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Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 27, 28; Rom. 1:18-20.

Memory Text: “Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts 27:24

Paul had long wished to visit Rome, but his arrest in Jerusalem changed everything. By giving in to the legalistic pressure of the Jerusalem church leaders, he ended up in Roman custody for almost five years, including the time he spent on the sea journey to Italy. This change represented a severe blow to his missionary plans.

The apostles were not legalistic. They took their eyes off of Christ and feared the Jews when Paul came to town. Not abiding in Christ, they were cowards which cost the church the loss of one of its great pillars.

Despite the setback, Jesus Himself promised that the apostle would still testify of Him in Rome (Acts 23:11). Even when we fail Him, God may still give us another chance, though He does not always spare us from the consequences of our actions. Not only was Paul taken to Rome as a prisoner, but there is no biblical evidence that he ever went to Spain, as he had hoped to do (Rom. 15:24). After being released from what is known as the first Roman imprisonment, Paul would be arrested again, this time to suffer martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:6-8) under Nero in A.D. 67.

Paul did not fail God. He wrote most of the New Testament. The church leadership failed to do what was right and this caused Paul to be lost to the church. And, yes, they repented. God does not cut anyone off for one sin, unless it was the last sin of many before, and they cannot hear the still small voice calling to repent.

Yes, Paul made it to Rome, and while waiting in his house-prison to be tried before the emperor, he spoke, despite his chains (Eph. 6:20, Phil. 1:13), without hindrance to whoever came to him (Acts 28:30, 31), including important figures from Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22).

Yes, God often turns Satan's work to good. How Satan must suffer when he finds his work has failed! As we close this quarter's Sabbath School lessons, let us thank God for the faithfulness of the Apostle Paul and the one whose life was given that Saul might become the Paul we all love and respect, Stephen. We learned in our study of Acts that through the love of Jesus, Stephen revealed that love to the chief of sinners, the Pharisee of Pharisees. It was the grace extended to Saul by Stephen that began in great measure the wooing of the Spirit that Saul found it hard to kick against.  "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:60.

May we in like manner extend God's grace to others who despitefully use us.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 29.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--17--Nicodemus
« Last post by Richard Myers on Today at 05:36:31 AM »
Amen, Pastor Sean!  The most important question that must be answered by all who profess to love God is "what must I do to be saved?" Here we see the question and the answer. This is why this chapter is always "stickied" and kept at the top of this forum. When I was called into the ministry it was made plain that this question and answer and this chapter was the burden God put on my heart to share with the church and the world.

But this morning God impressed me to point out that there is a natural bent to reject this message of love. We come into this world in fallen flesh. Jesus points this out in his opening remarks to Nicodemus. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. We must be born again of the Spirit in order to be fit for heaven. Yet, we hear it being taught by conservatives in the church that this is not true. That when we come into the world we are in a neutral position. Don't believe it. Believe Christ. We must be born again. In our fallen nature we are evil and need to be reconciled with God in order to do any good thing for the right reason. Our hearts must be cleansed from sin before we can love with all the heart.

This sets the stage to answer why it is that this message of love from God can  be rejected. Not only rejected, but with hatred toward those who present it. The chapter opens with a revelation of this animus towards Christ.

Christ’s exercise of authority in the cleansing of the temple had roused the determined hatred of the priests and rulers. They feared the power of this stranger. Such boldness on the part of an obscure Galilean was not to be tolerated. They were bent on putting an end to His work.

When the truth was revealed by Jesus, it came from one who was not part of the power structure that controlled the religion of that day. Thus, the leaders feared the power that Christ revealed when he presented the truth that had been perverted by the leadership. In other words, they were losing their power because they were presenting not the truth, but lies.

How do we feel when we are shown to be wrong? If we don't want to know we are wrong, then what does that say about our love of the truth and our love for God? What Jesus stirred up was not something new in Israel. It was a perverse nation thathad  been rejecting light for many years. And, when God sent prophets to correct the situation, it often led to violence towards those presenting the truth.

    They remembered how prophets had been slain for rebuking the sins of the leaders in Israel.

Has human nature changed? Has fallen flesh become gentle and kind? No, it is only the laws of the land that help to keep the violence down. But, we know from Bible prophecy that the "beast" is about to speak as a dragon and those who love God supremely will be hurt and killed. And when the number of dead is reached, then probation will close and those living saints will go through a time of trouble such as never was. It will be the "religious" ones that persecute God's children.

But, with Israel it was God's chosen nation that was persecuting those who God had sent with a message to correct the error (lies) that had been coming out of the mouths of the leaders in the nation. The gospel message of salvation by grace had been perverted. Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus under cover of darkness? Because he feared the leadership of the church if they discovered his visit with Jesus.

    And should his visit come to the knowledge of the Sanhedrin, it would draw upon him their scorn and denunciation.

We see clearly the risk that is present when God sends messengers to correct false doctrine in His church or even in other churches. But, is there a risk when the false doctrine takes hold in the organization? Did Israel suffer on account of having perverted God's truth? Yes, they did very much so.

     They knew that the bondage of the Jews to a heathen nation was the result of their stubbornness in rejecting reproofs from God. They feared that in plotting against Jesus the priests and rulers were following in the steps of their fathers, and would bring fresh calamities upon the nation.

Has God changed? Does His church today suffer from rejecting reproofs? Yes, it does. There have been great calamities within our church because reproof was rejected. We remember the loss of the Review and Herald when they rejected reproof. We recall the loss of the Battle Creek Sanitarium when Kellogg and other leaders rejected reproof from God's prophet. The greatest loss suffered by God's church today happened when the message sent in 1888 was rejected by the leadership of God's church. Jesus was ready to come and the latter rain had begun to fall. The rejection of the latter rain led to modern day "Israel" wandering in the desert for 130 years. And, the continued rejection of truth has created the greatest crisis in the church's history. Three divisions within the church are in rebellion against, God, His Word, and His church.

The Spirit of God had sent light through Waggoner and Jones in 1888, what happened to them? How were they treated by church leadership? Their message was rejected, but that was not good enough. Their characters were attacked. They were turned away from God and lost their salvation. Church leadership played a part in the destruction of these two men.

The Lord has raised up Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner to proclaim a message to the world to prepare a people to stand in the day of God. The world is suffering the need of additional light to come to them upon the Scriptures,—additional proclamation of the principles of purity, lowliness, faith, and the righteousness of Christ. This is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Many will be moved and humbled. After a time they will drink of the waters of life. Jesus proclaimed Himself the bread of life: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51.

Jesus knew every soul that believed not, for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who believed not and who would betray him. Many of the disciples walked away from Christ and no more believed on Him. We need not be surprised if the same experience should be realized in our day. If they went away from Christ at His words spoken to them, there will be those who claim to believe the third angel’s message—even men who have been long in the faith—who will be offended at His words that shall come through His delegated human agents.

If the light had been plainly, decidedly acted upon, those men who have followed their own finite wisdom would have decided to come over on the Lord’s side or have been separated from the cause of work of God. Oh, what shall I say? What can I say? Such men are bringing in false theories and principles and converting Elder Olsen to voice their unjust plans and methods, which are bringing the curse of God upon our institutions.  1888 1815.

And so it is today. The curse of God is upon many of our institutions, for they are not walking in the light God has so graciously sent. And how shall the messengers of God be treated today? And how shall they respond? Not as Job did to those who persecuted him. Not as did Waggoner and Jones, but, as did John the Baptist, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Abel, Ellen White, and our best example our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In all ages Satan has persecuted the people of God. He has tortured them and put them to death, but in dying they became conquerors. They bore witness to the power of One mightier than Satan. Wicked men may torture and kill the body, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ in God. They can incarcerate men and women in prison walls, but they cannot bind the spirit. Through trial and persecution the glory—the character—of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The believers in Christ, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. On earth they walk in narrow paths; they are purified in the furnace of affliction.

They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial and experience bitter disappointments; but thus they learn the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they can look beyond the gloom to the glory, saying, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

If I was to ask you "How are you saved?" What would you answer? And more pressing, "Are you experiencing salvation even now?" We need to know where our souls are with God. We are living in the most solemn time in earth's history. Christ is completing His final work of judgment in behalf of those who have professed His name, and He is about to come as King in glory with all His holy angels. But He tarries. Jesus sees how many have been left to wander at random as multiple gospels and different opinions cause confusion. He waits for you and me to clearly understand and reveal the gospel of His grace in our lives. Our great need of understanding the gospel is seen in how clearly Christ presented it to Nicodemus.

"How, then, are we to be saved? 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,' so the Son of man has been lifted up, and everyone who has been deceived and bitten by the serpent may look and live. 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' John 1:29. The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, 'I delight to do Thy will, O my God.' Psalm 40:8." {The Desire of Ages, page 175, paragraph 5}

Amen! This is present truth for this time! We need a conversion every day, and the evidence of this conversion is that we gladly follow the law written in mind and heart as all of the fruits of the Spirit are seen in our lives without one missing! May you not only understand the gospel as a theory, but live it through a beautiful experience of beholding the loveliness of Jesus morning by morning by spending a thoughtful hour contemplating the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes! This is our great need, and from it flows every other capacity for doing good, for by beholding Jesus we are changed and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us by the miracle of conversion, which is the fruit of understanding the gospel!

Thursday ↥         September 27

The Victory of the Gospel

On a set day, the Jews came in large numbers to hear Paul’s presentation of the gospel (Acts 28:23).

Read Acts 28:24-31. What was Paul’s point in quoting Isaiah in this context?

The quotation from Isaiah 6:9, 10 describes what happens when people refuse to accept the divine message. Though some Jews believed, others didn’t, and so, because of this great dispute, the apostle had no choice but once again to turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46, 47; 18:6).

Paul had to wait two years to be tried by the emperor. Meanwhile, though restricted to his house-prison, he was still able to share the gospel without hindrance with those who came to him. The last scene of Acts is one that emphasizes the victory of the gospel, as no force, whether Jewish or Roman, had been able to stop its progress.

It is not clear why Luke finishes his book at this point, as there is evidence that, due to the weakness of the case against Paul, he was released from this imprisonment, went on another missionary journey, and was again taken to Rome and executed (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Perhaps, from the standpoint of Luke’s literary purpose, by having been preached even in distant Rome, the gospel had already reached the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).

“Paul’s patience and cheerfulness during his long and unjust imprisonment, his courage and faith, were a continual sermon. His spirit, so unlike the spirit of the world, bore witness that a power higher than that of earth was abiding with him. And by his example, Christians were impelled to greater energy as advocates of the cause from the public labors of which Paul had been withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle’s bonds influential, so that when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, and to all appearance he could do the least, then it was that he gathered sheaves for Christ in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 464.

From the standpoint of the church’s mission, however, it could be said that the book of Acts—or the history of the spreading of the gospel—is not yet finished, and it is here that each one of us enters the picture. Many more exciting and dramatic chapters have been written throughout the centuries, sometimes with the blood of God’s faithful witnesses. Now it is our turn to add one more chapter, the last one (we hope!), and bring the mission Jesus left with the disciples to its full completion—“and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14, NKJV).

Friday ↥         September 28

Further Thought: “Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that the Saviour desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.

“Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory.”—Page 111.

Discussion Questions:

    How does Luke portray Paul’s faith in God throughout the whole journey to Rome? How were others affected by such unconditional faith?

    Despite everything he had gone through, Paul never gave up his faith or his mission. In Rome, he continued to preach despite his limited freedom. What can we do when tempted to give up on our proclamation of the gospel to someone?

    Read Romans 1:14, 15. Why did Paul feel himself under obligation—or a debtor—to preach the gospel to everybody? Are we less obligated than he was? Consider this statement: “To save souls should be the lifework of everyone who professes Christ. We are debtors to the world for the grace given us of God, for the light which has shone upon us, and for the discovered beauty and power of the truth.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 53.

    Read again the passage from Isaiah that Paul used. How could this idea apply to us? Yes, we have been given a great deal of truth, but if we harden ourselves to it, or even to aspects of it that might conflict with our own wishes or desires, what danger could we face spiritually?

    Imagine being the soldier chained to Paul. What do you think he saw in the man to whom he was so closely tied?

Tuesday ↥         September 25

In Malta

It was only upon reaching the shore that the survivors learned they were in Malta, a small island in the center of the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. In the two weeks they had been adrift in the sea, yielded to the force of the wind, they had covered about four hundred seventy-five miles since Fair Havens, in Crete. Now they would have to wait out the three months of winter before continuing their journey (Acts 28:11).

Read Acts 28:1-10. What happened to Paul on the island of Malta, and how was God able to use him?

The people of Malta were very friendly and hospitable, and their first action toward Paul and his group, who were all wet and cold, was to light a fire to warm them up; the temperature in Malta at this time of the year would not be higher than about 50°F.

The incident of the snake drew the people’s attention to Paul. At first, the local pagans viewed the fact that he was bitten as an act of divine retribution. They thought Paul was a murderer who had managed to escape from death by drowning but was still caught by the gods, or perhaps the Greek goddess Dike, the personification of justice and vengeance. Because the apostle did not die, he was hailed as a god, as had happened in Lystra several years before (Acts 14:8-18). Though Luke does not dwell on the episode, it is probably safe to assume that Paul took advantage of this situation to bear witness of the God he served.

Publius was either the Roman procurator of Malta or just a local dignitary, but he welcomed Paul and his companions for three days until they found a more permanent place to stay. At any rate, the healing of this man’s father gave Paul the opportunity to engage in a sort of healing ministry among the Maltese people.

In Luke’s account, there is no mention of a single convert or of any congregation Paul left behind when he departed from Malta. Such omission might be entirely coincidental, but it illustrates the fact that our mission in the world goes beyond baptisms or church planting; it also involves concern for people and their needs. This is the practical aspect of the gospel (Acts 20:35; compare with Titus 3:14).

How fascinating that these islanders, who were ignorant about God’s law, had a sense of divine justice. Where, ultimately, did that come from? See Rom. 1:18-20.

Wednesday ↥         September 26

Paul in Rome, Finally

After three months in Malta, Paul and his companions were finally able to continue their journey (Acts 28:11). They arrived in Puteoli (Acts 28:13)—modern Pozzuoli, in the Bay of Naples—from where they would travel to Rome by road (see Acts 28:11-16).

The news of Paul’s approach quickly reached Rome, and from there a group of believers traveled several miles south to welcome him. Though he had never been to Rome, the apostle had numerous friends in the city: co-workers, converts, relatives, and many others who were very dear to him (Rom. 16:3-16). The meeting on the Appian Way must have been particularly moving, especially in view of the shipwreck and the fact that Paul was now a prisoner. As a result of such a unique demonstration of love and care on the part of his beloved friends, the apostle thanked God and felt deeply heartened as he was about to face trial before the emperor.

In his official report, Festus certainly must have written that according to Roman law, Paul was not guilty of any significant crime (Acts 25:26, 27; 26:31, 32). This probably explains why he was allowed to rent a private dwelling (Acts 28:30) instead of being sent to a regular prison or military camp, though after Roman fashion he was chained to a soldier the whole time. That Paul was at his own expense implies he was able to carry on his own trade (Acts 18:3).

Read Acts 28:17-22. What did Paul do as soon as he settled down?

Though Paul could not go to the synagogue, the synagogue could come to him. So, soon after his arrival, following his policy of going first to the Jews (Rom. 1:16), he called together the local Jewish leaders to state his innocence and explain, as he had done before, that he had been arrested for no reason other than the hope of Israel (Acts 23:6, 24:15, 26:6-8). His intention was not so much to defend himself as to create an atmosphere of trust that allowed him to preach the gospel, showing how Jesus’ resurrection was the fulfillment of Israel’s ancestral hope. Surprised that they had not received any information from Jerusalem about Paul, the Jews decided to hear him.

Read Acts 28:22. What does this tell us about the hostility against the believers still at this time? How can we stay faithful even when others are talking against our faith?
 Lesson 13 September 22-28

Journey to Rome

Commentary in Navy                  Inspiration in Maroon

Sunday ↥         September 23

Sailing to Rome

After about two years of confinement in Caesarea (Acts 24:27), Paul was to be sent to Rome. Judging by the first person plural and the richness of details used to describe the long and turbulent sea journey to Italy (Acts 27:1-28:16), Luke was accompanying Paul, as was another Christian named Aristarchus (Acts 27:2). Another important character in the story was the Roman centurion, Julius, who had other prisoners as well in his charge (Acts 27:1).

It was late summer when they departed. The Fast (Acts 27:9) refers to the Day of Atonement, in the second half of October. Because of the winter conditions, travel in the Mediterranean was normally avoided between November and March. This time, however, they faced difficulties from the beginning, and only after much delay they reached the small bay of Fair Havens, in the island of Crete (Acts 27:8 ).

Read Acts 27:9-12. While in Fair Havens, how did Paul intervene in the story, and how was his intervention received?

Paul’s warnings went unheeded, and so they decided to sail westwards another 40 miles for a harbor (Phoenix), where they could winter with safety. Unfortunately, with a sudden change in the weather, they were caught in such a violent tempest that the crew had no option but to let the ship be driven southwest by the wind, away from land. Soon they began to throw the cargo overboard and even some of the ship’s gear in a frantic attempt to lighten it, as it was already taking on water. The situation was dramatic. After several days of scant daylight, poor visibility, heavy rain, and raging winds, without knowing where they were and in complete exhaustion, they “finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20, NIV).

Read Acts 27:21-26. What was Paul’s second intervention in the story?

In prophetic words, Paul told the crew a message he had just received from God. There was no reason to despair or lose hope. There would still be danger and loss, but all of them would survive.

Why would such a faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord like Paul have to suffer through so much? What lessons can we learn from his experiences?

Monday ↥         September 24

The Shipwreck

In his second intervention in the story, Paul assured all who were on board—276 people altogether (Acts 27:37)—that, though not everything would come out fine, there would be no casualties; only the ship would go down (Acts 27:22). Fourteen days later, the apostle’s words were fulfilled. Still under a terrible storm and with the ship completely adrift, the sailors sensed land was near, possibly because they could hear the noise of breakers (Acts 27:27). After a series of soundings, and fearing the ship would be driven against the rocks along the shore, they dropped four anchors from the back of the ship in order to reduce the speed; meanwhile, they desperately asked their gods for daylight to come (Acts 27:28, 29).

Read Acts 27:30-44. What lessons are here for us in this story?

In the beginning of the journey, the centurion treated Paul well but had no reason to trust the apostle’s nautical judgment earlier in the trip. After two weeks, however, things were different. Paul had already gained the centurion’s respect with his prophetic intervention about the shipwreck (Acts 27:21-26), which was heading now to its fulfillment.

Paul urged the people on board to eat, otherwise they would not have the strength to swim and get ashore. Divine providence does not necessarily exempt us from doing what would normally be our duty. “Throughout this narrative a nice balance is maintained between God’s assurance of their safety and the efforts of the people involved to ensure it.”—David J. Williams, Acts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), p. 438.

As morning approached, the sailors came in sight of land; it was a bay with a beach, where they decided to run the ship aground. The ship, however, never reached the beach. Instead, it struck a sandbar and ended up breaking apart by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan to kill the prisoners to prevent them from escaping was stopped by the centurion, mainly because of Paul. In the end, as God had promised, not a single life was lost.

What should it say to us about the power of Paul’s witness, and his character, that in a desire to keep Paul alive, the soldiers were forbidden to kill any of the prisoners?

Friday         September 21

Further Thought: “Did the mind of Agrippa at these words revert to the past history of his family, and their fruitless efforts against Him whom Paul was preaching? Did he think of his great-grandfather Herod, and the massacre of the innocent children of Bethlehem? of his great-uncle Antipas, and the murder of John the Baptist? of his own father, Agrippa I, and the martyrdom of the apostle James? Did he see in the disasters which speedily befell these kings an evidence of the displeasure of God in consequence of their crimes against His servants? Did the pomp and display of that day remind Agrippa of the time when his own father, a monarch more powerful than he, stood in that same city, attired in glittering robes, while the people shouted that he was a god? Had he forgotten how, even before the admiring shouts had died away, vengeance, swift and terrible, had befallen the vainglorious king? Something of all this flitted across Agrippa’s memory; but his vanity was flattered by the brilliant scene before him, and pride and self-importance banished all nobler thoughts.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 1066, 1067.

Discussion Questions:

    In class, discuss Paul’s decision to appeal to Caesar. Was this decision correct (compare with Acts 25:25; 26:31, 32)? To what extent can we legitimately make strategic decisions to protect ourselves instead of relying entirely on God’s care?

Are we judging Paul's decision? Then, shall we be wrong in going to the doctor instead of relying entirely on God's care? Not sure where the author wants to go with this. We ought to pray about important decisions we have to make. I don't think it is a matter of "extent" when it comes to "strategic" decisions.

    Reflect on Paul’s statement to Agrippa: “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision“ (Acts 26:19, NKJV). What does it tell us about Paul? How faithful are we to our missionary calling as Christians (1 Pet. 2:9, 10)?

    Paul had a passion for people—not for numbers, but for people. In his final hearing in Caesarea, he said to his audience that his heart’s desire was that all of them would be like him; that is, saved by God’s grace (Acts 26:29). He did not wish his own freedom or justice more than he wished them to experience God’s salvation. What can we learn from his example here? How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to see the gospel spread?

What is our purpose in life? Are we living for self or for God? Are we truly converted? Are we fully surrendered to Christ? If so, then self is dead and Christ has the whole heart. Nothing is being held back. Then how much will we sacrifice for others? What God's calls for. We are not able to make that decision. At times we are to leave where we are so we shall not be put to death. That may mean leaving precious souls behind. God knows best. We need to go to Him and trust Him always.

    Agrippa had a chance to hear the gospel right from the mouth of Paul. And yet, he rejected it. How can we be careful not to miss great opportunities when they appear right before us? That is, how can we stay spiritually attuned to the realities around us?

The answer is always the same. We need to be fully surrendered to Christ if we want to have spiritual discernment. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. We need to maintain our connection with Christ if we want to stay spiritually attuned to the realities around us.

Thursday         September 20

Paul Before the Leaders

Although Paul was speaking to Agrippa, Festus was the first to react, as seen in Acts 26:24. Festus would have had no problem if Paul had spoken about the immortality of the soul, but even the ancient Greco-Romans knew that both concepts—immortality and resurrection—do not go along well with one other. Thus, they kept the former and rejected the latter. This is why Paul says elsewhere that the gospel was foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23).

In a respectful manner, Paul defended the sanity of his ideas and turned to Agrippa, a Jew who could not only understand him but also who could confirm that what he was saying was in agreement with the Hebrew prophets (Acts 26:25, 26).

Read Acts 26:27, 28.

26:27   King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 
 26:28   Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 

What was Agrippa’s response to Paul’s pressing question?

Paul’s question put Agrippa in a difficult position. As a Jew, he would never deny his belief in the Scriptures; on the other hand, if he gave an affirmative answer, there would be no option but for him to accept Jesus as the Messiah. His reply was a clever escape from the logical trap he was in: “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?“ (Acts 26:28, NRSV; compare with ESV, NIV)—this is a better translation of the Greek than the traditional, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian“ (NKJV).

Paul’s rejoinder reveals an impressive level of commitment to the gospel: “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains“ (Acts 26:29, NRSV). In his last words in that hearing, the apostle did not plead to be free, free as were those listening to him. Instead, he wished they could be like him, except for the chains on his arms. Paul’s missionary zeal greatly surpassed his care for his own safety.

Read Acts 26:30-32.

 26:30   And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 
 26:31   And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. 
 26:32   Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar. 

How did Agrippa express his conviction of Paul’s innocence?

Festus needed Agrippa’s help only to fill in the report (Acts 25:25-27). Paul’s appeal to Caesar had already been formally granted (Acts 25:12). The prisoner was no longer under the governor’s jurisdiction.

Read Acts 26:24-28.

 26:24   And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 
 26:25   But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 
 26:26   For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 
 26:27   King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 
 26:28   Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 

What did Paul ultimately appeal to, and what should this tell us about what our final authority in matters of faith should always be?

The Word of God through the prophets. Do we believe with the whole heart? There is no greater sin than "unbelief."  The devils believe, but that does not save them. They manifest unbelief. So it is with us. If we believe, but do not believe all with the whole heart, then we are not trusting Jesus with all we have and all we are.

We may even stand in the pulpit and preach the love of Jesus and attempt to bring conviction upon others, but if we have not repented (which brings about reformation) then we are playing church. If we refuse to undo our wrongs, then we stand before an all seeing God thinking He does not see our heart of unbelief. Such a deception! Lord I believe, take away all of my wicked "unbelief" that I might glorify you.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--16--In His Temple
« Last post by Dorine on September 21, 2018, 07:41:45 AM »
"As the priests and temple officials witnessed this great work, what a revelation to them were the sounds that fell on their ears! The people were relating the story of the pain they had suffered, of their disappointed hopes, of painful days and sleepless nights. When the last spark of hope seemed to be dead, Christ had healed them. The burden was so heavy, one said; but I have found a helper. He is the Christ of God, and I will devote my life to His service. Parents said to their children, He has saved your life; lift up your voice and praise Him. The voices of children and youth, fathers and mothers, friends and spectators, blended in thanksgiving and praise. Hope and gladness filled their hearts. Peace came to their minds. They were restored soul and body, and they returned home, proclaiming everywhere the matchless love of Jesus."

If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, our friend and Saviour, we too will be praising Him and teaching our children to do the same. Not as an act of self importance but from a heart of love for God's abundant blessings. My heart is filled with gratitude for all He does for me. There have been some dark valleys but He has been there with me. He gives grace and strength to endure. No matter what the future holds I know He will be there. By beholding Him each day He gives me what I need for that day. I know I'm talking to the choir but sometimes even the choir can be uplifted and encouraged by the testimony of another.

As a side note....I have found many times that I cling to Jesus tighter when facing difficult times than when the waters are calm. I can see where crucibles are allowed so that our faith will be strengthened and our characters formed to fit us for heaven. God is always good.
The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--16--In His Temple
« Last post by Richard Myers on September 21, 2018, 07:19:40 AM »
Amen Jim and Pastor Sean. There is so much in today's reading. We see justice and mercy in the actions and Words of Christ. He healed all who had come to Him, but others ran fearing for their lives. We see the mission of Christ in cleansing the heart of sinful man. Yes, it is not only possible, it is necessary in order to enter heaven.

I noticed something that will encourage us. We know that Jesus did not tell His disciples everything because they could not bear to hear it. But, in our reading today we find that Jesus did say things that He knew they could not understand. So it is today. There is much that is written we do not understand. We are not to be concerned, for when we need to know, the Holy Spirit is well able to reveal the truth to us. Why would Jesus speak Words that could not be understood? They were for the future when they would be understood. Like Nicodemus when Jesus told him he needed to be born again of the Spirit or he would not enter heaven, He added the story about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. It was later when he saw Jesus hanging on the cross that the Words became abundantly clear.

Now when they asked for a sign, He answered them by a parable, showing that He read their malice, and saw to what lengths it would lead them. "Destroy this temple," He said, "and in three days I will raise it up."

In these words His meaning was twofold. He referred not only to the destruction of the Jewish temple and worship, but to His own death,--the destruction of the temple of His body. This the Jews were already plotting. As the priests and rulers returned to the temple, they had proposed to kill Jesus, and thus rid themselves of the troubler. Yet when He set before them their purpose, they did not understand Him. They took His words as applying only to the temple at Jerusalem, and with indignation exclaimed, "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?" Now they felt that Jesus had justified their unbelief, and they were confirmed in their rejection of Him.

Christ did not design that His words should be understood by the unbelieving Jews, nor even by His disciples at this time. He knew that they would be misconstrued by His enemies, and would be turned against Him. At His trial they would be brought as an accusation, and on Calvary they would be flung at Him as a taunt. But to explain them now would give His disciples a knowledge of His sufferings, and bring upon them sorrow which as yet they were not able to bear. And an explanation would prematurely disclose to the Jews the result of their prejudice and unbelief. Already they had entered upon a path which they would steadily pursue until He should be led as a lamb to the slaughter.

It was for the sake of those who should believe on Him that these words of Christ were spoken. He knew that they would be repeated. Being spoken at the Passover, they would come to the ears of thousands, and be carried to all parts of the world. After He had risen from the dead, their meaning would be made plain. To many they would be conclusive evidence of His divinity.
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