Summary: There was a man named Saul, raised in the ancient city of Tarsus, located in modern-day Turkey. Saul was a devoted Jew and a Pharisee. In his youth he went to Jerusalem, where he was personally tutored by the respected and learned Jewish teacher Gamaliel. As a young man Saul became well known for aggressively, even violently, persecuting the early Christian church. Saul saw the Christian faith as a heretical threat to his beloved Judaism. Then Saul had a radical encounter with heaven on the road to Damascus. And he was never the same!
He had found a cause to live and die for that far surpassed everything he had previously devoted his life to. Saul became one of the great leaders of the first-century Christian Church that he had previously persecuted so passionately. And God used him to write about half (13, maybe 14) of the 27 books of the New Testament of the Bible. Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, had indeed found a cause worth living his life for and even to die for as a martyr (which he did). You too can find—in serving
Saul of Tarsus hated Christianity with a passion. He was devoting his young adult years to persecuting Christians, even to the point of “murderous threats” against them. On the way to Damascus to capture and imprison Christians, Saul had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. A light from heaven caused him to fall to the ground, where he heard the words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? … I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Verse 6, King James Version, indicates that Saul’s outlook completely changed in those few brief moments of time. His now-submissive, obedient reply to the voice of Jesus from heaven was, “
Saul’s former passionate cause was persecuting Christians, even to the point of imprisonment and death. After his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus, a new cause—Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior—dominated the rest of his life, even to the point of giving his life as a martyr for his beloved Lord.
The Book of Acts tells us of many of Saul’s advantages and accomplishments before his conversion. Although Jewish, he was a citizen of the Roman empire by birth, with all the privileges that brought him. He was tutored in Judaism by the learned Jewish scholar Gamaliel. Saul was a member of the Pharisees, who were known for their devotion to the Scriptures. He was known to and recognized by the Jewish high priest for his zeal in persecuting what they considered the heretical Christian faith. In brief, the young man Saul was a known prodigy in Judaism.
Then he met Jesus and embraced Him as his Lord and Savior. And everything changed in just moments of time. His excellent education, his rising fame, his passionate anti-Christian devotion to what turned out to be the wrong cause—Saul counted them all loss, “worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” For Jesus’ sake Saul renounced worthless things that man praises you for, discarding them and "counting it all as garbage, so that [he] could gain Christ.”
Are you proud of and hung up on your education, your genealogy, perhaps your social status or economic success? Or the political or social “cause” you pursue passionately? Consider Saul (whose name was later changed to Paul - Acts 13:9), who became a great apostle and leader of the early Christian Church. Paul came to consider such things in his own life as worthless, as “garbage” compared to the value of knowing and serving Jesus as Lord.
Paul had been committed to his former cause with devotion and passion. And what was that cause? — Being a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent opponent of Christians and their faith. But when he turned to Jesus Christ, he received mercy (vs. 13) and grace (14) from the Lord and was forgiven and even “appointed to His service”! (12) The Lord can take the most ferocious enemies of the Gospel, forgive them and save them, and turn them into effective ambassadors of that same Gospel that they once railed against.
Paul had become an entirely new person by faith in Jesus. His personal testimony, applicable to all who turn to Jesus in faith and repentance (Acts 20:21), was this: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).
And as the Lord’s “new creation,” Paul found it perfectly appropriate to devote the remainder of His life to serving Jesus Christ and His Gospel, even to the point of martyrdom: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24, KJV).
Delivered from darkness into light, from the power of Satan to God’s power, from his former antichristal cause to the noble cause of Christ's Gospel, Paul considered no cost too great to pay to further the cause of his Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul knew that, for the servant of Jesus Christ, after this life is over that believer will enter into heaven and the Lord’s presence which, Paul said, is “better by far” than anything this world can offer (Philippians 1:23).
You may be fully given to your favorite cause—perhaps political, or social, or even “religious.” But if it is anything other than knowing, loving, and serving Jesus Christ the Son of God, even a lifetime passionately devoted to that other cause will end up in eternal damnation if you end your life without Jesus as your personal Savior!
There will be a Second Coming of Jesus Christ to this earth. This will happen. And then there will be only two categories of people:
• the lost—those who in their lifetimes chose not to know God and not to obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will have rejected Christ’s declared purpose in coming to earth—that is, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). At Jesus’ coming they will experience His “flaming-fire vengeance” for having rejected Him and His gracious offer of salvation. The lost will end up in the torment of the fires of hell, as Jesus Himself foretold.
• the saved—those born again through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They will be resurrected and transformed into glorified, immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). They will live in the presence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ forever. As the writer of the Psalm said of God, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV). And that, said Paul, is “better by far” than anything this earth can offer.
Choose the highest cause, the one with value both for time and for eternity.
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©2021, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
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