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Breaking Bad - Misguided

By: Admin on November 24, 2013

Of all the upcoming leaders, Saul was number one. The religious establishment saw him as their bright future, and he did not disappoint. He channeled all his energy and conviction into ensuring that the cause continued through him.

Philippians 3:3 - 6
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 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 righteousness based on the law, faultless.

From there we pick up the story of Saul, beginning in the book of Acts, Chapter 6 and the story of Stephen
• Follower of Jesus, one of the early leaders in the church.
• He is described in the Bible this way: a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5) and full of God's grace and power (Acts 6:6)
• Able to do miracles (Acts 6:6)
• Able to stand his own and win the debates about faith in Jesus (Acts 6:9, 10)
• Because of all this the religious leaders arrested him and took Stephen to trial
• In Acts 7 Stephen gives a discourse to the Jewish religious leaders. A discourse that took them through their own history (and his, being a Jew) and used as a way to put them in their place - as people who rejected God and who God had sent, first prophets then Jesus himself.

This was the reaction Stephen got from the religious council: READ Acts 7:54 - 60
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Remember what we read about Paul's life story in Philippians 3:6?
6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Great motives but horrific execution.

How did this come about?
• Saul was a great man of God on the surface
• A young, passionate, energetic and intelligent young leader.
• Popular: He had won over the hearts of the stodgy old religious guys. They liked him. The people liked him.

What went wrong here? I mean, he could have done great things for Israel in turning them back to God.

1. He didn't understand Jesus
• No doubt he knew of Jesus, in fact he had probably seen and heard Jesus before the crucifixion
• He was part of the religious leadership establishment that opposed Jesus because of the person and message of Jesus.
• Jesus pointed out the faults and failings of the religious leaders while at the same time bringing blessing and God's favour to all the "undesirables"
• The Pharisees, the ultra-conservative group to which Paul belonged, especially hated Jesus as his message struck them to the core

When we don't truly understand Jesus, our motives will take us down a destructive path, even if our intentions are good.

2. He trusted in himself
• Paul was smart, quick to the draw and full of energy
• He had the approval of the religious establishment and was popular
• He was ambitious and his ambition was taking him places really quick - success was in his hands

Trusting in ourselves, our abilities, our education or status leaves us vulnerable to falling into pride. Pride skews our motives and blinds our minds eventually resulting in actions and words which do nothing but hurt and drag us down.

Our motives may seem good on the surface:
• Like Walter White of the TV Series Breaking Bad, he was cooking and selling crystal meth to provide financial security for his family
• We say we do everything for our kids - we work longer, make more money, get more stressed. Time? Effort?
• At what cost? Relationship?
• We want a bigger, better home. We want the vacation spot. We want to feel secure.
• We want more "respect" - code word for attention

Not bad motives necessarily, but what do we really show when we focus on ourselves and what we want? What will we really lose? What damage will we cause to others?

Saul had to face this harsh reality when Jesus paid him a dramatic, personal visit. We see this story in Acts chapter 9.

Acts 9:1 - 9
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

• Healing - required humility on his part, depending on one of his "enemies" to get him out of trouble.
• He needed to be taken out of his work and ministry, grow and then be brought back into action

This encounter changed Saul completely. He even changed his name to a more palatable sounding Paul, easier for the Greeks and Romans.

And this is how Paul sums things up as he looks back on his life:

Philippians 3:7 - 14
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

• New motive
• Past means nothing because of Jesus (success or failure of the past)
• “Gain Christ and be found in him” – full knowledge of Jesus, relationship with Jesus, having Jesus’ righteousness, not our own
• – experience of Jesus
• New Hope
• resurrection from the dead – becoming the way God had intended us to be from creation
• New Goal
• Recognizing not perfect
• Take hold of what Christ has done (died in our place, given full hope and power, as well as a clear call)
• Admission we’re not there yet
• Set past aside (success and failure)
• Straining (full effort, battling)
• We’re working toward a future hope today, where we are, in what we do, with whom we are in contact.
• Call from God heavenward, not stuck on things of this life and earth
• Call from God in Christ Jesus: this does not come from within ourselves, nor is it affected by anyone else
• It has a positive end: the prize promised us. Not for now, for the end of our journey, therefore we press for it, we fight for it, and we strive toward it. It is there, it is not to be earned, it is to be claimed when we arrive.

Will we let our own great motives break us in the wrong direction or let Jesus break us into his way?

Topics: jesus, message series

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