Thursday, July 30, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


Today’s New Testament reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer was Acts 24:24-25:12.  Let’s consider 16:6-12:

ESV 6 After (Festus) stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense." 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?" 10 But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourselves know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar." 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go."

Of course, it’s easy to say, “What great faith Paul had.”  But what strikes me about his testimony is his willingness to pay any just temporal punishments.  Paul says: “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.”  Wow!  A weaker man would fight, for he knew he had done no wrong.  But not Paul, you see, the same man who could write, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Paul knows that his life is not in the hands of some Roman governor.  And Paul also understands that his faith brings persecution.  It’s as if Paul is saying, “Do whatever you want with me, it doesn’t matter, for God is God, and I must obey Him.”  Indeed this is great faith.

In the confirmation rite there are two questions asked of the catechumens: 1) Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?  I do, by the grace of God.  2) Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?  I do, by the grace of God.

The person who answers these questions accordingly, says a prayer that they have the same faith as Paul.  That he or she desires to be faithful to God alone, for He alone holds life in His hands.  Thankfully we are not all called to be martyrs, but we do suffer along in this broken world.  We do all face earthly consequences for our actions.  Maybe a relationship will never be repaired because of foolish actions.  Or maybe a credit card balance reflects a lifestyle enjoyed prior to becoming a Christian—or before understanding good stewardship.

But thanks be to God, for our temporal consequences are the only consequences we shall ever face—and this is what Paul understood.  Jesus took your eternal punishment on Himself, and the cross now stands as a reminder of His judgment—a judgment he faced in our place.  Thanks be to God, for by His grace, he sustains you and me with this knowledge.  By the comfort of His Gospel He gives us peace of mind in this life, and hope for a better day.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit, He gives you the faith to stand with Paul in your particular situation in life, and answer faithfully.  “Come what may, for my life, is in God’s hand—and there’s no better place for it to be!”


With eyes on the Cross, Amen.


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