Text: Acts 22
Proposition: Each opportunity to tell others about Jesus will be unique but in each case the challenge is to speak in a way that the listener can receive it.
Introduction: In a courtroom the challenge put to every eye witness before they relate what they have seen or experienced is that they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It isn’t what they think should have happened or could have happened, it’s what actually happened right there before their eyes. When people first read the Bible they discover that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all telling exactly the same story yet each is different. Their viewpoints differ because of what each saw and how they related what they saw was influenced by who they were speaking to. The Spirit helped them to recall, phrase and explain the details, giving the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of what they had seen Jesus do as both God and man.
There are many times when you and I will find ourselves in the courtroom, we will be there to testify to the truth. Sometimes that will be a legal courtroom but many more times it will be the courtroom of where you work, the courtroom of the family kitchen table, the courtroom of two friends who walk through some crisis together. Whatever the courtroom the Scripture in 1Pet 3:15 advises us in the same way, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”. How prepared are you to give that account for why you not only believe what you believe but how it has changed your life?
That’s exactly what happened to Paul and how he responded to that opportunity to testify to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we want to look at this morning. Let’s see how the Holy Spirit can make our story, our testimony, be effective for the revealing of Jesus. Have a look at Acts 22.
I. When You Speak About Jesus Keep Your Eye On the Receiver.
A good quarterback in football is not just one who can throw the ball 60 yards, it’s the one who can throw the ball so that the receiver can catch it. When you share your story, your testimony, do it in a way that they can catch it. When we left Paul last week he had been arrested and a hostile mob was eager for his blood. That’s the courtroom Paul found himself in and the challenge before him was to tell his story in such a way that this very angry group of people would even take the time to listen to him. This is how he went about it:
1. He did everything he could to identify with them, as one of them. He used the right words, speaking in Hebrew. He addressed them with respect, “Brethren and fathers…”. He spoke of where he was from, the family he was raised in and teachers at his school that really influenced him. Pick your words carefully when you give your story, especially so that your listeners can catch them. In short it would be as though you spoke with them and not to them. Do you remember that passage from Isaiah 1:18 that begins, “Come now, let us reason together…” . That was God inviting Israel to speak with Him, to hear what He saw as the truth.
2. Invite people to reason with you, identifying yourself with them in the mistakes you’ve made, the sins you have pursued, the ruin you have caused, even when it was done for what you thought was right. We can be sincere and yet be sincerely wrong. That’s what Paul was doing when he spoke of how he persecuted the church, it was not ‘holier than thou’ but ‘all we like sheep’, all have sinned.
II. When You Speak About How You Met Jesus, Shine the Light on Him.
If you were walking about a very dark and cluttered basement and you had a flashlight in your hand, would you be looking at you’re the wonderful way your hand gripped the flashlight, marveling at how those tiny batteries in that shiny tube could work or would you be looking at where the light was shining, illuminating the obstacles and the stairs out of the basement? It’s the same with your story, it will be your story, there’s not another like it in the world. But it was the way that Jesus caught your attention and brought your life to a crossroads. Shine your words on Him. Consider Paul’s account of when he first saw and believed in Jesus.
1. Paul didn’t find God… Jesus found, flattened, forged and formed him. While Paul was in pursuit of task God interrupted his life, visibly altered the course of his will and made him be still for three days. Other people could see something was happening to Paul, they too saw a great light, brighter than the midday sun at Damascus. They too heard something but it didn’t make sense to them. When Jesus arrested Paul’s life it was in an unmistakable way to Paul, there was no maybe or perhaps about it. Jesus caught Paul’s attention and invited him to change direction. That change of direction is called repentance, it sees sin as that which ultimately seeks to persecute Jesus. If you mock the church, if you show contempt towards the Scripture you are showing contempt towards Christ. “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” Who was Saul throwing into prison, who was he having beaten and even executed? It was the church. All sin is ultimately an act of contempt against Christ and when we get that it will call us to seek His forgiveness. It will change the direction of your life from being a good person to being a saved person, a redeemed person by cross of Jesus Christ. When that happens Jesus will not only let you know He has ‘found’ you, He will flatten you as to your purposes and self belief. He will forge you in His furnace of repentance and then He will form you into the body of Christ. Ananias comes, it’s Paul’s call to be part of the church. It is how Paul is told about the removal of his blindness. For Paul that was both a literal and figurative sight, now he could see the Word of God, now he could hear the Spirit of God, now he could become a man of God’s choosing.
2. When the invitation to believe in Christ came, Paul needed to respond. It will always take an act of your will to respond to the gospel. In this case three things were being asked of Paul, four really. Look at what it says, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The first step is to stop waiting, you know enough to respond, get up, arise from where you were and get to where you need to be. The second is ‘be baptized’. That action is much, much greater than just getting wet. It is a powerful action where a person very visibly proclaims that Jesus is their Lord, no retreat, no excuses, just the proclamation that I now belong to Him, my life is His to use. The third is to recognize that by faith in Christ your sins are washed away. Gone, they are no longer a part of who you are, not because you want it to be that way but because the blood of Jesus Christ has caused it to be so. There’s a new name written on you… ‘Forgiven’. Fourthly, call on the name of the Lord. That refers to a daily dependence on Christ not only to save you but to lift you up out of the waves. It was Peter’s story the day that he walked on water, it’s what you and I do daily as we walk in faith. All these four steps are done in the context of the church, with others who are doing the same. Perhaps like Paul we too need to respond. As you respond and continue to respond, that makes up the transition of your testimony from salvation to sanctification…what Jesus is doing in you today.
Shine the light on Christ, let Him be seen as your story unfolds.
III. The Point of the Gospel and My Testimony, Is That It Never Stops Here.
The crowd listens to Paul as he recounts his salvation experience, his becoming part of the body of Christ. They even listen as Paul describes a time much later when he was in the Temple in Jerusalem praying and the Lord warns him to get out of the city. Paul remembers telling the Lord that he shouldn’t have to go, after all they had seen him persecute the church, they saw him there when Stephen was put to death. In essence Paul is saying that he still has credibility with the Jews and shouldn’t have to leave the city, surely the Jews would still receive him. Sometimes as we tell our story we remember times when we tried to offer God direction, giving Him the benefit of our insight and some how losing sight of what it was God wanted to achieve. So the Lord is blunt with Paul, “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ”. Sometimes God needs to be blunt with us, His sees our stubbornness and pushes us past it.
I’m sure that Paul knew that the moment he mentioned the Gentiles as being the object of God’s love and concern that it would cause a reaction of unbelief and distrust. Sometimes as you tell your story you too will know that what you are about to say may cause you to lose your credibility, your audience, and yet it is the truth, the whole truth. The point of the gospel and of Paul’s testimony is that it doesn’t stop with my life being changed. It doesn’t stop here. It invites others to see Jesus, to see eternity, to see other places and peoples who don’t know Jesus nor the hope of heaven. The point of the gospel and of our lives is that they are always Missional, always going beyond here. That is ultimately our story of Christ’s glory.