Faithlife Sermons

The Power of Personal Testimony

Acts of the Apostles  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We need to reimagine the power of our personal testimony in a world that is desperate for hope and purpose.

Notes
Transcript

Introduction & Main Point

We love stories don’t we? That’s why many of us love novels and movies. There is something powerful about a good story. It stirs us on a profound level.
We start here because we need to relearn to tell the powerful story of grace that flows through the lives of those who have met Jesus!
MAIN POINT - ‘God has designed the main proclamation of the Gospel to be spread through the power of personal testimony…personal story’

Setting Up The Scene

Last week in Chapter 23:11, we left off with God visiting Paul in a Roman safe house at probably one of his lowest points as a follower of Jesus.
If you will recall, we talked about the fact that in spite of our misguided yet genuine efforts to appeal to the opponents of the Gospel, God is faithful to carry out His promises through His people. Since God’s visit with Paul, we have seen God protect Paul from an ambush later in Chapter 23. This provoked the centurion commander to request an audience for Paul before Felix since it was discovered that Paul held dual citizenship between Jerusalem and Rome. Felix was the Roman governor of the province and he was known for being, like most Roman elite, shrewd in his dealings with the fickle people of Israel.
A pre-trial was held in his presence where representatives of the Jews brought charges against Paul and requested he be examined. When Paul stands to give his defense, he refutes the account of the Jews that he has been an agitator, rather what was really going on was their rage over his belief that Jesus had been resurrected. As we will see, this would prove to be true even as the Roman authorities discern the matter.
Ultimately, the verdict is postponed and Paul is held in custody with some relative freedom to move about as he wished for nearly two years. The Governorship transitioned from Felix to Festus. This change in leadership would prove to NOT advance the conflict toward resolution because no matter how many times the Jews bring charges, they fall short and it just gives Paul another opportunity to share the grace of God once again!
The whole cycle escalates when Paul is given the chance to stand trial in Jerusalem or go on to Rome and give his defense to the Emperor himself. Sensing that he would not be given a fair shake in Jerusalem, he appeals to Caesar and ultimately Festus grants him his wish!
BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM -
There is still no clear charge that has been brought against Paul and if this trial did successfully reach Rome, it would be terribly embarrassing for Festus and Agrippa if the Emperor would find the matter to be futile in nature. So, now we see another major character enter the story…King Agrippa.

Overcome Worldly Intimidation [25:23-27]

WHO WAS AGRIPPA?
Agrippa was from the Herodian family which was a puppet regime established by the Roman government to keep peace in the volatile region. The Herods were not a good family. They were ruthless and self-concerned family that would do anything to preserve their power in the region.
They were not purely Jewish so they were fine with the pagan influence of Roman occupation YET they were Jewish enough to keep relative peace in the region. It would be safe to say that the Jews had a love/hate relationship with the Herods.
King Agrippa II was the 7th and last in the Herodian Dynasty. Though he was a distinquished Jew, his life was far from the holy standard that was expected of an orthodox Jew. At the time of this encounter, he was living in an incestuous relationship with sister Bernice who had married at 11 or 12 year old, remarried at 13 only to be dumped again and now in this perplexing relationship with her brother.
In spite of this, Agrippa was infatuated with pageantry and making a good showing where he went. He wanted to show off his apparent importance to whomever would take notice.
This leads us to our first aspect of a powerful testimony...

Overcome Worldly Intimidation [25:23-27]

Overcome Worldly Intimidation [25:23-27]

So we should not be surprise when we find in vs. 23, Agrippa and Bernice’s entrance into room before Paul, a pathetic prisoner in chains was filled with Pomp and Circumstance as to highlight their relative importance to the world and his puny existence.
In vs. 23, Agrippa and Bernice’s entrance into room before Paul, a pathetic prisoner in chains was filled with Pomp and Circumstance as to highlight their relative importance to the world and his puny existence.
The world and its leaders will always play the role of intimidator for the true Christian...

There will alwa
Our world, our unbelieving friends will do whatever they can to APPEAR like they have it all together when in reality they don’t!
They have cracks in the foundations of their lives that they bury deep beneath their facade of a nice home and photogenic pictures of their kids on social media - They have strained marriages with lots of baggage. They fears and anxieties that press in on them everyday.
People hide their hopelessness and purposelessness behind money, security, power, influence, religion and politics
YET, the Gospel message exposes indiscriminately between these things
When all is stripped away, we are all are fear laden, pride infested, hope-longing people in spite of our wealth, power, or influence
APPLICATION
What this means is that in any and every situation, we must take up Paul’s advice to Timothy in his 2nd Letter to his young protege: “in season and out of season, we must be ready to witness the saving purposes of God in Jesus Christ.
We promote the only indiscriminate message ever known!
So with the Spirit’s help, be emboldened to share your gospel story to whomever God has placed in your life.
We must remember that we have no need to be intimidated by the cultural trend-setters of the world. History tells us that there is no shortage of them!
BUT often where our work as witnesses goes off the rails is when we place too much power in the hands of self-made cultural trendsetters and power players.
We need to resist being intimidated -
If you are in a more
Let’s not suppose there is any difference between a woman who Prada and a woman who where’s yoga pants chasing her kids around all day.
Nor should we put tension between these classes in the church (there is a campaign in the world to do just that by the way). The brother and sisterhood that exists in the church breaks down these walls of division and joyful connects us to one another.
The beauty for both parties is this: If you are a Christian poor, middle class or rich, the call is the same: Leverage your resources to give witness to Jesus and His Kingdom. All are commanded to give their time, talent and treasure!
THIS LEADS US TO THE “SUBSTANCE” of a POWERFUL TESTIMONY -

Contrast the Old Man vs. the New Man [26:1-11]

So what is the Gospel message? In part it is giving witness to the Spiritual makeover that is happening in our lives because of the grace of God. OUr Gospel stories should contrast the Old Nature and the new Nature!
Look at how Paul unpacks it:
v.4 - 11 : The Paradox of Paul’s former life.
Paul was of the strictest Pharisaical and one of their fundamental beliefs was a belief in the resurrection. Their counterparts the Sadducee’s denied the reality of resurrection.
Paul was playing their own system against them. I’m being tried because I believe TOO MUCH in what I have held as a Pharisee?
Paul is saying that his Pharisaical commitments had been dismantled when he formerly persecuted the church.
Their rage at Paul stands as nothing short of personal indictment of their own futile religious activity!
In other words, the pattern of our former lives often times point toward the very hopes we aim to deny!
Paul exposes their hypocrisy through his own hypocrisy!
APPLICATION: US TOO!
The same is true of us today. When we are able to with vulnerablity, expose the futility and vein glory of our past efforts to gain God’s approval and prove that we are lovable, then we expose the futility then we mirror the same about our unbelieving friends.
EXAMPLE STORY HERE
This is why a humbly transparent and vulnerable Christian is way more influential than one who plays the Bible Know It All game with unbelievers. No one has successfully argued someone into heaven nor has anyone through the sheer moral will to resist sin compelled some one to follow Jesus.
Jesus tells his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.”
These “good works” are the “Blessed Life” outlined in vs. 3-10.
GOOD WORKS according to Jesus are...
poverty of spirit, mourning, humility hunger for righteousness, merciful living, purity in heart, peacemakers, gladness in the face of trials/persecution
mourning
ALL OF THESE ARE FRUITS OF A LIFE TRANSFORMED UNDER THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS
Good works are NOT
Good works are NOT theological one-upmanship, polished moral living,
theological one-upmanship, polished moral living,
Good works are the

Highlight the Irresistible Grace of God [26:12-23]

BUT there is another half of our stories that we cannot forget. In fact, it’s the half that enables such transformation. READ v12-23
I want us to see two things about God’s grace on display in Paul’s story -
Grace is an invasion upon our lives. v.12-15
It’s a heavenly invasion. In other words, grace is God making war against the sin and death and reigns inside and outside everything we know. v.12-15.
Grace is the great reversal by which God the Father covenanted with God the Son to take on human flesh and absorb the wrath we deserve for our sin.
God interrupted Paul’s life right in the middle of his wicked campaign to wreck the church in Damascus. Paul was making no progress toward change! He was as hard hearted as he had ever been God interrupted with His irresistible grace.
Friends, this is our story. We can be assured that even when people resist the Gospel, when God chooses, he can melt the scales that cover our eyes. There is not ONE PERSON you know that God cannot but an act of His grace pluck from death no matter how much darkness that may be around them.
Grace is what turns on the lights of repentance and faith. v.16-23
God sends preachers to share the Gospel and this too is a grace that God extends. The Spirit convicts hearts and open eyes so that we might repent and believe!
“It’s God’s kindness that leads you to repentance! “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? How can they hear without a preacher? How can they preach unless they are sent? How beautiful are the feet who bring good news.”
APPLICATION -
A maturing Christian is one who the further he gets down the road in his relationship with Jesus recognizes the magnitude of God’s grace in their life.
Please get this! It’s God’s grace that draws, regenerates, saves and changes other people! Not you! Not a program! Not a particular snazzy presentation of the Gospel.
Our lives drenched in the grace of God are the greatest testimony we have!
STORY HERE
God’s grace irresistibly draws us and others to Himself. But He does so primarily through changed people themselves!
Our stories of grace are compelling! They need to be shared. It’s why we have people share their grace stories before they get baptized. We want them to compel others with the story of grace.
TRANSITION - I believe at this point, that Paul has Agrippa hooked.

Pour on Heartfelt Persuasion [26:24-32]

Whatever the circumstances that have come to pass that have landed Paul in this situation, Paul is not simply defending himself before Agrippa. He wants to compel Agrippa to believe himself!
Evidence for this?
Paul story must have been passionate! - Felix must have felt a bit uncomfortable b/c he interrupts Paul and tells him, “You must be mad, Paul!”
This is important because it gives evidence that Paul’s conflict with the Jews is not merely a religious squabble to Paul. IT’S A LIFE OR DEATH REALITY
Paul wants to see Felix and Agrippa converted! His freedom has become a secondary issue at this point!
When Felix mocks Paul, Paul is quick to turn to Agrippa. What made him do this?
My guess is that Agrippa is leaning in. He is more than familiar with the Jewish traditions and customs. His family’s commitment to their Jewish faith was not a priority as we have already noted. It was Agrippa’s grandfather that John the Baptist confronted about his own distorted marriage issues with his brother’s wife. You might recall that even then, Herod the Great was moved by JB’s message. There was something different about it!
It would be a twisted agreement between Herodias and her adult daughter to seduce Agrippa’s Grandfather that ulitimately forced herod to doing what he probably didn’t want to do…Execute JB!
PERHAPS, Agrippa is leaning in because the same cycle of twisted thirst for power, appearances, and sexual conquest has led Agrippa to be intrigued with Paul’s conversion!
Paul is appealing now on his reasonability but his own personal belief...”DO YOU BELIEVE THE PROPHETS?”
Agrippa responds, “are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” Agrippa sees it! He gets the difference! This more than a religious squabble
THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING!
APPLICATION: THE BIG POINT....The Gospel Paul preaches IS A CONVERSIONIST Gospel.
The word “evangelical” has come upon hard times in recent years. 2 reasons appear to be primary:
The Media largely only refer to evangelicals as a Political constituency rather than a spiritual constituency - associated largely with conservative politics.
There has always been divergent streams that have existed under the label - Conversionism vs Activism.
But this is far to narrow to be a truly historical understanding. English Historian David Bebbington helps us get a clearer picture
Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
I, for one, would love to see fresh, confessional driven wind blow into the sails of Evangelicalism so that we might see a recovery of these important aspects to our biblical faith.
IMPLICATIONS -
We, like Paul, should want to see others born again! Who have you had a Gospel conversation with lately?
We, like Paul, should want to see the world changed and flourishing as a result of the church’s presence in our communities? WHo have you served lately?
We, like Paul, should be able to look at one another and say, “do you believe the prophets?” In other words, do you know your Bible? Do you know sound theology?
We, like Paul, should stress in the centrality of the atoning work of our crucified Christ as the centerpiece of the church!
Let’s pray!
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