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"This Man Is
My Chosen Instrument . . . "

Acts 9:10-19

Jim Davis

After physicist Richard Feynman won a Nobel Prize for his work, he visited his old high school. While there, he decided to look up his records. He was surprised to find that his grades were not as good as he had remembered them. And he got a kick out of the fact that his IQ was 124, not much above average.

Dr. Feynman saw that winning the Nobel prize was one thing, but to win it with an IQ of only 124 was really something. Most of us would agree because we all assume that the winners of Nobel prizes have exceptionally high IQs. Feynman confided that he always assumed that he had. If Feynman had known he was really just a bit above average in the IQ department, we wonder if he would have had the audacity to launch the unique and creative research experiments that would eventually win him the greatest recognition the scientific community can give. Perhaps not. Maybe the knowledge that he was a cut above average, but not in the genius category, would have influenced what he tried to achieve. After all, from childhood most of us have been led to believe that ordinary people don't accomplish extraordinary feats.

Most of us fall short of our potential because of little things we know or assume about ourselves. And the most self-defeating assumption of all is that we are just like everyone else. (Bits & Pieces, September 17, 1992, Page 7-8)

God Chooses the Worst Sinner

A most perplexing aspect of understanding how God works is how he chooses to use certain people. It may be even more perplexing to contemplate how God can use us individually. As we observe God's choosing we often think that the Lord made a bad choice. Ananias thought the Lord had made a mistake in sending him to preach the gospel to Saul. Listen to Ananias arguing with God. In essence Ananias says, "Lord I think you have made a mistake by choosing the murderous Paul for salvation."
 

Acts 9:13-14
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." (NIV)


The Lord answered Ananias' response saying, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." (Acts 9:15)

God deliberately chose Saul because he was the worst of the worst and the meanest of the mean. He was a Christian's worst nightmare. He was so mean that no one wanted to trust him. "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple." (Acts 9:26 NIV) They believed that he would stoop to any level to make their lives a nightmare, including disguising himself as a Christian. Sure he was religious and sincere but he could also sacrifice the lives others for what he believed. Paul gave an account of his own murderous past in the following verses.
 

Acts 26:9-11
"I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them . . . "(NIV)


I have often believed and even taught in my early years that God chose Paul because of his fine Jewish pedigree, his Roman citizenship and his ability to speak Hebrew and Greek fluently. Paul says God chose him because he was the worst of sinners.
 

1 Timothy 1:14-16
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (NIV)


Paul calls himself the "worst" of sinners. He tells us exactly why he calls himself this. First of all, the things about his past: "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13). Before his conversion Paul hated Jesus Christ and His church, he persecuted Christians, and he was at the forefront of those who stoned them to death. Paul thought nothing of cursing Christ. This certainly makes Paul a sinner.

Secondly, Paul is thinking not only about his sinful past but also about his sinful present. He writes in Romans 7:
 

Romans 7:15,19,21
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing ... So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.


God allowed Satan to buffet Paul with a thorn in his flesh in order that Paul might learn that he was weak. But he discovered that when he was weak the power of God was strong enough to accomplish what God desired in spite of the fact that his feet were made of clay.
 

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (NIV)


Paul understood that God could make the weak stand. (Romans 14:1-4) Notice the weakness in the following verses. Yet, take note of where Paul's confidence lies.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11
 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,  as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (NIV)
God's All-surpassing Power

Paul seems intent on reminding us that the power displayed in his life was from God. He reminds us of the weakness of the vessel into which God placed the gospel.
 

2 Corinthians 4:6-7
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (NIV)


The emphasis is on God and not the one carrying the message. God chose to place the greatest treasure on earth, the gospel, in weak vessels so that his power might be manifested through weak vessels.

Often a person seeking a place to worship calls and asks what the congregation has to offer them. In certain instances this may be a great question, but I wonder if those asking the question ever think about what God might want to do for this congregation through their lives. Too often we look at what others have to offer and too many times we think we have nothing to offer. More than anything we need a sense of God's calling in our lives in spite of our belief that we have nothing to offer.

Realizing that if it is to be, it is up to God is where we begin our walk with God. I think this is the only place to start our own personal call to service. The truly great heroic figures of the Bible rarely saw themselves as having much to offer. When Moses was called from the burning bush, he responded in unbelief that God could accomplish his purpose through him.
 

Exodus 4:1, 10, 13
Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?" . . . Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." . . . But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." (NIV)


Gideon could not believe that God could use him to deliver his people.
 

Judges 6:12-15
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" "But Lord," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (NIV)


When Isaiah was called by God, he responded, "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5 NIV)

The truly great Bible heroes never had much faith in themselves. What little faith they had was placed in God. It is God's power that makes the vessel into a vessel of honor. The honor does not reside in the vessel itself, but in the power of God that works through the broken vessel.

No where is this more powerfully exemplified than in the ministry of Jesus Christ. When God became flesh he went to the weak and powerless to demonstrate the power of the gospel. Jesus came preaching to the outcast and sinners. He came helping the helpless. The multitudes marveled that he would show such compassion to the weak and helpless.

Jesus used the weak and powerless to reach those who had all the power and influence. Those who stood up to speak on Pentecost were considered ignorant and unlearned.
 

Acts 4:13-17
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name." (NIV)


God has always chosen the weak to accomplish his will. He has been doing it since the Egyptian bondage of the Hebrews. Do you know why God uses the weak, the worst and the powerless?

Paul, the worst of sinners was chosen so that God could " . . . display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV) It is a display of his unending grace. God wants us to confidently believe that he can completely save. "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)

Jeremiah went down to the potter's house and observed a potter working with a piece of marred clay.
 

Jeremiah 18:3-6
So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (NIV)


God shapes and uses these earthen vessels we live in to his glory. The power to accomplish God's will for our life comes from God.

How Do I Discover God's Power for Living?

In a mission's class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.

Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life.

For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

When we make firm our connection with God, his life and power flow through us. I believe we have often overlooked the power of God so readily available to us just as the missionary overlooked the key to starting his car.

J. B. Phillips translates Ephesians 1:19-20 "How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God."

A new beginning starts with faith in the grace of God. It begins with a faith that he can salvage our lives and make us useful in his service regardless of our weaknesses. God used the chief of sinners as an example for those of you who wish to believe and receive eternal life. It doesn't begin with what you have to offer; it begins with the availability of God's power.

Paul said, "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly . . ." (1 Timothy 1:14) Paul is attributing his success to the power of God's grace. From the outset God showed Paul what he must suffer. He was never left with the impression that it would be a stroll through a rose garden. The person God chose was skilled in making havoc the lives of those who believed in Christ. Yet, God says, "I will show him how much he must suffer form my name." (Acts 9:16) Paul is going to realize God's power as he suffers as those he persecuted had suffered. Paul was repeatedly attack by men and Satan, yet God manifests his power through him in the worst of circumstances.

I think that most of us would be totally shocked at what God could accomplish through us if we would only trust in his grace.

It begins with looking to God for the strength you need. The book of Acts impresses me with the power of God making possible a new beginning for his kingdom on earth. From Act chapter 2 through Acts 28 we are impressed with God's power for renewal.

Immediately after recording Paul's conversion in Acts 9:1-30 Luke writes: "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. (Acts 9:31 NIV) Here you see God's power not only in Paul's life but God's Spirit empowers the church as the Spirit strengthens and encourages it.

It begins with trusting in God's directions for a new life in Christ. Paul discovered the power of God when God opened his eyes to a new way of thinking. You can't rely on you old belief system that somehow the power to be is within me. You must allow God to open your eyes to his power given through his eternal Spirit. Paul discovered God's power for renewal as he embraced the teaching of Ananias. Paul died to his old belief system when he was baptized into Christ. His baptism was a commitment to die to his old belief system. When Paul committed himself to die, then God was able to resurrect him to a new life in Christ.
 

Philippians 3:7-15
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (NIV)


Paul gave up all things to discover the power of Christ resurrection through sharing in Christ sufferings. In these verses you see a clear decision to die to the old way of thinking to be resurrected in Christ Jesus.

It begins with a commitment to surrender your life to Christ. This initial commitment is made at baptism.
 

Romans 6:3-5
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (NIV)

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)


Conclusion:

Playwright George Bernard Shaw was playing the "What If?" game with some friends shortly before he died. Mr. Shaw was asked, "If you could live your life over and be anybody you've ever known, or any person from history, who would you choose to be?" Mr. Shaw's reply was, "I would choose to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was."

Have you ever thought about what you could be if you would only surrender to God's power for living.

Discovering God's power for living begins, as you become a member of Christ kingdom through the salvation Christ offers.

We need personal revival throughout the land. Spiritual revival can be a reality for each of us as we  trust in Almighty God to use our weak vessels to his glory.
 
 

 

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