The only exercise that some people are getting these days is jumping to conclusion, running down their friends, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck. But I want to talk to you today about turning oppression or false criticism into an opportunity for glorifying God. And I'm focusing of course on Acts 21 and 22. I wanted to sharpen your pencils because I'm going to give you some practical advice here on how to turn a negative environment that grows out of false criticism into a positive spirit. Today on Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef, insight from God's Word to keep you looking up when life's got you down. It's a deep dive into the life experiences of the apostle Paul in the book of Acts, revealing how Paul looked up when circumstances of life seemed to press in from all sides. Now you may not realize this, but Leading the Way is listener supported, meaning that we're not underwritten by a large church or organization, but we're supported by the prayers and the financial gifts of those who are blessed by the teaching and the worldwide ministry of Dr. Michael Youssef and his teams. Learn more when you go to ltw.org.
I'll have more on that later. Right now though, listen with me as Dr. Michael Youssef begins today's teaching. I think one of the hardest things to do is to remain positive in the face of criticism, especially if there are false criticism. I think one of the hardest things is to know how to turn an oppressive environment into an opportunity. One of the hardest attitudes at least for me to have is how to remain loving toward a critical person, even if that person is falsely accusing you.
And I know this happens probably every single day. A husband comes home from work, he had a bad day, got lots of problems, and he comes home and takes it on his wife, accused her of all kinds of things. How to remain positive in the midst of that. A wife who had a hard day with kids, as soon as her husband walked in, wham!
She poured the whole thing on him. How to remain positive in the midst of that. Teenagers come home and they are, have had a hard day at school or somebody said something to them and they come and they take their anger on their parents. How to remain positive.
How to turn that oppressive situation into an opportunity. Why false criticism is really devastating in many ways? Why is it so destructive?
I want you to listen to me very carefully. Because false criticism is dangerous not only for those who are being criticized, but is really even more dangerous to the critical person. That's why it's destructive. False criticism creates a poisonous environment, a poisonous atmosphere for everybody. And in John chapter 7, the Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke of the danger of the critical spirit as it manifested itself among the Pharisees. Now, because when you develop and when you nurture and when you cultivate the critical spirit, listen to me carefully, you will foster gossip and backbiting and even worse. But here's something about critical people. Those who indulge in the critical spirit are always, almost always, I'm going to be careful, almost always hypersensitive toward others criticism of them. Always.
It never misses, at least from my experience. But not only that, the critical people are often are suspicious people. They are paranoid. They would hear a sermon or they get some counseling, but they never take a moment even to apply it to themselves. In fact, a critical spirit is nothing short of slander. And a slander will not only not glorify God, but it is destructive to those who are constantly doing the criticizing. It really is.
It destroys them from the inside. A disturbing analysis by psychiatrist Larry Kilbrick. Here's what he said. The average parent of teenagers speak 14 minutes a day to their children. Twelve minutes is negative.
One minute is neutral and one minute is positive. Now that's very disturbing. But there is something else about the constant criticism, especially false criticism. It's very oppressive. It's destructive. It's seldom productive. It's hurtful. It hinders the work of God. It shrouds the truth with falsehood. And it never, never glorifies God. A wag recently lamented how crippling this type of thing is.
He said, he said, the only exercise that some people are getting these days is jumping to conclusion, running down their friends, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck. But I want to talk to you today about turning oppression into opportunity, turning the oppression of false criticism into an opportunity for glorifying God. And I'm focusing, of course, on Acts 21 and 22. In the last part of Acts 21, we see that when the enemies of the Gospel saw the Apostle Paul walking in the temple, they saw this as an opportunity to make mischief. They immediately began to stir up trouble, to stir up rumors among the pilgrims who were there by the hundreds of thousands celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. And they stirred up this trouble falsely accusing the Apostle Paul. What were their accusations? Their accusations were basically three in number. Listen carefully.
Here they are. Number one, they said Paul was anti-Semitic. Actually, I heard people in modern day say the same thing. And I want you to imagine, of course, in the midst of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims coming from all over the world, these Jewish people coming to Jerusalem, and somebody else anti-Semitic coming.
You can imagine the attitude and the reaction, which is natural, of course. They called him the enemy of the Jewish people. They called him the enemy of Judaism.
I want to tell you and show you how blatantly false this criticism is. The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans. Now remember this, Paul was a persecutor of the church. He was saved from eternal hell and destruction and damnation. And he writes about every epistle, literally, he would thank God for his salvation. That is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to him. But he writes to the Romans and he says, if my ending up in hell and damnation going to help save my fellow Jews from hell and damnation, I'm willing to go.
Now, I want you to just visualize this. This man, this tender-hearted man who was ready to be damned for eternity for the sake of his fellow Jews gets accused of being anti-Semitic. I mean, can you see the falsehood here? And the second false accusation was this. They said, Paul is opposed to the laws of Moses. Now, this is a very serious charge, especially on the day of Pentecost when all these pilgrims came in order to be zealous for the law and stand for the law.
The third false accusation was this. They said, the Apostle Paul spoke against the temple. Again, the accusation of blasphemy or defiling the temple is a very serious accusation and it's a capital crime. In fact, in Mark chapter 14 verse 47 and 48, they accused the Lord Jesus Christ himself of speaking against the temple. And in order to substantiate their claim, in order to substantiate their accusation, what did they do? They said, Paul brought Gentiles into the temple.
But you know what? There is a section in the temple was designated for the Gentile. It's called the Court of the Gentiles.
And that's exactly where Paul brought these Greeks with him. And they were sitting there in the Court of the Gentiles with all other Gentiles. False accusations. False accusations. False accusations bears no logic. False accusations do not concern themselves with the truth. False accusations fabricate the evidence. False accusations twist the facts. False accusations have only one intent and it is to inflame. It is to stir up. False criticism has only one focus, vengeance. False criticism is almost always built on jealousy.
But most importantly, false accusations often spread like wildfire. And here in Acts 21 verse 30, the crowd got whipped into a frenzy and the temple guards immediately seized the Apostle Paul. And when the Roman Captain Lysias comes in and starts talking with the Apostle Paul, take control of the situation, Paul gently speaks to him. See, Paul understood that in the midst of this frenzy of false criticism, no use speaking to your accusers at that point.
There's no use. Paul understood that in the midst of inflamed emotions, no one is ready to hear the truth. In the midst of mob rule, he could not defend himself. So much so that the Roman Captain did not even know who Paul was and what he was accused of. So he finally, Paul finally speaks to the Captain and he speaks to him in perfect Greek language.
I mean, the Captain was literally shocked. You got to read the thing in the original to understand. You see, criminals in Jerusalem did not speak perfect Greek. This was a language that is reserved for the sophisticated.
It's a language that is reserved for the highly educated people. And judging by his name, Lysias was obviously of Greek origin. He tells us that he bought his Roman citizenship. So he turns to Paul in effect and he says, what did he just say? He couldn't believe his ears that they are bringing accusation not against a criminal but a highly sophisticated man.
Why? Because the Greek that Paul spoke is a very scholarly Greek. It was sophisticated Greek which truly surprised Lysias, the Roman Captain.
And at that moment, the Captain looked at him and said, and I love this one and I know you'll love it when you think of it. He said, you mean you're not that Egyptian guy who stared up trouble? What's the story of this Egyptian guy who stared up trouble? Well, Josephus the historian, Jewish historian tells us that there was an Egyptian who was self-proclaimed prophet and he had thousands and thousands of followers. Obviously, he was a Jew from Egypt, probably from Alexandria. And the reason I say that is because if he was not Jewish, he would not have had that many Jewish followers. So this Egyptian man gathered together all of his followers on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. And he not only declared himself to be the prophet and the Messiah, he predicted that the walls of Jerusalem are going to fall at his command and then the Romans are going to be driven out.
It's quite a claim. But before they could find out whether this prophecy was true or not, the Romans came, they arrested, killed a lot of his followers and he himself disappeared. So that's the story behind Lysias saying to Paul, are you that Egyptian fellow who caused trouble? No sir, Paul said. He said, I'm not that Egyptian guy. I wouldn't blame him.
I wouldn't claim it either. He said, I'm a Jew from Tarsus. And then Paul at this moment uses the oppression of false criticism into an opportunity to testify. Listen carefully, please. Paul used the captain's authority to hush the crowds. What a brilliant strategy. I mean, you keep them quiet and I'll preach to them.
Here they are. I often think, why didn't I think of that? And then Paul switches into the Aramaic language, which is the colloquial of the Hebrew language. He switched into that language and he begins to testify of how he was a persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ. And then on his way to Damascus, he had an encounter with the risen Christ. And then he was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ himself to preach the very gospel that he once belittled, the very gospel that he once had to act.
Please hear me right on this one. There is nothing more diffusing to false criticism than the personal testimony. There is nothing more disarming for false criticism than the telling of your story.
There is nothing more confounding to your critics than the truth as it is experienced by you. I want to summarize for you Paul's attitude toward his accusers. And I pray the Holy Spirit will teach me and teach you these five principles about turning oppressive environment of false criticism into an opportunity of testifying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Number one, principle number one, write it down. Paul saw the hand of God before he even got to Jerusalem. Oh yes, he was warned there are going to be difficulties in Jerusalem. He was warned there's going to be persecution in Jerusalem. He was warned there's going to be trouble in Jerusalem. But he trusted and his full trust was in the Lord Jesus Christ who called him. And he says no matter what the circumstances are, no matter whom I'm going to face, I know that he holds me in the palms of his hands. And here's what he said. He said I am ready to even die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He saw the hand of God with him all the time. And the second principle is this. Paul was able to see the positive in the midst of a negative environment.
He was able to see the positive while others could have panicked and say, oh God, why are you doing this to me after all that I'm doing for you? And look, no, no, no, no, no. Probably Paul thought to himself, he said, man, I couldn't have paid money to get an opportunity to testify to Lysias, this government official, the Roman official. Man, what an opportunity. I got the crowd and they're going to be silenced. I've never dreamed of having such a large crowd of my fellow Jews listening to me testifying. What an opportunity. You know what? He did something else that absolutely blows my mind.
It blows my mind. He even said, you know, his face is bleeding, cut. They beat him up and he says, you know, I understand you did this out of zeal for God.
It's okay. You talk about positive mental attitude. This guy had it. While everybody was being terrified, the apostle Paul was counting the blessings of his arrest. While everybody else probably was running and hiding, Paul was thanking God for the opportunity to testify. You see, he saw the hand of God everywhere he went. He saw the positive in the middle of the negative circumstance. And thirdly, he spoke with respect to his persecutors. He did not do what I would probably have done.
I mean, I would have probably said, listen here, you knuckleheads. I mean, don't you read your Bibles? Don't you understand that the Messiah was prophesied hundreds of years? Don't you understand that Jesus is the Messiah? He rose from the dead. Don't you get it? But thank God, no. Paul in chapter 22 verse 1, he addresses them as fathers and brothers.
Listen to this. He says, even the beating is out of zeal for God. As if to say, all is forgiven. I treat you with respect despite of what you have done to me. Paul told the Roman Christians in Romans 12, 14, bless those who persecute you.
Bless and curse not. And he practiced exactly what he preached in his epistle to the Romans. He saw the hand of God in every circumstance. He saw the positive in the midst of the negative. He blessed his persecutors.
Fourthly, he saw in this oppressive environment an opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus. That was the most important thing for him. Did Paul focus on his impressive credentials? No, he could have and he had many of them. He just introduced himself and went on. He could have dwelt on his achievements. He could have dwelt on his background. He could have just said, let me tell you about me.
No, no, no, no. He said, let me tell you about Jesus. And he focused on what God had accomplished in his life. He dwelt on the glory of God. He preached what he told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 31. He said, let him who boasts boast in the Lord. He saw the hand of God in every circumstance.
He saw the positive in the middle of the negative. He blessed his persecutors. He saw this as an opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus. And finally, perhaps the most important thing, Paul maintained his attitude of selfless love, something it's very difficult to do when you are falsely accused. He maintained his attitude of selfless love. But you see, it was Paul's selfless love for the church of Jerusalem, his fellow Jews that really brought him to Jerusalem to begin with. He was bringing an offering from the Gentile churches to the church in Jerusalem. It was his love for his weaker brethren that brought him to Jerusalem.
It was his love for the unsaved Jews that led him to evangelize the hostile crowd and ultimately it was his love for the Lord Jesus Christ that motivated him to love people. You see, loving people that is not motivated by love for Christ is temporary. It's really depending on the benefits that comes out of it. And therefore, it's not permanent. It's not lasting.
It's contractual. And when you love the Lord, you will love the unsaved people. And when you love the Lord and you love the unsaved, you will have the strength to turn oppression into opportunity. You will have the wisdom to turn false critics into listeners. You will have the courage to turn your false accusers into a congregation. Father, it is impossible to do any of this in our own strength.
We know that for Paul, because Christ was everything, he was able to turn oppression into opportunity. Father, we pray that you'll strengthen us to do the same, that you'll empower us with your Holy Spirit to know that we can do nothing without you and without your strength. But through you, we can do all things in Jesus' name.
Amen. Thank you for making Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef a part of your day. Do you have spiritual questions? Well, a Leading the Way pastor would love to speak with you. Just start your conversation at ltw.org slash jesus. Okay, before our time is completely gone, allow me to take just a moment to share a note that the Leading the Way team received from a listener to Family Talk.
This is on Sirius XM satellite radio. Dr. Youssef, my heart is so full of joy, so I had to write it and share it with you. Recently, I accidentally discovered your ministry when searching for answers about life. And now, the Word of God has entered me in a powerful way. I often listen to your messages when working out and find myself shouting, Praise God. I'm thankful for your messages, as they've been life-changing and just what I need to hear. God bless.
Friends, we love to be able to share that with you. We are so blessed to be part of leading people into a deeper walk with Christ, whether you're listening in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, or in a remote area in Australia. If you'd like to learn how to partner with Dr. Youssef, it's so easy. Give us a call at 866-626-4356. That's 866-626-4356 and online at ltw.org, ltw.org. And we love connecting with you through the mail as well. Write to us at Leading the Way, Post Office, Box 20100, Atlanta, Georgia, 30325. Again, that's Post Office, Box 20100, Atlanta, Georgia, 30325. This program is furnished by Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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