Friday, 24 August 2012

Acts 25:1-12. Persecution

25 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”

6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Once again, a few lessons I've thought of and picked up through this passage.

We will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
'In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted'. That verse says it - of we follow Jesus, we will be persecuted. By following Jesus, I mean obeying him, trusting him and doing what e says in his word, not because these things save us, but because through Jesus we are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Obviously Paul ha been obeying Christ, and as a result he is chucked in prison for over two years (see chapter 24), and then carted around and tried by a number of differed people, with the Jews lying about him and accusing him falsely. Again I say, if we are Christians, we will be persecuted. But we have a wonderful promise from Jesus in Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Secondly, we have Paul saying...
“I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” Can we see that? We all sin, and it is only through Jesus that we can be justified and forgiven and adopted as Gods children instead of being eternally condemned to hell, but when we are persecuted can we honestly say that we are innocent? Because that's what we need to be aiming for.

To end, here's a few verses from 1 Peter 2:
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Acts 23:12-22. The plot to kill Paul.

12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

So there's obviously a few thing which can be drawn from this passage, many of them have been mentioned before, but it's never a bad thing to be reminded of biblical truths - no matter how often it is!

First up, we see the complete hypocrisy of the Jews and deceitfulness of sin. The jews are planning to murder Paul, yet they try to cover up their consciences by making an oath to God about it! Satan is extremely crafty and decietful, and without knowledge of the bible, it is easy to fall into his traps and into sin without even realizing it. Make sure you know and read the bible!! It is our only weapon against Satan, and one of our best defenses - even Jesus uses it! There's no better example to follow! We have these men going to the spiritual authorities with their plan and developing it further with them. While it is good to approach leaders with issues, we need to approach godly leaders and seek godly advice, and ultimately our choices need to come directly from Gods word, because een the 'best' people get it wrong: all have sinned and fall Short of the glory of God.

Secondly we clearly see God working in this. In verse 11 God tells Paul that he will also share the gospel in Rome, and here God brings that about. He provides a boy to overhear the plot and tell Paul, so he gets transferred away, and eventually reaches Rome. God not only works his will, but he protects and provides for his people. We are his slaves and his children. We need to submit to him totally in all things, but we can trust him that he Loves us and that his will is for our good as well as his glory. That doesn't mean life will be great, but it means that we have full assurance of forgiveness and eternal salvation, so no matter how bad life gets, there are better things to look forward to, and God is trustworthy.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Acts 21:27-36 Fear of man

Previous to this passage, Paul has just finished his last missionary journey and has returned to Jerusalem. While there he is informed that there have been rumors about him, that he is telling the Gentiles to forsake the old testament law. As a result he agrees to go through some purification with some other men, to show that he has not abandoned the Old Testament (note, I'm still trying to work out if Paul was sinning by doing this: Jesus cleanses us, we don't need purification any more, but anyway...back to the story...). As a result...

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

Ok, so three lessons from this passage, but first up, some views on whether Paul was right or wrong in involving himself in Old Testament purification rituals.
Either Paul is sinning because he is fearing man, or else he is doing it for a good reason. Two thoughts for If he is sinning: the elders also sin, by commanding him to do it. This isn't impossible (they are sinful humans also), and it seems in uncharacteristic of Paul to fear man and disobey God because of it. He may have done this to prevent trouble and to stop the Jews from stumbling, or there may have been another reason behind it.

I think in this passage there is a good reminder that we need to be careful to be just and thoughtful in what we do. We see Paul beaten by a number of Jews, most of which don't Even know why they are beating him. We need to be careful not to judge people without evidence, and we must not be led by the crowd, but fear God and obey him. There is no excuse to disobey him, and we must be careful not to simply follow the crowd, but to think clearly for ourselves.

Secondly, we see that the Jews assume that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing a gentile there, while they had no proof. We need to be careful not to assume someone has sinned, and not to falsely accuse someone. Seek truth and don't act before thinking!! Because of this assumption, these people who claim to follow God end up almost killing one of Gods people.

Thirdly, we have the commander, who hears about it and acts just in time. It's undeniable that God is in control, and we see yet again that he preserves his people, he has a plan for us and accomplishes it. He doesn't leave of forsake us (Hebrews 13), and we can trust him completely. I'm not saying God will save us all the time, but I am saying that he will always do his will, and that will be for his glory and the growth/good of his people (Romans 8:28). He can save, but his plan is perfect, good and pleasing and no matter the situation we should and must trust him. He is always faithful and will either save his people from death or through it.

God bless!!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Acts 19:13-22. No cost is too great.

Image Source
This passage covers a number of events which occurred while Paul was in Ephesus. We see 7 Jewish men overpowered by a d
emon, and we see how God uses this to glorify himself by causing the people to fear him and turn from sin.

First up, verses 13-16
 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognise  but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
So when I read this I had no idea what to make of it, but after doing some research I think I might have a few answers. These Jews were not Christians, it seems they were just men who were casting out demons, and thu see Paul's power and try to duplicate it. So they use Jesus name, trying to cast out demons by it. Problem is there is no true faith there. We cannot fake a relationship with God, hypocrisy will not save us. Only genuine faith in God can save - otherwise it is worthless. True faith in God bears fruit, as we will see next.

Verses 18-20 give us a clear example of what true faith results in.
 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.  In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
We have people who are believers and they confess their sins and change there lives. That's what true faith is: trusting God an putting him first in life - giving up sin and fighting satan instead of living as slaves to sin. These actions are a direct result of the fear produced by the failed attempt of the Jews to exorcise the demon, and so we see that God works everything for his glory and the good of his people like he promises in Romans 8:28.

The money which these scrolls was worth is equivalent to 50 000 days wages. That's a lot of money. How much are we committed to God? Being a Christian will cost us. It will result in loss of friends, persecution and perhaps even loss of money. But look at it from the eternal perspective - money, friends, work, earthly things are meaningless and vain without God, and eternal life is certainly worth it.

What do you give up for God? Do you read the bible? Do you challenge people with the gospel? What are you prepared to give to a God who has done so much for us?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Acts 18:9-11. Giving all to God.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

Hey guys, sorry for not posting in awhile again, been a crazy few weeks, with an epic snow trip with guys from church, a potential disaster which by Gods grace didn't occur and a concert for school, but a week in which God has challenged me to put him first and persevere and be humble.

Anyway, to the passage, I just had a few thoughts on this

1. God is on control. He promises great things and can keep them. We shouldn't only serve him when he promises protection and good thins, but at all times, even when things are going badly. Paul has suffered in almost every city he has been in, and now God grants him some rest. We need to persevere and trust God at all times. He will keep his promises. Ultimately we know we will have eternal life and safety in heaven with Christ thanks to his death in our place.

2. I found it a great challenge to see that Paul stayed in the city for a year and a half. That's a long time and it made me think - we owe God everything and as Christians we need to be ready to give up anything to him. While he may not be calling you to those 'big' things now, we still have responsibilities - christianity is a lifestyle and is a constant effort, so how do you life? Do you read the bible daily? Do you pray? Do you tell people the gospel? Do you go to church? Do you seek deep and godly conversations with Christian friends? Are you ready to listen and learn? Do you work for his glory alone - or for yourself? Do you fight sin in your life and repent when you fail?
I know I fail at this daily, but that's no excuse. We have been created by God, he sustains us - keeps us alive, and as Christians he gave his son so we can live! We owe him EVERYTHING!