Friday, April 7, 2017

April 7 - Acts 17

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 17. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Paul continues traveling and preaching in the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath sharing about Christ. We see many Jews and Greeks came to faith. But, once again, some jealous Jews stir up trouble, drag Jason, his kind house host to prison, where he has to post bail. Verse 6 states that some of the people of Thessalonica exclaimed, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…" Another translation of this verse is, "These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here…" (This is where Verve gets the third part of our mission statement -- we exist to "Love God. Love People. Turn the World Upside-Down.")
  • Paul and his friends then sneak to Berea in the middle of the night. The people of Berea examined the Scriptures along with Paul to see if the message of Jesus was true. The scriptures at that time would only have consisted of the Old Testament. There is a lot of information in the Old Testament that points toward Jesus, and so studying it led the Bereans to faith. Again Paul is run out of the city.
  • Paul then travels to Athens, and here is where things take a turn. So far in the book of Acts, we see Paul mostly speaking in the synagogue to fellow Jews. He had much in common with them and understood their culture and their faith. But the people of Athens were not Jewish. It was a city full of "spiritual" people, philosophers, intellectuals, and know-it-alls. Talking about the latest ideas was their favorite past time. Paul took some time to walk around the city and study their culture. When he finally speaks to them in the marketplace, he starts right where they're at. He didn't start with scripture or with Jesus. In fact, he didn't even mention Jesus. Instead, he started with their idol to an unknown God. Some people sneered at him when he finished speaking. But others asked to hear more, and a few even became believers.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Although it is still early in the church's history,  Christians were already being called people who "turned the world upside down." Because of God's empowering of the Holy Spirit, followers of Jesus were having an impact far beyond what they could on their own. He still gives believers that same power today.
  • The Bereans had a noble desire for truth. Leaving Judaism behind to follow Jesus often meant being disowned by family, persecution, and even death. But, they were determined to uncover the truth, no matter what it meant. We should strive for that same desire of truth.
  • Athens was a university town. All the best writers, poets, philosophers, and spiritual gurus gathered there. They desired to gain as much knowledge as they could. But, they cared about ideas more than truth. Paul was speaking to friends like ours and he leaves a great example for how to do it.
    • He learned about them and understood what they believed.
    • He met them where they were on their spiritual journey.
    • He didn't present deep biblical truths or overwhelm them with Jesus talk, he simply took them one step at a time. He recognized their idols and encouraged them that maybe God is bigger than gold or stone.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • God empowered the early church to turn the world upside-down and He empowers us to do the same today! Keep leaning on God and the power of the Holy Spirit to reach your friends for Christ.
  • Do you pursue truth about God? Or are you content with what you already know? Are you ok believing, but not knowing why you believe? Maybe, like the Bereans, you need to examine the scriptures on a much deeper level.
  • When you think about sharing your faith, what comes to mind? Paul shows us that we don't need to make some grand speech or presentation; we are simply called to understand our friends, listen to them, and then help them take next steps. By listening, we can ask the right questions and help them eventually come to faith in Jesus. Is there someone in your life right now with whom God is asking you to take this approach?