It’s okay we have the right of appeal

It’s okay we have the right of appeal

Acts 25:21 “When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”

Paul played his citizen card, his right of appeal to Caesar. He would not go to Jerusalem. The reason was not only because he knew danger awaited him. It was because of the word God gave him in 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” That is where Paul wanted to be and that is where he appealed to go.

Friends we have the right of appeal. The enemy of our life wants to accuse and condemn us. He wants to ambush our lives, to steal, kill and destroy. He thinks he has evidence for our guilt, he may well have. But we are not citizens here. We are citizens there. Paul would write in his letter to the Ephesians of being citizens of the heavenly realms. We have the right of appeal and that is to the throne room of God. And one day, the final judgment, we will all stand before Him, not condemned, but free as citizens of heaven. Thanks be to God who through Jesus has stood on trial for us!!

Careful judgment

Careful judgment

Acts 25:20 “I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges.”

Festus knew his limitations of judgment. He didn’t understand the Jewish religion and he had never met Jesus.
Festus could have pretended but integrity meant he had to acknowledge his limitation on the subject.
The KJV says Festus doubted the manner of the questions. He would be easily fooled by the cross-examination and he did not want to be deceived.
It is possible to pass judgments on other people when:
We have limited knowledge about them.
What we do know we do not understand.
We become fooled by what others say about them.
The judgements we make in these situations are often far from perfect. They are not only unjust, the base for that judgment is biased towards the loudest voice.
Let’s hold our judgments until we know more than we do today.

JESUS IS ALIVE!

JESUS IS ALIVE!

Acts 25:19 “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”

Dead or alive, Jesus? The Jewish mob said dead and Paul said alive.

Let us look at some of the things that the Jews still remember Jesus saying or were passed down to them:

  • I tell you the truth …

you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. John 1:51

no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. John 3:3

no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. John 3:5

the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5: 19

whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5: 24

a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. John 5:25

it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. John 6:32

he who believes has everlasting life. John 6: 47

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. John 6: 53

everyone who sins is a slave to sin. John 8:34

before Abraham was born, I am! John 8:58

It was the last statement which was the most incredible, confrontational and boldest statement Jesus ever made.

Jesus was fully aware of his pre-existence. This was not some re-incarnation understanding. But rather the incarnation of the Son of God in human life-form on earth.

Jesus was fully aware that He existed before this life on earth.

The one who comes from above is above all. John 3: 31

He would say things like “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” Luke 10:18

He didn’t come to be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, He didn’t come to be the Saviour, the Forgiver. He is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Ancient of Days, the Creator, with the Father and nothing was made that has been made without Him.

We cannot contain Him to a time and a place and a nation. We cannot hold on to Him, He is beyond our grasp, we cannot understand all that there is to know about Him, He is beyond our capability to think. He is pre-existent, before Abraham was born, I am!

Jesus did not begin 2000 years ago, that was just when the incarnation took place. He had no beginning. He was before beginning. Because of this we can say He has seen it all and He knows it all.

We can invite Jesus into our existence – but there is a far greater invitation. An invitation for us to live our lives in His pre-existence.

Paul knew this, we know this, but the Jews didn’t. They missed it. The work set before us is to declare Jesus is Alive, He always was because He always is!

 

The unexpected schemes of the enemy

The unexpected schemes of the enemy

Acts 25: 18 “When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected.”

Festus tells Agrippa how surprised he was with the charges that were brought against Paul. We know from verse 7 and 8 that the charges were to do with the Jewish laws, the Temple worship and causing a revolt against Caesar. But on each of these charges there was no proof.

Whatever Festus expected he didn’t hear and what he heard could not be verified.

Never underestimate the hidden agenda of those who bring their complaints to you. What you might think is the reason for their angst may not be the reason at all. But their complaint can often wrong-foot you.

Who is speaking to you today? We all know not everyone will like us nor agree to walk with us. But some today face the voice of the enemy within. We may be surprised at the charges he brings. You see we would think he would raise the issue of our past and our sins. All those things we would expect, they are there and we are guilty as charged but thankful to the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. But the voice often accuses us in a variety of ways:

You can do more for God. Work longer and harder.

You are not good enough. Look at the other men and women of God.

Look how successful you have become.

Do you hear the praise of man? You like that don’t you?

You failed. God will not use you, want you or like you.

The majority are unexpected accusations.

Ultimately the number one reason for the voice of the accuser is to bring distance between you and God, whether by guilt or by removing grace.

Don’t be wrong-footed.

No delay

No delay

Acts 25: 17 “ When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in.”

Paul had waited for 2 years for the trial to begin. Felix had come and gone and now Nero has appointed a new leader, Festus. Within 3 days of his leadership reign he was in Jerusalem and hearing about the case of Paul. Now we see that as soon as the Jewish gang arrived Festus does not delay anymore and convenes the court.

Are you delaying something? More importantly if you are delaying is there someone suffering because of the delay?

Some need to pray.

Some need to give.

Some need to go.

Today.

This is your moment and you have come for such a time as this. No delay. Do what you are being tasked to do. Fulfil your duties. Whatever has been passed to you, no matter if the past couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with it, this is the moment. No delay.

Innocent until proven ….

Innocent until proven ….

Acts 25:16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges.”

Two thousand years ago, Roman custom said there are 2 sides to every story.

But the other side of the story takes time to listen to; it also seems pointless because our mind is made up; it would also suggest that the ‘perfect’ and ‘just’ side may not be completely correct.

Two thousand years later we still don’t like the Roman custom, other than we are a defendant.

Those who are ‘right’ are wanting a quick trial, outcome, sentence, decision and victory.

Sometimes truth is not the goal, being ‘right’ is.

May the Church return to the Roman custom.

 

Watch for own goals.

Watch for own goals.

Acts 25: 15 “When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.”

A couple of weeks ago whilst watching my favourite football team I marvelled at the goal scored by one of our great players. It really was a well-timed goal. The goalkeeper had no chance of saving it. The problem was it was an own goal. The player scored against our team, his team! I was speechless! Why did he do it? I am not sure. It was an accident obviously. Well I hope it was!

Paul is chained awaiting trial.

Festus begins to tell Agrippa about the case.

One of the greatest Gentile influencers from the Jewish world was being pursued by his own.

Paul was a Pharisee. He knew every street in Jerusalem. He was familiar with the Temple. In fact the problem had begun there. He knew the chief priests by name. He had journeyed with the elders. He shared the same faith, traditions, the laws and the culture. He was one of their own. Now they were condemning him.

Talk about an own goal!

Who needs an opponent when own goals are scored? Who needs an enemy when we self-defeat? Who needs an attack when we implode from within? Be careful who we try to bring down because if not careful we could end up losing the best thing that has happened in our generation.

Discuss

Discuss

Acts 25: 14 “Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner…”

Festus did the right thing. He took the opportunity to discuss the case.

So many moments of madness could be avoided if only discussions were had.

But Festus discussed the case with King Agrippa who was more acquainted with Judaism than him. Agrippa appointed the high priests for the Jews. He was the last of the Herods and he had supreme power over the Jews. If anyone knew what to do Agrippa would. Festus took the opportunity set before him.

Western Christianity has become so individualistic in that there appears to be very little accountability; everyone does what they seem fit or what they think God wants.

Maybe today we can think of those around us who we could talk to regarding a situation we find ourselves in? Maybe asking, ‘What do you think?’ will save us a lot of wasted time and help us make better decisions.

Even Bernice can be a servant.

Even Bernice can be a servant.

Acts 25:13 “A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus.”

Suddenly onto centre stage come the most unlikely of couples. Agrippa and Bernice were a couple but they shouldn’t have been because they were in fact brother and sister! In fact it was at this time that the historians say the rumours started about the incestuous relationship and that 5 years after the trial of Paul Bernice married King Polemon for a short time before returning to her brother.

They would become important figures in this scene as we will see.

Never be shocked at who God uses. God is not contained by the wickedness and sin of people. His purposes are higher than that. Don’t let conduct blind you to the higher purposes of God.

Look around you today, doesn’t matter who they are, don’t write them off, don’t turn your head, it could be that God has brought them to the stage for such a time as this.

Do you belong to a group?

Do you belong to a group?

Acts 25:12 “After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Festus met with a group of Roman citizens who were military or civil servants acting as an advisory board. He met with them to see what they advised.

Who advises you? When you are in the middle of two opposing views, how do you decide? Do you have friends who hold you accountable? The discussion with his board would consist of what the Jewish group wanted and who Paul was and how his citizenship protected him. No doubt the group let Festus know that the Jews could see at least he tried to have Paul sent to Jerusalem but that he was trapped in that he had to send Paul to Caesar.

Western Christianity is so individualistic. We have our own walk with God, we hear God individually and we make decisions alone. But not so in other parts of the world where community is powerful and decisions are made as a group. Perhaps this is the way it should be. Maybe there would be less mistakes made if others advised us.

It is a wise thing to have a group of people who you can confer to on a number of things.