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The Comfort of Christ


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 22:22-23:11

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

The Roman commander Claudius Lysias continues trying to figure out why the Jews in Jerusalem are so agitated by Paul. And in the midst of Paul's discouragement, a visit from Jesus teaches us about the nature of His supernatural comfort.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

As we pick up our study this evening, Paul is in Jerusalem. He is likely standing atop the steps of the Antonia fortress, which was next to the Temple. In front of Paul are Roman soldiers serving as a buffer between him and the angry mob of Jewish men who wish to kill him for desecrating the temple, a patently false charge. Paul has spoken with the Roman commander Claudius Lucius, who has agreed to allow Paul to address the crowd. And thus far, in Acts 22, Paul has been sharing his testimony.

As BJ walked us through last week, the last thing Paul shared, where we left off last time, was that the Lord had given him the instruction. This instruction shortly after saving him. Go, because I will send you far away. To the Gentiles. To the Gentiles.

And you might want to underline that phrase to the Gentiles in your Bible in verses 21, because it's about to trigger this mob picking things up. In verse 22, we read, they - the mob - listened to him up to this point. Then they raised their voices, shouting, wipe this man off the face of the earth. He should not be allowed to live. Now remember, it was Pentecost, one of the major feasts of Israel.

The city was flooded with pilgrims. These were days of intense religious and nationalistic fervor. In a period of intense nationalistic and religious fervor in Israel, the Roman occupiers and oppressors were despised. Add to that the fact that Israel had for centuries moved far beyond nationalism into deep-rooted ethnocentric racism. They believed that God had chosen them to be his people because they were better than the Gentiles.

The saying in Israel for a long time had been God made Gentiles to be kindling for the fires of hell. So when Paul tells this crowd that God, Yahweh, the Lord of Israel, sent him to the Gentiles, well, that was just too much. It was blasphemy to suggest that God would want to reach out to the Gentiles, even though God's plan to do exactly that had been revealed over and over in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Jews had turned a blind eye to those details in scripture they did not want to deal with, as we often do today. Not you, of course.

I know you would never do such a thing. I'm speaking, of course, to our online listeners and viewers. The belief of these Jews gas is Gentiles want to be saved. They need to come to us and convert to Judaism. To claim that they don't need to do that is to imply that they're equals with us Jews.

And that's just blasphemy. That's outrageous. As I said, it was just racism. Verse 23. As they were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air, basically losing their mind and throwing tantrums.

These were cultural displays of contempt toward a person considered to be opposing the will of God. And a means of expressing one's desire to have nothing to do with them. As they were doing this, the commander ordered him, that's Paul, to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge. To discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. So once again, another riot almost explodes.

And Lucius, the Roman commander, is like, we got to get him inside the fortress. Close the gate. This thing is getting out of hand. And so Lucius, a gentile, understandably, has no idea what is going on. He has no clue why the mob just suddenly at this point in Paul's address, lost their minds.

He wants to get to the bottom of things. He wants some straight answers, and he doesn't believe Paul is telling him everything. So he orders Paul to be scourged, to be tortured until he provides a satisfactory explanation. Now, scourging was a form of punishment. In which a man would be tied to a post or a wooden frame of some sort.

And whipped with a flagellum that was made up of several strips of leather. With bits of bone or metal embedded into the tip. And this would bruise the body with each blow, causing it to swell up. And then these objects would cut and tear into the skin. And then even embed themselves in the skin, ripping it apart and tearing off pieces of flesh with each successive blow.

Many people died from blood loss while being scourged. It was not unusual for the spine and oral organs to be exposed. By the time the torture was complete. Jesus was scourged on Pilate's orders before he was crucified. It's why Jesus didn't have the strength to carry the cross on his own.

To Golgotha, scourging was considered such a degrading and brutal form of punishment. That Roman citizens were exempt from it. So we read in verse 25 as they stretched him out for the lash. So as they're tying Paul to the frame where they're going to scourge him, Paul said to the centurion standing by, is it legal for you to scourge a man who was a Roman citizen and is uncondemed? Paul has ice in his veins.

He waited until the absolute last minute. And then nonchalantly asked, quick, question, just for clarity's sake, is it legal for you to do this to a Roman citizen, knowing full well that it wasn't? Now, why did Paul wait? I suspect because he was smart. This gave him leverage over Claudius Lucius, which he could use later if he felt the need.

From the Book of Acts, we know Paul's family was from Tarsus of Killica. We know he was schooled by Gamaliel, the best teacher in Israel, likely meaning Paul's family was wealthy. We know Paul's father was both Jewish and a Roman citizen, making Paul a citizen by birth. Now generally, Jews could only gain Roman citizenship through some sort of significant service to the empire or by spending a great deal of money to purchase citizenship from a corrupt Roman bureaucrat. How Paul's father came by his citizenship is a mystery lost to history.

It seems unlikely that he worked for the Romans, however, as such behavior would have been considered traitorous by the Jewish community and surely resulted in Paul's family being shunned. The scene reminds us that it is wisdom to take advantage of our rights and freedoms when, where, and while we have them. We should claim them, defend them, and value them as they help us obey Christ by ensuring we have the freedoms to do things like gather as the church and evangelize freely and openly. You know, looking back on Covid a couple of years later, I think much of the church could do it better next time. And you better believe there's going to be a next time.

Did everybody see that? Our prime minister was recently found to have been completely in the wrong for invoking the Emergencies Act against the protesters in Ottawa. The courts have ruled, and rightly so, there will be an appeal. But for now it's something. Although it doesn't seem like anything's going to happen other than the contentment of I told you so for some.

In the same way, officials who shut down churches in Alberta have been ruled to have acted in error legally, in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our country hates Christianity, so there's been no consequences for those officials, only an acknowledgement from the legal system that, yeah, they totally did violate your rights. They're bad. Our rights are precious and they should be treated as such. And when they are next challenged, I would encourage us to defend them vigorously, not only for ourselves, but for the good of the church in our province and in our country.

And I should be honest that should it happen again, our church intends to do just that. The government will try and take your freedoms by scaring you and then offering you safety in exchange for your freedoms. The world will try to take your freedoms and rights by ostracizing you from society. If you refuse to conform and surrender them, do not comply, because the true value of civil liberties and human rights is only appreciated when they're lost. And the ability to obey Christ more faithfully and openly is worth infinitely more than the culture, than the culture's approval.

I'm sorry. So would you make a note of this? It is wise to use our rights and freedoms for the sake of Christ. It is wise to use our rights and freedoms for the sake of Christ. And I really emphasize for the sake of Christ.

I don't expect any of you to demand that you be allowed to exercise your right to be a fool. Right? I know what I'm doing might be stupid, but I'm allowed to do it. Don't do that. Stand up for your rights for noble, selfless reasons, like obeying Christ and loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.

A scourging may have ended Paul's life or made it impossible for him to continue in ministry. Therefore, he invoked his rights as a Roman citizen. Verse 26. When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, that's Lucius saying, what are you going to do for this man is a Roman citizen. The commander came and said to him, tell me, are you a Roman citizen?

Yes, he said. The commander replied, I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money, but I was born a citizen. Paul said. Now, being a citizen by birth was viewed as a higher position than becoming a citizen by purchase. Verse 29.

So those who were about to examine him, about to scourge Paul, withdrew from him immediately. The commander was too alarmed. The commander, too, was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him. And now we understand how this maneuver gained Paul leverage over Lucius. Failing to honor the rights of a Roman citizen was a serious offense.

The scourging would have been horrendously illegal, but so too was placing Paul in chains and arresting him without charge or due process. Those things could have cost Lucius his job, and if the scourging had taken place, his life for it was a capital offense to scourge a Roman citizen. I'm sure Lucius was making sure that Paul's robe was on nice and tight and brushing his hair there, and immediately thinking back on how Paul had been treated from the moment they first encountered him on the temple mound and thinking, oh, that was bad. Oh, that was bad. Oh, that was bad.

Can I get you some coffee? Some cake perhaps? That was the sort of scene that was unfolding very, very quickly for Paul. Lucius would have realized, to his dismay, that Paul should never have been treated like a criminal because, as I mentioned, citizens were not even to be detained without due process. That law was famously known as habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus exists in Canadian law, allegedly, and was in place - this is true - in the United States until it was modified under the Patriot Act over 20 years ago, and changes were made allowing the government to commit acts of rendition and detain American citizens in secret indefinitely without charge at black sites. And that's a rabbit hole you can go down on your own. But that's 100% true.

Habeas corpus is the law, the standard still used today that says citizens of a country should not be detained without charge or due process. Verse 30. The next day, since he, that's. Lucius wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. He released him and instructed the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to convene.

He brought Paul down and placed him before them. The Sanhedrin was the council of 70 politicians, chaired by the chief priest that ruled Jewish religious life and civil matters under Roman rule. At this time, Lucius tries a new tactic. Now you really got a feel for the guy. He's going to let Paul and the Sanhedrin hash this out.

Under his observation, the Sanhedrin will be able to present their charges. Paul will have the chance to address their accusations. It's not going to be an official trial, but Lucius is thinking, surely this exercise will at least reveal what's going on. So let's keep reading. In Acts, chapter 23, verse one, Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, brothers.

So he addresses them as a jew speaking to fellow Jews. And remember, he likely knew many of them, having been a member himself of the Sanhedrin years ago and studying under Gamaliel as a young man, as surely some of the other members of the Sanhedrin had. He says, I've lived my life before God in all good conscience to this day. In other words, I've always done my best to live in obedience to God to the best of my knowledge, and so my conscience is clean. Now, this is an interesting statement if you think about the trajectory of Paul's life, because at one time, Paul tells us his conscience told him that he was doing the will of God by persecuting the church of Jesus Christ.

He genuinely believed that, which is why he could make the statement. I've always done my best to obey God, but he didn't always have the right idea of what God wanted him to do. And this demonstrates for us the truth that our conscience does not determine right and wrong. Our conscience can merely pass moral judgment on our actions based on our standard of morality. So if our standard of morality is skewed, our judgment of our own actions will be skewed.

And this is why our conscience is neither the voice of God nor infallible. God is the source of truth, not our conscience. Therefore, if our conscience is not informed by the word of God, our conscience cannot be trusted to consistently pass accurate moral judgments. Before Paul met Christ, his refusal to recognize Jesus as the messiah based on the scriptures compromised his conscience, and therefore his moral judgment. I'm going to quote John MacArthur here.

The conscience can be damaged, dysfunctional, and even destroyed. The Bible speaks of a weak conscience, a wounded conscience, a defiled conscience, an evil conscience, and worst of all, a seared conscience, one so covered with scar tissue from habitual sin that it no longer responds to the proddings of divine truth. Obviously, a conscience in one of those states will not always assess things properly. On the other hand, the Bible commends a good conscience, a blameless conscience, and a clear conscience. Such a spiritually healthy conscience results from the forgiveness of sin based on the atoning work of Christ.

Christians'consciences informed by the standards of God's word, are able to assess accurately their actions. Christians thus need to strengthen their consciences by constantly exposing them to the truths of scripture. Paul had such a fully and rightly informed conscience, and it was not accusing him. So write this down. Our conscience must be informed by the truth of God's word.

To accurately pass moral judgment on our actions. I'll say it again. Our conscience must be informed by the truth of God's word to accurately pass moral judgment on our actions. If we say, well, it seems right to me, that's literally all it means. It seems right to you.

That's not worth a whole lot in the big scheme of things. All it means is that you agree with yourself. What a surprise. But you're not the one who decides what is right and wrong. So you cannot trust your conscience unless it is informed by the only source of truth behind everything that is true, and that is the word of God, the Lord himself.

Verse two. The high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to Paul to strike him on the mouth. Ananias was thinking, you're a traitor to your people. You're trying to destroy Hebrew culture. You're treating the Gentiles as though God wants them.

Don't insult us by claiming you've lived your whole life before God in good conscience. Then Paul said to him, God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall. And if you're like, what? What kind of insult is that? Paul's got to work on his dis vocabulary, because what is going on here?

Paul is echoing the words of Jesus, who in Matthew 23, it's on your outlines, had said, woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Now, there's a notable contrast here between Paul's response to being wrongly struck before the Sanhedrin and Jesus's response in a similar situation.

We read this in John 18 at Jesus's appearance before the high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin following his arrest. Also on your outlines, when Jesus had said these things, one of the officials standing by slapped Jesus, saying, is this the way you answer the high priest? If I've spoken wrongly, Jesus answered him, give evidence about the wrong. But if rightly, why do you hit me? Jesus's response, full of self-control, was prophesied in Isaiah 53 seven, where it was written hundreds of years earlier.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth. Well, why the difference? It's not that complicated. Paul was not Jesus.

Jesus was the sinless son of God. Paul, likely the greatest man who's ever lived, who wasn't the son of God, was still a sinner. And in this moment, Paul's flesh won a little bit. And Paul then reveals Ananias' hypocrisy in this specific instance, saying, you're sitting there judging me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law. Are you ordering me to be struck?

So you're sitting there representing the law of Moses, and yet you just ordered me to be struck in violation of the law of Moses, you hypocrite. More than the blow to his body, Paul was indignant about the wickedness displayed by the man who was supposed to be the spiritual leader of Israel. Indeed, the Roman commander, Lucius, had acted with far greater integrity than the religious leaders of Israel, who supposedly served the God of all truth and it's notable that Paul did not curse the high priest directly. He said, God is going to strike you, leaving judgment in the hands of God. Verse four.

Those standing nearby said, do you dare revile God's high priest? And this is an example of an appeal to authority fallacy. I want to add something to your philosophical vocabulary today. An appeal to authority fallacy. This is what it is.

Instead of addressing the logic and veracity of Paul's argument, they simply point to the rank of the man that Paul addressed. I'm not trying to make trouble here. Well, it's probably not true, but if this is a fallacy, again, we saw most clearly displayed during COVID People would raise issues and ask questions. And instead of authorities and health leaders engaging with those arguments on the merit of those arguments, all they would say is, how dare you question the experts? It's an appeal to authority fallacy.

Mentioning your rank or mentioning your qualifications, or claiming that you're an expert is not an argument. It's not an argument. You're just saying, I am very important. That's all you're doing. You're shouting that.

That's not a valid argument. That's great. I'm happy for you. What's your very, very important. Okay, never mind.

And yet, Paul's response is humble. He says, I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, replied Paul, well, how is it possible he doesn't know that Ananias is the high priest? Well, because Paul's been away from Jerusalem for years and years, and Ananias was not the high priest last time he was there. He's probably never seen or met Ananias. And additionally, this was not an official gathering of the Sanhedrin, so the high priest would not have been dressed in his official regalia.

That would make it obvious that he was the high priest. Paul continues, for it is written, you must not speak evil of a ruler of your people. Paul is quoting there from the law of Moses found in Exodus 22, verse 28. And Paul himself would repeat this sentiment in Titus three, as would Peter in 1 Peter, chapter two. Write this down, and we're going to unpack it.

It's one of my least favorite points in the entire Bible. The Bible teaches that offices of authority are worthy of honor even when occupied by men or women who are not worthy of respect.

Ouch. The Bible teaches that offices of authority are worthy of honor even when occupied by men or women who are not worthy of respect. You might think the prime minister or the president is an absolute doughnut, but he occupies an office that is worthy of honor. According to the scriptures, Christians are called to honor God by honoring offices of authority. Because God works through offices of authority.

He holds the highest office of authority. He's the king of kings and lord of lords. Jesus has the office of authority over the church. He appoints elders to the office of authority over the local church. He appoints husbands to the office of authority over their family.

And he appoints scripture to have authority over all of us. A right understanding of honor and authority is critical to God's design for marriage, family, the church, civil life, and most importantly, kingdom life. And Paul demonstrates this for us when he immediately repents for having publicly, verbally dressed down the high priest. Even though Paul's assessment was accurate, his tone was not. And this is why I'm not comfortable with Christians who want to talk to the devil and say things like, not today, satan.

Or sing worship songs, speaking to Satan and telling him that his time is up. This is why I'm not comfortable, because Satan currently occupies the office of ruler of this world. Paul calls him the God of this age. And it's an office, get this, that Jesus is going to occupy soon. And that's the issue.

The office isn't evil. The office is good. The problem is that someone evil is currently occupying that good office. But get this, we're still meant to honor the office. So how do you do that when the office is occupied by Satan?

Well, in the little one-chapter book of Jude, I suggest we find our answer. There was a situation that unfolded after the death of Moses where the archangel Michael got into an argument with Satan because Satan wanted the body of Moses. And I know you're like, what the what? But that's a whole different thing. We don't have time to get into it today.

What I want to draw your attention to on your outlines is Michael's response to Satan. In Jude 9, we read when Michael the archangel was disputing with the devil in an argument about Moses's body. He did not dare utter a slanderous condemnation against him, but said, the Lord rebuke you. The reason Michael did not dare utter a slanderous condemnation against Satan is that Satan occupied an office worthy of honor, and so Michael left it in the Lord's hands. He refused to verbally lash out at Satan, instead saying, the Lord rebuke you, saying, that's above my level of authority.

The Lord rebuke you as hard gas is, is to walk out. We're not to be insulting those in offices of authority. We're to leave vengeance and judgment in the hands of God. We can factually point out problems and issues, but it must be done respectfully, free from slander or gossip or speculation or assumption, and free of insults, as Paul modeled in Acts chapter 23, when he repented. The archangel Michael modeled in Jude 9, and Jesus modeled before Caiaphas in John chapter 18.

So, in light of this, I expect to see some of you men yelling, the Lord rebuke you out of your car windows. Instead of what you usually yell out of your car windows. Okay? The Lord rebuke you.

We continue in verse is it says, when Paul realized that one part of them, one part of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Now, Paul was indeed a Pharisee and had been part of the Sanhedrin. As I mentioned earlier, before he encountered the resurrected Jesus, Paul had continued to hold on to everything the Pharisees were right about and had rejected everything the Pharisees were wrong about. Paul was not necessarily claiming that his father had been a Pharisee, but rather that he had been raised and educated in the Phariseeic tradition. And then Paul said, I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.

Now, let me explain the context so that you can understand why this is both brilliant and hilarious on Paul's part. You see, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were the Republicans and Democrats of Israeli politics, and the Sanhedrin was their senate. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of the day. They had emerged back onto the Israeli political scene one to 200 years before Christ, with really good intentions. Really good intentions.

They were the ones who rose up in Israel and said, we need to get back to obeying the law of Moses. We need to get back to obeying God's word. And tragically, though, it didn't take very long for their zeal to get out of hand. And they soon began adding to God's laws with their ridiculous interpretations of God's laws. The Sadducees were what we would call today materialists or naturalists.

They believed there was no supernatural dimension, no miracles, no angels or demons, and no human spirit that continued to live forever. That's why the Sadducees were sad. You see, they were theological liberals. They didn't believe in the whole Old Testament. Only the first five books, the Torah in Hebrew or the Pentateuch in Greek.

And they didn't submit to God's word as the authority over their lives. They took the view, well, this is open to interpretation. And as we grow in our intellectualism and knowledge, we're able to discern that these supposedly supernatural events described in the Torah are metaphors. There's no way the Genesis stories are literal. The important things are the moral principles and the special status of Israel that's revealed in these sacred texts.

And together, these two groups made up Jewish political life. Paul was telling the truth when he said to the Pharisees, brother, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. And I'm being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead. Because Paul was being wrongly targeted for preaching eternal life through Christ, the gospel message. But there was more going on.

The Pharisees believed in the eternality of the human spirit. They believed there would one day be a resurrection of the dead for those who belong to God. So Paul lets them know that he's a lifelong Pharisee, he's part of their political party. And then he lobs a grenade into the middle of the room by telling the Pharisees, what's going on, brothers, is that I'm being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead. I'm being judged because I believe the human spirit lives forever.

And he knows that's going to set things off between these two parties and get them at each other's throats. And that is exactly what happens in verses seven we read when he said this. A dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say, there is no resurrection and neither angel nor spirit.

But the Pharisees affirm them all. F. F. Bruce notes that a Sadducee could not become a Christian. Without abandoning the distinctive theological position of his party.

A Pharisee could become a Christian and remain a Pharisee. In the early decades of Christianity, at least, the scriptures record Pharisees who became Christians, including Nicodemus and others, but no Sadducees. Verse nine. The shouting grew loud, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees'party got up and argued vehemently. We find nothing evil in this man.

What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him? And so, once again, there are echoes here of Christ's passion week in Jerusalem. When Pilate told the Jews, I find no grounds for charging him. Speaking of Jesus like Jesus, Paul was falsely accused and would ultimately be executed. Despite his innocence, Paul had brilliantly made the issue theological rather than personal, so that the Pharisees were now actually defending him because they wanted to defend their theological position.

This proved to Claudius Lucius that the issue was a religious disagreement, not a criminal offense. And by revealing himself as a Roman citizen, Paul had asked to be tried in the Roman justice system. And it now seemed to Lucius that Paul had done nothing wrong under Roman law. He would later write this in his letter to the Roman governor, Felix. Wanting to know the charge they were accusing him of.

I brought him down before their Sanhedrin. I found out that the accusations were concerning questions of their law and that there was no charge that merited death or imprisonment. But Lucius also needed to keep the peace in Jerusalem. So we couldn't just let Paul go, because that would spark yet another riot and likely Paul's murder. Verse ten.

When the dispute became violent in the Sanhedrin, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them again and ordered the troops to go down, take him away from them, and bring him into the barracks, back to the fortress they go. I cannot imagine how frustrated Claudius Lucius must have been at this point, because once again, chaos was erupting, another riot was breaking out, and he was still no closer to understanding what the heck was going on, going all the way back to the riot on the Temple Mount. But now that he knew Paul was a Roman citizen, he was duty-bound to protect Paul's rights and safety. And so Paul's journey will continue in the Roman justice system, where he will remain until his ultimate death in Rome. Now, in this moment, Paul must have felt deeply discouraged.

This was so far from what he had been hoping this visit to Jerusalem would be. When he humbly tried to pursue unity with the brethren in the Jerusalem church, a riot broke out on the Temple Mount. When he finally got the opportunity to address his ethnic brethren in the city, they tried to kill him. And when he appeared before the Sanhedrin, they weren't interested at all in what he had to say. And another riot almost broke out.

To Paul, it must have felt as if everything was going wrong. Sort of like that paratrooper in basic training who was told before his first jump, pull the cord and release your main chute. And if that fails, pull the other cord on the front. That's your reserve chute, and it'll release your backup, and then there'll be a truck to pick you up when you land. And so he gets up there, he jumps out of the plane, he pulls his ripcord, parachute doesn't come out.

He thinks, no problem. I've got my reserve. Pulls his other cord. The reserve chute doesn't come out either. So he thinks to himself, oh, man, at this rate, I bet the truck's not even going to be there to pick me up either.

Paul would have been discouraged, which is why it's so wonderful to read this in the following verse, verse eleven. The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, have courage, for as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome. Jesus personally appears to Paul that night to commend him for his faithfulness in Jerusalem, encourage him to prepare for further trials, and let him know that he will soon be traveling to Rome. He's not going to die here in Jerusalem. The comfort of God is so profound because his words have power when he speaks comfort.

His words penetrate our hearts and comfort the inner man like nothing else can. The comfort of God so profoundly impacted Paul's life in dark times that he referred to the Lord as the God of all comfort. In his second letter to the Corinthians writing, he comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ, our comfort overflows. Later in that same letter, Paul would write that he was filled with comfort because God comforts the depressed.

One of the wonderful things about the Lord is that he never gives us an instruction or a command without making available to us all that we need to obey him. When he tells Paul to have courage, it is not only a revelation that Paul will not die in Jerusalem, but it is also the Lord telling Paul that he has made the courage that he is going to need available to him. Have courage. I talk about this a lot because I believe it's one of the keys to the Christian life. We don't just need more information.

We need to be filled with God's spirit over and over again. When we are depressed, when we are discouraged, we don't just need someone to give us the information, be encouraged, be filled with joy. Done. We need more than that. We need a change on the spiritual level.

Paul didn't need a reminder to stir up courage within himself. He needed to be encouraged that the Holy Spirit would make him courageous. Remember, we've already had the failed experiment of the people of God trying to obey him with just information. The law of Moses gave the people of God all the information they needed to obey God with knowledge, but they couldn't do it because they couldn't stir up the desire or the power to obey God. Hear me on this.

This is one of the most important truths about the commands of Christ in the New Testament. The commands of Christ assume we are filled with the Spirit. Let me say it again, and I want you to write it down. The commands of Christ assume we are filled with the spirit.

They are not intended for anyone who is not filled with the spirit of God. It is not God's intention that we try and obey his commands in our own strength, because it's impossible. The biblical text assumes believers are filled with the spirit and are being filled with the spirit. That's the assumption. When Jesus tells Paul, have courage, he is telling Paul that he has courage because the spirit of God dwells in him.

The encouragement is now, walk in it. Walk in it. The Bible is full of promises from God that his peace, love, joy, encouragement, comfort, and hope are available to us through his spirit in us. The mystery, I think, for most believers is how can we appropriate those things? How can we actually receive them and walk in them?

If we are depressed, how do we actually experience God's comfort? I've wrestled with this question a lot. I'm still wrestling with it, if I'm honest. But I do believe that the gist of the answer is simple. Profoundly simple.

Now, whenever I say something is simple, especially when it comes to scripture, I feel the need to remind everyone that the word simple is not a synonym for the word easy. They're not the same thing. Simple doesn't mean easy. Simple just means it's not complicated. It's not hard to understand.

It doesn't mean it's not hard to do. How do you get in great shape, eat really well, be disciplined, work out? Easy, right? No, not easy. Not easy.

Why? Because food is super good, right? I believe we experience things like God's emotional provision, things like peace, life, joy, hope, comfort, encouragement. By doing these four things, and I put them on your outline for you. Number one, being filled with the spirit daily.

That's number one. Coming to the Lord every day, confessing our desperate need for him and our clear understanding that we cannot be the person he's calling us to be or do the things he is calling us to do apart from the power of his spirit in us. This is number one. And this is what I've realized for myself. And it's hard because it's convicting.

I have no business acting like this is some unfathomable mystery why I am not experiencing the comfort of God when I'm not even doing this. I'm not coming to the Lord every day, confessing my need for him and asking him to fill me with his spirit. If I'm not even doing that, I'm just full of it, telling my brothers or sisters, oh, pray for me. It's a mystery. I can't discern why I'm not experiencing the encouragement of the Lord.

That's step one. Number two, in that same daily time, sharing our burdens with him, casting our cares upon him because he cares for us, as our brother Peter would say, confessing the things that are weighing us down and saying, lord, I need your help with these things. Thirdly, believing that he has heard us, that we have a loving heavenly Father who hears us, and believing that he's given us all we need. I'm not saying you feel like you have all you need. I'm saying you choose to believe by faith that you have all you need.

And one of the most powerful ways we can do that is in that same time, in the Lord's presence every day. Thank him in faith that he's provided all we need. Lord, thank you that you've given me the grace I need to do this. Thank you that you've given me the power to walk in forgiveness. Thank you that you've given me the power to control my tongue.

I believe it. Lord, we agree with God's word. We don't say, I can't, I can't do it. Lord, I can't obey you in your own strength. You're absolutely right.

Cannot do it with the spirit of God in you. You absolutely can. And so we thank him in faith, believing that we've received it. And then fourth, walking in what he has provided, instead of having our actions dictated by our emotions, we choose to act in accordance with what God has said, regardless of our emotions. Hey, I know what I feel and I know what God's word says.

I want God's word to win out. I know what I want to say, but I know what God's word says, so I'm going to zip it. I know what I want to think. I know what my emotions are doing, but that's not what God's word says, so shut up. Emotions?

We're not doing that today. Sometimes for me, if I'm honest, it looks like this. I don't feel like I have the power. I don't always feel like I have the desire to do what God wants me to do. Sometimes all I have is man.

Lord, I want the outcome of obeying you because I've been around the block enough times to know that when I walk in your ways, the outcome is good and it's peace in my heart and life in my life. So I'm going to do what God is calling me to do, even if sometimes I have to fake it to myself by saying, now, what would someone who genuinely believed God's word was true, do in this situation? I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that. I don't feel like that person right now, but I want to be that person, so I'm going to do that.

The Lord reminded Paul that he had made his courage available to him, and Paul would go on to choose by faith to walk in the courage of the Holy Spirit, even when he couldn't see it, even when he couldn't feel the Lord's presence. Jesus showed up in Paul's trials, but he didn't show up to deliver Paul from his trials. That's a big deal. What Jesus gave Paul was the encouragement, hope, strength, and comfort, and resolve that Paul needed to endure his trials. The encouragement was the same as he gave to the disciples at the end of the great commission.

I'm with you always to the end of the age. The Christian is not promised deliverance from all earthly trials. On the contrary, Jesus promised we would have them. The promise of Christ is that he will be with us in all of them, empowering us to walk through them as his witnesses. That is part of the victory we have in Christ is the ability to walk through trials, not losing hope, not losing faith, not losing peace.

He's with you. Whatever you're going through, he's with you. He's with you. And I wonder if when Jesus first appeared, Paul thought, oh, Jesus, I assume you're here to open some doors, set me free. Walk me out of this joint as you did Peter.

And I wonder if Jesus had to say, not this time, Paul. Not this time. This time. This is the plan. But I want you to know I'm with you.

So take heart, be strong, be comforted, and be courageous.

It is better to be with Christ, period. It is better to be in prison with Christ than be out of prison without him. It is better to be physically falling apart with Christ than to be physically whole without him. It is better to battle any trial with Christ than to be without a trial and without Christ. It is better to be with Christ, period.

I'm going to ask the worship team to come up if you're here today and you are experiencing trials or afflictions that are being caused by your unrepentant sin. I need to tell you your path to comfort runs first through repentance. So repent. If you're depressed but you're living in unrepentant sin, repent. God is not coming to you to comfort you in your sin.

Repent. But if you're here today and you're experiencing trials and afflictions that are not your fault or are the consequences of sins that you have repented of sincerely, I want to pray that you would be comforted by the God of all comfort. That whether he intends to deliver you from your affliction or walk with you through your affliction, you would experience the reality that he's with you and that it would be so real and so impactful that you would be able to say with 100% honesty and sincerity, it is well with my soul. Let me pray for us. Would you bow your head and close your eyes?

Father, thank you that you are the God of all comfort and you do comfort the afflicted. And so I pray right now for my brothers and sisters who are experiencing affliction, who are experiencing discouragement, depression, pain and suffering. Whatever malady it may be, Lord, if there is any sin involved in it, I pray you would reveal it so that we can repent and experience your comfort. Lord, but for those whose trial is not due to their sin or due to a sin they repented of, Lord, I pray that you would comfort my brothers and sisters. I pray that your peace would come by the power of your holy spirit.

Not a peace that comes from suddenly understanding everything or a peace that comes from receiving a guarantee that it will soon be over. But, Lord, the deepest peace, the peace that comes from knowing you are with us, not intellectually, but experientially.

You said, I'm with you always to the end of the age. I'm with you on your good days, I'm with you on your bad days. I'm with you in your moments of victorious faith. I'm with you in your moments of an embarrassing lack of faith. I'll never leave you.

I'll never forsake you. Even when we are faithless, you remain faithful, for you cannot disown yourself. And so, Lord, I pray for anyone who has been discouraged by the lie that you are not with them or who has felt forsaken. Lord, I pray that you would touch them, penetrate their hearts as only you can by your spirit, and help them to hear maybe for the first time. I'm with you.

I'm with you. I've always been with you. So, holy spirit, please comfort the afflicted with your presence and with your goodness, Jesus, and help us to be satisfied in you. Because we know that all we need has been made available through you. So help us to receive it, Lord.

Help our faith where our faith is weak. Give us the gift of faith where it's needed so that we can walk through our trials in a way that brings glory and honor to you. Jesus, we love you. In your name we pray. Amen.

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