Acts 25-26, Psalm 131
Every Christian should be able to recant their personal testimony to anyone. The shortened version of mine is that I was raised in a loving home, but God was not highlighted. Raised an Episcopalian, I did what was required in terms of going to church and being confirmed. Never being moved by those church services or the sacraments, I stopped going after my confirmation and honestly didn't think much about God for many years. In the eyes of the world I was considered a good person: a good student, fairly obedient, married young, etc. When my mother died, when I was 27, and I found her ready to go to the morgue that morning, and started crying, a woman who I'm still unsure who she was approached me. Saying none of the typical platitudes, but with her hand on my shoulder she recited Psalm 23 from memory and promptly walked away. Nothing less, nothing more. Two weeks after the funeral I asked the hospital chaplain for a Bible and aggressively studied it for the next two years. In the process I realized that though the world considered me good, I was a sinner in desperate need of God's mercy and grace. I understood the Gospel message for the first time and gave my heart to Jesus and made Him my personal Savior. Since then, still a sinner saved by grace, the Bible has never left my side.
Most say that Paul did not have a commanding physical presence: short, bow legged, long hooked nose, little hair and runny eyes. But while the world judges by externals God sees the heart. Paul in front of a large audience presents his testimony. He begins in Acts 26:5 describing that he was not just Jewish but, "if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." He goes on to state just how zealous he was against the Christians in Acts 26:9-12, "...I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth...and many of the saints I shut up in prison...and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them...and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities." He then goes on to describe his experience with Jesus on the Damascus road and the commission he personally received from Jesus in 26:17-18, "...as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me." He then goes on to describe how he was faithful to that commission and concludes in Acts 26:23 with exalting Christ, "that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
So the question is can each of us readily recant our own personal testimony. Hearing many dramatic testimonies of those who lived profoundly sinful lives in the eyes of the world, I often felt that my own testimony was not very jarring or radical. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;" Our personal testimony is the truth of how we came to know and depend on Jesus. God uses all of us to reach those he calls. We never know when we will be asked to defend our faith or to whom it will be in front of, but Jesus reassures us in Matthew 10:19-20, "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." We should always be prepared to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and describe our personal testimony along with the truth of the Gospel message to a world who desperately needs to hear about Him.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: