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March 3, 2018

Why Does God Use Us?

by Matt Fray

 

"...Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 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.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came
has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 9:10-22 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=e1401a909e&e=82a9a8f891)

 

If you watched any of the most recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, you no doubt saw some mini-documentaries on some of the athletes. On a practical level, these stories are informative introductions to athletes whose careers and sports most of us know little about. On a personal level, their stories are inspiring affirmations that the right blend of talent and training can lead to amazing accomplishments.

In the book of Acts, we encounter conversion stories that are more than informative or inspiring; they are surprising. While faith in Jesus Christ is always reasonable and the Holy Spirit is always at work, it should nevertheless always surprise us to see sinners transformed to saints by faith in Jesus Christ. Conversions are not just unlikely; they are, in every way, miraculous.

In the book of Acts, chapters 1-8, we find several surprising group conversion stories as God draws thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ. We don't know all of the names, but we see the glorious disruption of Jerusalem as nearly a quarter of its citizens become Christians. And in Acts 8-10, with the gospel spreading beyond Jerusalem, we find three surprising personal conversion stories. There is the unnamed African financier, the Ethiopian eunuch, who comes to faith by reading Isaiah 53 and hearing Philip explain its fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:26-40). There is the Roman general, Cornelius, who comes to faith by the work of an angel, a dream, and the witness of Peter (Acts 10:1-48). And in the middle, the most famous and most amazing personal conversion story in Acts: the story of Saul, the Jewish terrorist, who sees and hears Jesus Christ Himself, causing blind unbelief to become clear-sighted faith and life-changing mission (Acts 9:1-19). Together, these
group conversion stories and personal conversion stories surprise us as readers and as participants in God's great work of redemption.

Living in the buckle of the Bible belt, we in Dallas may sometimes see our conversion stories as less surprising, less miraculous versions of the conversion stories in Acts. Perhaps we believe that the Holy Spirit need a miracle of lesser degree to save us, given the Christian mores of our culture and the general morality of our lives. Worse still, perhaps we believe that our conversion was somehow a result of being specially favored by God. But we have the same deceitful, debilitating, deadly sin nature as Saul and Cornelius. And we need the same atoning work of Jesus Christ, and the same regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Our conversion stories are just as surprising, and just as miraculous as the conversion stories in Acts.

Perhaps we could even push this point one step further: your conversion story should be to you the most surprising of any conversion story. Why? Because you should see and feel the weight of your sin and need for Jesus more than you see anyone else's sin and need for Jesus. Each of us should be able to say, "I am a log-eyed chief of sinners (Matthew 7:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:15)!" and "I am a prodigal heir of infinite grace (Luke 15:1-32; Ephesians 2:4-9)!" In the words of John Newton, our greatest wonder should be our own story of rescue: "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there. First, to meet some I had not though to see there. Second, to miss some I had expected to see there. And third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there."

About the Author

Matt Fray
Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.

 

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • The Time Has Come

    [Jesus said,] "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NIV

    Key Thought

    Jesus' words, spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, echo down through time. They cut through the worship wars of every era. They rattle our selfish preferences and challenge our dogmatic positions. They remind us that worship is something much more than a responsibility, a ritual, a place, a time, or a style. Worship is a gift. We cannot even properly worship without the Spirit of God in us. Those who are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-7) are given the opportunity to worship because of the Spirit's presence. And when they are led to worship in the Spirit, they are then called to make that worship authentic. Worship in truth is worship that is consistent throughout life — living-sacrifice worship (Romans 12:1-2). As the Spirit permeates our being, influences our hearts, and conforms us to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), then worship is no longer about a place (John 4:21), but about presence! The Holy Spirit, God's abiding Presence in us, makes the life of God come alive in us — not just on a "worship day," but every day in all of our ways.

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, I want to be a true worshiper! I want to worship you spirit to Spirit. I want my worship words to be consistent with my daily worship in thought, action, and speech. As the psalmist said so long ago, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    The quotation in the prayer is from Psalm 19:14 NLT.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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