How to Tell Our Christian Story - Part 1
The Book of Acts - Part 84
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 24, 2015
*Please open your Bibles to Acts 25, as we focus on how to give our Christian testimonies. Back in Acts 21, Paul arrived in Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey. The Apostle returned to Jerusalem both to worship the Lord and to deliver a generous love offering that the mission churches had donated for the poor Christians of the city.
*About a week later, Paul was almost killed by a mob of Christ-rejecting Jews. But he was rescued, and then taken into custody by Roman soldiers. Over 40 fanatical Jews then tried to ambush Paul, but he was transferred to the safety of the governor's headquarters in Caesarea.
*By the end of Acts 24, Paul had been in custody for two whole years, even though he was completely innocent of any wrong doing. By that time, Paul had already gone through at least 3 trials, and the only thing he pled guilty to was being a follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (1)
*In tonight's Scripture, Paul was going through the fourth trial for his life. Starting in Acts 25:9, God's Word shows us the end of the third trial. It also sets-up the beginning of Paul's fourth trial:
9. But Festus (He was the new governor.), wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?''
10. Then Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know.
11. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.''
12. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!''
*That was the end of the third trial. Starting in Acts 25:13, we see the circumstances that led to Paul's fourth trial:
13. And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus.
14. When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix,
15. about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him.
16. To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to (die) before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.'
17. Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in.
18. When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed,
19. but had some questions against him about their own religion and about one, Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
20. And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters.
21. But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar.''
22. Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself.'' "Tomorrow,'' he said, "you shall hear him.''
23. So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in.
24. And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer.
25. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him.
26. I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write.
27. For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.''
*With all of this background in mind, let's read part of Paul's testimony from Acts 26:1-11.
*Christians: What if no one had ever shared the gospel with us? Everything would be different! We would have no purpose, no meaning, no spiritual help, no foundation in life. We would be hopeless, lost, and unforgiven forever. This is why God wants us to share our faith. God wants us to tell the story of how we trusted in Jesus! And Paul shows us how.
1. First: We should hunt for opportunities to share.
*We have to be on the look-out for opportunities to share the truth about Jesus Christ. Paul made the most of every opportunity, and that's what the Apostle was doing in vs. 1-2:
1. Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself.'' So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself:
2. "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews."
*Remember that although Paul was completely innocent, he had already been falsely imprisoned for two years. Now, there was only way that Paul could avoid being forced back to Jerusalem to likely be murdered on the way. Paul's only choice was to appeal to Caesar, and he did appeal to Caesar.
*But now what would he do? How would Paul respond here? Would he only focus on his huge legal trouble? No. Paul turned this trial into another opportunity to tell people about Jesus.
*Like the Apostle Paul, we will go through hard times in life, but we can also turn them around for good. Our hard times can give us golden opportunities to share the best thing in our life: our relationship with Jesus Christ.
*Sometimes someone else's hardship opens the door. Christian writer, Mrs. Robbie Castleman once heard a Christian physics professor defend his faith on a university campus. This professor was nominated for the Nobel Prize more than once. He also taught for many years before he trusted in the Lord.
*Robbie asked the professor what first turned him toward the Lord, and he told her that his faith journey began after one of his children had died. The professor noticed that his wife began to have hope and healing that he couldn't find or even understand.
*When the professor asked his wife about it, she told him that she had been going to a Bible study with friends, and that she had become a Christian. The professor was surprised, and open to anything that would help comfort his pain. Their new Christians friends opened their Bibles and their hearts to this professor, and he also trusted in the Lord. (2)
*God wants us to give our Christian testimony, just like those Christian friends, and just like that professor's wife. So be on the hunt for opportunities to share. They are all around us.
2. Church: We also need a happy attitude about sharing the gospel.
*Paul could have lashed out in bitter hatred toward his captors, but he didn't do that at all. Instead, vs. 2 shows us that Paul said, "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews."
*It's almost impossible for us to give our testimony when we've got a bad attitude, so we need to ask God to give us the right attitude. We can always be joyful and thankful for the testimonies that God has given us to share. And we should be thankful for the opportunities God gives us to share. Paul was happy to share, even before that hostile crowd, and we should be happy too.
*But the reality is that all kinds of negative thoughts and feelings can run through our minds when are trying to tell people about Jesus. Researcher George Barna once asked Christians about their witnessing experiences. He found that 9 out of 10 believers who try to explain their beliefs come away feeling like a failure. But in Luke 12:8 Jesus said, "Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God." That doesn't sound like failure to me! (2)
*Often, we are afraid to tell people about Jesus, but God wants to help us give our testimonies. And He surely will help us. In Luke 12, Jesus also said:
11. "When they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.
12. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.''
*God is going to help us tell the stories of our faith, so get a happy attitude about sharing.
3. And be hospitable in every situation.
*In this most stressful situation, Paul was gentle, courteous and even respectful. He stretched out his hand in vs. 1, and John Phillips tells us that could have been a type of salute to show respect to Agrippa's rank. (3)
*Then Paul spoke courteously to the king. Listen to the Apostle again in vs. 2-3:
2. "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,
3. especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently."
*This courteous manner stands out much more, if we understand the background on Agrippa and Bernice. They came from one of the most notorious families in the land. Agrippa was the son of Herod Agrippa, who had killed the Apostle John's brother, James. He also tried to kill Peter. And Bernice was not King Agrippa's wife. She was the king's sister. Bernice had left her husband to live in an incestuous relationship with her brother. (4)
*These people were as corrupt and immoral as they could be, but Paul treated them with courtesy and compassion. Paul knew they were sinners who needed the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ! And Paul knew that they were in the greatest of all dangers: The danger of spending all eternity condemned in hell.
*The lesson for us is to treat everyone with as much kindness and compassion as we possibly can. God wants us to give our Christian testimony, so be hospitable in every situation.
4. And keep living in the hope of God's promise.
*In vs. 4-8, Paul talked about the enduring hope he had in Jesus Christ. There Paul said:
4. "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.
5. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.
7. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.
8. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?"
*In vs. 6-7, the Apostle Paul talked about the hope that we have as Christians. But what kind of hope is it? Pastor James Chandler helps us understand with a story from his early childhood.
*One Thanksgiving, James was asked to say the family-prayer at the big meal. And in that prayer, he said, "Dear God, I sure hope the Oakland Raiders make it to the Super Bowl!"
*James remembers that prayer, because he found out real fast it "wasn't appropriate." He also said, "As I grew, I also learned that real hope is not the kind of hope I mentioned in my prayer. Godly hope is not a wish, but confidence in a certainty." (5)
*I like that definition. "Real hope is confidence in a certainty." Real hope, godly hope, Bible hope, is joyful confidence in something that's certain. That is the kind of hope Paul was talking about in vs. 6-7: Confidence in the certainty of all we have in Jesus Christ. He was talking about our hope of Heaven, our hope of the resurrection, our hope of perfection, the hope of all that we have in Jesus Christ.
*And Paul would never, could never abandon his hope in Jesus Christ! He had found real hope and he knew it. Dale Evans was a famous TV and movie star when I was a kid. Her husband Roy Rogers was "King of the Cowboys," and Dale was "Queen of the West." They were both devoted Christians, who went through many triumphs and trials in life.
*Dale gave this short testimony about the hope she found in Jesus: "I spent most of my life searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Then I finally found it at the foot of the cross." The greatest treasure we can ever receive is the hope that comes through our crucified and risen Savior! (6)
*God wants to give you this kind of hope! And the hope we have in Jesus will carry us through the hardest times in life. Hebrews 6:19 tells us that "this hope we have as an anchor of the soul." It will see us through the worst storms in life.
*Lori Trice certainly found this to be true. Hope in Jesus anchored Lori through some of the worst possible circumstances. From the outside, Lori's childhood home looked perfect. Her parents were active in the community. Everyone liked them. Friends and neighbors never guessed the hatred and violence that poisoned the marriage of Lori's parents.
*When Lori was 12, her father killed her mother and her mother's best friend; then he shot himself. Lori and her younger sister witnessed the murders. They had to step over the dead bodies to reach the rescue workers.
*Lori said that she never would have recovered if it weren't for her faith in Jesus. When Lori was 8 years old, her babysitter sent her to Vacation Bible School. That was the first time Lori had ever heard about God's love for her. She gave her life to Jesus that summer.
*She testified that the Lord's presence, protection, and peace helped her to cope with her family's tragedy. Today, Lori is happily married and the mother of 3 children. (7)
*That's what hope can do! Make sure you have it. Then pass it on with a great testimony of the enduring hope we have in Jesus Christ. Also know that God will give us more testimonies, as we keep living in His hope.
5. But Christians: We also need to be honest about who we are.
*Paul was honest in vs. 9-11, where he said.
9. "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
11. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
*Christians: We are all sinners saved by grace! And we need to admit that. We don't have to go into all the gory details. But many unchurched people in America think church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. And we need to let them know that that church is not a museum for super saints. It's a hospital for sinners. As D.T. Niles once said, "Evangelism is like one beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread." (8)
*We're not here in church because we are better than other people, even though we ought to be better than other people. Christians ought to be the best people in town! But we are not here because we are better than other people. We are here because we have found the Bread of Life, and God wants us to share it!
*Let's ask the Lord to help us as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Paul's Trials:
1 - Before the Jewish High Council or Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10)
2 - Before Roman Governor Felix (Acts 24:1-22)
3 - Two years later, before Roman Governor Festus (Acts 25:6-12)
4 - Before Festus, King Agrippa & Bernice (Acts 25:23-26:32)
(2) Online sermon "What's Your Reason?" by David Holwick - 1 Peter 3:13-16 - 08/24/1997
(3) EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "How the court was conducted" - Acts 26:1-29
(4) JOHN GILL'S EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE by Dr. John Gill, 1690-1771 - Acts 25:13
(5) Sermon Central illustration contributed by James Chandler
(6) SermonCentral sermon "Easter - What a Difference!" by Melvin Newland - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
(7) "Lori Trice, The Day I Met God," compiled and edited by Jim & Karen Covell and Victorya Michaels Rogers - Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2001 - pp. 139-144 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Something to Brag About" by King Duncan - Galatians 6:1-10 - 07/04/2004
(8) Online sermon "What's Your Reason?" by David Holwick - 1 Peter 3:13-16 - 08/24/1997