Moving Off Dead Center

Acts 14:27 “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (NIV)

Observation: Paul and Barnabas have been on a preaching circuit, the fruit of which was anything but neutral. The same message that moved many to Christ led others to plot the death of the messengers. In each city a similar division resulted: effective preaching backed by signs and wonders drew some to the Cross and enraged others. In Lystra, for example, listeners’ initial response was to rally ‘round the priest of Zeus who brought animals for sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:13). Not long after, the same crowd was inflamed against the preachers by out-of-town Jews, so they stoned Paul, leaving him for dead (v. 19).

Application: In light of all that, Paul’s trip report to his church back home was almost comical: “God,” he said, “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Well, yes, that would be the “glass-half-full” way of reporting your stoning. Like the child who begins excitedly digging through the pile of stable offal under conviction that a pony must be in there somewhere, so is Paul’s report as he assesses the impact of their latest tour. Not everyone believed, but all were stirred to a response—even those who tried to maintain a center-of-the-road stance had to move to one side or the other.

No one in Paul’s crowds would be able to lean on ignorance of Christ’s claims as a defense against future judgments. What was it about his presentation that wrought such impassioned response from his listeners? Was it the decibels of his sound system or the just-right lighting? Perhaps it was the warm-up band or the slick PowerPoint his audiovisual team developed for each message. Likely not. Paul summed his world-shaking message in one line of his report: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 22). Listeners already open to loving God loved Him all the more as Paul’s words tenderized their hearts. The offended ones were those who preferred to rely on their religious traditions for “doing church.” The idea of personal accountability to a suffering Christ was so offensive that they would stone a man and leave him for dead in the self-righteous name of their religion.

See how stark are my choices? Blessing or curses. Light or darkness. Lukewarmness, that deadly middle ground cursed by Jesus in Revelation 3:15-16, is the religiosity of the day. I must be moved from that so in the end, based upon my response, I will know that His assessment of my life is just and true.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep me from the deadness of lukewarmness. Stir such passion for You in my heart that none who know me would doubt how I have responded.

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