Sunday, April 26, 2015, 3:00 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Teach Them.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 23-26 (Selected vv. NASB). Trials and Tribulations Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and was placed in the barracks for protection from the angry mobs (Chap. 22). The next day he appeared before the Sanhedrin. That meeting ended in a violent dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the subject of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus then made an appearance to Paul the next night and told him to take courage, because just as he had testified about Jesus in Jerusalem, he would do also in Rome. The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and plotted how they might ambush and kill Paul. Paul’s nephew overheard the plot, so he told Paul, who then told one of the centurions, who then told the commander. So, the commander arranged for Paul to be taken in the night to Caesarea where he would appear before Governor Felix (Chap. 23). Five days later, Paul appeared before Felix on false charges, which were presented by Ananias, the high priest, and some of the Jewish elders and a lawyer. Paul was charged with being a troublemaker who stirred up riots and who desecrated the temple. Paul defended himself against these charges, asserting that his accusers could not support the charges they made against him. Felix adjourned the proceedings after he heard Paul’s defense. Paul was then kept under guard but was allowed some freedom and visitors. Felix sent for Paul frequently, hoping Paul would offer him a bribe, but Paul, I believe, continued to speak to him about faith in Jesus Christ and about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. This went on for two years and then Felix was succeeded by Festus (Chap. 24). Now the charges against Paul were brought before Festus in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders requested to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem because, once again, they were preparing an ambush to kill him. Nearly two weeks went by. Festus was now back in Caesarea where he called Paul before him. The Jews once again brought charges against Paul which they could not prove. Paul defended himself once again against these false accusations. Then Festus asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial. Paul certainly must have known what that would mean for him, so he refused, and then he appealed to Caesar. So Festus declared he would go to Caesar (Chap. 25). Perhaps you can identify with Paul, at least to some degree. Jesus said that, as his followers, we would face the same kind of treatment as he had faced. He said we would be hated and persecuted, and that some of us would be put to death for our faith in Jesus, and for our testimonies for him. The scriptures warn us of prisons, hardships, persecutions, beatings, false accusations, mistreatment, rejection, and abandonment, etc. – all because we follow Jesus Christ with our lives and we give testimony to what he did for us in dying for our sins, and because we hold to the teachings of Christ and of the apostles and we teach that we must die with Christ to sin and that we must be reborn of the Spirit of God. Jesus told his brothers that the world hated him because he told them the truth about their wickedness. And, when we speak the truth, even in love, we, too, will be hated. Get Up and Stand A few days later King Agrippa and his wife Bernice arrived in Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. The king said he would like to hear Paul himself. So, the next day Paul appeared before King Agrippa, Festus and others. Festus told the king that he had found that Paul had done nothing deserving of death, but since Paul had appealed to Caesar, Festus had decided to send Paul to Rome. So, now Festus was looking for the king’s input on Paul’s case, hoping he would give him some insight into what he should write to the Emperor concerning Paul (Chap. 25). King Agrippa then gave Paul permission to speak for himself. So, he began his defense. Once again Paul shared his testimony concerning his past life as a Pharisee and as a persecutor of Christians, but how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, which is where he had intended to arrest and persecute even more followers of Jesus Christ (Chap. 26). “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” ~ Ac. 26:12-23 The assignment that Paul was given to do by the Lord is really not that much different than what we have all been assigned to do, for Jesus’ instruction to Paul was essentially that he preach (share/teach) the gospel message of salvation. Because of what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins, and in putting our sin to death, and in being raised from the dead triumphant over sin and death, we are able to receive this great gift of salvation by faith, which is also a gift from God. This faith involves us dying with Christ to our old lives of living for sin and self, us being transformed (reborn) of the Spirit of God, and us now living and walking in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, not in our own strength, but in the power and the working of the Spirit within us as we cooperate fully with God’s work of grace in our lives. When Jesus was about to leave this earth he instructed his followers to go and to make disciples (of Christ) of all peoples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all things that Christ had commanded them. He also told them that when the Holy Spirit came upon them that they would be his witnesses throughout the earth. When Jesus walked the face of this earth he also told his followers that they were the light and salt of the earth, and that they were not to hide their lights, but were to let them shine before mankind. We now receive the Holy Spirit when we receive God’s gift of salvation into our lives by faith in Jesus Christ and in what he did for us in dying for our sins. So, we, as followers of Christ, are also called to share the gospel of salvation and to make disciples (of Christ) of people throughout the earth by teaching them to obey Christ’s commands (instructions) to us. When we share the gospel and when we teach believers the instructions of Christ, which include the teachings of Christ’s apostles, we are opening blinded eyes to the truth, and we are, if we are teaching the true gospel message, turning them from darkness (sin) to light (God’s righteousness and holiness). And, we are turning them away from the power of Satan over their lives, where he had held them in bondage to sin, and we are leading them to God/Christ in pointing the way to salvation (freedom) and to living and walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We do so in order that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (purified) by faith in Jesus Christ. If we are not leading anyone to turn from sin, and if we are not leading them to walk in obedience to Christ, in his righteousness and holiness, in the power of the Spirit, then we are not leading them to being forgiven of their sin and to being purified by true faith in Christ Jesus. In response to Jesus’ call on Paul’s life, he preached that Jew and Gentile alike must repent of (turn from) sin and turn to God, to follow him in truth and in obedience to his teachings (instructions), and to prove their repentance by their deeds. It is not enough to just pray a prayer to receive Christ if it is not accompanied by genuine repentance and by following Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. Genuine faith in Jesus Christ is shown by what we do. If we believe Jesus died to free us from slavery to sin, and yet we continue in willful sin against God, then how is that faith? If we say we love God, or if we say we know God and that we are in fellowship with him, but we continue in sinful lifestyles and we do not follow him in obedience, then we are liars. The grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled and upright lives while we wait for Christ’s return. This is what we must teach. (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Jn. 10:27-30; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1-5). Teach Them / An Original Work / May 24, 2012 Based off various scriptures Open up the blinded eyes of Those who walk in sin’s darkness. Turn them to the light of Christ And to His righteousness. Turn them from the pow’r of Satan. Turn them to the peace of Christ, So they may receive forgiveness And eternal life. Teach them to put off their old selves And their former way of life, And to put on their new self, Reborn to be like Christ; To not copy worldly customs; Be transformed in life and mind; Obey freely His word in them, Pleasing unto God. Teach them how to love their neighbors Truly as they love themselves; Be a witness; share the gospel; Satan’s lies dispel; Comfort all who mourn in sadness; Share Christ’s love and joy today. Do this through your life and witness For your Lord always.