Using the story of Ananias meeting Saul as a launching point, I spoke yesterday on practical ways we can live holy lives as God’s holy people empowered by the Holy Spirit. Ananias serves the church today as a model of this in his obedience to Jesus.
The message concluded with these two quotes:
…True holiness is seen over time in our persistence. It is relatively easy to “flirt” with righteousness – being occasionally courteous to other drivers (if you happen to be in a good mood), helping someone in need by opening the door for them (if you have time), throwing a few extra bucks in the offering plate (as long as you won’t miss them). But this behaviour is in reality superficial righteousness. The righteousness God seeks is a persistent righteousness, a commitment to continue making the right decision even when, perhaps hourly, you feel pulled in the opposite direction. Holiness is far more than an inclination towards occasional acts of kindness and charity. It is a commitment to persistent surrender before God.
(Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, p. 108)
…As a person works daily – hourly and by the minute – to grow in reverence and love, in faith and fear toward God, he or she generates and offers God both worship and service… When I make it my daily calling, my chief aim, to remember my Lord’s goodness toward me, then, in turn, my heart will be moved with gratitude and my lips will long to tell God, “Thanks, Lord, thanks, thanks, thanks!” In response, I’ll set my sights on worshiping and serving my good and faithful Father with all that I’ve got – with my hands, my feet, my lips, my will, my emotions, my conscience, my everything.
(Dale Cooper, “Piety and Religion” in The Banner, Jun 2009, p. 29)
Here are a couple more things I picked up in my research into the story of Ananias and Saul that were beyond the purview of yesterday’s message…
First, in his commentary on Acts entitled True to the Faith, David Gooding comments on how Saul, immediately after his conversion, spends a great deal of time with other Christians. Reflecting on this, Gooding writes (pp. 145-146):
You can come to saving faith in Christ, as Saul did, all by yourself through personal acceptance of Jesus as Lord. But if that faith is genuine, it will lead to acceptance of the Lord’s people… They are His disciples, His saints, they call on His name; and in giving the Holy Spirit to each one of them, He unites them all in one body (cf. 1Cor 1:2; 12:13). I cannot receive that Holy Spirit and refuse to be a member of that body. I cannot claim to love the Lord Jesus and refuse to love His saints. I cannot claim to be identified with Him and refuse to be identified with His people.
Second, considering how God can transform even enemies like Saul the persecutor into brothers and sisters in Christ, there is hope for anyone who is wandering far from God’s loving embrace! The implication is this: The Lord’s people (read: the church) need to be prepared to welcome people they never thought they’d welcome. In fact, as Mark Buchanan urges in an article entitled “Messy, Costly, Dirty Ministry,” we need to be praying for encounters with these people… and then for the ability to show them the grace of Jesus when we meet them. This is not easy, which suggests why the church isn’t consistently good at this. But welcoming our enemies as brothers and sisters is precisely the mission of reconciliation Jesus invites us to join Him on.