11 October 2020
Out Of Your Mind
Here we are at the end of three trials for the Apostle Paul, which have happened over several years.
In the first one Paul was before the Jewish Council. That ended well … with them trying to kill him. It strikes me that it’s a bad trail when the judge ends up trying to kill you.
The second one was before the Roman governor Felix. Who couldn’t find any reason to keep Paul in prison, but did anyway because he wanted to do a favour for the Jews.
Now we are here at the third trial … and Paul is at the end of his defence before the new Governor Festus and the Jewish puppet King Agrippa.
In some ways this will not be a surprise to us.
One of the promises Jesus had made about Paul right at the beginning was that he was to carry Jesus’ name before Gentiles and before Kings, and here he is proclaiming Christ to the King.
I want to point out three things this morning in regards to what he says.
The first is:
The gospel message is simple
The message of the gospel is a fairly simple message. It is not complicated. I wonder if we make it more complex than it needs to be at times.
We see it in summary in verse 20.
That people … should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Repent means turning away from one thing, and turning to God.
What are we to turn away from?
In verse 18 he has spoken about turning from the darkness in which we live. That is a good description of what it means to live, rejecting the Lord of this world.
We don’t live as we were made to live … we don’t love as we were made to love … there is something wrong with us … we are dark and we are evil … we live in darkness.
He speaks about our bondage to Satan. That is a frightening idea.
We are not free agents, doing whatever we like … we are not wise trail blazers … bravely forging our own way in life while “I did it my way” plays in the background.
Rather we live as captives to Satan himself. It is a stark contrast and we can’t even see it. We are blind to our danger.
There is a spider living in the driver’s side mirror of my car. It makes its web across the mirror each day.
I was parking the other day and a fly flew right into the web.
That spider came out in a flash … the fly thrashed about as if its life depended on it, which it did as it turned out, but it was all too late. In a second it was captured and taken into the cavity behind the mirror to be eaten.
It scared the life out of me to be honest, and I parked rather badly because of it.
You see, the fly thrashed about because it knew it was in real trouble.
We, on the other hand, live in darkness, captive to Satan, and we think we live in the light, kings of our destiny, and we think it is OK, and that there is no danger.
Paul is to speak the gospel to people like that, and Paul says: “repent, … turn to God.” It’s your only hope.
If, in his kindness, God has given you eyes to see your situation, then these are simple but precious words.
Repent … stop going the way you are going and turn to God.
The astounding thing is that you receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith, which is what he says in verse 18.
Repent and turn to God.
It is such a simple message isn’t it?
You are not being asked to find your way out of the darkness.
You are not being asked to make your darkness into light.
You are not being asked to free yourself from bondage to Satan, as if you could.
Rather, seeing who you are, and seeing who Jesus really is, repent and turn to God. Commit yourself to him and then depend on him for everything.
That is the message.
You know, some people refuse what God offers because … because it is too simple.
It sounds wrong doesn’t it? Some people refuse the gospel because it isn’t hard enough.
If they had to do a pilgrimage to the North Pole, or give away all their money or live like a monk – that would appeal. However, just abandoning confidence in yourself and trusting yourself to Jesus – that gives you nothing to do … that leaves no room for your effort.
Do you remember the man named Naaman in the Old Testament who was very sick with leprosy. God told him that if he wanted to be healed, all he had to do was to wash himself in the muddy river nearby.
The problem he had was that it was too hard to do , simply because it was too easy.
He’d have preferred to pay money, or do some great deed, or at least wash in a respectable river.
It is a simple message.
It is a message for small and great
… so I stand here testifying both to small and great,
Now look. Let’s be honest.
“You walk in darkness, you are a slave of Satan.
Repent and turn to God … this is your only hope.
It might sound OK for those who are down and out but what about the self-made? What about Kings and rulers?
If ever you wanted to change that message it would be before a king, don’t you think?
Is there some way to make it softer. Less humbling?
Yet here is Paul, on trial for his life, before the King of Israel, and he says: “You live in darkness. You are bound to Satan.”
Repent and turn to God!
It is a simple message, and it is the same message no matter who you are.
It is not a new message.
Paul is not being an innovator here he is saying vs 22
nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
If you read the Old Testament and just understand the plain sense of what it is saying, you will find it is saying what I am saying, says Paul.
This is not new.
That is the first point:-
The gospel message is a simple message. Let’s not make it complex.
The second things is:
It is a message that seeks to convert
Why is Paul doing this do you think?
Here is Paul, on trial for his life … really. If he is handed over to the Jews they are going to kill him.
Here he is on trial for his life, and he is telling them the gospel message.
Repent and turn to God!
Well there is this funny little exchange where Paul tells us exactly what he is doing.
In verse 28
28 … Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”
In other words, are you trying to persuade me to be a Christian Paul?
Let me paraphrase Paul’s answer in vs 29.
Yes, that is exactly what I am seeking to do.
… I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am
Don’t you want that?
Don’t we want that?
Don’t you want men and women and boys and girls everywhere to turn to Jesus Christ, the king of this world.
We are being told over and over again “ keep your Christianity to yourself.” It is a private thing, don’t seek to convert people to your religion.
Isn’t it the most important message there could ever be in the history of time? How can we keep it to ourselves?
Isn’t Jesus the true king of this world ? How can we shut up about him?
When I was teaching scripture, I was told by the school that I was not allowed to proselytize. Proselytizing is when you seek to make people Christians.
Now, why in the world do they think I was seeking to teach scripture? Nothing better to do on a Friday?
I longed for students to turn and follow Christ as their king.
Now I think they thought proselytising was seeking to trick or coerce or pressure students to become Christians. Which was the last thing I wanted to do.
Did I want kids to become Christians? Too right I did!
Don’t you? I did all I could to convince them of who Jesus is and that they should follow him as their king.
Friends, we must not be put off by a world that says: “Keep it to yourself. Stop trying to convince people to become Christians.”
Friends, Christianity is a proselytizing religion. Of course it is.
How could it not be?
If there is a God, and he calls on people everywhere to repent and believe. Then how can we not do that?
People who believe the world is in immediate danger from climate change yell it from the roof tops.
People who believe there is systemic racism riot in streets.
How can we, who believe Jesus is Lord, and calls on all to repent and turn to God be silenced?
We have something more important, more life changing, more wonderful than anyone else on this planet.
The gospel message is a simple message.
It is a message that seeks to convert.
It is a True and Rational message
Well Festus has had enough and he interrupts Paul’s defence.
“Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”
You’re crazy Paul, what you are saying is stupid.
No says Paul. Vs 25
“I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words”.
Now think about that with me.
Christianity is true and rational.
It is not just a figment of someone’s imagination, it is not just something that has been made up. It is real.
There are so many beliefs out there and so many ‘isms’, and in a politically correct world in which you are not allowed to say anything is wrong, we no longer ask the question: “Is it True?”
If it is not true, then let’s stop believing it.
On the 20th of March in Lancashire 2014 a Psychic fair was cancelled. The reason given was: due to unforeseen circumstances.
Which tends to call into question the whole Psychic thing don’t you think?
We need to ask the question: is it true?
So many people tip toe around different religions not wanting to question them and we misuse the word true.
If a faith works for you, then, that is great. That is right for you but it is not right for me. It may be true for you but it is not true for me.
Friends we know this is nonsense.
We know that different religions of the world contradict one another. Islam says Jesus did not die on the Cross; Christianity says he did. They cannot both be true.
To say they are both true is to make truth into a joke. There is an historically correct answer to the question and whatever else we say, true truth matters.
Now we want to respect people who hold to other religions, we want to value and honour people who hold to other religions, but let’s not pretend that all religions are the same and true.
It is simply not possible given what they each say. There is right and there is wrong, and the apostle Paul is saying, Christianity is the right one, because it is true.
It is logically coherent, which I think will be a surprise to some people, because many discount Christianity because they believe it is impossible.
Some people say the whole idea of Jesus doing miracles or Jesus coming back from the dead is just silly. All this stuff about Paul seeing the risen Christ after his death, it must have been a figment of his imagination. That sort of thing does not happen, but did you hear what Paul said in vs 8?
8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Which is a very good point. If there is a God who made the world what is the big deal about God bringing back someone from the dead? It is not as if that would be difficult for God.
It is not as if there is no evidence.
Christianity is based on historical events like no other religion in the world.
It is not just based on what people have dreamed up in their heads, that is what Paul is saying in vs 25-26.
25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.
None of what Paul is talking about here is a secret, it is all a matter for public record. They can go and check out the facts for themselves, it was not done over in a corner where no one could see. Look at the evidence Paul says, this is reasonable.
It is based on things that happened, historical events. His execution, his resurrection which lots of people saw.
Even historians will concede that Christianity has very solid historical roots. There is agreement that something must have happened.
Professor Lapide the German historian, not a Christian said “In a purely logical argument, the resurrection of Jesus is the lesser of two evils, according to my opinion the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real.”
He was not a Christian, he was an orthodox Jew. But given the evidence before him, he could not deny the resurrection. What historians have been saying Paul has been saying at his trial.
Christianity is not about a blind faith or vague feelings or abstract philosophies that people have just thought up. We are in the category of eye witnesses and historically verifiable events.
We are in the category of what is true and reasonable. Which is why Paul became a Christian.
Friends, look, if you’re a Christian, you are not silly for believing what you believe.
It is a reasonable response to historical facts.
Don’t be intimidated by people who want to call you an idiot for following Jesus.
It make sense of the world we live in.
If you’re not a Christian this morning, don’t dismiss it for silly reasons:
Whatever you do, don’t just walk away and dismiss it for silly reasons
I don’t want to deal with this Christianity stuff … it is just too inconvenient. That was Agrippa’s response.
What would my friends think?
I haven’t got time for this Christianity stuff … it is going to mean a life style change
I just can’t be bothered, it is too unbelievable
They are no good reasons to not believe.
What a message we have.
A simple message
A message to change lives
A message that is true and rational.
Lets never be ashamed to speak about our king and our saviour for all we are worth.
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