Speak to God about people before you speak to people about God.
NOVEMBER 17, 2022
Speak to God about people before you speak to people about God. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers. That’s what Key Life is all about. So, if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening, Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open it to the 18th chapter of Acts and I’ve got one more point to share with you, and it’s an important one. If you’ve been listening this week and last week, we’ve been talking about Paul’s failure in Athens and his success in Corinth. And we’re asking, and I moved the previous question, why was he so successful in Corinth? Now, the first most salient reason is that he went to the marginalized. He didn’t go to the powerful or the rich or the famous. He went to the port and the marginalized, and that is great soil where you can grow a church. Now, later on, a lot of the rich and powerful came to know Christ too, but it started in the right place. But there was a lot more to it than that. And we have seen, as we’ve looked at this 18th chapter of Acts, that he didn’t go alone, he not only did he not go alone, there was opposition, he stayed and some other things. And then there’s one final thing I want you to note. I want you to see that Paul was successful in Corinth because he had talked to God before he talked to people about God. In Acts 18:9 through 10, there’s this encounter with Jesus.
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no man shall attack you or harm you, for I have many people in this city.”
In other words, the apostle Paul was on his knees. In other words, the apostle Paul was getting fresh word from the Lord. In other words, the apostle Paul saw his time with God as being more important than the work to which he had been called. I served the church for almost 20 years, where a whole lot of people came to know Christ. And you say, Well, you must have had a dynamite evangelistic program. Actually, we didn’t. We tried and it failed. Well, you must have been going out and doing random evangelism. No, we never did that, just never happened. Well, you must have had a big radio ministry. No, we didn’t have a radio ministry. Well, what about a television ministry? No, we didn’t have a television ministry. But every week new people would come to know Christ. And do you know why? Because they were warmed by the fire that was burning in the hearts of the people who loved each other and loved God. Let me tell you, with all I’ve been teaching here for the last two weeks, and it’s been true and it’s been good, the most important thing you can do for the world is to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. The most important thing you can do for them is to be on your knees for them. That’s where the power is. One time somebody was visiting Charles Spurgeon’s church and he asked this person a friend, would you like to see the furnace room? And his friend said, well, not particularly, but I’d be glad to look at it if you want to show it to me. Must be an awesome furnace. And, Spurgeon said, come with me. And they went downstairs to a chapel, which was filled with people on their knees praying for what was going on later in the service upstairs. Listen, spiritual formation, and I hate that word or that phrase, but that’s important. It’s important that we have fresh word from the Lord, that we learn to love each other, that we walk together in love, that we study Scriptures, that we deepen ourselves, that we understand what God has revealed to us. It is more important than doing evangelism. And the reason our evangelism isn’t so successful is we don’t have anything to say because we haven’t received the fresh word from the Lord. I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress. Do you know that’s the most published book, most popular book outside of the Bible ever published, or at least it used to be? And I think it still is. If you remember Christian and Hopeful have strayed off the way because it seemed shorter and they found themselves on the grounds of Giant Despair’s castle. They were arrested and thrown into Giant Despair’s prison. And they were languishing there. And this is what Bunyon writes, he says.
Now, a little before it was day, Good Christian as one half amazed, break out from this passionate speech. What a fool quote he, him and I thus to lie in a stinking dungeon when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, that’s good news good brother. Pluck it out of thy bosom and try and he did and was free.
What was the key of promise? It was the word, it was the fellowship, it was the power, it was the closeness, it was the time of quiet waiting in prayer, it was the time of study. It doesn’t do any good to tell your neighbors about Jesus, if you don’t have anything to say. Oh, and there’s one other thing, before we leave this subject. We talked about Paul’s amazing failure in Athens, and it was, it was an awful failure. And his amazing success in Corinth. Let me give you a fact. God broke Paul in Athens that he might use him in Corinth. I don’t know what you’re going through right now. It may be a breaking time, a time when you’ve done something really dumb and you’re paying the price for it. It may be a time of failure, maybe you lost your job or your friends or even your marriage, maybe it hurts really, really bad. There’s a principle there, and it’s an important one that the apostle Paul experienced. God broke Paul in Athens, so God could use him in Corinth. Sometimes, that’s the reason for success. All of the things I’ve been teaching here are true. I mean, they’re part of the process of the call that God has given us. We’re here for them. We really are. But sometimes God takes his servants and he allows them to go through the fire or the darkness or the pain or the doubt or the fear or the failure or the sin. And then when they’ve reached the end, he speaks the ancient word he’s been speaking to Christians for all time, in which he spoke to Paul in II Corinthians, Paul said.
If you really love me, you would make it a lot better.
And God refused and then God said to Paul something that is profound and very important, he said.
My power is made perfect in weakness.
So don’t forget it. God broke Paul in Athens, so God could use him in Corinth. Now, I’m in a funny place. I finished the teaching on Matthew 17 and the work in Corinth. And I don’t have time to start another one, but I want you to know that next week we’re going to look at Acts 18:12 through 17 and verses 21 and we’re going to look at God’s mysterious ways. One of the problems with those of us who are orthodox Bible believers is sometimes we think we have God in our back pocket and we don’t. God is God and he is a surprising God. He is a mysterious God. He is a God who will come and blow you away with the supernatural power of his presence. And we’re going to talk about that next week. But for now, just remember our God is a big God. Really big. You think about that. Amen.
What? It’s Thursday already? Yes, it is. And so, that concludes another great week of teaching from Acts. Thank you Steve for that. Steve will return tomorrow along with our friend Pete Alwinson for Friday Q&A. On tap for tomorrow this question. Why are there so many denominations? Hey, that’s actually a great question. Well, be sure to join us tomorrow for that answer. Speaking of questions, here’s a big one. Why did Jesus have to die? Well, Steve gave a sermon a while back to answer that very question. It’s called Why Jesus had to Die. And it is a classic. In fact, we put it on a CD and we would be happy to send it to you, for free. Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an e-mail to [email protected] to ask for that CD. By mail, send your request to
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