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Personal Holiness

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Personal Holiness

Acts 23:12-24:27           January 14, 2001


Scripture Reading:


          Have you ever wondered whether your life could really make any difference among the people you live with, work with, even go to church with?

          Does the fact of your life really count for anything?

          Does it have any lasting value here on earth? Can it have?

          Now it seems that some people just never get around to asking that type of question.

          They seem to go through life oblivious to any real purpose.

          They just take what comes and do what they do.

          Life is what it is and why should they care?

          Perhaps they get some occasional stirrings – but they quickly evaporate in the course of events.

          It takes effort to think about such things.

          Perhaps you care but don't think you could ever escape the mold you're in – just can't do anything about your background or circumstances or heritage.

          Maybe you feel that even if you could muster up some sort of purpose for your life it wouldn't matter anyway.

          Things are the way they are, will always be that way, and no one can change anything very long.

          So whether you attitude is "don't care" or "can't change" or "doesn't matter", life just doesn't have any real lasting meaning.

          Generations come and go and all is as it was before.

          Or is it?

          I know someone who changed the world forever.

          His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

          His story is the biggest seller of all time and all ages.

          His birth established the very calculation of time and events on a world scale.

          His claims have become the dividing line for all the peoples of the earth.

          And his truth about God has given the only real hope the world has ever seen.

          O.K., O.K., so you'll admit that one.

          But he wasn't normal you say?

          He was an exception. He was the holy Son of God.

          But consider this, that all who believe in him can do the things he did and even greater.

          He told us so.

John 14:12  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

          But how can that be? He was holy and pure and righteous and we're not.

          How can we do what he did?

          Ah, there's the rub.

          We can do what he did because through faith in him we also have his holiness.

Luke 12:31-32  But seek his kingdom (and his righteousness), and these things will be given to you as well. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

          Paul believed, and through the Holy Spirit wrote most of the New Testament.

          Now Paul wasn't always holy. It was only after Christ appeared to him that Paul was able to change and become like him.

He got the faith and applied it and in the same manner of Christ continued to change the world for him, carrying on his work.

          And you can too. You can have the same holiness of Christ that Paul did to make a difference.

          This is what we will learn from our passage today in Acts 23:11-24:27, found on page 1735 of your pew Bible.

Big Question:

          What can we learn about the benefits of personal holiness from the life of Paul?

The first thing we can note from the context of today's passage, is that the benefits of personal holiness may not become immediately apparent until our personal holiness is called into question.

We left Paul as he was taken back into custody by the Roman military temple guard to save him from renewed violence by the Jews as he appeared before the Sanhedrin in order for the Roman commander to find out more about their charges against him.

Recall that that riot was caused by his statement first of all that he had fulfilled his duty to God in all good conscience to this day.

In other words, Paul was saying that he was holy.

The chief priest then ordered that he be struck on the mouth, presumably because he thought he was lying, after which Paul cut the whole thing short when he made the statement that he was really on trial for his hope in the resurrection of the dead.

After that, the riot broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees who differed theologically on that point.

And so Paul was whisked away once again by the soldiers to save him from being torn apart by the violence.

And, as happened at strategic times before when Paul was under attack, the Lord appeared to him and encouraged him to have courage since he must also testify in Rome about the same things he had just testified about in Jerusalem.

We learned last week that when we have a proper view of ourselves in Christ, a proper view of our adversary, a proper view of truth, and a proper view of God, that we can have the courage to continue on in spite of rejection.

          And now today we will discover the benefits of personal holiness from the life of Paul as we look at the next three scenes after it was initially called into question – and indeed continues to be called into question.

The key verse of this passage is Acts 24:16 which you would do well to commit to memory.

In that verse Paul says, "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Paul always strove to keep his life holy in Christ.

We also will be challenged to consider the state of our own personal holiness and its benefit to us when it may be called into question.

And if you claim to be a follower of Christ, it will be called into question.

You cannot effectively claim his holiness without having at least some of it shine through.

If his holiness is not obvious in us, then we obviously are not in him.

And for Christ's purpose, the benefits of personal holiness are obvious.

We shall discover three of them today.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 23:12-35)

          B.      Implication

          Our personal holiness in Christ gives us powerful protection through our faith in him.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

I wonder what happened to these men who took the vow? Did they keep it and die from starvation since they weren't able to murder Paul?

These vows actually didn't mean much since the rabbis allowed four types of vows to be broken: "vows of incitement, vows of exaggeration, vows made in error, and vows that cannot be fulfilled by reason of constraint" – exclusions allowing for almost any kind of contingency.

Did they wonder what would have happened to them by the hands of the Roman soldiers if they did attempt to carry out their plan?

Paul is actually vindicated by the action of the Jews to take the law into their own hands since they were the ones who planned on breaking the law of both God and man.

It also proves he was effective enough to kill as an important person for the cause of Christ whom they thought was a threat to Judaism.

He is now taken into protective custody. Later he will be extradited.

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 24:1-23)

          B.      Implication

          Our personal holiness in Christ allows us to have a powerful testimony about our faith in him.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (24:24-27)

          B.      Implication

          Our personal holiness in Christ enables us to have powerful witness to others about their need for faith in him.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

          Why the rich and powerful find it hard to enter the KOG:

1.       Felix showed an interest in the gospel by sending for Paul. Such people often have a cordial interest in what religious leaders say but are not willing to repent. We must be careful of proclaiming the assurance of salvation to powerful people to quickly.

2.       Paul brought up the subjects of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come with Felix so that he became afraid. One of the ways to present the gospel to such people is to confront them with the reality of judgment. The topics of power are relevant to powerful people because they respect power. They have learned to come to grips with the power of others so they must also come to grips with the power of God.

 3.      Felix gives us three reasons why it is hard for the rich and powerful to enter the KOG.

          a.       They are able to camouflage their insecurity by pretending to be in control of their lives. He was able to brush off his unease through his power to control his schedule.

          b.       The rich and powerful are often controlled by insatiable greed and find convenient ways to express this. Felix had hoped for a bribe. The rich have greater opportunities to give in to their evil desires and must be warned about the deceitfulness of wealth which is fleeting in comparison to eternity. 

          c.       Those who are at the top feel that they have to please many people if they want to stay in power. This may hinder them from knowing what they know to be right.


Big Answer:

          What can we learn about the benefits of personal holiness from the life of Paul?

          Our personal holiness in Christ gives us powerful protection through our faith in him.

Our personal holiness in Christ allows us to have a powerful testimony about our faith in him.

          Our personal holiness in Christ enables us to have powerful witness to others about their need for faith in him.

Timeless Truth:

          Our effectiveness for Christ is in direct proportion to our holiness in Christ.

          And our holiness in Christ is in direct proportion to our faith in him since without faith it is impossible to please him and without holiness no one will see him (Heb. 11:6, 12:14).

          Without holiness we cannot claim that we belong to Christ, we will have no proof that we have seen Christ as he is, nor will we be able to proclaim what we cannot have seen, nor will we be able to convince others to see him as he desires through us since there is nothing to see in us.

          In short, without holiness, we have no real protection (since there is nothing to protect), no testimony (since we have nothing to say), and no witness (since we have no way to convince).

          A clear conscience is a powerful advocate.

          Our lives must be such that we can make this boast with Paul:

2 Corinthians 1:12  Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the  holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 7:1  Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Ephesians 4:24  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

1 Peter 1:15-16  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

          How effective is your life in Christ? Is it what you want it to be?

          Are you willing to give up all things in order to obtain his holiness?

          It is as near as your faith in him.

          It will be not only to your own benefit but also to all who know you and even hear about you.

          And you too will shake your world.

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