February 12, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 24:1-27

Today’s text is a great example of how Christians should respond to persecution from the authorities God places above us. We see how the apostle Paul interacts with both Tertullus and Felix while being persecuted for his faith and under their civil authority. And just like the apostle Paul, as Christians in today’s culture, we must know how to respond to persecution from authorities over us, whether that’s with non-Christian parents, the government, education, at work, etc.

Here are some things we learn from this chapter bout that:

  • Put yourself in a place where you can speak from a clear conscience (v. 16, 20-21)

First off, know it’s going to be hard for you to move forward with any of the other items if you can’t speak from a good conscience. A big part of that is not responding to authority the WRONG way so God can use you, that season, and your witness.

  • Show honor & respect to the authorities above you (v. 10)

Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t speak out, protest, change unfair/unjust laws, or even rebel/fight back when it’s necessary (ex. genocide, slavery, etc). Here’s what Watchman Nee said about this when imprisoned for his faith in China.

“Authority is a tremendous thing in the universe. Nothing overshadows it. God’s throne is established on His authority. God’s authority represents God Himself. God alone is authority in all things; all the authorities of the earth are instituted by God. It is therefore important for us who desire to serve God to know the authority of God. God’s authority is absolute, hence we must give Him absolute submission (our heart’s attitude) and absolute obedience (our outward actions). But to His delegated authorities we can render absolute submission, but only relative obedience. For their authorities are circumscribed by the measure of the life of Christ in them. Only when they themselves submit to God’s authority in them are they able to represent God. Hence there is much we have to learn about how to represent God with authority.”

  • Speak of your Faith in Jesus Christ (Share the Gospel) (v. 24)

No matter what, this can be an opportunity to point out that authority and others to the Gospel. You must view it in this way.

  • Righteousness & Morality Matters (v. 25)

This is not rubbing in the face, judgmental mention of how righteous and moral you are and they are not, but it is pointing to ethics that matter. Listen, we suck. We really do. Sometimes I wonder if we should just give up pointing others to our counter-cultural morality knowing how sinful we still are. But we do have to. Because it really does matter to God, and it matters with our fruit and witness.

  • Show Self-Control (v. 25)

Christ-centered self-control is important to discuss AND show in these times. When you are attacked it’s hard not to be on the attack yourself. That’s why I believe it was being discussed in the midst of this persecution here in Acts 24.

  • Acknowledge the Coming Judgment  (v. 25)

Whatever you truly believe about authority or however you respond to authority, the truth of the matter is you will be under it at the great judgment. For some Christians it’s reminding others about it (hopefully not in a weird, cheesy, scary way but it is true). For others, it’s acknowledging it for your current situation and season of being persecuted. God is just and will bring justice. He’s the true authority and judge so you can trust he will make wrongs right.

  • What do you need to work on when under persecution from authority above you?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

February 11, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 23:1-35

When reading this chapter, there were 3 parts that especially stood out:

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (1)

What does it look like to live your life in good conscience? What if you could say the same thing when someone accuses you of something. While this doesn’t mean we must be perfect, it does mean that we are able, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, to live lives that rightly represent the gospel, in such a way that stands out to those who are looking on.

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (6-7)

Paul wisely divides the council using this simple declaration. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, while the Sadducees did not. By saying this he got the Pharisees on his side, and more importantly divided the council. To me, this shows the power of division and the importance of unity. Is your family united? Are you promoting unity within the life of the church?

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (11)

Here we see that Jesus has a purpose for the suffering of Paul. His journey to Rome is not going to be an easy one (as we will see in the next few days). But Paul is going through these so that he might be able to declare the gospel to more people in higher positions of power. How do you view your own suffering? What good might God be bringing about through your suffering?

What parts of our passage stood out to you?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

February 9, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 22:22-30

Our passage today picks up in the middle of a tense scene. Paul was at the temple and some rabble-rousing Jews spread the lie that Paul had taken non-Jews into the temple (21:28). A buzz began to stir and a Roman commander caught wind that something was happening. An Egyptian insurrectionist had been in the area causing problems for the Romans and this commander thought he was back at it. The Romans showed up in force to take control of the scene thinking they had caught this Egyptian rebellion leader. That’s why when Paul spoke to the commander his first response was, “Do you know Greek?” (21:37). Upon realizing the mistake, the commander gave Paul a chance to defend himself from his accusers.

Our passage picks up as Paul is offering this defense. Paul said in verse 21, “And [Jesus] said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” The response from the crowd was immediate and harsh. “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” But why?

One commentator answers the question this way, “Paul’s message that infuriated the mob was that Jews and Gentiles were equal without the Law of Moses (cf. Eph. 2:11–22; 3:2–6; Gal. 3:28)” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). This statement by the Jews shows their rejection of Jesus and the gospel. This is a momentous moment in the book of Acts when the line in the sand is drawn for a final time.

Because the crowed is once again stirred up, and the Romans have no idea why, Paul was taken away to the barracks. What happens next is, I believe, one of the most humorous moments in Scripture. So he might understand the situation, the commander order that Paul be scourged so he can learn the “truth.” They stretch him out, and seemingly, right as the whip is being raise, Paul says, “Ahem, I’m Roman.”

Things like this only happen in the movies. The soldier’s eyes probably bugged out of his head as he ran off to go find the commander.  Why Paul waited until the last second to tell these guys, we can only speculate. However, Roman citizens could not be punished in this way, and the consequences for doing so were severe.

For the second time in as many hours, Paul’s identity had been mistaken twice. He wasn’t an Egyptian rebel leader and he wasn’t just some lowly Jew from a backwater town of the Roman Empire. While the commander purchased his citizenship, Paul was born into his. We don’t know when or how this happened, but the fact that Paul was Roman was of tremendous importance.

There are two things we need to realize from this passage: (1) God has a plan, and (2) we are part of it. The consequences of the Jewish rejection of Christ ultimately led to the destruction of the city by the Romans in AD 70. That devastation pales to the eternal consequences of rejecting Christ. Gentile inclusion was God’s plan from the beginning in Genesis 12. The prophets spoke of it, but when the moment came, the religious leaders rejected it.

Paul was a part of God’s plan to spread redemption throughout the ancient world. However, we are the beneficiaries of his ministry—especially his writing ministry. We have his message and the divine opportunity to see God’s plan unfold as we share with people.  

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

February 8, 2019

Today you should read: Acts 22:1-21

I hope you’re enjoying our new series in 1 Peter that just began this past Sunday. I am looking forward to diving into God’s Word together over the next few Sundays. There’s one verse that always sticks out to me when I read through 1 Peter.

“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15 ESV

We are to be prepared to defend the reason why we have hope. It’s Jesus! This is a popular verse for those who love apologetics – the study and practice of defending the Christian faith. We should definitely study and defend the historicity of the Gospels and the Resurrection, but there is another way that we can “make a defense…for the hope that is in [us.]” Paul gives us a great example in our passage today of how our testimony can be a defense of the hope that is in us through Jesus Christ.

Paul says, “…listen to me as I offer my defense” (v.1), and then proceeds to lay out his testimony. What is included in a testimony?

First, a testimony includes your life before meeting Jesus. Paul explains that he was a Jew and educated under Gamaliel. He was “zealous to honor God in everything” (v.3) he did. He also persecuted followers of Jesus. Paul explains in this that he was a sinner. Our testimony should include a confession of a sinful life before meeting Jesus.

Now, you have probably heard great testimonies where someone was radically saved out of a life of sin like Paul, and you might be tempted to think that you don’t have a great testimony. However, if you have been saved by Jesus, you have been radically saved from a life of sin whether you were six years old or sixty years old. Jesus has rescued you whether you mostly sinned against your little sister when you were a child or you were a drug dealer. Bottom line: Jesus saves sinners, and you’re included in that.

Second, a testimony includes how Jesus saved you. Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Your testimony probably won’t include a vision from Jesus and being blinded after seeing him, but if Jesus has saved you from your sins, you’ll have a story to tell. This part of our testimonies should include a presentation of the Gospel as you explain how Jesus worked in your life. Explain that you were a sinner, needed a Savior, and you realized that Jesus was the only way to Eternal Life. Explain that Jesus took your sin with him on the Cross, and that because he rose from the grave, you now have life. You don’t have to overthink this point or be a trained theologian to share what Jesus has done for you. You were a sinner deserving of punishment, Jesus took that punishment, now you are saved and a child of God!

Lastly, a testimony includes your life now. Paul described his God-given mission to go and share the Gospel with the Gentiles. Share how God is working in your life now. Share the burden that God has given you for the lost in your world. Share how God has answered your prayers and how he is faithful to his people.

If you have been saved by Jesus, you have a testimony! Share it!

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice