Acts 21:37-22:21 December 31, 2000
Scripture Reading: Unison Reading, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, page 1034, pew Bible
With somewhat cynical wisdom, Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, begins his book with the proclamation that there is nothing new under the sun.
He continues on to say that all of man's striving in this world is meaningless.
But he does conclude with the profound truth that we must fear God and keep his commandments since God is the supreme judge.
And we too can get into that pitiful mode of "the same old same old".
The years roll on, especially for you older folks, and you say, "I still ain't seen nothin' new yet."
You struggle with the same old aches and pains, deficiencies and troubles.
As you might know, Selena has been quite sick with the flu now for about two weeks and she is in pain all over.
She told me she is now able to better sympathize with us older folks and our stiff joints and the other stuff we put up with as our bodies age.
Everyone, no matter what stage of life they are in can get into that rut of sameness and routine that just bleeds the life out of you.
You go to work every day and deal with the same people.
You feed the baby one more meal just so you can change one more diaper.
You get up every morning and eat the same meal.
Or we could say you get up every morning and shovel the same snow.
You go to school every day and study the same books and listen to the same teachers.
Every Saturday night you prepare your Sunday School lesson.
You come to church every Sunday and worship the same Lord and sing out of the same hymnbook.
You are dying for a fresh breeze to put some wind back into your sails.
You are surrounded by saltwater and you need a spring of life.
But at this time of year, you could go snow blind.
Traveling to Iowa to see our grandchildren this week, I found myself longing for the structure of the city as I witnessed several hundred miles of flat, blinding white farm ground in all of it's sameness.
I was bored to death driving.
You are probably bored listening to me talk about being bored as I try to prepare you to hear the same old stuff in God's Word.
Every week I try to come up with applicational truth for you from the same old book.
And it never changes (Praise God!) except as we grow in our understanding of it.
So before I bore you to death, what's my point?
Paul – that's my point.
We last left him in Acts 21 as the temple guard of Roman soldiers rescued him from a riot.
That riot was started by some Jews from Ephesus who said that he brought a Gentile into the temple area which would have been strictly against Jewish law and sensitivities.
Now Paul did not do this, but they assumed he did because of his reputation of carrying the gospel to Gentiles when they saw him with Trophimus from Ephesus.
They got the whole city into an uproar and started beating Paul and trying to kill him.
And they would have succeeded except that the soldiers came and arrested him and carried him away up the steps to their barracks to question him further.
But on those steps he rises to the occasion to share the good news with all the people who had brought him trouble.
And that brings us to our passage this morning in Acts 21:37 – 23:11.
You can find it in the pew Bible on page 1732 in order to follow along.
So how does this connect with our introduction about the tedium of sameness?
Just this ---
Consider how many times Paul had been either threatened, severely beaten, arrested, and even left for dead because of the Jews.
We can count at least thirteen times from Acts 9 to 21 (9:23, 9:29, 13:50, 14:5, 14:19, 16:23, 17:5, 17:13, 18:6, 18:12, 19:30, 20:3, 21:33).
And this last time was when he had now entered Jerusalem in a genuine gesture of unity with the Jews and the church.
Remember that he came with a significant offering from the churches in Macedonia and Greece along with representatives of those churches.
And again it was the non-believing Jews that caused all the trouble.
Can you imagine Paul's thoughts, "Well, here we go again ---."
Even though he knew through the Spirit that "prison and hardships are facing me" (20:23) he surely would have been prone to discouragement that here now even in Jerusalem, as in almost every other city in which he proclaimed the good news, that the same old scenario was rearing its ugly head once again.
And here as happened so many times before when trouble came, it gave Paul a divine opportunity to present his testimony.
So just when everything seemed to be falling apart with the same old scene, the thing that gave it divine life and purpose was the good news of the gospel.
It didn't matter that the same old earthly scene of being threatened, severely beaten, arrested, and even left for dead because of the Jews was happening all over again as long as Paul could make it new and meaningful with the presentation of his testimony.
In other words, the only thing that is new under the sun is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ!
The history of Solomon's day had not yet reached this point in time when indeed there was something new under the sun.
It is always good news when you can present the truth of how God has worked in your life.
The gospel is the final chapter of Solomon's conclusion to "fearing God and keeping his commandments".
It is God's enablement by grace to do so.
It was the answer he was seeking.
No longer is everything meaningless, the same old repetition of the same old.
So if you ever want to know "What's New?", just tell your story.
It is always new and fresh because God is continually writing your story on your heart as you grow in your understanding.
Your experience in Christ becomes the core of who you are.
It will impart new life to both you and your hearers as you solidify the words.
It will give you a reason to live, a reason to endure, and a reason to hope.
Now this is a major point of today's message but not all of it.
There is more we can learn.
We have opportunity here to learn from the master of experience.
The rest of the message concerns what we can learn from Paul about giving our testimony.
What can we learn from Paul about giving our testimony?
It behooves us to ask permission before we share our testimony. (v. 37a, 40a)
(enhances receptivity, adds credibility, exhibits humility, honors God)
We must speak the language of those who will hear our testimony. (v. 37b, 40b)
(Crystal and the communication about "ski hill/Skittles")
(language includes various communication factors of connectivity)
We may be misunderstood regarding the intention of our testimony. (v. 38)
We may offer our credentials in order to enhance the credibility of our testimony. (v. 39)
We must speak with respect regarding our testimony. (v. 1a)
(this is the problem with the Jews who always seem to take things into their own hands because of their arrogance in being God's chosen people)
We can rely on our testimony as our only defense when acting in accordance with the will of God. (v. 1b)
When we follow these guidelines we will have a respectful hearing. (v. 2)
Our testimony becomes more vivid each time we are given opportunity to apply it. (v. 3-21)
(introduce yourself, be real, give qualifications, relate your experience)
There is nothing new under the sun except the good news about the Son.
Share it in order to bring hope to both yourself and your hearers.
We are all in desperate need.
It is a New Year in which to bring new hope with the good news.
Whoever was it that said "no news is good news" anyway?
The best news I ever heard has saved me from sin and given me a new lease on life.
There is no better news than that.
You can love life because God does.
He has given you new life in Christ.
Celebrate it always.
Illustration: Testimony from the Appanoose County Jail.
Come Wednesday to hear the rest of Ivan Ramirez' testimony about how God has worked in his life.