Acts 24

Thankfully, I haven’t had a lot of experience sitting in a courtroom. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of speeding tickets, I have a problem, but what I have experience reminded me that justice doesn’t always win; the person in the right isn’t always exonerated, and the system is far from perfect.

In our reading for today, Acts 24, we find Paul haven been taken from the courts of the Sanhedrin to the courts of Rome. Just like the man He surrendered his life to after their encounter on the road to Damascus, Paul was being wrongly accused by the Jewish leaders in hopes to clear him and his influence from their landscape.

When you compare what Jesus was charged with to what Paul is charged with, there are striking similarities. Both charged as troublemakers, both charged for a desire to destroy or desecrate the temple, and both charged with some level of sedition against the Roman government.

Paul is truly following in the footsteps of His Savior, but keep in mind, His goal wasn’t to get arrested and be charged and stand trial. His goal was to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified to the ends of the earth. His goal was to illuminate Christ at all times and in all things. But the choice to live that kind of lifestyle has consequences.

Little did I think, back in 2011, that choosing to help and lead with this new movement called the One project would come with negative consequences. I mean, we were a group of people that just wanted to make sure our lives were refocused and re- centered on Jesus Christ. We wanted to make sure that He was our everything - not just our spiritual milk or what some think is the fluff of the Bible; Jesus is all in all. As my dear friend Tim Gillespie says, Jesus is the milk, the pitcher the milk is in, the table the pitcher sits on, the house the table is in, the earth the house rests on...Jesus is EVERYTHING for Jesus is God.

Of course Paul says this better...
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20 NLT
But if you’ve followed the One project long enough, you know the story. Following Jesus has consequences and we became the most controversial movement in Adventism. Questions abounded - “Did we teach the Adventist Jesus or the Evangelical Jesus?” (You know Jesus was neither of those, right?) “Are you all anti-trinitarian because you only seem to be talking about Jesus?” (That’s a very small view of who Jesus is, for when you know who Jesus is you recognize that when you talk about God you are talking about Jesus and you are talking about the Spirit - three in one, one in three) “Why don’t you all teach all 28 doctrines every time you speak?” (Because our focus is Jesus and there’s plenty of other places people can go to learn those - we don’t have to say everything Adventists believe every time we speak, do we? We focus on lifting up Jesus so that all will be drawn towards Him - John 12: 32)

Following Jesus has consequences, but we don’t focus on the consequences, we focus on Jesus. Paul does the same during this courtroom drama. Paul states the facts after the Jews brought their case to the Felix, the governor. He doesn’t hide who he is or what he believes, “I follow the Way...I worship the God of our ancestors...I firmly believe the Jewish law...I have the same hope...I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.” These are Paul’s confessions. No amount of lies or negative consequences thrown his way are going to cause him to stray from the one he worships.

The chapter ends with Paul remaining in custody for the next two years, though he has freedom to see people and continue to write. No real justice occurred, everyone in that courtroom were there for their own causes, advancements, and comforts.

But Paul stayed true to his calling in spite of it all. He stayed true to the Way even when it was incredibly hard, because he couldn’t imagine life any other way.
We are never promised easy in the life of following Jesus, just that He is with us every step of the way. It is important for us to take time to be sure of what we believe, to fix our eyes regularly on Jesus, and to participate in community so that we may be prayed over and encouraged along the way.

May we always remember Jesus’ words before His own courtroom scene...
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33

And as hard as the “consequences” of following Jesus can be at times, let us also remember that our lives on this earth are but a blink of an eye, but our lives with Jesus are forever. Let us live for our forevers, clinging to Jesus every step of the way.

By Paddy McCoy

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