August 21, 2019
Acts 13:42-48 (in context)
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Paul and Barnabas find themselves in every preacher of the gospel’s fantasy: people asking for more. So often, we preachers find ourselves on the wrong side of that equation; with more to offer but no one asking for it. I am convinced the difference comes in responsiveness to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Remember, they followed the Spirit’s leading to get them to the place and they waited for the Spirit to open the door. There were definitely some surprises in who actually wanted them and who did not. (i.e. see the Gentiles)
We (preachers and normal people alike) tend to go not to those who want us but to those who we want to want us. You remember that Cheap Trick song of the late, great seventies: “I want you to want me. I need you to need me. I’d love you to love me. I’m begging you to beg me.”
Ask any church planter worth her salt how that works out! We must go to those who actually want us and need us and whose lives are crying out for help. In too many cases, unfortunately, that’s a long way from First Methodist (but it doesn’t have to be). It’s why we love to see churches and church plants like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and I could go on and on. (Send me an email and tell me who should be in that last “on.”)
All of these churches remind me of something John Wesley used to say to his preachers:
“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those that want you, but to those that want you most.”
Wesley started with the refined elite in the tall steeple churches but soon found himself out in the undignified fields with unsophisticated coal miners. Could this be one of the signs of where the Holy Spirit is working—those that want you the most? Be on the lookout for those people who are eager to “continue in the grace of God.” That’s where the Spirit is working.
How about you? Are you eager to continue in the grace of God? Or try this one: Are you eager to be made eager to continue in the grace of God? The Spirit will always begin where you are. That’s the trouble with us. We don’t tend to want to admit where we actually are and so we don’t ever really go forward in the grace of God.
Here’s a great prayer: “Lord Jesus, I am willing to be made willing to give my life to you or to re-gift my life to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit until my willingness becomes your will in my life.” The Holy Spirit is attracted to holy discontent like lightening to a lightening rod. Make it known to him.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
Can you think of a person you know who strikes you as “eager to continue in the grace of God?” Start saying their name to God in prayer.
For the Awakening,