Acts 25:1-5, 9; Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23
As Acts 25 opens, Felix, the corrupt governor who has imprisoned Paul to please the Jews, is recalled (fired) by Nero. Festus succeeds Felix, inheriting the corrupt administration, as well as the unresolved problem posed by Paul. It will now become the responsibility of the new governor to identify some charge against Paul so that he can, at last, be put to trial. In Festus’ search for the truth, the Gospel will be proclaimed to many people of position and power, fulfilling the plan and promise of God (Acts 9:15). Paul will continue to demonstrate the maturity of his faith in Christ as he declares the Gospel message with confidence and clarity. But if this is God’s sovereign design, why don’t more come to saving faith as a result of their hearing the Gospel?
Jesus told a story using four types of soil to illustrate different responses to God (Matthew 13:3-9). Jesus’ explanation of this parable highlights four different responses to the Gospel (Matthew 13:18-23). The seed is “the Word of the Kingdom.” The point of this parable reveals that a person’s reception of God’s Word (Jesus Christ) is determined by the condition of his heart. The heart represented by the “fertile soil” is the only one of the four that is truly saved because salvation’s proof is fruit (Matthew 3:7-8; 7:15-20).
In every community, church, and Christian group, we see these four responses to Christ. Some people hear God’s truth, but it doesn’t seem to make the slightest dent. Others receive it gladly; but when difficulties surface, and they always will, their joy quickly fades into despair. Many others grow for a time, then worries erode their faith and competing attractions of pleasure and possessions steal their hearts. But the one with the fourth response will grow strong in his/her faith and touch the lives of tens or hundreds of others. Those whom God uses to mend broken families and guide wayward lives say there’s nothing so thrilling or fulfilling in the world. Is this a description of you?
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9). What kind of co-worker have you been this past year?
What types of soil are demonstrated by Paul, Felix, Festus and the Jewish religious leaders? What type of soil have you been for most of your Christian life? What are some changes you need to make to be a “fourth-type-of-soil” person?
Ask God to grow you this week so that you might touch lives of the lost and hurting with love and life. Pray that God will cause our church to be a source of planting and watering the seeds of the Gospel.
Acts 25:13-22; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 13-17
On December 17, 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright finally succeeded in keeping their homemade airplane in the air for 59 seconds and 852 feet at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they rushed a telegram to their sister in Ohio, telling of this accomplishment. It read: “First sustained flight today 59 seconds. Hope to be home by Xmas.” The sister was so excited that she rushed to the local newspaper office and gave the telegram to the editor. The next morning the headline read, “Popular local bicycle merchants to be home for the holidays.” The editor missed the scoop of the century because he missed the point. The Wright brothers’ flight was one of the most significant events in the history of the world, one that would change the world.
Remarkably, in spite of two thousand years of history, there are many people who view the resurrection of Jesus Christ just like the editor viewed the Wright brothers’ first flight. They don’t give it much thought. The resurrection is the most significant event in the history of the world; they shrug it off as inconsequential and go on about life, focusing instead on trips home for the holidays and other trivia.
Our text today demonstrates two views of the resurrection: the world’s view and the Christian view. Festus gives us the world’s view that the resurrection is inconsequential and more of a personal opinion, rather than factual. Here’s a paraphrase of Festus’ account to King Agrippa II: “I thought they (Jews) were going to accuse Paul of something serious, like murder or treason. But instead they just had some silly dispute about their religion. No big deal—just some dead man whom Paul said was alive.”
The Christian view of the resurrection is best stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians: It is of first importance (15:3-4), and without this resurrection our faith is futile and useless. We are still in our sins without God and without salvation (15:13-17). The resurrection is the most significant event in history because it is true for everyone.
Imagine it is Easter morning and you are the newspaper editor. These stories come across your desk: “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” “Children hunt Easter eggs.” “Hams are BOGO free.” “Restaurants crowded on Easter Sunday”. “Better weather tomorrow.” You decide which story is trivial and which is crucial. Will you, like the editor of the Ohio Gazette, ignore the crucial and focus on the trivial? Or will you face the most important fact of history—that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead—and put your trust in Him as your Savior and Lord?
What importance does the resurrection of Jesus Christ hold for you? Someone tells you, “It is fine for you to believe in Jesus, but I have my own beliefs that are valid for me.” What is your response?
Ask God to give you the right perspective about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son. Pray that you will proclaim these truths to the lost and broken in the world. Ask God to make our church a source of truth and life for everyone.
Acts 26:6-8; Psalm 39:7; Romans 15:13
What is hope? “Is it a wishy-washy maybe or a kind of unsure optimism? The modern idea of hope is ‘to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.’ In Scripture, according to Hebrew and Greek translations, the word “hope” is an indication of certainty. Hope means ‘a strong and confident expectation.’ Hope may refer to the activity of hoping or to the object hoped for … By its very nature it has two qualities: futurity and invisibility.” (bible.org)
“Biblically, hope is synonymous with salvation and its many blessings, past, present, and future, as promised in Scripture. This is true even with what we have already received as believers because these blessings come under the category of what we cannot see. We may see some of the results, but it still requires faith and hope. For example, we do not see the justifying work of God, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account, nor do we see the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we are saved, nor our co-union with Jesus…. We believe in the testimony of God in the Word and hope for the results in our lives.” (bible.org)
Hope is active, dynamic, directive and life sustaining. It is not an escape from reality or its problems. It sets our hearts on fire with confidence in the promises of God. Hope has results!
- It changes how we see ourselves: forever loved by God. (1 John 3:1-3)
- It changes what we value: Our treasures are in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21)
- It affects what we do with our lives—our talents, time and treasures. (Titus 2:1-13)
- It gives us power to live courageously—to be all God has called us to be in Christ.
So then, why are we so quick to opt for earthly treasures and lose sight of our heavenly realities? We have to wait! We are all waiting for Christ’s return; some are waiting for our loved one’s salvation or waiting for a painful circumstance to end. Waiting demands trust in God to do what He has promised.
As we wait, God purifies and refocuses our hearts. We may have longed for a particular answer from God; however, as He delays, His Holy Spirit is working in us to change our desires. Our hope may have been in a person, a promotion, or a pleasure; but in the crucible of waiting, God shifts our hearts’ attention to Him so that we desire to know Him above all else.
How would you define hope? What promises from the Bible are you most likely to turn to in a difficult circumstance? If you are waiting for something right now, how much of your hope is in God?
Praise the God of Hope who fills us with all joy and peace. Ask God to reveal a deeper trust and hope in His Word and His plan for you and your family. Pray that the hope of our church will be Christ-centered and produce joy and peace.
Many people have dreams of wealth, popularity, power, and ease. But there’s another kind of dream that is even more powerful and far more fulfilling: Finding and following God’s dream for our lives! When Paul stood before King Agrippa II and all those who had come with great pomp and ceremony to explain why he followed his path, he could have described the pros and cons of each decision. But pros and cons did not determine Paul’s direction. Paul had a God-given vision, and he aligned his life to fulfill it. That was his defense before the king. A compelling dream given by God will generate the obedience to push past our doubts and fears.
It is popular today to talk about visionary leadership. A leader must have a clear picture of what is desirable and must be able to articulate that vision so that others can grasp it. Having a visionary leader who can show what is ahead and uncharted is strategic to motivating others to give themselves to a task or a movement.
Ajith Fernando wrote: “But the biblical model of visions like Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9), Peter on the rooftop (Acts 10), and John on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9) acknowledge that a vision had vital implications for the future. But the visions were not humanly constructed pictures of the future. The visions came from God as an instruction for action.” (The NIV Application Commentary) The church at Antioch was “worshipping the Lord and fasting” (Acts 13:2) when God gave them the vision that gave birth to the first formal foreign missionary movement in the church. Leaders must earnestly ask God, both privately and in community, for a vision of what He wants done through them.
All pursuits promise to fill our lives with meaning, but only God can transform us, fill us, challenge us, and give our lives ultimate purpose. God gave His all, and He demands our all in return. In one of the most loved devotional books in the English language, Oswald Chambers wrote, “The only way to be obedient to the heavenly vision is to give our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory. This can only be accomplished when we make our determination to continually remember God’s vision.” The paradox of the Christian life is that when we live unreservedly for God, we find true fulfillment ourselves. Do not be disobedient to the dream God has given you.
How clear is God’s dream for your life right now? What fears are holding you back from accomplishing this dream? What do you think is God’s vision for Glenkirk? How are you a part of that vision?
Praise God for the vision He is giving you and our church! Ask for faith, perseverance and steadfast obedience so that you and our church will give our utmost for His highest.
Acts 26:6-7; Isaiah 43:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 1 John 1:4
There is an unwritten rule on the NYC subways: Never ask if someone is lost because you don’t want to give directions. My sister was informed of the rule while we were lost on the NYC subway. I thought they had to ignore a lot of travelers because the NYC subway system is confounding to the beginner. Sharing the Gospel can be a lot like that. We are all busy and burdened, and we find that “don’t ask, don’t tell” becomes routine. There are a lot of lost people we may be ignoring because we don’t feel like giving directions.
About 28 years have passed since Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road and God sent him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul is nearing his finish line as he draws closer to Rome, fulfilling God’s call on his life (Acts 9:15). In his testimony before Festus, King Agrippa II and Bernice (Acts 26), he is a skillful evangelist. For many Christians today, myself included, evangelism does not come naturally. We sense the social awkwardness of talking about spiritual things. But I want to be more daring and bold! Two of God’s resources, the Holy Spirit and Scripture, will help us shake off the shackles of fear and self-doubt. God’s Word can bring a conviction to do evangelism in the absence of feeling like it. The Holy Spirit will lead you to what you need to share. Here are four Bible passages to help answer why I share the Gospel.
- For God’s fame: We exist to bring God glory. We live to declare the wonders of God or to make Him famous. (Isaiah 43:7)
- For lost people: The Bible describes people who do not believe in Christ as lost and separated from the love of God. Do you believe this truth? Paul wrote: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- To be ambassadors: God has entrusted us with the responsibility of being His ambassadors. God makes His appeal through us! (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
- To increase our joy: When you delight in something (food, a great sale, a new relationship, or good news), don’t you just “have to share it.” John wrote that proclaiming “what we had seen and heard … makes his joy complete.” (1 John 1:3-4)
Remember the Holy Spirit will help! Our entire study of Acts reveals His filling power, guidance, protection, instruction, and more!
What are some ways that we can turn everyday conversations into opportunities to share the Gospel? What fears keep you from proclaiming Christ as you should? How can you overcome them?
Pray that the Lord will use you to help others come to know the love and joy of Christ and be saved. Ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you with boldness and humility to share your testimony.
- In Wednesday’s devo, the definition of “hope” is found a https://bible.org/article/hope
- Aith Fernando’s quote is taken from The NIV Application Commentary: Acts. Published by Zondervan, 1998.
- Oswald Chamber’s quote can be found at https://utmost.org/obedience-to-the-heavenly-vision/