Before Paul finished defending himself, Festus shouted, “Paul, you’re crazy! Too much learning has driven you out of your mind.”
But Paul replied, “Honorable Festus, I am not crazy. What I am saying is true, and it makes sense. None of these things happened off in a corner somewhere. I am sure that King Agrippa knows what I am talking about. That’s why I can speak so plainly to him.”
Then Paul said to Agrippa, “Do you believe what the prophets said? I know you do.”
Agrippa asked Paul, “In such a short time do you think you can talk me into being a Christian?”
Paul answered, “Whether it takes a short time or a long time, I wish you and everyone else who hears me today would become just like me! Except, of course, for these chains.” (Contemporary English Version)
The Apostle Paul was quite the guy – a zealous, indefatigable, intense, Type-A dude. Yet it wasn’t those characteristics that Paul wanted others to see in him. He simply desired others to see Christ in him.
Having been arrested for preaching the good news of forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ, Paul found himself before King Agrippa, engaging in a DTR (define the relationship) talk; and making a strong apologetic for the Christian faith.
Agrippa asked Paul, “In such a short time do you think you can talk me into being a Christian?” Paul answered with confidence and conviction, “Whether it takes a short time or a long time, I wish you and everyone else who hears me today would become just like me!”
I wonder how many of us could boldly say the same thing as Paul.
Are we the sort of Christians that others could emulate?
Has our faith journey led us to the place of being a solid model of what a follower of Christ should look like?
Do we expect others to change while avoiding change ourselves?
Do we deeply desire and work toward others coming to know Jesus?
So, what is on your wish list?
- I wish each Christian everywhere would spend their relational and emotional energy making this world a better place by living into the words and ways of Jesus Christ.
- I wish every person I encounter would have the privilege of knowing Christ as I have.
- I wish all my parishioners and patients would become what I am, except, of course, for my self-made chains.
Perhaps we all must look in the mirror and examine our true desires. It’s easy to put our energy into good yet lesser wishes in life. Yet, if Christians are to become like their ancient forefather in the faith, the Apostle Paul, we will begin focusing our energies into things such as the following:
- Making outreach a priority. We do what is most important to us. That’s probably self-evident. But churches and believers that do not make outreach a primary priority are really making it no priority, at all.
Paul said, “Do the work of telling the Good News. Do all the duties of a servant of God.” (2 Timothy 4:5, ERV)
- Mentoring others into the words and ways of Jesus. Many church laypersons believe that training other Christians is what we pay the clergy to do.But this is really the responsibility of every believer.
Paul said, “You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others.” (2 Timothy 2:2, CEV)
- Taking responsibility for spreading the good news. Blaming and shaming gets us nowhere. Pastors complain about churches. Churches bellyache about Pastors. And both attack the culture, the denomination, or some other external scapegoat. It’s time for all of us to own what needs to be said and done.
Paul said, “Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right. Point out errors, warn people, and encourage them. Be very patient when you teach.” (2 Timothy 4:2, GW)
- Connecting prayer with telling the message of Christ. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to pray for Aunt Mable’s bunions to go away. It’s altogether another thing to pray sustained, focused, and passionate prayers for the people in my life to know Christ and him crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again.
Paul said, “Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ… Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.” (Colossians 4:3-4, MSG)
- Being compassionate and kind, like Christ, to others. There not only needs to be a clear articulation of the gospel, but also a clear demonstration of basic human kindness. Many Christians never get the opportunity to share the gospel because they’re just downright obnoxious.
Set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:15-16, NET)
- Establishing every Christian ministry as an opportunity to share the gospel. Intentional effort and energy toward proclaiming the gospel in both word and deed needs to go into everything we do.
Paul said, “So take special care how you conduct yourselves. Don’t be unwise but be wise. Make use of any opportunity you have because these are wicked times we live in.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NTE)
- Caring, not at all, that new Christians will change our lives or our church too much. I’m serious. I’ve heard the line many times by church folk in my years of pastoral ministry that new believers come in and change things we like. Come on, man. Get over it. Change is built into the Christian experience. God said:
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19, NRSV)
You don’t need a personality like the Apostle Paul to live into your calling as a Christian. You and I only need to put our will and energy into things that matter most to God.
Risen and ascended Lord, you are the king of all creation. May your rule and reign take over my life to such a degree that everything that comes out of my mouth, and every action I take would be worthy of emulation in your way of love. Amen.