“If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
As we near the end of the book, I have to say it has been a joy to preach through the book of Acts! It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply. As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid. Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.
Paul continues his journey toward Rome in Acts 25 as he appeals to Caesar regarding the charges the Jewish leaders continue to bring against him. I think there are at least two reasons that Paul does this — one, it protects his life from the attempts on it by the Jewish leaders and two, it allows him to continue the mission God had revealed to him regarding being a witness to the Gentiles and to those in authority. As we continue to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us, there are some lessons we need to learn regarding the Act of APPEAL.
- Accept: For the Act of APPEAL to function well, it is important that both sides of the appeal Accept — no matter how unlikely it may seem to them — that they may be wrong! Paul was very clear in his act of appeal that he was willing to accept even the death penalty if he was wrong about his innocence. Many times we make no progress in our relationships with one another even when an appeal is made because we refuse to accept any responsibility. . When we are engaged in the Act of APPEAL, we must make sure we are willing to Accept the outcome that is from God.
- Present: The Act of APPEAL also requires us to Present our case. Many times this is the part that we like — we get to “tell it like it is”. The difficulty is wrapped around the need for the appeal to be presented in a balanced and fair way. When before the Roman officials, Paul was careful to not only present his appeal from his perspective but to also point out the specific areas of disagreement with his accusers. We generally like to present all of the good from our side of an appeal but we’re not too likely to willingly present a full picture of what is going on. We can usually present our case when it comes to our rights and desires but we often fall short in presenting when it comes to the greatest appeal of all — the appeal for people to come to salvation through Jesus! It is important that we practice and become good at presenting the case for Christ as we appeal to people everywhere to be saved. We are able to grow in the Act of APPEAL when we practice our ability to Present the reason for the hope that is within us.
- Ponder: One of the huge roadblocks in the Act of APPEAL is the failure to Ponder both what we present and the response that is given. It seems clear that Paul had given great thought to his appeal. There was a reason behind that was bigger than what most would see as the intended outcome. One of the big problems with this element of appeal is that it takes time. We’re too busy. We already know everything so why delay the inevitable? I’m sure you have heard, or used, those or one of many other excuses for not taking the time to think. Many times it is this act of ponder that helps us to see things more clearly, or even to see the perspective that someone else has that we hadn’t thought of. When it comes to living out the Act of APPEAL, we would do well to stop and Ponder the bigger picture — to try to see things more clearly from God’s perspective.
- Examine: As we consider the Act of APPEAL, the act of ponder ought to lead us down a path where we Examine what God says. Too often we take the easy route and make, or hear, an appeal based on human wisdom and reasoning rather than on what God says. Paul was always diligent in his defense of the gospel to examine the word of God and connect his appeal to what God had said. Often our appeals with one another go nowhere because our minds are made up according to what we like, know, and believe rather than on the foundation of God’s Word. When we spend time examining God’s Word, we are better prepared to give an effective answer for the hope that is within us. The Act of APPEAL will only be as strong as the effort you put into the act of Examine as you discover what God says.
- Acknowledge: The Act of APPEAL requires that you Acknowledge the authority of someone else. Sometimes it is a positional authority and sometimes it is a relational authority. Either way, an appeal is made because you don’t have the authority to command a change. Paul made an appeal to Caesar because he was not in a position to make demands of him. He also would appeal to fellow believers, even when reminding them that he had authority as an apostle, because he viewed them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Many times we don’t appeal to one another to make changes we would like to see because we think we can demand those changes. We need to get rid of our control mindset and constantly acknowledge that God is the authority we all must answer to. When living the Act of APPEAL, it is important to Acknowledge that God is the final authority, not you.
- Listen: Most times the Act of APPEAL that is made by us, or to us, breaks down because one or both parties are not willing to Listen. Paul’s appeal to Caesar worked because he had listened to his accusers and to the Roman officials. More importantly, it worked because he had listened to God. Listening is the key that starts each of the elements of APPEAL that we’ve already looked at. When Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, it is the listening that allows us to do so with gentleness and respect! Our appeals to one another within the church family often fail because we are not willing to actually listen to one another. It is no wonder we are often ineffective in our appeal to the people around us to be saved, if in fact we are making that appeal, because we are likely not listening to them either! Not only do we not listen well to one another, we would much rather give our opinion that listen to God for what He has already said about the issues we face. An effective Act of APPEAL requires that we take the time to really Listen to each other and to God.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of APPEAL? Do you Accept that you could actually be wrong? Do you understand the hope that is in you well enough to Present it accurately to others? Do you spend time with God specifically to Ponder an issue or circumstance? Does your pondering lead you to Examine the scripture to see what God has said? Do you regularly Acknowledge that you are not the final authority in your life or in the lives of others? Are you committed to take the time and effort necessary to Listen to one another as you listen to God? I pray that your involvement in the Act of APPEAL will boldly show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!