June 2, 2019
Chris Poirier, Pastoral Resident
I. We All Have a Purpose
Good morning, Calvary! My name is Chris Poirier. As you’ve just heard, I am your pastoral resident, and I’m incredibly excited to be here. I want to tell you a little bit of a story and maybe make a few observations.
I find it absolutely fascinating that in 2019 in America, almost our entire existence is dictated by either something that we put on a resume, something that we put on Facebook, or something that we put on Twitter. Name anything; we’re so proud of what we strive to build ourselves up to be. So what does this mean? Well, we might have a little bit of pride in ourselves and things like that, but the reality is, this is the perception of what people see of us. -how we want people to see us.
So, let me give you a little picture of myself. I originally come from the great state of Vermont, way up north. I’m just a Yankee trying to find my way all the way to the Gulf, is usually what I tell people, because I was practically in Canada, and I can almost throw a rock at the Gulf of Mexico at this point. I’ve been all over the place in between. I’ve been in Kentucky. I’ve been in Virginia. I have been in Maryland, North Carolina, and eventually here. I served in the federal government as an emergency manager, an intelligence officer, and eventually I went to seminary.
After seminary, I became an assistant pastor. I was a community outreach director, for I love so much to reach folks in the community and disciple. I was an assistant pastor once again and then a director of communications at a church plant that helped them communicate and see the world. Throughout all of that, I led Bible studies, men’s groups, security ministries, spent tons of time just focusing on those different parts that made me who I was, who God made me to be.
Some of those have been in other churches outside of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of those have been within the Southern Baptist Convention. So, I would say of the totality of my resume, I’m somewhere between 80-90% Baptist, and I hope you will forgive me.
But what if I told you that beneath all of that was something and someone else entirely different? [while removing a button-down shirt to reveal a “Love Thy Nerd” t-shirt underneath] Well, the truth of the matter is, there is somebody different underneath that wonderful resume, and for those of you who know me, you’re probably not going to be surprised by any of this, but… I’m a little bit of a nerd. I love all things geeky. I love all things that happen to be comic books, movies, TV shows, and the truth of the matter is, all of these things excite me. All of these things are who I am. (And I don’t know how Mr. Rogers does this last part, but he does it so well. It’s probably because he has music playing, because he always sits there and he takes his shoes off, and he’s talking to you while he does it. He makes it seem so natural. I’ve had to throw it together in the last couple of hours.)
But what I’m trying to let you know is, how we dress, how we present ourselves, how we talk, how we carry ourselves, all present a message, don’t they? Some of it is intentional by our own doing. Some of it is unintentional. But ultimately, we choose who we stand up to be each and every day and present an image of ourselves.
Hi Calvary. My name is Chris Poirier, and I am 100% nerd. But let me tell you something. Does our personal reputation tend to precede us by how we dress, the things we take enjoyment in, how we talk, how others speak of us, how we present ourselves, or how we take our ice tea? It tends to elicit very explicit responses from people based upon our personal experiences. I mean, I’ve had to learn that as a Yankee coming south, there’s only one way that you get your sweet tea, right? It’s sweet, right? If it’s not sweet, then I’ll let you deal with that afterwards.
But more commonly, these views of people that we take, at worst can be viewed as prejudice. At best, they can be presuppositions. But either way, we form an opinion of people when we look at them or if we’ve heard of them, right? So, either way, in our flesh, we’re making these assumptions about people before we even know who they are. So let me ask you, in complete fairness, how many of you formed an opinion of me when I first got on the stage? I had my nice coat on. I had my tie on. For how many of you did that perception change as I started to take off the tie and stand before you with just a t-shirt on?
Hear me, Church. The one thing that I want us to focus on for the rest of the morning is this (and I’m going to take you on a little bit of a journey): What would happen if we all actually lived out our faith?
In the story of Ananias, there’s a lot going on, but I think ultimately, you can all come back to this one simple reality: A man took a giant leap of faith and lived it out step-by-step. So, we’re going to go ahead and jump right in. I’ve got four main points for you this morning, and then we’ll go ahead and tie a bow on this and send you on your way.
The first one that we have for this morning is that we all have a purpose. So, we’ll be in Acts 9, verse 10:
10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” “Here I am, Lord,” he replied. 11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.”
So, as we pause for the first part, talking about purpose, Christ specifically called upon Ananias, and Ananias responds with the classic sounds of Scripture. “Here I am!” with excitement. And then Christ gives a very specific instruction. He says, “Go to Straight Street [that is still in Damascus to this day], the house of Judas, and lay hands on Saul.” It sounds easy enough, right? Go to place. Find person. Hands on. Pray.
Ananias says, “Cool. No problem.” But Christ chose Ananias specifically for the purpose of finding Saul and laying his hands upon him. But who is Ananias, and why does that matter to the story? Well Ananias, was he some amazing figure of the church? No. Was he a prophet? No. By all accounts, Ananias was simply a dedicated follower of Christ that otherwise was completely unknown to the world around him. Now, some commentaries do suggest and argue back and forth, like commentarians do, that Ananias was the prophet that was named earlier in the Old Testament. But most feel that this is not the case and that this is just another man named an Ananias, whom God pulled for a very specific purpose.
So, think about the realities here as we set this story up. God chose Ananias, supposedly a nobody, to go and do this great work. So, we’re not required to be some amazing figure of the faith to be used by God ourselves, for Christ has given each and every one of us a purpose in his Kingdom. Paul even expands in other exhortations in 1st Corinthians and Ephesians chapter four. Each of these gifts…and the fact that Christ has laid before us the realities of what we have been gifted with and the good works for us to do. Even though Ananias may have felt like a nobody in the moment, he would literally become the person that would help usher Paul from enemy of the church to one of the most impactful apostles.
II. We All Have Doubts
But before Ananias gets there, that brings us the point number two for today, which is that we all have doubts. Anybody ever have a doubt in their life? All right, so I just see two people, maybe three. I might make you a believer by the end of the sermon, but we all have doubts, don’t we? We can be in a perfect place with Christ, and we can be of the right heart and right mind, but we can be distracted by this world. Ananias is absolutely no exception to this rule. So, we can pick up right here in Verse 13. He says:
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
So, a little bit of doubt is coming from Ananias. Like I said, I’ve certainly had doubt in my life. As we started this morning, I told you a little bit about myself. But, you know, the short version of this is, before I even got to the church, before I was saved, I was a firefighter EMT that became an emergency manager, that became an intelligence officer, that became a soldier, that became a minister. I’m in my mid-thirties, and I’ve done a thing or two. That’s to say that there was plenty of doubt on the journey of life, because life is confusing, and sometimes we just have to embrace that reality.
But Ananias was really confused at this point in the conversation, and why is that? Well, Ananias has literally just been asked by Christ to approach the one man who has a reputation for killing or torturing every single Christian that he finds. It’s a heck of a reputation. Everybody knew who he was, and he said, “Christ, that one?!” He’s like, “Yep. Really.”
Well, that becomes part of the narrative here for us. We know that we have doubts, and Ananias let Christ know that he was well aware of who Saul was and that his reputation preceded him. Just like we said, that reputation was torturer and murderer.- just the type of person you want to meet. Ananias said he even heard that Saul had authority from the Sanhedrin to arrest and capture all believers of Christ. So, not just a scary man, but a scary man that is being backed by one of the most powerful religious bodies of the time.
III. We All Have a Calling
Sounds like a good place to probably have a little doubt. But as we continue on this journey, we find out that it’s not just about having a purpose or even having a little self-doubt as we find these pieces out. But also, in the confusion of the world, God does one of the most amazing things. He provides each and every one of us as believers a calling. So that’s number three. We all have a calling. Ananias was very confused by what was taking place. And then Christ transitions in the very next verse, verse 15, and tells him why not to worry.
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
So, an immediate response to Ananias not wanting to seek out the murderer of his people, Christ tells him exactly why Saul matters, and Saul matters because Christ is going to use him to do something that has never been done before. He’s going to reach Gentiles, kings and Israelites. Look, we know how this story ends, but this is super important. At this part of the story, no one outside of the nation of Israel has been approached with the Gospel.
Paul is going to become the first anointed apostle to actually bring the good Word to all the ends of the earth. -a murderer, a torturer. God says, “Yep. And I’m going to use him to reach the ends of the earth.” But here we also see that’s not the entire story for Saul. Now unfortunately, Saul is going to learn that in the course of doing work for the Kingdom, in his case, it’s going to come at great personal cost. He will suffer greatly for the message that he will bring to the ends of the earth. He will literally be the chief persecutor becoming the chiefly persecuted.
So, Ananias had purpose in his mission to reach Paul, and Paul had been given a lifetime calling to reach the masses for Christ. So, in our circumstance, no matter what’s going on in life, how complicated things may seem, Christ has a calling for each and every one of us that he has uniquely prepared for each of you. Now, I’m not saying that every single one of us is going to be a Saul and be stopped on the Damascus Road and be called to go to the ends of the earth with one of the most amazing and complicated messages. But, we are all called to minister, are we not? For, the Great Commission is not an option, but it is a calling.
IV. We All Are Brothers and Sisters in Christ
And then finally, in this section, we see one of the most amazing pieces (to me, at least). There’s so much going on in Paul’s conversion, but at the very last part of it, we see this: We see that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is important. It’s right where it picks up in verse 17:
17 Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.
So Ananias here completes his mission from Christ. He finds Saul, lays hands upon him, heals his sight, and does one last thing. Was does he do? He calls him Brother. It may seem incredibly simple, but Ananias, knowing who Saul was, had overcome his personal fear, served Christ in the moment, and did something I think is really complicated for us. Ananias approached what was once his enemy and called him Brother. This is the first time in the story that we see Paul actually welcomed entirely into the church, into the church community, as a brother in Christ. Again, the man whose reputation was murder and torture was now a brother.
It truly fascinates me that the reality of the cross puts us right here. -to do one of the most difficult things possible. -to look someone in the eye that you know, in that case, less than 24 hours earlier, wanted him dead, and now welcome him into his own family.
So, no matter our past, no matter what our reputation, appearance or actions may seem to display about us, are we not made new in Christ? -and we all become part of this family of Christ’s brothers and sisters together? So at the laying of his hands and completing the task, Ananias relieved Saul’s blindness, and Saul literally enters a new world where he can see and carry out the task that God has given him. And as the verse closes, Saul recovers and prepares for the great ministry that is left before him.
It seems like such a simple story, and yet, there was so much there. So you say, “Pastor Chris, okay fine. So what? What’s the point? Ananias got sent on a mission. He was really freaked out about going on it. He apparently got over himself and managed to undertake it. So what does that mean for us at the end of the day? Well, it means a lot of different things, but at least the four things that I hope that you all will take home today are, first of all, that we all have a purpose in God’s Kingdom. Ananias was chosen by God for one specific task. We all have a God-given purpose in his Kingdom, and God is going to make that available to you. You pray, you seek, the Holy Spirit will guide you.
Number two: While you’re trying to figure that out and you’re confused as all get out, having doubt is normal. It’s part of life, and just like Ananias, I’m sure we all can have different doubts about our purpose. And the world does try to distract us, confuse us, blind us even, in accomplishing our God-given purpose. But the third point, then on to the fourth point, is where the hope comes in. For number three, we all have a calling. A purpose is a specific task. A calling is a piece of your life that is life-long. So, Christ has prepared good works before each and every one of us, that we might use our God-given gifts to reach different people for the Kingdom. Saul was transformed from a persecutor to persecuted in order to reach the entire world with the Gospel. We too have a calling, and to each of us, we’re each uniquely positioned to do so.
From Christ, we know our primary mission is what? Go forth and make disciples. -The Great Commission. That calling will forever and always be emboldened on all of our hearts. And number four, what’s the best part about going through life in a Christian community? It’s you guys. It’s the Christian community. It’s the church. For we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and the best news is, we don’t do any of this alone, do we, Church? As brothers and sisters together, shoulder to shoulder, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It doesn’t matter how we act, what we’ve said. We’re all covered by the blood of Christ and redeemed for his purposes.
I could close this in prayer right there, and I think that would make a good day. Don’t you? The realities of the cross give us the ability to do such great work in his name, and we get to do so together. And there is no greater reality than that. But church, I need you to hear me. As we started today, you remember I had you write something down. What would happen if we all actually lived out our faith? What does that mean in this context? Ananias had a moment of doubt, even when seeing a vision from God because of the power of the reputation that Saul had. Saul killed Christians for a living.
“Why Saul?”-Ananias had to be thinking. And God said, “Because he too has purpose and calling in my Kingdom.”
I don’t know about you, but that absolutely blows my mind. I don’t think any of us can reconcile the reality that a murderer, but specifically of your own followers, your brothers and sisters, would have purpose. But Church, are we not guilty of the exact same thing as we go about our day in how we view people (judge people, I should say)? -in how they dress, how they act, how they talk (or not), how they spend their time? The thing that grieves me most is the reality that we do this within the church as much as we do it outside of the church. We have expectations of how things should be. I understand that culture does that to us, but God uses every person.
Take a note from Ananias here. Trust in God, and seek to reach people you may not otherwise seek. The world needs good news, and we are called to the mission to make disciples. I started this by saying that I love comics, movies, tabletop games, video games, and all kinds of other nerdy things. I’m probably not your typical pastor, but it’s who I am. I look funny. I do weird things. But God has given me a purpose and a calling to reach a group of people that just about every church ignores because of one’s prejudice and/or presuppositions about that community. Nerds need love too. We’re just a little different. But the reality is, every single person needs Christ…Everyone.
So why not actually take one more note for today? The Gospel demands that we not judge a book by its cover. Has anyone heard that saying before? -not to judge a book by its cover? I know plenty of people could wander into a bookstore. Hey, do all of you know what a bookstore is? I know that they’re kind of rare now. I’d say library, but I feel like that might be waning a little too. But paper, you can open them and read them. They have colorful things on the front, and sometimes people will just pull a book because it looks interesting. You know absolutely nothing about the author. You know absolutely nothing about how they write. But you pick something random. It could be wonderful; it could be terrible. We know that’s not how you’re supposed to pick books, right?
Sometimes you develop a wonderful affinity to a particular author, or you really enjoy a particular publisher because they find just the right authors, and they bring in just the right content. But the reality is, all that colorful stuff on the front doesn’t actually tell you anything about what is contained within. So, if we’re going to actually live out our faith each and every day, that’s part of the reality as well. We can’t continue going about our day looking at people and saying yes or no, just based upon how they look or how they act. How many people do you pass on the street simply because they look dangerous? They look unkempt.
I hate to break it to you, Church, but some of those people are probably the people that need Jesus the most. How many of you formed an opinion as I transformed this morning? I’m a nerd. Yep. But I am 100% Jesus-follower as well. And my mission is this church, his church. Don’t be distracted by the way the world looks. We’re called to be different. We’re called to a higher purpose. In that higher purpose, it means that we need to bring the Gospel to each and every person that we see, and that means stepping out of our comfort zone.
We want to talk about comfort zone real quick? Ananias was told to go and find the man who was going to kill him. I think stopping and offering somebody a cup of coffee in the morning that really needs one is probably the least we could do, right? But Church, don’t forget, we don’t do this alone. We do so with one another and with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, which means with God, all things are possible.
• Today, I surrendered to Jesus for the first time.
– I’m struggling to see others as Christ does. Pray for new opportunities and experiences.
+ I will not let the enemy blind me. I will live with Christ like abandon!
1. Did Ananias have a valid reason for distrusting Saul? What changed?
2. How do our prejudices and presuppositions distract us from the Great Commission?
3. Is there anyone in your life that you may be overlooking because of the enemy’s blindness?
4. What steps can you take to engage a new group of people with the Gospel?
5. What things do you enjoy doing? Do you seek Christ in that Environment?
6. What does it mean to live life with Christ like abandon?
7. Pray for Christ to remove the scales from your eyes and to see your day-to-day world as Christ does!