The apostle Paul has been falsely accused of stirring up trouble among the Jews by preaching against the Temple, against Moses and against the law. Now, in Acts 26, Paul has the opportunity to defend himself – to King Agrippa, to Governor Festus and to Caesar. The door is wide open for Paul to share his testimony.
Acts 26:1b-3 “So Paul motioned with his hand and began is defense. ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.’”
”I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to tell you my story; for the opportunity to tell you about the differences, about the changes Jesus has made in my life.
This is not about giving someone the plan of salvation. This is about telling someone the difference Jesus has made in your life. If it will make it easier for you, just use Paul’s outline.
Break your story down into four parts. Start off by telling them …
(1) WHAT YOU USED TO BE. Tell them what you used to think. Tell them what you did before Jesus came into your life.
Acts 26: 4-5 “The Jews all know the way I lived ever since I was a child…They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.”
Acts 26:9-11 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the Chief Priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one Synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.”
This part of our story may not nearly be as exciting or dramatic as Paul’s. Most of us think our life is pretty dull and ordinary and no one would be interested in hearing about it. But it’s not up to us to make it interesting or exciting or funny. The Lord just wants us to tell our story and let the Holy Spirit turn it into what it needs to be. Never underestimate the power of your story on someone else’s life.
When we talk about what we used to be, we can tell them about our temper; our selfishness and our pride. We can tell them about our critical spirit, our old fears and anxieties. But we begin by telling them, what we were like without Jesus. Then…
(2) We can TELL THEM WHAT HAPPENED. Tell them how Jesus first got our attention. Tell them where we were and what we were doing when Jesus made His presence and His love real to us.
Acts 26: 12-15 “”On one of these journeys, I was going to Damascus…About noon…I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions…I heard a voice saying to me…’Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’…Then I asked, ‘Who are you Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’”
Was there ever a time when you discovered that your beliefs about God were wrong and God wasn’t who you thought He was; a time when the Lord made you aware of the danger you were in because of your sin; a time when you finally realized you could never do anything to earn God’s love or deserve His forgiveness and you cried out to Him to save you? If there was a time like that for you, tell them about it.
Tell them how you came to know that you needed Jesus and what you did about it. Tell them what happened. Then go on to tell them..
(3) TELL THEM HOW YOUR LIFE HAS CHANGED. Tell them how Jesus has given your life a sense of purpose and direction. Tell them how He’s has given you hope; an understanding of what’s real; what works; what satisfies; what lasts; what never lets you down.
Acts 26: 16-18 “The Lord replied…I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Tell them what you used to be. Tell them what happened. Tell how your life has changed; Then…
(4) Tell them WHAT JESUS IS DOING IN YOUR LIFE TODAY
Acts 26: 19-24 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me…and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day…I am saying beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”
You might find yourself talking to someone like Festus; someone who’s hearing all this for the first time and they think you’re crazy.
Acts 26:24 “At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘You great learning is driving you insane.’”
This was all new and sounded pretty strange to Festus. He just curious about what Paul believed. He wasn’t planning to pursue it for himself. His heart was hardened and his ears were closed to the things Paul was telling him. He’s probably sorry he got involved in this conversation. But since he brought it up, Paul was gladly willing to explain. Paul was always ready to give an answer for his hope in Christ.
Lord willing, we’ll continue to look at Paul’s response to Festus and King Agrippa next Tuesday.