what is your reason?
"I have a hope in God... This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people." Acts 24:15,16
Paul was in court and is continuing his defense of any wrongdoing against the Jewish people, their laws and faith, and against any Roman laws. Paul had been thrown in jail and was being persecuted for standing up for his faith in Jesus Christ. Here he has the leaders of the institutionalized religion that his own faith and heritage stemmed from (Judaism), and Paul has to give testimony that he was speaking the truth and they were wrong. They had no idea how wrong they were.
We can speculate on the reason for their blindness. Maybe it was unwillingness to admit they were wrong about their lives, or bad interpretations of the Scriptures and the prophecies pointing to Jesus as their Messiah, or maybe it was their thirst for power and control of what faith is, and should be. I think it was likely all of these, and though we may never know for sure, we do know that when the Light of the world (Jesus) came, He was not recognized and His own people did not accept Him (see John 1:1 -11).
From his many letters in the New Testament, we do know how Paul intended to live and what he believed. Paul's hope was in Jesus' resurrection, and Paul was willing to stand up for the truth of his faith. In this one verse, Paul gives us plenty to learn from as he tells us that he gives his best to stand on the truth of his fath, and that he does this with a clean conscience because he loved God and people.
Paul did not live a life of testifying and suffering for Jesus so that he could be popular, or for the love of money, for power, or for position. Paul was not a people pleasing glad-hander. He was not in court because of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, to get ahead in society or to boon his career. Paul wasn't in prison because he had made some mistakes in understanding what Jesus did, or because he misinterpreted the Scriptures.
I have been reading and meditating on these verses quite a bit lately, and I believe it just might be starting sink in. As I begin to study it, or as a wonderful Pastor has said recently, let it study me (cf Hebrews 4:12), I am deeply challenged and struggling as God does heart surgery. The struggle is just being honest to evaluate whatever I do, and why I am doing what I do, to find out if I am really doing my best, and giving my all, for the truth of my faith. Which should be, as Paul states above, because I have a hope in God. Stop. Read it once more. Because of hope in God.
And this is where the studying really begins: What is our reason? What is it that we hope in? Is it true (trustworthy)? Do you know the truth of your faith? Do you believe in true things?
With belief comes action, and here is the quick breakdown of how it works:
- What you believe affects how you think,
- What you think affects how you feel,
- How you feel affects how you will live.
So, how is your living working for you? Does faith in Jesus have a real part in your living? How does this faith actually play out? Do you live out faith the way that Jesus taught, and lived? Does our faith look like the same faith that Paul, along with the other biblical writers, wrote, taught and lived? Are the things we do consistent with the whole of Scripture?
Take each moment of the things you are doing and ask if the reason you are doing it is because of the hope you have in God, or is it for something else?
What is your reason?