Text: Acts 9:1-9
Title: The Two Bows
Theme: Since Jesus is God incarnate, we are to bow before Him acknowledging His supremacy in our life.
Have you ever bowed to anyone? Well, at the end of the play or performance, you the actor or actress bow to the audience. It usually means thank you for your coming. In Japan, you often see two people bowing to each other as if they are trying to see who would have the lowest bow, or for that matter nearest to the ground.
In Asia , we bow to someone who is above us in the social order; an upper classman, teacher, supervisor, a king, governor or the president. We bow when we offer a sincere and deep apology or regret. Very often, bowing requires deep humility on our part.
Over 30 years ago, Francis Schaeffer in one of his talks mentioned about 2 bows. Throughout the years, this term has been used in different contexts. This morning I want to borrow this idea of 2 bows to help us explore the text before us. No matter how you take the meaning of the word 'bow': greeting, gratitude or apology, humility is involved. Very often a deep bow, expresses our humility before the person we bow to. Today's reading is about Paul's conversion. Prior to his conversion, he is known as Saul.
I. The first bow is to acknowledge Jesus is God.
Soon after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Saul's name began to surface in the biblical records. His name was associated with the persecution of the first century believers. His one determination was to serve God by crushing the Jesus Movement. He went from house to house to arrest the believers and put them in prison. Just the mention of his name Saul, brought great fear to many. When Stephen the first deacon, was martyred, Saul was the official witness. He heard Stephen's last words, 7:56 , "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing at the right hand of God. " 7:59-60, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." They must have left an indelible mark on Saul.
Now, he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the believers there. It was about noon , when a blinding light from heaven flashed around him. This light must have been brighter than the noon day light, and struck him to the ground. Then he heard a voice speaking to him specifically. 9:4, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? "
We can use a little of our imagination. What was going through Saul's mind? He knew he was persecuting the Christians, the followers of the Way. He was involved in the death of Stephen. Could this voice be Stephen's or one of those followers? He knew this voice must be from someone greater than he. For whose light can be brighter than the sunlight at noon time? In John Calvin's words, only the glory of God can be brighter than the sun. So he asked, 9:5 "Lord, who are you?"
9:5"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." Here, Jesus is equating himself with the Christians that Paul has been persecuting. Being brought up and well versed with the Old Testament, Paul must have known these words in the book of Isaiah, 63:9, "In all their afflictions, he was afflicted." Zechariah 2:8, "For he who touches you, touch the apple of his (God's) eye." When God's people were afflicted and suffered, God too, was afflicted and suffered. Can you imagine the shock that must have gone through Saul's mind? It is not just the believers were suffering, Jesus was suffering too. He was persecuting the believers, but at the same time he was also persecuting Jesus. And without a doubt, this Jesus must be God. He thought all this time he was obeying God, doing what pleased God. But the harsh reality was that he was persecuting God. He was the one that blasphemed against God.
And there is more to this. Jesus said, 26:14, "…it is hard for you to kick against the goads." Goads are sharp objects used to force the ox to move in the right direction. It is like kicking a brick, it hurts, right? Yes, superficially, Saul was self confident in his persecution and destruction of the Jesus movement. But probably it is very hard for him to forget Stephen's last words, 7:56 ,59, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing at the right hand of God." "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Could it be that in the midst of his violent behaviors, there was a struggle within? What if Stephen was right? Could this be what Jesus was referring to when he said, 26:14, "it is hard for you to kick against the goads"We say, the more anger you have within, the more violent you become. Saul had to come face to face to his internal struggle and who this Jesus was.
This is Saul's first bow: his recognition that Jesus is God. He is the God whose glory was so great that he was struck down from the horse and blinded him at noon .
Sooner or later, each one of us also needs to ask the question: who is this Jesus? If you have been following the 2004 election campaign, you probably have heard one candidate expressing that he would use more of the Jesus word when he travels in the south. He mentioned that Jesus was someone who cared for the poor, freed the oppressed, a good example for us to follow. When I heard those words, my heart felt heavy. How can someone with such intelligence miss something so basic. If he was merely a good example for us to follow, why the big fuss or celebration on Christmas, his birthday? Isn't it true that the whole point to celebrate Christmas is that this infant Jesus is indeed God become man. How can someone look at Jesus, pick and choose what one wants to hear and see, and ignore his claims that he is the son of God; He is the way; the truth; the life and He is God. CS Lewis so persuasively stated, Jesus either is what he claims to be or he is the greatest liar on earth. How can we say that Jesus is a real good man for us to follow and not to face up to his claim that he is God? Either you ignore him, or you have to take him on his terms.
This is what this first bow is all about. We bow before him, acknowledging that Jesus is God. He is the one who created the heavens and the earth. He is my God. This bow means we have to humble ourselves before him. We have to give up our intellectual pride, our opinion of who he is and acknowledge that he is God, the God of the Bible.
II. The second bow is to acknowledge Jesus' lordship in our life.
When Saul realized the voice speaking to him is Jesus, is God, he asked, 22:10 , "Lord, what shall I do?" What do you want me to do? This is his second bow. In this bow, he transferred the lordship over his life from himself to Jesus. Up to now, he was doing what he considered was right. He was zealous for God, but in his own way. He was in control of his life, setting his own agenda. He gave direction for his own life, he was the captain of his ship. Now, he is taking his life direction from Jesus. When Jesus told him that he was to be an apostle to the gentiles, Saul listened and obeyed. He would still go from house to house, but this time to tell them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, to convince them that Jesus is God, the promised Messiah. His life was completely changed. It was like in the Fellowship of the Ring, just before his death, Boromir said to Arlrogon, "I will follow you, my brother, my captain and my king." This is the second bow.
What does this mean to us? I know many of us have already made the first bow to Jesus. We recognize that he is our God. Yet, we still continue to take orders from ourselves. We decide what is good for us physically and spiritually. We decide what we want to pursue in life. However, we mustn't stop at the first bow. We need to bow the second time, transferring the lordship in our life to Jesus Christ. From now on, we take our life direction from him. This bow is a very humbling act. What happens when we ask him: What shall I do, Lord?
First, let's take a look at our life directions. When I bow the second time, asking him what he wants me to do, he will show different directions to different people. To many of us, he simply wants us to stay right where we are and continue with our study and profession. You see, we concur with Martin Luther, that every profession is a calling of God. Our responsibility is to do our best at where we are.
However, God will call some of us into full time ministry. He may want you to serve as a pastor of a local church, a missionary to a specific people group or serving in some Christian organizations. Having said this, I know you may ask, how do I know that he is calling me to go into full time ministry? I'll try to provide some simple guidelines. There will be some inner disturbances with what you are doing now. There may be a tug in you towards full time ministry. There could also be others' encouragement and affirmation about your experience. However, one thing I know for sure. That is, if God is calling you into full time ministry, he will make sure you hear him. Don't worry that you will miss it, for you won't.
Secondly, in specific areas of life. We ask, what shall I do, Lord? He would say, Go read the scriptures, for in it, I have told you about what my desire for you is. Now what? Of course we have to start reading the scriptures. Without reading it, how can I know his heart, his desire? So if we scan through the scriptures, we catch a glimpse of what he wants us to do. In the following weeks we will examine them in greater details.
These are the directions from our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of the second bow. From now on, he is my Lord, my brother, my captain and my king, I will follow him.
Real bowing means humbling myself before Jesus Christ. My first bow is to acknowledge that He is God, the only God in my life. My second bow means no longer will I do things my way, but I am taking the direction for my life from Jesus, my Lord and my God.
At the beginning of 2004, may I ask you: how many times have you bowed to Jesus? Some of you may consider taking the first bow this year. Others, having bowed to him once, may need to bow to him the second time. In the coming weeks, may I encourage you to join us in this PDL program? In small groups and fellowship groups, together we shall learn what life can be as we bow to him and take our directions from him.