- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

When we read the ninth chapter of Acts, I want to see if you can find yourself in there.

Saul had gotten a warrant to go out and arrest believers, but on the road to Damascus, the Lord came to him. And Saul, trembling and astonished, says, "Lord, what will Thou have me do?" The Lord said, "Get up and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."

Before he became the apostle Paul, he had his own agenda, just like each of us. We came here today to be an usher, a dancer, to be in the pulpit, be an acolyte or sing in the choir. But unless you are on God's agenda, you have no agenda at all. We should ask like Paul, "What do you want me to do?"

God said to him, "The first thing I want you to do is to quit bucking against Me." Paul not only loved all that he hated, he hated all that he used to love. When he changed in Christ, he said, "The things I used to do, I don't do anymore. Where I used to go, I don't go anymore. Things I used to say about folks, I don't say anymore." …

Now, Paul had a few problems. He was an educated fool. He was also stuck on his paternity. And he was a racist. But God turned all of that around, and He said, "Arise, get up from your attitude. Diminish your attitude that you are superior. God has made out of one blood all nations."

From his own experience, there are three things that Paul might say to us this morning.

First, you have to let your testimony be genuine. Your testimony must be consistent with your living. You cannot be all holy in church, hugging everybody, when you can't hug those closest to you at home. You can't be all lovey-dovey at church, and then go out on the street and tell someone to get off.

To know what God wants you to do, you must also tell the truth. We tell it by our actions, or words, and even by what we don't say. No one is exempt. To hear from God what He wants you to do, you've got to stop lying.

I think there's one other thing Paul would say to us. God said to Paul, "Arise." So I looked at that in Hebrew and in Greek, and the word also means an adjustment of priorities.

We must keep our word, is what Paul might say to us. If you say 7 o'clock, get there early. If you say you're coming to the meeting, come to the meeting.

Keep your word at home, with your children. Keep your word with your bills and credit cards. Some cards are so maxed out by greed and by keeping up with the Joneses, that you can't pray right, sing or walk right. That's misery. So Paul said, "You've got to keep your word."

I love Paul because in many ways, like all of us, he was a rascal. As big a rascal as he was, he became a valid, honorable vessel for Jesus Christ. God can take whoever He wants. He can take the drunkard, He can take the homosexual and lesbian, and He can take me and you and make something of them.

We shouldn't put limits on God. You might say, "God wouldn't save him, because look what he used to do." No, God is not in that business… .

You ain't in this church because you're all that clean. The mess is just covered up by the lipstick and dyed hair, or a nice suit. If I took off this preacher's robe, you'd see a mess, too. But I know somebody who can fix my mess, and clean it all up with His righteousness and goodness.

He says to us, "Arise, and go down the straight street." This is for all of us this morning. Don't say, "I wish my husband, or I wish my girlfriend, was here." This is for you. You've got to love in word and deed. This is evidence of our obedience to Christ… .

Meet a stranger. Love folks in the name of Jesus. Say, "What do You want me to do?" Love the people you hate. Forgive the people you won't forgive. "What do you want me to do?" Live holy and be a vessel of honor. "I want you to arise, get up, and get rid of that mess."

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Jane Quandt at Bethel United Church of Christ in Arlington, Va.

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