Acts 21,22,23 and Acts 24:1-23 Summary
The apostle Paul was now in Jerusalem, and he was being accused by some Jews of things he did not do. And so the tribune arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. And he was placed in some barracks. But before that, he was given permission to speak and to give his defense. And so he took this opportunity to share his testimony. But when he mentioned how the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles, the people were in an uproar, and they wanted Paul dead.
Then there was a plot to murder Paul, but his nephew caught wind of it and informed Paul who then sent him to tell the tribune, who then sent Paul to the governor Felix. Then, after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, Tertullus, who set their case before the governor against Paul. And then Paul was given permission to speak in his own defense. Then Felix decided to wait until later to decide Paul’s case, and so he ordered him to be kept in custody but given some liberties.
Now, what is standing out to me about this story relates to a situation I faced in my early 30’s, which I will share, but before that I want to share a couple of verses from Acts 24 that particularly jumped out at me. Paul said:
v. 13: “Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me.”
v. 16: “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”
Since I have been reading through the book of Acts, I have been reminded of all of Paul’s suffering for the sake of the gospel, and the Lord is reminding me of the many ways in which I suffered, too, for the sake of the gospel, which all serve as examples of the kinds of sufferings we will face when we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and to his service. And a lot of this suffering will come from those within the gatherings of what is called “church,” and from pastors and elders of these “churches,” too.
So, without further ado, I am going to share with you a situation in my life which serves as an example, not only of the condition of today’s church here in America, but of the kinds of sufferings we should be facing and/or will yet be facing the closer we get to the Lord’s return, when we choose to follow Jesus in obedience to his commands, and when we desire to do what he has called us to do, because we love him, and because we love our fellow humans, including the body of Christ, those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Suffering for the Gospel
So, the year was 1980. I was pregnant with our fourth child, and I had a prolapse of my uterus and bladder three months into pregnancy, which was extremely rare. By the time I was about five months pregnant I began having many contractions, so the doctor ordered me off of my feet for the remainder of the pregnancy, and our two youngest children had to be placed in daycare. So, I had a lot of time by myself to study the Scriptures and to draw close to my Lord in fellowship with him, and so that is what I did.
But at the end of that year (1980), after our youngest son was born, my husband lost his job, and so we moved back to our hometown which was about 700 miles away. And we returned to the church fellowship we had been attending before we moved 700 miles away from home.
Now it was 1981, and the pastor was preaching on Spiritual gifts, and he sent around papers for everyone to fill out listing what they believed their spiritual gifts were and what ministries they were interested in. The expectation was then that they would place us in an area of ministry, but after being back for a year, still no word. So, I contacted the pastor, and he came to our home, and I asked him why I had not heard anything, and then he told me the reasons were that I was (a list of false accusations against me that I don’t recall).
And then he said, “Would you say you have been crucified with Christ?” I answered, “Yes!,” and then he said, “I would say you haven’t!” Wow! And this man and I had never had a conversation before that I recall, so I don’t know where he was getting this idea. But I was crushed! And so I withdrew into my dream world and I escaped because I really believed this man had power over me that God could do nothing about, for I had been abused as a child by my father, and the Lord never rescued me from that abuse.
And then one day I was reading the story of Jonah to my children and the Lord convicted me that I was running away from his calling on my life, and that I needed to get back in there and fight this thing through. And so I contacted one of the elders who was a friend and he and some other elders came to our house and they accused me falsely of things I did not do and of attitudes that were not mine to possess, but which turned out to be their attitudes, and so they were judging me by themselves.
And they accused me of having earthly and unspiritual wisdom and of wanting to be seen of men. For they falsely assumed that because I wanted to serve my Lord in ministry that it must be because I wanted to be seen of men, for that was their reasons. And so, like Paul, I had to come to my own defense, and I had to declare to them that my motives were pure and that their accusations against me were not founded.
So next I went to see my friend whose husband was one of the elders, and we talked, and she came up with all kinds of things she thought might be the issue, but I knew wasn’t. And then, as if a lightbulb turned on inside her head she said, “Hon, I know what it is. It is a spirit of fear.” That spirit was oppressing me, so I asked if we could pray for deliverance, and we did, and I felt that spirit leave my presence.
After that all these memories of my childhood began to surface, and I began to remember things I had forgotten because I was taught to forgive and to forget. But what I did was suppress the memory, but the pain of the abuse of my childhood was still impacting me. I asked my friend what to do, and she didn’t know, and she suggested I ask the pastor, and I said “No, he hates me!” So she called him, and he called me, and he apologized to me for how he treated me. And he said, “As your pastor, I am to be your spiritual father, but I have not been a very good one, but I want to be.” Wow!
Now he encouraged me, that as the memories surfaced, that I was to release them to God and let him heal me, and so that is what I did. And later he apologized to me for himself and for the elders, admitting that they were threatened by me and my wisdom, which was from God, and that they were wrong about me. I accepted his apology, and we became friends.
Now, not all of my experiences ended that well, but what this experience is an example of is not only the kind of abuse that goes on inside church fellowships coming from church leadership who falsely accuse people of what they did not do, but it is a warning to us against falsely judging others by our own selves, by our own thinking, and by our own personal prejudices, etc. For that is what they did to me.
So, if we are going to judge, we need to do it by God’s standards, and we need to have proof that someone is truly doing what is wrong. And we need to accept that God didn’t make us all the same.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.