We entitled it “The Men Who Turned the World Upside Down,” and it covers the first 17 verses of Acts chapter 17 in our continuing study.
Now, the world went haywire at the fall. There’s no question about that. It flipped off its spiritual axis when Adam sinned. And it was a two-fold problem. Adam not only fell and became cursed, but the globe went with him so that the Earth itself is cursed. There’s a cursed Earth, and in that cursed Earth lives a cursed man. And consequently, it’s very interesting that man is rather comfortable in his sinning, isn’t he? And the reason for that is simply this: you put a cursed man in a cursed system, and he’s going to get along with his system pretty well.
It’s when you apply righteousness to that cursed system that you make waves. And that’s why the truth of God, throughout all history has tended to flip man’s world. The duality of this problem, I think, is indicated in John chapter 3, where it says that men love darkness. In other words, they love their system; they get along with their system because their deeds are – what? – are evil.
Now, when you’ve got an evil man and an evil world, you got a good partnership. And so, there’s a sense in which man is accommodated to his system through the curse. The thing which really upsets his system is the application of righteousness, or is the introduction of truth in a system of error.
It would be like taking a mathematical system and premising it all on the fact that one and one equals three and on that basis developing an entire mathematical system. And everything is great until some guy comes along and says, “No, one and one is two,” which would absolutely destroy the entire system.
Well, in a sense, man has developed a system of sin, and in that sin, as long as he continues to be a sinful, cursed creature, he can accommodate his system. It is when a Christian comes along and says, “One and one is two spiritually,” that his system is flipped.
Now, all throughout God’s redemptive history, God has had individuals who were sent by Him to do that to man’s system; who were sent to smash head on into man’s system and show that it was wrong. Now, from man’s viewpoint, his system is upside right. But from God’s viewpoint, it is upside down. From man’s viewpoint, he would say that the Christian turns the system upside down; from God’s viewpoint, the Christian turns the system upside right.
Now, God has always used drastic means to smash into man’s system. He has used miracles in particular ages. But always he has used men and women, people, individuals, small groups, larger groups. People are the vehicle that throw the system into chaos. Righteous people, running in to an unrighteous system create waves.
Now, in this chapter we meet a few of these kind of people, the people who really have an effect on the system. At the end of verse 6, the people in Thessalonica characterized Paul and Silas and Timothy with these words, “These that have turned the world upside down” – from God’s viewpoint upside right – “are come here also.”
Now, the statement they make is these people are flipping our system. They are creating chaos. Now, what a commendation. Boy, wouldn’t you like to be known as the person who turned the world upside right? What a tremendous thing. And so, they really commend them in saying that.
Now, as we look at this passage, 1 to 17, I want to pull out of this passage for you what I feel are the basic, necessary characteristics of somebody who does that to the system. I suppose you’re like I am. If you really think about it, you want to have an effect. Right? You want to make waves. You don’t want to just float along on somebody else’s waves. You want to be part of the trouble, or you want to be part of issue.
You know, I’ve heard of people who prayed, “God, make my life an issue in the world.” That’s right. “Make me count in the world. Anything.” There’s nothing worse than just being here. You know? Just – just being here. There’s got to be a reason; there’s got to be something affected by your life.
Now, these people turned the world upside down because of five simple things that are illustrated in the text. This is not the absolute answer; this is not the absolute list. This is just the five that pop in my attention here.
One is courage. You’re never going to affect the world; you’re never going to really belt the system between the eyes unless there’s courage there. Second is content. Third is converts. When you start changing people’s lives within the system, then you really create chaos. Fourth is conflict, which will happen when the first three happen. And fifth is concern, and that’s the motive that makes it all happen.
All right, to begin with, we’ll review the first two. The first thing that makes an individual one who can really alter the system, one who really affects the world, who turns it upside right, is courage.
Now, let me give you a definition of courage. You ready for this? Simple, biblical definition of courage. Courage equals confidence in God. That’s courage. That’s simply the definition of courage biblically.
Now listen; if you knew that you were going to be victorious in a certain enterprise, if you knew that you were going to be blessed, if you knew there was going to be joy, if you knew there was going to be fruit, if you knew God would be pleased, would you do it? Yes. Want to hear something wonderful? If God ever encourages you to do anything, you can know that all of that’s going to happen. The only remaining question is if you actually have confidence enough in God to believe that.
You know, I’ve often thought, as I watch, you know, the replay of a football game, or instant replay, it would be kind of neat if you could see that before the game. See? Because then you would know what was going to happen. And in the Christian’s life, that is precisely what has happened. God has given us a guaranteed victory, a guaranteed joy, a guarantee of fruit. Absolutely.
And we can enter into anything that God designs for us to do and encourages us to do, and the Spirit moves us to do, knowing that it cannot turn out except good. And so, courage is only a matter of confidence in God. You either believe Him or you don’t. And if you’re hesitant to witness, or you’re hesitant to do anything that God encourages you to do because you’re afraid, or because there’s fear, that translates into a poor theology. You just do not have a proper perspective of God. Or if you feel that you’ve got to run your own life, and you can’t free up to let God run it, that again is the problem that you think you can handle you better than He can. It’s a lack of confidence in God.
So, you see, everything goes back to the nature of God. That is the key; that is the cardinal understanding that a Christian must have; you must know who God is. So, courage is confidence in God.
Now, I want to show you how confident Paul was. He had been on this missionary journey, the second journey, and he was pursuing the plan as God had directed him, which was to the Jew first. And he came to this particular place called Thessalonica in verse 1, and there was a synagogue of the Jews there, verse 2, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them.” The first thing he does, when he gets to Thessalonica, is go to the synagogue. Now, herein lies his courage.
You say, “Why?”
Because before, in chapter 13 and 14, when he went to the Jewish synagogue, what always happened? Trouble, disaster, persecution. They tried to kill him.
“But,” you said, “if he knew all of that, how could he possibly go into the synagogue again and jump right in the fire?”
Because he had confidence in the God who was directing him to do it. That if God puts him there, God’s not going to forsake him in the middle of it. And so, he – he goes right – right into the synagogue, knowing in the past what has happened to him and expecting it to happen again, but believing in God. That’s courage; that’s confidence in God. In spite of what had happened, remembering all of the pain and the grief, he went in anyway. And he knew that he had to go to the Jewish synagogue because he had to buck the – the existing religious system. He had to bring those Jews to a knowledge of Christ.
I think of John Bunyan. John Bunyan bucked the religious establishment. And John Bunyan was in England, and the religious establishment was the Church of England. And he wasn’t real happy with the Church of England.
So, he decided, “I’ll operate outside the Church of England, and I’ll just preach Jesus Christ and teach Christ.” And so, he started preaching all over everywhere.
And they said, “You better shut up, or we’ll put you in jail. You can’t preach outside the organized church.”
And John Bunyan said, in effect, “Just watch me.” And he continued to preach. So, you know what they did? They packed him up and threw him in a cell, and they left him there for 12 years.
You say, “Oh, John, now see what you did by being impetuous?”
You know what he did for 12 years in there? In a good part of that time he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Next to the Bible, that book has affected more lives than any book ever written. Now, if John Bunyan hadn’t of had the courage to do what was right and take the effect of it, he may never have had the time to write that thing, certainly not while he was running around preaching everywhere. God knew he needed to be in jail for 12 years, because he needed to put some things down on paper that could affect generations for history. And he had the confidence to believe God, and he bucked the established situation; he bucked the church, and he did what he felt God wanted him to do, and he paid the price, and God honored him.
Now, Paul is going to buck the system, too, know that if God wants to put him in jail, that’s fine. The last time he got in jail, the whole jailer’s family got saved. That’s no problem. So, he is willing to confront the system in Israel.
Now, he did the same thing in verse 10. And we’re going to jump back and forth between Thessalonica and Berea in this study, because there are parallels. Verse 10, he goes to the second little town on this tour from Philippi, and he comes there by night, and he goes into the synagogue, at the end of verse 10, immediately again. Here he goes again. There’s no way to stop the guy.
And you say, “It’s amazing the persistence.”
Yes, because he just got out of a riot in Thessalonica. He went to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica in verse 1 and 2, and by the time you get to verse 5, there’s a riot going on. And they beat – they chase him out of town, and he bails out in verse 10, and goes right back into the next Jewish synagogue. That’s courage, which translates into confidence in God.
Now, that’s the kind of courage that is basic stuff to somebody who’s going to affect the world. If you’re afraid of your own shadow, and you don’t really trust God, you’re not going to have an effect on anybody.
You say, “John, how could I have that kind of courage?”
I gave you the principles two weeks ago; let me just review. One, trust God. That’s the basic. Trust God. Two, confess sin; and three, thank Him in advance. Acts 28:15, Paul said, “We thank...” – it says, “Paul thanked God and took courage.”
Trust God. Confess your sin, because if there’s sin in your life, you’re liable to really get it, because that’ll come as chastisement. So, trust God, confess sin, and thank him in advance.
Now, the second thing that we see here that’s going to really be a part of a man who affects the world is content. Not only courage, but content. Now, it wasn’t just Paul’s courage; it was what he said, wasn’t it?
You know, so many Christians say, “Well, I’m – I’m a living witness at work. I haven’t said anything yet, but I’m living it.”
Nobody ever got to heaven by watching somebody. You got to say it sooner or later. It’s nice to live it. And when you live it, maybe you earn the right to say it, right? But sooner or later, you have to say something. There’s no way you can give them a spiritual wink; it doesn’t – it just doesn’t work that way. You see? You have to open your mouth, and something has to come out that relates to truth.
Now, Paul – you know, people say, “Well, Paul was what he was because of his dynamic.”
No, he was what he was because of his message embodied in his personality. Well, there are a lot of people in this world who have fantastic personalities; they just have the wrong message. Now, Paul was the combination of the perfect package and the perfect content. His message, though, was the issue. Believe me, the message is the issue; it’s what we say that matters.
You know, in Nehemiah, when Israel was being taken back to the land, and they were getting ready to rebuild the city, you know, and they were going to try to put it all together spiritually, the thing that Nehemiah did in chapter 8, verse 1, he stood up and he said, “Bring me the book.” And they brought the book of the law, the Old Testament, and the people all stood up, and Ezra stood up and read the thing to them, and a revival broke out. There wasn’t any emotionalism in that. It was just content. He just read them the truth. And believe me, that’s the key to affecting the world is speaking the truth.
Boy, I really believe in this, and I believe that it’s so important for Christians to know the Word of God so they can give an answer to people.
Now, notice that Paul, in verse 2, does this, “And Paul, as his manner was, went unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.” We saw, in our last message that reasoning with them means that he actually talked to them in a dialogue. He fielded questions, he answered them, and he took the Old Testament, which is the Scriptures in verse 2, and “opened and alleged” out of them. In other words, he took Old Testament texts, and he opened and alleged from those Old Testament texts that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.
So, he took an Old Testament, and he proved to them from the Old Testament that Messiah would have to die. That would be easy to prove: Isaiah covers that in 53, and so does Psalm 22. Then he proved that, as the psalmist says – David, particularly, the Messiah had to rise again.
So, he said, “Now, you’re looking for your Messiah. He must be one who died and rose.” Then at the end of verse 3, he offers that Jesus, whom I preach, is that Messiah.” So, he did an Old Testament study and then said, “Christ fulfills it.” And he did this on three occasions on the Sabbath day. And perhaps in between he was busy as well.
Now, notice the term “reasoned.” That implies the mind and not the emotions. Doesn’t it? You know, you always hear about emotionalism. Emotional responses. That you can get an emotional response. I’m going to speak at a funeral. They say, “Oh, please, John, people’s hearts are so tender, and they’re so emotionally torn up, that maybe they’ll come to Christ.”
And you know what I immediately remind myself? That it doesn’t do a bit of good to go in there and get them to make an emotional decision. That’s the one time, maybe above all, that I want to be sure that the Gospel is absolutely, factually clear to them. See? I mean preaching the Gospel isn’t just getting people all emotional, telling 13 deathbed stories and singing 84 verses of a hymn. That is not reasoning with people. That is not opening and alleging truth out of the Scripture and applying it to Christ and into their lives personally.
You see, facts are at the heart of this thing. And I don’t mean to say that your emotions aren’t involved; I mean I get emotional, too. Emotion is fine. Jesus wept. I’m not against emotion; I’m against emotionalism. It doesn’t do any good to get somebody who’s emotionally - oh, you can – you know, if you’re smart enough, and if you’re good enough at it, you can get all kinds of emotional reaction. You can have all these people coming forward. And then you say, “Why did you come?”
And they say. See? They don’t know what they’re even there for. See? Just crying a lot. “Somebody told me to come, so here I am.” We’re not talking about that kind of emotion.
There’s no high pressure here; there’s no hysteria; there’s no super-charged emotionalism. He gave the facts, and he reasoned with them out of the Scriptures. He didn’t rely on anything but allowing the Holy Spirit to apply revelation. You see?
Now, look over here in Berea. He did the same thing there, in verse 11. Now, he got to Berea. There were some wonderful people. In fact, there’s a lot of Christians who call themselves Bereans because they like to identify with these noble folks – and which is fine.
But anyway, the brethren at Berea were pretty sharp. They were noble. More noble than those in Thessalonica. Why? Because they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so. You see, there – the difference between them and Thessalonica was they themselves searched it out. In other words, they were more plugged in to the Old Testament. They were more spiritual, if I can use that term – they were more spiritual Jews than the ones in Thessalonica and Gentile proselytes. I mean they were really studying the Old Testament. They could take that thing and look it up for themselves, whereas probably the ones in Thessalonica were concordance cripples. You know? They probably couldn’t find anything in there. And so, Paul had to just go along and go along and point everything to them. This group was pretty sharp.
But I want you to notice that what happened was, “They received the Word with all readiness of mind” – you see? – “and they searched the Scriptures.” You see, the basis of their exposure was content oriented. Do you see?
Well, we’ve made that point so many times, but it’s so very, very important. And the content was exposed to them by Paul on his feet. You know, that’s a tremendous ability, to just be able to stand there, and as Peter says, “To give to every man an answer for the reason of the hope that is within you.” To be able to just reason with men, shoot it out. See? Tremendous. Paul knew the Word. And there’s no shortcut. You always meet people. Everybody wants a shortcut to Bible knowledge. They want a gimmick; they want a formula; they want three easy lessons to master the Bible. If I wrote a book like that, it wouldn’t matter what it said, it would sell like crazy. “Mastering the Bible in Two Hours.” Whoo. You know? See? Or even two weeks. You know how long it takes to master the Bible? You couldn’t do it if you lived a thousand years. Now, you can get the principles, but the study never ends. Because as soon as you got the principles, you forgot the first ones you learned, and you got to start all over again.
And so, Paul knew he could stand on his feet, and he could use the Scriptures. Boy, that’s a tremendous tool.
You know, you say, “Well, I’m not teaching a class, so I don’t study very much.”
You know, the day might come when you’re not even teaching a class at all, but you’re going to walk up to somebody who’s going to need answers, and if you haven’t been studying, you don’t have them for the crisis. You know, it’s one thing to know how to save a drowning person in the life saving class at the YMCA; it’s something else to know how to save a drowning person when the ship goes down and you’re in the ocean. And you ought to be ready for that. That’s the crisis time. So, if you’re not teaching a class, that’s no excuse not to study. You better study for the crisis when the life comes across your life that needs answers and you’re the only resource.
So, they knew that he knew the Word, and that was it. Content is what really affects the world; it’s the message that does it.
Now, you say, “How can I really know that message? How can I know the Word?”
Let me just review what I told you last time. One, confess sin, because if there’s sin in your life, you have a hindrance to knowing the word, 1 Peter 2:1. You can’t apprehend the Word through a sinful mind clearly.
Second thing, study the Word. There’s no shortcut. There is no shortcut. “Study the Word” - 2 Timothy 2:15 - “to show yourself approved unto God.”
Third, personalize the Word. Make it living in your life. Make it applicable. No, not just in your head, but in your life.
And fourth, share it. You know, the best way to learn something? Tell somebody else. I find that what I preach, I remember; what I don’t preach, I forget. I remember my sermons; I forget the books I read. And I think that’s true in anybody’s life. What you give away is what you really keep.
And so, if you’re going to be effective in content, you need to, one, confess your sin so that you have a clear mind and a pure mind; two, study the Word; three, personalize the Word; and four, share the Word. Even if it’s just teaching your wife or your husband or somebody else. Well, that’s review, courage and content.
Now, let’s go to the third one. There’s a third thing that makes somebody one who really affects the world, and that’s converts. You know, when you start seeing other people come to Christ, then you are really making an effect. Why? Because you’re multiplying the waves. See?
You say, “Oh.” You say, “You mean that in order to really affect the world, there’s got to be converts as a result of my life?”
Yes. You know, and I believe that every Christian – now watch this one; this may seem like heresy at first – I believe that every Christian should see converts.
You say, “John!” “What happened to your sovereignty of God?”
Well, it may be that you plant; it may be that you water; it will be that God does – what? – gives the increase. You may not see it now, but it’s going to happen if you’re faithful. Why? Jesus promised it.
You say, “Jesus promised that every Christian was going to be productive?”
Absolutely. If any branch bear not fruit, it isn’t even a true branch. Listen to John 15:16, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” – now, that’s a guarantee by the Lord Jesus Himself that a Christian is going to bear fruit.
You say, “Well, I – I’ve tried evangelizing. I – I’m not too good. I don’t think I’m called to that.” See?
No. There’s no such thing as not being called to that. You’re going to have fruit. Now, you may not see it all in this life; you may see it in the life to come. And I think it’s going to be kind of fun sometimes, when we get to heaven and find out who’s there because of the faithfulness of our addition to the process that went on in bringing that person to Christ.
I get letters sometimes from the tape ministry, from some obscure place in the world, and somebody says, “Oh, I just received Christ from hearing your tape over here in Africa,” or somewhere, you know, and I just – it’s unbelievable what God is doing. And that’s a part of the process of – of many lives touching one life. But I believe there’ll be fruit.
So, converts are part of it. Now watch, you take a cursed system, a vile, unholy system, and you multiply the number of holy people, and you really have an effect on that system. To change the world, you can’t do it alone; you’ve got to be reproductive. Do you see? That’s what I’m saying. Converts.
You know why Paul was so effective? Not because he went into town and nobody believed him, but because he went into town and a whole bunch of people believed him. And that’s what messed up the system. It’s like Gamaliel said, you know. He said, “Well, don’t worry about Paul. If he’s of God, things’ll happen. If he’s not, it’ll go away.” It didn’t go away. You see?
If you’re reproductive, then you’re affecting. You’re not going to do it alone. You’re not going to affect the world alone; you’re going to affect the world when you affect other people. And I believe that God intends for us to bear fruit.
Well, Paul went into town, look at verse 4, and he did all of this and preached Christ. He hit the issue right on the head. Verse 4, “And some of them believed.” Terrific. There’s a group of Jews who believed.
Now, notice the Greek word believed is not the word for faith; it is not the word for believing; it is a passive verb. It is the verb peíthō, and it means to be persuaded. They weren’t noble enough to dig it up themselves; they had to be talked into it. They were – they were persuaded. It’s a passive. But Paul could present such and irrefutable airtight presentation of Christ, that the Holy Spirit – and this implies, of course, that He’s at work – that the Holy Spirit could bring them to salvation. Paul could answer their questions. Isn’t that beautiful? They weren’t necessarily looking, and Paul presented such a tremendous argument, that they were persuaded, as it were, against their will to believe.
Now, in Berea, they were waiting to believe. Didn’t have to – didn’t have to persuade them. They were just waiting. All they needed to do was grab their Old Testaments and see if it was true and they were there. This bunch weren’t even waiting for it; they had to be talked into it. Isn’t it interesting how in evangelism you run into those two kinds of things? Sometimes you’ll meet the guy who doesn’t even seem like he’s open, and you’ll present Jesus Christ, and show him the – the – the argument, give him the whole plan, and he’ll see how beautiful it is and how perfect it is, and the Spirit of God will bring them to Christ. Other times, you get some guy just sitting and waiting for somebody to deliver the truth. See?
Well, Berea was that. You go down to verse 11, and they searched the Scriptures and so forth. Verse 12, “Therefore, many of them believed” – and it’s not the word peíthō, we’re persuaded, it’s the word pisteuō which means to believe. It’s an active verb. They believed; the others had to be persuaded. Now, how exciting it is that the believer can actually be ready for both situations. If he knows the Word well enough, he can persuade those who aren’t even open yet, and he can give the information to those who are diligent students so they can verify it on their own.
Well, the results were converts. It says, “Some believed” – verse 4 again. And we know one of them was Jason and some people in his house. And then chapter 20 tell about Aristarchus and Secundus, which gives us at least three names of those. And then, “consorted with Paul and Silas, and the devout Greeks a great multitude” – just a few Jews believed, a whole bunch of Gentiles believed, and of the chief women not a few. Apparently, there were some women who had some pretty important positions in the town, and they believed as well. And so, there as a tremendous beginning to the church. A big number of Gentiles, a lot of chief women, and some Jews. They always were the most difficult.
Well, you know, it was a beautiful beginning for the church at Thessalonica, and that was it. That beautiful little church. Paul reflected on the beginning of that church. Just listen to this, 1 Thessalonians 1:5. He wrote back to them, and he was remembering how they began. He says, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only” – oh, I like that, Paul, because we’ve been talking about that, haven’t we? We’ve been saying it’s content, isn’t it? You’ve got to give the content. But he says, “It didn’t come in content only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit” – you see, that’s the thing.
Don’t run out of here and say, “MacArthur says all you need is content.”
No he doesn’t. You need content, absolutely. But you need it bathed in the power and the energy of the Holy Spirit. He alone makes the miracle possible. And he says, “You became followers of us, and of the Lord, and you received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit. And you were an example to all that dwelt in Macedonia and Achaia.” Well, that’s quick. They’d just been saved a little while, and the whole place knows about them.
Look at verse 8, “For from you sounded out” – the Greek word echo – “the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God is spread abroad so that we don’t need to make a comment.” Do you know that the reputation of that little church just splattered all over the world? I mean the Word just went like wildfire. They were sitting right on the Egnatia Highway. Everybody that went through town knew what was going on. It’s exciting to see what happened to the group.
Now, you go down to the Berean group in chapter 17 and verse 12, and they believed, some Jews, many of them; more here because they were more noble, more open, and honorable women who were Greeks, and Greek men. And not just a few of them either. So, they had another harvest down there. And so, the church in Berea was born.
Let me giving you an interesting footnote. This is just – I don’t know, it may be interesting to you, it may not be, but I’ll give it to you. You never hear another word about Berea, and Thessalonica became the most beloved church that Paul ever wrote to. He just loved those people. And of all the churches that are written to in the New Testament, they seemed to be the most like Christ wanted the Church to be.
Now watch this, isn’t it interesting that with Berea, oh, they were so noble, so wonderful, but when they got saved, you never hear another thing about them. Thessalonica, they had to be persuaded; they weren’t so noble. But when they got saved, man, they went wild; they became what God wanted the Church to be.
You say, “What’s that supposed to prove?”
It is to prove that salvation is the equalizer. It doesn’t matter what you were before you were saved, at the moment of salvation it becomes an issue of what you do with the resources that become yours. Do you see?
People say, “Well, so-and-so, before he was saved, was oh-oh-oh. You know? He was into dope, and into, oh Satan, and into just lots of – and we can’t expect much.”
Oh, believe me, you can expect just as much as you can expect out of citizen number 1-A, the finest guy that ever was when he gets saved. Why? Because the resources are the same. You got it? And Thessalonica may not have been as noble as Berea, but once salvation happened, the resources were the same, and they tapped them in Thessalonica. Now, I don’t know that Berea didn’t; I’m just showing you that there’s no reason to assume that if you come in barely, or with all kinds of problems, you don’t get all there is. That’s a lot of baloney. Salvation isn’t gradual, it’s instantaneous. Do you believe that? It’s all yours. You’re complete in him.
And that’s something that I think we have to remember, because I think sometimes we don’t expect enough out of certain people. Because we say, “Oh, well, they’ve had such-and-such a background. Salvation is the equalizer, beloved. It’s the equalizer.
Well, let me just add a footnote. You know, I think – and just for – I think you’ll agree with this, I think that the most common reason that people will not believe is that they do not investigate the Scripture. Now, think about that. They do not investigate the Scripture. You always meet a guy, and you’ll say – I’ve had this happen many times, it’s a – I started talking about witnessing to them somehow about Christ or the Bible, and he’ll say, “Well, I don’t believe the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible.”
“Oh, you don’t believe the Bible? Do you realize that that is a – that is a very sweeping statement. You must be a scholar of – of tremendous repute to say such a thing. You don’t believe the Bible.
“You know, the Bible covers hundreds of years of history. It covers all of the revelation of God who made the universe. It covers spiritual reality. Do you realize that such a statement encompasses a tremendous amount of information?”
And the guy’ll usually go, “Uh, hmm. Well, I...”
“You must have studied it for years, because I know men who have studied the Bible year after year, and they totally believe it. My, how did you ever come to such a conclusion?” See?
“Well, I...” “You know, I read it a couple of times, you know. And I was in a class somewhere in college. The guy said it was a lot of baloney.”
Yeah, that’s about right, isn’t it? People don’t search the Scripture. Remember Tom Paine? Tom Paine wrote The Age of Reason, which was a – the classic blast against God and blast against Christ. And he was an atheist. And he blasted the Bible. Just – it was – of course he died, you know, repudiating everything he wrote. He died without God, and he knew it.
But Tom Paine – here’s an interesting quote out of The Age of Reason, page 65. He said – quote – “I had neither the Bible or the New Testament to refer to, though I was writing against both.” Now, what kind of scholarship is that? You try turning that in on your next term paper. “I had no sources.” You’re going to write a book against the Bible, you at least ought to know what the Bible’s about.
And the biggest problem, as I say, and the most common denominator in people’s unbelief is the fact that they have never searched it out. I actually believe, people, that we have, in the Bible, all we need to give somebody if they’re really open. You search the Scripture. Jesus said in John chapter 5, “You search the Scripture, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which speak of Me.”
I was in Cleveland, and I was going to dinner – a very wealthy family, and the man is a president of a big corporation, and his wife was driving me to dinner, you know, in their Rolls – in their Mercedes limousine. You know? Oh, I was waving at the people, you know. I mean you only get one chance like that. Right? So, I thought, “I’ll live it up.”
So, they take us to dinner at this lovely kind of palatial house, you know, and they served us steaks that were just monstrous things. Terrific. And they were so gracious, Christian people, and just exciting. His wife was telling me, on the way, about their conversion. And what an exciting conversion. They had been just never really told the Gospel. No one ever – she believed in God. For ten years she had believed in God and prayed to God, but never knew Christ. No one had ever told them about Christ. And so, her husband got this challenge from somebody to read the Bible and to find out the truth. And she told me that he went into a room and read the Bible in 80 hours. See? He read the Bible. And he came out of there, and he said, “This is true.” And he sat down and led his wife to Jesus Christ, he himself having met Christ during those 80 hours.
Search the Scriptures. Don’t you ever come and say, “Well, I don’t believe the Bible,” unless you know what you don’t believe. That’s fair. If there are ever to be waves, beloved, they’re going to be when we use the Word of God to win people to Jesus Christ. I believe the people who make the world different are the people who multiply the holiness in the world and. And the only way you can multiply holiness in the world is to lead somebody to Jesus Christ. That creates waves.
You say, “John, I’d like to do that. How do I do it? How can I be a person that does that?” Let me give you the quick little pattern. One, recognize your obligation. That’s important. Recognize your obligation.
You say, “You mean I have an obligation to share Christ?”
Yes, you do. Matthew 28, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and be my witnesses.” John 15:26, Jesus said, “The Father wants to give testimony, by the Spirit, through you, to the world. Recognize your obligation.
I woke up – well, I wasn’t asleep quite last night. I was laying in bed, and all of a sudden I just – I felt like God had dropped a rock on me. I just had a terrific, heavy pressure. And I was in my mind; I was thinking about three or four people that are on their way to hell. And you know – I don’t know; it was very strange. It just – it just overwhelmed me. And I said to myself, “God, they’re going to hell. You know, what am I doing?” My first reaction, “I got to get out of this bed.” You know? “What am I – I’m sleeping?” You know?
Well, I tell you I need to be reminded of that, and the Lord knows that. And I thanked him for somehow reminding me of that tremendous – you know, for me to have the truth and not to share it, what kind of a crime against humanity is that? And against God?
So, recognize your obligations. Secondly, recognize your obligations. Secondly, recognize the results are not always positive. Ts very important.
You go out and say, “I witnessed, and nothing happened. I’m not doing that anymore.”
People say, “Well, I heard a guy that taught an evangelism class one time. He says, “Well, the more you do it, the easier it gets.”
I don’t believe that for a minute. I do not believe it. You know why? The more you do it, the harder Satan’s going to resist it. I’ll tell you something else, the closer we get to the coming of Christ, the harder men’s hearts are going to get. It’ll never get easier; it’ll get harder, just so that you’ll know that. Not trying to discourage you, just want to tell you the truth. Recognize the results. Jesus told His disciples, “There’s going to come a time when people who kill you think they do God a favor.”
Thirdly, recognize your power. And whatever the negative reactions are, your power will supersede them. The Holy Spirit will do the convicting; the Holy Spirit will do the empowering. You’ve got so much power you don’t need to worry about the negatives. Recognize your obligation. Recognize the results are not always positive, and recognize your power.
And last – I love this – recognize His promise. “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” - John 15:16 – “and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit.” That’s His promise. You go, and you’ll bring forth fruit. Believe me. You will doubtless come again bearing precious seed. That’s a guarantee. So, courage, content, and converts. That’s affecting the world.
Fourth, and this will come out of those three, conflict. If you hit the world courageously, with the right message, and people get saved because of your faithfulness, man, there’s going to be conflict. Why? Because you’re creating holiness in an unholy environment. See? And you’re making waves. That’s what God wants you to do.
You say, “What happened in Thessalonica.”
Oh, they got it. Verse 5. I mean the conflict was inevitable. In fact, Paul knew it was coming, because he was already gone by the time they came to get him. “But the Jews who believed not, moved with envy” – now what were they envious about? Well, they may have been unhappy that some of their leading members were now a part of the church and they lost the income, especially from the chief women. But I doubt that that’s the most serious. The thing that they envied was that Gentiles had been offered the Messiah on an equal basis. That was always their hang-up. They were holding out for the singular quality of Judaism and of Jews. And so, they were really burnt. They were jealous over Gentile inclusion on an equal basis with Jews.
And so, they didn’t – they decided they got to do something. Boy, the reaction. The system cannot tolerate holiness. And so, what happens is, they took unto them certain vile fellows of the baser sort, which is kind of funny old King James English for saying they got a bunch of dissipated, worthless characters who made a profession of lying around, looking for trouble. The local hoods. The literal Greek is marketplace loafers. Idle fellows. Guys who hung around doing nothing in the marketplace, just waiting for trouble. And they got these guys to stage a riot. And, you know, there’s professional agitators today. Well, here were some.
And they gathered a company and set all the city in an uproar. Boy, I mean they turned the city up. They – they – they got a riot going all through town. They were crying this blowtorch kind of oratory, “These men are seditious, and they are revolutionaries,” and they got everybody all stirred up.
Well, they knew they were staying with Jason, who must have been a new Christian there, and so it says they all assaulted the house of Jason. Here comes the whole town down to Jason’s house. And they sought to bring them out to the people. But you know? God is so far ahead. Paul and Silas and Timothy are gone. They’re gone, and old Jason is there.
Well, they didn’t find them, in verse 6, “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city” – she’ll, they took Jason and the other Christians instead, and they hauled them off. You know, it’s amazing what Satan can do with lazy people. It’s amazing, too, what the Lord can do with lazy people who get busy for him. I was thinking that lazy people must have been a problem in Thessalonica. I don’t know if they had a welfare program or what there, but there as a lot of laziness. These guys were lazy, but later, in 2 Thessalonians 2, in verse 11, he says, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” You know, some of the Christians were loafing around. I don’t know whether that was a common thing, but Satan can always use laziness. And so, he does here. He gets some of these lazy guys with nothing to do but hang around and wait for trouble.
And they stir up trouble; they grab Jason and the guys who were with him in the house, and they haul them off to the rulers of the city. Now, this is a riot. They ransacked poor Jason’s house, and they drag him out of there. They pressed two charges. And they’ve got to include Jason now, since he’s the only one they could capture.
He says at the end – at the middle of verse 6, “These that have turned the world upside down are come here also” – the first charge is a general revolution, “These guys are revolutionary; they’re radicals. They’re chopping at the roots of everything sacred in Thessalonica. They’re messing up our continuity.” And so, they charge them with general revolution.
The second thing they charge them with is a very specific treason against Rome, verse 7, “Whom Jason hath received. And these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar” – how? – “saying there’s another King, one Jesus.” Oh, isn’t that terrific? They got the message. Loud and clear. Jesus.
You know, that’s the same thing they crucified Jesus for, isn’t it? They crucified Him for claiming to be a king. Remember, Pilate questioned Him, “Are you a king?”
And the Jews all cried out, “No, He’s not our king; we’ll have no king but Caesar.”
It was the whole issue of His kingship. And here Paul had been preaching the kingship of Jesus Christ, and so, they grabbed on that. The same thing that the crowd used to execute Jesus they were going to use again to execute Paul. Don’t you see this friends? It is always a terrible thing for the Gospel to make a dominant claim on the lives of men. And it does it in announcing that Jesus is King. And men don’t like to hear that.
And so, they decided that they would just take care of this group. Verse 8, “They troubled the people and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.” That whole city was in turmoil. But, you know, these rulers are pretty smooth guys. They were pretty cool. And they really acted wisely. I’m sure God had something to do with this. And they – you know, this is a thing that could have really exploded. They would have had one riot on their hands if they didn’t get rid of Paul, because they figured that these people that Paul has – that if they didn’t get rid of Paul, these people that are so excited would get mad and start a riot. And if they did get rid of Paul, they were very much afraid just – if they punished him, and just smashed him, that he had won enough converts that those people would start a riot.
So, they were between a rock and a hard place. And they were pretty smart, shrewd guys. And in verse 9, what they did was, “When they had taken security of Jason and the others, they let them go.” Boy, that’s smart. You know what they do? They made Jason come across with a bond to guarantee that Paul and Silas and Timothy wouldn’t trouble them anymore. So, they had Jason on the spot. They really had a guarantee against the good behavior and the quick exit of Paul and Silas and Timothy. Pretty smart.
Well, they had to leave. Paul and Silas and Timothy, they had to go. And they went to Berea in verse 10. And, you know, Paul reflected back on this in 1 Thessalonians 2:17. He says, “We brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.” Paul says, “I tried to come back and see you, but,” he says, “Satan hindered us.” This whole setup with the security, the bond guaranteed by Jason – and Jason did it for their sake – meant that there was never a way he could get back in there as long as those same magistrates were there.
So, the conflict came. Believe me, that’s a good thing. Conflict is a good thing. Do you know that that wonderful little church in Thessalonica became the best church? And probably one of the reasons was it existed in terrible persecution. Paul couldn’t even get back to see them.
When he went to Berea, what happened there?
You say, “Certainly those noble guys wouldn’t give him trouble.”
You’re right; they didn’t, but guess what? Verse 13, “The Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the Word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, and they came there also,” and did the same thing. So, here comes a gang, 60 miles way from Thessalonica, and they stirred up trouble. Boy, if Satan doesn’t have local people, he’ll import them. And they dogged his steps.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 14 to 16, talks about how the Jews have dogged his steps all his life, and they stirred up – the word “stirred” – at the end of verse 13 is like a wind shaking. It just shook the whole city.
Well, Paul had to leave again. You know, I really think, just as a little inside into Paul, I think this was the low point in Paul’s life up to this point as a Christian. He had left Luke at Philippi, and now it says, 14, “And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea” – they faked it like they were going to the sea, and then they cut another direction. They didn’t really go toward the sea, to the east; they made it look that way so that they couldn’t be followed, and then they cut a different direction. “But Silas and Timothy abode there still.”
Paul, the ringleader, left, but he left Silas and Timothy. Why? It’s obvious. What was Paul’s great concern for new believers? Discipleship. He left them there. So, he left Luke, he left Silas, he left Timothy. And believe me, as strong as Paul was he wasn’t an island, and I believe he was hurting inside, and I believe he was a lonely man. And he hustled him off to Athens.
“And they conducted Paul” – verse 15 – “brought him to Athens. And receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.” He sent back word, “Tell Timothy and tell Silas I need them down here.”
Verse 16 says something you never read about Paul. “Now, Paul waited” – boy, you don’t see him doing that much, do you? Some commentators think that he was just going to wait there till they got there; he was so low, so hurting. Well, that’s conflict, beloved. But out of conflict came joy. And out of conflict came the productivity of those churches.
You say, “But what about Paul?”
Well, out of conflict in Athens came fantastic results. And we’re going to see that in the weeks to come. But let me close with this. The last thing – and I think this is the thing that has to be in your minds; if you miss this, you miss everything – the last thing that made these guys guys that changed the world was concern.
You say, “Yeah, I can see it: concern for the lost.”
No. That is not the issue. Concern for the lost is great; that’s not what ate Paul up. That’s not what made him do what he did.
You say, “What did?”
Look at verse 16, “While Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him” – he got all torn up. Why? Because he saw lost men? No. “He saw the city given to idolatry.”
You say, “What does that mean?”
It means that he saw that God was not being glorified, and the greatest motive that any Christian could ever have is the motive of the glory of God. That’s the overruling motive of all. Paul says, “I preach obedience unto the Gentiles,” Romans 1:5, “for the sake of His name.” See?
Now, we at Grace Church know about the glory of God, I hope. If you don’t, you get the tape, “The Greatest Theme,” and you learn about the glory of God. It pervades the entire Bible. Paul saw God not being glorified, and it tore him up.
Now, he could have looked at all the beauties of Athens. Man, that place was something else: architecturally; it had art, science. Peterronius said, “It was easier to find a God in Athens than it was a man,” it was so given to idolatry.
But Paul didn’t see the glory of Athens; he saw only the glory of God, and he saw God not being honored, and it tore him up. Beloved, I’ll tell you something; this is what made him a man that changed the world. He was preoccupied with the glory of God. He saw every man as one who gave glory to God or one who didn’t, and he knew God deserved it. There’s the ingredients.
When he saw a city given to idolatry, he disputed in the synagogue, and with devout persons, and in the marketplace daily. He never stopped when he saw that God wasn’t being glorified. It’s all there. You can be someone who affects the world. The pattern is clear; it’s up to you.
Father, we thank You that You’ve given us instruction, information, insight, incentive, given us the Holy Spirit to empower us and make it possible. We thank you for these men who made a change in their world, who are still affecting the world by what they wrote. God, make us people who count, make us people who affect the world.
Father, if there’s some in our midst this morning who’ve never come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, may this be the day they do. If they do not understand fully the facts, we pray that today they might find out the truth. If they do understand, and they’re just open and ready to receive Christ, make this the day of that reception.
And, Lord, those of us who are Christians, help us to desire above all things to affect the world, to have lives that count. And we’ll give you the praise for what You’re going to do in our lives because of the Word today and through the Spirit. We pray in Jesus Christ name, amen.
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