Todd finishes up the last part of Acts 16 and starts into Acts 17. He shows us how the lives and teachings of the Scriptures from 2,000 years ago are still relevant and applicable to us today. God wants to use us just like He used Paul and the early church in this section of Scripture from the book of Acts.
How to Be Provoked Well. Paul and Us Among the Athenians
How to Love a World Filled With Rompers
Do You Believe in the Myth or Follow the Man
The Hopeless, the Hospitable, and the Hostile
Stuck on Mission
The First Church Council and the Matter of First Importance
Good morning to friends here in Dallas and in Fort Worth, Plano, and those of you guys who are watching online. We are taking a look at a guy in history who was amazingly used by God, and you need to know something. We're not a bunch of lumberjacks who are studying some mythical figure like Paul Bunyan, hoping it motivates us to cut down more trees. We're looking at a guy who lived in history who was a normal man who partnered with anything but a normal forest, because it wasn't a forest; it was the living God.
What we're seeing is what Paul did in his day and age to advance the kindness of God and to change culture and to have his own life be brought out of darkness into his marvelous light happened because he walked with a God who still lives today, and you can walk with him to change maybe not your Philippi or Thessalonica or Berea, but your Dallas, your Fort Worth, your Plano, or wherever you're watching.
The reason God preserved this historical record is so you could understand that he wants to work with you in the same way in your history. Now look. Some of you guys need to be having your heart strengthened today so you can be effective in the way you live for the King. Some of you guys need to hear the message that servants bring, and we're glad that both of you guys are here.
Let me start with this. I may have shared this a long time ago. I always wanted to jump out of an airplane. By the way, you don't need a parachute to jump out of an airplane. You need a parachute to jump out of an airplane twice. That's just a fact. But I wanted to learn that. I wanted to enjoy that. Early on, the very first way I did it is what's called a static line jump. I was in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I was in my early 20s.
It was before they developed what's called AFF (accelerated free fall) classes, which I did later, where I jumped out of a plane and had a 45- to 60-second free fall. It was awesome. The first time I did it was a static line jump, and that's kind of what you see in the old-time movies, where military guys jump out of an airplane and, as soon as they're out, they're connected by a belay to their jump pack and it pulls the chute for them as soon as they clear the plane. That's how you basically learn.
You're at 4,000 feet when you get out, and when I went to this little class… You're just there for a couple of hours, and they take you up and fire you out. There were only two of us. It was a Vietnam War vet who had not jumped since Vietnam and me. He had been struggling. He had some PTSD. We didn't know it was called that then, but he was going to try to deal with some of his fears by jumping back out of an airplane. So he and I were in this class together.
After they go through the basic instruction and what you're going to do and how long you have to correct it if you make a mistake… They actually, at the time, put you in a harness, so I'm hanging from the ceiling. I'm next to this guy. He's about 10 feet away from me, also in a harness. The jumpmaster is putting you through different scenarios you need to know how to handle in case the static line doesn't pull your chute for you or it pulls and malfunctions.
One of them is called a streamer, which is when your chute comes out but doesn't deploy, so you need to know what to do. The guy says, "I'm going to walk you through the different things that can happen, and you need to have the right response." So we're there, and he goes, "Okay, you have a streamer." I do what I'm supposed to do, and I clear my chute and deploy mine in a way that the guy was satisfied, but the other guy didn't move. He just stood there completely still.
The guy gets over there and gets in his face. "Hey! Man, snap out of it! You've got to know what to do. You're going to die. In fact, you're already dead. Too much time has passed." The guy kind of shook up, and he just looked at him and goes, "That which does not kill me only makes me stronger. Nietzsche." I was glad the brother was harnessed in at that moment. The guy kind of backed away and goes, "Oh, okay. Well, you're either dead or seriously maimed."
The guy puts us through another thing. He goes, "Okay, horseshoe." Horseshoe is when a chute deploys and wraps around your arm or leg and you have to clear it and release the secondary chute. That guy did it right that time, and I did something wrong, and the guy got in my face. He says to me, "Hey! Listen, man. You've got to figure this out. That doesn't always come out like it should. You've got to know what to do," and I went, "To live is Christ, to die is gain. Paul."
They both looked at me and went, "Hey, what does that mean?" So we had a conversation in our little harnesses about my hope and that guy's hope. Nietzsche, fatalism, nihilism, and hope with Jesus. We had a great conversation. We went up. We both obviously made it and had a great time. Why do I share that with you? Because we're in the middle of a story where that line I quoted came from, where there was a guy who was falsely accused of being against the king and against people when, in fact, he was for the one true King and loved people.
We're at the very end of a historical narrative in Acts, chapter 16. What happens is Paul had been beaten, falsely accused, and was in jail. You might remember that Paul had a faith that wasn't influenced by his circumstances. His circumstances were influenced by his faith. So even though he was in shackles and beaten and bleeding, he was singing praises to God, because he didn't know what God was up to but he knew who God was.
You're going to find out that not only could Paul sing in stocks. You're going to find out that Paul was willing to open doors to men who closed them to him. Even though Paul was a prisoner, he knew the guy who was beating him and oppressing him was the one who was the true prisoner, and Paul loved him and wanted to set him free. When God, in this particular instance, supernaturally delivered Paul from his imprisonment, you're going to find out what he did is he shared his hope with that guy who previously had been trying to make him hopeless.
I want you to see this. This is what Paul did. If you have your Bibles, look at Acts 16. The day after Paul had been beaten, the magistrates go, "Okay, we think we've settled down the crowd. We beat the guy. We hope that appeased the crowd. Let's go let those guys we beat yesterday go." It says in verse 35, "Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, 'Release those men.'" We know they had already been released miraculously by God and were at the jailer's house.
"And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, 'The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.'""You don't need to stay here in my house anymore. You can just walk out of here." "But Paul said to them, 'They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans…'" When they heard this, the magistrates in that Roman province realized they had broken the law, because just like in our society you're not allowed to throw someone in jail without a fair trial…
We have to read people their rights and make sure they are given a trial before a jury of their peers before we declare them guilty and punish them. That was also true in Roman society. Paul said, "Hey, when that riot stirred up and you started beating me, you didn't even give me a chance to speak, and I'm a Roman citizen," which meant those guys should be beaten. Paul says, "They threw us into prison, and now they want me to sneak out of here secretly? No indeed! But let them come…"
"Let them go get Channel 8, CNN, and Fox News, and let them lead me out. Go get the high school band, the 'Philippian Panther' band, and have them march me out of here." I'm going to show you why. Paul wasn't concerned for his own reputation, but you have to understand he was concerned about the reputation of the church, because "I want the world to know that Christians are the best of citizens. We're here to love and serve people and bring truth to them."
It says, "The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to [Paul and Silas] , and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city.""Please don't sue us. Please don't go on national TV. Don't write a letter to Caesar and tell him what we did."
So here's what Paul did. "They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia…" Lydia was a person who was converted by Paul and had begun to welcome other believers into her house. A woman of some substance that she could just take four different guys and put them in her house that way, Luke, Silas, Timothy, and Paul, among others.
"…and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them…" This is what I want to share with you to start, because it sets up where else we're going today in Acts 17. Wouldn't you have loved to have been there the day after Paul got beaten and was falsely accused? Wouldn't you have loved to have known what Paul said to them? Well, here's what's amazing. When you read books in your Bible like Ephesians…
It was a letter written to a group of folks Paul was friends with in Ephesus for a specific reason. Understanding the cultural context helps you understand more of the letter and why it's there. There are applications for all of us to what was written to the Ephesians, but to get the most out of it you have to know what was going on in Ephesus that made it make sense. The same is true with the book in your New Testament called Philippians.
The book of Philippians is a book that talks a lot about joy. It talks a lot about having confidence in every single circumstance, and this is where Paul basically came to them, and this is what I think he said. "Guys, listen. I'm about to take off now. I'm not going to stay here and cause more trouble. The seed of the gospel has been planted. These are the first converts in all of Europe, and I trust that the Spirit of God who began this good work in you is going to bring it about to completion." That's Philippians 1:6.
He says, "You just need to know something. I hope you've learned that when you go and share truth it's not always going to be well received, but your job is to share truth. Don't be disheartened when people reject you or even beat you, because you can see that God can deliver you anytime he wants. You always give thanks to God. You always sing." That's why the book of Philippians is about joy, contentment, a peace that passes understanding, about unity. We'll talk about the diversity that was in the church in a minute. It all makes sense when you understand what's going on.
In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, "For me to live is Christ and to die is to gain." I'm not worried about dying. I was recently flying back from a conference. We were getting on a plane, and I bumped into somebody who was at the conference from here, and they said, "Hey, Todd. I knew you were on this flight. I booked this flight because I knew you were on it, and I don't like to fly. Would you just pray?" We're on the plane for this flight. I go, "Absolutely."
I go, "Lord, I pray this plane goes down and that you just send me home. I'm done. I'm ready." The guy goes, "What? What? No! No! What are you doing?" I go, "Well, I'm not done praying yet. I'm going to pray if it doesn't go down that we'd be faithful when we get to Dallas, but aren't you ready to leave this momentary light affliction?" He goes, "No, man! Don't you ever pray for me again when I'm on a plane."
Here's the thing. I believe I'm immortal until the Lord is done with me. That doesn't mean I jump out of planes without parachutes. It just means I know that I don't have to fret about mobs. I don't have to fret about anything, about any disease, cancer that came into my body. I don't have to worry about that. I'm immortal until God is done with me, and you need to know something. I'm ready. I'm willing to live, but I'm ready to die and go home.
Watch what Paul says. I think this is what he did to encourage that church. I think he just said, "Guys, learn from my example. Some of you guys are not going to get out of prison. Some of you guys might be beaten to death in public, but don't worry. You're at peace with God. This world is not your home. The grave is not the end of a life; it's an eternally fixed beginning. So have great peace about where you're going to go, but know this: while you're here, be useful and fruitful to the King."
I'm going to read you Philippians 1. He says, "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better…" Are you convinced of that? Listen. If you think heaven is you're going to be issued a harp and a white choir robe and a cloud you can sit on and strum it… That doesn't sound very much better to me either. That is a non-biblical view of heaven.
Heaven is anything but that. Heaven is the fullness of life God intended for us in the very beginning. The paradise of Eden is just a shadow of what is to come. You need to get a biblical view of heaven. We've taught on it here before. You can go find those messages on our website. Don't have the small-minded view of heaven that you're just issued a harp and a cloud and a white robe. No. Think of the greatest life you could ever imagine.
I did a Real Truth. Real Quick. on…Will we have sex in heaven? I don't want to burst your bubble, but the answer is "Probably not." You're like, "What? I thought you said to die is gain. I might be a Muslim. They get 70 virgins." What a small god that he has to appease you in his presence with an orgy with 70 women. What kind of god isn't satisfying enough in himself?
If a kid asks what heaven is like and you try to describe heaven to a kid, what do you typically do? You go, "Um, I don't know. It's like having all the ice cream you want. It has Skittles, and you can put Mountain Dew in your Lucky Charms for three meals a day. It's amazing. It's nothing but candy and ice cream," and the kid is like, "Oh man!" But what happens if you go to a 25-year-old who asks, "What is heaven like?" and you go, "Oh, you get all the ice cream you want, and you get Skittles"? The 25-year-old is going to look at you and go, "What?"
But for a 5-year-old to imagine heaven without ice cream? It's impossible. I think it's the same way for a 25-year-old to imagine heaven without sex. It's like, "What?" Because in your small-mindedness, you think the pleasures of earth are going to be your pleasures in heaven. No. They're going to be so exceedingly, abundantly more, because you're going to see your God and know him fully as you're fully known right now, and you're going to be satisfied. If your god has to give you 70 virgins, your god is too small.
Paul is just saying, "I'd love to depart and be with Christ, but I'm going to remain on, and it's more necessary for your sake that I'm here, because I'm a means through which you're going to hear about the gospel." Is that true of you? Is that why you were here this last week or were you here to get more ice cream or have more sex? By the way, eat ice cream. Married? Have all the sex you want. God is a fan of it.
I'm just encouraging you to know that your purpose in being here is not to become more comfortable or have fleeting moments of intense pleasure but to live in a way that pleases the only one who matters and to have a meaning and purpose in life that's more than about your next meal or your next sexual high. What an empty way to live. How wrong to live without those things, but how wrong to live only for those things.
He says, "Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." Verse 27: "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel…"
This is why Paul wanted to be let out. "I want the world to know Christians are the best of men, best of women, best of citizens." That riot that happened was unreasonable people who were having their sensibilities threatened, like kids throw a tantrum when somebody tells them they can't have what their flesh wants. That's what immature people do. I'm going to show you a picture of a mature person today.
Paul says, "You live before these children who are small-minded with a nobility, and you conduct yourselves with honor." Peter said the exact same thing in 1 Peter 4:15. He says, "Listen. You're going to have a lot of trouble in this life, but make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer or as a thief or as an evildoer or as a troublesome meddler. Conduct yourself with honor. Live the best of lives."
Paul was making sure the church wasn't impugned by his own life. He says, "Don't be alarmed by your opponents, because that's a sign of destruction for them but of salvation to you." In other words, when the world threatens you and says, "We're going to take you out, we're going to kill you, we're going to ruin your life unless you bow to me," you go, "You can't ruin my life. For me to live is Christ (I get to testify to you in chains) but for me to die is gain."
The last known human who had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a guy called Polycarp. He was a disciple of John, and about halfway through the second century (so, figure AD 120, 130, 140), Polycarp was revered because he lived a holy life. He was discipled by John, who was the disciple Jesus loved. Polycarp was 85 years old, and he was called before the proconsul in Rome when they were using Christians for entertainment, where they were murdering and persecuting Christians.
Polycarp came before the proconsul. They finally got him, this leader in the church, and they said, "You need to repent. You need to say before everybody 'The atheists are wrong.'" You're like, "Wait a minute. Why wouldn't Polycarp say that?" Because in the Roman context, if you didn't believe in all of the gods of Rome you were considered an atheist, and Christians early on were considered atheists because they didn't believe in all of the multiple gods of Rome.
So Polycarp was there before everybody in Nero's circus or that type of arena, and they said, "Say 'Down with the atheists,'" and Polycarp goes, "Okay, I'll play your word game. Down with atheists." The guy knew right away what he was doing, so the historical record says, "Polycarp, listen. If you don't repent, I have wild animals, and I will throw you to them." Polycarp said, "You call your animals."
Then the proconsul got really frustrated and said, "You despise animals?" In other words, "You're not fearful of animals? Then I will burn you at the stake in fire." Polycarp looked back at him and said, "What does one hour of your flames do to me? But you don't know of the fire that is yet to come from the Sovereign God who I am here to tell you loves you and wants to deliver you from the judgment that is due to all men when they deny him."
It's said of Polycarp that they were so frustrated with him they actually did go to nail him to the stake that they might burn him, and he said, "You don't need to nail me to the stake. For me to die is gain." He put his hands behind himself. They lit him on fire, and as he sang praises and prayed for them they could not bear the noise, so they waited not for the flames to kill him but ran him through with a spear.
Now what did that guy know? You'll look back in history, and when you watch men die nobly without fear, just like the Roman centurion at the cross of Jesus Christ, you go, "Hey, that guy might know something I don't know," just like the jailer who watched Paul sing in Acts 16. "What does that guy know?" They were both converted. I don't know who was converted with Polycarp, but here's my question…In the hurricanes, in the earthquakes, in the judgment and oppression that comes into your life, will people still see you sing while you're in shackles?
Do you go through your trouble, your cancer, your divorce, maybe, if you've been wronged by a spouse, even though you remain faithful to your covenant, and you still sing? When you're reviled, you revile not in return. When you suffer, you don't utter threats. You walk as Jesus walked and suffer as he suffered with hope, entrusting yourself to the only one whose opinion matters. Are other people seeing in you what they saw in Peter, in John, in Paul, in Polycarp, and in Jesus? That's why you're here.
I think that's what he did at the church in Philippi. Wouldn't it have been great to be there? Well, you just were. Acts 17. The Word of God is so good, guys. "Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis…" Which is about 30 miles to the west. "…and Apollonia…" Which is about another 30 miles. So one day, 30-mile hike, just like you. Another day, 30-mile hike, just like you do with your Fitbit. Then it says they go on to Thessalonica, about another 36 miles. So we're 100 miles west in the capital city of Macedonia.
Thessalonica is still a city today. It's the second largest city in Greece. They show up there. Here there's a synagogue. We know in Philippi there wasn't a synagogue. Unless there were 10 male Jews you couldn't have a synagogue in a town. That's why, by the way, Paul went to the river. That's where God-fearers would go, because the living water of a river would be used as a mikvah until they built a synagogue.
Thessalonica was a metropolitan city, and the Jews had arrived there during the dispersion. So Paul went to the synagogue. He always wanted to go to his brethren and share with them what he came to know, because Paul was a Jew. He was a Pharisee. Paul used to believe that anybody who believed in this Jesus was a heretic, because Paul, like most Pharisees, had decided that his righteousness was enough, and Jesus said, "No, it's not."
Paul, like most Jews and Pharisees, believed that when God would bring them a deliverer he would crush Caesar and deliver them from the oppression of Rome, and Jesus said, "No, you have a bigger problem than Caesar. The thing that rules your life is not Rome. The thing that rules your life is your unrighteousness and sin, and you need to be set free from that. The reason, by the way, you're in bondage on this earth is because you don't know me and don't walk with me. I'm here to set you free from that.
There will be a day when I will set the land free from any kind of other oppressor, but the greatest oppressor to all people is not another human but what happens to the human condition when the human doesn't walk with God." Paul came to understand that. So he went to go to his friends, and I want you to see he was with them for three Sabbaths, 21 days in Thessalonica, specifically ministering to the Jew and the God-fearing Gentiles who were there to learn.
Jews would always welcome non-Jews into their audience and encourage them to convert to Judaism. A lot of the Gentiles were there hearing about the claims of the Jews, that there was a God who lived who delivered them from Pharaoh. There was a God who did miraculous things. There was a God who promised them deliverance, and all who were associated with them would be blessed. So they would always be there listening.
There weren't a ton of converts because they were asked to do a lot of things…go through surgery (circumcision), to obey all of the Jewish festivals and laws. They looked at the Jews and went, "It's not working out so well for you when you're serving this God today, and there seem to be a lot of rules over there, and I'm not sure I could follow them all. It doesn't look like you follow them all, and you don't look very happy."
Nonetheless, there were some God-fearers there, and Paul goes to all that crowd and all that audience. Watch what he does. I want you to see five different words in verses 2-4. In verse 2, it says he reasoned with them from the Scripture. In verse 3, he explained and gave evidence that the Christ would come and suffer and rise again from the dead. In verse 3, he also proclaimed who Jesus was, and then he persuaded. Verse 4: "And some of them were persuaded…"
All Paul did was show up and open the Bible and say, "I want you to hear the story." He lived a holy life among them, and he loved them with the truth. I've said this before. I want to say it to you again. One of the things so many people do when they get out there and talk to people is they feel so intimidated. "I don't know if I can answer everybody's questions." You probably can't just yet, but it's not that hard once you get started. What you need to make sure you can do is what Paul did.
Don't worry about your ability to defend with great philosophical arguments all of the claims of Scripture. We should work our way toward that, but what Paul basically did was he opened up the Scripture, just like Jesus did, and showed them, "This is what the Scriptures always pointed to." I ask people all the time when I'm having a conversation, "Has anybody ever told you the central message of the Bible?" They look at me and go, "I don't know." I go, "Do you even know what it is? Do you know what the central message of the Scripture is?"
"Well, how do I know the Bible is God's Word?"
"I didn't ask you if you believe the Bible is God's Word, but because you're concerned with an intellectual question about whether or not it is, in fact, a book that can be considered divine, I see you and perceive you to be an intellect, but let me ask you a question. There is no question that the Bible is the most influential book in all of history. It has influenced more cultures, more civilizations.
It is the most printed, most read, most translated book in all of history. There are more manuscripts, copies of it than any ancient document, so we know the Bible we're reading is a correct and accurate copy of the Bible that was originally given. You're an intellectual man. I'm asking if you know the message of the Bible. Not if we know it's true yet. We'll get to that."
So many people reject the Scripture without ever having even understood what the message is. Ask yourself right now. What would you say? What's the central message of the Bible? Can you explain it? Here's the central message of the Bible. It's not that man needs to behave so God can bless him. It's that man is lost because he's separated from God, and there's nothing he could ever do to be reconciled to God, and God did something about that because he's a God of love.
He will judge sinners, but he also wants to save them, so he made provision for them through his Son, who was the long promised Deliverer who would put an end to the entire sacrificial system, because he was the final sacrifice. God has made peace with you if you'll just acknowledge your need to be reconciled to him. When you see the beauty and love of God, he wants to then encourage you how to live in a way that's going to bring further blessing, meaning, adventure, and fullness to your life. God isn't trying to rip you off; he's trying to set you free.
That's the central message of the Bible. Can you tell people that? Do you know that? That's all you have to do. Folks go, "I've never heard that." I was with a guy last week I spent a couple of days with, and finally I just asked, "Has anybody explained this to you?" He goes. "No. Tell me." I just told him what the message was. He goes, "That is beautiful." This 28-year-old guy, a graduate of Michigan State, goes, "No one has ever told me that before."
I just go, "God loves you, bro. You have to quit running from him because you think this Book is a bunch of rules to keep you from doing things that are going to be life-giving to you. It's just the opposite," and we started a journey of faith together. That's what Paul did. We don't need to defend the Bible. Spurgeon, a great preacher in the nineteenth century, used to say, "Defend the Bible? I'd just as soon defend a lion. Turn it loose, and it will defend itself."
Guys, get the message of the gospel out there. The message of the gospel is not "You'd better behave. You'd better stop being a homosexual. What's up with you having an abortion?" Those are things that are going to bring sadness to the human condition, but just say, "God loves you, prideful, materialistic, slave to self-righteousness person, homosexual, involved with an abortion in your history individual. He loves you. He's not mad at you. He wants to reconcile you to him. This is the love of God."
That's what Paul did, and he did it beautifully. The Word of God is significant. Tell the story. Reason with them from the Scriptures. It's what Jesus did. I want to take a moment to show you that. When Jesus was here with his disciples he did the same thing. In Luke, chapter 9, he's with them. He said, "Let me explain something to you. The Son of Man…" Jesus' favorite phrase for himself, which, by the way, is a reference back to Daniel 7, which is a reference to God on earth.
He says, "The Son of Man, this Deliverer, this Messiah, is going to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and he's going to be killed and raised up again." That just blew their minds. So much so that after he lived with them for a couple more years and he actually went to a cross, predicting that he would go to a cross, predicting that his life would be raised up from the grave again… When he was resurrected, a couple of the disciples were discouraged. They hadn't heard about the resurrection yet.
They're on their way to Emmaus, getting out of Jerusalem, and then Jesus walks up alongside of them, and in Luke 24 he says to them, "Why are you downhearted? O foolish men, why are you so slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken?" He says to them in verse 26, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter into his glory?" Then it says in verse 27, "Beginning with Moses and then making his way through the rest of the Old Testament, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures."
It's what Paul did. When he goes to the Jews who know the Scripture, he goes, "Let me tell you, guys, it's okay, but you're missing who the Deliverer is. The law…" Paul is arguing from it. "…is not there to tell you 'Behave, behave, behave.' The law is there to show you you're not good enough. It's a tutor. The law was to teach you that you're a sinner. If a man keeps the whole law and yet offends in one point, what's he called? A lawbreaker.
Lawbreakers don't have fellowship with a perfect God, but God is not mad at you. That's why he promised you a Messiah. What would the Messiah do? The Messiah would suffer." He took them to Isaiah 53. "He is the one who will come, and like sheep, you guys have all gone astray, but he's the perfect Lamb of God. All your iniquity was to be laid on him. He's the eternal, perfect Lamb of God. When that person is delivered for you, you can be set free. This is what your Messiah was." He shows them through the Jewish Scriptures the beauty.
Let me say this to you. Christianity does not contradict Judaism. We don't. Christianity completes Judaism. If Abraham lived today, if Jacob lived today, if Moses was alive today, if Isaiah was running around these streets, they would be in church, because they understood what God had promised. But listen. When you give people truth that kind of shatters their worldview, they're not always going to like it, and that's exactly what happened to Paul. Watch what happens here in Thessalonica.
Some of them, by God's kindness and because they were noble-minded, were persuaded and joined… I want to make a word about this. Watch what they did. When the Word of God told them about God's provision for lost people, they jumped in with Paul and Silas. They joined. The word join means to get up in the carriage with. "Come join me. Come ride with me." They didn't just regularly attend a place where the Scriptures were taught; they became members of one another. They jumped in.
Cyprian, who was an early church father, is famous for saying, "You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your mother." From the very beginning, all the way back in Acts 17, it has never been a "just Jesus and me" thing. This is not an intellectual venture. It transforms you, and you become a part of his body, which means you're connected to one another.
So they jumped in with Paul and Silas, and they are riding along with them. "…along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks…" So there were some Jews but more non-Jews. "…and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob…"
Here we go. They could not reason with Paul because he was reasonable and right. They couldn't argue with him. They basically said, "Well, his arguments are too sound, so we can't use reason." They couldn't rebuke Paul because his life was beautiful. They couldn't accuse him, so they had to riot against him.
Do you see this happening today? The university setting used to be a place… It's called the university because you could go there and there would be a tournament of narratives. You would hear a bunch of universal ideas, and you would study and choose what is true. We have moved to where now people can't even have civil dialogue anymore because it "offends my sensibilities."
Those are trigger words, when you tell me I can't live my life this way. The university, which used to be a place where you could go and compete with truth, is now a place where "We're not going to let them speak, because what they say offends us." What does that sound like? See how relevant this book is? There were some Jews who were jealous. There are a lot of reasons they were jealous, but bottom line what you need to know is…
First of all, it says "a large number of the God-fearing Gentiles." All of a sudden, there was a message and they went, "That sounds true. Those Scriptures now make sense. I see why God had the sacrificial system in place for a season. I see why God put a mark of circumcision, but circumcision doesn't save you. I see that Jesus does, this Messiah you Jews are looking for. Why wouldn't this Jesus be the Messiah? He did what the Scripture says."
They got jealous because Paul was having some success. They also got a little angry, because Paul was telling them they couldn't on their own effort, in their own righteousness, make their way to heaven. That was their whole game ("Be as righteous as me"), and Paul said, "That isn't going to work." That's why in Philippians, by the way, you see Paul go through his credentials…Pharisee, circumcised on the eighth day, a Benjamite, persecuted the church. All those things don't matter because they don't make a man right before God. Jesus does.
You'll find that men get swept up in fashion a lot. You have to make sure you are not one of those individuals who gets caught up in what is fashionable. You want to get caught up in what is faithful and true. Do you know about this fashion? A bunch of guys are wearing rompers. I think if you just go along with the sway of culture you're going to look back and go, "What was I doing wearing that?"
Here's what I'm telling you. A romper is a onesie that's cut off at the thigh. Children wear it. What do children do? "You can't take away my rattle!" "You can't take away my right to have sex. You can't take away my right to do what I want to do when I want to do it." Some sociologists from the University of North Carolina a number of years ago studied the worldview of young adults, and they coined a phrase called moralistic therapeutic deism.
This is what it means: deism…they believe there's a God…moralistic…and that God wants you to be good…therapeutic…and that what is good is what makes you happy. That's the prevailing view of the younger generation. And there is no need to repent, because there is no sin except what doesn't make you happy, and one day we're all going to go to be with our happy God in heaven and wear our rompers and eat ice cream. That's moralistic therapeutic deism.
When you confront that… We have a world that's out there right now saying, "Hey, I think this is what is true," and somebody says, "No, I think I want to reason with you; it may not be true," they stop listening, and they can't reason against you. They shouldn't be able to rebuke your conduct. So what do they do? They throw a riot. Does that sound familiar? So what are you supposed to do? Don't back down. In love, keep speaking truth. "Well, Todd, it might get ugly." Right. It might get really ugly. That's your job.
By the way, this is why we have so many kids who are screwed up: parents don't want their kids to throw fits in the grocery store. "I need that! I'm going to knock the pickles over." "Shh! Here, take it. Put it in the cart." Immature people respond that way. Prophets go, "Well, you can throw a little fit if you want and look like an idiot, but you're not knocking over the pickles, and if you do, I'm going to tan your heinie. You're not getting that, because that's not the way you get things in life."
We need adults. We need prophets who aren't going to be put off by tantrums people are throwing. You may not have a chance to speak to… When your kid is throwing a fit, that's not the time to try and reason with them, but there's going to be a time that you get to, and you need to. Jeremiah 1:17 says, "Gird up your loins." In other words, act like a soldier. Do what you're supposed to do and arise. "Get up and speak to them all that I have commanded you. Don't be dismayed before them, lest I dismay you before them."
When you are the means through which grace and adult and enlightened thinking is to come, your kid may not like it. Your snowflake world may not like it, but that's your job. You don't stop speaking to them what you have seen and heard, and you do it with gentleness and reverence. Don't get in a shouting match. You don't become a fool to answer a fool. They'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
You have to wait for the right moment. Gallup has a phrase (Gallup is the polling institution) that leaders lead better when they read Gallup. No, they don't. Leaders aren't influenced by polls; leaders change polls because they speak truth in a reasonable way with a life that backs it up. The world may ride against you, but you be ready.
I don't have time to teach this (I wish I did), but Jason, in effect, is approached, because that's where the church is meeting there in Thessalonica, and he basically creates a peace bond, because they come looking for Paul, because the exact same thing happens in the midst of this riot. They drag Jason and some brethren (verse 6) from the house, and they say, "These men have upset the whole world."
What does that sound like? "These Christians are upsetting us! These people are saying we can't marry who we want to marry and act like we want to act." I could give you a thousand other examples. They're upsetting the way the world does business. Listen. Sometimes we upset them because the way we go about communicating is a problem. That's why our speech should be seasoned with salt, as it were. But make sure you gird up your loins and arise, lest God dismay you, and do it gently and with reverence.
It says when he had this and the crowd was stirred up against them… In verse 9, it says that the city officials received a pledge from Jason, some sort of peace bond, where he said, "Hey, I'll give you some money as evidence that we're not going to keep doing this." He gave his word. This Christian gave his word that they wouldn't preach anymore.
Paul later, when he writes back to the church in Thessalonica, says, "I've wanted to come to you many times, but Satan thwarted me." Because Paul said, "When the church says it won't do something it's supposed to do, that isn't of the Father." That's what cowards do, and it's not of the Father. What's of the Father is what happened in Acts 4 and Acts 5. "You decide what's right for you to do, but we're going to fear God, not man. We're not going to stop saying what we've seen and heard."
"Then we're going to kill you."
"Well, then to live is Christ but to die is gain."
Appeasement doesn't work. You can't stroke a tiger like a kitten and think it'll turn into one. Appeasement, Churchill said when he looked at Neville Chamberlain's philosophy with Hitler, is like feeding friends to an alligator one at a time hoping he'll eat you last. You watch what happens when you appease kids who throw tantrums. They become tyrants.
It's not going to be just this one thing, but it's going to be another thing. You want a world that's screwed up? Start having adults listen to kids when they're 5 say, "I think I'm a boy, even though I know the world tells me I'm a girl," and say "Okay." You're going to have some really hurting children and a very confused world.
Look at what happens. Paul leaves Thessalonica and shows up in a place called Berea. It says, "Now these were more noble-minded…" Eugenes is the word. They were well-bred. That's what noble-minded people were called. They were the well-bred ones. None of us are that, by the way. We're not well-bred. We are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We like to go our own way. We don't think we need God. But here's how God saves sons of Adam and sons of Eve.
It says these guys were not like the Thessalonicans. They sat and listened and received the word with great eagerness, and then that word anakrino (examine). It means with integrity and absence of bias, like mature people do. They go, "Listen. I want to wear a romper. Sit down and tell me why I shouldn't. Hey, I want to use abortion as a birth control. Sit down and tell me why that's not a good idea.
I may end up still thinking I can do that, but let's talk about where life begins. Let's talk about what'll happen to me if I do that. Let's talk about society that disintegrates family. Let's talk about a church that says divorce because you just can't get along is okay. Let's have a reasonable conversation together, and then we'll both choose whom we're going to serve."
That's what mature men do. The Bereans sat and listened. That's one of the things you have to do. That's why you don't argue with drunk men and with mobs. But if you can get on the fringe of the mob and go, "Man, if you want to have a cup of coffee, I'd love to sit with you…"
"I'm not going to have coffee with you, you hater!"
"Okay, we're probably not going to have a cup of coffee."
But you wait. When they get sick and tired of being sick and tired, there's going to be a chance. You just make sure your life is being conducted in the way that it should so when they see the disorder and the chaos that comes from their way they go, "Where is their beauty? Where is their order? Where is their peace?" The ones who imprisoned you and called you bad names… You have to see that they're prisoners. Hurt people hurt people, and you have to be gentle toward them and love them.
Speak the truth to them. They're going to go crazy, but don't be dismayed. There's going to be a time… If they ever sit with you, you need to be ready to say, "Has anybody ever told you this story? God doesn't hate homosexuals. Would you forgive me if you've ever heard the church say that? God loves you, just like he loves me. God is not mad at you that you've had abortions. His heart is broken. He knows your pain." And on and on and on.
It says these guys "studied the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Many believed, and the church prospered. So what do we do? Here's what you do. You live well, church. You sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. You become more like Jesus every day, and when you screw up you go, "Hey, I need to ask your forgiveness."
When you blow it with your friends who don't believe what you believe, just tell them, "Hey, what I just did right there was not consistent with my Savior. I need to seek your forgiveness and make amends. Please don't let my imperfect messaging make you miss the message." You live well and live boldly. You speak the truth everywhere you go, and you love always. That's the mark.
We live together in peace. That's who we are. We're people who live together. As Peter says in 1 Peter, we honor all people. We love the brotherhood. We fear God, not man, and we honor the king, except when the king says, "You will not speak about truth, because that upsets our society." Then you go, "No, I think it serves society."
"We're going to kill you if you keep saying that."
"To die is gain. This world is not my home. I'm an ambassador for that King. How can I not do what he wants me to do?"
"We will throw you to the beasts."
"Get your animals."
"We'll burn you at the stake."
"That hour of momentary light affliction won't affect me."
"What do you know?"
"I know that God loves you and that he has been raised from the dead."
Father, I pray that we, as a church, would be faithful in the way we love our world and not get discouraged when the mob riots, that we wouldn't become a fool to answer a fool, lest we be like him, but we would answer a fool in his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes, just like your Word tells us. I pray that our speech would be seasoned with salt, as it were.
If there's anybody here today who has had this misconception of God that they need to be good enough long enough that God would accept them or that God is trying to get them to listen to a bunch of rules and not set them free, that they would look at the Scripture with me and see that's not at all what the Bible says, that the Bible says God is love and that we keep his commandments, and this is the love of God, that his commandments are not burdensome, and they would run to you and find the life that I have found.
Lord, I thank you for this body and this church, that today many folks are going to go out from here and sing the song of redemption and love people who disagree with them and be adults to people who are throwing tantrums, being gracious to people who are sowing into their lives that which will not eventually be life giving; that we wouldn't get mad when they beat us but sing praises to God and give thanksgiving that we're not living that way anymore ourselves.
For we, too, were once given to madness, hateful and hating one another, living lives of envy and lustful desire, and you have saved us, not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to your mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of your Spirit. May we declare that kindness to others. We thank you, Lord, that they can come here and see the goodness of God's way. Help us now to go and be your church and your people in this land, for this day, to the glory of God, amen.