Today’s Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81; Acts 26:1-32; Psalm 6:1-10; Proverbs 18:20-21
We recently celebrated Independence Day in the United States. Around this time of year we repeatedly hear others say something like “Freedom isn’t free” meaning it is something that must continually be fought for.
Although people are talking about political freedom when they utter that accurate phrase it also applies to sin. Yes, God gives those who believe eternal freedom from sin in heaven at no cost of our own (Jesus paid the price on our behalf). But freedom from sin in this life requires a constant vigilance against the evil spiritual powers that roam the earth.
When Israel crossed the Jordan they were on a high. Their faith in God was strong and He subsequently gave them victory over their enemies (1 Chronicles 5:20-22). But it only took a couple of generations for things to go bad (1 Chronicles 5:25). The Israelites began to wander from the God who had richly blessed them. They began to worship other gods. They didn’t stay vigilant against sin. They got lazy. The end result was their sin was so rampant that they were eventually conquered by Assyria and Babylon and they ceased to exist as a nation (1 Chronicles 5:26).
I don’t know when America’s spiritual peak was. We’ve had many highs and lows. We’ve had a couple of revivals with the most recent, The Second Great Awakening, taking place in the mid-1800s. Our political and military peak was probably during World War II.
Since that time we’ve steadily lost sight of God. Every few years we made decisions that removed God from our culture. Now it seems like we are making such decisions every day. If we don’t turn around and have a Third Great Awakening I believe our fate will be very similar to what Israel and Judah experienced at the hands of Assyria and Babylon.
Paul gives his defense in front of Agrippa in Acts 26 and points out that the real issue is that he has hope. So many non-believers hate Christians simply because of the hope we have in Christ. They would rather live in a world without any future than break down the walls of their self-imposed apathetic prisons. How sad that is when God is offering something better than anyone of us can even imagine.
Paul recounts his life before Christ as a persecutor of Christians. Notice that Paul says “I thought I ought to do” the things he did (Acts 25:9). As a former rabid atheist I, too, thought I was doing the world a favor by opposing the claims of the Bible. But like Paul, I was wrong.
We learn something very interesting about Paul in Acts 25:10. He says that he voted to condemn Christians to death. The people who had such a vote were members of the Sanhedrin. To be a member of the Sanhedrin a man had to be married. Yet we read nothing about Paul’s wife anywhere in the Bible. Perhaps he was a widower. Or perhaps she left him after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and decided to follow The Way. There are times when we need to choose whether we will follow Him or cling to earthly relationships.
One of the things Jesus told Paul on the road to Damascus was “It is useless for you to fight against my will.” (Acts 25:14). How true. Our leaders think they are doing the right thing by pushing the Bible out of our society. But all their efforts are useless. They are like a mosquito who bites me. It got what it wanted. But a second later I smash it dead. God will have the final say. For those who deny Him it will not be a pleasant one.
It was the Jews who brought these charges against Paul. But as Paul points out, he is simply following what is in the very Scriptures the Jews say they believe (Acts 25:21-23). Paul was actually teaching the truth. The Jews wanted truth to be something different – much like those who believe they can go to heaven based on their good deeds. Or those who believe that there is no God. We cannot believe our own truth into reality. Truth is what it is.
In the end Paul simply describes his experience with Jesus with honest facts. That is all God is asking us to tell the non-believing world. Some will call us crazy (Acts 25:24). Some will resist believing (Acts 25:28). That is their choice. We need to pray that God would open their eyes (Acts 25:29).
David is at the end of his rope in Psalm 6. He asks God to rescue him from a terrible situation not because he is worthy but because God is merciful (Psalm 6:4). After praying David is confident God heard and will answer (Psalm 6:-10).
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