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So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: 2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? 9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. 12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” 24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.” 30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:1-32 ESV)
In his classic business book “Good to Great” author Jim Collins talks about a hedgehog concept that the most successful businesses choose to do. The concept comes from a ancient parable about a fox and hedgehog. The fox is smart and cunning and comes up with countless different ways to get the hedgehog, but the hedgehog is simple and knows one defense. Drop and ball up into an impregnable wall of spikes. His defense works every time.
In a similar way businesses have to choose their hedgehog concept. What is the one thing you are going to be great at. If you try to do everything, you will not be great at anything. Forcing businesses to choose what to be great at helps them succeed.
We went through this as a church. What is the one thing we want to be great at. I want it to be getting people into the word of God. Reading it and applying it in their lives. This is why I believe our Discovery Groups are so important. It is the one thing I want us to be great at.
But business and business people will spend hundreds of hours contemplating this, and yet neglect their own lives. What is it that you want to give your life for? What is the one thing you want to help others know?
I believe if we are going to be great in life we need to give ourselves to something that is true, something that is long lasting, something that is powerful. We find this in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this passage we see what Paul is about. He is being pushed and pulled by different people and the one thing he wants to do is make Jesus known.
- Priority of Jesus.
It is hard to reduce the opportunities you have. You can do anything. Particularly in an affluent community you have lots of options. Those are good. But as much as you like you cannot do everything.
Kids pick a sport. Can’t do them all.
Pick an instrument.
God or the world…
Paul finally gets an opportunity to speak. And as it is his defense he can say anything he wants. Notice it is not about political policy. He will challenge Festus and Agrippa but it is not even primarily about their injustices and failures. It is about their faith in Jesus Christ.
To choose between worldly success or faithfulness to God, Paul chooses faithfulness to God. To choose between freedom and the opportunity to live, Paul chooses to speak about Jesus. Most of his speech here is about what God has done for us in Jesus.
This is amazing. To hear someone say I’m willing to leave it all for Jesus is amazing. To see people make the daily decision that Jesus is most important is also amazing.
Paul is in a high risk situation. He only cares about Jesus. King Agrippa is of the Herodian dynasty of kings with a well known track record of evil, desiring to be worshipped and held as deity, and been involved in the murder of God’s people like John the Baptist, James the son of Zebedee, etc. Agrippa is married to Bernice. Bernice is his full blooded sister. She is mentioned here a number of times. It is always Agrippa and Bernice. He does not do anything without her. Agrippa is not a nice man. If he does not like someone he will not tolerate them. And yet Paul will challenge him without regard for his own safety.
Blessed. Fortunate. That world is blessed. Blessed is the man who does not walk …. On trial for his life and considers himself blessed! Paul considers himself blessed to share with Agrippa, even though his life is at stake.
Opposition forces us to make a decision on what is most important. In a very real way you will have to choose that.
From JD Greear message. “It’s All Part of the Plan” // Daniel 10–12 // Shining in Babylon
Persecution against Christians in the world is as high as it has ever been and it will likely only get worse. Open Doors, a ministry that helps the persecuted church around the world, tells us that today over 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution. That’s the highest in history. Last year, almost 5000 believers were martyred BECAUSE OF their faith. Over 4000 Christian churches were burned.
Already in some places, if you hold to what Scripture teaches about sexuality, or gender, or the way of salvation, you can be labeled as a bigot and cancelled or fired.
Dr. George Yancey, has written a new book on anti-Christian discrimination in America. He points out that:
- 32 percent of all Americans identify (theologically) conservative Christians as their least favorite group in society, liking them “significantly less” than other groups.
- By comparison, only 31% identified Muslims that way. “So it’s fair, Dr. Yancey says, to say that if we’re concerned about anti-Muslim prejudice, and we should be, we should also at least be aware of anti-Christian prejudice.” Dr. Yancey documents, with a pretty impressive
- compilation of statistics, that being a professing Christian will hurt you significantly in the academic world, the journalistic world, the political world, the artistic world, the medical world and, increasingly, even the business world.
Yancey also says “I still discourage Christians in the United States from saying they are persecuted, since what we face today isn’t what most people envision when they think of persecution… However, as Christians we should be aware that anti-Christian discrimination is real.”
Right now there is legislation called the Equality Act that has passed the House and will go before the senate. It seeks to ensure the rights of LGBTQ+ community and forbid discrimination against them by those who hold to a different view, biblical view of sexuality and marraige. It is not just that they want to advocate an LGBTQ position; it is making it wrong to hold a different position.
Al Mohler, “If the Equality Act Passes, Say Goodbye to Religious Freedom.”
“The audacity is breathtaking, and the threat to America’s first liberty is all too real.” https://churchleaders.com/news/392664-mohler-equality-act-religious-freedom-in-america.html
I am not trying to belittle or deride those in the LGBTQ community. I want them to have religious freedom and be treated with respect. We as Christians ought to be the first to want to show that community love. That has been neglected by too many in the past. But at the same time we need to see the intolerance of tolerance.
You will not be liked for following Christ. You may be opposed. You may be looked at like you have three heads. You are going to thave to choose between the world or Jesus. You just don’t have infinite options.
But we also give ourselves to this because:
- Power in Jesus
We don’t fear the Agrippas and Festus of the world. God took care of Paul. Wasn’t easy but he took care of him. Same with Daniel. Same with all of God’s people.
God has acted in the world. He has done something to change those who are in darkness. To change those who were hostile. This is unbelievable! As we, if we encounter persecution, it is not without hope. We pray for those persecuting us to be saved. Paul was one who was destroying the church.
[9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Paul opposed Jesus. He locked up the saints, pressed them to blaspheme, which was punishable by death. In anger and fury he chased them even to foreign cities. Paul was a leader against God’s purpose. Isn’t it amazing the greatest teacher of the Christian church was once its greatest opponent. And that means as Christians we have to look at those who oppose us as people who could be converted. We are trying to condemn them. We are trying to save them. We want them to believe. The brilliance of God’s plan. What other organization or group is there who look with favor on their harshest opponents.
Paul says those who were in darkness can be brought into the light. Those consumed with the power of Satan can experience the power of God.
18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Our society wants to erase people when they mess up. Do away with them completely. God doesn’t promise to erase, but to forgive. He makes forgivers; not erasers.
He came to live for the one he was created for. There is peace in that. To describe my life before Christ is to say I was riding my bike in the sand. Frustration. Hardship. Confusion. Searching. Lot of effort for minimal gain. I trusted in Christ and found the path. I found the way. Powerful change.
Conversion: a change from one thing to another. For Christians we believe people can change and have hope. Real hope.
- Truth in Jesus
No one wants to live for what is false. Live for a lie.
Sense in which it is true as God is the very definition of truth. He is the standard. But also true in the sense in which he proved it in history. God has acted in History. This has been according to his plan. There is a trajectory and expectation established in history that Jesus fulfills.
6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day.
v22 nothing else other than what prophets have said. Paul brought the words of the prophets to bear on the people. This is what caused such a stir.
Has not been done in a corner. V26. Cannot escape his notice. God has acted in history. We are reading a historical event of Paul’s testimony in court. It happened and there were witnesses. The same is true of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.
Luke knew what happened here because it is public event, an official public event. Couldn’t deny it. Many witnesses.
Jesus appeared out of nowhere to Paul, but Paul came to see he didn’t come out of nowhere. He is the fulfilment of all God did in the past.
Many people are giving themselves to lies today. Being told that sex reassignment will make everything right. Kids being told that. Being told to choose if you are male and female. This is crazy! Our educational and medical community is failing us.
29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent of respondents stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. People say this is the reason they need their rights. Perhaps. But I also believe it is a reminder that we don’t just need people to approve of us and we don’t just need a new sexuality. We need to be saved and we need to trust our creator to redeem us, and make us right.
You know what that tells me. There are issues in who we are that are not healed through sexuality. Not saved through the medical community. Only Jesus can save us. We are created for a relationship with God that is to be at the center of our lives. Nothing else will fill that void.
This is true. If you do not believe then prove me wrong. Study this book.
- Lasting. Eternity in Jesus
-Death is not the end. Paul’s life is being threatened but Paul knows death is not all there is. There is a resurrection. There is new life.
Paul is speaking about the resurrection. Resurrection to new life. Eternal life.
[Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? (Act 26:8)
We spend hours and hours researching what we buy so that we make a good decision. We want to buy something that lasts. Nothing we buy is eternal. We only have that in Jesus. So when we begin talking about our walk with God, our understanding of who he is, that is when we are having conversations that are eternal. Significant. Church should be a place that fuels and equips you to talk about eternal things. Get past the weather and sports.
Jesus appeared to him brighter than the sun. The sun is the greatest most powerful object in the universe. Jesus is greater. There is power in him that lasts for eternity.
- Obedient Follow Jesus
We have to make a decision. V16 servant and witness.
19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
Can’t follow Jesus and be silent. Can’t follow Jesus and know the power, the truth, and eternality of his promise and not want others to know it. Witnesses. Not spectators. Witnesses.
V27, 28, seeks to persuade.
V29 “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”
If you can keep saying no to God with those who are closest to you, you will never say yes to God with Festus and Agrippa.
Longing for Others to know Jesus. The hinge. The Desire for others to know this. The Desire to Persuade.
We do not gather as a church in hopes that we can have safe lives
Faithful sharing does not alway end well. They all got up and left. No repentance. No deliverance.
Paul wanted one thing, that they might be what he is, have what he had in Christ.
Maybe evangelism isn’t your strong point. Do you care if any of your family or friends heard anything today? Yes they were here but did the word of God enter their ears and go into their heart, or did it just bounce off and fall to the ground. Been ignoring God’s word for so long it just doesn’t even register. Been ignoring spiritual longings for so long it doesnt even phase you.
Influence Others. Are you willing to engage others on a spiritual level.
- How are you doing? How are you really doing?
- Where is God working in your life?
- Do you believe the Scriptures?
- How can I pray for you?
What are you about? What is your goal in life? Do you care if anyone comes to know Jesus. Are you being a spiritual leader or a spiritual sleeper. Just keep your head down and act like nothing is going on.