Psalm 37-39 Acts 26
“I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed. I told this first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, and in every part of Judea, and also to the other people. This is why the Jews took me and were trying to kill me in the Temple.” (Acts 26:20-21 NCV)
Paul’s defense before King Agrippa was simple: he shared his testimony of how God was working through him. As he relayed this message, Festus thought he was crazy and King Agrippa laughed that Paul thought he could get the king to convert so quickly. The gist of the message was simple, though. Paul noted that he’d been arrested because he shared the gospel message of the love and grace of God with the Gentiles. He taught people to repent of their worldly ways and follow God – and that if they followed God, their changed lives would reflect that commitment. The result of Paul’s preaching in the world was that the Jews wanted to kill him. The result of Paul’s defense before Agrippa was that they saw no reason to hold Paul and would have set him free had he not appealed to Caesar.
It’s amazing that we get so worried about sharing how God is working in our lives. We see Paul’s testimony three times in the book of Acts. He wasn’t afraid to talk about what God was doing in his own life and through him. We know that he shared the truth of the gospel wherever he went. He stood before a king and a governor telling them that he wishes they were in his position – well, except for the chains. He wanted all people to enter into a relationship with God through God’s grace knowing that if they really did that, there’s be changes in their behavior and in the world. That’s the key for Christians. We aren’t gonna change the world through politics or manipulating government. We’ve been there. We’ve had control. We’ve passed legislation and taxes designed to enforce our ideal for the world – on both sides of the political aisle. In spite of the dreams of caring for the poor by government intervention, we still have poor people. In spite of dreams for a new respect for life by abolishing abortion, if that happens, we’ll still see people finding ways to abort, talking about euthanasia, and hating others. We thought we abolished slavery in the 1860’s and now we see it rearing its ugly head in labor and sexual slavery with some in this world declaring the fruits of that slavery, pornography for instance, a first amendment right while others speak of mutually agreed upon transactions. We eliminated Jim Cow laws, but we didn’t eliminate racism. I could go on, but the reminder from Paul here is simple: we need to tell people that they need to respond to God, repent of their sins, and then show that God is in control by how we live. The world will only change for the good when the people of the world start following God. If that happens, it doesn’t matter what the government looks like.
Lord, we know that the only way to change this world is when You work in our hearts and yet we still seek to enforce what we believe You way is through the law. Help us do a better job of proclaiming Your love and grace. Change people’s hearts so that our society will improve because of love for You.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved