This past weekend, I watched the last few holes of play as Scottie Scheffler earned the coveted “green jacket” for winning this year’s Masters golf tournament. I don’t follow golf, but as we’re staying where we only have one tv, I didn’t have a choice!
Having learned that Scottie is a believer, I was interested to hear what he would say after winning. While he didn’t really have an opportunity at the “jacket” presentation, I was glad to read later that he talked openly about his faith in Jesus in the follow-up interviews. God gave him a platform, and he used it. What’s even more encouraging is that, apparently, he already has a reputation on the tour among those who know him, that he lives out his faith and represents Christ well in his personal life.
I believe God not only is pleased when we proclaim our faith openly and publicly, but commands it. While our Christian faith is personal, it is not private.
Do you remember the story of Paul’s conversion from his former life as Saul, on the road to Damascus? Ananias was a little apprehensive about going to meet with the man who had been persecuting the followers of Jesus, but God sent him anyway. He needed Paul to understand exactly what was ahead of him as he committed to this mission.
Acts 9:15-16 – But the Lord said to [Ananias], “Go for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My sake.”
In today’s read of Acts 26, God fulfills His promise to Paul, to “bear My name before kings.” Unfortunately, it’s taken a trip to prison to arrange this opportunity! The governor, Festus, has invited King (Herod) Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, to hear Paul’s defense. Festus is obligated to send a letter of introduction when he transports this prisoner to be tried in front of Caesar, and he doesn’t quite know what to say. He knows Paul has done nothing to merit his arrest, but to keep the Jews happy, he is following through. He wants Agrippa’s advice on what to tell Caesar.
Once again, Paul uses the platform God has given him, not to defend himself (although his words do convey that he knows he has done nothing wrong), but to seize the opportunity to proclaim the gospel. He could have simply said, “I was just worshipping in the Temple, and I have some different views about the afterlife than the Pharisees. I apologize if I caused a disturbance.” Instead, at every opportunity, he talks about Jesus.
Paul goes into detail about his past life and Damascus Road salvation experience, but he doesn’t just tell what happened to him. He tells why God called him.
Acts 26:15-18 – And I said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
Wow! Paul lays out the gospel so clearly.
1. God has to open our spiritual eyes before we can understand salvation.
2. Those who are outside the faith are in darkness, under the dominion of Satan.
3. Salvation happens when we turn to God, to the Light of Christ.
4. We need forgiveness for our sins.
5. God promises an inheritance to those who turn to Him (eternal life).
6. Those whom God saves, He sanctifies.
7. Salvation is by faith in Jesus alone.
Paul doesn’t stop here; he goes on to clearly proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets which the Jews claim to believe, bringing the hope to which they aspire – eternal life.
There are two responses to Paul’s words. Festus scoffs, telling Paul he is mad. Paul realizes God is not working on Festus’ heart, but he presses King Agrippa further, asking, “Do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa is kinder in his skepticism, replying, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
We don’t know what happened to Agrippa after this. We’d like to believe that God continued stirring his heart and bringing Paul’s gospel presentation back to his mind and that he eventually surrendered his life to Jesus. I guess we’ll find out in heaven!
Here’s my takeaway from today. At every opportunity, let us be clear about the gospel when we are talking to people. It’s very easy to be vague about our faith, to talk about “God” but never “Jesus.” Instead, let’s learn to weave the gospel into our casual conversations and our prayers. We never know who is listening with an open heart to believe. Who knows! God may yet give us a reason to stand before kings, or those with authority over our freedom. And when He does, may we determine not to defend ourselves, but proclaim Jesus without any reservations.