I Will Take The Children Part 11: The Turnaround – Session 2 – Ps John Bendixen (WTB)

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 6:12 (AMPC); 1 Corinthians 6:12, 19-20 (MSG); 1 Corinthians 6:11-15 (NLT); Acts 9:6-7 (AMPC)

Praise You, Jesus. Praise You, Lord, praise You, Jesus, praise You, Jesus. Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah. Just lift your voices and praise Jesus. Praise You Jesus, praise You Jesus. Praise You Jesus, praise You Jesus hallelujah, hallelujah. Hallelujah Lord. We glorify Your Name Jesus. You are wonderful Lord. Hallelujah, hallelujah hallelujah. You are the great and mighty God, You are my Lord and My Savior. Hallelujah, You are our Provider, You are our Healer, You are our Protector. You are the One who always takes care of us, You never leave us, You never fail us. We can always trust in You and believe in You Lord. Hallelujah, hallelujah, praise Jesus, praise Jesus. Glory to God. Thank You for Your presence here this morning Holy Spirit, thank You that it was only Your presence that really makes this anything worthwhile. We love You Holy Spirit, we love the Word, we love Jesus and the Father and we are grateful that we can glorify You in this service today and be here because of You. Thank You Lord, thank You. In Jesus’ name, amen. Amen, you may be seated.

I can listen to music like that all day. Right? Hallelujah. Glory. One of these days it will be so. One of these days we’ll have a time when Covid relief is sort of over, you know the whole Covid thing, and we’ll get together. We had planned a celebration, we were going to go to Clarence. Remember? These guys are going to come and we were just going to have 3 days of just awesome fun and worship and praise and all of that. I’m not letting the devil steal that from us. When the time is right we are going to go and do that and we are just going to have all the churches come together. We had all the stuff planned and well, it’s going to come round again. Hallelujah.

We have had more time to work on it but we already had a plan then that we would be able to, from Clarence using satellite dishes and things like that we would be able to broadcast the event to just about anywhere; people wanted to see it live. Now we are developing things with TBN that are making it much more, potentially, a much bigger footprint wherever we go. So, praise the Lord for that. Hallelujah.

This is a big day. It’s a wonderful day. This message that I’m preaching today, I preached in the Joburg church on the 6th of September. After I ministered at the Johannesburg church, there were a lot of things that happened, a lot of people made a lot of different decisions about their lives going forward after I preached this message. And I just haven’t had a release in my heart to preach the same message here in Witbank until today. Until this week. What I have to say is different to what I said then, although the framework of it is the same. The Lord, the way He wants me to speak it out here is different to the way it came out in Johannesburg. So, I fully expect for you to be a different person after today. Hey? Ja. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

The scripture I want to read to you is from 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 12, it’s from the Amplified Bible and I’m going to read parts of this scripture, the chapter 6 in different versions and different parts of it as we go forward. This scripture says 12Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power (1 Corinthians 6:12 AMPC).

So, this scripture is saying everything, as a born again Christian is lawful but not everything is profitable. In the Message translation that scripture says 12Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims (1 Corinthians 6:12 MSG). Or to my, just ‘If I think about something, I desire something, then I just do whatever I think I want to do.’

It’s quite clear then if you are a Christian and you’ve made Jesus the Lord and Saviour of your life, it’s a good thing because you are not going to hell. Right? You’re not going to hell. The reason you actually became a Christian, besides not going to hell, because it’s really better to go to heaven. Right? I mean nobody wants to go to hell. I’ve listened to many people that have indicated that they’ve either had a vision of hell, or they’ve, or they’ve experienced what is experienced in hell. I can’t say whether their encounters are true or not because I’ve never been there and I will never be there.

Some have expressed this desire and some of that is, some of it has biblical foundation, which is even why I would mention it to you. To live in hell is to live with the desires that you lived with on the earth, and that you wanted to give yourself to, and those desires perpetually are in you, without being able to satisfy them at all.

It’s not so much that you live in flames, or that you live in because you’ll be a spirit being. So your body itself is not going to burn, you’re going to be a spirit being that lives for eternity with your soul, separated from God in another dimension of the heavenly realms, or those realms. The essence of that is that you will live desiring things for eternity, but never be able to satisfy them.

So there’s a story in the New Testament about a rich man who dies and a poor man that dies and there’s a gulf fixed between them. He asks Abraham to send this man, to just put a drop of water on his tongue to satisfy his thirst. That’s an indication in the Bible, that the conditions there are not so good. It’s better when you die, it’s better, that you go to heaven, and you live in the presence of God, and you live fully with Him always. So please don’t go to hell.

You know, please make a decision that you want to live for Jesus. I have, I have a fairly different salvation message that I preach. If I’m preaching to someone who’s an unbeliever, meaning they have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives, it’s an unknown factor to me whether they believe, really believe that there is a spiritual realm. That’s an unknown factor to me, whether they actually believe there is good and evil, or whether there is the devil and there is God. One thing I can say for sure is that Jesus died for you, to save you from you. When you are saved from you, then you actually end up living in Jesus, being saved from hell is actually just a good advantage. Right?

So I mean, just for me the way I am in my calling, and the way it is, you know, there’s a lot of preachers that get people saved because they preach about hell. I don’t want you to believe, this is my calling, I don’t want you to believe or make Jesus your Lord because you want to escape hell. I want you to make Jesus Lord because He’s good because He died for you. It’s a much better life, to live in Him than any other life. And all of the stuff you struggle with, you’ll get over it in Him. That’s a good reason to be saved. But there is a hell and a heaven and so get saved so you don’t go to hell.

I’m going to read this from the message translation, verse 12. Well, I have already, but I just want to read it again, 12Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. You’ve heard me say this many times and it is part of what God requires me to say often and as many times as He leads me to say it. I certainly do it just about any time when I’ve preached in Ethiopia, Kenya, when I’ve preached in other different places, Africa, America and different places in the world.

Just about every first time I preach in a church, doesn’t matter where church, an auditorium or conference, doesn’t matter what; I say this, this statement, “What’s the point of being a Christian?” So the point of being a Christian is not just to escape hell and go to heaven, although that’s a benefit. It’s so that you can become spiritual. So what’s the point of being spiritual? The point of being spiritual is, that as a spiritual person you can live for God, in God, with God, and be the life of God in the earth, and you are the only person in the universe that can bring God’s will to the earth.

He has not appointed angels to do that. He has appointed angels to minister to men who will bring the will of God the earth. So we, as people, are supposed to be connected to God, becoming spiritual, living as God so we can bring His stuff to the earth. Amen.

I want to read to you this whole passage of scripture from The Message Translation from verse 19 and 20. 16-20…Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 MSG).

In this passage of scripture, the Bible is clear that your body belongs to God, right? Okay, I have a question for you, it’s a rhetorical question, but you are allowed to answer it if you want to. You can just nod your head, say “yes or no” or whatever. If you are a non-Christian, you have never made Jesus the Lord and Saviour of your life, you’re an unbeliever, does Jesus own your body? He does. Because He paid for everybody. He paid the price so that everybody could be saved, everyone. He didn’t exclude anybody out of that equation, He didn’t just die for a few people; He died for everybody.

So then what’s the difference between the bodies that have alive spirits to God and the bodies that don’t have alive spirits to God? Well the difference is that; the bodies that don’t have alive spirits to God, these bodies are directly communicating to the soul of the person and the soul and the body do whatever they please. “I see something, I hear something, I taste something, I feel like something, I think about something, my body responds to that something and then I do what my body and my soul want to do. So I don’t actually care what anybody else thinks, this body belongs to me. Because this is the me that I have and the only me that’s ever going to be, and I only have one life to live through me and my body is going to get older and die, so let me do whatever my body wants to do while I’m alive and I can enjoy what my body wants me to do.” Right? That’s an unbeliever. Just do whatever I want, whenever I want, as much as I want.” Other people might say, “As long as it doesn’t hurt somebody.” Some people don’t even care if it hurts somebody. It’s like, “I’m going to do what I want to do and if it hurts you, too bad.” Right? So they don’t even have that boundary. A lot of people don’t have that boundary. It’s just, “I will do whatever I want.”

The people in the world get quite confused by people in church. Because the people in church who are born-again because they are not, they are missing hell and they are going to heaven, but they still think that their body belongs to themselves and they do whatever they want. On the contrary, oftentimes people, that are Christians, want to identify with the non-Christians because they know how to have fun. They know how to go to parties, they know how to have fun, they know how to do things that are lekker, with liquor [laughter in congregation] and the like, right?

Christians are like ‘boring people’, you know. The non-Christians are the exciting people because they party and they are always thinking of some new adventure to have fun, like; “Okay we are going to go to that guys house and have a braai and get stoom dronk, or verdriet or whatever, you know [laughter in congregation]. You know, they’re just going to go and have whatever. Then they are going to go and watch a rugby match, and then they are going to go here, and then they are going to go to somebody’s house and watch a rugby match and drink, you know? They know how to party.

Besides, if you are a Christian in a workplace; it’s hard to be in a workplace where you got to live your light because it’s like; you can’t swear, you don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, you don’t get angry, well you’re not supposed to, and you go to kind of have to live life like… So everybody in the world gets confused because Christians don’t know how to live as Christians. So they quit living like Christians and they live life like the world, but profess their Christianity, so the whole world is confused about, “Whose these Christians and why do they live like us when they actually say they are Christians?” I am preaching good, hey? What do you say Carmen? Is this good preaching? [Carmen: yes]. Hallelujah.

God says, “Your body belongs to Him.” So if your body belongs to Him, all of you, your spirit man, your soul, your body, belongs to Him. Then it’s because He doesn’t want to spoil your fun, He wants you to have the kind of fun that is living life fun. It’s the fun of adventure that comes by living in faith; it’s the fun of adventure in obeying Him; it’s the fun of adventure of doing what He calls you to do. You know how much fun it is when God says to you, I mean this is really fun if God says to you; “Give a car away” and you say, “But Lord I spent three years paying off this car, and now it’s just paid off and now it’s mine, at long last. Now You are telling me to give it away?”

“Well, I couldn’t ask you to give it away before because it didn’t belong to you before. Now that it belongs to you, I can tell you to give it away.” Right? Okay so, “Now I want you to give it away.” “But Lord, what am I going to do if I give my car away?”. “Well, why don’t you trust Me and see what I can do when you give Me the seed of the car?” “But, but, but…” “Does your body belong to Me?” “Yes” “Will I take care of you?” “Yes” “So if I ask you to do something, do you think I don’t have a plan?” “Well, if You just show it to me, I will feel more confident.” That’s the whole point, it’s the adventure of faith. If you knew what the next action was going to be, then it wouldn’t be by faith. It’s only when you get to the other side of obedience that sometimes, “Ah, now I see what’s happening.”

Your body doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to God. I’m going to read this to you in the New Living Translation, 11Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 12You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) (1 Corinthians 6:11-15 NLT).

Well, that’s true. One day, our bodies will be glorified. So your spirit and your soul will live eternally either in heaven or in hell. So you won’t need to eat food then, you won’t even need oxygen to breathe because your spirit man and your soul will be light. The very life and the light and the love of God will be the essence of your being. So you won’t need to eat or even breath or do anything, you will just be glorified.

Then if we do come and live down on the earth again in the fullness of time in the new heaven and the new earth, then our bodies may take on a different shape, instead of living in the glorified presence of God, we might live with a new body, in a new earth, with a new heaven, and that might be a different shape, or have a different quality about it. We might go back to living like Adam and Eve. That’s a whole other theological debate that we don’t have the answer to, because it’s somewhere in the future. So it doesn’t matter how much I talk about it in the Bible, I don’t have the answer for you. Sorry. Too many people have said too many things about that, that have all been wrong, so I prefer to say nothing about it.

Anyway, the point is, you won’t have to eat one day. Ah, and it’s so lekker to eat, eish! [laughter in congregation]. But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14And God will raise us from the dead by His power, just as He raised our Lord from the dead. 15Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? (1 Corinthians 6:11-15 NLT).

When you become born again and Jesus lives in your body, your body, your physical body, becomes part of Christ. This is amazing. If God owns my body then my body actually belongs to Him and I, not just in my spirit and and my soul because that’s where the Christians get confused. They say, “I’m spiritually alive to God but my body can do just whatever it wants.” No, you can’t because your body actually belongs to God and He wants to use your body in this earth. He wants you to be in a place that when you leave this earth to go into eternity that you are so used to His presence and living with Him in your body that the transition between natural living and spirit eternity is almost like; “I didn’t even realise I died, because I’m living with God like all the time. I’m in heaven but I’ve been almost in heaven on the earth, here I am.” Come on.

This can happen, the more we live in Christ. That’s why the Apostle Paul would say, “For me to live is Christ and for me to die is gain.” He actually said or indicated that he had a choice, that actually there was a time when he was ready to go and he could have gone. It’s like Jesus said, “Come home.” He says, “Actually it is better for me to stay because the church needs me. The body on the earth needs me more than the heavenly body needs me. So I’ll stay here a bit longer.” That’s how much Paul realized that his body actually belongs to God. Which is why when they beat him and they tried to kill him they tried to shipwreck, and the devil tried to get him, any which way but dead. He still put his body on the line all the time because he said “These light afflictions, these light afflictions they just for a little time. What’s happening to me is actually eternal in this body.” Hallelujah.

This is a really wonderful place to live as a Christian because when you live in this kind of space this kind of place you realise that if God really knows that your body belongs to Him and you know that you don’t have to worry about what you are going to eat, what you’re going to drink or what you are going to wear; because if your body is part of His whole thing of living on the earth and He knows He’s going to take care of you.

It’s when you take the responsibility to take care of you, that you say, “I’m taking away from You God because I can’t trust You. I trust me more than I trust You. So I’m going to take it away from You but actually I belong to You, but You can’t take care of me.” You check? You spot it? You see? This is like, you know, we got a long way to go, otherwise we’re just playing games here.

So what the Lord has placed on my heart for this message is that if we, adult people for the most part, there are a few kids here but for a the most part there’s adults in the service. If our bodies belong to God and we have children, who owns their bodies? [Congregation says God] Say again, who owns their bodies? [Congregation says God] Not you? If you are a very responsible parent, very caring nurturing parent, who does that child belong to? [Congregation says, God]

So then you think that everything that you planned for your child as they raise up in life is like a badge of honour for you? “Look how good I did for my kids.” No you just did what God expects you to do because He owns your body and if He was owning your body then He would tell you; “Treat My kids good. Treat them good, protect them, feed them, look after them. Treat My kids good because I birth them through your body and I’m giving them into your care for a short time. But treat them good while you have them because there comes a time when they are no longer your kids. They’re still My body.” Do you understand? They may be your DNA but they are not your kids. They are God’s body. As a Christian, you have to go from that transition of that place where you realise that what you’ve put into your kids, I did my best God and now they’re in your hands and that’s it.

I mean, my son Brynn went once to go pray for a couple of months, he went to Prayer Mountain at Yonggi Cho Church in Seoul. He phoned me from there and we were having a conversation on the phone. You know I’ve never actually spoken to him about it since then but that time I wasn’t really, I didn’t really know how serious he was because I knew he was in a very little space, praying and spending most of his days in prayer. He called me and he said, “You know dad I think the Lord is calling me to North Korea or to China.” I said, “Say what?” I thought, “Lord what are You telling him in prayers? I am bringing him home right now. I can fix his head. What’s going on there?” So in the end it didn’t turn out to be a serious calling but what it did to me was it had a serious impact on me. He’s my son, I raised him and I have stood in covenant with him through many hard times in his life. Many difficult challenges not just as a father but as a covenant friend to my son who was going through things as his father too. We had and I’ve always said to sons I’ve got their back, we are covenant partners we’re not just father and sons. We have a covenant relationship.

So when he came with this story, I said, “As a covenant partner You haven’t told me about that God”, and then the Lord said to me, “Do you think I have to tell you?” I said, “No, but I would sure appreciate it.” He said, “I’ll do whatever I’ll do and I need your obedience regardless of what I choose to do.” I said, “But if he goes to North Korea or China I may never see him again. He might literally be killed.” He said, “What is that to you John? If I choose to use his body to shed blood on the earth so that millions of Chinese people can get saved because of his martyrdom what do you say to Me about that? Will you not rejoice with Me in eternity for the millions of Chinese that got saved because he shed his blood as a martyr?”

I didn’t realise it that time but it would just be a few years later that my dad was murdered on his front garden by Satan worshipers because of the book that he wrote, The Christian and the Demon World, and they wanted to show the people that the demon people who believe in demons are more powerful than Christians. So they murdered him on the front garden of his house and I was the first to get there besides the police and the ambulance. Well I don’t know how they found out but they called me. I remember now, my stepmother, she actually came home and found him in the garden and then she called me. I got there just about the same time as the police and ambulance. I remember looking at my dad’s body there and immediately recognising and realizing that whatever he had achieved in life he is now living in heaven with the special crown on his head and it’s called the Martyr’s Crown of Life that very few, very few Christians get to have that.

I don’t know if God will ever use my son that way but he certainly prepared my heart that when my dad was killed that way that I was ready. I was ready to understand that there are some things that God will use, that He will use certain things. You can ask me lots of questions that I don’t have answers for and I’m not looking for the answers for them as to why he was killed, aren’t looking for those answers. I’m at peace because I’m at peace in Heaven.

By the way those guys were all caught. They were all sentenced and the one who actually was the ringleader behind that got 20 years in jail. The one who actually committed the act of killing my father got 30 years in jail and so they actually caught them and this other newspaper called me and they wanted to know if I wanted to make a comment about all of this. I said, “I don’t want to talk to you” because what will they understand that I tell them that they are going to put in print and then they say the wrong things that I said and didn’t say. You don’t trust journalists if they don’t understand the power of God and what is happening here.

I can say for sure my dad’s body didn’t belong to himself it belonged to God and in the end, he gave his life his whole life was serving God and then when he died he died and went to heaven as a martyr where all the great cloud of witnesses would applaud, “Here comes a martyr that gave his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I said this about marriage, my marriage to Pastor Sharon. It’s easy for me to say to her, “I’ll die for you.” That’s easy because it’s not the dying thing that is the real challenge. It’s the living for her, that’s where the real power is, it is not to die for someone, it is to live for someone.

If you love someone then live for them, live the best you can live, live in Christ for them, live Christ, let Christ live to them through you. That is the best kind of thing to have, and so you know, okay my dad’s a martyr but let’s live for Christ while we are on the earth. Let’s do the best we can, let’s be the demonstration of Jesus Christ on the earth in the best way that we can. After all our bodies belong to Him. That means our children’s bodies belong to Him, until they get old enough so that they can be led by the Spirit of God to do whatever they need to be done by God.

I’m here today to ask you if you will repent. I’m not asking you to come to the front of the church today, this is not a message where I’m mournful, soulful, down in the mouth repentant requesting. This is a powerful message by God to you to find it in your heart that if you’ve been living for yourself and everything that is just about you and what is good for you, I’m asking you to repent from that. I’m asking you to allow the Holy Spirit to show you how to repent, and let Him make Himself real to you. So, that you understand that you need to be living for Him. I tell you what will happen, you will become a more purposeful Christian. You will understand what your assignment is. You will always bring your life into alignment with the order of God, always. You will find that as you begin to trust God like that resources just flow to you to accomplish your assignment. Hallelujah!

I’m going to give you a very religious version of what repentance is, if you will stick with me. There are quite a lot of definitions here, but it’s important just so that we get context today. So, there are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance. The verb, Metamelomai is used of a change of mind such as to produce or regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas. Metanoeo meaning to change one’s mind and purpose as the result of after knowledge, in other words knowledge comes then you repent on purpose. You turn around. The cognitive noun, Metanoia is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and living or life. To which remission of sin is promised.

So, when you come into Christian churches often and they are asking you to repent this is what they normally want you to do. They want you to have a sense of guilt and sin and then they want you to repent from that sin’s sense of sin and guilt. That is not what I am asking. I’m not asking you to search your heart for the guilt and the sin and the stuff that’s there and repent from that. If you think too much about your sin, you are likely to become more sinful. By the very act of meditating on it, you know and then beside you thinking you can have actually saved yourself from your own sin. I feel like I’m in a court of law today and I’m counting on heading you into, you know, “Yes, your honour.” No escape here, you know?

The second part, you will always be confronted with when you go to a church that is about guilt and about sin and sin awareness is that you will call on the mercy of God, and that’s a real thing. And certainly if you are an unbeliever and you are getting saved, these things are relevant. You know, that you may feel a strong sense of guilt. You may sense, “I’ve led a bad life here.” There may be a strong sense of God’s mercy present for you. Which might actually lead you to feel a real hatred for the sin that you have done in your life and that has been part of your life; a repulsiveness. Often people that will come and have these encounters with God and the salvation; they will experience that.

Then the next phase kicks in, is that people that repent will have a persistent endeavour to live a holy life in a walking with God in a way of His commandments. In other words they want to leave their old life behind and they want to live a holy life. They immediately start to change what they are doing so that they can do something better. That in itself is flawed, because now you’re again doing it on your own strength, rather than on God’s strength.

I am going to come to the final part of my message this morning and I’m going to read to you. I didn’t make reference here from my study notes as to which Bible Commentary or dictionary I got it from. Could have been Vince, could have been Thompson Chain Reference or one of those, but I’m just going to read to you as it comes out of the book. I think it’s insightful. It’s easy reading, it’s written like a story. So if you’ll bear with me, I need to read it to you. Okay, I’m talking about the life of Saul, the Apostle Paul if you like.

Saul was born about the same time as our Lord. His circumcision name was Saul, and probably the name Paul was also given to him in infancy “for use in the Gentile world,” as “Saul” would be his Hebrew home name. He was a native of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in the south-east of Asia Minor. That city stood on the banks of the river Cydnus, which was navigable thus far; hence it became a centre of extensive commercial traffic with many countries along the shores of the Mediterranean, as well as with the countries of central Asia Minor. It thus became a city distinguished for the wealth of its inhabitants. Tarsus was also the seat of a famous university, higher in reputation even than the university of Athens and Alexandria, the only other’s that then existed.

In other words there are very few Universities, but if there was a ‘top of the shelve’ University it was the one that was in Tarsus. Call it a Harvard, a Yale of the World Universities.

Here Saul was born, and here he spent his youth, doubtless enjoying the best education his native city could afford. His father was of the straightest sect of the Jews, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and unmixed Jewish blood.

So, this only becomes important if you want to have a certain status within the spiritual leadership and the legal fraternity of the Jewish people. So, in that context Paul or Saul was born a pureblood Jew, in other words there was no limitation to the extent of his ambition and the extent of his rise in his community to a place of power and influence.

We learn nothing regarding his mother; but there is reason to conclude that she was a pious woman, and that, like-minded with her husband, she exercised all a mother influences in moulding the character of her son, so that he could, afterwards, speak of himself as being, from his youth up, touching the righteousness, which is the law, blameless.

In other words this was a young man that was very disciplined and he was under the discipline of mother and father, and under the discipline of the Benjamite community of Christians and under the discipline of the law of the Pharisees. So this was a very controlled environment that Paul or Saul grew up in.

We read of his sister and his sister’s son, and of other relatives. Though a Jew, his father was a Roman citizen. How he obtained this privilege, we are not informed. “It might be bought, or won by distinguished service to the state, or acquired in several other ways”; at all events, his son was free born.

So this becomes very important because all other Jews, regardless of what tribe they belong to, or what their status was within the Jewish community, they were slaves of the Roman Empire. So any Roman soldier could tell the highest level of Jewish influencer and powerful person to carry their stuff a mile. So the lowest born Roman soldier was considered of much higher dignity than the highest born Jew.

So for Saul to be born under the status of free-born that meant he didn’t have to take orders from any Roman. He could go and make his case in any Roman court or event and say whatever he wanted as a Roman, even though what he might have said might have been pleasing to Jews. There was nothing that they could do about it because he was a free-born, which is a rare thing in the Jewish community at that time.

So it was a valuable privilege, and one that was to prove of great use to Paul, although not in the way in which his father might have been expected to desire him to make use of it.” Perhaps the most natural career for the youth to follow was that of a merchant. But it was decided that … he should go to college and become a rabbi, that is a minister, a teacher, and a lawyer all in one.

So that would make him both head preacher and Prime Minister or President of the country. Or how can I say, maybe Judge, Advocate, and President and chief businessmen all wrapped up together in one.

So according to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from goats’ hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in Tarsus. His preliminary education having been completed, Saul was sent, when about 13 years of age, probably to the great Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated Rabbi Gamaliel.

So this is like becoming someone as a professor of… becoming the personal prodigy of a professor at Harvard University, kind of thing.

Okay, here he spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures and of the many questions concerning them with which the rabbi’s exercised themselves. During these years of diligent study he lived “in all good conscience.” Straight living guy. Unstained by the vices of the great city. After the period of his student-life expired, he probably left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with some synagogue for some years. But we find him back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord. Here, he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion and the rise of the new sect of the “Nazarenes.”

For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was quietly spreading its influence in Jerusalem. At length, Stephen, one of the seven deacons, gave forth more public and aggressive testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, and this led to much excitement among the Jews and much disputation in their synagogues. Persecution arose against Stephen and the followers of Christ generally, in which Saul of Tarsus took a prominent part. He was at this time probably a member of the great Sanhedrin, and became the active leader in the furious persecution by which the rulers then sought to exterminate Christianity.

So they probably used Paul because he came, because of all of these credentials. His integrity, unstained by anything. He’s destined for great things. So let’s get him onto the path of even greater things, and let’s have him kill all the Christians.

But the object of the persecution also failed. “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” The anger of the persecutor was thereby kindled into a fierce flame. Hearing that fugitives had taken refuge in Damascus, he obtained from the chief priest letters authorizing him to proceed to Damascus on his persecuting career. This was a long journey of about 130 miles, which would have to occupy perhaps six days, during which, with his few attendants, he steadily went onwards, breathing out threatenings and slaughter. But the crisis of his life was at hand. He had reached the last stage of his journey, and was within sight of Damascus. As he and his companions rode on, suddenly at midday a brilliant light shone round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground. A voice sounding in his ears, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” The risen Saviour was there, clothed in the vesture of His glorified humanity. In answer to the anxious inquiry of the stricken persecutor, “Who art thou, Lord?” He said, “I am Jesus, whom you persecutest.” This was the moment of his conversion, the most solemn in all his life.

I read to you from the book of Acts, and then I will speak to this for a few minutes. This is Acts chapter nine, verse six, 6Trembling and astonished he asked, Lord, what do You desire me to do? The Lord said to him, “But arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. 7The men who were accompanying him were unable to speak [for terror], hearing the voice but seeing no one (Acts 9:6-7, AMPC).

So there’s a few points I just want to make to you today. Everybody, everybody that is a Christian, having encountered Jesus as your Lord and Savior will know that that is a mark in your life. If you are somebody that’s a Christian, and you say, “I am a Christian”, but you can’t turn and make reference to a marker in your life when you encountered Jesus, and you asked Him to be the Lord and Savior of your life. Then you need to either be told about it, or you need to have an encounter with God, yourself.

For me, I was told I gave my heart to the Lord at five, I don’t remember it, my mom said so. I do remember being filled with the Spirit at seven and I remember that like yesterday, which was my first encounter. My most dramatic encounter with God was when He called me to the ministry. I was nearly 15 years old, it was about the time of my birthday and God encountered me in the bedroom for three hours and He called me into the ministry. You don’t forget those things when you encounter God like that, and neither did Saul ever forget his encounter with God the way he encountered God that day.

Now, I say to you, it’s far better for me than if you encounter God, that you encounter Him because you are seeking Him. That you don’t encounter Him because I have a powerful laying hands-on ministry, and you encounter Him that way. That is a way that God will use ministers, but it is much better that you seek Him with your heart, and then He encounters you. That is a powerful thing that you do. If it happens to be in church, that’s fine. If it happens to be by the laying on of hands, that’s fine, but it must be because your heart is seeking it, not just because it’s something that gets done in church.

The other thing I want to say is that when you encounter God, you need to encounter God in a way that it transforms your life. You need to encounter God in such a way, that when God sends messengers into your life, that you understand the role that they play. In the same way that Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, it would forever change his life, he was blinded by the glorious brilliance of the majesty of Jesus’ glorified body. As bright as the noonday sun was, he was blinded by the light of Jesus that came obviously directly from the presence of the Father. He couldn’t stand, he couldn’t see, he could hardly do anything because of the wonder of being in the presence of Almighty God. But Jesus didn’t make that the be-all and end-all of his experience because He sent him to Jerusalem and from that point onwards, He handed him over to human messengers that would tell him what to do next. He would keep hearing from human messengers until he himself became a human messenger. Even when he became a human messenger, and God gave him fresh revelations and new revelations, he would go to Jerusalem, and share his revelations with other Apostles, to be sure that the revelations that he received was not deceiving to him, but was accurate according to the Scriptures, and the witness of the Spirit, amongst others.

There are too many messengers on this earth right now that glorify themselves. They want a high born status, they want to have lots of material possessions, they want to draw much attention and glory to themselves. But God only uses messengers to bring glory to Him. If you’re a messenger that wants to be glorified in your messaging, then actually, you will be minimized in your ability to produce and to be a messenger. All messengers are only supposed to glorify Jesus. All messengers are only supposed to really exhort you in your own walk with God so that you can encounter Him regularly, so that your messaging to the world can become more powerful.

I think the confusion that is so much in the world today is that Christians think that their bodies belong to themselves, and their spirits belong to God. “I’ll go to church on a Sunday, and I’ll pray a little bit because that’s a spiritual life, but actually I will live my life the way that others live their lives.” In fact, most Christians want to identify with, and they want to be part of the world’s identification system, because the world really knows how to have fun, right? I mean, then I had to have parties, then how to do all that kind of stuff.

As a Christian, we don’t really know how to have fun. Well, then you are not really understanding what fun is in Jesus. To be sure, if your body and your soul is so dominant in your life that you have been living after the lust and the craving and the desires of things that are all sensual. I mean by your senses. Then it will be much harder for you to actually be living as a messenger. The world is confused because when you’re in the world, you want to tell them you’re a Christian, but you want to live like them. It’s much harder to stand up for being a Christian, because they always want to pick on your imperfection. When they pick on your imperfection, you’re always on the defensive because imperfect you are, mistakes you will make. Remember what I said previously, we live a messy life before you become marvelous in Christ, you have messiness that happens all through your life.

Come on, and so the world is really good at picking up the messy stuff of your life. Really good at picking on your weakness. We always feel like we don’t want to say too loudly that we are Christians, because then they can attack our messiness. They’re going to attack our weaknesses. They’re going to have a go at us because we live lives that are less than perfect. They’re always going to say, “But you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to do better.”

I am not ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and neither am I ashamed of my weakness. Then when I say to them, “But don’t judge my God by my weakness,” then they say, “Yeah, but that’s why you have your God is because you need a crutch, because you are weak.” And I say to them, “I don’t make Jesus as my crutch. He’s my everything. He’s my Lord, and He’s my Savior. I don’t need a crutch. I do need a savior. I do need to follow what God has planned for my life.” I don’t have to defend myself in any given situation and my weaknesses. The worst thing a Christian can do is to say,is to justify themselves. Don’t justify yourself. Just keep giving glory to Jesus. I don’t care what you say about my weakness. Jesus is still Lord. I don’t care about what you have to say about my inability to live perfectly. Jesus is still Lord, He is still God, He is still alive. “By the way, you still have to choose.” “Yeah, but if I look at you I don’t want to choose.” “That’s your decision. Mines gone, I’ve done. I’ve said. I’m doing. You choose still.” Then they want to ask you questions about, “But how many gods are there? Surely, you can serve any god?” Say, “Well, that’s your choice to make. I serve Jesus.”

I serve Jesus. He’s my Lord. He’s my Savior, He died, but He rose from the dead. To my knowledge, He’s the only One who did. So if you find another god who rose from the dead, come and tell me and I’ll examine that, but until then, you know, come in minded. “Well, how do you know?” “He lives in me.” “I can’t see Him.” “Well, you won’t, because you don’t believe.” I’m not making any excuses. Don’t make excuses for your weaknesses.

You know, like, you have a fight with your wife, and you get to work and you slam the door and the next person, you’re walking down the hallway, you shout at them. “Ahhh” [Pastor John making an aggravated noise]. “A fine Christian he is.” You go in your office, “Lord I let You down.” Now you didn’t. There’s nothing you can do to actually let God down, because there’s nothing you can do to improve His reputation. Can you? What can you do to improve His reputation? Come on, He doesn’t care what people say about Him. He died already. He’s there. You either believe in Him or you don’t. So I don’t have to defend Him. I don’t have to make Him look good. He can, He is good all by Himself.

I close today and I say to you; if your body belongs to Jesus, then give it to Him. Give it to Him. If your body belongs to Jesus and you have children, then your children should also be given to Him. If your body belongs to Him, then I want to say to you; your future destiny, your future assignment, your future activities that you must be doing in life should be led by Him, not by a grand plan that you have for your life. Hey? Praise the Lord.

I believe we have entered into a very strategic time on the earth. I believe the enemy of God is making a play to savage the church. I believe the enemy of God is making a play to silence the church. But I believe this is the time for the finest hour of the church. It’s going to be up to us who are going to live a life that is for Jesus, imperfect as we are, we are made perfect in Him. It’s time for us.

That is my request for you today. My request for you today is to have a moment, take a moment of repentance and say, “Lord, I’ve been living as a Christian but really not that sold out to You. I have been living just as it suits me. I’ve been living just as it kind of fits into my program. Now I’m asking You, Lord, to help me shift from having my program in life, to having Your program for my life.” If you don’t have the capacity to pray that prayer with any real conviction, ask Him, “Holy Spirit, give me the conviction, strengthen me on the inside. Help me, help me so that I can give You everything. Everything. Everything.” I’ll tell you, this is the funnest life, ever. It’s really a great place to live when you live your life in Jesus this way. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

Won’t you all stand with me, please? It’s very easy. It’s very easy to make Jesus Lord and Savior of your life. All you have to do is to make a simple declaration. If you do that with me now put your hand on your heart and say, I’m a son of God. I’m saved from all my sins. I’m saved from myself. Jesus lives in me and forever I will be His child through the power and the blood of the Lord Jesus. Come live in my heart and always let me be a faithful son. Amen.

Now, if you haven’t ever prayed that prayer, you prayed it for the first time with meaning, this is an opportunity, you’ve just got saved. It’s as simple as that because salvation is not something that happens by a whole ceremony; it’s a condition of the heart and the power of your words.

On the other hand, if you have prayed that before, what I just asked you to do is a declaration that is saying, “I want to be a faithful son, I want to be a faithful one that gives myself to You always.” Hey, and so I’m asking you to not think of your future in the way in the terms that you have. I’m asking you by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to have an encounter with God, ask Him for an encounter with God so that you can never look back from that encounter. Every message that you receive from that point onwards will be a direct guidance to your future and the power of what God wants to do in your life. Hallelujah.

I pray that you are blessed going out and bless coming in. That the peace of God rests upon you this week. No weapon formed against you will prosper that He puts a hedge of His Word and the blood of Jesus around you and protects you with that. He will not allow your foot to get caught in a hidden snare. He will bless you and He will keep you and He will make His light to shine upon you in every way. In Jesus’ name.

Thank you for coming to church this morning. God bless you.