Saturday, September 11, 2010

the best defense...

Acts 26 finds Paul defending himself in front of the Roman governor, Festus, and the Herodian king Agrippa and his wife Bernice.  They had come to welcome Festus as the new governor.  Festus was wrestling with a problem.  Paul had asked to go to Caesar for judgment, which was his right as a Roman citizen, to defend himself from charges of the Jewish high priest and others.  But Festus didn't understand the charges, or the Jewish laws he'd supposedly broken.  Before he could send Paul to Rome, he had to write a letter that explained all this to Caesar.  He was hoping that Agrippa would hear Paul and understand because Agrippa was a local leader and familiar with Jewish custom.  So Paul was hauled before these civil leaders to be examined.  But the interesting approach Paul takes for his defense is to go on the spiritual offensive.  He goes way beyond defending himself from false charges.  He tells the spiritual story of his life: before, during and after his conversion to Christ.  He shows how the transformation in his life was miraculous but that it was also the direct fulfillment of Jewish prophecy that a Messiah would come.  He also explains that the charges made against him were out of anger because Paul challenged the Jews to repent.  By using a spiritual offense as his defense, Paul was obeying the Lord to take the message of salvation to all.  One of the most powerful ways to communicate the message of salvation is to tell your own story...the before, during, and after of your coming to faith in Christ.  But the response is always up to the listener.  Festus chose to dismiss Paul as a lunatic(verses 24) Now as he made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself!  Much learning is driving you mad."  King Agrippa came close to faith (verse 28) Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."  Paul saw every situation as an opportunity that God had given him to proclaim Christ.  He knew that the only defense he needed he already had in the form of a sovereign God.  He wasn't worried about himself...he was concerned with the eternal destiny of all others.  Unfortunately in this part of his story the responses were anger, denial and delay to the outstretched love of the Lord.  How have you responded to the Gospel yourself?  And how do you take the Gospel to others?  And how do you respond if you are greeted with anger, denial or delay?
Rob Smith

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