Have you ever noticed any throw away phrases or verses in the Bible? Now I know nothing is really throw away when it comes to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture, but at times it seems that way.
In Revelation when the Apostle John describes the New Jerusalem and that there are gates to it and God appoints angels watch over the comings and goings. That’s all it says… where are people going? Where are they coming from?
Another time in the Gospels it reads that Jesus walked along the beach and told the disciples many more stories. What stories? Will we ever hear those stories? Why weren’t they included in the Gospels?
Well in my opinion we come across one of those throw away phrases in today’s reading. In Acts 18:9 we read, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent.'” That sort of seems like a throw away verse, but hey wait a minute. The Apostle Paul was afraid? He must have been if God was telling him not to be afraid any longer. I can safely say that each one of us reading this blog post has been afraid at one time of their lives or another. And for many of us there is a real fear in sharing how much our salvation means to us. We are afraid of rejection, ridicule or isolation. And yet we have great company. Paul was afraid too. Perhaps afraid of much more. He had been beaten and flogged. That hasn’t happened to any of us for the sake of the gospel. If so let me know. I hold you in the highest regard.
But fear is fear. And to know that the Apostle Paul was afraid brings some measure of hope and calm to my spirit. The person we all look up to as spreading the gospel throughout the then known world was afraid. What a blessing — in sort of an odd way — that we are all in this together and fear is just part of the process. I have this feeling that God is telling us today not to fear, not to duck and run, but to share our faith with others in a winsome manner that draws people to Jesus.
One way — not the only way — that we can know our efforts in sharing the good news of Jesus and the impact we have on others is to look at their lives. The Apostle Paul gives us a unique glimpse and a beautiful metaphor this morning to gauge our righteous influence on others. Read below:
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God — not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:1-3 [CSB]).
Paul, in a way, was sharing with his readers that they were his letter of introduction wherever he went. He could point to their faith and life and say see what God has done through us!
What are you up to these days? Do you have any living letters? If you have children you can start with them. How are they your letters of introduction. How bout others you serve with or teach? Are they your letters of introduction. Can you point to them and will others see your ministry in their lives? Of course this all happens through the counsel and empowerment of our Holy Spirit living inside all who follow Him. Ask Him today to point out your living letters of introduction.
When I was in seminary a rather famous religious figure turned his life over to Jesus in a new and fresh way. Then he felt as if he needed to learn the Bible and theology from a whole new perspective so he came to seminary. Well all at once they wanted this person to be speaking in chapel and representing the seminary in many venues. He had been a true follower of Christ for only eighteen months where I had been one for some eighteen years. I felt belittled and not appreciated for what I brought to the table in that seminary.
In today’s reading we have another dramatic conversion in the person of the Apostle Paul. We read it below:
6 An intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light,
10“I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
11“Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:6-16 [CSB])
Now Ananias could have been like me and sulked because he was a devout follower of Jesus and here’s Saul, one who had persecuted and killed Christians, yet, no he went and even called Saul his brother.
We all have stories. Some are dramatic while others are quiet and deep. What is your story? How has God brought you to himself? Knowing where we were before Jesus — even if we were five or six years old when it happened — it’s a dramatic and awesome story to tell. Tell your story to someone today. I’m sure it will be an encouragement and may even draw someone into the kingdom.
We come to two juxtaposed passages of Scripture this morning. We have Moses not acting out of love or having a close relationship with God and then the Apostle Paul giving us the fruit of a loving relationship with the God of the universe. Paul writes:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22-24 [ESV])
God has a plan that reaches across the ages and we don’t fully understand it all, but what if Moses instead of being a person who tried in his own strength to free God’s people was a person of love and peace? Perhaps the Jewish Nation would have been relieved of their suffering 40 years earlier.
The fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists are not something we strive for, but what we bear because of our loving relationship with the Father.
What kind of fruit are you producing? Is this fruit coming from a loving relationship with God? Just think of the things God can do through you and the people you can affect through the overflow of your relationship with the Father.
What does your fruit look like this morning? How can you grow closer to God so that you can produce more of it in changing your life and those around you?
Acts 23:11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (ESV)
This passage of Scripture (Acts 23:1-15) finds the Apostle Paul in heaps of trouble. He was in Jerusalem being persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders. He was having to use his god-given wits to squirm out of a very dangerous situation. While being held over night the Lord comes to him and tells him not to be afraid and that some day he’ll stand
in Rome giving testimony to God’s truth and hope. He was given a clear vision. Some day he would stand in Rome testifying to the facts of the life and mission of Jesus. It was a clear clarion call on his life. In fact it is something that stays with him for ever.
Do you think that we all have that kind of call on our lives? Perhaps it’s not the Lord standing beside us like he did in Paul’s case, but if we are attuned to the whisper of God, it’s there. There have been times in my life when I have prayed for things or issues and getting in the car before going to work, or in the quietness of my morning study & prayer God comes and whispers a mission or resolution or comfort in my spiritual ear. It’s as if He is standing there speaking to me. It doesn’t just happen to people like the Apostle Paul. It happens to all of us who are Christ followers. Personally as I was seeking God about my future He gave me two things as if they were as clear as Him talking to me. He told me that for fifteen years I was to work at building a world-class ministry team at LifePoint Church and for the next fifteen mentor younger people in ministry. Thirty years! That’s enough into the future to keep me busy for quite some time. That was eight years ago and it is still a guiding beacon in my life.
What things has God whispered in your spiritual ear? Can you share one of those with us?
Father God I am so humbled that You, the God of the universe, sees fit to speak with me. Thank you. Thank you for the way you speak to those reading this blog today. Keep our spiritual ears attuned to Your messages that you whisper to us. We love you very much and pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen!