Auxano Ministry 
By the grace of God I am what I am: 
 1 Cor. 15:10a​
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Acts 28: The Back Story
Part V: I Am What I Am
Everyone has a self image. Not everyone has a good, or positive self image.

In life we are generally overcome with labels; child, parent, student, teacher, democratic, republican, feminist, chauvinist, doctor, lawyer, ditch digger, sales person, manager, activist, Christian, atheist, coward, intelligent, stupid, ignorant, racist, bigot, hater, backward, thief, politician, compassionate, loving, understanding, runt, ugly, beautiful, funny, impulsive, senior, closed minded, black, white, brown, red, greedy, and on, and on, and on.

Some labels deal with personality or bearing, like funny, sullen, impulsive, or lazy. Other labels are more or less self evident as they are descriptive of physical aspects, like tall, brown eyes, muscular, or Asian. Then there are labels that handle our social order, like teenager, married, senior citizen, or parent. Finally, there are the labels that are experiential or existential, like atheist, spiritual, activist, or racist.

Someone else may define these categories differently. I don't think the categories are particularly relevant, or set in stone, but simply a means of organization. The more important point is what these labels mean to us personally and who has applied these labels. 

Many labels have been applied by others who may, or may not actually know you. All labels will have an impact on your life; but only if you allow the label to take root and define the real you. The self image you hold, whether self imposed or applied by others, will determine your actions and your believing.

In the sixth grade, when I was eleven years old, Sister Morris identified me, before the entire class, as an iconoclast because I failed to see how a priest or a nun was really involved in every aspect of history. If you attended a Catholic school it can became a bit overwhelming when Catholic missionaries, priests, or nuns happened to be involved in every aspect of every subject. 

Some kids either knew what iconoclast meant, or they asked their parents once they got home. As for me, I wasn't about to ask my parents because whatever an iconoclast was Sister Morris made it plain that it wasn't good. I, very quietly, looked it up in a dictionary.

Once I saw the definition, I knew I wasn't an iconoclast. I was simply a kid who didn't understand how all of history revolved around the Catholic Church. It is however, a label that has followed me through life, even at times, being embraced by myself.  

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem the religious leaders identified him by the charges they laid at his feet before Felix.

Acts 24:5-7
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands. 

The charges, the labels applied to Paul; a pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. They also laid charges at the feet of Lysias, the chief captain of the Roman soldiers; with great violence he took Paul out of our hands. 

Let's consider the religious leaders approach to this entire event.

First, they hire the legal dream team of their age to make their point.

Acts 24:1
And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.

The religious leaders of the Jews bring in a Roman orator to state their case before a Roman governor. The Roman orator then begins with much flattery, stroking the self image of Felix.

Acts 24:2-4
And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

Felix holds the same position that Pontius Pilate held some thirty years earlier when Jesus stood before Pilate. Like thirty years earlier, the Jews had great animosity toward Felix for how he had ruled. Many Jews were killed under the rule of Felix including the High Priest Joanthan, the brother of Ananias who was High Priest at the time of Paul's arrest.

No deeds of Felix were considered worthy and there was little to no quietness during the reign of Felix. The only thing that saved Felix, when he was recalled to Rome and replaced by Festus was the fact that his brother was close to Nero.

So the religious leaders, the Sadducees at this point in time, hire a Roman orator and begin with a series of lies, so as to over inflate the false self image of Felix. All this just so they can murder a man who does not agree with their beliefs.

Acts 24:5
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

A pestilent fellow could be translated, "a plague". It was not that Paul had a disease and that he was contagious. But his words were powerful and life-giving, turning people from the power of darkness and even more so because his words were backed up with a demonstration of power.

In the adversary's world only certain concepts are allowed. When Paul was verbally attacked by Jews in Asia Minor did he attempt to have them silenced? Whenever there was a group of people that stood against the teaching of Paul, did he ever try to keep them quiet or forbid them to speak? 

God said, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life. We have the ability to make the right choice. We have the ability to reject the lies, half truths, and deceitfulness of the adversary's words. God knows what His words produce. He knows the power of His words and the emptiness of the adversary's words.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Paul knew the power of the gospel he spoke, the life giving, delivering power of the gospel of grace.

Acts 24:15-21
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

Paul's knew his purpose and his ministry. Paul took his self image from the words Jesus Christ had spoken to him; to turn people from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto the power of God, so that they could receive forgiveness and an inheritance among those who have been set apart, made holy, because of the right way of believing in Jesus Christ.

Since the religious leaders were sitting in darkness and under the power of Satan, yes, they found Paul to be a pestilence, a plague to their way of life. 

Paul once saw himself in the same manner that the religious leaders currently saw themselves. Paul's self image changed when he fed upon the words of God.

 Acts 26:9-11
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

Like the religious leaders, Paul put in prison those who did not think as he thought; he gave witness against those who were put to death for thinking differently; he was exceedingly mad against any who did not fall in line behind the religious leaders of his day.

But Paul changed his self image when he changed the words he was feeding upon. J.G. Holland said, "The mind grows with what it feeds on."

D.S. Edwards wrote in "Sounds that Move Men's Hearts", "My heart will never convey love until I feed it with love. My heart will never speak true words of encouragement unless I feed it with words of encouragement. I must feed on that which I desire to communicate.

Words of love and tenderness, when spoken from a heart of love are heard in sweet harmonies, tunes that are pleasant and refreshing to the ears of the hearer. Birds singing in the quiet of the morning stillness bring a song of peace and gentleness.

When I speak of love, from a heart that is carrying a burden, it is like the birds singing with interruptions from the noise of traffic on a nearby road. The peacefulness of their melodies is gone. The pure song of delight is drowned in the noise of confusion. The ability to heal and refresh has been lost in the unseen rumblings.

I must always be aware of the words that I am speaking to my own heart and mind. When my words are a benefit to me, then my words can also benefit another."

Paul changed the words he was feeding on and he changed his direction, his heart, his life. To anyone who stood with the world, who thought with the world, who spoke and acted with the world, Paul was a plague that needed to be eradicated.

But for those who had ears to hear, the words of the apostle Paul were words of life and deliverance. When Jesus spoke with two men on the road to Emmaus their hearts burned within them as the words of God were opened to their understanding. The same is true for all who have ears to hear the greatness of the words God has magnified above His name. The words of God will paint a picture for each individual unlike any image that has previously been presented to that person’s heart.

Romans 8:15
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear: but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

"Abba" in modern English, would be translated daddy. Begin to build that relationship image in your heart. Paul was not a plague, he brought God's antidote to all who would listen and believe. 

Acts 24:5
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

Then the religious leaders called Paul a "mover of sedition among all Jews throughout the world." Not a small charge when standing before a Roman governor. The seriousness of this charge could cost Paul his life, if the Sadducees can make it stick.

To fully understand this charge you need to realize that the Romans were always having trouble with the Jews throughout the Empire.

Acts 5:34-37
 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

The Jews were a hot bed of rebellion and unrest. Pilate lost his job in Judea because he couldn't control the unrest. Felix was returned to Rome because he couldn't control the unrest. Jewish unrest was the main reason the Roman governors of Judea kept losing their job.

Acts 18:1-2
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

Claudius put an estimated forty to fifty thousand Jews out of Rome because of the unrest they were causing. It was an exile that lasted about five years. If the religious leadership could make this charge stick, it would cost Paul his life.

The word "sedition" could be translated insurrection. They are accusing Paul of causing insurrection throughout the Roman Empire. The Sadducees are saying the reason the Romans were having so much trouble with the Jews throughout the entire empire was because of this man Paul.

Although they could not state the proof of this charge beyond what they could say about the recent riot in Jerusalem, they endeavored to draw the line of insurrection straight to Paul. They could not state what had happened in other places because under Roman law, Paul would then have been sent to these other places for trial. But the circumstantial evidence against Paul was indeed abundant.

Acts 13:50
But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.

In Antioch Paul was run out of town after the religious leaders became jealous and envious.

Acts 14:2-5
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,

This is what happened in Iconium.

Acts 14:19
And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

This was in the city of Lystra, right after Paul had prevented the people from doing sacrifice unto him because they thought he was a god. Very often people don't have a self image of their own, they simply move with how the world directs them and controls them. So that, from one minute to the next there can be a turn of 180 degrees.

Having a wrong self image, or no self image, brings a man to the same place, putting him under bondage to the world and the adversary's people who run the schemes of the world.

Acts 16:19-24
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

This is what happened in Philippi.

Acts 17:4-6
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

This is what took place when Paul was in Thessalonica.

Acts 17:13
But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

Who is causing trouble among the people? Is it Paul, or is it the Jewish leaders who are moving with envy, and Gentiles that are worried about the bottom line in their business dealings? Greed, ego, and fear, are the world's great motivators. Weigh these things in the balances with what Paul was offering in the gospel of grace. Which image is more satisfying to the heart?

Acts 18:12-13
And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.

This was in Corinth.

Acts 19:23-32
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused: and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

This was in the city of Ephesus.

The circumstantial evidence says that everywhere Paul went he brought trouble and riots. Yet not once was Paul the cause of the trouble in any of these cities. The Jews who moved with envy, the Gentiles who were looking at their wallets and the money they made from selling idols, caused the trouble in each and every city. 

The Jewish leaders from Jerusalem try to make the charge of sedition stick to Paul without mentioning any of these cities because they don't want Paul sent to any of these other cities to stand trial. 

Paul also heard this charge. He could have allowed these words to affect his self image. He was in all of those cities when a riot broke out. These riots took place after Paul had taught the Word of God. He could have questioned the way in which he taught or the manner in which he conducted his life. Was he the source for all of these troubles? Had God, or Jesus Christ, made a mistake in asking him to carry the gospel of grace? Maybe if he hadn't caused so much trouble for the church in those earlier days, you reap what you sow.

The adversary is always ready, willing, and able to challenge the words of God in your mind. He is always prepared to present a negative picture of what you have done or what you are doing. 

For example: after Sister Morris identified me as an iconoclast the students remembered that label through seventh and eighth grades. Other supporting evidence materialized over the next few months and years. 

I was the only boy in my school old enough to be an altar boy, but made the decision not to be an altar boy. This, according to some, was very suspicious. Was there something wrong with me spiritually?

When I was thirteen my father told me I was old enough to decide for myself if I wanted to attend church. Thereafter, I went on Christmas and Easter to please my mother. Of course, these decisions confirmed my growing reputation of rebellion, of an iconoclast. 

By the time I reached my Catholic high school, with many of the same children from elementary school, I was fully recognized as a rebel, a trouble maker, and someone to be watched. However, unlike Paul, I started to believe the image being forced upon me by the world, “Maybe I was iconoclastic”.

Once, in my freshman year of high school, I was suspended for smoking a cigarette at school during lunch break. It wasn't against the school policy for teens to smoke cigarettes, it was obviously a time much different than today. Rather it simply wasn't considered proper for teens to smoke in front of adults. Adults had the right to smoke and teens weren't adults. I understood the protocol, but I was accepting the label of iconoclast. Now, years after Sister Morris had used the word iconoclast, a label I disagreed with then, I was deliberately acting like an iconoclast.

Martin Luther said, "A single little word can strike him dead." 

The Dean of Discipline, Father Burns, met with my mother to explain my suspension. My mother demanded the suspension be immediately lifted since I had done nothing against the rules of the school. The Dean however, while smoking a cigarette I might add, pulled out the ultimate scare tactic, questioning what my father would say if he knew I smoked in front of adults? To which my mother replied, that I smoke in front of my father. 

The suspension was lifted, but the label became fixed, not only throughout my high school years, but for many more years to come. I had heard it so often it became a label I began to embrace.

The adversary is always willing to provide circumstantial evidence to build and establish the image he wants to draw upon your heart. Sadly enough, I was too young and too ignorant to understand I was being set up to believe I was iconoclastic by nature.

How much of our self image has been built by the wrong opinions of others; opinions based upon inaccurate assumptions? Have you been told you are a failure? Certainly there is supporting evidence for that one. Have you been taught you are incapable of understanding God's Word and God's heart without another to guide and direct you? Surely you have encountered times when you didn't understand what the Bible was saying. Obviously, this is proof of your inability.

Any number of false labels can be attached to every child of God when someone is only looking at our flesh. Our flesh is corrupt and no matter what we do we will never clean it up. If God couldn't make a law by which man could clean up the flesh, then surely man isn't going to come up with a method to clean up his own flesh!

Paul didn't build his self image based upon his flesh and neither should we.

Philippians 3:3-6
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Paul had credentials in the flesh. Paul had accomplishments in the flesh. But the flesh does nothing for building the image that God has made known concerning each and every one of His children.

Philippians 3:7-9
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith (the accomplished believing of Jesus Christ) of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (the right way of believing):

All that is carnal is the enemy of God for the five senses only accepts what is registered by those senses. Build the largest corporation in the world, own the most majestic mansion known to mankind, be praised by thousands or even millions for your wisdom and humility, and what have you accomplished since it is all temporal? 

God is not temporal, He is eternal. As God's children we look at the things which are not seen, like our righteousness, our holiness, our peace, our sonship, our unbreakable connection with God, for these things are also eternal.

What is your self image? What are the building blocks from which it is constructed? Is it temporal or eternal?

Acts 24:5
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

Then Paul is accused of being a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes". We are some thirty years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But the leaders are hoping to tie Paul to a man Rome had to crucify.  

The problem with this charge is that Rome had a policy of religious tolerance, almost a policy of complete indifference. Yes, it would only be some seven years from this point in time that Christians would undergo a political persecution from Nero. But that was a persecution based upon political expedience.

Acts 24:6
Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.

Again, like the ringleader charge, the Roman tolerance of religions throughout the Empire made this charge of desecrating their temple an unimportant point to any Roman governor.

Acts 24:7
But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,

This whole episode was the fault of the chief captain. If he hadn't interfered we would have already judged this man.

Notice their willingness to lie. If the Roman soldiers had not stepped in at the Temple, Paul would have been killed by the violence instigated by the Jews from Asia. If the soldiers had not stepped in at the meeting before the Sanhedrin, again Paul would have been killed. But to the religious leaders it wasn't their own violence that was a problem, nothing was wrong with the fact that they wanted to commit murder. The problem was the "great violence" of the soldiers.

The world is great at twisting the facts and contorting the truth. Paul was not a plague in the world, the world is a plague and Paul carried the antidote. Paul had nothing to do with sedition or insurrection, but rather brought an answer of peace and freedom to a people bound by unrest and bondage. Paul did not profane their Temple but rather purified himself according to the laws of their Temple. The Roman soldiers were not guilty of great violence but the religious leaders were guilty of violence based upon lies, anger, and jealousy.

Consider that all of this is taking place right after Paul has failed to hear the words of God from the lips of other believers. This is happening right after Paul has agreed with James to perpetuate a lie in order to promote unity. By today's religious standards Paul should be in great condemnation but he stood before his accusers clothed in the righteous God had given him in Christ.

Acts 24:10-21
Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.

Paul was not held in bondage by a false condemnation from people who did not knew God. Paul knew and understood who he was in Christ Jesus. He was not blown about and pushed from side to side by the whims, the lies, and the attacks of the world. Paul held to who he was according to God. 

If you look in a dictionary you will find a definition for iconoclast similar to this: "a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition." 

I am not an iconoclast. I am a child of God who speaks the words of God. Therefore my words edify, they encourage, they bring comfort and deliverance and reconciliation. My words minister the grace of God unto those who hear them. But I did not understand these things until I began to see myself in light of the image that God created within me, an image that is in His likeness, for I am my Father's son.

The apostle Paul probably was not as suave as Cary Grant or George Clooney. He probably didn't come with the chiseled looks of Robert Redford or Clark Gable. He probably couldn't deliver a speech like Apollos or Martin Luther King. When he walked into a room, everyone may not have stood like the President of the United States just entered. But he understood what God had given to him in Christ Jesus. He had sketched in his mind all who God had made him to be in the inner man. Then, he freely gave all that he had within himself so that another could also see his own inner man.

The world will paint a picture of you that looks something like a Picasso. 
God will paint a picture of you that looks more like a Rembrandt, only better.

1 Corinthians 15:10a
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

What is the image you hold of yourself?