Acts 17 Are you feeling less faithful because of the pandemic? Does it seem like you are in a holy huddle on Facebook, Twitter, and now Parler? Or are you using today’s technology to reach the unsaved with the gospel message? What is keeping all of us from our reaching our unsaved neighbors, unsaved family members, or others?
For Paul, the magistrates and the Judaizers kept repeating the words “go away, go away, go away” no matter where they were preaching. Paul could have given up, but instead, he pressed on from Philippi to Thessalonica, Berea, and then Athens. In each place, Paul presented what the author of Hebrews was saying: Jesus is better than the prophets, the unknown idols, the angels, or the Law. The Thessalonians disagreed, but the Bereans decided to check out Paul’s words. Dr. Luke records that they were more noble than the Thessalonians, for they heard and then searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true. Even today, they are held up as an example for us to follow. The gospel message doesn’t change and God is looking for the faithful that will step beyond the boundaries to reach the lost.
Do you hear the “Go Away” refrain over and over? Remember: the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved; it is the power of God. [1Cor 1: 18] Ask God to show you how to share the gospel creatively. Try using technology:
Races are one of our all-time gatherings. People rally around the racers and discuss who will win and why they chose that one person out of the whole crowd. In the church, we call them the “holy huddlers.” Our favorites give us personalities and they give us something or someone for whom to root. Yet in the midst of this hoopla, there are those who have trained and yet are the last to cross the finish line. We see it in Christianity as well so it is not relegated to sports. So here’s the question:
What sets you back and what keeps you on track, spiritually speaking, in your “race” to be a disciple of Jesus? Do you find yourself crawling out of the slough of despond which is stagnant and murky with algae hiding dangerous critters, a.k.a the wiles of the devil? Truthfully, often it is the lack of hunger and thirst for God’s Word and trusting Him to do His work. But, not Ezra! He willingly chose to devote himself to the study of God’s Law, then to observe it as commanded, and lastly to teach others to follow his example. [Ezra 7:10] Those are nearly the same words of Paul: “be imitators of me, just as I am also of Christ.” [1Cor 11:1]
Ezra could have despaired and worried that on this long trek they would be a prime target to the bandits hiding in the mountains that often accosted and robbed travelers. Yet, Ezra had already bathed this trek in prayer and he had seen God paving the way by turning the heart of King Artaxerxes. This ruthless king had opened the treasures of the Temple and entrusted them to Ezra. God has done the same for us. He has opened his treasures and entrusted them to us that we might carry them to the world. What are we waiting for? The world is crying out to hear the gospel and we hold that treasure in our hands.
Get in the Race! The world is hungering to hear the good news!
The church at Corinth was birthed under Paul but now left to their own they have become divided into Paul camps and Apollo camps. This is a warning to us about this happening to our churches and even para-church organizations. No matter how it comes about, know this; these “holy huddles’ divide. As Paul hears about this, his heart is grieved. This is the sin that grieves not only us but more importantly the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s response to the Corinthians goes something like this: you still are acting and reacting as if you never met Christ or were made righteous! You are behaving like one who is unregenerate and the evidence is front and center. This is not evidence of one who has a relationship with Christ and has become righteous, sanctified and redeemed!
Fast forward to today. If Paul could come to our local body of believers would he see the same thing? Listen to yourself, listen to your fellow congregants and see for yourself. Are we guilty of putting the pastor on a pedestal and not Christ? What happens when one of the church staff falls from grace? That very action reveals where our priorities were and are. Some of those who were followers of that person may also fall away too because they focused on them not Christ who became for us wisdom from God.
How does this happen? We need to look no further than what Paul noted. It happens when we revert to fleshy actions and attitudes. It should be a reminder of what Jesus told Peter: “You are a stumbling block to me because you are not setting your mind on God’s interest but man’s.” [Matt 16]