Real People in Real Places
Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 17.
How can a church make an impact for Jesus with the gospel? That’s a question that shouldn’t be reserved for pastors. Jesus didn’t give the Great Commission to a few elite leaders, he gave it to all his followers. So, what should we do? Is there a magic disciple making formula? If we look throughout Acts, I think we see a very simple “formula.” It is this: Meet real people in real places with the gospel. I fear sometimes we get so wrapped up in a method, that we forget the power of our message. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some great methods. There are helpful ways to explain salvation that wise saints have shared with God’s church, but let’s take a look at what’s happening in Acts 17. We’ll see how we need to meet real people in real places with the gospel.
First, we need to see that the early church was making a major impact. I love Acts 17:6. One of the believers in the church in Thessalonica is drug in front of the city authorities. They point to him and accuse him of being a part of a group of people who are “turning the world upside down.” I hope people say that about my life and the church I have the privilege of serving at. So how does one turn the world upside down? Meet real people in real places with the gospel.
When they head to Berea, the go into the synagogue. The real people in the place have a Jewish, and therefore religious, upbringing. We don’t know exactly what they said, but it appears they showed these Jewish believers how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament. They were well received. Acts 17:11 famously tells us that the Jews in Berea “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” These are real people. They have beliefs about God already. They need to see how the gospel interacts with what they already know about God from the Old Testament scriptures. Of course, at this point in Acts, the church is clear on its mission to reach beyond the walls of the synagogues. The gospel is powerful to save all kinds of people in all kinds of places.
In Acts 17:16, they arrive in Athens. The first thing Paul notes is that this city is not filled with God fearing Jews, it’s a pagan city filled with idols. If Paul was committed to the method he used in Berea, he would have opened up the Old Testament and shown them how Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. But Paul new that these were real people who didn’t care that there was a promise to Abraham! So he went to a pagan place of worship, and starting with one of their pagan altars, he explained how Jesus is the true and only God. Some people laughed at him. Some believed.
I just want us to see this morning that Paul didn’t budge on the message. Jesus saves sinners and we receive that gift through repentance and faith. But he brought the gospel message to real people in real places. He interacted with people based on their needs. Let’s follow Paul’s example. There is likely someone you will see today who doesn’t know Christ. Some might be God fearing but not born again, some might be avowed atheist. Regardless, we know the message that is powerful to save anyone. Let’s share it as we love real people in real places with the gospel.
Grace & Peace.