[Sept 26]--Team Effort

Acts 16:11-15

OK, you knew it was only a matter of time before I found another one. Of course I’m referring to what I call “tension verses,” where within a short verse or two we find two truths in tension. The reason I love them so much is because they provide balance. Remember Luther’s analogy? Humanity is like a drunken guy on a horse: He falls off one side, gets back on and then proceeds to fall off the other side. Each of us has our own background, prejudices, biases, strengths and weaknesses. Thus each of us are subject to different failings and shortfalls. Tension verses or passages speak to people on opposite sides of a spectrum.

When it comes to bringing people to Christ, who has the greatest responsibility? There are Bible passages which make it sound like it’s all on us to reach people using the best means possible. We need to plan. We need to research the targeted audience: Are we reaching Baby-boomers or Gen-X’ers? What rung on the economic ladder are they on? Churched or unchurched? The best way to reach X is not necessarily the best way to reach Y. Paul exemplified this philosophy with his own ministry: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” You can see this in the book of Acts. As I’ve pointed out multiple times, whoever’s preaching the Good News often tailored their presentation to their audience. When speaking to Jews and God-fearers, you’ll see a lot of quotes from the Old Testament, particularly the prophets. When speaking to pure pagans, you’ll see other methods used.

But is that the end of the story? Not quite. The same apostle who said he would become all things to all men had quite a bit to say about God’s role as well. The Christian teachers in the Calvinist tradition—who claim that it’s just a matter of God choosing whom he wants to save—have several passages in Paul’s epistles that they point to.

I’m not here to lay out exactly the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human decision. The main reason for that is because the Bible really doesn’t lay out the details either. There are verses that make it sound like it’s all God’s choice, and there are others that make it sound like it all depends on human decision.

But here’s the perfect balance, and I think just about every Bible-believing Christian would agree with what follows: We can’t bring people to salvation in Christ without God’s specific intervention, and God refuses to do it without us. Verse 14 describes Lydia’s conversion this way: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.”

You see the perfect balance here? You and I and Billy Graham and anyone else can shout from the rooftops about Jesus. We can use every method to make the Message as attractive as possible to the intended audience, just like Paul did. But if the Lord doesn’t open their heart, we’re wasting our time.

At the same time, the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. The Lord has chosen people like you and me to be his messengers. He won’t do it without us. If he allowed angels to do it, they'd trip all over themselves rushing forward to volunteer. But he’s passed over each and every one of them, and has chosen you and me.


Lord Jesus, I want to be your megaphone, your ambassador of peace, your signpost. Whatever you want me to be, the answer’s “yes.”

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