#6 (THE "COURAGE" SERIES)
"THE COURAGE TO TESTIFY LIKE PAUL"
TEXT: Acts 26:1-31
INTRO: If you have ever been in a courtroom during a trial it soon becomes clear that some of the most important people in the room are the witnesses! A trial is often decided on the basis of the testimonies of the witnesses. It is also very interesting that to be a good witness one does not have to be trained or have to go through a heavy educational processes – in fact, leading or telling a witness what to do can get you into a lot of trouble in a court of law! One just has to testify to what one knows as they have experienced it or witnessed it!
Today we have turned witnessing for Christ into an experience like going to college, we have seminars in how to witness, we hold classes for weeks to train people how to witness, we offer certificates for those who go through weeks and weeks of evangelism explosion and other courses designed to make us effective witnesses. I wonder if we have learned the art of teaching how to witness without actually doing the work of witnessing?
In a court of law the best witnesses are those who simply tell what they know and what they have seen, just as the idea of training a witness can get you into trouble in a real court of law I sometimes think that too much emphasis on training or needed education for witnessing can make people believe that they can’t testify for Christ unless they have had the proper training first! Maybe we need to return to the simple idea that witnessing is something ALL BELIEVERS CAN AND SHOULD DO ... AS SOON AS THEY ARE SAVED!
To put it another way: When does a candle give off light, long after it has burned and learned how give off light properly or when you first light it?
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we need to have the courage to witness for Christ from the first day we are saved, every opportunity in life is an opportunity to witness for Christ and we need to take all these opportunities!
I. PUBLIC WITNESS 26:1-4
A. Opportunity 26:1-2
1. This was a rough period in Paul's life, he had actually been arrested years earlier. (see chapter 22ff leading up to this chapter!)
a. Paul had been transferred from one official to another, trial after trial without being released!
b. At each turn his trial got hung up, first with Felix who let him sit in jail for two years, (See 2:27) then with Festus the successor to Felix, then Festus consults with King Agrippa and asks that the king himself oversee a trial for Paul.
c. At each turn there are weeks, and at times years that go by, with Paul still left in prison!
2. Paul's first concern at each turn of events was “how can I use this as a way to present Christ.”
a. With Felix he shared about Christ.
b. With Festus he shared about Christ.
c. With king Agrippa he does the same, his first concern wasn’t his own freedom but the freedom that comes to men and women who find Jesus Christ!
d. This is where chapter 26 opens up, Paul is about to tell the king about Jesus! He has the courage to testify about Christ!
3. As Americans we are good at supporting missions overseas and having professionals testify for us about Christ to the heathen around the world, but what about those around us – are we relying on professionals to testify to them?
ILLUS: YEARS AGO THE CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO AMERICA SHARED THIS OBSERVATION, "I MET CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES IN CHINA AND BECAME IMPRESSED WITH THEIR RELIGION. WHEN MY COUNTRY SENT ME AS ITS AMBASSADOR TO CHRISTIAN AMERICA I MADE UP MY MIND TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN AND JOIN THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH THAT ASKED ME. I HAVE BEEN HERE 3 YEARS AND NO ONE HAS ASKED ME ... NOW I SHALL NOT COME." WU TING FANG NEVER FOUND CHRIST BECAUSE NO AMERICANS INTRODUCED HIM TO JESUS, ONLY THE MISSIONARIES IN CHINA SPOKE OF CHRIST! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. The real person on trial as far as Paul was concerned was King Agrippa!
a. Paul's effectiveness as a Christian was directly related to the way he used every opportunity to witness about his faith in Christ!
b. Witnessing is not a event, it is a lifestyle!
ILLUS: A CHRISTIAN WAS ASKING A CHRISTIAN LEADER BEFORE AN AUDIENCE A QUESTION HE HOPED WOULD SHOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN TO SOMETHING FOR THE LORD, BUT HE GOT A SHOCKING RESPONSE; HE ASKED THE LEADER, "DON'T YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL CHRISTIANS TO DO SOMETHING FOR THE LORD?" THE MAN'S ANSWER AT FIRST PUT THE WHOLE GROUP OF CHRISTIANS OFF GUARD, THE LEADER RESPONDED, "NO I DON'T THINK THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD DO SOMETHING FOR THE LORD, I BELIEVE THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD DO EVERYTHING FOR THE LORD, NOT JUST SOMETHING FOR THE LORD!" -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Opposition! 26:3-4
1. The reason Paul was witnessing here was because he was faced with opposition!
a. Sharing your faith won't always make you popular!
b. Paul was so active with his faith that he was on trial, I wonder how many Christians today if dragged into court for being a Christian would have much evidence against them, would there even be enough evidence against them to convict them of being a Christian?
2. Paul understood that every situation was an opportunity for sharing Christ; who knows when those opportunities will ever come again!
ILLUS: DWIGHT MOODY WAS DEEPLY SADDENED BY AN EVENT IN HIS LIFE. HE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE MANY PEOPLE TO ACCEPT CHRIST BUT HE CHOSE TO WAIT ONE MORE DAY. HE HAD BEEN PREACHING IN CHICAGO TO A GREAT CROWD OF PEOPLE WHEN HE THUNDERED, "I GIVE YOU ONE DAY TO REPENT OF YOUR SINS." THAT SAME NIGHT THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE BROKE OUT AND SOME OF THE VERY PEOPLE TO WHOM MOODY HAD PREACHED WAS BURNED TO DEATH. SAID MOODY MANY TIMES LATER, "I HAVE ASKED GOD TO FORGIVE ME FOR GIVING THESE PEOPLE ONE DAY TO REPENT I SHOULD HAVE SAID, "NOW! NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME!" -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Opposition can many times be wonderful opportunities for ministry!
4. Paul understood that life is not just a time for the Christian to defend themself, it is a time to present the living God in Christ Jesus to a lost world!
II. PERSONAL WITNESS 26:5-23
A. Opponent 26:5-11
1. What gave Paul the right to be able to tell other people that they needed Christ ... he had lived where they now live, as an enemy of God!
a. This is what gives us all the right to speak to others about their need of Christ, we have all been sinners in need of salvation, and therefore we are not talking about something we haven't experienced!
b. We all have been expert sinners … and so have the right to tell others about God’s grace to save us from our sins!
2. What gives us credibility when we witness is often our own personal story, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” -- we are expert witnesses!
a. Paul doesn't hide his past as a part of his testimony, but he does not glory in all the evil he did before meeting Christ either, he simply shares honestly that past, his listeners know it anyway!
b. Paul's past is a well know reality, he was once one of the most ardent enemies of Christians and the cross of Jesus Christ.
c. He shares his past passion for destroying all Christians, his attempts to get rid of this new faith -- this was very much a part of his previous life!
3. He is building credibility for the reality of Jesus' changing power, those who knew you before you were saved, are they amazed at the transformation of your life now that you are a believer?
4. God has ways of using the most ardent opponents of Christianity to speak about God's power to save!
ILLUS: ONE 19TH CENTURY NATIVE OF HANOVER, GERMANY ATTEMPTED TO SHOW HIS CONTEMPT FOR JESUS CHRIST AND THE TEACHING OF CHRISTIANS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION. HE LIVED HIS LIVE TO OPPOSE CHRISTIANS AND THEIR MESSAGE -- AND EVEN IN DEATH HE HOPED TO GET THE LAST WORD. WHEN HE DIED HE GAVE INSTRUCTIONS THAT GREAT SLABS OF MARBLE BE LAID ACROSS HIS GRAVE, BOUND TOGETHER WITH IRON BANDS AND COVERED WITH A GRANITE BOULDER WEIGHING NEARLY 2 TONS. IT BORE THE INSCRIPTION: "THIS GRAVE IS PURCHASED FOR ETERNITY; IT SHALL NEVER BE OPENED." COULD GOD STILL MAKE THIS AN OPPORTUNITY TO WITNESS FOR THE TRUTH? YES! A POPLAR SEED BEGAN TO SPROUT WITHIN THE TOMB AND PRESS ITS WAY UP TOWARD THE LIGHT, GATHERING STRENGTH THROUGH THE YEARS IT BROKE THE IRON BANDS, MOVED THE BOULDER, AND OPENED UP THE GRAVE! GOD ALWAYS GETS THE LAST WORD! IF A SMALL SEED OF LIFE CAN OPEN A GRAVE, THINK WHAT THE POWER OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION LIFE ONE DAY WILL DO! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Paul shares how Christ changed him, he who hated Christians even more than his present audience does can testify how right those Christians are ... he now too is one of them!
a. There is power in his testimony because it is a personal one!
b. It was not just a message some preacher gave, his life gives evidence to the changing power of Christ!
c. It is not likely that one preacher of a Church is going to win the community; it will be the combined testimonies of changed lives from that community that will win it ... we are all witnesses for Christ, your personal testimony is important!
B. Ordained! 26:12-23
1. Paul now shares the second part of his personal testimony ... the first part was how he was like all of them, but now he shares how he is different … now he shares how God called him to be one of the Christians!
a. In the very midst of fighting against the Lord and His people he had an encounter with God, no doubt the same story many of us could share!
b. It is often the story of many Christians, that when they were fighting the hardest against becoming saved that they finally found Christ!
2. Paul shares how Christ revealed Himself to him, he has a personal encounter with Christ, one that was full of power and purpose!
a. Receiving Christ is a powerful experience, you become “born again,” it IS not just some intellectual pursuit!
b. It a life changing event!
3. Paul finally heard Christ even through his hatred and anger! He found a Messiah that loved him and chose him to do great things, a God who would not hold his past against him but would rather make a great man of God out of him; who could resist this kind of love?
4. How about you? How can you resist the love of Jesus Christ? Don't you know that it doesn't matter how much you have worked against God, or how much evil you have done, that in coming to Christ you are cleansed from all sin and considered clean by God when you accept Christ's forgiveness?
a. Paul (like us!) has been ordained by God to share in His love, to be forgiven and cleansed through Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.
b. Paul (like us!) has been ordained by God to share that love too, to be courageous in testifying!
5. Paul shares that this was the basis of his imprisonment, he was obedient to share the message of salvation, his change was real and the message he spoke was personal and real as well!
III. POWERFUL WITNESS 26:24-31
A. Outraged! 26:24-26
1. Festus jumps in at this point and expresses his outrage at Paul for saying that God loved the Gentiles as well as the Jews, ever mindful of course that he needed the Jewish support to rule!
a. While Festus plays political games and expresses outrage to gain political support, Paul kept on track with his message -- now making it personal toward Festus!
b. Paul also makes it clear that he is speaking to all in the court!
2. The world becomes outraged when we speak what God's Word says ... because it brings conviction on them. The world has always hoped to prove Christ and his Word false, but every attempt has failed!
ILLUS: WHEN JESUS SAID PROPHETICALLY THAT THE TEMPLE ONCE DESTROYED WOULD NOT BE REBUILT UNTIL THE LAST DAYS A ROMAN EMPEROR WANTED TO PROVE THE BIBLE AND JESUS WRONG BY REBUILDING THE TEMPLE. HE MADE 5 ATTEMPTS TO REBUILD THE TEMPLE AND THEREBY PROVE THE PROPHECY WRONG, BUT HE NEVER SUCCEEDED. CONSTANT EARTHQUAKES AND FIRES EACH TIME MADE EACH ATTEMPT FUTILE. MAN'S OPPOSITION TO GOD NEVER WORKS! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Just remember this, saint, when you witness for Christ, no matter what kind of opposition you hit you're on the right side with the right message!
4. Paul certainly couldn't claim any great results from this testimony he gave, but he was courageous enough to give it anyway!
a. Testifying about our faith is our responsibility, it is not about numbers or even the results, it is about our obedience.
b. The results are God's!
c. He will take care of His end of the deal ... IF we take care of our end of the deal!
5. Paul kept his focus on witnessing no matter to whom or on what occasion, it is true he used different methods and styles but he found a way to bring Christ into every opportunity ... DO WE?
B. Observation 26:27-31
1. Paul puts King Agrippa into a corner: "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?" -- And before the King could respond he answered for him -- "I know you do!"
a. Paul observed how each person was responding and adjusted his message to confront each one as they needed!
b. He knew the king would have to say yes to the question about believing the prophets or he would be in deep trouble with the Jewish contingent in the courtroom, and by his saying yes Paul could ask why he then didn't believe too!
c. Paul had him cornered!
2. But King Agrippa did what many people do today, he changed the subject or skirted over the issue.
3. Paul's secret to success is found in verse 22 "But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said..."
a. Paul didn't travel outside the bounds of Scripture for proof of why he believed and neither should we!
b. But he was not ashamed to testify to anyone, in fact he did to everyone!
4. It was Paul's prayer that all of them would become like him -- a Christian, it had cost Paul a great deal and so it was valuable to him.
a. Where there is no cost to being a Christian it is not held as very valuable, nor is there a willingness to sacrifice for it!
b. Those things that cost a great deal tend to be held the dearest to us.
ILLUS: AT AN INTERNATIONAL GATHERING IN NEW YORK, A YOUNG AMERICAN ASKED A CULTURED YOUNG WOMAN FROM BURMA ABOUT THE RELIGION IN HER COUNTRY. SHE SAID THAT MOST OF HER PEOPLE WERE BUDDHISTS. THE YOUNG MAN SAID RATHER CASUALLY, "OH WELL, I DON'T SUPPOSE THAT MATTERS MUCH, ALL RELIGIONS ARE ABOUT THE SAME ANYWAY." SHE LOOKED DIRECTLY AT HIM AND SAID, "IF YOU HAD LIVED IN MY COUNTRY YOU WOULD NOT SAY THAT. I HAVE SEEN WHAT CENTURIES OF SUPERSTITION, FEAR, AND INDIFFERENCE TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS HAVE DONE TO MY PEOPLE. WE NEED THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY. WHEN I BECAME A CHRISTIAN, IT COST ME SOMETHING. I SUFFERED LOSS OF FRIENDS, INCOME, AND SOCIAL STANDING. IF YOUR RELIGION HAD COST YOU MORE IT MIGHT MEAN MORE TOO. MY COUNTRY NEEDS CHRIST!" -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Have we learned the courage to testify like Paul?
CONCLUSION: To the apostle Paul every circumstance in life; good or bad, was an opportunity to testify about God's plan of salvation. Though he used different methods and approaches with different audiences, he always found the courage to testify about Jesus Christ. We need not ask God for an opportunity to testify, every moment is a time to witness, we just need the courage to testify like Paul!