The Contrast

"I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth." Acts 13:47

When I was a small boy, there were times that I woke up in the middle of the night, at the end of a night mare, filled with fear, and afraid of the dark. I would cry out in the night, and my Dad would rush in and turn on the light. What a relief. On other winter mornings, comfortable in my warm bed, and under the covers, I didn't want to wake up. My Dad would turn on the lights, and I would scream at the intrusion. It felt like an icepick in my eyes. It was the same light, and I was in the same room, but I was in two very different places.

Preachers know what this feels like when they preach the same word to people and get a similar contrast in their reactions to it. The light of The Word either guides people to Truth, or it blinds them to their own sinful condition. It depends on where they are, not what The Word says. The Contrast is always revealing.

Paul and Barnabas followed a certain protocol when they entered a city. They went to the synagogue and shared The Gospel, and if it was received they returned. If it was rejected they turned to the Gentiles. It was in Pisidian Antioch that their ministry to the Gentile community became prioritized. The reception of the people of the city was enormous. It was large enough to inspire the jealousy of the Jewish leaders.

"Nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord, but when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming." Acts 13:45

The opposition did not intimidate Paul and Barnabas. They "spoke boldly and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles." V. 46

The Contrast between The Jews and The Gentiles could not have been greater. "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." V. 48

While the word of the Lord was being spread, "The Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their district."v. 50

The only protest the two missionaries made was the shaking off of the dust of their feet at the city limits. They moved on and were "continually filled with the joy and with the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52

I recall reading an Anglican Bishop's remarks, comparing his life of ministry to that of Paul's. He said, "When I arrive in town they serve tea. When Paul arrived a riot broke out." He seemed sadly embarrassed at the comparison. Perhaps we should all feel the same way.

The Gospel is Light. Light has a way of pointing the way for those who are seeking direction, and blinding the eyes of those who do not want to be awakened. It is the same Light. The contrast couldn't be greater.

People who are comfortable in their sin do not want to have it exposed. People who are ashamed of their sin want to know the way to have it removed. Preach the same Word to both, but don't expect the same reaction.

This is the dilemma any preacher faces when speaking The Word, and framing Jesus as The Way, The Truth and The Life. Anything said about Jesus that is absolutely true will still have people absolutely opposed to it. Preach Jesus anyway. Those appointed to eternal life will believe. Those who are not ready to receive eternal life will continue in disbelief. Keep spreading the word. Just because some will reject it, doesn't mean it isn't true.

Note to self: Don't kid yourself. You are not anointed to know who are the appointed. Preach The Truth. Leave the results up to God.

Praying is the greatest preparation a preacher can make before shedding light on those who will hear The Word. Prayer cleanses the preacher's motives, fills him with the Spirit. Prayer softens people's hearts, improves their hearing, and opens their eyes to receive The Word of God. Delivering The Word is more than just spreading the truth around. It requires preparing the ground to receive it. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!