Pre-requisite to Preaching

Apostle Paul is renowned to be an effective, if not the most effective disciple of Jesus Christ, but before he started on his commission of preaching and proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:20,22), the Bible records that, after Saul encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, he abstained from any food or water (Acts 9:9) and he prayed (Acts 9:11).

While growing up, I remember reading the following phrase on a plaque, “The best exercise to the soul is to get down on your knees”. Recently,¬† my beloved wife, Sangeetha Johnson shared with her friends, the following quote “Send Jesus a Knee-mail and He will love it”. All these reflect the fact that Prayer is crucially important. Jesus has the words of eternal life (John 6:68) and unless we pray and talk to him, (abstaining from all the temporary satisfaction of their live), how can we get those words to pass on.

Prayer is a pre-requisite to preaching and proving that Jesus is the Lord.

Acts 9:11 (KJV)
And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

The commission is NOT optional

Upon the recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul, immediately questioned the Lord “What will thou have me to do?”, but did you notice, how the the Lord responded. The Lord’s response was, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” First, he was asked to Arise, then He was commissioned to Go and then he was advised to wait for the Lord’s instructions that was to come to him, which he MUST follow. Saul asked for God’s will but the Lord did not respond by saying, “I will that you would or should or could do what you are told.” Instead, the Lord responded by saying that Saul MUST do what he will be told. Saul’s commission was not optional, neither is ours.

In the same manner, when we seek to do God’s will and we encounter the Lord Jesus Christ, He first want us to “arise” from our fallen state. He wants us to be on our feet and not knocked down by the devil or his schemes or by our own selfish sinful desires. Then he commissions us to “go” in His Name. But when we go, obeying, we need not be anxious of what is to transpire, because the Lord’s instructions will be sent to us at its appointed time. Jesus said, “give no thought to how or what you should answer when you stand before men for my Name, for the words that you must speak will be given to you, when needed, by the Holy Spirit of God” (Luke 12:11-34)). But we must recognize¬† that when the Lord’s instructions of what we must do is received, it is not optional but that it MUST be done.

His will is our MUST. When Jesus prayed in agony in the garden of Gethsemane, just before he was to be crucified, he asked God the Father to take the suffering that was to be, but in that same breath he expressed that, it not be His will, but that God’s will be done. In other words, when Jesus expressed that God’s will be done and not His own, He was surrendering totally to the will of God and in a sense asking God “What will thou have me to do?” and God’s response was “you MUST suffer and become sin so that the sinful can be made blameless and righteous in my Name.”

If you have asked the Lord, “Lord, what will thou have me to do?”, the next step is to take time to wait patiently for Him and when He sends His instructions, remember it is not optional. It is something that we MUST do, be it shame, suffering or sacrifice.

The Question to ask Jesus after Salvation

When Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he first asked, Who are you, Lord? Then upon hearing the response from that Lord and recognizing that it was Jesus whom he had encountered, He asks the Lord another question stating “Lord, what will you have me to do?” Note, how the first time, Saul, asks a question and then addresses the one questioned as Lord. But the second time, Saul, starts his question by addressing the one questioned first as Lord.

The Salvation, from eternal damnation, experience is comprised of not just identifying who Jesus is, but identifying with Jesus (believing in Him) and accepting His Lordship over our lives. But then, what must one do? We must ask the same question that Saul asked Jesus after He addressed Him as Lord. We must ask “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The doing (works) follows the believing (faith) for we are saved by Grace (alone) by faith, called unto (to do) [Godly and] good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Faith without work is dead! (James 2:17).

This is THE Question to ask after we believe in Jesus. It is also important to recognize that the converted Saul asked for what the will of God was (What wilt thou have me to do?). In other words, he was seeking to do the works that were in the will of God. Many a times, I find myself telling God what I think I should be doing, instead of asking Him as to what His will is and accepting it (without question) to do it as commissioned. Let us not forget to ask God for His will, which should be our work. Have you/I asked THE Question after our Salvation experience, to the Lord?

Acts 9:4-6 (KJV)
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

James 2:17 (KJV)
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Persecuting Jesus

The question that Apostle Paul (then Saul), hears from heaven, when he encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus was “Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me?”. One of the definitions for the word “Persecute” according to the Merriam-Websters dictionary is “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief”. Though this may seem like a question that is solely directed to Saul, closer introspection of the text surfaces that it is applicable to each one of us, who are believers in Christ as well.

The same question can be turned and asked of each one of us, “Saint, Saint, Why do you trample the Son of God?“. When sinners believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are removed from the power and penalty of sin, and turned to saints, but when a saint backslides willingly, the Scriptures likens such willful disobedience to be the same as trampling the Son of God under foot, grieving Him and His Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:26-29).

Many a times, I have been found guilty of willingly disobeying God and now with this insight that I can persecute (grieve) Jesus with my willful disobedience, I pray for his forgiveness and seek to submit totally to His Lordship. I don’t want to have Jesus ask me “Mano, Mano, Why do you trample me, the Son of God? Why do you persecute me?” How about you? If you encounter Christ Jesus today, what is the question that He has for you?

Hebrews 10:26-29 (KJV)
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Ephesians 4:30 (KJV)
30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Take time to be blind

Many of us are familiar with or have heard of the conversion of Saul to Apostle Paul on his road to Damascus, but closer introspection of the Scripture reveals, certain hidden treasures that can be cursorily overlooked. Saul (before his conversion to Paul) in his encounter with Jesus Christ, on the road to Damascus, was surrounded by a light from heaven. He fell down and he heard a voice, asking him “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”. Saul questions, “Who are you, Lord?” to which the Lord replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting”. In response with trembling and astonishment, Saul asks another question, “Lord, what will thou have me to do?”. Saul is informed to go into the city and wait until further instructions are sent to him. Interestingly, the Scripture then records, that when Saul rose up, he opened his eyes and he saw no man (was blind). It also records that those who were with him were speechless, for they heard the voice, but did not see any man.

Note how the Scripture says, Saul opened his eyes and was blind. This would imply that prior to his opening of his eyes, his eyes were closed. But then when his eyes were closed, how is it that he questions, who are you, Lord? One may think that he asked that question in response to that voice that he heard from heaven. But the Scripture also tells us that the others who were with him, heard the voice, but did not see any man. Wonder, why Saul is excluded from this list of others? Logically, this would mean that Saul was the only one who saw someone and the one who was seen by Saul, identified Himself to be Jesus, the one from heaven (John 6:32,38), The Light of the world (John 8:12). But herein lies the issues that may seem contradictory. First we established that Saul’s eyes were closed and now we see that Saul saw Jesus.

The Bible states that the light shined around Saul. It makes no mention of the light shining around those who were with Saul and we learn that they did not see any man but merely heard the voice. There are many in the world with open eyes, who can hear the voice of God, but they don’t see him. Those on whom the Light of the World (Jesus Christ) from heaven shines are those who can see Jesus, when their eyes are shut from seeing anything or anyone else.

Point(s) to ponder:
1. What are some of the things in our life, in this world, that is keeping our eyes (focus) away from Christ Jesus? Is it our families/homes, jobs/work, pleasures/hobbies, sins, etc.?
2. We must take time to be blind (close our eyes) so that the attractions and pleasures of this world does not distract us; and that we see no one else but Jesus and be enlightened by Him.

Look ye blind, that ye may see (Isaiah 42:18)

Acts 9: 1-8 (KJV)
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

John 9:39-41 (KJV)
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.