God's Crucial Help for Christians
The Book of Acts - Part 86
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - June 7, 2015
*If anybody ever needed help, it was Paul in Acts 26. After he got to Jerusalem, Paul was almost murdered three times. He had also been held as a prisoner for at least two years.
*Now in this Scripture, Paul was in the middle of the fourth trial, in which he faced the death penalty. But God helped the Apostle Paul, and God will surely help us too. This part of Paul's story shows us four ways that the Lord will help us.
1. First: God will help us walk in good works.
*Paul tried his absolute best to obey God's will for his life. And his testimony in tonight's Scripture urges us to live the same way. In vs. 19-20 Paul said:
19. "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
20. but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance."
*In vs. 20, Paul tells us three things that we should do, and the first is repent or turn away from sin. Here Paul echoed the teaching of both John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 3:1-2 tells us that:
1. In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2. and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!''
*Then in Matthew 4:17, Jesus began to preach, and the first word He said was "Repent!" "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
*In Revelation 2-3, the Lord later spoke to the seven churches of Asia, and Jesus had to tell five of those churches to repent. Five out of seven! For example in Revelation 2:1-5, Jesus said:
1. "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
2. I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3. and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
4. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent."
*Everyone should repent or turn away from sin. At the same time, we should turn to God confessing our sins, and trusting in His mercy. We should also start to do the things God wants us to do. As Paul said in vs. 20, we should "do works befitting repentance."
*Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:8-10:
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
*Start walking in good works, but what are these good works? Well, they certainly include all of our faithful, love-inspired service for the Lord in church: Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, serving on committees, serving as a deacon, serving in the nursery, singing in the choir, Orange, Upward, Youth, Children's Church and more.
*This Wednesday, our good works include special prayers for VBS. But our good work for the Lord is not just church work. Our good works go beyond the church to reveal the love and goodness of God where we live, work and play.
*God will help us walk in good works for Him. He spoke to Paul through a heavenly vision. Now God speaks to us through His Word, through the still, small voice of His Holy Spirit, and through inspirational examples like Paul and the many other Christians who shine for Jesus Christ.
*God also speaks to us through a troubled conscience. Focus on the Family told about a 6-year-old boy who was asked to define "conscience." He said he wasn't quite sure what it was, but he thought it had something to do with feeling bad when you kick girls. (1)
*Well, I know you haven't been kicking any little girls. But all of us know the sting of a guilty conscience, because all of us fall short. And God uses these things to steer us in the right direction. As Philippians 2:13 tells us, "God is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." God will help us walk in good works.
2. He will also help us make it through our trials.
*Paul went through more trials than we can imagine. Paul went through more trials than most people will ever go through. We see just one example in vs. 21, where Paul said, "For these reasons (i.e. because I have been obedient to the Lord and because I tried to share the good news) the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me."
*The only way Paul made it through those trials was with the help of Almighty God. And, yes, we will go through crises in our lives, but God will carry us through our crises. That's why in Isaiah 46:3-4, the Lord says:
3. "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb:
4. even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
*This Scripture is spiritually and literally true for all of God's people, but I know a lady for whom it is also physically true. Her name is Mattie Mercer. Mary and I have known Mattie and Sonny for 23 years now. He was the Chairman of the Deacons when we were at Emmanuel Baptist Church up in West Monroe. She was an adult Sunday School Teacher and Church Treasurer for many years.
*In May of 1969, Mattie was heading home from work, when she heard the news about a terrible construction accident at the I-20 Bridge over the Mississippi River. Mattie started praying for the family of the man who had been killed and for the man who had been critically injured, not knowing that that man was her own husband, Sonny.
*To build the massive supports for that bridge at Vicksburg, they built huge forms out in the river to fill with concrete. The forms were anchored by long cables fastened to giant concrete blocks on the river bank. On that day, Sonny and the other man were standing on the river bank, when one of the forms in the river shifted. The cable whipped and the man in front of Sonny was instantly killed.
*Sonny was hit right above the knees and thrown 15 feet. Both of his legs were cut off. Sometime after Mattie got to the hospital, she was alone in a room next to Sonny's. He was not supposed to live. Naturally she was devastated. But as Mattie prayed, she felt something move her across the room and sit her down in a chair. Then she heard these words, not in her ears, but in her mind: "Sonny is going to live. You and your children are going to be okay."
*Mattie has no doubt that God used an angel to move her over to that chair and give her the comfort she needed. It wasn't the end of their crisis. It was just the beginning. But God carried them through.
*Sonny spent the next year in the hospital, mostly up in Boston. And about two years later, he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Two deacons carried Sonny down into the water to be baptized. And God carried them through. God will help us make it through our trials.
3. He will also help us take a stand for our Savior.
*Paul always took a strong stand for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please listen again to his testimony in vs. 22-23. Paul said:
22. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come
23. that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.''
*Paul was willing to witness to everyone, everywhere. Everyday people or big shots, it didn't matter to Paul. We have to ask the Lord for the courage to take a stand. And it will take courage.
*The Lord was surely with Paul that day, but the Apostle seemed to be standing alone. And sometimes it will seem like we are standing alone. All through the Bible we find people who were willing to stand alone for the Lord.
*A wise man once explained it this way: "Noah built the ark and voyaged alone with his family. His neighbors laughed at his strangeness and perished in style. Daniel dined and prayed alone. Elijah sacrificed and witnessed alone. Jeremiah prophesied and wept alone. Jesus loved and died alone."
*Jeff Strite reminds us that "belonging to Christ sometimes requires us to go against the grain. It sometimes requires us to stand up for God's truth, even when others tell us to sit down and shut up." (2)
*At graduation time in 2006, Brittany McComb was the valedictorian at Foothill High School in Henderson, Nevada. Brittany graduated with a 4.7 GPA, earning the right to address the other graduates. So, she wrote her speech, and then gave a copy to the school administrators.
*Because Brittany is a Christian, her speech contained some Biblical references, and mentioned the name of Christ. The school administrators censored some of the Biblical references. They also censored the single reference to Christ. Then the school officials handed the speech over to the ACLU for approval and more censoring. After getting the okay from the ACLU, Brittany's speech (minus the censored references to the Bible and Christ) was approved. Brittany was warned that if she deviated from the ACLU approved language, her mike would be cut off.
*Then came the moment for the big decision. Brittany would not back down. She decided to go with her original version. She stepped to the mike and began her speech. But just before she could utter the name "Christ," her mike went dead. School officials silenced her. The crowd of 400 booed for several minutes, angry at the action of the school officials. Brittany McComb had the courage to stand up for Jesus, even when she had to stand against the administrators of her school. (3)
*We all need that kind of courage to take a stand for our Savior. And we should be willing to witness, because we have so much to say! We know that Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross for us. We know that Jesus rose again from the dead. We know that God has been infinitely merciful to us.
*God has been so good to us! And we are saved! We're saved! And God wants many more people to be saved, so He will help us take a stand for our Savior.
4 God will also help us to love the unlovely.
*In vs. 24-26, we see Paul loving the unlovely:
24. Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!''
25. But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.
26. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner."
*"Paul: You are a raving lunatic!" That's what Festus said. But Paul didn't respond in anger or frustration. He used great courtesy and respect. In vs. 25, Paul addressed the governor by simply saying, "I am not mad, most noble Festus."
*John Phillips summed it up very well when he said, "The sanest man in that assembly that day was the man Festus said was crazy. The only man in that room who took into account all the factors in life's equation was the Apostle Paul. The only man there who had a true view and a proper perspective of time and eternity was Paul. The others, the majority, looked at life from the narrow viewpoint of self-interest, from the standpoint of power, prosperity, popularity or prestige. This world and its interests dominated their horizons. Only Paul looked at life from the standpoint of eternity.
*Of all those there, only Paul had met Jesus. Only Paul knew Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, and was made conformable unto His death. Paul was the only man there in touch with both worlds: This world and the world to come. Only Paul knew what it was, not only to be born, but to be born again." (4)
*That's why Paul could love the unlovely. -- And we can do the same, because God has done the same for us. Jesus Christ loved the unlovely when He died on the cross for our sins.
*Max Lucado explained just how much Jesus loves us, when he said: "Christ exchanged hearts with us. Yes, our thieving, lying, adulterous, and murderous hearts. He placed our sin in Himself and invited God to punish it. 'The Lord has put on Him the punishment for all the evil we have done' (Isa. 53:6 NCV). Jesus never lied, but He suffered God's punishment for a liar. Why? So you and I won’t have to.
*A Chinese Christian understood this point. Before her baptism, a pastor asked a question to ensure she understood the meaning of the cross. 'Did Jesus have any sin?' he inquired. 'Yes,' she replied. Troubled, he repeated the question. 'He had sin,' she answered positively. The leader set out to correct her, but she insisted, 'He had mine.'
*Though healthy, Jesus took our spiritual disease upon Himself. Though diseased, we who accept His offer are pronounced healthy. More than pardoned, we are declared innocent. We enter heaven, not with healed hearts, but with His heart. It is as if we have never sinned.
*As the Apostle Paul said, 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!' (2 Corinthians 5:17). And 'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God' (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our holy God, who must punish sin, did so. He placed our sin on His Son. He placed His Son on the cross and punished it there." (5)
*That's how much God loves the unlovely! What help! There should be no doubt then as we go through life: God will surely help us.
*Let's praise Him and thank Him as we go back to the Lord in prayer.
(1) Focus on the Family Bulletin, Aug. 1993 - Source: "McHenry's Quips, Quotes, and Other Notes" by Raymond McHenry - Published by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. - p. 54
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "The Courage of Our Convictions" by Jeff Strite - Matthew 14:1-13
SermonCentral sermon "The Courage of Our Convictions" by Jeff Strite - Matthew 14:1-13
(4) EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Paul's Courtesy" - Acts 26:24-26
(5) Adapted from online sermon HE GAVE - 3:16 Sermon #3 by Max Lucado - My Source: Outreach.com - Original Source: THE 3:16 PROMISE by Max Lucado - Thomas Nelson - Copyright 2007