In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 17th May 2020

Bible Reading: ACTS 26

Permission to Speak

Our thoughts today are a little different from usual. I want you to read through the chapter in Acts and consider how Paul dealt with the situation. He was defending his life and witness, knowing that he had appealed to present his case to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman Citizen. However, he was required to outline his case before the local Roman Authority representatives. In our current restrictions, can I suggest we think how we can respond to any challenge to the Christian Faith. It has been noted that many more people are watching and listening to religious matters via TV, radio and internet in the current restrictive setting. So, we need to be ready to respond to any enquiries that come our way, look for opportunities to speak to others in response to any enquiry. Our church website has had an increase in ‘hits’ in the last month, which is encouraging. So, let us read and learn from the principles that Paul sets out for us in this chapter.

This passage is really open to alliteration. I do like headings on which to hang our thoughts. This chapter is ideal for this. I see it is full of ‘P’s’.  Just think about being in your kitchen, you take out a bag of frozen peas, cut the bag open and they all fall out on the floor. As you look down, you are amazed at so many peas in one bag. In our kitchen our dog Sally comes and looks at them and walks away in disgust, they are the wrong p’s. Now if it had been PRAWNS or Pears, Sally would have picked up all of them and eaten them. So, imagine you have to pick them up, the ‘P’s’ from this chapter.

A little exercise for you, well a teacher always sets homework! Go through the chapter and underline each word beginning with ‘P.’ you will be surprised how many there are here in this chapter.

Paul is defending himself before the King and Roman Governor and he is allowed to speak in his own defence. Paul was an orator as well as a thinker, so fully able to defend his actions and teachings. So what if we were called to defend our faith, what would we say? Paul gives us some guidelines on which to base our defence, I am not saying he gives us the words to speak, those must come from our own thoughts guided by the Holy Spirit, but he does give us some ideas and a framework as the basis to use. He begins with his past history, his meeting with Jesus Christ and then his mission that flowed from that experience.

PROMISE FULFILLED

Faith comes from outside our experience, it is not self-generated or our thoughts or ideas. It comes from a challenge from an external source. Paul settles his faith quite clearly on his past experience and shows how a promise given was fulfilled. So how should we begin? Do not exaggerate, stick to facts that you know are true. Look for a way into the situation and start your response.

  • First build on the experience of those who are listening- you are drawing them into your situation but using something that they already know from their experience.
  • Be open about the situation, pros and cons- be honest, they will know that life is not all smooth and problem free. Christians have problems as well, but we have a source of support and help from the Lord.
  • Be patient in your explanations, do not assume anything- this is important, don’t rush on if more explanation is needed.
  • Faith is based on what God has promised and it is an eternal promise
  • Show how the promise from God has changed your life.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Speak freely of how your life was changed by your faith in Christ. It might be useful at this point to consider how the change or conversion happened to you. Be careful in your use of words, as Christian jargon is not likely to be understood. Here are some suggestions you could use:

  • What led to the challenge to your way of life?
  • How did you experience Jesus, where was it?
  • What happened after this event?
  • How is today different from yesterday in your life and experience?

PROVISION GIVEN

Paul gives us an insight into how he was able to do what he had been instructed to do. Hebrews 13.8 tells us we have an unchanging God, the same yesterday, today and forever. So, the Jesus that spoke with Paul on the Damascus Road is the same today, and the provision He promised Paul is for us as well. We need to remember why we are talking to this person, why we need to talk with them. Paul reminds us of this:

  • We are appointed by God- we are not witnesses in our own cause.
  • We are His servants and witnesses- so we are representing the Lord just like Britain’s Ambassadors represent the Queen.
  • We have purpose in our lives to bring light to a dark world, this was an instruction from Jesus. We are not to hide our light- the truth that we have been given.
  • We have a message of forgiveness and hope, in relation to a world of people seeking the answers to life.
  • We depend on an unfailing God; our weakness is His strength and we depend on a power outside of ourselves.
  • We expect an outcome to our witness, look for a reaction and use it as the next step.

Notice the reaction to Paul, Festus thought he was mad, King Agrippa thought he was trying to convert him. Look for a response to your witness and act on the positive reaction in the first instance. Paul offered a challenge to the King, but he didn’t take it. Paul had been faithful in his witness and presented the challenge to these men and to all who listened.  It was a sad outcome, as the hymn writer says, ‘Almost is lost!’ The official verdict from the hearing was that he was not guilty of any of the charges, he could go free. God had a mission for Paul, it was in Rome. So, he was not freed but was to begin the next stage of his life of service. So, we should also be prepared to move on and serve God in the next place or to the next person. How do we sum up these thoughts? Well, I’ll turn back to Sally who is quite adamant and says it’s not peas but prawns!

P-Personal experience

R- Relationship with God

A- Aware of opportunity

W- Witness whenever

N-Normal Expectations [New, Current or Old]

S- Saviour led

Let your witness be bright, bold and in the Lord.

 

We have a closing hymn today:

Google or YouTube:

‘I now shall live as one who’s been forgiven’- Use the Christ’s Community Church version, as it has the words for you to consider.

 


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