A very easy trap to fall into when it comes to Christianity is to focus on changing behavior
without changing the heart. You see, we can get someone to stop things: partying, drinking,
cussing, and so on. And we can get people to start doing other things: reading their Bible,
praying, going to church, and serving, but if we don't lead them to the One who can change their
heart then ultimately all of that is in vain. It won't stick, and more importantly, it won't deal with
the real issue which is their broken relationship with God.
A group of missionaries found this out the hard way. They were concerned about how the
women they were trying to reach went topless so they got them all American T-shirts. The next
day all of the women were wearing the T-shirts... but they were wearing them as skirts. The
missionaries learned that they had only tried to cover up a symptom without addressing these
women's hearts. That always fails.
The change that we will see in Paul today is more than a change in his behavior. It's a total
change of the heart, and that can only come from God. We all need the change that happened to
Paul. Today can be the day that you experience that kind of change. It can also be the day that
you are reminded that the people in your life don't need to adjust their behavior. They need a
change of heart.
I. We should seek salvation for our enemies, not destruction – verses 1-9
Paul was a monster before Christ - He did everything he could to destroy the church. He
imprisoned believers which would have not only impacted churches, but families. In Acts 22
Paul says that her persecuted Christians to their deaths. In Philippians he wrote that this was all
a part of his zeal to serve God. And he wasn't content to just do that in Jerusalem. He got
permission to go on the road in order to take out as many Christians as he could.
He was a broken creation of God - We learn from him, though, that our desire should be to see
people like him saved instead of destroyed. We like to see bad guys pay for their crimes. We
want them to see then taken out by what we consider to be the good guys, but Jesus calls us to
pray for our enemies, to seek good for them and not harm.
And the reason for that is because, like Paul, we were all once broken creations of God.
II. It's about changing hearts, not behavior – verses 10-19
Religion addresses behavior - Religion creates problems instead of solving them. It's an
endless cycle of doing that leads to bondage because it never satisfies. Religion leads to
hypocrisy, criticism, self-righteousness, pride, double standards, emptiness, and fear. The
problem with religion is that it's about what we do, and everything that we do is flawed by our
Jesus calls for heart change - Jesus rarely confronted individual sins. He did confront sin, but
more often than that He invited people to follow Him. That doesn't mean that sins don't matter,
but Jesus' primary concern is seen in what He called people to most often; a total and radical
change of heart, mind, and life.
In the words of Jesus: You must be born again (John 3:7)
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10)
Deny yourself and follow me (Matt 16:24)
For real change to take place it has to come from the inside out. The heart and mind have to be
remade, and as a result of that actions will change over time.
That's what happened to Paul. He didn't just try to clean up his act. everything about his life
changed. From now on he would try to build the church instead of destroy it. He would follow
Jesus instead of trying to work against Him.
III. We need God's grace as much as Paul did – verses 26, 1
None are righteous
Romans 3:10 (NIV)
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one
All have fallen short
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Not one of us is any better than Paul. We were (or are) just as broken and rebellious as he was,
and just like Paul the only hope for us is Jesus.
IV. No past is so terrible that God can't redeem it – verses 27-31
Understandably Christians were skeptical when Paul came around. Imagine if things had been
different and Osama Bin Laden had shown up in your church and wanted to join. That's how the
believers in Jerusalem felt when Paul first showed up.
This is where we meet Barnabas again. Before we were told that his name means son of
encouragement and now we see why. It was his reputation that gave Paul a chance, and his
actions remind us that no one is beyond God's reach.
John Newton is also a picture of God's grace. We know him as the author of Amazing Grace,
but he spent a number of years working on slave ships in England. God changed his heart and
brought him to salvation, and eventually he became a pastor and worked to help end slavery in
No one is so far gone that God can't reach them. No one's history is so dark that they can't
become a light for Christ.