At the conclusion of Paul’s defense, Governor Festus blurts out, “Too much study has made you crazy [Paul].” Paul says, “Not really. It’s just the truth.” Paul then turns to King Agrippa and presses him for a decision, “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Agrippa says, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul says, “Yes, I really wish I could.” The two sarcastic remarks (Festus, v24 and Agrippa, v28) are designed to cover how they really felt. Paul was getting through.
Sarcasm can reveal a whole range of emotions (interesting field of study*). Sarcasm is usually a cover for how someone really feels. The best response to sarcasm however, is to focus on the content of a sarcastic statement and not on the tone. Paul’s response to their sarcasm is neither mean-spirited nor defensive. Paul is genuine, self-confident and understanding (vv25,29). Lord, may I possess such sincerity and compassion in my witness for Christ.
Paul’s example and appeal is clear. When faced with an opportunity to share the gospel be respectful, tell the truth and share your personal story. These will be your best defense of the gospel. Explain that Jesus came to save those who would turned to him. He died and resurrected that men may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are irrefutable facts in history. A personal testimony is an irrefutable fact in history. Simple truth and reason will bring men and women to a point of decision. The rest is up to them to accept or reject. Lord, lead this sentry to speak the message you give, when you give it. The rest is up to you.
(Ezk 3:27) But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.
“Cancel Culture“ is nothing new. Jesus was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” Weak politicians enable a culture that seeks to silence whatever does not fit their agenda or narrative. Two Governors, Felix and Festus, sought to appease the Jews of Palestine (a religious special interest group). They sought to “Cancel” the apostle Paul. Now King Agrippa would join in to silence, to cancel, the claims of Christianity. The goal was to shut down Paul’s revolutionary message of grace.
What does the Christian do when politicians and special interest groups seek to silence the gospel message? The Christian does what Paul did. He was relentless in sharing the message of Christ. No “Cancel Culture” will stamp out the gospel message of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17). Lord, enable sentries in the watchtowers to always, in every way, rise above the “Cancel Culture” of the day.
Two years after Paul had been accused of trumped up charges by Jewish leaders he had not been convicted. He was still in custody. A new governor, Festus, had been installed. He met with the same Jewish leaders that had accused Paul originally. They were still bent on killing Paul.
For two years Jewish leaders carried on in their vindictive murderous spirit against Paul and the “Way“ (23:12-14). A demonic spirit of religion* had consumed these religious leaders. They were desperate to save their “sacred traditions” from the freedoms of grace in Christ; that liberty in Christ which Paul preached. Lord, may we be free of any legalistic form of religion.
* A “spirit of religion” might be defined as any evil spirit that inspires a degree of commitment to religious traditions, works and practices in such a way as to oppose and perhaps even counterfeit the true work of the Holy Spirit. This is a work of Satan to turn people away from the freedom and liberty of grace in Christ.
After Paul had made his defense, Felix, the governor, stopped the hearing. He determined to delay his verdict. He put Paul back in custody. No evidence, no charges, no verdict. Paul was held in custody for two years before Felix was replaced (v27). Two years. We read no record of complaint by Paul. What we do read is how very often Felix, the governor and his wife Drusilla, a Jew, would call for Paul and talk to him about the “Way“ (v22).
Paul was forthright in his witness and did not back away from calling out sin. For two years it seems Paul was put on hold. But he used this time to witness for Christ to a Roman governor and likely many others. At times I may feel abandoned by God, set aside. Yet, God has a flip-side, an up-side, for every circumstance. Lord, may I always look for opportunities in life‘s setbacks to honor and glorify you.
A plot by Jewish leaders to kill Paul was foiled, as Paul was in custody and moved to Caesarea. Five days later the high priest himself, a lawyer and other Jewish leaders traveled to Caesarea, to file their charges and have Paul killed. The charges were, 1) Paul was a troublemaker, 2) a ringleader of a “cult“ (Christianity) and 3) he attempted to desecrate the temple (vv1–9). Pretty weak.
These allegations were all trumped up charges and Paul refuted each point. Furthermore, there were no witnesses to corroborate the charges (vv10–13). Paul also managed to speak in defense of his faith in God (vv14-16). His words were well chosen and effective. Lord, may the steadfast sentry trust that you will always be his/her defense at times when faith is misunderstood or maligned.
When God calls a person to a mission – He called Paul to a mission; said he would go to Rome to preach the gospel message (Acts 23:11; 25:12) – God will see that it is carried out.
Because of the threat against Paul’s life, his journey to Rome begins secretly in a night passage with an armed Roman escort out of town to Caesarea. Two hundred soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen would bring Paul safely to the governor, Felix, for trial.
Paul is safely delivered, including a letter explaining the allegations against him (vv26-30). Felix agrees to hear Paul’s case when formal charges were filed (v35). I may not always understand the means by which God works, but I may always trust God. He will go to any lengths to enable the obedient servant. The task of the prayer sentry is to faithfully follow.
Once again Paul finds himself caught between Jewish tradition and the new Christian faith. Again he is confronting the Jerusalem church elders steeped in Jewish tradition. Both Paul and these elders had come along way from the Acts 15 conflict. They all seemed more prepared to yield to each other as being sincere in faith. Everyone seemed confident that various traditions among believers and between church bodies were acceptable. As long as they understood that traditions are not the means of salvation.
The fundamental issue is faith in the cross of Christ for the atonement of sin, as the solitary means of salvation. What follows after that is a matter of choice and conscience. It is a matter of threading the needle between relationships and religious tradition.
It would seem that relationships over traditions would be a small matter when it comes to the all important mission of taking the gospel to a lost world. Yet, if the world is to see faith in action among believers, then relationships must always trump ritual and religion.
Father, may the faithful sentry seek to find common ground with sincere believers who worship different than they; who have different backgrounds than they, but worship the same Jesus.
In the movie, “The Guardian,“ Kevin Costner plays Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall. He is the legendary “Guardian,“ one who protects those lost at sea. His protégé, Jake Fisher (Ashton Kutcher), asks Senior Chief Randall, “What’s your number?“ (How many did you save at sea?) Randall replies, “22.” Not many for the legendary guardsman. Then Randall says, “That’s how many I didn’t save. That’s the only number I kept track of.” In the end, Randall gave his own life to save one.
The Apostle Paul was an ancient “guardian“ of the lost souls of men in a sea of humanity. Used of God, he would give his all to save some. Paul is a real life legend who has inspired believers through the ages to give their all for Christ, that none should perish (2Co 9:22; 2Pe 3:9). Lord, I am inspired in my life by your word to give all, that I might save some. May I not fail at that task.
Inspiring notes follow on Paul, as a “guardian” over the lost souls of men:
Day 33 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that the seed of the Gospel take deep root in the hearts of my family and friends.
When the gospel seed is sown, spread, broadcast, it will fall where it will. Some will not get it (vv18,19). Some will join, then lose interest (vv20,21). Some will be too busy, too involved, to stay connected (v22). Some however, will truly receive the gospel message with much enthusiasm – they will go on to produce much good fruit (v23).
Those who truly receive the gospel seed, live by its message, will continue to grow and be energized by it. They will, through the years, influence many others for Christ. Lord, may the seed of the gospel continue to take root in my heart and produce good fruit.
Father in Heaven, America is in great need of the Gospel seed to take deep root. She is in deep need of embracing the message of the Gospel. I pray she not reject, ignore or overlook your message of grace and forgiveness. May she let that Gospel seed go deep into rich fertile soil. May she yield in repentance. May that seed then sprout forth in a bountiful harvest of good fruit.
Be available to God as his messenger of the light (Acts 28:17b,18).
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Day 24 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, lead those believing family and friends to be messengers of the gospel.
I am certainly no Apostle Paul. Still, I have a responsibility to be a witness for Christ (Mat 28:19,20). I am to, “do the work of an evangelist, to fulfill [whatever] ministry [to which I am called]” (2Ti 4:5).
Like a blooming rose in winter, I am to be pointing others to the light, turning them from the power of Satan to God; that they might receive forgiveness of their sins and find their place among God‘s people, set apart by faith in Christ.
Lord, it is my honor to be a messenger for you. May I be on the alert to opportunities every day to share the gospel.
It is imperative that followers of Christ speak in plain understandable language and terms to a world without Christ, without understanding. Even the use of “tongues“ requires an interpretation to follow, that there may be understanding. The gospel of Christ must be made plain and clear.
When Scripture is spoken clearly people will be convicted of sin. They will fall on their knees and worship God…declare that the presence of God is in that place. I am thankful to attend a church like that. The gospel, Scripture truth, is made clear through many avenues of ministry. Lord, open the mouth of this sentry to speak the truth of your word, that conviction and repentance might follow.
Paul had staked his life on the Gospel. He faces suffering and chains as he proceeds to Jerusalem. Here, Paul is challenging church leaders to give their all, as he has done, for the Gospel of Jesus. Tell others the good news of the wonderful grace of God. Faithfully carry out the mission to which you have been called.
To these elders of Ephesus Paul says, “Guard yourselves and God’s people – his church, purchased with his blood. Feed and care for God’s people over whom the Spirit of God has appointed you.” Nothing is more important. Lord, I could never give my life to anything greater than sharing the gospel with others.
Paul is rounding off his third and final missionary journey through Asia to preach the Gospel. He is headed to Jerusalem, anxious to arrive by Passover (a time of celebration). His desire is to deliver an offering collected in his travels, for the Jerusalem church; a very poor and needy church due to persecution and famine.
Paul’s stop near Ephesus begs a meeting with church elders from there. He reviews with them the importance of the Gospel – “Turn from sin, turn to God, put faith in the Lord Jesus.“ Paul had suffered much to preach this message to all people. I can do no less. Lord, it is ever the mission this sentry to, “Influence Men For Christ.“ May I never shrink from my mission.
What keeps you awake at night? Securing your family, your home, your wealth? Your life? In God’s judgment none of these things will be safe.
The crisis of our day is but a harbinger of what is to come. The Scriptures read like a current news story: “There is no new wine – [where are the voices for God’s word?]. Joy is silenced. THE CITY WRITHES IN CHAOS; every HOME IS LOCKED to keep out intruders. MOBS GATHERin the streets, crying out for wine. Joy has turned to gloom. Gladness has been banished from the land. THE CITY IS LEFT IN RUINS, it’s gates battered down” (24:7-12). Sometimes I read Scripture and cannot believe my own eyes. Today we are seeing a picture of what God’s judgment will look like.
This old sentry has stood his watch many a day and night, near 75 times around the sun. From my watchtower I have not seen such chaos inside my own walls, in my own streets and political landscape as seen today. This sentry cries out in the Morning Watches, “Lord, enlarge my heart for the city. Much of my days are past, but my heart breaks for my city. I will do whatever I can.”
“Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. . . Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psm 31:21–22,24)
“And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jer 29:7)
How desperate will be those who know not the Lord at judgment – “Priests and people, servants and masters, maids and mistresses, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, bankers and debtors. No one will be spared.” The Lord takes no pleasure in judgment. Yet it will come.
What to do? Can I go through my life knowing I have the answer for any man who wants a reason for the hope within me (1Pe 3:15)? On my watch, if I speak and no one listens, it’s on them. But if I do not speak at all, their lives are on me. Father, may I always be bold to speak fearlessly, clearly, for you.
Revival, awakening, under Hezekiah had long lasting effects. Those who had been touched by revival were RADICALLY CHANGED. The hearts of these people were refocused on purity and righteousness. Altars to pagan gods all over the land of Judah and Israel were torn down. There was an outpouring of generosity and giving toward the work and ministries of God. Such is the work of God in revival and awakening.
The same can happen in America. It has before, in the Great Awakenings of the 1700s & 1800s. Sweeping moral and ethical changes in society took place. Lying, cheating and corruption in business and government ceased. Bars and brothels were shut down. A new and benevolent generosity occurred. People gave with abundant joy to the work of God in the world. Great mission organizations were founded. Many new ministries were begun. The work of evangelism was renewed and expanded. There was a renewed hunger for the word of God and worship. it can happen again. It must!
Lord Jesus, the broken heart of this aged sentry is in need of an out-pouring of your Spirit. My beloved nation, America, is in desperate need of such a touch of your Spirit. Renew us Lord.
At the early signs of revival, good King Hezekiah sent runners throughout the land of Judah and Israel calling the people to return to God (6-9). Israel was already suffering judgment and in the grip of Asyria. Not everyone heeded the call. The runners were scorned, mocked and rejected. Still, they were obedient to go.
But, there were those few who humbled themselves and received the king’s invitation to come. It is the same today. The invitation goes out, believe on Jesus and enter into the kingdom of God. Many will mock the witnesses for Christ. But, some humbly receive the message.* We keep on going. the Lord is with us** Lord, give this sentry the courage to sound the alarm (Ezk 33:3,4).
* “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. (Mat 7:13,14 – NLT)
** “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:19,20 – NLT)