Monday, September 25, 2006

Acts 18:1-11

Paul passionately believed in Jesus. He deeply and firmly believed that Jesus uniquely and definitively represented God in the world. This is vital for us to grasp. As a devout Jew, Paul had not at first viewed Jesus in this way. Rather, Paul had seen Jesus as a dangerous deceiver about God and himself. Then with overwhelming grace and love, Jesus knocked Paul down on his way to Damascus to intimidate followers of Jesus. This “wreck on the highway” metaphorically killed Paul but literally saved his life. After that, deep down and through and through, Paul knew Jesus to be the fulfillment of all God intended to do in Israel and the world.

Only this turn-around in the core of Paul’s being explains his corresponding passion to tell his fellow Jews and then Gentiles about Jesus. Whereas he had once believed Jesus to be bad news, now he knew Jesus to be good news. His resulting passion for Jesus we see throughout Acts. In today’s passage, for example, we find that Paul had been in Athens talking about Jesus to Jews in the synagogue, to people in the marketplace, and to participants in the philosophical forum. After a time, he relocated to Corinth. Paul continued in Corinth to devote himself to telling Jews and Gentiles about the greatness and goodness of Jesus, once crucified but now raised to new life to the glory of God and the benefit of all.

What do we pursue in life? Do we passionately pursue belief in Jesus, the kind of belief that leads to turned-around obedience to him, even if it risks our standing in the world’s view and perhaps even loss, suffering, and death? Paul practiced tent-making, yet in the core of his being he knew he lived and breathed as a Christ-one. Wherever he went – whatever city, whatever religious or social setting – he walked, talked, and acted as a follower of Jesus first and last. In our various settings – family, school, marketplace, community – do we walk, talk, and act purposefully as followers of Jesus first and last?

I am challenged by reading of Paul in Acts. I let so many things and pursuits distract and deter me from the pursuit of belief in Jesus, the kind that tells others by word and deed of the great good news of Jesus in my life and the world. Perhaps you have the same experience. Join with me, if you will, in praying for greater singleness and passion in identity and purpose as a Christ-one, first and last, to the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Gregory Strong

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