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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "From Rome to Pennsylvania"

“From Rome to Pennsylvania”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
March 25, 2012
Acts 28:16-31

Believe it or not, this is the 22nd and last message in our series that we’ve been calling, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts.”

We started this series when school started in the Fall, and we’re ending it this Sunday morning. Acts 28.

And here is the title of this message, “From Rome to Pennsylvania.” The last message was titled, “From Jerusalem to Rome” and we traveled with the Apostle Paul and Luke and almost 300 other people from Jerusalem on a ship, through a terrible storm, through a terrible shipwreck, and eventually to Rome.

And that was because God wanted Paul in Rome. We’ve seen all along in the book of Acts that God’s plans are unstoppable.

Jesus gave His disciples a mission, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And nothing (nothing!) can stop that mission from succeeding.

Not persecution like we saw in the early chapters of Acts.
Not martyrdom like we saw with Stephen.
Not ethnic differences like we saw with the Samaritans.
Not the gulf between Jew and Gentile, like we’ve seen since Cornelius, since Paul’s first missionary journey, since the big conference in Jerusalem in Acts 15.

Nothing can stop that mission from succeeding.

Not great distances as Paul traveled.
Not rifts that formed between Paul and Barnabas.
Not false teachers that threatened the unity of the church.
Not magicians or philosophers or crafty enemies of the gospel.
Not even deadly stonings or snakebites.

Jesus gave His disciples a mission, and nothing (nothing!) can stop that mission from succeeding.

The Lord Jesus told Paul that he would witness to Him in Rome.

And here he is.

And then the gospel gets from Rome to the ends of the earth. Even to here, to Pennsylvania.

Acts chapter 28, starting in verse 16.

“When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”

Now we’ve been with Paul for twenty chapters of this book.

What do think Paul is going to do now that he’s reached Rome?

Well, what does Paul do every time he hits a new city?

He gets with the Jews in that town and tries to share Christ with them.

Find the synagogue, argue from the Old Testament, introduce Jesus.
Find the synagogue, argue from the Old Testament, introduce Jesus.
Find the synagogue, argue from the Old Testament, introduce Jesus.

To Jew first and then the Gentiles. That’s Paul’s normal M.O.

Now, Paul seems to be under house arrest, so he can’t go to the synagogue.

So, what does he do?  He calls the synagogue to him! V.17

“Three days later [he doesn’t want very long!] he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: ‘My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. [There he goes again. Telling his story.] They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. [Just like our Lord Jesus was not guilty.] But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar–not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’ They replied, ‘We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.’”

The Roman Jews had not heard about Paul, but they had heard about Christianity.

And they can see that Paul is an expert on Christianity. “We want to hear what your views are.”

And Paul’s view is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament. V.20, “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

So, Paul has yet another open door. And he walks right through it. V.23

“They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”

By now, this should not surprise us. This is what Paul does.

And, I think, the application is that we should do this, too.

I only have three brief points of application for us this morning.

And here is number one.

#1. TALK ABOUT JESUS.

Our job is to offer a faithful witness to our experience of Jesus and to talk about Who He is.

There is no witnessing with out talking.

The gospel is good news. It requires sharing.

There is a famous quote attributed to Francis of Assisi which says, “Preach the gospel always, use words if necessary.”

And there is something in that saying that is really good.

And that is that our lives should point to Christ, not just our words.

But it’s kind of like saying, “Tell me the news, use words if necessary.”

Huh?

We need to talk about Jesus.

That’s what Paul did and it’s what we need to do, as well.

And one great way to do it is to tell our stories.

Our theme for the year is “Tell Your Story in 2012.”

Paul tells the Jews his story.

When was the last time you shared your story with someone?

Paul also (v.23) explained and declared the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

He used his Bible!

He engaged these Jewish Italians in a Bible study. And it ranged all day long. From morning till evening.

When was the last time you invited someone to study the Bible with you and explore the claims of Christ?

We need to talk about Jesus.

Because if we don’t, others will.

Did any of you get one of these invitations this week?

We had some Jehovah’s Witnesses come to our door this week and invite us to two special meetings next week, “How do you view Jesus? You are invited to hear the answer, Thursday April 5, 2012.”

The answer they will give is a false one.

But there will be people who will receive it.

And they are bold enough to go door to door talking about it.

Are we talking to people about Jesus?

I know all of the reasons why we don’t talk about Jesus.

We have a million excuses.

People don’t want to listen.
People get offended.
I’m too close to that person to talk about this stuff.
It didn’t work last time.
I feel awkward.
I might get in trouble with the boss or with the teacher.
I’m shy.

We have a million excuses.

But we also have a mission.

Paul could have had a million and one excuses.

I just traveled 1600 miles through a storm, a shipwreck, and a snakebite to get here.

I need a break.

But Paul only takes 3 days and he’s talking about Jesus again.

What’s stopping us?

Who do you need to talk to about Jesus?

One of my major problems with talking about Jesus is worrying about how people will respond.

What will they think?
What will they do?
What will they say?
What will be the result?

And application point #2 speaks to that.

#2. TRUST GOD WITH THE RESULTS.  V.24

“Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.”

Paul talked all day long, and this was the result.

“Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.”

Have you ever thought, “Well, if I was Billy Graham, then I would share the gospel, because Billy always gets results.”

Well, this is the Apostle Paul (a bigger guy than Billy Graham) and these are his results:

“Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.”

We have to leave the results up to God.

We are to be faithful to witness to Jesus, but we leave the results up to God.

That’s between them and God.

Talk about Jesus, try to convince. Try to persuade. Yes!

But we can’t reach into their hearts and flip some switch. That’s between them and God.  V.25

“They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: ‘'Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’ For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' ‘Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’”

Paul says that the Old Testament taught that many many of Jews would reject their own Messiah.

It’s not because Paul was preaching the gospel wrong that they did not believe.

He was preaching it right, but they had hard hearts.

Now, I don’t think that Paul stopped talking to Jews altogether. I think that his writings show that he constantly came back to the Jews and expected a glorious future for them. His heart agonized for the Jews and he kept praying for them.

But he trusted God with the results.

He didn’t beat himself up that the Jews did not believe him.

He faithfully preached the gospel and then left the results up to God.

Do you need to hear that today?

I think we get too worked up over what the person we’re talking to will do with what we say.

Our job is just to be faithful to say it.

Be faithful to say it.

Leave the results up to God.
 
Now, notice that Paul can see that there will be results. V.28 again.

“Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

Not all of them, of course.

But a significant number of them will.

“They will listen.”

God will open hearts.
People will respond to the gospel.

Gentiles will respond to the gospel.

“They will listen.”

And this is where we come in.

The gospel went from Rome to Pennsylvania.

It took a circuitous route.

It wasn’t the next week after this.

But here we are in 2012 in a Christian church building in a Christian church meeting.

Gentiles, every one of us!

“They will listen.”

You can trust that God has people everywhere, and if you are faithful to share Christ, there will be people who will listen.

“They will listen.”

Even in Pennsylvania.

Or in Serbia.

“God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

So, number three.

#3. FINISH THE MISSION. V.30

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then what?

That’s how the book of Acts ends.

It pretty much doesn’t end!

Two more years of Paul staying there under house arrest and preaching the gospel boldly and without hindrance.

The unstoppable gospel.

And that’s where Luke leaves us.

Now, it appears from putting together the rest of the New Testament letters and the fragments about Paul that we get from historical tradition that Paul was eventually released and maybe even made it to Spain like he wanted to do.

But eventually, he was brought back to Rome and was killed by the emperor Nero.

He had his day in court. The Lord said that he would stand trial before Caesar.

Tradition has it that he was beheaded by Nero.

But that hadn’t happened yet when Luke was publishing his book for Theophilus.

There is no ending to the book of Acts except that Paul never ended preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The mission was not finished.

And we are Acts chapter 29.

The mission has been handed down to us.

The Lord Jesus’ mission has been handed down from disciple to disciple to disciple through the ages, almost 2000 years now.

You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to Pennsylvania and Serbia and to the ends of the earth.

Finish the mission.

Here are the 3 options for the mission:

Go, Send, or Be Disobedient.

Those are the only options.

Go, Send, or Be Disobedient (and that last option is not a good one!).

Go.

Talk to people about Jesus. Here, there, or around the world.

Send.

We’ve got a team going to Serbia this August, and they need funding.

We’re off to a good start with the funding, but we’re pretty far short of where we need to be.

Our team needs people to take part in the silent service auction.

And just to give to the trip in general.

We’re getting close to purchasing the tickets, and then we’ll know exactly how much this is going to cost.

We need to prayerfully get behind this team and send them off from us as us.

Or Be Disobedient.

And that shouldn’t be an option for us.

Because we have been given a great mission from our great Lord and Savior.

Finish the mission.

We need to be like Paul and v.31, “Boldly and without hindrance [preach] the kingdom of God and [teach] about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Previous Messages In This Series:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

First Kings Meets Jason Bourne: 42 Months Dry

Now, this is a different kind of book.

42 Months Dry is a sort of "First Kings meets Jason Bourne" kind of novel.

The author is Zach Bartels, a pastor who knows and loves his Bible. He has taken the prophet Elijah's story and placed it in a gritty, modern setting with an action-adventure-movie type script.

It was quite a ride, and I enjoyed it. Bartels stays true to scripture (while taking creative liberties, of course, including changing the order of events) and has a good feel for the genre. I enjoyed the themes/messages he explores.

Knowing the biblical story was actually a hindrance at times because I could guess what was going to happen next, but it was always interesting to see how Bartels would pull it off.  And even though I knew the basic plot points, there were also some fun surprises (including some things I should have seen coming!).

I would call it PG13, so don't just give it to your 10 year old to read. But your 16 year old boy will dig it. Recommended.

The trailer below gives a feel for the premise.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Acknowledgments page from my doctoral project

I am a grateful man because I am a blessed man.

I am grateful for my family. Thank you, Heather Joy, for telling me, “You can, should, and will get this project done!” Thank you, Robin, Andrew, Peter, and Isaac, for listening to your dad rabbit on about gossip at the dinner table. You know more about resisting gossip than any other children I know. Thank you, Mom and Dad Mitchell, for encouraging me all of my life in whatever strange ideas I got into my head–including writing a book on gossip. Thank you, extended family, for asking “How’s the project coming?” and actually wanting to hear the answer!

I am grateful for Lanse Evangelical Free Church. Thank you, LEFC Elders, for talking me out of a sabbatical–that really wouldn’t have worked like the writing weeks did. Thank you, LEFC congregation, for listening to many more sermons on gossip than any local church ever should have to. Thank you, Pastoral Prayer Team, for lifting up this project time after time. Thank you, Stacey Fisch, for making all of those copies for me and holding down the fort in 2011 when I was so preoccupied. Thank you, Nesta Kephart, for encouraging me early on to “stay positive” in the book and offer hope in every chapter–that significantly shaped the whole project. Thank you, Rachel Confer, for a special gift at just the right moment.

I am grateful for our family of churches, the EFCA. Thank you, “Super Jeff” Powell and the Allegheny District pastors, for supporting me throughout the process. Thank you, Diane McDougall, for giving me so many opportunities to learn the craft of writing as a part of EFCA Today. Thank you, Robert Jones, for introducing me to CCEF in the first place.

I am grateful for the CCEF and WTS faculty and staff. Thank you, Karen Schoch, for taking my call out of the blue in December of 2007 and suggesting that I take the D.Min modules as a CCEF student. Thank you, Ed Welch, for recommending that I write a book for ordinary Christians (not just church leaders) for my ministry model and for saying, “I’d want to read it.” Thank you, Winston Smith, for your encouragements at each step in the advising process. Thank you, Mike Emlet, David Powlison, and Tim Lane, for the quality of counseling education you offer us CCEF students–I would do it all over again. Thank you, Glenna Deem, for taking all of my confused calls about the process and pointing me in the right direction–I can hear your smile over the phone. Thank you, Leslie Altena and Nate Shannon at the Center for Theological Writing, for being patient with my pesky questions about formatting. Thank you, Mary Wells, for finding all of my mistakes before anyone else could. Thank you, Nicholas, Nancy, Julia, and Jeremy Black for welcoming me into your home whenever I was visiting campus.

I am grateful for my critical readers. Thank you, Chris Brauns, Kim Cone, Jaroslav and Natalija Elijas, Stacey Fisch, Rachel Joy, Mark Lauterbach, Dan and Jen Ledford, Diane McDougall, Tim McIntosh, Natasha Miller, Elizabeth Nelson, Jani Ortlund, Jennifer Petoske, Marty Schoenleber, Susan Stallings, Dennis Wadsworth, Bruce and Donna Weatherly, and Kipp Wilson. The book is much better because of your input, and this project could not have been done without you. Clarence was right when he told George Bailey that no man is a failure who has friends.

I am grateful for “Lynnette” and all of the others who trusted me with your stories–especially those who admitted to gossiping. You were brave, and others will be helped.

I am especially grateful for my King and Rescuer, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you and your Father get all of the glory.

All the BIG People

Yesterday, I passed my doctoral project defense at Westminster Theological Seminary.  Hooray!

The long-term readers of this blog (both of you) have been a big part of helping me get to this point. You've endured lots of posts about writer's block, CCEF, and various milestones. You've played gossip-games with me, and posted encouraging comments.  And, most especially, you've prayed.

Thank you!

The story is told that an academy award winner once said, "I'd like to thank all of the little people who made this possible, but I can't think of their names."

Well, there are no little people in my thank-you list. My friends are BIG in my mind and heart and so is my thankfulness for them (you).

In my next post, I'm going to broadcast my "acknowledgements" page from my project, and there isn't a little person on it.  

Thank you again, for helping me every step of the way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "From Jerusalem to Rome"

“From Jerusalem to Rome”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
March 11, 2012
Acts 27:1-28:16


We’ve almost reached the end of the book. Just one more message left after today. Lord-willing, we’ll finish the book in two weeks, on March 25th.

Our series has been called, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania” and we’ve followed the exploits of the apostles as they obeyed Jesus’ call to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

For the last few months, the focus has been on the apostle Paul, a dramatically converted Jewish missionary to the Gentile world.

We followed Paul on three major church planting missionary journeys and then his trip back to Jerusalem where he was almost lynched by the Jews and then languished in prison for over two years while the wheels of injustice turned.

And at the end of last week, we saw Paul appeal his case to the highest human authority in the whole empire: Caesar himself. And the Roman governor, Festus, washed his hands of Paul and announced that he was sending him to Caesar.

So, this sermon is titled, “From Jerusalem to Rome.”

Rome was the capital city of the Empire.

Paul had, in his letters, expressed a desire to go to Rome and to encourage the believers there. There is a book in the Bible called, “Romans” that Paul wrote the believers who were already there and told them that he’d like to visit them some time.

And now, it appears, that he will.

More than appears.

God has promised that Paul will get to Rome.

Turn back to chapter 23 and look again verse 11.

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

“You must.”

The Lord had revealed His plan to Paul in such a way that Paul could count on it like a promise.

And God always keeps His promises.

We’ve emphasized verse 11 of chapter 23 in the last three messages.

“Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

Well, now Paul is headed towards Rome.

But there will be a lot of obstacles in his way.

There are at least three moments in chapter 27 and the first part of chapter 28 when it really seems like Paul will not make it.

Have you felt like you’re not going to make it?
Have you ever felt like God’s promises won’t come true for you?
Are you up against some obstacles in life right now?

Last week, we said again and again, “Nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.”

And we’re going to see that again this week and think together about how that should affect our hearts and lives today.

It’s time for an adventure.

Now, remember this is not a tourist trip that Paul is taking.

Paul is in the custody of the Romans. He is basically a prisoner, though he has not been found guilty of anything.

And in custody of Rome, he is headed from Jerusalem to Rome. Chapter 27, verse 1.

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.”

Now, as you can see, we are going to look at our last map for this sermon series.

Starting in Caesarea and heading up the coast of Palestine.

Paul is on board, and he gets two traveling companions. Aristarchus and who?

Luke, right?  We get kind of a “doctor’s log of this adventure from him. V.3

“The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. [He’s not seen as a threat, even to try to escape.] From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. [The lee is actually to the North of Cyprus due to the winds there.] When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia [Those are familiar names by now, aren’t they?]. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast [on the calendar, that means that winter is approaching, and they couldn’t (at least they shouldn’t) sail the Mediterranean during the winter]. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ [Think about what you are doing.]

But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said [what does the prisoner know about sailing?], followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.

[By the way, this is not Paul’s first sea trip, is it?  One commentary I read this week estimated that Paul had already traveled 3,500 sea miles at this point in his ministry. Maybe he does know what he’s talking about!]

Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. [Notice how accurate Luke’s description is? He is a master historian.]

When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. [Can you see it in your mind?]

Here’s the first big obstacle. A storm.

“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeaster,’ swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.  When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”

What is there to the West of Cauda?

Nothing.

They are adrift in a terrible storm with no land in sight.

“We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. [Desperation!] On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

[Feel that desperation!]

After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.  But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’

Let’s think about that speech for just a second.

Paul starts by saying, “I told you so.” Why?

Just to score a point off of them?

No, it’s to remind them that he does know what he’s talking about.

Because now, he’s going to give them good news.

An angel has told Paul that he “must stand trial before Caesar,” so he’s going to get from Jerusalem to Rome. And more than that, they are all going to make it, too, if they sail with him.

Obstacle #1. The Storm.

Is a storm enough to stop God’s plans and promises?

No way.

Here’s application #1. I have four applications today and they are all variations on the same theme.

#1. KEEP UP YOUR COURAGE.

That’s what Paul tells the sailors.

How many people are on board during this storm?

Verse 37 tells us that there 276 on board. That’s almost twice as many people as in this building today.

And they are listening to Paul.

They have stopped eating because they’ve lost all hope.

Have you ever lost hope so bad that you stopped eating?

Paul says (v.22), “Keep up your courage.”  Verse 25. “Keep up your courage.”

Why?  “For I have faith in God.”

Nothing can stop the plans and promises of God.

So, keep up your courage.

The King James Version says, “Be of good cheer.”

Does anybody here need to hear that today?

At first, as I was developing this message and all of the points of the message seemed to be pointing towards “Keep up your courage,” I was a little disappointed because I like to give you a variety of applications on a Sunday morning.

But I got to thinking about it and if a lot of us need encouraging (and who doesn’t?), then it’s good to repeat this theme again and again.

Keep up your courage. God has good things in store for you.

Nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.

For example, Philippians 1:6, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Do you believe that God is really going to do that?

What about the storm?!

You see, when Paul said this, the storm was still raging.

And it didn’t stop when Paul gave his little speech.

Nothing changed in the wind and waves and the darkness!

But God’s promise had been given.

And by faith, these men could keep up their courage.  V.27

“On the fourteenth night [2 weeks of this storm!] we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. [Sailors know these things. Some little sound changes and they know it.]  They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. [Uh oh. I have a bad feeling about this!] Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’

So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. [The prisoner is now running the ship! And they are trusting him enough to let go of the lifeboat!]

Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food–you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”

Here’s the second point. Goes along with the first.

#2. DON’T GIVE UP.

These guys had given up eating because they didn’t have any hope.

But if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you believe that nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God, if you believe that God always keeps his promises, then you don’t have to give up or give in.

Don’t give up.

I love this part, how Paul does this object lesson.

He eats something.

Again, nothing has changed. The storm still rages. The water is getting shallower.

They are headed for who knows what, but Paul gets something to eat.

He says, “Don’t give up.”

This is a small thing, but there were several times last year that I wanted to give up on my doctoral project–especially when it came to the footnotes and formatting stuff.

It reduced me to tears more than once.

But my wife would say, “You can, should, and will get this done.”

And listened to her and did what the Lord was calling me to, and now it’s almost over.

Don’t give up.

But Give Thanks.

#3. GIVE THANKS.

Did you catch that in verse 35?  “After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.”

Paul gave thanks for bread.

Yes, there is a storm raging, but here’s some bread.

If nothing else, I can thank God that I have this bread today.

If your life is a hurricane right now, and it might be, what can you give thanks for in the midst of it?

I hope you don’t mind my mentioning this Ernie, but when I went to see you in the hospital after your third surgery in a month, the thing you said to me was, “I feel blessed.”

And that really grabbed me.

Because I might feel depressed after 3 surgeries in a month.

And certainly, you didn’t enjoy your surgeries.

But you were thinking about your family who cared for you, your church who prayed for you, the hospital with its state-of-the-art facilities, good doctors who cared for you, and quick recovery times.

And you were blessed. You had some real things to give thanks for.

That’s right.

All too often, we focus on what’s wrong–and there are things wrong!

And without pretending that they are not bad, we can also look around and give thanks for our daily bread.

And that thankfulness of Paul’s was contagious. Verse 36 says, “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”

Second obstacle: Shipwreck.

Paul has predicted it. It’s coming. V.38

“When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.”

The fulfillment of God’s promise and Paul’s prophesy.

They all made. All 276 of them.

Can a storm stop God’s plan and promise?
Can a shipwreck stop God’s plan and promise?

No way.

One more, can a snakebite do it?

Chapter 28, verse 1. [map]

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. [One hundred and twenty miles from Rome.] The islanders showed us unusual kindness [I wonder why that was?]. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.

[Ow!]

When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

Can a snakebite stop the plans and promises of God?

No way.

Here’s #4. KEEP GOING. V.7

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.

We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”

That’s where we’re going to stop this week, Paul has made it from Jerusalem to Rome.

We’ll see next week what he does there.

How did he get there?

He kept going.

Do you need that encouragement today?

My guess is that some of us do.

Acts 27 and 28 are today’s word from the Bible to keep us going.

Keep your courage.
Don’t Give Up
Give Thanks

And Keep Going.

Keep doing what you know God wants you to do.

Don’t throw in the towel.

Keep going.

Because you know that nothing on earth can stop God’s plan and promises.

He always keeps His promises.

Trust Him.

Believe Him.

Follow Him.

Keep going by faith.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Monday, March 05, 2012

Sunday, March 04, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Paul"

“Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Paul”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
March 5, 2012
Acts 23:11-26:32

Our adventure that we’re calling “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania” continues.

And in fact, the apostle Paul is back in Jerusalem again.

Last week, we read about his arrival, and then he almost got lynched!

A mob attacked him in the temple and tried to kill him.

The Jews did. Ironically, Paul’s own people tried to kill him, and it was the Gentiles, the Romans, in fact, that saved him from certain death.

But then the Romans arrested Paul and put him in jail. They didn’t flog him because it turns out that he was a Roman citizen himself. But he is stuck in jail.

The Roman commander tried to sort it out by having Paul talk to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Religious Leaders Council, but that ended with even more violence.

So, Paul is in jail.

He has done nothing wrong, but he is in jail.

And today, we’re going to read about 3 major trials that Paul has before three major authorities of the day.

“Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Paul.”

Which one of these is not like the others?

Even though their names sound very funny to our ears, these three first names were very powerful people in Israel at that time.

Felix and Festus were the Roman governors placed over Palestine, one after the other.

And Agrippa was Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great who tried to kill our Lord when he was a baby and nephew to Herod Antipas who succeeded in seeing our Lord die. Herod Agrippa, the second. The son of the man who died earlier in the book of Acts.

Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Paul.

Now, I want to cover almost four chapters of God’s word this morning and that doesn’t leave me much time for explaining or applying it, especially since we have communion this morning.

So, I’m going to do something that I almost never do.

I’m going to give you the three points of application this morning FIRST.

Normally, I do it as we go or at the end, but in the interest of time, I’m going to tell you what I want you to see AS WE READ IT so that you catch it as we read it.

Okay?

Here are the three points of application:

#1. BE ENCOURAGED.
#2. BE FAITHFUL.
#3. BE BOLD.

And as we read it, I hope to point out to you why I think those are the applications for this passage for us today.

Let’s start again in verse 11 of chapter 23.

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”

Now, I’m going to read quickly, but hopefully not too quickly.

One of you told me this week that sometimes I read faster than you can listen.

I’ll try to do better today.

Notice the promise of God in verse 11. The Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage [be encouraged]! As you have testified [that’s our word for “witnessing” martureo, the King James Version has “bear witness” as you have testified] about me (the Lord) in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.

Now, God has spoken. He has told Paul His plan and His promise.

And nothing can stop that.

So, whatever happens in the next several chapters, we know on the authority of God’s word that Paul is going to Rome.

‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”

Nothing is going to stop him.  Include a conspiracy. Verse 12.

“The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.’ But when the son of Paul's sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.”

Wait a second!

This is one of those times when the Bible drops something on you that you didn’t expect.

Who knew that Paul had a sister?

This it the first and only time that she is mentioned in the Bible.

And we really don’t learn anything about her except that she had a son.

(I have lots of questions about things in the Bible like this. We just don’t know more. This is what God wants us to know and not the other things.)

And Paul’s nephew just so happens to hear about the conspiracy. Right?  Well, nothing “just so happens.”

And nothing can stop the plans and promises of God. So, the nephew gets wind of the plot. Verse 17.

Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.’ So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, ‘Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.’ The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, ‘What is it you want to tell me?’ 

He said: ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don't give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.’ The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, ‘Don't tell anyone that you have reported this to me.’ Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, ‘Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight.  Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.’

He wrote a letter as follows: Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. [Is that really how it went down?]  I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.

So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him.  The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, ‘I will hear your case when your accusers get here.’ Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod's palace.”

Now, speaking of things that you always wonder about in the Bible.

I’ve always wondered whatever happened to those forty men who had made an oath not to eat or drink until Paul was killed!

Did they die of hunger or just break their vows?

Some day we’ll find out.

But their conspiracy won’t stop God’s plan to get Paul to Rome.

Notice that it takes 470 men to protect Paul!

You think that God wants Paul to be protected?

The governor’s name is Felix. He sits in court in Caesarea. Chapter 24, verse 1.

“Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus [a hired gun], and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: ‘We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. [Are you buttered up yet? Felix was not a peaceful man but a cruel ruler.] But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

‘We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect [not really one of us] and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.’ The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.”

Will the Jews and their top gun lawyer succeed at stopping Paul from getting to Rome?

No.  V.10

“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. [No real butter there.] You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.

However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. [Truth is though] I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. [Notice how he comes back again and again to the resurrection.]

‘After an absence of several years [about 5 in my reckoning], I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me.

[Where are my accusers?]

Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin–unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: 'It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'’

Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. ‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’

Does it seem like things are getting a little too hot for Felix?

He knows what “the Way” is and so he stalls for time. V.23

“He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. [Paul is a broken record. Same message every day. “Faith in Christ Jesus, Faith in Christ Jeuss, Faith in Christ Jesus] As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’ At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.”

How do you think Paul’s case is going?

Well, he’s not dead yet!

Felix is afraid of him.  Did you catch that?

Felix is the governor, but listening to Paul, he becomes afraid. Why?

What was Paul talking about? V.25 again

“As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid.”

History tells us that Drusilla was Felix’s third wife and he was her second husband. Felix had convinced Drusilla to abandon her first husband and come to him.

I don’t think he wanted to listen to a message on righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come.  And he didn’t want to hear about faith in Christ Jesus.

See that “be faithful” up there?

That’s what Paul was doing. He’s in front of the governor, but his message doesn’t change due to whom he’s talking to.

Our message should stay the same no matter whom we talk to.

Now, the next verse is a shocker if you didn’t know it was coming. V.27

“When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.”

Two years!

He waited hoping for a bribe from Paul for two years!

And then when his successor comes around, he still doesn’t release Paul?!

I almost called this message, “Truth and In-Justice for Paul.”

Two years!

And nobody has proven that Paul deserves to be custody!

Two years!

How do you think Paul felt?

We aren’t told, but we do know one thing. Paul was told that he must bear witness to Jesus in Rome. He’s going to Rome, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Two years. And now, Festus is governor. Chapter 25, verse 1.

“Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. [Again! They have been waiting, as well.]

Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.’ After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him.

When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. [Nothing has changed, least of all, Paul.]

Then Paul made his defense: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’

Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’

After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’”

Let’s stop there for a second.

Paul appeals in verse 11 to Caesar.

This was his right as a Roman citizen, especially in a case which hasn’t been decided in two years.

He doesn’t trust a trial in Jerusalem, which is what Festus holds out to him.

So, he appeals to Caesar.

And what I think is particularly hilarious that not only is Paul now going to go to Rome, but Rome is going to foot the bill!

Paul is still on a mission to get to Rome, but now Festus has decided to send him to Rome at Rome’s expense!

“You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

And God just chuckles.

Festus is relieved, I think. Paul is a problem on his hands that now is the Emporer’s problem.

But Festus does still have a little problem. What does he say to the Emperor about Paul in his cover letter to come with the prisoner?

And that’s where Agrippa comes in.  V.13

“A few days later King Agrippa and [his sister] Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul's case with the king [Now, Agrippa is a king but over a much smaller kingdom than Herod had and he is under the Romans here just like Herod had been, but he’s still royalty.]

He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case [Felix did, but I didn’t], but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in.

When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and [catch this] about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. [That’s what it’s all about.]

I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.’

Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’ He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’

The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city. [Dant to Da!] At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. [Paul before Kings and Rulers.]

Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome.

But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. For I think it is unreasonable to send on a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.’”

Ya think?

The fact is that Festus knows what Paul is accused of but there is no evidence, and he is not man enough to set Paul free.

Chapter 26, verse 1.

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense:

What do you think he’s going to say?

He’s going to tell his story.

And it’s not going to be any different than what he says to poor ignorant folks in Lystra and Derbe or philosophers in Athens or loose living folks in Corinth.

It’s going to be the gospel. V.2

“‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

‘The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.

This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

[That’s what it’s all about.]

I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.

‘On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' [Goads are like little spears for forcing livestock to where the people want them. It’s saying, “It’s hard to fight against God’s will. Cut it out.] 

‘Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' ‘'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them [the Gentiles] to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

‘So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.  That [THAT!] is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.

But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen–  that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.’”

At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’

[I love this response.]

“‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied. ‘What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’

Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’

Paul replied, ‘Short time or long–I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’  The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. They left the room, and while talking with one another, they said, ‘This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.’ Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”

That’s our passage for today.

And I’ve already told you the application points.

Let’s go back over them.

#1. Be Encouraged.

The Lord said to Paul, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

And nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.

Not conspiracies, not lies, not bribes, not injustice of any kind.

Not even two year seemingly endless delays.

Nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.

Be encouraged.

My guess is that someone here needs to hear that.

God has promised many things to us in His word.

And nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.

Be encouraged.

#2. Be faithful.  Our message should stay the same no matter whom we talk to.

Paul says v.22 of chapter 26, “I stand here to testify (bear witness, martureo) to small and great alike.”

Paul doesn’t change his message depending on whom he is talking to.

Felix and Drusilla?

He talks about faith in Christ Jesus and rigtheousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.

That wouldn’t be my first choice if I were asked to speak to great big leaders.

I’d look for another topic!

But not Paul.

Paul talks about Jesus, and he talks about His Resurrection.

Because that’s what it’s all about.

How many times does he bring up the resurrection?

He’s a one message man. A broken record for Christ.

Brothers and sisters, let’s be broken records for Christ!

Be faithful. Don’t be afraid of people.

#3. Be bold.

 Be confident. Tell your story.

This week at the Seniors Lenten Luncheon, I gave my testimony again.

And I encouraged everyone there to tell your story.

That’s our theme for 2012. Tell your story in 2012.

That’s what Paul does!

Paul gives his testimony.

That’s what Jesus told him to do. Chapter 26, verse 16.

“I [the Lord] have appeared to you [Paul] to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.”

That’s what we do, too.

We tell people what Jesus has done for us.

Humbly but confidently.

I love how confident Paul is. Before Felix, before Festus, and before Agrippa.

With Festus he says, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I am saying is true and reasonable.”

And with Agrippa, he goes on the attack.

Felix was afraid of him.

I think Agrippa was, too.

“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

“Do you think that in such a short time, you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

“I’m trying. Short time or long–I pray God that you not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

Be bold. Go after people.

Don’t be a bore. But don’t be afraid to ask people to trust in Christ.

Don’t be afraid to tell people that you want them to become a Christian.

Be bold. You know that this is true and reasonable.

Because Jesus has come back from the dead.  Be encouraged, be faithful, and be bold. Like Paul was.

And I’m going to add one.

I’m going to do this with you.

Be A Christian.

BECOME A CHRISTIAN.

If you haven’t already, if you are like Agrippa, that’s Paul is saying to you this morning.

I pray God that you become what I am, except for these chains.

And the chains don’t matter.

What matters is becoming a Christian.

The Christ suffered and then rose from the dead and proclaims light to you and me.

Be a Christian.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Friday, March 02, 2012

Hugging Ed Welch

Ed on hugging his daughter and wife. Makes me want to go home right now and give out some hugs.