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Guilty of Hope August 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Hope, Paul's Life.
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GUILTY OF HOPE
Acts 24

When I was a kid we had two girls in our church, who used to sing a country gospel song. The song was called “Guilty of Love in the First-Degree.” It speaks of the condemnation of Jesus Christ to the cross and that the real reason for His crucifixion was his love for us.

Today I want to talk about what we are guilty of. I trust you are guilty of love in the first-degree. Our Lord desires us to be guilty. There is, however, another crime that I trust you are guilty of, the crime which Paul here claims to be guilty of, guilty of hope.

A. We, who hope in the resurrection, strive to live differently (Acts 24:14-16; compare 23:6). Christians do not need a bucket list. I was asked last week if I had played in the band the same way that my son does now. I replied that I had not but that sometimes I thought that would have been nice (I did not have the opportunity), but then I added but it really doesn’t matter. I have all I need. Christians can be content because the best is yet to come. Christians can rejoice in suffering because of the hope of resurrection. The greatest adventure in our life is still to come.

1. We strive to have a conscience without offense before God. There are steps in which it is possible to have a conscience without offense before God. The first is in that we have put our faith and trust in the crucified and resurrected Christ for salvation from sin.

The second step is that we continually cleanse ourselves as believers before God. This is evidence which shows we have taken the first step according to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Often people apply this to the unsaved but the question being answered is “How do you know that you have fellowship with God?” Through agreeing with God’s evaluation of your sin and depending on His Son for salvation from sin, you show that you are a righteous son or daughter of God, cleansed from every stain of sin. Why do we do this? We do this because we hope in Jesus. First John 3:1 reminds us that everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself.

Let me illustrate what it means to be without offense before God. “Dr. Roy Gustavson, working with the Billy Graham Association [is credited with a story about] a man in England who had purchased a Rolls Royce. The man decided to take a holiday in Europe and he wanted to take his Rolls Royce with him to tour through the French countryside. So he put the Rolls Royce on the ferry and went across the English Channel. He was going through Europe, looking at the sights, when suddenly his Rolls Royce broke down and there was nobody there who could fix it. He sent a cable back to the company in England and they flew a man over who did the repairs. He got the car running again, then left and went back to England. The man thought to himself, “This is going to cost me a ton of money.” They never sent a bill. When he finally got back to England, never having received a bill, he sent a letter to the company telling what had happened, how the mechanic had come over, and wondering what the charge would be. He got a letter back from the Rolls Royce Company, saying as follows, ‘Dear Sir, Thank you so much for your letter. You need to know that we have no record in our files that any Rolls Royce has ever broken down at any place, at any time, for any reason’” (Taken from Ray Pritchard’s “Keep Believing” website, http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1995-02-26-Justification-Not-Guilty!/).

2. We strive to have a conscience without offense before men. Part of the point that Paul is making here is that he is not guilty of any crime. There are, however, other places where Paul maintains that he has sinned against no one. First Thessalonians 1-2 seem to indicate that this is one of the reasons their ministry in Thessalonika was so effective.

There’s a cemetery outside Florence, Alabama, near the remains of an ante-bellum mansion called Forks of Cypress. The mansion was built in the 1820s by James Jackson, an early settler of northwest Alabama. A quarter-mile away is the Jackson family cemetery. There is no sign marking the spot, only a five-foot high stone wall surrounding about 50 graves. Inside is a tall marker over James Jackson’s grave with a long inscription extolling his virtues, which were many. There is, however, another marker for one of his sons, William Moore Jackson. There was his name, the dates 1824-1891, and this simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.” Five words to sum up an entire life. Sixty-plus years distilled into five words. But, oh, what truth they tell (adapted from Ray Pritchard at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1996-08-18-Five-Words-on-a-Tombstone/).

B. We, who hope in this life, strive to get what we can out of this life (verses 24-27).

1. When we live for this life, we have little interest in righteousness (compare Philippians 3:8b-10). Paul writing here notes that there are those who are interested in righteousness but are looking in the wrong place, that is, they are keeping the law in order to become righteous. Paul, however, makes it clear that righteousness is only possible through the resurrected Christ.

What good, however, is righteousness to Felix. Righteousness cannot buy fine clothing. It can’t build a villa in the country. Righteousness does not buy very much down here. I wonder if Paul was thinking about Felix when he wrote these words in Philippians 3:18. “For many walk…. [as] enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”

2. When we live for this life, we have little interest in self-control (compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul writing here notes that what we do in this life matters in the life to come. We practice self-control in order to win an eternal gold medal. That is the type of crown spoken of here. We win.

What good, however, is self-control to Felix. Self-control can accomplish much in this world but self-control apart from the hope of the resurrection gains nothing imperishable. Ariston of Ephesus wrote about his Olympic experience competing in and winning the pankration (wrestling) at an ancient Olympiad, “As soon as we arrived the Hellanokikai divided us according to our age and told us: ‘If you have worked to such an extent that your are worthy to go to Olympia, and if you haven’t done anything despicable or proven idle, take heart and move on. Those of you that didn’t work go wherever you want’…. On the day of the inauguration of the Games we all assembled in front of the statue of Zeus Orkios, to take an oath that we have rigidly followed the training for ten consecutive months. …I faced the winners of the other matches and defeated them all. The crowd cheered and applauded, as the judge crowned me with the kotinos, the wreath from a wild olive tree branch. I accepted modestly the crowd’s applause, proud that I bestowed glory and everlasting fame on my city” (accessed at http://www.fhw.gr/olympics/ancient/en/ariston.html on July 30 2012). Ephesus is still known but not because of Ariston. In fact Ephesus is best known by men like Paul, Timothy, John the Revelator, and Polycarp: men who disciplined themselves for an eternal crown, bestowing glory and everlasting fame on an eternal city.

3. When we live for this life, we have little interest in the judgment to come. Paul told Felix in Acts 24:15 “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust”. Paul implies that the just, the righteous, those whose self-control was to gain a heavenly crown will be judged and rewarded but those whose God is their belly, whose self-control was to gain an earthly reward will be judged because they have no righteousness with which they can stand before God at that final day.

Remember those who attempt to gain righteousness by keeping the law. They will suffer the same fate as those who do not seek righteousness at all because they did not seek their righteousness in the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Next Week: Meeting Jesus (Acts 26)

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Comments»

1. Fanni Anosh - August 13, 2012

Thanks for a nice article.


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