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The Comforting Presence of Christ Acts 23:10-11

25/09/2021

The Comforting Presence of Christ.

Text. Acts 23:10-11 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.  11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

A Roman citizen must be protected, and Paul has been snatched out of the Sanhedrin by a squad of soldiers, and is back in the Antonia Palace, the castle occupied by the Romans at the edge of the Temple Court.  He’s a Roman citizen, so as we’ll see later, he’s being looked after and can receive a visitor, and can even tell the centurions what to do!  But he’s still a prisoner, and he will be alone in a cell, guarded by soldiers.  What will that be like?

1 Paul’s Dark Loneliness.  

A Roman prison cell was not a pleasant place, and Paul is alone.  Where are the men who came to Jerusalem with Paul, the men from Greece and Macedonia and Asia?  Those men who had carried with him, the offerings from the gentile believers to the poor saints at Jerusalem?  Where were they now?  Where are the leaders of the Jerusalem Church?  Where is James, and the local elders, the very people who had so badly advised Paul, urging him to go into the Temple with the men who wanted to complete a period of fasting?  None of them are to be seen.  No-one can or will come to rescue him.  Humanly speaking he is now beyond help.  He is totally alone, and devoid of any outside help whatsoever.  The psalmist describes this depth of loneliness and distress for us in Psalm 44:20-26 

The psalmist describing a time, and an experience of total desolation.  I wonder have you experienced a time like this?  If not, you will… for we live in this broken world, and everything is passing away, nothing in this world is permanent.  

2. Christ’s Comforting Presence.  

Now, here’s a great comfort.  In the cell, in the dark, in the loneliness, The LORD is with him!  In a very special way!  In Paul’s cell, And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer.  

  • It is a CONFIRMABLE Presence!  Now this is a great means of assurance for us too. There will be days when we feel dreadfully lonely and empty and forsaken.  There will be days when the crushing weight of loneliness will almost tear the heart out of us.  Here’s an assurance.  The Lord Jesus who was with Paul in that lonely room, is the same yesterday, and today and forever.  He has not changed, and he promises us that he will always be with us.  Of course, we don’t expect Christ to come into our room and visibly stand beside us, as he did in Paul’s cell.  Paul was an apostle, and we are not!  BUT TODAY, WE HAVE GOD’S WORD, God’s infallible word, and Jesus , in prayer, praying for his disciples, in John 17:17. So, Christ’s promised presence is CONFIRMED  by the Word of God, over and over again.  For example, in Psalm 23: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, FOR THOU ART WITH ME!”  John 14:16-18  Psalm 27:10 Psalm 147:3  

And much much more!  What wonderful promises, all fulfilled in Christ for us.  We KNOW that Jesus is with us, not because we feel it, or not because we visibly see him, but because we are told in the bible that it is so.  He is standing with us, just as sure as he stood beside Paul.

  • It is a CHEERING Presence!  Jesus says to Paul, ‘Be of good cheer!’  But we are already assured that wherever we are he is with us, and he brings us good cheer.  Let’s see some other examples of that:- We are cheered by his forgiveness! Matthew 9:2.  
    • We are cheered by his power!  Matthew 14:26   We are cheered by his closeness.  Mark 6:50   We are cheered by his victory.  John 16:33  
  • It is often a COMMISSIONING Presence!   for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. Like Elijah at the brook, who when in lonely despair and depression, was commissioned to go and work for God, Paul is alone!  But he is in prison, – he is alone and helpless, and God yet commissions him for further service!  He must go to Rome, and he must witness for the Lord there, just as he has in Jerusalem.  Let’s think what that might involve!  
    • It will bring challenge! If the tribulations, trials and persecutions of Jerusalem seemed tedious and dangerous and challenging, – more was yet to come.  
    • It will bring imprisonment!  Paul would be taken to Rome as a prisoner, and he will be held under house arrest there, until his execution date.  BUT
    • It will bring Joy!  Psalm 100:1-2, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. There is JOY in serving Jesus!

We accept that he is present with us, even at times when we don’t feel that presence, for we trust God’s word and know that his promises never fail.  It is a cheering presence!  It warms our hearts and brings us refreshing and comfort.  It is very often a commissioning presence, for the Lord often picks us up off the ground, and enlivens us to serve him, and that service is another source of joy and peace!

One final consideration about the presence of Christ. For the believer, the presence of the Lord Jesus is a great comfort in times of loneliness and distress.  The Lord is with us!  For unbelievers though, we must issue a serious warning. You wont have that comforting presence of Christ, to walk beside you throughout life.  But one day, you will find yourself standing in his presence, only on that days it will not be as friend, it will be as judge.  I wonder did you see that facebook meme that was floating around the internet.  It read, “The Sun will burn your eyes out from 92 million miles, and you expect to casually stroll into the presence of its Creator.” That accurately reflects the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10  It is time to seek the Lord.  Right now, before you suddenly find yourself confronted by the blinding, unapproachable holiness of God. You will rapidly free from his presence, for even the burning fires of hell will be cooler for the sinner with unforgiving sin than to be in the presence of God. Paul warned, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 1st Corinthians 6:2. It is time to repent and trust Him.  Acts 3:19.  Take comfort in the saving presence of Christ NOW, or stand in his presence as judge!

© Bob McEvoy September 2021

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