Monday, October 13, 2008

This week's sermon: A tale of two cities

Acts 17:1-15.
In these verses, we see Paul and company travel to two cities: Thessalonica and Berea. Both cities have large enough Jewish communities to have synagogues, in both Paul reasons with the people about the Messiah, both produce some believers, both have riots in town because of the missionaries' work. But one city is commended over the other. So what made the difference?

Luke tells us that Paul spent three weeks reasoning and debating with the Thessalonians about the Messiah, and what his life would be like. Specifically, he talked about the sufffering of the Messiah, that he would have to die and be raised to life. After debating these points for three weeks, he comes to his conclusion: This Messiah is Jesus. There were some Jews who believed, some God-fearing Greeks, and some Greek women accepted this message as well. As a result of these conversions, there were some in the Jewish community who felt threatened, and decided to make a public protest by starting a riot.

The mob stormed the house where Paul and company had been staying, and dragged off the owner of the house, Jason, and some other believers. They threw them before the town authorities charging them with honoring another king besides Caesar. The men were fined and let go, but it was enough of a scare that they sent the missionaries on to their next destination under cover of night.

When they came to Berea, Luke tells us they went right to the synagogue and began their evangelizing efforts anew. Here is where we see the distinction in the two towns, Luke tells us that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians because they embraced the teaching with joy and began to diligently search the scriptures daily to confirm the teaching that Paul had given them.

As a result of their reaction to the gospel message, many Jews believed, many prominent women, and even some Greek men came to faith. The different reaction brought about an abundant harvest in the lives of the Bereans.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we receive teaching with Joy? and Do we search the scriptures diligently to see if what is being taught is the Truth of God? These two can make the difference between barren lives, lives bearing little fruit, and lives producing fruit abundantly. They accepted the teaching with Joy because they were seeking to learn the things of God. They did not think that they had arrived at the place in their lives where they did not need to learn any more. They recognized that God still had things to teach them. Notice, though, that these Bereans did not just absorb what was taught, they diligently searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true. We have to do the same if we want to see fruit in our lives.

We need to be humble enough to seek the things of God and learn what we are still lacking. We also need to be concerned enough to diligently seek whether what we are learning is the Truth. That applies to every teaching we receive, not just from Bible teachers we don't know, but even our Sunday School teachers, even our Ministers! I invite you to search the scriptures to see if what I tell you is the Truth of God. If it is not, I invite you to tell me, so that I can get it right as well! This is how we will grow in the knowledge of the things of God, His Truth; and that knowledge leads to greater growth of His Fruit in our lives which can spill over into the lives of others around us.

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