Monday, August 9, 2010

Almost Persuaded!

A sermon based on Acts 25-26 and preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT on August 8, 2010.

Acts 25:23 - So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the commanders and prominent men of the city.
  • Agrippa was the King of the neighboring province. He and his wife came into the auditorium in a great show of their importance. Though in reality, they were not nearly as important as they wanted people to thing.
  • Worldly people are always trying to show how important they are.
  • Christians can fall into this trap too if we are not careful.
  • Christians should be seeking to show how important Jesus is.
Acts 26:1 - Agrippa said to Paul, "It is permitted for you to speak for yourself."
  • The King decided to permit Paul to speak. This is almost funny because if Paul had not been allowed to speak, what would have been the point of all the people showing up to listen.
  • Sadly, sometimes people gather in a group and have no intention of listening to anyone. Their minds are closed and they have already decided what they believe.
Acts 26:2 - I consider myself fortunate that today I am going to make a defense about everything I am accused of by the Jews.
  • Paul is in jail. People are trying to assassinate him. His very life is in jeopardy.
  • But Paul considers himself fortunate because his situation gives him the opportunity to share his faith in Christ with others.
  • This shows Paul's depth of faith and his focus on the Gospel.
  • How often do we miss opportunities to share our faith because we are too busy whining about our situation?
  • The word "defense" is the Greek word "apologia."
  • This word does not really mean the same thing as our English word "defense."
  • "Apologia" means something more like the word "explanation" than the word "defense."
  • Paul was trying to explain why he was motivated to follow Jesus even at great cost.
  • How often do we explain to others why we are motivated to follow Christ?
  • Do we even know in our own minds why we are motivated to follow Christ?
  • We may need to do some internal "apologia" in our own minds in order to be able to better explain our faith to others.
Acts 26:4 - All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem.
  • Part of Paul's explanation of his motivation to follow Jesus began when Paul was still a youth.
  • Though Paul was not a Christian as a youth, he did learn valuable concepts about God that helped him when he got older.
  • It is very important for parents to bring their children to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and other Christian training times so they can learn valuable principles about God.
  • Though no parent should attempt to force their child to become a Christian, they should give them the tools they need to make an informed choice about Christ.
  • It is often the stories we learned in Sunday School as a child that carry us through difficult times in our lives.
  • Those stories often form the basis for our values as we move into adulthood.
  • As our culture has abandoned Sunday School, we have lost our bearings on right and wrong.
Acts 26:6 - And now I stand on trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.
  • Paul's motivation for serving Jesus even when it cost him something was the hope, peace, joy and purpose that the Gospel of Christ gave him.
  • If we know Jesus, we know hope, peace, joy and purpose.
  • If we have no Jesus, we have no hope, peace, joy or purpose.
Acts 26:24 - As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, "You're out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!"
  • Festus, a government official, heard Paul's motivation and decided Paul was crazy.
  • People who do not know Jesus often think those who do are crazy.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18 - For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God's power.
  • Clearly Festus had not yet found the joy, hope, peace and purpose that Paul had and so it must have seemed crazy to him that Paul would follow his faith right into prison.
  • Festus managed to only keep his job for two years and then died under mysterious circumstances.
Acts 26:25 - But Paul replied, "I'm not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I'm speaking words of truth and good judgment.
  • Paul did not let Festus bully him into silence.
  • We must not let those who oppose Christ intimidate us into silence.
  • Paul knew he was speaking the truth and knew he was the one with good judgment.
  • We know that our message is the truth so we should boldly proclaim it to everyone.
  • It is only when we understand the truth that we can have good judgment.
  • If we do not know the truth, we will base our decisions on ignorance or falsehood or both.
  • We cannot build successful lives on anything other than truth.
  • Seek the truth, and it starts with Jesus!
Acts 26:27 - King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe."
  • Paul realized that Festus was a lost cause so he decided to speak to King Agrippa instead.
  • Sometimes we have to make hard choices about who to continue to invest our time and energy in when we witness.
  • When people reject the Gospel, instead of becoming argumentative, we should just find someone who is more receptive.
  • In time, maybe the argumentative person will have a change of heart, but we will never be able to argue them into believing.
  • Paul asked King Agrippa if he believed the prophets.
  • The Jews referred to the Old Testament as "the prophets." It was the only Bible they had since the New Testament was still being written.
  • Paul was essentially asking if the king believed the Bible. Paul was sure the king did believe the Bible even though the king was not yet a Christian.
  • Simply believing the Bible does not make a person a Christian.
  • James 2:19 – ". . . The demons also believe—and they shudder."
  • To become a Christian a person must repent (turn away) of their sin and trust in Christ's death on the cross as the payment for their sin and commit to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.
  • Many people have a vague belief in the Bible but have never experienced life transforming faith in Christ.
  • Agrippa had such a vague belief, but Paul wanted him to have to much more.
Acts 26:28 - Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?"
  • King Agrippa realized that Paul is trying to persuade him to become a Christian.
  • It was good that Paul was up front with King Agrippa about this and that the King was up front with Paul.
  • Talking in spiritual circles seldom accomplishes much. We should communicate our Christian message clearly and honestly.
Acts 26:29 - "I wish before God," replied Paul, "that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am, except for these chains."
  • Paul was truthful to Agrippa and admitted that he did indeed want Agrippa to discover the same faith Paul had found.
  • Paul wanted not just Agrippa, but everyone listening (even Festus) to become a Christian.
  • Sharing Jesus with others was important to Paul. It should be important to us.
  • Paul hoped others could avoid the chains he had to wear.
  • Paul wanted others to be spared the hardships he had experienced.
  • One reason for witnessing to others about Jesus is to help spare them from the pain that a life without Christ naturally causes.
  • We should be focused on sharing Jesus.
  • We should be able to explain our faith.
  • We should bring our children/grandchildren to Sunday School and church so they can learn about Jesus.
  • We must not let non-Christians intimidate us into silence but should clearly and boldly proclaim our faith to anyone willing to listen.

1 comment:

  1. good stuff. you do a lot of deep thinking.