Saturday, April 20, 2013

Acts 18 - Message in Demonstration of the Spirit's Power

LINK: Acts 18






BACKGROUND

Although Athens and Corinth were only 50 miles apart, they were worlds apart in terms of atmosphere. While Athens (17) was a center of culture and education, Corinth (18) was a center of commerce and immorality! It was the home to the temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility, who promoted licentious living in the name of religion!


Paul's companions were Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, who were ousted from Rome due to the constant riots of the Jews at the instigation of "Chrestus"(possibly Christ, from Life of Claudius by Suetonius). He lived with them because they were tentmakers. 


Paul's pattern was similar here as in other cities: he preached in the synagogue, the Jews resisted, he turned to the Gentiles, both Jews and Gentiles believed, and then persecution followed (implied because God told him not to be afraid in the vision). It is different this time because Paul settled there and taught for eighteen months, the second longest stay of all of his missionary journeys! Eventually, Paul returned to Syrian Antioch (23) via Ephesus (20), promising the people there that he would come back if it was God's will. 


It is believed that Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians were written in A.D. 52-53 and events between verses 22 and 23


Paul's Third Missionary Journey (18:23-21:16) - A.D. 53-57





The map above shows the route of Paul's third journey. In Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos preaching an incomplete gospel message and brought him aside to explain the message beyond John's message of repentance and on to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is mentioned again in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-6, 22; 4:6; 16:12; Titus 3:13). 


REFLECTION


Paul wrote two letters to the Corinthians after he visited there. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 reflects his attitude going into it:


And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
I always go back to these verses when I go into situations where I want to talk about Jesus. I do not need to have all the right answers. I just need to "know and go": I need to know nothing except Jesus, His words, ways, and wounds. This means I need to immerse myself in His life and do what He says to do. Then I need to go and rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me!  I think we make proclaiming Christ so much more complicated than it needs to be.

May we all have this kind of reliance upon the Spirit!


APPLICATION

This may seem really intimidating, but ask God to show you where He would have you proclaim Christ today. Rely on His Spirit to lead and to guide. Do not worry about having it all together just immerse yourself in Jesus before you go! Seek to know Him above all else. 

And He may have you go to a very unexpected place. Just listen to my story:

Back in 2006, I was at a transition point in ministry. I was pretty burned out and bruised up from a particularly difficult ministry assignment. In my low state, I asked God to reveal His next step for me. As I was listening, He said, "Go and get a manicure and pedicure."   
"What? A manicure and pedicure! God, I am too cheap to do that. I am committed to a simple lifestyle. What are you thinking? That is hardly suffering for You? Are you sure about this?"  
He said, "Yes! Go!" 
So, I reluctantly obeyed and made an appointment at the Hair, Body, and Sole Salon two minutes from my house. There was an opening with Sherry within a couple of hours. I speculated that maybe God just wanted me to be pampered, rest, and relax after the hectic and drama-filled 18 months of ministry I had just come through.  
As I was driving there I felt God give me a nudge, and I asked Him, "Are you sending me there so I can share with someone today?" 
He said, "YES!" 
"Oh!!!!!!! I get it!  I'm ready, Lord!" 
I settled into the cozy atmosphere of the manicure/pedicure room at the salon. It was a dimly lit room with comfy cushions and music playing softly in the background as I sipped a beverage and ate fruit. (Hardly what I would call suffering for Jesus!) It was just Sherry and me alone in the room, separated from the bustle and bright lights of the outer room of the salon with hairdryers blasting and a cacophony of chit-chat from about a dozen stylists.  
Sherry and I hit it off immediately as she pampered my feet in rose water. Our conversation eventually led to the subject of her son who was in a load of trouble. I asked her, "What is your son's name? I want to pray for him." 
She burst into a smile and started talking excitedly. "Oh you pray? Do you also read the Bible? Do you know it very well? I have been reading the Bible every night for the last few months, and I am on the book of Job (she pronounced it like the place you have employment) or is it Job (pronounced like the man in the Bible)? I don't really understand it. I have some questions." 
I sat there, utterly amazed. She had been reading it all on her own?She had even made it through Leviticus!  Oh my! She was a true seeker. I replied and tried to remain calm, "Yes, I do know the Bible. I am sort of a Bible teacher." 
She proceeded to ask me a load of questions. The nice thing about a manicure AND a pedicure is that you are together for about 2 1/2 hours, and we were never interrupted while in that room exclusively devoted to manicures and pedicures.  As a result, we got into a very deep discussion. I was able to give her an overview of the Scriptures starting from Genesis. Even though she had not gotten to the Gospel and the full revelation of Jesus, I used the Passover lamb in Exodus and the sacrifices in Leviticus to point her to Him!
By this time we had transitioned to a manicure, and I could not write anything down during or afterward, but I booked another appointment and subsequent appointments until she came to Christ about five months later!  I would say it was worth the cost! 
God is very faithful to lead us, just as He led Paul; and we can rely on Him to give us the words that demonstrate His power to a lost and dying world!  We just need to listen and obey!

Here is a picture of Sherry:


 


PRAYER


Lord, we are all ears. Lead us today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 
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