I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have…
Morning, everybody. Welcome Collingswood. I don’t know if anybody’s braving it outside, those that are in the lobby. Mike described it as a construction site. It’s actually pretty nice out there. But, um, when it’s all set up for you, if you, if you don’t have enough seats around here and for those of you that are down there, welcome to you as well.
Uh, we’re going to be looking at Acts chapter 24 this morning as we continue in our series, a return to our series, uh, the spirit at work to the ends of the earth in the book of Acts. And I’m going to ask you to turn there because I’m going to be reading from Acts 24. But Mike mentioned the seminar. That, uh, I’m leading this coming weekend and I wanted to say one more thing about it.
First of all, this, this is the, um, booklet that we’re going to be giving out. These are some cards, uh, that if you could, if you had seen the quality of them when I gave them to Ben Painter and what they came out with, you would be again marveling at what the man can do. But I wanted to just raise and answer a simple question about the seminar.
And it is. Mark, why are you doing the seminar on awe? I mean, it’s a concept. It sort of harmed it hard to put your arms around and I’m doing the seminar on awe because it is a topic I am. I am deeply passionate about. I want to explain why that is. A number of years ago, I was on vacation and I just felt constrained, um, to put together some values for myself, what I felt God has built, had built in over the years.
And most of all, to just think, Lord, what, what is my vision and mission for the rest of my life? And what do I think you’ve built into me for this? And I was thinking about my role as a pastor. I was thinking about just my, my role as a Christian man. With the gifting that I felt God had given me and with the things that God had most burdened me with.
And, honestly, there are lots of things that, you know, could be put down by someone that’s in a church leadership position. Um, I thought about, uh, should I say that my, my, my vision is to lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I want to do that, but honestly, um, that isn’t my ultimate passion.
Um, I thought, well, maybe it’s to be a visionary. And, but I’m not a great visionary, um, to be a dynamic leader. And I do feel God has called me to lead. But when I sifted it all down and I thought, what is it that lights my fire? What is it that when I get up in the morning and I ask God, God use me today?
What, what is it that I feel he’s called me to do and what I want to do? And it came out in this very simple statement, which I have prayed I don’t know how many millions of times. I felt called to influence others to trust God. That doesn’t sound very exciting or sexy or, should I use that word? But, uh, but,
I want people to know He’s worthy of your trust. In my own life, I’ve grown in trusting God. By being awed by Him. Exodus 14, as the people of Israel are standing by the side of the Red Sea and they’re looking back and realizing He has just rescued them in this astonishing way. This amazing verse is stated, it says this, the people of Israel were awed by God and put their trust in Him.
I love that verse. It’s my story too. When I’m awed, I trust. So I’m sharing this seminar to help people put their trust in God by being awed by Him. People that I’m praying for, the types of people, or people that are suffering, or people that are confused, people that are trying to establish their walk with Christ, people that are trapped in sin, or are afraid, or are discouraged.
Or are lonely, or are stressed, or are lethargic in their spiritual journey because I truly believe awe, being stunned with God, is what causes us to lean into Him and trust Him. I’ve asked different people to share their stories, stories I’ve heard through the years from a part of our church family, to share how God awed them are not big.
life, life changing deliverance moments. They’re small moments where God made Himself known to them when they looked for Him. But they’re reminders that God shows up when you look for Him. And He does it in amazingly creative ways. I want you to hear those stories because I want you to trust God. And I want to ask you this morning to pray for this seminar.
That people will be encouraged to trust God more deeply. Because they let him awe them more consistently. That’s why I’m doing this seminar. Acts chapter 24. Acts chapter 24. Uh, we’re coming now in our continuing series in the book of Acts. And the focus this morning that I’m sharing is… A godly response to attack.
Here’s what we read. And after five days the high priest Athanias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor, this is in Caesarea, their case against Paul. And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, Modest, most excellent, feel us, reforms are being made for this nation.
In every way and everywhere, we accept this with all gratitude. But to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him.
And by examining him yourself, you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him. The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so. And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.
You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me despairing, disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I confess to you that according to the way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law and written in the prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience towards both God and man. Now after several years, I came to bring alms in my to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia, they can’t, they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation should they have anything against me.
Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council. Other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them, it is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day. But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the way, put them off, saying, When Lysias the tribune comes down, I’ll decide your case.
Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody because, but have some liberty, and that none of his, that some of his friends should be prevented. His friends were allowed to come. And after some days, Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. And he sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.
And as he reasoned about righteousness and self control in the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I’ll summon you. At the same time, he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with them. And when two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Portia Festus.
And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison. Lord, we come to you this morning. God, we’ve already worshipped in the things that we’ve sung.
Lord Jesus, you are worthy of your name. Jesus, Deliverer, Savior. You’ve been that to so many of us. We see it so many ways in our lives. Lord, we ask now that you would open this scripture to us. Be our teacher and our guide into truth, I pray, in Jesus name. Amen.
I remember reading the book by Louis L’Amour. It’s called The Last Breed. It’s the story of, uh, the last, yeah, the last breed. And it’s the story of, uh, of a Native American Navy pilot, um, that was shot down. Uh, his name was Major Joseph Makotozi. He was shot down and caught. It’s a fictitious story, but it’s a great story.
And he’s shot down and they capture him and they actually take him into the Soviet Union. This was during the time of the Soviet bloc. And he’s taken to a hidden camp in Siberia. And, they’re there going to interrogate him, find out everything he knows, because they know he’s very much in the know of the most advanced technology, uh, of, of Air Force and Navy, uh, jets and fighters.
And so, they take him there, first couple of days, they just beat him to death. I mean, they pummel the guy, he’s barely alive. And he knows that he’s not going to live long in this location. So he escapes. And he’s a Native American. He knows all the wilds of the, of the wilderness. And the story is about him from the eastern side, western side of Siberia, going all the way to the Pacific Ocean, avoiding thousands of soldiers on the way.
It’s a fascinating story. It’s a story in the heart of the winter of this guy who goes out with no, no coats, no gloves, no nothing. And, and, and he’s out there and how he. He, he digs little caves underneath the ice that is covering the, the, the, the land next to rivers. I mean, he’s hiding in tree trunks. I mean, it’s just fascinating story.
And, and one night as I was reading, it all of a sudden struck me, the utter incongruity
Here I was reading this story about a man who is working his way, this warrior working his way across the frozen tundra of Siberia. Thousands of soldiers after him, and I am reading under the covers of my heated water bed. And the whole incongruity is, what do I have to identify with this guy at all? I had sort of the same reaction as I came to Acts 24.
I mean, here’s Paul. He’s appearing before the religious mucky mucks of the nation of Israel. They’re being brought in with their lawyer, presenting their case against him to the Roman governor. Who is the appointed regent over the eastern side of the Roman Empire. And as he stands there, he’s giving this defense.
And you look at this passage and you say, This is a really cool story, but how do I interject me in this? And it isn’t just that we read the Bible like it’s a good adventure story, right? We’re looking to say, God, what are you saying to my life? What are you teaching me about living to your glory here? And I would suggest that one point of connection for us is how Paul responded when he faced a situation where he and the gospel were under attack.
I want to remind you from Pastor Ben’s sermon last Sunday that we find Paul here in a city called Caesarea. He’s been taken, um, under guard by Romans. Actually, there are 40, literally 40 assassins. that have promised they won’t eat again until they have killed him. These guys grew very hungry, and they, so he goes the 75 miles north to Caesarea, and he’s now in what is the central Roman fortress in the entire eastern block of the Roman Empire, at the eastern end.
This is where the Romans have their great strength, this is where their leadership is, and he’s brought before the governor of the whole territory named Felix. In his message last week about, as he called it, plots and promises, Ben highlighted that Paul was not operating on his own plan. It had been blown up.
But he was trusting in the purposes and promises of God. That’s where we find Paul here in Acts 24. And what’s taking place here, the accusers, their lawyer is their spokesman. are brought in by the Roman governor. They’ve traveled the 75 miles to bring their case against Paul and in their attacks and notably in Paul’s handling himself under attacks for his faith, which moves into even attacks on his personhood.
There’s a lot for us to learn because if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and you’re trying to wholeheartedly live as a follower of Christ, Not everyone is going to appreciate your life or your beliefs. We must recognize that we can be part of the problem, right? That the gospel is an offense, but we can be that as well.
I was reading a Barna poll that came out. It was the end of May 23rd, 2023. It was less than four months ago. And in the poll, the question was asked, it was a national poll, fairly extensive poll, and they asked people. How do you feel towards Christianity? Broad statement, but some insightful info. First of all, they, they gave the summary of the answer of Christian, towards Christianity from the general population.
Um, and basically they were asking, do you feel positively or negatively towards Christianity? 71 percent of the general population, now of course this includes people like us that are for most of us are, are in. 71 percent said they feel positively. Good news. How do you feel towards churches? 47 percent felt positively.
How do you feel towards evangelicals? 26 percent felt positively. But when you dial it down a little more and dig a little deeper, they also Pulled out the response of the nons. The nons are people that say, I have no faith, no real religious affiliation. And this was the response of those truly secularized people in our culture, of which there are many that we are doing life with.
How do you feel towards Christianity and specifically? How much do you feel positively toward Jesus Christ? 40 percent said, yes, I feel positively to what I know about Jesus Christ. How do you feel towards your church? 22 percent felt positively. How do you feel towards evangelicals? 9 percent felt positively.
But the most interesting question to me was the next one and the final one I’ll mention. They asked of those with no faith, why? Do you doubt Christian beliefs and why do you feel negatively toward them? And they gave them all kinds of options. There were lots of options. Uh, science. I don’t believe it’s scientific.
There are certainly people who feel that way. Um, uh, that the presence of suffering in the world, I can’t believe there’s really a God that is actively involved. Um, Christianity’s view of One religion, no, uh, being the, the right way through Christ, that one religion can’t have all the answers. Then they had lots of others, but a lot of real things that people say.
But the overwhelmingly prominent reason that those who said, I have no faith commitment gave to why they doubted the reality and, and did not embrace Christian faith was this. The behavior of Christian people. They went on to talk about lack of compassion. They went on to talk about, uh, vitriol and anger.
I’m not saying everybody here is that. I’m not, I’m not saying any. And I’m also not saying any of us are not guilty of that. But these questions remind us that Christianity and Christ are not necessarily associated. We would like to think the historic evangelical church, and honestly the word evangelical is a word I’m careful with today, because it means different things than I mean by it.
To a lot of people. I read a statement recently and it was, uh, by a writer I greatly appreciate, Tim Keller. He said this, the question many in our culture has, are asking has changed from, Is Christianity the answer to our problems? To, is Christianity the source of our problems? Paul faced an environment in which he was contended with that very question.
These people felt Christianity And Christian reps were the problem. We’ll see that in a second. And in that environment, his way of responding shows us how to conduct ourselves in an environment that is hostile, ultimately, but quite honestly, is more open to Jesus than he is to his people. We see the attack, first of all.
It’s found in these first few verses, and I’m going to summarize it. It’s found in verses 5 and following down through verse 10, verse 9. And there are three attacks. And basically they’re trying to present the case that Christians, Paul as a rap, is, are a menace to society. And they say three reasons.
Number one, Paul is a disease. For we have found this man a plague. He’s an infection. He is a cancer. There are certainly people that say that and feel that way today. You’re, you Christians, your view on morality and social issues, your,
your narrowness, your not accepting of everyone and lifestyle choices, certainly hostility, is directed toward Jesus Christ and His description of moral and sinful practices. On the very definition of righteousness, Jesus says in the world you’re going to have persecution as a follower of me. It’s a real thing.
It’s going to happen. But, so from their standpoint, when they say Christianity is, and you Christians, and notably you Paul, are a disease, we understand. And I would say for them, this was true. They felt this, you’re messing with everything with this faith that you have. We see a second attack. They said Paul is a danger, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world.
He’s a danger to the public order. This one they were really happy to share because this is the kind of thing would definitely get the attention of a Roman leader. So, and, and Paul then is going to say, you know where they got this from? And we know that from Acts chapter 21 and 22. This actually came when Paul showed up in Jerusalem, with eight associates who were all Gentiles from all over the Mediterranean Roman world.
And a couple of them came from Ephesus. And one of them was a guy named Trophimus. And there were Jewish, uh, uh, believers, Jewish people that came for the feast day from Ephesus. to Jerusalem, and they saw Paul with these guys, and they knew Trophimus, and they knew he was a Gentile, and they thought Paul had taken him into the, the, the temple, and they just lost their minds.
And, and, and they said, this guy is defiling the temple, and so forth. And basically, to them, they see Paul as a guy who’s stirring up riots. Well, he did, in, in, in Ephesus. If you remember, they had a whole stadium that was full of people that were ticked off because Paul’s preaching was leading people to renounce their idolatry.
And the Temple of Artemis, Temple of Diana, the largest temple in the world at that time. And all the idol makers, the guild of idol makers got together. The president of the guild got them together, a guy named Demetrius. And he says, we got to stop this guy. I mean, he’s killing our economy. And so they got everybody stirred up, and there was a riot, and the, and the, the, the mayor of Ephesus had to calm it down.
And so, this is what they’re referring to. And basically, the gospel was a threat. It resulted in changed lives. When people were baptized as followers of Jesus, people felt betrayed. In Jewish families, in Gentile families, when they saw their, their, their loved ones turning away. It messed up the economy for some people.
Now, the idea was not that Christians were stirring up riots, but what was happening, the result of Christian faith in people’s lives, was causing riots. People were upset. So, Peter talks about this. He says it in 1 Peter chapter 4, verses 2 through 4. He’s talking to Christians and he says, you used to live for human passions, but now, but you no longer live for human passions, but for the will of God.
For the time that has passed, suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this, they are surprised when you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you. And, and it’s true when the gospel enters people’s lives, there are changes and sometimes those are offensive to the old game, to the old buds.
Because now you’re saying, I, I still want to be friends, I still want to do life with you, but I’m called to live differently in certain areas of my life. And so the second charge against Paul, we find was partly true. Christians were not stirring up riots as they were accusing Paul of doing. But riots were stirred up because of them.
The third accusation of Paul is this, he’s a disruptor. He’s a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tries to profane the temple and we seized him. The idea here was that, you know, he brings in these Gentiles into, he tries to bring them into the temple. He’s profaning the temple, defiling it.
He’s trying to undermine the entire system. This was a total fabrication. It was a misunderstanding. They thought he did this. He actually didn’t do this. He defends himself and it was clear earlier. So here we have these three things that have come against Paul. Some things are true. Some things are partial truth.
And some are complete misunderstandings. You will have all of those as a follower of Christ. You will have things you can’t explain. No, no, I don’t feel like, no. And you feel frustrated and you feel angry. Why are we being placed in this category? It’s going to happen and it happened to Paul. So here’s what’s happening Complete misunderstandings some things that are absolutely true some things that are partial truth.
So what do we do? Well, what did he do? Well, I want to rip through four things quickly that he did number one. He defended himself with gentleness and confidence We see this in verse 10 through 13, but Paul responds with a measured gentle confident response He says a couple of things. He said, I didn’t, actually, I didn’t start riots.
I was only here for 12 days after being gone for years. I didn’t have time to get a following to rally around. I didn’t get into contentious debates in the temple or in the city. I didn’t profane the temple, I didn’t, I, I actually ceremoniously got myself cleansed, which he did. And he said, but I didn’t bring Gentiles in, I didn’t do what’s, what’s, so he gently but forthrightly said, no, these things are not true.
There is a real place for defending the gospel and the word of God, what’s true. But Paul goes to great pains to deny that his demeanor and spirit were that of a fighter and a troublemaker. So it’s important today, right? If, if culture is saying, Jesus, yeah, I, I can see some credibility, but people that are identified with Christ, their behavior is, is utter, it, it doesn’t fit with what I understand of Christ.
You may say, well, they don’t really understand Christ. Probably that’s true to a degree, but they understand some. They understand the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, some. They understand that the, the primary mark, uh, in a survey years ago, they asked, what’s the primary word? It’s a cultural, uh, survey.
What’s a primary word to describe Jesus Christ? Our culture, the primary answer was, He’s gentle.
Peter weighs in on this very topic in 1 Peter 3, and he talks about Christians who are suffering, really suffering. They’re facing the attacks. They’re facing the fact that they’re being called a disease. They’re being called, they’re being maligned. They’re being misunderstood. They’re losing stuff because of Jesus.
And here’s what he tells them. He says, Be ready always to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do it with gentleness and respect. This is 1 Peter 3, verse 15 and 16. Having a good conscience, so when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. That there’s gentleness and there is respect.
Paul weighs in, in Philippians 2, when he says, do all things without grumbling or disputing. Why? So that you might shine as lights in the world. Guys, our culture is angry, divisive, divided into rabid camps, grumbling, disputing. But we’re called to shine as lights in the world by the good behavior and respect that we show to others.
The gentleness of Christ. Paul, even in his defending himself, is respectful. In each of the times we see him presented. The second thing we find, He declared His allegiance to Jesus with boldness. If you look at verse 14 and 15, you notice what He talks about. It’s Jesus Christ. He says, you know, I, I, no I didn’t do this, I didn’t do this, but I do want to be honest about one thing.
I do believe differently than these guys. I do differ with them. I do have a position that believes that the Messiah is Jesus Christ. And I do believe that He rose from the dead. And that really is the one that sets everybody off. He’s willing to identify with it. So what does that teach us? Well, that there are going to be times when we have to say we differ here.
I own it. I do have a different view of morality and sensuality but it’s not my idea. I’m putting myself under what I truly believe. The scriptures and Jesus teaching says we can’t run from that. Paul doesn’t run from that. He speaks boldly to Felix. One other thing I just want to highlight, if you look down at verse 24 and following, after the, the religious leaders are dismissed and basically Felix says, I don’t know, I’m going to talk to the, the, the, the tribune, the Roman guy that brought you up.
Basically, he’s just dismissing these guys. Thanks for coming. Thanks for sharing. Goodbye. But then, he holds Paul for two years. And in his initial discussion with Paul, he and his wife, Drusilla, Meet with Paul, and there’s a fascinating thing that’s going on in this conversation. Here’s what happened in verse 25.
They, they wanted, verse 26, and he, and he sent for Paul, and he heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as Paul reasoned about righteousness and self control in the coming judgment, Felix, Felix was alarmed and said, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you. Now, here’s what’s happening.
Paul is talking about righteousness, which means justice, treating people righteously according to God. Secondly, self control, the ability to say no to yourself. Third, about a coming judgment, a future judgment for sins that have happened in this life that you answer in the life to come. That’s what Paul’s talking to him about.
And it says, Felix was alarmed. You know why? Because Felix was an old man, relatively speaking, to his young babe, Rusilla, who’s his wife, who was legendary for her astonishing beauty. She’d been married to a guy. He went after her. He talked her into divorcing her husband. She was Jewish. It was a scandal in the, in the entire region.
He took her, he had two other wives. He brought her in and… And they know what they’ve done is utterly against her faith, at least. And so now Paul starts talking about righteousness, treating people justly, I mean, like the husband. Um, self control, saying no to yourself. So here’s this thing. And what’s Felix’s response?
It’s he’s alarmed. What are you saying? Oh, look at the time. Conversations over. I’ll see you again another time. Paul is saying stuff that was alarming, different. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re gonna have some conversations where you have to share things honestly because you’re in a position you need to share truth and you need to own it.
If nobody in your office knows that you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, if nobody in your circle of friends is really ever uncomfortable with the choices you’re making, and their life is the life 1 Peter described, of the life that your life was before you came to Christ, There’s something wrong. There has to be some sense.
And you don’t have to say, I’m rejecting these friends because, you know, they might tarnish me. Well, then you’ll get what you deserve. There has to be some degree of speaking what’s true. Third, Paul determines to keep his conscience clear before God and man. So I always, in verse 16, so I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Both times Paul appears before. These guys it happened in Jerusalem a couple chapters back and now it happens again. He makes this statement. It’s an odd statement Why would he say this? I mean, who’s he trying to convince? Why is he saying this to them? We understand why he’s saying no, my conscience is clear before God Well, of course, he’s saying, I really believe what I’m sharing, the truths that I’m presenting.
Actually, as a follower of the way, that we’re not rejecting the Old Testament. Actually, we are the, the fulfillment of where the Old Testament is going. We are the way that the Old Testament has led to towards the Messiah. But why mention I have conscience, a good conscience, a clear conscience toward men?
I’d suggest, because when you’re being attacked, God always prompts you to reflect on your own heart. In both these cases, when Paul’s being questioned, he said, I really feel my conscience is clear before God, but also before people. For Paul, maybe he’s asking himself, or has asked himself, Am I the offense here?
Is my way causing people to not hear the message of Christ? I know the offense of Christ, the message of Christ can be an offense. But is it me? Is there something that God wants me to share with it? Am I doing things in a way, in the way I respond, that is harmful? A godly response to attack, to slander, to accusation, to rebuke, to, to diminishing your Christian, uh, opportunities.
Always start with a humble investigation of your own heart. Which part of what they’re saying. It’s because of what’s true in me, in the way I am speaking, the way I carry myself here. Paul said, I always take pains to keep a clear conscience. It’s used, the word taking pains is used of an artist laboring.
He labored to evaluate his own heart and say, am I walking the walk? Because people smell hypocrisy, right? We do. You do. They do. Others do. Towards us. Am I walking the walk? Jesus has a 40 percent positive image, Christian or Evangelicals, for people of no faith, nine. Having a clear conscience is an incredible gift.
Maybe God is speaking to you now about the need of one. Last thing, Paul defers his plans to others with humility. Verse 17 and 18, he’s talking about when he came to Jerusalem. This is one of my favorite passages, my favorite visuals. in about four chapters here in Acts. Here’s what he says in verse 17.
Now, after several years, after his three missionary journeys, seven years long, I came to bring alms to my nation to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia, and actually they ought to be here bringing an accusation, which was true.
Here’s what happened. When Paul showed up in Judea, remember he took the missionary journeys and he came and he landed. And then he, he, when he, when he arrived in Judea, he came with a real plan. His plan was to bring the monetary gifts of all the churches that he’d spent a couple of years raising money from all these Gentile churches.
And he was bringing the money to Jerusalem as a gift from the churches to say, we’re with you and this is our way of giving back. You have spiritually blessed us. The gospel and Christ is come up through Judaism and you are Jewish brothers and sisters. We now want to help you financially because they were facing tremendous financial deprivation there in Judea partly for their faith Partly because there was a famine.
So Paul came and he thought this is going to be a way of uniting the churches You know, we’re going to be able to and we’re going to give this money So Paul arrives and here’s the first thing that happens. He meets with the religious leaders This is found in earlier chapter 20 22 So he shows up and James the leader of the church and all the other elders appears to them And they say, Paul, first thing, you need to be really quiet.
There’s real, real venom towards you among the Jews. And we’re in a, we’re in a hard spot here. And so you need to not, we know you. You need to sit on yourself, buddy. And you need to be quiet. And so Paul, even in this passage, is saying to Felix, I haven’t gotten in arguments with anybody. Not in the temple, not in Jerusalem.
I mean, I’m a mouse for me. And he says, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m honoring. Basically, that’s what he’s doing. He’s deferring. But here’s what also happened. James and the others said, Paul, this is what we would suggest you do. He’s got this big monetary gift, right? That he’s going to give to the churches. And is going to bless them and, and, and they’re going to, and he, he sees how it’s going to be used.
And this is what James and the brothers asked him to do. Would you please use some of your money to pay for four Jewish believers who have embraced Christ, but who are now going through some purification rites in the temple, and it’s very expensive, and it was very expensive, the things they were going to do.
And would you also go through some purification rites in the temple when you go in? These are things Paul doesn’t believe in anymore. These are things he’s telling Gentile Christians, you don’t have to do this. So they say, take the money that he’s raised for months, that he knows is gonna be used to bring everybody together.
And rather, he’s using it, spending it on stuff that he doesn’t believe in. He’s not saying it’s evil, but it’s just, it’s not necessary. To me, it is such a picture of the willingness of Paul humbly to defer to others. His vision didn’t get fulfilled. His plan didn’t happen. His strategy got neglected. He came in, in the way he did, as a man who was willing to defer his plans to others with humility.
We see the character of a person, of a Christian, of a you and a me. When we’re in an environment, a culture, or a business side, or a family, or whatever it might be, Where there is ostracism, where there is attacks, and we associate it with the name of Christ, and we just, we need to process, I gotta evaluate my conscience, is, is some of this me?
Can I really say I have a conscience before others that I am treating them in the way Jesus would? Or is this just, they’re ticked at the way I act? Or the way I speak about it? We’re evaluating, are we deferring? Are we showing the spirit here? Christianity is always under assault. But it should be for its declaration of righteous standards and then presented humbly, gently by a person who is not fighting for their own, but is modeling the model of Christ and of Paul.
Let’s pray together. Lord,
so much I’ve learned about the Apostle Paul in this series. This bold, courageous, gifted leader and preacher, and yet a man who deferred to other people. A man who kept a clear conscience, who kept short accounts with people and made things right. A man who admonishes your people to speak with gentleness and without grumbling, to then live as lights in the world.
Lord, there’s so much we can learn. Thank you, even what we can learn in a passage like this, that on first glance we just wonder, how in the world do I interject myself here? We love your word. how it speaks into us in Jesus name. Amen. We’ve mentioned that we’re closing our services these days with, uh, well, not only a closing song, but we have a prayer team.
And I just wanted to mention this. I want to invite you to come as we stand and sing and just have someone pray with you. You know, coming forward doesn’t mean that you’re coming forward because your life is far from God and you’ve got to now repent. It could mean that, but we don’t know. For most of you, coming forward will be to pray about a situation you’re in, a decision you need to make, a child you’re concerned about, or a loved one, or, or, or a report that’s coming, or you’ve recently had that you’re deeply weighed down about.
Last Sunday, one of the guys that is on our prayer team in the 1030 service served that Sunday. He was on the schedule then. He came to the 9 o’clock service. He came forward for prayer, and then at 10 30, he was praying for others. I love that. These are not holy or people. We’re just people. We’re praying for each other all the time.
And if God prompts you that, hey, why don’t you just have somebody else pray with you and take it to the Lord? Man, I invite you to come and just have somebody pray with you this morning.