Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blaming the Blameless (Acts 25)

This week we got all the way through Acts 25.  Starting with Acts 24:27, to remember a little bit of the context, (re-)read Acts 25.  That’s right, you’re going to read the whole chapter, and I’m not going to interrupt you one time.

Like I said last week, the last few chapters in Acts have seemed so repetitive, but it’s not just repetition for the sake of repetition.  The Holy Spirit is layering our understanding as we read (so long as we don’t just skip ahead to the new parts).  Moving on … today we’re going to focus on Acts 25:27.  Paul is about to make his statement before the assembly, and in verses 24-27, Festus (the new governor of the province) explains why they are all there.  It wasn’t for a trial; instead what reason does Festus give in vs. 26?                                                  And here comes verse 27:

“For it seems to me senseless and absurd to send a prisoner and not state the accusations against him.” (Amplified)

Paul was getting closer and closer to his final judgment before the supreme ruler of the Roman empire – Caesar.  Paul’s upcoming judgment day got me thinking about the Day of Judgment promised … prophesied in Scripture.  Let’s look at 1 John 4:17 first.  What does this verse say about how we are (or are not) to approach the Day of Judgment?                                                                                                                                           

Still in 1 John 4:17, what does John say about how this is even possible, i.e. for us to not fear on the Day of Judgment?  Because                                                          so are                        in                               .  Who is the He?                                                           

What does is it mean that we are as Christ is in this world?  Short answer:  it means just what it says.  Long answer:  let’s look at what the Bible says about how Christ is so we can see how we are.

                                                            Jesus Christ                                       Us                               
1 Cor 1:30 (NLT)

2 Cor 5:17

Eph 1:4

Eph 1:7

How is it even possible that we have been made right with God, pure and holy, free from sin (1 Cor 1:30); that we are already new creations (2 Cor 5:17); holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1:4)?  We’re going to look back at 2 Corinthians 5 for the answer – specifically verse 21.  Go ahead and look there; I’ll be waiting when you’re done.

… On the cross, Christ became as we are – sin, so that we could become as He is –blameless, righteous in the eyes of the Father.  

In Job 1, we see that Satan – the accuser – presents himself “before the Lord” (Job 1:6).  Don’t Satan’s appearance before the Lord and his accusations against people here are earth was an isolated incident.  Revelation 12:10 says that, during the Tribulation period (yet to come), there will be a time when Satan – “the accuser of our brethren who keeps bringing before our God charges against them, day and night” – will be “cast out.”  For now, Satan continues his accusations of us – that is, of you and of me, but, if we have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him to new life (Col 2:12), Satan is in as strong of a position against us as Festus was with Paul.  He can bring our names before God, but because of Jesus Christ, our Advocate (1 John 2:1-2), it is Satan who looks foolish.

Now What?!  Thinking of Christ as our Advocate in heaven, let’s take on our role as His ambassadors here on earth and allow God to make His plea through us, so that this week more of His people can be reconciled back to God, becoming as Christ is in this world (2 Cor 5:17).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy ... (Acts 24:17-27)

(Sorry for the weird issues.  Not sure what's going on with that.)
We’re still following Paul through the book of Acts, but he’s no longer a traveling missionary – his third missionary journey ended when he got to Jerusalem (Acts 21:17).  But what did he come to Jerusalem to do?  We may have made some guesses or assumptions over the last few weeks, but we don’t have to look far into today’s passage – a portion of Paul’s testimony before the Roman governor Felix – to hear it firsthand.  Go ahead and read Acts 24:17-19. 

So what had Paul come to Jerusalem to do?                                                                                

Paul confirms this in his letter to the Roman church written toward the end of his third missionary journey.  See Romans 15:23-26.

The last few chapters, we’ve heard Paul rehash some events and timelines that we may have felt we already knew.  I just want to remind you that repetition in God’s Word is always for a purpose.  Today we see that one of His purposes is to reveal information that hadn’t been previously disclosed – namely that Paul was coming to deliver “gifts for the poor and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17, NIV).  But where did these gifts come from?  Luke (writer of Acts) may not have been divinely inspired to include an explanation of the collection of these funds, but Paul was inspired to include this information in the letters written on his third missionary journey.

In the following passage, what do we learn about the gifts/contributions Paul brought to Jerusalem:
1 Corinthians 16:1-5

I especially like how the NLT words vs. 2.  (If you don’t have the NLT, you can use to look it up.)  God has always desired our firstfruits.  He knows His creation, and the slippery slope that giving Him the leftovers will become.  If we wait to give Him what is left, then sooner rather than later there will be nothing left to give. 

2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Did you notice the contrast in verse 2?  Even if you did, take another look …

“For in the midst of an ordeal of                                                   , their abundance of                         and their depth of                            together have overflowed in                     of lavish                                      on their part.” (Amplified referenced)

Only with God could severe tribulation and deep poverty result in an overflowing wealth of generosity.  Generosity that even seems to have surprised Paul! 

What was the key ingredient – the catalyst – that resulted in this overflow?  It wasn’t the trial itself; rather it was the way in which the Macedonian believers approached their trial.  What was mixed with their poverty?  Their                                            .  I see too many Christians whose lives seem to be lacking true joy. 

What is the difference between happiness and joy?


Joy – unlike happiness – doesn’t depend on circumstances.  Joy is inner happiness in spite of your circumstances.  James (in James 1:2-4) writes that, when we approach trials with joy, the trials produce patience (not frustration) and that, once patience is allowed to complete its work, we will be mature, “lacking nothing.”  Even if the world saw the Macedonian believers as in deep poverty, they didn’t look at themselves through the world’s eyes.  They looked at themselves through God’s eyes – lacking nothing.  Through whose eyes do you look at yourself?  (Let yourself think about that after you leave this page and get on with your day.)

Whether your trial is poverty, sickness, death, family issues, persecution, isolation,                               … God desires to turn your curse into your blessing (Neh 13:2).

Now What? Imagine a trial in your life – past or present.  What – if you approached it with joy – could God do (have done) in that situation?  Whom could He bless through you?

Back in Acts 24, Paul is waiting for judgment from Felix.  Verse 27 says that Paul waited for two years for Felix to give his ruling, only to have Felix replaced by a new governor.  Back to square one.  Talk about patience being perfected.

Until next time.  Mix some joy with that trial, and see what God will do.