Saturday, December 13, 2008

Out of Your Mind

December 13: Acts 24-26

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
Acts 26:24-29, ESV

This portion of Acts dealing with the unlawful imprisonment of Paul helps us to understand his great faith even under dire circumstances. By the time we reach this portion of Acts, Paul has been in prison for over two years. As Paul presents his case before King Agrippa and Festus, we clearly see the attitude of the Romans toward the Jewish rebels who were part of The Way sect. We also see Paul's passion for the Gospel and his heart toward the unconverted.

After Paul gave his personal testimony to Agrippa and Festus, including his conversion on the road to Damascus, Festus declares, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” As our world rushes madly as far from God as possible, we will see more and more people saying the same thing about born-again Christians. A great many people in the United States declare themselves to be Christians, but I wonder how that number will change when such attitudes toward Christians become commonplace.

Yet, Paul was unmoved by Festus' outburst. Instead of pleading for his release, we find Paul presenting the Gospel to all of those gathered to hear him, especially King Agrippa. Astonished, Agrippa asks Paul, "Paul, do you think that in such a short time after such a brief message you can persuade me to become a Christian? Don’t you know how powerful and intellectually sophisticated I am?" [Quote is from P. G. Mathew from a sermon he preached in November, 2000.] Did that comment discourage Paul?

No! Look at his response. “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” What passion for the unconverted!

How concerned are we about the unconverted we come into contact with every day? How much do we pray for their conversion? Paul spent his life as a Christian reaching out to the lost, enduring imprisonment, and eventually giving up his life for his faith. What does our faith mean to us? As the world continues to cascade toward utter abandonment of the Lord, and persecutes believers for their faith, which side will we be on?

It was a unique time in Paul's day; the early church was struggling in its faith, and yet the growth of the church was phenomenal. I believe that we will see such a time again as we draw nearer to the return of Christ. Are you willing to be "out of your mind" for Christ? Take some time this Christmas season and ponder your own faith; ask the Lord to help you grow in faith and in love toward unbelievers you see every day. God will answer your prayer!

God Bless You,
Linda

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