Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered August 6, 2005 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Seeing the Flame

(RealAudio version available)

We're going to be preaching about Seeing the Flame, and I will tell you that this is a series of sermons on the book of Acts. I hope that after this series of sermons that you will catch the Flame. So, let's begin. Our scripture reading the morning was the focus of our sermon.

Once upon a time there was a successful detective who worked for the local law enforcement officials. It had become a real passion for this man to sleuth out certain individuals who were on the most wanted list. Individuals, all of whom he hunted were members of a religious cult. They were not from Waco, Texas. He hated each one of them with a passion. He was a very successful detective. He was like a diligent never-quitting hound on the trail of his prey. He was a workaholic. He was very intelligent. The arrest and slaughter of each of the wanted people he just relished. That's what he lived for. It was his passion. It became the very air that he breathed, according to Acts 9:1 And his name was Saul. Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. His very breath, like that of some venomous creature, reeked with poisonous rage and hatred. He hated them and the blood of many saints was on his hands.

Jerusalem had been infested with Christians once Jesus came to this world. And it was Saul's duty to clean Jerusalem out, which he did. He pretty well got rid of them and when he finished the capitol was just about cleaned up. But, Saul couldn't rest if he knew there was a Christian somewhere, and he heard about some in Damascus. He heard that Damascus is just about full of Christians. There wee a lot of them up there. So, he got an evil scowl on his face again and he couldn't rest. He heard about Damascus and the hair on his head practically stood on end, the centers of his eyes got intensely black. And he said, "I'm going to Damascus. I'm going to get rid of some of these people." At once he got authorization to go there and hunt members that were called the followers of 'The Way.' I wonder why we don't call ourselves 'The Way?" He was only about four and a half or five feet in height, a very short man. He was young, he was dynamic and he was a detective.

Saul was a success, very successful in the sight of the bone pickers that lived there in Jerusalem; the number crunching Pharisees. These perfectionists were ever grateful probably that Saul was on their side. They were thankful that he was not one of the sect of members called Christians, called 'The Way.' Saul was not part of 'The Way,' in fact, he was in the way! But God saw that Saul was in the way of the spread of the Gospel. But, God needed Saul. You know you can be clear out of the Way of life one minute and totally in it the next. And this story in Acts 9:1-6 tells you how this happened with Saul. Saul did it.

Damascus was probably founded by Uz who was the grandson of Shem, who was the son of Noah. It's an old city. It is said that Damascus is the oldest continuously lived in city today. Saul quickly set out on the 150 mile walk that would take, about a week's journey. This is where Saul went. He got a posse, a quantity of rope to bind the prisoners with, probably, and he got all his hatred mustered up and he went out to get these people and take care of them. "You've got to stop the spread of this. It's like a disease. We've got to get rid of it." And so he headed up there to Damascus. And word came through the grapevine: "Saul is on the way. He's headed your way. And you'd better be careful because he is a killer!" Some undoubtedly trembled as poor lambs at the approach of a ravening wolf!

Saul was no dummy. This highly intelligent, cunning Pharisee was proud of his own personal works, and merits. He was doing the work that nobody else could do. He was a strict, disciplined, letter-of-the-law type person, circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the Law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 1. By his own efforts he was purging God's church of sin. That was his job description. Had he lived today, he might have been active in the video and cassette business. You can't go out and kill people here just yet here in the United States. He would have published books against the church against the church, against 'The Way,' and things like that. Doing battle with the 'heretics' in the church. Running a protest campaign.

Saul had read many times how God had appeared to Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the prophets of old, but their experience was of no benefit to him. God had never appeared to Saul. He had not met Jesus. Saul was at war, I think, with himself. Saul had been at the stoning of Stephen, breathing out his hatred there. He was a religious man but not a Godly man. You know, you could be a church member and still not be Godly. You could be a church member and still not be involved. He had a secondhand religion. Just as the Saul of the Old Testament was an enemy of David, just so, the Saul of the New Testament was an enemy of the Son of David. These two men were a lot alike.

About midday, they came in full view of Damascus with its beautiful gardens, watered by the cool streams from the nearby mountains. They probably stopped to admire the fair city below. Suddenly a light much brighter than the noontime sun flashed down where they sat on their animals. I don't know what happened at that moment, it's not there. I can't explain it. But the light somehow overpowered Saul and blinded him. Can a light do that? Can it be so strong that it will overpower you? I guess it could. I don't know. It'll do that at the end of the world, won't it, when the light of God, the brightness comes on the wicked and they are destroyed by the brightness His coming. Somehow, light has power. I don't think it was heat: it was light. All of them fell as dead men.2. This exceedingly bright light like an intense flame and actually it was the presence of Jesus Christ Himself. Saul was prostrated on the ground.

Often those who are elevated to positions of honor are the first to be laid low. Even Jesus was laid low in the tomb before He would ascend up on High.

Saul not only saw the light, but he heard a voice from heaven. When Jesus manifests Himself, it is not just for show. What was being done here was to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel to the entire world. He heard a voice saying in Acts 9: 4,5, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting!" He replied.

Of all the sins, none are so evil as the sin of hurting and criticizing and persecuting the children of Christ. When you hurt the children of Jesus Christ, you hurt Jesus Himself. Was Saul actually persecuting Jesus? He was persecuting God's people, but Jesus said, "You're persecuting Me." In other words, I would get from that: when you hurt one of God's people, you're hurting Jesus. And when you help one of God's people you help Jesus. I think that's what it means. Those who make it their duty to eat up God's people, and to eat up His church, are doing a bad deed, because you're not hurting the church, you are hurting Jesus. Saul had thought he was persecuting only a company of poor silly misguided people, when actually he was persecuting Jesus Christ. Zechariah 2:8 says, "whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye. When you are hurting somebody else, you're hurting the apple of Jesus' eye. Those who persecute the people that God created, are personally harming Jesus Himself.3

Before Saul could be made into Paul, he had to see himself as a great sinner. He didn't feel that he was doing anything wrong. He probably felt that he was the greatest Pharisee in the entire world, the most righteous man in the entire world. He had to see that His sins were hurting Jesus Himself. "You are persecuting Me! YOU! You, Saul, are not one of the ignorant crowd. You of all people have an education, you know the scriptures, you've got the doctor's degree. You should know better. It is worse coming from you than from others. You are hurting Me, and I am Jesus, I never did you any harm at all to you and here you are persecuting Me."

Saul's friends, almost blinded, heard a voice but did not understand it. It was sort of like deep thunder and they couldn't understand what His voice was. But Saul understood the voice. The words cut into his heart. Suddenly he saw for the first time what he had been doing. "In the glorious Being Who stood before him he saw the Crucified One... Upon his soul the image of the Savior's countenance was imprinted forever. ...Into the darkened chambers of his mind there poured a flood of light.."4 He was converted at that moment. He became a Christian.

He saw that what he had thought was the work of God was actually the work of Satan. He had been doing for Satan! He had been doing the work of the devil. Isn't that amazing that you could be doing the work of the devil when actually you think you're doing the work of the Lord? How could a person be so confused? And yet, Saul was. At that instant his mind acted with remarkable speed. All became clear. The words of Stephen's sermon at the time of his stoning all came back to him and made perfect sense. Stephen had been right. Saul had been wrong. Now he accepted the very thing he had fought so hard against. You know, when you are a Christian you can tell if you are born again, because what you're fighting for, changes. You're not fighting for yourself now, you're fighting for Jesus. Your whole life has changed. Saul accepted Jesus at that moment as His Savior. Saul changed masters. He had changed his entire life. Now it was no longer what my own wicked will wants, but "Thy will be done." You know, as we mature as Christians, our prayer ought not to be for new money to purchase a new colored TV or to repair this or do that; our prayer ought to be "Lord, whatever Your will is. That's what I want to happen." That should be our prayer.

Saul became Paul. His whole life changed. If Paul was to be a disciple of Jesus, he had to meet Jesus. Paul had not had the privilege of walking with Jesus, but still he was an apostle. Because he did indeed meet personally with Jesus there on that road.

One day I visited in the home of one of my members who was blind. I sat there and visited with her. I just admired the keen spiritual eyesight that she had. I think that when you're blind, your other senses improve. Her spiritual sense improved. Like her, only when Paul was struck blind could he really see. Not until the thorn of poor eyesight came upon him were his spiritual eyes opened.

If you have some thorn in your flesh, maybe you ought not to pray to get rid of that thorn. Maybe you ought to pray, "Lord, whatever that thorn is here for, help me to see more clearly. Help me to utilize this for my benefit so that I might benefit You. Until you experience this change you do not know what it is all about. Only then did Paul meet Christ. His whole nature changed. The total direction of his life reversed. And until you experience this change, you just don't know what life is all about. In Acts 9:6 KJV he says, "What wilt thou have me to do?" Paul was converted at that moment. When you begin to think, "Lord, whatever You want me to do, that's what I want," then you can realize that you are becoming converted. He was converted. And he was baptized. And he started preaching right away. He started preaching the gospel with the same strength that he had used to persecuted the gospel. The abundant energies that had been used against God's church were now harnessed and channeled and used to help promote the cause of God. The church may be defective, but don't fight against the church. The church is not Babylon. I believe that the church will go through to the end. The church may appear as about to fall but it will triumph. The wicked will be shaken out and the righteous will be in. Someone said: "In the last days, the Ark of the church is the only safe place to be. It might be smelly inside from all those animals, but it sure beats the raging flood on the outside.

From now on, Jesus will was Paul's will. He surrendered all at that moment. For the first time he could see his own sinfulness in the light of the Sinless One. You know, when light comes you can see better. I notice as I get older, I have to have a little more light to see. We need more light. The more light you have the better you can see. Saul accepted the righteousness of Christ that comes not from a discipline human obedience but a righteousness that comes freely offered through God through faith in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. And that's how we're saved. Paul became a dynamic preacher for Jesus Christ. Paul became perhaps the greatest of the Christians. If you were to name 'who is the greatest Christian that ever lived, besides Jesus,' who would you say? Paul would be a good candidate.

Why did all this happen? Because he saw Jesus. You need to see Jesus. You're never going to be changed until you see Jesus. You've got to behold Jesus. You've got to see the Flame. You've got to see Jesus. Have you really seen Jesus? Have you really met Jesus? Until you have, you'll never be the same.

Notice that it is not enough just to meet Jesus and to say goodbye. You've got to stay with Him. You don't want to lose Him. His heart was broken. He accepted the free Righteousness of Christ that comes not from a disciplined human obedience, but a righteousness that is freely offered by God through faith. Paul received his call to his life work at that moment becoming a dynamic preacher for Jesus. Paul became perhaps the greatest of all the Christians.

All because he saw Jesus. He saw the Flame. Have you really seen Jesus? Have you really met Jesus? You will never again be the same. Notice that it is not enough to just meet Jesus and then say goodby. You've got to stay with Him. You don't want to lose Him.

One day my Head Elder was going down to pick up a load of apples. His beloved dog was in the back of the pickup truck. The dog was intelligent and loving. She had never jumped out of the truck before. They drove for about an hour and near a wooded area there was some construction going on. They had to stop and talk and wait a while. The man got out and talked with some of the construction workers and finally got back in and after a moment they went on. About 30 minutes later, Don looked in the mirror and there was no dog in the back of the pickup truck! "Where's my dog? I wonder what happened to her." Don looked in the mirror and the dog was gone. He retraced his trip down along the road, but no dog! The trip was a sad trip back home.

About a month later his brother Stewart was driving along that same road and thought he saw a dog like Don's. But when he stopped and got out, the dog retreated back into the woods. He told Don about it and immediately, even though it was getting dark, don said, "I'm going back down there right now." So he went out seeking his dog. He came to the spot and stopped the car. He got out and shined a flashlight back into the trees searching for his dog. Finally, after a time, he saw two eyes glowing back at him. Could it be his beloved dog? He started to walk closer and the dog ran further back into the woods. Then he called the dog by name, and after a moment, the dog came running and cried like a little child. It was his dog. It had been a whole month. The dog had been lost. Don found that his dog had been living in an abandoned chicken coop all those long weeks. The dog had waited by the road every day, watching every vehicle.

You know, if we were that intent on being found, if we would watch for our Master as intently as that dog, we just might be saved. If we would long for our Master like that dog longed for Don, we would find Jesus. We would find a saving relationship with Jesus.

Jesus seeks us. Jesus know where we are. But He does not force Himself upon us. If when Jesus calls your name, come, He will receive you unto Himself. He called Paul's name and Paul came. He had a wonderful reunion, and it changed his whole life.

Notice that God wanted Saul. God needed even a person who had blood on his hands. A murderer, a persecutor. The worst of sinners. Today God wants you! Whatever you may be like. Your past life will be forgiven. That doesn't matter. Every Sabbath at our church you are welcome. We open our hearts to you and invite you to join us in loving Jesus. Jesus has lavished the gift of His love on All of us.

Paul found Jesus. Jesus says, "I am the gate, whoever enters through Me will be saved. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."5

Notice what you have to do to be saved: Jesus is the Gate. Whoever enters will be saved. You cannot be too wicked to enter. Just come in. The gate is not a book. The gate is not a set of rules. The gate is Jesus. To be saved, you must enter. The cost is nothing. But you have to step in. You will receive life, full life. I invite you to join with Paul who made a startling discovery that one's own virtuous efforts to obey God's holy law carry absolutely no merit before God as a means of gaining salvation. We will all be saved just like Paul was saved, by really seeing Jesus face to Face, and there at His feet, surrendering all to Him. If Jesus could save evil, bloody Saul, Jesus can save you today. Jesus wants to give you a new name. Jesus died just for you. Would you join me in reciting the Bible's most familiar verse? Let's personalize it by replacing the word 'World' with the word, 'Me' in John 3:16. For God so loved ME that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It could be that there is someone here today who is seeking a saving relationship with Jesus. Perhaps some visitors came here today seeking to renew their walk with Jesus. Maybe you have been hurt by someone in the church, I personally apologize. Time is too short to allow hurt to keep us from Jesus or from each other. I invite you just now to give your heart to Jesus.

When we all get to heaven, I want to be standing there when Paul meets Stephen who was stoned. I want to see the look on Stephens face when he sees Paul. I want to watch as Paul tells the story of his conversion. Heaven will be a teary eyed place for several years, but finally God will wipe all the tears away. I believe Paul and Stephen will want to build their country homes across the lawn from each other when they get to the new earth. In fact, I would not mind building mine in that same neighborhood. It will be a sweet by and by. Do you want to meet Jesus on that beautiful shore?

------Next week: Feeding the Flame!


Endnotes:

1. Philippians 3:5-6.

2. Acts 26:14.

3. Matthew 25:40.

4. Acts of the Apostles, E.G. White, Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 115.

5. John 10:9-11.


Hymn of Praise: #223,  Crown Him with Many Crowns
Scripture:  Acts 9:1-6
Hymn of Response: #428,  Sweet By and By (sic) 
050806#335 



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