Let’s look at Acts 7:54-8:1 and Acts 9:1-22
Acts 7 we see Stephen addressing the Sanhedrin (Jewish leaders-ruling class), calling them out for rebelling like their forefathers, killing messengers that God sent (including JESUS!), and idolizing the temple rather than focusing on worshipping God. The Sanhedrin were enraged (didn’t see that coming) and they stoned Stephen to death. We are then introduced to Saul of Tarsus, who approved of Stephen’s death.
Let’s fast forward to Acts 9. Jesus knocks Saul off his horse while riding to Damascus and says “you’re done doing what you’ve been doing. Now you’re going to get with what I’ve been doing.” Whoa (talk about subtle). Saul also loses his sight during this encounter. We are then introduced to a man name Ananias. Jesus tells Ananias to go find Saul, heal him, clothe him, board him, and help Saul regain his strength. WHAT?! The Lord wants Ananias to help the man who tried to wipe out followers of Jesus. Christians. Genocide. Ananias. Saul. Obedience.
Ananias obeyed The Lord (not without reservation). By verse 22 we see Saul proclaiming Jesus’ name! How does this happen? Saul is killing Christians and then 3 days later he is proclaiming Jesus’ name!? Again, how does this happen? The obedience of the people of God.
Saul was able to see how God’s people lived, loved, and opened their arms to the worst kind of sinner. That kind of love is transforming. Because of Ananias’ obedience to God we see the transformation from Saul to Paul. Ananias’ obedience was much more than just caring for a sick man.
Wesley stressed that our obedience in the hands of a sovereign God can change the world. Obedience looks a lot like us opening our arms to those we wouldn’t normally “roll” with- the worst kind of sinner. I know it is uncomfortable, but if we don’t engage the darkest of sinners, we are not being obedient. There is a group of people dying because the Church is too lazy to engage those around us. Surrendering to God’s Lordship like that can go global!
So, one question remains. How does God get His people to obey Him?
God gets His people to obey Him by casting a vision of what He will do with our obedience. Obey God and He will use that obedience to do amazing things in the lives around us, just like He used the obedience of Stephen and Ananias to shape Saul into the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament.