Summary: God wants to use your story to give someone else’s story a happy ending.
Telling Your Story
Text: Acts 26:1ff
1. Illustration: In his book, Just Walk Across The Room, Bill Hybels says, "Our affinity for stories begins at an early age, as little kids begging weary parents, "read it again, read it again.!" As we become mature, contributing members of society, our childlike fascination with the powerful hero or the magical fairy morph's into a simple desire to enter into someone else's reality in hope of making sense of our own...Every person alive today has a story too. And possibly the greatest realization a person can make is this: "My story fits into God's greater story - and that's the greatest story ever told."
2. How about you? Does your story fit into the greatest story ever told? The answer to that question ought to be a resounding, "yes!" Your story fits into God's story because you fit into God's story, and God can use your story to make a difference in someone else's life.
3. Paul shows us how to tell our story. He shows us to start with...
A. Your Past
B. Your Personal Encounter
C. Your Challenge
4. Let's stand together as we read from Acts 26:1-32
Proposition: God wants to use your story to give someone else’s story a happy ending.
Transition: The place to start is by telling people about...
I. Your Past (1-11).
A. I Used To Believe
1. Like all of us, Paul had a story to tell. He starts out by saying he wasn't always the way he appears to be now. In other words, he was a man with a past.
2. Our chapter begins with "Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.” So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: 2 “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, 3 for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!"
A. This is Paul's final hearing in Acts, and the third account of his conversion, giving new details.
B. With Agrippa's permission to speak for himself, Paul "gesturing with his hand" in the manner of a Roman orator) and proceeded to make his defense.
C. He counted himself fortunate to appear before Agrippa because he was "well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies."
D. (Being a Jew by religion, Agrippa could be expected to have a concern about these things.) Therefore Paul begged him to "listen... patiently" (Horton, 385).
3. Now Paul talks about his background. He says, “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5 If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion."
A. Paul pointed out first that all the Jews had known him "for a long time," his manner of life in Tarsus as a child as well as in Jerusalem as an adult.
B. They knew he "lived as a Pharisee," publicly following the teachings of this strictest of Jewish sects (Horton, 385).
C. He affirms that his background as a strict Pharisee places him in continuity with his Jewish religious roots.
D. Within his nation, particularly in Jerusalem, he has consistently lived out the Old Testament and Jewish ideal of piety ever since I was a child (Larkin, 355).
4. Next Paul affirms what, in his mind, is the reason he is on trial. He states, "Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. 7 In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope!
8 Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?"
A. Now Paul stood there being judged "because of [the] hope in what God... promised" the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and possibly other ancestors of Israel).
B. This promise, Paul said, "our twelve tribes" in earnestness served (worshiped) God day and night "hoping to see fulfilled" (to reach as their God-given destination).
C. The Jews' accusation against Paul concerned this hope. Why would the king judge it incredible if "God raises the dead?"
D. Paul thus declares that Christ's resurrection and ours is the fulfillment of prophecy and is central to our worldview and to our view of life after death (Horton, 386).
5. Now Paul begins to talk about the darkness of his past. He says, “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities."