1. Hello, listening friends.
2. It is a great joy for us to know that you are listening to this broadcast;
3. and it would absolutely thrill us to hear from you, either by mail or through the Internet.
4. One of the hardest lessons for us to learn is this:
5. how to turn a negative situation into a positive environment;
6. how to turn an oppressive environment into an opportunity;
7. how to act lovingly toward a critical person,
8. especially when you receive false criticism;
9. because false criticism is not only dangerous for those who are being criticized,
10. it is even more dangerous to the critical person.
11. False criticism creates a poisonous atmosphere for everyone;
12. because when you nurture the critical spirit,
13. you will foster gossip and backbiting;
14. and here’s something about critical people that you must remember.
15. Critical people are often suspicious and paranoid.
16. They listen to the truth of the Word of God,
17. but they never apply it to themselves.
18. They always think that the message is for somebody else.
19. In fact, a critical spirit is nothing short of slander;
20. and slander will not glorify God.
21. Today, I want to talk to you about turning the opposition, or false criticism, into an opportunity for glorifying God.
22. Please turn with me, if you have a Bible, to Acts, Chapter 21.
23. We are going to see an example of turning a negative environment of false criticism into a positive spirit;
24. and, next to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul is a master of turning oppression into opportunity.
25. In the last part of Chapter 21,
26. when the enemies of the Gospel saw the Apostle Paul walking in the Temple,
27. they saw an opportunity to make mischief.
28. They began to stir up rumors among the pilgrims who were celebrating the Feast of Pentecost;
29. and they stirred up this trouble by falsely accusing the Apostle Paul.
30. These false accusations were three in number.
32. they said Paul was an enemy of God’s people.
33. I want to show you how blatantly false this criticism is.
34. Remember that Paul was once a persecutor of the church,
35. but he was saved from eternal damnation;
36. and, in every Epistle, he thanks God for his salvation.
37. It is the most incredible thing that has happened to him;
38. and he writes to the Romans, saying,
39. “If ending up in Hell would help save my fellow countrymen, then I am willing to do it.”
40. Now, I want you to visualize this.
41. Paul, who was ready to be damned for eternity for the sake of his fellow countrymen,
42. gets accused of being an enemy of his own people.
43. It’s mind-boggling;
44. and the second false accusation was this:
45. they said, “Paul is opposed to the Law of Moses.”
46. Now, this was a very serious charge,
47. Especially on the Day of Pentecost, when all the pilgrims were there in support of the Law.
48. The third false accusation was this:
49. they said that the Apostle Paul spoke against the Temple.
50. Again, the accusation of defiling the Temple is very serious.
51. It is a capital crime.
52. In fact, Mark, Chapter 14,
53. the Lord Jesus Christ is accused of speaking against the Temple;
54. and what did they do to substantiate their claim?
55. They said Paul brought Gentiles into the Temple;
56. but there was a section in the Temple designated for Gentiles.
57. It is called the “Court of Gentiles,”
58. and that’s exactly where Paul took the Greeks whom he brought with him.
59. They were sitting in the Court of the Gentiles.
60. My listening friend, false accusations bear no logic.
61. False accusations fabricate the evidence.
62. False accusations have only one intent, and that is to stir up trouble.
63. The focus of false criticism is vengeance;
64. and false accusations spread like wildfire;
65. and, here, in Acts 21, verse 30,
66. the crowd worked itself into a frenzy
67. and the Temple guard seized the Apostle Paul;
68. and, when the Roman captain, Lysias, comes in to talk to the Apostle Paul,
69. Paul gently speaks to him.
70. Paul understood that, in the midst of this frenzy of false criticism,
71. there is no use in speaking harshly to your accusers.
72. Paul understood that, in the midst of inflamed emotions, no one is ready to hear the truth;
73. so much so that the Roman captain did not even know who Paul was and what he was accused of;
74. so, finally, Paul begins to speak to the captain in perfect Greek language,
75. and the captain was shocked.
76. Criminals in Jerusalem did not speak perfect Greek.
77. Greek was a language reserved for the sophisticated and the highly educated;
78. and Lysias, the captain, could not believe his ears,
79. that they are bringing accusation against this highly sophisticated man,
80. because the Greek that Paul spoke was a very scholarly Greek;
81. and, at that moment, the captain looked at him and said,
82. “Are you not that Egyptian who stirred up trouble?”
83. Why did Lysias ask this question?
84. Because, Josephus the historian tells us that, at that time, there was an Egyptian who was a self-proclaimed prophet;
85. and this man gathered together all of his followers on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem,
86. and he not only declared himself to be the Messiah,
87. but he predicted that the walls of Jerusalem would fall at his command
88. and the Romans would be driven out;
89. but, before they could find out whether his prophecy was true or not,
90. the Romans arrested and killed many of his followers and he, himself, disappeared;
91. so this is the story behind Lysias’ question to Paul;
92. and Paul replied,
93. “I am not the Egyptian man. I am a Hebrew from Tarsus...”
94. and, here, Paul turns the oppression of false criticism into an opportunity to testify.
95. Paul used the captain’s authority to hush the crowds;
96. and, then, Paul switched into the Aramaic language;
97. and he began to testify of how he was a persecutor of Jesus Christ,
98. and how he had an encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus,
99. and how he was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the very Gospel that he once belittled.
100. My listening friend,
101. there is nothing more diffusing to false criticism than the personal testimony.
102. There is nothing more confounding to your critics than the truth as it is experienced by you.
103. I want to summarize for you Paul’s attitude toward his accusers.
104. There are five principles of turning false criticism into an opportunity to testify in the name of Jesus Christ.
105. Principle number one,
106. Paul saw the hand of God before he even got to Jerusalem.
107. He was warned that there will be difficulties in Jerusalem,
108. but his full trust was in the Lord Jesus Christ;
109. and he said, “No matter what the circumstances are, I know that He holds me in the palms of His hands...”
110. and the second principle is this:
111. Paul was able to see the positive in the midst of a negative environment.
112. While others would have panicked and said, “O, God, why are You doing this to me after all that I’ve done for You?”
113. Paul probably thought to himself, “What an opportunity to testify to this captain and this government official!
114. I’ve never dreamed of having such a large crowd listening to my testifying.
115. What an opportunity!”
116. Then, Paul does something amazing.
117. Even though his face was bleeding from being beaten,
118. he said, “I understand.
119. You did this out of zeal for God...”
120. and, while everybody was being terrified,
121. the Apostle Paul was counting the blessings of his arrest.
122. While everybody else probably was running and hiding,
123. Paul was thanking God for the opportunity to testify.
124. He saw the hand of God everywhere he went.
125. He saw the positive in the midst of the negative;
126. and the third principle is this:
127. he spoke with respect to his persecutors,
128. Acts 22, verse 1.
129. He addressed them as “fathers and brothers,”
130. as if to say, “All is forgiven.
131. I treat you with respect in spite of what you have done to me.”
132. Paul told the Roman Christians in Romans, Chapter 12, verse 14,
133. “Bless those who persecute you...”
134. and he practiced what he preached.
135. The fourth principle is this:
136. he recognized an opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus.
137. That was the most important thing for him.
138. Did Paul focus on his impressive credentials?
140. He could have, and he had many credentials;
141. and he could have said, “Let me tell you about me...”
142. but, instead, he said, “Let me tell you about Jesus...”
143. and he focused on what God had accomplished in his life.
144. He dwelt on the glory of God.
145. He preached what he told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:31.
146. “Let him who boasts boast on the Lord.”
147. He saw the hand of God in every circumstance.
148. He saw the positive in the middle of the negative.
149. He blessed his persecutors.
150. He saw this as an opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus;
151. and the last principle is this:
152. Paul maintained his attitude of selfless love.
153. This is very difficult to do when you are falsely accused;
154. but Paul maintained his attitude of selfless love.
155. It was Paul’s selfless love for the church of Jerusalem that brought him there to begin with.
156. It was his love for his weaker brethren that brought him to Jerusalem;
157. and, ultimately, it was his love for the Lord Jesus Christ that motivated him to love people.
158. Love that is not motivated by the love of Christ is temporary;
159. but, when you love the Lord, you will love the unsaved;
160. and you will have the strength to turn oppression into opportunity.
161. You will have the wisdom to turn false critics into listeners;
162. and you will have the courage to turn your false accusers into a congregation.
163. Until next time, I wish you God’s richest blessing.