"The Value of Your Testimony"
Acts 22 is Paul telling his story. You also have a story to tell. Sometimes the people who hear you have a hostile view, and sometimes people want to know more. Either way, tell your story.
The Value of Your Testimony
A. I want you to think about TV commercials. Have you noticed that we don’t have many scientists that are the center point of a commercial? Why don’t we have someone with a Ph.D. in engineering trying to sell me a car, or a someone who has studied the science of grains and how when mixed with the correct ingredients can produce a loaf of bread? Instead, I find a mom with kids talking about her minivan and its features, or a child making a just add water to a mix trying to sell me pancake mix. The reason is, when we feel like we connect with a person and find similarities, we have this bonding and trust and then we want to try what they are selling.
B. In the news this past week, a Pew Research study stated that 20 percent of all Americans, and 32 percent of Americans from ages 19 to 29 have no religious affiliation. While we remain a very religious country, we are also a country who is losing its religious basis. Jesus told his disciples in Samaria that the fields were “white unto harvest.” Have you ever thought that the harvest days are not that white?
C. Many years ago a shoe company sent two men to the tribal regions of an African nation. The one man sent a telegram back that read, “No one wears shoes here, coming home.” The second man sent a telegram that read, “No one wears shoes here, send me more.”
D. There is more to church growth than religious people going from one denomination to the next. This country is becoming more and more unchurched. I am not going to tell you today that more programs, activities, and small groups will cause this congregation to grow. I believe in those actions, but they are limited. I am not going to tell you that more special workshops, Friends Days, and gospel meetings will cause this congregation to grow. I believe in those actions, but they are limited. I am going to tell you that if you and I live out our Christian faith like we really believed it was the greatest aspect of our life, if we shared our spiritual story and journey with others, I believe this congregation would see people coming here who want what you have, maybe not in huge numbers.
I. Paul’s Story
A. Paul came to Jerusalem with a gift to help those in need. But as soon as he arrived he was told that rumors about him were causing people to not trust him. So with the advice of the elders, Paul join with some men in a Jewish vow. At the end of that time Jews from Asia spread lies that Paul had taken some Gentiles into the temple because they had seen Paul with them in the city.
B. The people were so mob oriented that they were ready to kill him. A Roman cohort came out and stopped them from continuing to beat Paul. The Romans arrested him and began to take him to the barracks. He asked the official if he could speak to the Jews. Speaking to them in Hebrew, Paul began to tell his story.
C. Paul breaks his testimony into three parts, his past, his present and his future. I would like to ask you to think about those three things this morning as listen to Paul’s testimony.
II. His Past
A. Paul tells that his past was zealous for God, Judaism, and he was not afraid to go after what he thought was wrong. He tell connects with their zeal as he tells that he was born a Jew but brought up in this city and educated by the Gamaliel. He was zealous for God just as they are zealous. He saw this group known as “the Way” as a threat and persecuted them. He told how he received letters from the religious leaders so that he could go to Damascus and bring back these people to be punished.
B. Think about your past and ask yourself how much of it do you let determine your present. Warren Wiersbe said, “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” You do not move ahead by constantly looking in a rear view mirror. The past is a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to drag you. We must learn from the past but not live in the past.”
C. So you and I have a past. Some of our past is good. We have done some things that we are proud of and are willing to share with others. But probably there are some things in your past that you are not proud of, things you do not share with most people. Don’t let those past sins keep you from a present and a future. Paul was not glorifying his past, nor did he mention the desire to see Christians killed as a guilt that stopped his spiritual growth. Keep listening.
II. What He Became (present)
A. Paul then tells what he became and how that happened. The very time in which he was going to Damascus to persecution Christians he was struck from heaven with a great light. If his strong Jewish zeal for the law was his past, what happened that day became his present, why he lives like he lives right now.
B. There is no greater joy than to know you are saved. The very word “saved” implies that you were once “lost” or “sinful”, the point is there was a time in which you realized you need a savior. You needed a power greater than yourself to restore you sanity, to use a 12 step phrase. Paul tells the dramatic change that came to him that day that he hated Christians. He heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When Paul questions who is speaking to him, the one who spoke said this “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” Understand what just happened. Saul, to our knowledge, never persecuted Jesus during his earthly ministry. The resurrected Lord reveals to Paul that what he was doing to these disciples was the same as doing it to him. But Paul, who was then called Saul, understood that his whole religious belief system was turned upside down. What he had been so zealous for was the wrong thing. The Law of Moses was to lead people to Jesus, not to be used to kill the disciples of Jesus. Jesus was alive, he was not dead somewhere and his body stolen away as people liked to say. Paul realized all of that. Wanting to know what to do next, what it was that Jesus expected of him, he was told to go and wait.
C. Paul tells about how Ananias came to him, gave him back his sight, and told to rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
D. I remember Jeff Whitrock sharing with me the power of salvation. I knew I was sinner in need of a savior, and he shared with me this story and his story and I knew what I needed was to be baptized and have my sins washed away as I called on the name of the Lord. My present is a continual learning and growing story. I continue to call upon the name of Jesus. I continue to repent of my sins. I continue to be drawn closer to him for that is who I am now. My past doesn’t have to anchor me to my sin, my present is living in the grace of Jesus.
III. His Ministry (future)
A. So Paul has told his past, what brought him to his present, and end by telling his ministry. When Ananias was talking to Saul, he told him these words (verses 14-15).
B. But Paul wanted to tell the rest of his story. (vs 17-21) Paul knew that his future was not telling about Moses, but telling about Jesus. It was not telling it simply to people who knew Moses, but telling it to people who did not know God – the Gentiles. God was no longer simply a God of one nation, but now, through Jesus had liberated the entire world of sin and Gentiles, just like Jews, were welcome into the kingdom.
A. Sadly, like many who may hear your story, most of the people did not like what they hear and wanted Paul taken away.
B. Will you tell your story? Will you live your story? If you have been saved, you have been set free from the bondage of sin. You have been given life when you only knew death. Does that mean anything to you? So 1 in 5 people have no church home in this country? It’s not because they don’t need one. They may not be looking, but you could be living it so clearly that like what they see in you. Your testimony is the beginning of a new way of thinking and seeing for many people. I don’t want to die not living and sharing my story. I am a Christian. I am saved. I struggle and wrestle, but because of Jesus and the forgiveness he continually gives to me, I repent and walk in the light. I don’t stand before you as one who is better than you, I stand before you as one who has been saved just like you. If you would die this day, where would you spend eternity? What does your heart tell you? What does the Bible tell you? If you are in need of a savior, then arise and be baptized calling on the name of the Lord.