God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion

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With a flash like lightning, God intersects with Saul (and his entourage). “Now as [Saul] journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.” (v.3) It was an unexpected encounter. It is interesting, unlike many Christians, Paul never links his conversion to a long process of God convicting or frustrating him of sin or stories scaring him out of hell. All those things may have happened in the instant he fell to the ground.

As Saul lay there on the ground, what did God say to him? First, He says in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul.” (v.4a) God singled out Saul by name. Fifteen times in Scripture names are repeated (i.e. God>Abraham, God>Moses, God>Samuel, David>Absalom, Elijah>God, Jesus>Martha, Jesus>Jerusalem, Jesus>God), which was used to gain attention or warning. Second, God says, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (v.4b) Notice He doesn’t say, “Why are you persecuting My people? Why are you such a bull?What’s wrong with you?” We discover in verse 5, the voice of God identifies Himself as Jesus. And Jesus clarifies that the persecution Saul is inflicting is ultimately against Him (v.5). In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you persecute My people, you persecute Me.” Those words bring such comfort to those suffering persecution for His name sake.

Notice how Saul responds to Jesus. He’s not passive nor is he defensive (v.5). He knows the voice is the Sovereign One of heaven. I can image Saul is as white as a bleached sheet and under the tremendous conviction of all his crimes. Yet in that moment, God’s grace is sufficient for Saul. It is also sufficient for your weakness too.

When I consider Saul’s conversion, it gives me courage to speak about the name of Jesus with friends and family. Their salvation might not happen immediately, but it might happen suddenly. Like My Grandpa Dale. He was a generous and kind man, he didn’t have many enemies (and he worked for the IRS). I’d share the gospel openly with him, since I was a teenager. He would listen intently, but normally respond saying, “Justin, that’s good, but I am happy being Catholic.”

A few years ago, Gramps called me at the church. In his quirky way he’d say, “Hey Huttshead. You’re a counselor, right? I have two questions for you: First, what do you think about me and my girlfriend living together? Second, could you tell me again how you think one gets to heaven?” His questions caught me by surprise. I answered his first question, letting him know I would rather see them marry, but that dearly I loved him. We spent the majority of conversation going to the Word, the source for the answers to his second question. Gramps, thanked me for the chat. He didn’t convert that day, but seeds were sown. Later, I found out that he had just been diagnosed with a malignant cancer that would soon take his life. Questions about his eternal destiny were his present reality.

A week later, I received another call from Gramps at the church. He started off by say, “Hey Pastor Hutts. I have two things I’d like to share with you. First, I have asked my girlfriend to marry me. Second, after talking to a pastor in town I have given my life to Jesus Christ.” Gramps went into hospice care a few months later. I leaned over the edge of his bed, he looked into my eyes—with tears in his—and said confidently, “I look forward to seeing my Savior.”

Gramps conversion was sudden and unexpected, as it might be with your neighbors, loved ones, or enemies. When you consider Saul’s sudden conversion how does it call you to persevere and be patience? How does it encourage you as you think about those who hard to love or hard to the gospel? As we will see (next week), Saul’s conversion is meant give you encouragement.

Coming Soon…

Part 1: God’s grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone (last week).

Part 2: God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion (today).

Part 3: God’s grace uses people as his instruments (next week).

Part 4: God’s grace on display in my childhood (in 2-weeks).

Dale F. Rothe

DSCN6419Dale F. Rothe, 9/2/35 – 6/7/09

Dale was loved by many people, most of whom considered him to be one of their best friends. He was a caring person to all who met him, a mentor to everyone who needed help, a role model to all who knew him, and a positive, encouraging person who treated everyone with respect. Dale fought a spirited battle to stay with his family and friends. He kept his faith in God, his spirit, and his sense of humor to the very end, and was an inspiration to anyone who knew his story. He loved fishing (particularly with his son and grandchildren), bowling, golfing, spending time with his family and friends, and was a devoted local historian of American Indian culture. To say we will all miss him is an incredible understatement, but we’re all better off to have had some time with him.

Gramps taught me from an early age that if somebody gives you something out of gratitude you are to send them a thank you note. So this is my thank you letter to my Gramps (Dale Rothe)…

Dear Gramps,

Where do I begin to thank you?

Thank you for being an unforgettable, lovable, incredible grandfather.

Thank you for bringing Mom and I into your home and caring for us when I was just a little boy. You had to be more than a grandfather to me at times. I remember seeing a uniquely real and vulnerable side of my Gramps in those days.

I know you are proud of me. You are proud of all your grandchildren. You faithfully attended soccer matches, baseball games, special events and told us through more than words how proud you were of us. I remember when my sister was born with Spina Bifida our family had to live away from home for weeks-on-end and we stayed in the Ronald McDonald Home. For the next 17 years, you volunteered there by giving magnificent speeches. Gramps we are so proud to be your grandchildren.

Thank you for teaching me about finances and investments. I will miss you helping me with my taxes!

Thank you for valuing the importance of family. Why even Aunt Estelle loved you!? We have a large legacy to fulfill as the one who would unite all us kinfolk.

Thank you for being real. You taught by your character what it is to be a genuine, caring, loving, and unprejudiced.

Thank you for your passion for various cultures (particularly a love for Africa) and your compassion for the oppressed (i.e. Native Americans). Gramps, you are more generous than anyone I know. You saved your change for my Christmas gift, now Sarah and I have committed to save our change for a Native American mission.

Thank you for my first visit to the casino. I was 18 years old, we were just going to play a few slots. Unknowingly, the State of Wisconsin days before raised the legal age to 21. Needless to say we got busted. I was escorted out, while I let you finish your slots!? As you put it, “It is my way of supporting the Indians!”

Thank you for taking the time to teach me how to play cribbage, bowl, and even take a swing at fantasy baseball (go Barney’s Baby Boppers). Thank you for those fishing trips, and outings to the golf course to hit some balls. Thanks for being an all around fun guy (your birthdays were like month-long events).

Thank you for your hysterical repertoire of corny jokes, wittiness and that wonderful golden-capped smile.

Thank you for the hope and faith you showed these past few months as your body suffered cancer. You had a peace in the face of death and confidence that you would soon be with Jesus. You were courageous and brave, and gave an excellent example for us all to follow. You are now at rest and now in the awesome presence of your Savior.

Thank you Gramps. I love you. I will miss you.

Love always,