[Sept 19]--Turning of the Tide

Acts 13:13-52

We’re going to skip vss. 4-12, since I don’t really have a lot to say about it. It’s a wonderful story about a “power encounter” between God’s power and Satan’s power. These things do happen, especially on the frontier of the Good News. Talk to just about any missionary and they can tell you stories like this.

We’re going to get into this topic a lot more when we study Paul’s presentation in Acts 17, but I'd like to note it here as well. Paul was addressing a group of devout Jews and Gentile God-fearers. They knew and believed the Old Testament Scriptures. So what does he start his sermon with? The Exodus, then Saul, then David, and then the prophets. He quotes from the prophets twice and a prophetic Psalm once, and brings it back to Christ.

Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon, the greatest preacher in 19th century England, how he came up with a sermon. He said it was simple: He just picked a passage in Scripture (Old or New Testament) and went over hill and countryside to bring it back to Christ. Every time you read the Old Testament, figure out how it leads you back to Christ.

Instead of focusing on the content of the sermon itself, I’d like to examine more the response to it, because I think it holds a strong and disconcerting lesson for us today. We see here a pattern which is repeated in Acts: The Gentiles welcome the Message of Jesus, while the Jews largely reject it.

If you read Paul’s letters, especially chapters nine through eleven of Romans, you see his heartache concerning this. He loved his Jewish brothers, and said he'd give up his own salvation if it would mean theirs. But he realized that the Lord was telling him to move on. There’s a point, directed by the Spirit, when you have to move on to riper fruit. It’s pretty unfair to keep on pounding away at someone who doesn’t respond and neglect someone who’s ready to drop into your hand at the slightest invitation.

How does this apply to us? Well, I hope it doesn’t. I hope I’m completely wrong. But here’s my theory, presented in the sincerest hopes that I’m totally off my gourd.

For the last 200 years this nation has been the forefront of international missions. The founders of this country saw us as a “Shining city on a hill,” a new Israel on earth. We were supposed to be the example for the rest of the world. We certainly didn’t live up to that ideal all the time, but we made a sincere effort.

Are we still? I don’t know. Maybe. But I see the desire to see a lost world come to Christ rather dimming as of late. And I hear such incredible things going on in Korea, China, and Latin America. Let me focus on Korea for a moment. That’s the home of the largest Christian church in the world. Pastors of churches routinely walk up and down the aisles and pray for hours (yes, hours) for the people who will sit in the pews on Sunday morning. My friends, this is the same mindset that caused a Buddhist monk to set himself on fire in order to protest actions by his own government. If you take that misguided but fervent devotion and point it in the right direction, what can the Enemy do to stop it?

Right now Korean missionaries are going into China to spread the Message. They’re going into the Middle East. They’re going where I wouldn’t even be able to go. God is doing an incredible work among them.

That brings us back to Paul’s warning. Israel was meant to be the light of the world. They were supposed to reflect God’s glory to the nations. When they stopped doing that, the Lord shifted his blessing away to others who would do the job.

I don’t know if God's doing that today or not. I don’t pretend to know his mind. But I do know this: America will only continue to be great as long as she is good. And if you don’t think the reverse could happen, keep in mind he’s done it before.

Father, I love my country. I know you’ve done incredible things through her in the past. Please bring her back to you. May her devotion to you light up the world once more.

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