16 September – Additional Notes
ACTS 26: LIVING COUNTER-CULTURALLY
One of the earliest things that humans had learnt, when it comes to the Creator God, is that (having been created in His image to live in His likeness) we’re to love Him with all our heart, soul and might – or, translating “might” to “mind and strength”.[a] But this isn’t because the Creator God is an insecure dependent in need of love. It’s because He’s the faithful God, who keeps His agreements and His lovingkindness to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.[b]
Regardless of how unimportant or few we may be, our Creator God has kept an ancient oath to redeem us from slavery by His mighty Hand.[c] He set His affections on us[d], and has recorded everything in this epic storyline, in order to turn what was meant to “curse” into a blessing.[e] In fact, there’s nothing the Creator requires beyond having a healthy “fear the Lord” that will cause us to walk in all His ways; serving Him with all your heart and soul[f]; listen obediently[g]; remain careful to keep His commands; hold fast to Him[h], and not listen to the latest ideas that blow in. By this we’ll pass our Maker’s “manufacturer’s test”.[i]
Although HIStory is filled in with many stories and examples of what’s encapsulated in the above nut-shell, where the glue comes unstuck is in our everyday life i.e. how I’m demonstrating my connection with my Maker, as I interact with my environment. Am I willing to swim against the tides, or instead, put my community life, how I look in front of others, and my personal relationships, ahead of the One who made me?
And so, the curtains open up on yet another scene from the Creator God’s Epic Play, in today’s chapter. And, yet again, you may be thinking what on earth has the “defense hearing” in front of a 1st Century King and Roman Governor [v1-3], to do with you.
Well, for one thing, this isn’t a story about another religion, and obeying yet another set of rules as best you can. Paul did that, and those present couldn’t argue that he was the best at it! [v4-5] If Paul lived today, he’s likely to be a Buddhist monk! But this dedication to absolutely every rule, caused him to turn into a religious zealot. And, unfortunately, this bigotry turned septic and even violent. [v9-11]
Bizarrely, Paul had become blind to the promises [v6-8] in order to follow the rules. He was sincere, but He was sincerely wrong! In an incredibly dramatic way, Paul’s life needed divine intervention. He had to be pulled up short, and stopped in what he thought was the right thing to do. [v12-15a] And four things I notice here…
Father God doesn’t look back at what we’ve done wrong (or not getting right), He looks forward at what He can do in us. [v16]
Regardless of how bad we’ve been, or what horrible mess we’re currently engaged in, as bad as we may currently be, our Maker promises to rescue us. [v17]
Even if we’re not good enough for the job, our Maker is not hindered by the weaknesses in us, because He uses His strengths through us. Paul was spiritually blind to how he’d misinterpreted his years of scripture training, and physically blinded by the bright light, and yet he was called to “open the eyes” of others.[v18a]
It’s never been about the rules, but about “the hope of the promises made by God”[v6-7] specifically: (i) forgiveness of sin; and (ii) a place among those “sanctified by faith”. [v18b]
None of these four points here, are in any way different to what I laid out at the top of this page. Almost two millenniums had passed by, between the days of Moses (the quotes I’d written there) and the days of Paul, in today’s chapter. And yet, what Father God wants from us, and what He wants to do for us and through us, has always been the same – just said differently (as time goes on) and displayed differently, as communities and culture change. [v22b]
Whatever happens, we’re to be obedient to the revelation that God has given to us, as Paul was. [v19] But if we’re struggling to connect at all with the Maker of Heaven and Earth, then the starting point has always been the same: that we should “repent and turn to God” i.e. make a 180◦ change to our worldview, and demonstrate that level of “regret” by our actions – our lifestyle. [v20] If you’re worried that this is far to big a change to make – don’t – because we can get help from God. [v22]
But why bother? If a 180◦ change is required – and that’s likely to make me different to everyone around me, so that I’m now having to swim counter-culturally against the tides of everything I’ve ever known – why would I do that to myself?
The answer goes right back to the beginning of this epic storyline. In The Beginning, we had what the Indigenous Australians call The Dreamtime – the dawn of Creation in what the Creator God calls, the Garden of Eden. Most of us know the story that Adam & Eve ate some fruit and got kicked out of their utopian haven. But many people miss something incredible vital in the story…
Although we were created mortal, we had free access (without restrictions at all) to the Tree of Life.[j] In other words, only one tree would poison us – the “fruit” that stems from the knowledge good and evil. The other tree, if permanent access was maintained, would give us untold years of continual LIFE. It was only in our poisoned state, that we became held back from eternal life.[k] We had to be banished from the utopian haven, where the Creator God walks about, as a protection. If Sir Francis Bacon was right and “knowledge is power”, then the knowledge of evil is the power to do evil. Our Maker didn’t want us living forever infected with knowledge/power of evil within us.
If that makes sense, then here’s the good news: Father God has been orcastrating (planning/coordinating) a Global rescue plan to restore all things, also from The Beginning.[l] It’s this, that Paul is testifying to in today’s chapter. [v23] And it’s this, that makes me put up with the uphill climb now, in order to gain the LIFE that is to come.
Some who read this today may think I’m mad. [v24-25] Others will withdraw from this website because they don’t want me to think that I can “convert them” so quickly. [v28] But either way, few can escape this ancient storyline today because it’s not only enduring, it’s very public. [v26] The question that’s crucial is: whether or not I’m willing to be different, think differently, see things differently, live counter-culturally, and believe my Creator and His Word. [v27] In everything I do, everywhere I move, no matter who I’m with, I want my eyes on HIM…
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[a] Deuteronomy 6:5 (See also Matthew 22:37 & Mark 12:30)
[b] Deuteronomy 7:9
[c] Deuteronomy 7:7-8
[d] Deuteronomy 10:15
[e] Deuteronomy 23:5;30:16 (Put into the context Genesis c3 & Revelation c21-22)
[f] Deuteronomy 10:12 & 11:1
[g] Deuteronomy 11:13
[h] Deuteronomy 11:22
[i] Deuteronomy 13:3 (See also Ephesians 4:14)
[j] Genesis 2:8-9,15-17
[k] Genesis 3:22
[l] Genesis 3:15b