to follow Christ in this world. You don't come to Jesus because you're going to feel good. Worldview teachers call that therapeutic moralistic deism. Therapeutic means it allows me to feel good. Moralistic means it allows me to be good. Deism means there's a God. So I believe there's a God because it helps me feel good and do good.
That is not a Christian worldview. That is not what we believe at the core of our faith. I know that comparison can be a risky thing, but just for the sake of talking about this man who was an incredible follower of Jesus, I'd love to compare his problems to ours for a moment. He outlines them nicely in 2 Corinthians 11. This is Paul talking.
"I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.
I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn [face temptation] ? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying."
Look at where he ends this long list of hardships. I mean, being whipped and shipwrecked and abandoned and rejected by the church and rejected by the Jews and danger in the country and danger in the city, and then he ends here. "In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands." He must have been pretty traumatized.
He's like, "And that's not all. They put me in a basket too and lowered me through a window. So before you guys want to talk to me about problems, don't forget about the bread basket. I'm running from people over here." At some point, it just seems to me like Paul would be like, "God, can you give me a break? I don't know if you see what I'm doing down here. I'm telling everybody I can about Jesus, and it just seems that at some point you're going to give me some money or a promotion or a nicer house or something."
We don't see that here. You don't really see that dialogue anywhere in the narrative. How have we misunderstood what the Christian life is? His biggest problems, which were those who follow Jesus, are now those who don't know Jesus. "I'm going to focus my time and attention on them." I just say we stop with the pursuit of happiness and start with the pursuit of truth and faithfulness until we finish this race.
I'm well aware of Christian hedonism and understanding that God is good and gives good and blesses obedience. I believe that. I get that, but let's not pursue God because of what we're going to get from him. Let's pursue God because of who he is and that we get him from him. Let's just commit to living that life until we're with him in his glory forever and ever and ever and ever.
You might think your problems today are your boss or your illness or your relationship status, but make no mistake about it. The biggest problems in your life today are those around you who don't know Christ, assuming that you know Christ. If you don't know Christ, your biggest problem is the fact that you don't know Christ. That's perspective. It's a perspective we see here in verse 31.
"Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers." I'd love for you to underline "living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit allows this church with a new perspective to live in the fear of the Lord. Not in the fear of man, not in the fear of the Hellenistic Jews or the Jews or the government or anyone wanting to persecute them or snuff them out.
They wake up every day and, with a new perspective, live in the fear of the Lord. The primary enemy of the church has been converted, and the other enemies of the church have changed their focus to him, and peace is ushered in. Luke, as he writes, does a great job of showing how peace is often ushered in after persecution. He shows us that rhythm in his writing in Acts. Paul's purpose has changed, but it's not just his purpose that has changed; his perspective has changed.
We know his problems have changed, but he now has the right perspective to get through the new problems he has. That's why he's not going back to renegotiate a deal with God. He has an eternal perspective. He has a right perspective. He has what we would call today a biblical worldview or a Christian worldview. I'm going to explain that before we wrap up, because I think this is actually key to understanding this text and what's happening.
It's not just here from verse 31; it's actually the overall context of this passage. What happened on the road to Damascus is Paul was entrusted with the Holy Spirit, and that changed his perspective. He now lives with a new worldview. You ask the question, "How can I live a life like Paul lived? How can I be as radical of a follower of Jesus Christ as Paul was?" There's only one thing necessary to do that: perspective. The right perspective.
3.Our perspective is changed through Christ. We begin to see the world differently and live out our purpose here. While our problems might grow, our perspective changes, so that we have peace in the midst of this fallen world. I went through a biblical worldview training with the late Charles Colson, and it was not something that was easy for me. I've never been a great student. That's not the way I'm wired. I never have been.
This was very much this thing where it's like, "Hey, read these 16 books, and then come and let's talk about it." It was challenging. Honestly, in full transparency with you, I didn't understand what worldview was until about halfway through the course. At some point it hit me. I'm like, "Oh! That's what a worldview is." I'll explain it.
A worldview is simply the lens through which you see the world. Everyone here today and everyone listening has a worldview. Your experiences or some truth or religion or parents and influences have created that worldview in your life. You have a worldview. The person next to you may have a slightly different worldview, and it all comes down to the basis of that worldview.
Let me show you a chart that will help us understand what worldview is. Worldview is this thing in the middle. That's your worldview. It's what is real. Your worldview is what you understand to be real. Then outside of that worldview are your beliefs. That's what is true. Then what comes from your beliefs is what you value or what you believe to be good.
You can think something is good and somebody else can think it's bad, or you can think something is bad and somebody else can think it's good. That comes from their beliefs, which comes from their worldview. Then outside of what you value is what we see. It's your behavior. It's what you do.
What you do is defined in your core at your worldview. What people see about you (your behaviors or what you do) comes from your values (what is good) comes from your beliefs (what is true) comes from your worldview (what is real). Is everyone thoroughly confused? Good. Okay. Let me try to explain this.
If we take the apostle Paul pre-conversion (so, Saul), his worldview is that the Jewish God, Jehovah, is real. Out of that, his beliefs, or what is true, is going to be the Pharisaical sect of Judaism. That is true. What is good is opposing anything that opposes the Pharisaical sect of Judaism. What he does, then (his behavior), is he spends a life persecuting, focused on snuffing out this thing called the Way, because it's coming in opposition, threatening the Pharisaical sect of Judaism.
Let me go one more. If you have someone who is a high feeler, not a Christian, their worldview would look something like this. "What is real is my feelings. My feelings are real. They're ultimate. That's the realest thing to me: the way I feel. What informs my beliefs or what is true to me is the way I feel. Therefore, what is good to me is feeling pleasure. Therefore, my behavior or how I spend my life is pursuing pleasure."
This is not a Christian worldview. This is a very cultural, very worldly worldview. It's the worldview of many folks you would encounter. If we go with an agnostic worldview or maybe even a Unitarian universalist worldview, it would look something like this.
"What is real? Well, it cannot be known. No one can know what is real. Therefore, what do I believe to be true? Truth is relative to each person. What is truth? There is no absolute truth. We really don't know. Therefore, what do I value? I value letting people find their own way. So then how do I behave? How do I live my life? Not interfering with others' beliefs." Do you see how that worldview impacts what you do?
Saul's worldview was changed on the road to Damascus. His perspective was changed. The lens he sees the world through is changed, and he simply lives with that worldview. It looks something like this. "What is real is God. What is true is his Word informed by his Spirit. What is good is his glory. God's glory is good and ultimate. So how do I behave? How do I live my life? I'm going to live in a way that glorifies God in everything."
If you're here and you say, "I'm a follower of Jesus Christ," that's your worldview. Everything I do is about God's glory in every decision I would make. The reason this is important is God uses people he has changed to change people and places. The Scripture calls us ambassadors, that we represent a king in a foreign land. This is why these movies resonate with us, Disney movies and Star Wars and all of these movies we go see.
We represent this kingdom. We're here in this place representing a kingdom, and we're redeeming it. We're redeemers as ambassadors. We're making it into what it should have been, what it was meant to be. If we're changed, what happens is we become agents of change. What was the agent of you changing? What was the agent of Paul changing? It was Christ. Now Christ, his Spirit, lives in Paul, and Paul becomes a change agent. Likewise with you.
Let me give you the most obscure illustration I can that I think will hit this home. It will at least be memorable, and I'll apologize ahead of time. As I'm going through this class and it kind of clicks, "Oh, now I understand what worldview is, and I understand that my purpose is to represent Christ in every time and space I exist in, walking faithfully, surrounded by life change, glorifying God in every space and time I walk in…" It goes way past evangelism, though.
Right about this time, my friend going through the class walks into a bathroom alone, walks into a stall, and walks out of the stall. I don't know if you've ever had that reaction. You kind of go, "Oh!" Somebody had left a mess in the stall. Got sick, didn't make it. He's thinking, "Man, somebody needs to clean that up. But this is the time and space I exist in, and God has placed me here, and there's something that should not be. I will clean it up." I told you it would be memorable.
Nobody here would say, "Yeah, that's what he should do. That's what he's obligated to do. That's what it means." But if you have this worldview… The application today is not go clean bathroom stalls. Some of you are throwing up in your mouth right now as I say that. The application today is to represent the kingdom you belong to in every time and space that you are, because that's what God calls us to and shows us as an example here in Paul.
That's what we see here. That's how he does it. God uses changed people to change people, and God uses changed people to change the world. Because our purpose and perspective has changed, we, Christ in us, become these agents of change, bringing about the change that is needed in the world. In summary, our purpose is changed by Christ, our problems are changed by Christ, and our perspective is changed through Christ.
My wife is from Waco, Texas. We met there in Waco. Her family is still there, so we spend the holidays in Waco. It's a great thing. I married one of the greatest things Waco has to offer. She lived there, went to Baylor, all of that. I spent two years there at a little technical college in Waco. I don't know if you guys know, but it has really changed. Waco has changed tremendously since I was there.
Before 2010, if you said "Waco, Texas," what would people say? What would they associate Waco with? Some of you said Baylor. You're wrong. It would be David Koresh, the Branch Davidian. If you're here and are over the age of 30, you really remember this. The world stopped to watch this standoff between this man and the government forces as they lit this place on fire, killing many of his followers.
He claimed to be Jesus. He said, "If the Bible is true, then I am the Christ." He was a lunatic, and he lost his life and the lives of many others because he had been led astray. It really hurt an entire city for a long, long time. When I lived there, people would say terrible things. Like, "Waco. Oh man, I'm sorry. Gosh, I hate driving through that place down 35. Waco, man. Branch Davidian cult leader down there, huh? Yeah, Waco." They would be like, "Oh, that place stinks." Really? It stinks? Why? "It's like the armpit of America." I'm like, "You can stop now. That's hurtful."
You would hear these things. I don't know if you've heard these things. I don't know if you realize now, but just being down there… I actually wrote this message at a coffee shop there. It has changed tremendously. Has anybody been to Waco lately? Has anybody been to Waco in the last year? Raise your hand if you've been to Waco in the last year. Okay, cool. You know then. It has really changed. I mean, it's a tremendously different place.
I'm going to quantify this for those of you who are in the dark. Twenty thousand tourists now visit Waco every single week. A friend of mine started a tour company. In six months, he has given 700 people tours of Waco at $80 a pop. Who would have thought? People want to tour Waco. Like, "Here's the ALICO building. There's Baylor stadium." What else? Right? If you're not convinced yet, Realtor.com said Waco, Texas, was the number-one real estate market in America. In the United States of America. Waco, Texas, the armpit of America once upon a time, evidently.
What happened? What changed? If you talk to somebody today about Waco, what is it known for? Still not Baylor. Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines. It's crazy. HGTV picked up this couple flipping houses, and now people are coming from all over the world (that's not an exaggeration) every single week to see this city. As I walked down the street this week… There are new coffee shops and cute cafés, and the houses that were once abandoned and condemned are now beautiful homes.
I'm like, "This place has changed." Why? Because of two people living out their purpose. Not claiming to be Christ but claiming to follow Christ. The world has taken notice, and it has changed an area. I use this as a metaphor for you. In the same way, you have these territories where you work, where your kids go to school, your neighborhood, and you're the change agent God has placed in there.
When God wanted to grow the church, he changed the apostle Paul. He put him in the middle of it and wrecked shop. I'm imploring with you. He wants to do the same through your life: change your purpose, your problems, and your perspective. What does he want to change around you? Can you imagine if everyone left this place today and walked out with that mission, that mindset, what God would do? Let me pray we would.
Father, thank you for your example through your faithful servant, Saul, Paul. As we read these letters he wrote nearly 2,000 years ago, we're still inspired by what your Holy Spirit has done through him. Father, in a similar way, would you use us to change the real estate, the territory you've entrusted to us, as we live out a new purpose in Christ? Would you help us to mend things as much as we're able, as much as your Holy Spirit is able before Christ's return, mend them to what they were meant to be?
At least allow our lives to be commercials of what will be. Would you do that? We love you and we thank you so much just for an opportunity to gather around your Word, to be inspired by it and be changed by it. Lord, I ask if there's anyone here who does not have a relationship with you through your Son Jesus Christ, Father, would you woo them even now as we sing this song? In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
If you're here and you have not been changed by Christ and his Holy Spirit, I plead with you to reach out to somebody around you. If nothing else, just say, "Help. I want the change he was talking about. I want the change Paul experienced." If you're here and you've lost vision for that change… Maybe you followed Christ for a while, and you've slipped into what I call American Christianity, this kind of mundane therapeutic moralistic deism.
I pray that you'd be inspired by the life of Paul. The same Spirit who lived in him lives in you and wants to do greater things than just the American dream. If we can help you in that in any way, you can tear out that perforated section in the Watermark News or you can come forward and talk to any number of people. It has been a joy journeying through Acts 9 with you. You guys have a great week of worship.