--from February 11th --
Saul, who later becomes Paul, if you don’t know, has a really interesting testimony and it seems that he would share it often with people to draw them to Jesus. What better account did he have than his own life story and what better defense could he make for Jesus' work than his own life? But make sure that you think clearly through what he is saying, he was not an anti-God person that slowly came around to believe in God. He was actually a really overly zealous God follower that did not like this Jesus direction people seemed to be going. So much so, that he was willing to go on a killing spree with the blessing of the church leadership.
That was until Jesus confronted him about that on the road to Damascus one day. Imagine what that kind of change must have been like to see!? There is no way Saul, the guy that wants to kill the Jesus followers, is getting into a Jesus followers church if the security team has anything to say about it! But he was changed. Maybe one day we can talk to him about how that change happened and how long it took, but this is the way we have the story now. Your story is important and it’s likely not like all the other stories, but you should remember it, tell it, and challenge people with it.
Have you ever sat down and thought of how you would tell your story in the equivalent of a span of about 19 verses or so?
How can your story help someone around you?
Who should you share your story with this week and how can you do that?
How can this be part of your prayer today?
The pace of this story seems so fast. Saul was on his way to Damascus and then after meeting Jesus, still goes to Damascus and stays a while. Now the drama starts as the Jews are seeking to kill him, because in their eyes, he turned on them. Saul was so versed in the Bible as a Pharisee, that he even gained disciples following him in Damascus as he got started preaching Jesus! That is fast!
He started in on debates and teaching that was rooted and pointed toward Jesus. This started a ministry that was needed and maybe was not the same as the ministry the 11 disciples started. The result was that there was peace in the church, which is strange considering all the turmoil that was stirring outside the church.
Don’t you wish we could see people getting saved because of the deliberate teaching of God’s word and pointing people to Jesus, while defending the Bible? I would love to see our efforts in reaching out resulting in peace and confidence in the Holy Spirit as people are being added to the church daily!
How can the church do better in this idea of reaching out?
What are some ways we can get people around us interested in church and hearing God’s word?
How is your story different from Saul/Paul’s and how fast he moved into ministry?
How does this inform your prayers for today?
This is only half of Paul’s recount of his story to the king, but what an opportunity he has here! He has a stage unlike any other and it is at this moment that his words matter for his life, but also for the spiritual future of the audience he has captured in this room full of powerful people. I personally like the boldness that Paul starts out in. The Jewish accusers have brought him before the Roman council to be tried, but at the same time, you almost feel the tension as you want to tell Paul maybe dial back the straight talk just a bit so that people aren’t just offended.
But Paul is not trying to offend anyone. His straight talk is honesty that is not laced with the intention to take low blows at the Jews. He keeps his posture humble as he is honest about his interpretation of what he was doing and how he was wrong, while also calling out the wrongs of the others. Remember, Paul was not fighting against God before he was saved, he was fully convinced he was fighting on God’s behalf.
Most of us don’t have a story of how we were just all against God and didn’t want anything to do with Him. But the Bible says that we are enemies of God even though that may have been true. So, how do you tell your story in a way that is honest about what you were doing against God in practice, even though you were not against Him in action?
Why do you think it is important for us to be honest about sins and our offense against God?
What is a time that you remember someone sharing their honest sins and how God saved them from those sins, and that was helpful to you in the past?
How can this be part of your prayer today?
Can you imagine being in chains and telling this story to the king? What a neat opportunity and what pressure that had to bring. Paul is so bold and I want to learn from that, because I get so worried about running people off by being too pushy or churchy. Paul could read a room and know what needed to be said in that moment and his nerves don’t get in the way at all. At the end of a sermon, there is a call to action. It is the part where you challenge people to action, to do something. Paul talked about going to Damascus and preaching in the synagogues. Notice that what he did there was preach that they needed to repent, turn to God, and perform deeds in keeping with their repentance. He had a call to action.
I think I fall short here many times. I can share the gospel and tell people all they need to know, but what about engaging them in that moment of response. “What about you King Agrippa? I know you believe the prophets!” I need to add to my sharing a more direct approach that engages the person for response. A way of asking questions that engages them to respond or think about what I am saying.
How does this become part of your prayer today?
This may not read like the typical story that you glean great teaching from, but I was thinking about it a bit. Paul was preaching and then got arrested. After being arrested, he kept preaching. His message was consistent and it used his story to share the gospel, like we have seen in all of the stories this week. But this was different. Paul couldn’t preach here and his safety was challenged. It was a situation that lended itself to a lot of opportunity and a lot of danger. So how does Paul respond? Exactly like he was preaching the whole time.
You see, preaching is proclaiming with your words. And that is one thing, but living in moments is another thing. Many times what we preach, especially in self preservation mode moments gives way to doing something totally different. Imagine this story if Paul would have taken the opportunity to bail out and set himself free. Imagine this story if Paul would have just given up and died. But he doesn’t, he steps up and leads everyone, the guilty prisoners and the ship’s men, and he uses even the chaotic circumstances to not focus on himself, but on showing the others what he really believes.
There are so many people that preach by their social media posts, t-shirts, and bumper stickers, their attendance to church, their claiming to follow Jesus, something totally different when their faith is presented in action.
How have you seen this split between what we say we believe and what we actually do?
How have you struggled with this?
What do you need to do to work this out?
How does this fit into your prayers today?
I think we can all take a bunch away from the sermon and the devotions. I appreciate the direct nature of Paul’s comments to King Agrippa, and Pastor Nate’s passion for presenting sermons to encourage a response. May God continue to bless Keystone, it’s leaders, and us, the congregation, to take the actions that God lays on our hearts to exemplify and share His Word and Spirit!