We’re in the middle of our sermon series on the book of ACTS. Last week, a new Roman governor named Festus had come to power. Less than ten days into his reign, he restarted Paul’s trial that had been on hiatus for two years. He listened to Paul’s opponents bring charges against him. Their goal was to get Paul to Jerusalem in order mug him and to kill him.
To which Festus turned to Paul and asked:
“Do you want go? It’s not necessary. It’s illegal. In fact, they might try to kill you. But…it’d sure help me improve my approval rating if you did.”
In turn, Paul very spoke boldly, “I do not refuse to die. But I do want what is right. Since you won’t give it to me, I appeal to Caesar.”
Legally, Festus had no other option but to send Paul to Caesar, but it would look bad to Caesar if he sent Paul to trial without any kind of explanation of what Paul had done wrong.
Since Festus didn’t understand why the Jewish leaders were so upset with Paul, he needed help.
We’re picking up the story there. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. All About Goads
Acts 25:13 says, “A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus.”
King Agrippa was the King of Judea. He wasn’t over Governor Felix. He oversaw the Jewish temples within his region, advocated for Jewish principles in front of the Roman government and appeased the Jews by giving them a “figurehead” monarch.
Agrippa was a cross between Prince William and a church maintenance chairman.
Felix and Agrippa were friends.
And Felix knew that Agrippa was more aware of Jewish thinking than he was.
So, when he got together with Agrippa to have a drink and talk shop, he told the story about how he didn’t understand Paul’s trial and strongly implied that he could use help.
Another trial was set up for Paul.
This time King Agrippa would hear the case.
That’s what happens.
The next day Agrippa…came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. (Acts 26:23)
Big impressive-looking king.
Long flowing robes.
Probably a teacup he held with his pinky up.
Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate that I am going to make my defense before you today.” (Acts 26:1-2)
The truth is that…
This isn’t about a riot.
This isn’t about a cult.
This isn’t about desecrating the temple.
They just don’t like me teaching about Jesus.
And I get it. I hated Jesus too.
In fact, I was “convinced that it was necessary to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus the Nazarene.” (v.9)
That’s what I did.
I threw them in prison.
I voted for them to get the death penalty.
I had them punished.
Because I was so insanely angry with them, I even pursued them to foreign cities. (v.10-11)
That’s what I was going to do.
I went to Damascus to kill believers.
“At noon along the road, O King, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“Then I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“The Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’ ” (v.14-15)
We’ve heard this account before.
Paul’s conversion is written about in Acts 9.
A second time in Acts 22.
This third time in Acts 26.
Each time Paul adds a little bit more information about his conversion.
This account includes Jesus using the phrase:
“It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
How many of you thought that the sermon title was just a misspelling of the word “goats”?
By the way…
It is foolish to kick a bunch of goats.
A goad is a SPIKED STICK used for driving cattle.
It may not be the most humane thing. But it was certainly effective in ancient times. Positioned on the plow behind the animals, the spiked sticks would poke the animal in the haunches whenever he backed up. This usually caused the animal to move forward – and keep moving forward – as to not be poked in the haunches again.
Every once in a while…
An animal might try to fight back.
They might try to back up.
The end result?
The animal gets injured.
It didn’t pay for an animal to kick back at the goads, because…
When an ANIMAL kicked at the goad, the animal got INJURED.
Do you get it?
Paul was kicking back at the message of Jesus.
It wasn’t working.
The Gospel was still spreading.
Christianity was still growing.
Paul thought he was harming the message of a false god.
But in reality?
He was only HARMING himself.
REPETITIVE SIN results in continuous HARM to yourself.
You might think it doesn’t.
You might think it’s getting you ahead.
But it’s harming you.
You’re kicking against the goads.
Repetitive lying results in harm to your relationships.
Repetitive gossiping results in harm to your friendships.
Repetitive slacking results in harm to your place at work.
Repetitive drunkenness results in harm to your liver.
Repetitive sleeping around results in harm to your esteem.
Repetitive porn viewing results in harm to your ability to be intimate.
Repetitive anger outbursts result in harm to your kids’ trust of you.
Repetitive sin ALWAYS results in HARM to your relationship with God.
Because God hates sin.
And God punishes sin.
God punishes sin with death.
And try as you might to stop God from punishing your sins.
By screaming at him.
By calling him a liar.
By telling him he’s wrong about this being a sin.
You’ll only be racking up more sins.
You’ll only be racking up more punishments of death.
You’ll only be harming yourself.
Here’s a truth –
I don’t know what your repetitive sin is.
I don’t know what sin you struggle with.
But I do know what God’s Word is saying to you today:
Stop kicking against the goads.
Stop harming yourself.
II. When You Stop Kicking Goads
Take a look at what Jesus called Paul to do instead of kicking at the goads:
“Jesus said, ‘Now get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things I will reveal to you.’ ” (v.16)
This is the reason that Paul left his life of persecuting believers.
He saw Jesus.
He saw that Jesus was real.
He was that the resurrection was real.
He saw that he was only harming himself by what he was doing.
Paul does a turn-around.
He begins preaching Jesus.
He beings telling others to stop kicking the goads.
He begins telling others to “turn around”.
In Bible language, that “turn around” is called “repentance.”
Repentance is what God is calling each of us to do right now!
God is calling you to turn from sin to your Savior.
This repentance results in a variety of blessings.
(1) Life in the LIGHT
I once spent the night at a family member’s house and the sleeping arrangements meant that I would be crashing in an area where the kids played.
No big deal.
I fell asleep.
I started dreaming.
Until I woke up thirsty around 2 am.
So, I sat up and started walking over towards the door. When…UGH! The sharp pain of LEGO corner jutted into the bottoms of my feet.
I took another step…YOW! Another toy to the other foot.
After limping to the water, I came back into the room and OW!!! One more painfilled step.
The next morning, I woke up around 7 am with light streaming into the window.
I didn’t step on any Legos.
Cause I could see where I was going.
The light is better.
Jesus said that repentance needed to be preached, “…to open people’s eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light…” (v.18)
Jesus is that light.
In Jesus, we see things clearly.
I see it now: This thing that I’m doing is sin.
This sin is what I keep stepping in to harm my relationship with God.
But over here, LOOK! It’s the Savior.
Over here is Jesus.
Jesus is the way to restoration with God.
(2) A New AUTHORITY
Have you ever had a bad boss?
When that boss moves on and you get a new one?
You realize that they’re a sinner too.
Acts 26 says that the message of Jesus turns people “…from the power of Satan to God.” (v.18)
You get a new boss!
Because the boss when you’re living in sin is Satan.
And he’s a jerk!
Satan doesn’t care about you.
Satan wants you to harm yourself.
Satan sends you emails in the morning that say:
I need you to sabotage your esteem by 11 am today.
Don’t forget our quarterly goal of weakening your faith by 25%.
Oh…and how’s it coming on utterly destroying your relationship with your spouse?
Jesus on the other hand?
I saw the mistake that you made on that report, don’t worry. I fixed it.
I stopped on the way to work and bought you some PEACE. It’s in the workroom. Have as much as you want.
Have I ever told you how important you are to me? I’ll pay whatever it takes to keep you on staff.
If it costs…
My own blood.
Which leads directly into the third blessing of turning to Jesus.
Jesus says that is another reason for Paul to preach repentance. “…so that they may receive the forgiveness of sins…”
Earlier we said that sin deserves punishment from God.
If you’ve been doing repetitive sins you’ve been earning repetitive punishment from God.
You might call it…
Jesus didn’t do any repetitive sins.
He never repeated a sin even once.
Do you know how I know?
Because Jesus never did a sin the first time even once.
Yet Jesus was punished.
Not for his sins.
But for yours.
That means in Jesus you are forgiven.
For that sin you’ve done hundreds of times, you are forgiven.
For that sin you struggled with earlier this week, you are forgiven.
For that sin you’ve been hiding from others in your family, you are forgiven.
You are forgiven because of Jesus.
And that forgiveness is yours through turning to him.
(4) A Place among the HOLY
Jesus says that’s the result of repentance. Believers have “a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (19)
“Sanctified” is a fancy word.
It means “to make holy.”
Do you think you belong among “the holy?”
Because that doesn’t sound like a place for me.
It sounds like a place for impressive believers.
It sounds like a place for heroes of faith.
It sounds like a place for those people who can quote Bible verses for every situation.
Not for me.
Not for a repetitive sinner like me.
But through faith in Jesus,
That’s exactly where you belong.
You belong with the holy.
You belong with the sanctified.
You belong with God’s people, because you are God’s person.
III. Short Time or Long
At the end of Paul’s confession of faith, Governor Festus had seen enough: Festus shouted, “Paul, you are out of your mind!” (v.24)
But Paul replied, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus, but I am clearly speaking words that are true and sensible. Certainly the king to whom I am freely speaking knows about these things. Indeed, I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, because this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” (v.25-27)
Can I tell you something about King Agrippa’s family?
His dad was the king that killed the Apostle James.
His grandpa was the king that beheaded a prophet named John the Baptist.
His great grandpa was the king that slaughtered innocent young boys in the hopes of killing Jesus.
Herod Agrippa came from a long line of goad-kickers.
Maybe this is why he can’t believe Paul’s questions!
Agrippa said to Paul, “In such a short time are you going to persuade me to become a Christian?” (v.28)
Look at Paul’s response: “I pray God, that whether in a short time or a long time, not only you, but also all those who are listening to me today would become what I am...” (v29)
That you would stop kicking the goads.
That you would repent.
That you would walk in the light.
That you would serve Jesus.
That you would find forgiveness.
That you would belong among God’s people.
The same is true for you.
Whether it’s been a short time or a long time, God’s not interested in that.
He’s interested in the right now.
Stop kicking against the goads.
Turn to Jesus.