Countdown to Launch. Sept. 16 – 5 days until launch.
This blog entry is the third in a seven day series counting down the days until York Springs Foursquare has its grand opening. You are invited, 10:30 AM Sept. 21!
In Acts chapter 9 we read about the conversion of Saul. The chapter begins with Saul “breathing out threats” against the church. What this means is that Saul spent his entire existence doing nothing but thinking of ways to stop the church. It was as constant as breathing. Later in life, when he says to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” many Greek translators say it means the same thing. It means to make it a constant act as much as breathing, always on your mind, and always part of who you are. Make your life a prayer, just as Saul made his life an act of vengeance on the church.
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In any case, the chapter begins with Saul breathing out threats against the church, and it ends with Saul spreading the church and others trying to kill him for it. Obviously it is a major turning point.
The turning point comes in two ways. First is the blinding light and the voice of God that knocks Saul onto the ground. But Saul is not saved at that point. He is blind, he is stumbling, he is fearful, and his hired men have to lead him by hand into the city.
It is important to get this. Saul was not saved by the blinding the light and the voice of God. He was blinded by it and disabled by it. He was not saved by it. It was a big loud painful event in his life, and it did not save his soul.
The second event was when a man named Ananias went to Saul to pray for him, and this was the event that actually brought Salvation to Saul.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened.
This was the turning point. The voice of God blinded and knocked him over. It was the humble prayer and warmth of Ananias the Christian is what brought vision and salvation. Saul chose to respond humbly, but it was Ananias who brought the message of salvation, and it was after Ananias prayed that Saul could see and chose to be baptized.
I want to look at Ananias’s hands for a moment. God commands him to “lay hands on Saul,” and Ananias did so. However, in Acts, there is a lot of “laying hands on” people. In Chapter four the religious leaders “laid hands” on Peter and John and threw them in jail. In Chapter 5 they “Laid hands on the apostles and put them in public jail”
Right alongside this evil and persecution are the hands of the apostles. In Chapter 8 Peter and John lay their hands on the new believers in Samaria and the Holy Spirit is imparted to them. In Chapter 6 the apostles lay hands on the newly appointed ministers, to pray for them, in chapter 5 “At the hands of the disciples they were doing many signs and wonders…”
And of course, here in chapter 9, Ananias lays his hands on Saul and prays for him and Saul’s eyes are opened and his vision is restored.
There are two kinds of hands in the Bible. There are hands that do evil, that kill, prevent life, and persecute. These hands were the hands of Saul, who breathed hatred for the church all day long. These hands would be used for murder. They were the hands of Cain, who killed his brother to stop him from pleasing God. They are hands of death.
Right beside them are hands of life. These are the hands of Jesus, who has nail scars inflicted by hands of death, but who lives again. These hands give life and healing. These hands forgive. These are the hands of Ananias, who was afraid that Saul would kill him, but visited him, laid hands on him, and prayed for him anyway.
There are no neutral hands. In chapter 8 there was a guy named Simon who wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to use it for himself, “saying give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter told him no, it doesn’t work that way. Either you work for the Holy Spirit by giving life, or you work against him by giving death. He doesn’t work for you.
There is no neutral ground. You are either the hands of life or the hands of death.