“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.”
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.
As we arrive in Acts 24 in our sermon series we continue with a familiar scene as Paul will be making a defense of the gospel and his belief in Jesus as the Way! Paul knows through the Spirit and through the prophets that he is not only heading to Rome but that trouble and hardship await him — but more importantly, he knows he has been appointed to speak of Jesus to kings and authorities so he continues the journey with boldness. Out of all the lessons we will learn from Paul, one of the most important is about giving an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus. With that in mind, let’s look at the Act of REPLY from Acts 24.
- Respect: When given the opportunity to give an answer for the hope that we have, our REPLY must be centered in Respect if we want any chance of being listened to. When brought before the Roman governor, Felix, Paul presents his defense with respect. His answer shows respect not only to the person he is giving a reply to, but to his accusers as well. When Paul is brought before Felix, his accusers do their best to present themselves as friends of Rome and Paul as the enemy. Too often, our natural reaction when falsely accused of something is to become defensive and even strike back. We often let our emotions get the best of us and fail to reply with respect and then wonder why our answer is rarely listened to. The example of Paul teaches us to give truthful answers but to do so with gentleness and respect. When we are engaged in the Act of REPLY, we must make sure our answer is given with Respect for everyone involved.
- Explain: As important as respect is, the Act of REPLY requires us to Explain the hope that is within us! When faced with accusations and given the opportunity to reply, Paul answers with an honest explanation of what he has been doing and what he believes. Too often, we lack the confidence to explain because we’ve not given serious thought to what and why we believe. When asked about our hope, we brush off a real explanation with generalizations and “meatless” answers. What has God done in your life? How has your relationship with Jesus given you strength and hope for each day? What chains in your life have been broken by the power of Jesus? The answers to these and many other questions can give you the framework to more fully explain your relationship with Jesus to the people around you. We are able to grow in the Act of REPLY when we are prepared to Explain the hope that is within us.
- Personal: It is one thing to tell stories that we have read or heard, but our Act of REPLY requires that our answer is Personal! As Paul gives his reply to Felix, he does so with a personal touch. He tells not only of his understanding of the Law and Prophets, but also of his personal response to it. For Paul, scripture is not just a story to be read or told, it is a way of life to be shared. Every Christian has a personal story of how God has impacted their life through their relationship with Jesus. It is good to share the story of God, but our reply gains traction when that story is a personal reflection of God’s work in our life. When it comes to living out the Act of REPLY, we would do well to gain a clear understanding of how God has been involved in our life in a very Personal way.
- Listen: One of the keys to an effective REPLY is the ability and willingness to Listen! Paul is able to tailor his reply because he has taken the time to listen to the accusations against him. Too often, we spend so much time and energy working on a good reply that we fail to take the time to actually listen to what the question is. We think we give an irrefutable reply, yet when it doesn’t match the real question we are left wondering where we went wrong. When we spend time with people, we must listen with our ears but also with our eyes and with the Spirit God has put within us. It is when we truly listen that we come to understand in each situation how best to give an answer for the hope that we have. The Act of REPLY will always be weak and ineffective until we truly learn to Listen.
- Yield: One of the problems we have with the Act of REPLY is that we must Yield the results to God. It is easy to think our answer is so brilliant and right on target that everyone would accept the message with gladness. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Every person has to choose what to do with the reply you give — to either accept it or reject it. Paul seems to do everything right in his reply to Felix and even appears to get his attention and make him curious about The Way Paul pursues God. Yet the short-term result is that Paul continues to be held by the Roman authorities and remains in prison for the remaining two years of Felix’s rule. Paul had learned to yield the results to God because he knew that God’s desire for people to turn to Him was even greater than Paul’s desire that they would do so. When living the Act of REPLY, it is important to Yield the results to God and remember that He desires all people to come to repentance and turn to Him.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of REPLY? Do you approach everyone with Respect? Do you understand the hope that is in you well enough to Explain it to others? Are you comfortable enough with the name of Jesus and His work in your life that you can make your answer Personal? Will you put the necessary effort into really Listening before you reply? Are you willing to Yield all outcomes and results to God? I pray that your involvement in the Act of REPLY will boldly show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!