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God's Guidance for Christian Testimonies

The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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1. Talk about God's glory (vs. 17-18). 2. Talk about God's guidance (vs. 18-21). 3. Talk about your guilt of our sin (vs. 19; 22-24). 4. Talk about God's amazing grace (vs. 19-21).

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God's Guidance for Christian Testimonies

The Book of Acts - Part 79

Acts 22:12-24

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 22, 2015

BACKGROUND:

*In this Scripture, Paul's third missionary journey had ended, and the team had arrived in Jerusalem. Paul and the Gentile churches had collected a large sum of money for the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Then Paul had traveled many miles to bring the gift to Jerusalem. But instead of being treated with gratitude and honor, Paul was treated with suspicion and disrespect.

*In Acts 21:20-26, the Jewish believers at Jerusalem accused Paul of heresy based on nothing but rumors. So, the church leaders asked Paul to go through a purification ceremony as a good-faith gesture against the accusations. They also asked Paul to pay the expenses for four local believers who were planning to go through the purification. And Paul did exactly as the elders asked, even though he had to buy a dozen prime animals for the sacrifices, along with other expenses. (1)

*Paul was trying to do the right thing. But Acts 21:27-40 tells us that a terrible riot broke out when some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the Temple. And Paul would have been beaten to death by that mob, if the alarm hadn't been sounded for the Roman soldiers to step in.

*Paul was rescued by the soldiers, but he was also placed under arrest. He was now under both the protection and custody of Roman soldiers, and he had entered a long season of trials and tribulation. All of Paul's travels from now until the end of Acts will be as a prisoner of Rome.

*At the end of chapter 21, Paul pleaded with the Roman commander for permission to speak to the crowd. And Acts 21:40 closes the chapter by saying "when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language. . ."

*Now here in Acts 22, Paul began to speak to the mob before him, a mob that was silent for the moment, but had just tried to kill him. And as Paul began to speak, he gave his Christian testimony. The Apostle told how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and how Ananias helped him call on the name of the Lord.

*Tonight in vs. 16-24, we will see how Paul continued his testimony, but to put it in context let's start by reading about Ananias' help back up in vs. 12.

*Before we read, it's interesting to note that there is a 3-year gap between vs. 16 and 17. Paul talked about this period of time in his letter to the Galatians. Please look at Galatians 1, starting in vs. 15, where Paul said:

15. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace,

16. to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,

17. nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

19. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother.

*Paul spent most of that time in Arabia and then went back to Damascus before making the trip to Jerusalem in vs. 17. With this background in mind, let's begin by reading Acts 22:12-24.

MESSAGE:

*Tonight, we are looking at the rest of Paul's testimony, because it can help us learn how to give our testimonies, even in troubled times. The same mob that wanted to beat Paul to death in Acts 22 is still out there in the world today.

*Of course, the people are different, but the antichrist spirit is exactly the same. Even in our own country, anti-Christian bigotry seems to grow stronger every day. Taking a biblical view of marriage in the public square can cost your job and more. According to many ungodly people running the show, right is now wrong and wrong is right.

*That's the kind of world we live in today, but again, God shows us see how to give our testimonies in troubled times and all the time.

1. First, God wants us to talk about His glory.

*In vs. 17-18, Paul gives us another glimpse of the glory of God. There the Apostle said:

17. "Then it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance

18. and saw Him saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.'"

*Paul was in a "trance." The word used there was "ekstasis," and that is where we get our word "ecstasy." John Gill tells us that this may have been the miraculous experience Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. There Paul began to talk about himself in the third person. And he said:

1. It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:

2. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows such a one was caught up to the third heaven.

3. And I know such a man whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows

4. how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2)

*Dr. Gill may have been right that this Acts 22 trance was the one mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. We can't know that for sure, but we certainly know God's purpose for this trance: God was warning Paul about the danger he faced in that long-ago visit to Jerusalem. And the Lord chose to give that warning through a miraculous revelation.

*In vs. 18, Paul actually saw the Lord speaking to him, and one reason why is because God wants us to know more about His matchless glory. That's also one of the reasons why Jesus first appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.

*Paul described that first vision with these words from Acts 26:13-16:

13. "At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.

14. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

15. So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

16. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.'"

*When Jesus appeared to Paul, the Lord shined brighter than the sun! And all of the travelers fell to the ground, because of the glory of God!

*You may be thinking, "I wish I could see the glory of God like that!" And Christians: One day we will. One day soon, we too will see God in all of His glory. And we can take comfort in the words the Apostle John wrote to us in 1 John 3:1-2:

1. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

2. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

*One day we will see the glory of God in all of its fullness. But Church: We have already seen flashes of God's glory in the wonders of the universe, in the beauty of nature, in the life-changing Word of God, in the miracles God still works in the world, and in the transformed lives of Christian people. Yes, we have seen the glory of God.

2. So, talk about God's glory. And talk about His guidance.

*Notice how the Lord guided Paul in vs. 18-21. There Paul said he saw Jesus:

18. . . saying to me, 'Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.'

19. So I said, 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.

20. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'

21. Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'''

*God guided Paul and He will surely guide us, IF we will let Him. Please notice that Paul was reluctant to follow the Lord's guidance at first. In vs. 18, Jesus told Paul to "get out of Jerusalem quickly." But in vs. 19-20, Paul pleaded for the Lord to allow him to stay in Jerusalem.

*Paul wanted to make amends for the terrible things he had done. He wanted to help the people that he had hurt so much. Paul wanted to stay. But God always knows best, so again in vs. 21 the Lord said, "Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles."

*Paul followed that guidance. And we have been studying the wonderful results for over a year: Three mission trips across hundreds of miles, with many new churches started, and thousands of people saved! Eventually millions of people were saved, and the Gospel was brought to us, all because Paul followed the Lord's guidance to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles.

*Paul followed the Lord's guidance, and it is always best for us to follow God's guidance! But are we letting God guide us through His Word? He will give us the fresh insight we need.

*Dr. A. T. Robertson was a New Testament Greek scholar who taught at our Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His works are still used as primary textbooks for many schools that teach Biblical Greek. Dr. Robertson was a brilliant expert. But He never lost sight of the fact that the Bible is the amazing, miraculous, living Word of God.

*And Dr. Robertson once said: "I have been studying, preaching, teaching, and writing about the New Testament for over fifty years. But I never open my Greek New Testament without finding something I had never before seen in it." The riches of God's Word are inexhaustible, so God will give us the fresh insight we need. But we have to let the Lord guide us through His Word. (3)

*Pastor and evangelist Ron Dunn gave a great example from his own life. It centered around Luke 6:38, where Jesus said: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

*Ron told about the time that verse came alive to him. God applied it to his heart. And Ron said, "God was speaking to me. That verse had my name written on it, and I had to embrace it."

*It happened during a time of financial difficulty for Ron. One Wednesday he had been given $50 for preaching a funeral service. That night they had a missionary speaker at church. And after the service something said to Ron: "Give that $50 to the missionary."

*With a twinkle in his eye, Ron said, "I knew THAT was the devil!" But anyway, he prayed, "Lord, I want to do your will. If that man is still out there when I go outside, I will give him the $50."

*Then Ron waited, and waited, and waited. Then he went outside. Everyone else was gone but that missionary. Ron said he looked like he was waiting on something. So Ron went up to him and said, "Here, Brother -- The Lord told me to give this to you." (4)

*And Ron didn't like it at first, but remember what he said: "God was speaking to me. That verse had my name written on it, and I had to embrace it." That's what we need to do. Let God guide us through His Word.

3. When we give our testimonies we should talk about God's guidance. Also talk about the guilt of our sin.

*We can see the guilt of Paul's sin in vs. 19-20, where again he said:

19. . . 'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.

20. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'

*In vs. 21-24, we see this kind of evil anger again, but this time the murderous wrath came from the Jews who rejected Paul's testimony:

21. Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'''

22. And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!''

23. Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,

24. the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.

*This kind of irrational, murderous hatred reminds us of fanatical Muslims and the horrible crimes they have committed in the name of Allah.

*Sin is such an ugly thing, but so often we can't see it in our own hearts. Paul thought he was right when he was torturing and killing Christians. The Jews in vs. 22 thought they were right in wanting to kill Paul. Radical Muslims think they are right in wanting to kill us. Often, we can't see the sin in our own hearts. But God wants to see it. He wants us to find out how ugly and hurtful our sin is.

*Brian McLaren helped us understand when he said:

-"If life is a machine, then sin is a bad gear that makes the machine malfunction.

-If life is a kingdom, then sin is a terrorist movement within the kingdom.

-If life is a family, then sin is a feud between family members.

-If life is a body, then sin is an untreated disease that poisons the whole system.

-If life is a river, then sin is mercury or arsenic that pollutes it.

-If life is a garden, then sin is the army of slugs that eat your tomatoes.

-If life is a computer, then sin is a virus that destroys your hard drive." (5)

*Sin is an ugly, hurtful thing, and God wants people to know how awful sin really is. Unfortunately, it's a whole lot easier to see sin others than it is to see it in ourselves. Here are a few questions to help us examine our own hearts:

-Am I really concerned about spiritual growth. in my church my home my life?

-Am I willing to do anything God wants me to do?

-Is my prayer life all it could and should be?

-Have I neglected the Word of God?

-Have I forgiven everyone?

-Is all resentment out of my heart?

-Am I impatient?

-Am I irritable?

-Am I easily offended?

-Do my "hurt feelings" keep me from serving God?

-Since my emergency or crisis is past, have I kept the promises I made in prayer?

-Do I deny myself daily to follow Jesus?

-Do I have sinful pride in my heart?

-Is the reputation of another safe in my hands?

-Have I been a gossiper?

-Do I have a right attitude toward my fellow church members?

-Did I meet every situation today as a Christian should? (6)

*Often, we can't see the sin in our own hearts, but God wants us to know how bad our sin really is. At the same time though, we have to be prayerful and careful when we tell others about our sin. No doubt that Paul was before he spoke to that mob, and Paul's discussion of his sin highlighted the gross sin that filled their hearts in that moment.

*Whenever we give our testimonies, we must admit that we are sinners. We don't want to give other people the impression that we were saved because we were good. But again, we must be prayerful and careful, because we don't want our sinfulness to become the main focus of our testimony. The main focus must be the grace of God and what He did for us through the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

4. So, when we give our testimonies, yes, we should talk about the guilt of our sin. But most of all, we should talk about God's amazing grace!

*Christians: Thank God for the amazing grace we can have through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! And the Lord wants everybody to have His grace. So, let's look for God's grace in vs. 19-21:

*There Paul spoke about his prayer, and said:

19. . . "'Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.

20. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'

21. Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.'"

[1] First we see God's grace applied to Paul.

*Again in vs. 19, Paul said: "Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You." Was Paul a good man? Certainly, he wound up being one of the best men who ever lived, but Paul started out as a torturer, a murderer, a terrorist.

*If you were God would you have saved Paul? Probably not, but Paul was saved by the amazing grace of Almighty God!

[2] God's grace went out to Paul. And the Lord wants it to go out to the whole world!

*That's why in vs. 21, Jesus told Paul, "Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles." God wants everyone to have His amazing grace. But how do we get it? Verse 19 gives us a key. In that verse, Paul was persecuting the Christians. He was persecuting the saved people.

*But how were they saved? By believing on Jesus Christ! Receiving God's grace is a matter of believing in Jesus. And back up in vs. 16, it's a matter of calling on the Lord, "for whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

*Most of all, God's grace is a matter of the cross, because that is where Jesus took the punishment for all of the rotten things Paul ever did, and all of the rotten things we have ever done.

CONCLUSION:

*Thank God for the cross of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ! And Christians, give your testimony to everyone you possibly can. Sometimes you will only be able to tell them part of your story. But whenever you can:

-Talk about God's glory.

-Talk about God's guidance.

-Talk about your guilt of our sin.

-And talk about God's amazing grace.

(1) Adapted from EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Caesarea: Be Sure" - Acts 21:1-17 and "Jerusalem: Be Submissive" - Acts 21:18-26

(2) JOHN GILL'S EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE by Dr. John Gill - 1690-1771 - Act 22:17

(3) THE BAPTIST FAITH & MESSAGE by KelleyLandMohler, 2007, p.14 - Source: "In Other Words" February 2008 #1 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net

(4) I heard Ron Dunn give this testimony in a class at New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary

(5) Brian McLaren, "Sin 101: Why Sin Matters," Preaching Today audio sermon No. 243 - Romans 3:10-20; Ephesians 4:22; James 1:15 - Depravity, Sin - Source: christianitytoday.com > Church Leaders > Preaching & Worship > Illustrations - Leadership Journal - Summer 2004

(6) Questions adapted from the "Sweet Hour of Prayer Guide" - Original source unknown

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