The Light of Christ Journey

Encouraging people on their journey with Christ

Acts 17: 18 Eventually he got into a debate with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Some were dismissive from the start.

The philosophers asked, “What’s this fast-talker trying to pitch?”

Others answered, “He seems to be advocating the gods of distant lands.”

They said this because of what Paul had been preaching about Jesus and the resurrection.

19-21 This stirred their curiosity, because the favorite pastime of Athenians (including foreigners who had settled there) was conversation about new and unusual ideas. So, they brought him to the rock outcropping known as the Areopagus, where Athens’ intellectuals regularly gathered for debate, and they invited him to speak.[1]

Paul had been sharing the Gospel in the marketplace and some of Athenians, who loved to discuss philosophy, were up for a debate. As a 21st century person reading this text, you may wonder why this detail would matter. What are Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, anyway?

Epicureans thought the “gods” were a long way off and didn’t pay any attention to life on earth. Thus, it was best to seek maximum pleasure in food, drink, and sexuality. It was best to enjoy all the materialistic things you could. Sound like anyone you know today?

The Stoics thought the divine existed within each of us and could be discovered and harnessed. One should live within the divine rationality and be free from emotions of passion and joy. One should just accept reality as it comes and live according to virtues of wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation. This sounds very similar to the “New” Age philosophy.

Remember that old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” I think that is the case here. Even though Paul knew these lifestyles by different names than we do, things are still very much the same. 

And the fact that only some would bother to listen is still the same. In Paul’s time, some were dismissive from the start. They wouldn’t even give Paul the time of day. But some were curious, and at least gave Paul a chance to explain himself. The same is true for us today. As we live out our faith, there will be those who refuse to listen to why we live as we do. But there will be those who are curious. It is to those that we have a chance to explain who Jesus is and why we follow Him. 

The apostle Peter explains it this way: “14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So, don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” 1 Peter 3.[2] If you don’t consider yourself a follower of Jesus, I urge you to be curious. Find a Bible believing church and start asking questions. If you are a follower of Jesus, can you explain why? If you’re not sure, ask your pastor or other Christian mentor for help.

To hear how there is a battle for souls, listen here:

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

[2] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Acts 17: 16 So Paul found himself alone for some time in Athens. He would walk through the city, feeling deeply frustrated about the abundance of idols there. 17 As in the previous cities, he went to the synagogue. Once again, he engaged in debate about Jesus with both ethnic Jews and devout Greek-born converts to Judaism. He would even wander around in the marketplace, speaking with anyone he happened to meet.[1] 

Paul had escaped from the mob both in Thessalonica and Berea. Now he was by himself in Athens. Athens of that time is known for its idols. One comment was that there were more idols than people in the city. This disturbs Paul who knows the one true God. But I find Paul’s ability to stay engaged in the mission remarkable.

Think about it, Paul has been obedient to share the Good News of Jesus. But it has consistently gotten him into trouble. On this trip alone, he has been imprisoned, and the target of mob action twice. If it hadn’t been for the help of other believers, Paul most likely would have been murdered. Now he is safe, but in an extremely pagan place. If I had been Paul, I probably would have been having a pity party. But we don’t see Paul doing that at all.

Paul stays engaged in the mission. He follows his pattern of first going to the synagogue to point out to fellow Jews how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. He also preached to the Gentiles in the marketplace. Paul, even though he is all alone, continues to tell anyone who will listen about Jesus.

We may get frustrated at how anti-Christian our culture has become. Often, we complain, at least I know I am guilty of this. But, what would happen if instead of complaining, we would stay engaged in the mission? I’m sure the Holy Spirit was working through Paul during his time in Athens. We have the same power within us as we believe and follow Jesus today. Paul would later write to the Romans (and to us): Rom.15:13 Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope![2]

To hear more about Paul, listen here:

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

[2] The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.
Today’s Scripture & Insight: Deut. 20:4

Paul and Silas had many converts in Thessalonica but then were chased out of town by a riot instigated by the jealous Jews. They traveled onto the next town, Berea, where they were received well. But then….

Acts 17: 13 Reports got back to Thessalonica that Paul and Silas were now spreading God’s message in Berea; the Jewish people who had incited the riot in Thessalonica quickly came to Berea to do the same once again. 14-15 The believers sent Paul away. A small group escorted him, first to the coast, and then all the way to Athens. Silas and Timothy, however, remained in Berea. Later they received instructions from Paul to join him in Athens as soon as possible.[1]

It must have seemed like déjà vu. Success, then chased out of town by escaping with the help of friends. There was a determined opposition from the Thessalonian Jews. They would have had to travel to Berea with their own money. Even with this kind of fight, people came to faith in Berea.

Paul seems to be the lightning rod for the skirmish. He was a Jewish scholar, trained under one of the best Jewish teachers of the day. The opposition was determined to destroy Paul’s ministry. Again, friends help Paul escape, this time to Athens. But the mob doesn’t seem to mind Silas and Timothy, Paul’s teammates. They were allowed to stay, and I’m sure finished up the teaching to encourage the new believers. 

The Lord was with the team even though there was opposition. Deut. 20: For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory![2] This mission trip did probably not look like Paul and his team expected, but God was working. The same is true for us today. The opposition looks menacing, but God is still with us and will fight our battles. Be encouraged.

To hear how there is a harvest of souls in the battle, listen here:

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

[2] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Today’s Scripture & Insight: James 1:5

Paul and Silas had escaped a dangerous situation in Thessalonica and traveled down the road to the next town, Berea.

Acts 17: 11 The Jewish people here (Berea) were more receptive than they had been in Thessalonica. They warmly and enthusiastically welcomed the message and then, day by day, would check for themselves to see if what they heard from Paul and Silas was truly in harmony with the Hebrew Scriptures. 12 Many of them were convinced, and the new believers included—as in Thessalonica—quite a few of the city’s leading Greek women and important men also[1]

What a refreshing attitude Paul and Silas found in Berea. While there had been a great many people who had come to faith in Thessalonica, there were many who were strongly opposed. The Jewish people had been anticipating a Messiah for generations. They had assumed that he would come as a political ruler to overthrow the despised Romans. They didn’t foresee the Messiah dying and coming twice. 

When Paul went to the synagogues, he would go back through the Hebrew Scriptures, or our Old Testament, to show how God had prophesied that Messiah would suffer and die. Many Jews were set in their ways and refused to listen to Paul’s explanation. The Bereans not only listened but looked up and verified what Paul was telling them.

How about you, what do you do when someone tells you something surprising about the faith? Do you look it up, assume you know it, or just trust the teacher? Discernment is important and all of us need to be ready to verify what teachers of the Word say. There are many Bible references available at a click of a mouse. We just must be willing to check out what we hear.

The Apostle Paul talks about the value of Godly wisdom in James 1:5.  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

To hear more about Paul’s second mission trip, listen here:

 Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Jas 1:5). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Today’s Scripture & Insight: John 15:13-15

Paul and Silas had seen many people come to faith in Thessalonica, but all was not roses. The unbelieving Jews were jealous and started a riot against Paul and Silas. When they couldn’t find them, they grabbed some other believers and made them pay a fine. There had been political accusations made against Paul and Silas and the situation was getting dangerous. That’s when some friends helped the two men escape.

Acts 17: 10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.[1] Paul and Silas escape under the cover of darkness to the next town down the road. Proverbs 17:17, A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.[2] These fellow believers truly did help Paul and Silas in tough times. We all need friends to help us through the hard times. But the best friend is Jesus. 

John 15: For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends. 14 “You show that you are my intimate friends when you obey all that I command you. 15 I have never called you ‘servants,’ because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father[3]. 

It was Jesus who loved us so much that He would die for us and pay the price for our sins. Then His resurrection gave us victory over eternal death. When we trust Him by following Him, we can count on His friendship here on this earth and eternity. Is Jesus your friend or do you see Him as a foe? He desires friendship and is only a prayer away.

To hear more about Paul’s second mission trip, listen here:

[1, 2,] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

[3] The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.. All rights reserved.

Today’s Scripture & Insight: 1 Cor. 2:14-15

As the story continues in Paul’s second missionary trip, the jealous Jews had instigated mob action against Paul and the Christians. Acts 17:6-9, The mob was going street by street, looking for Paul and Silas—who were nowhere to be found. Frustrated, when the mob came to the house of a man named Jason, now known as a believer, they grabbed him and some other believers they found there and dragged them to the city officials.

The mob yelled, “These people—they’re political agitators turning the world upside down! They’ve come here to our fine city,and this man, Jason, has given them sanctuary and made his house a base for their operations. We want to expose their real intent: they are trying to overturn Caesar’s sensible decrees. They’re saying that Jesus is king, not Caesar!”

Of course, this disturbed the crowd at large and the city officials especiallyso they demanded bail from Jason and the others before releasing them.[1]

The Roman Empire consisted of many nations that Rome had conquered. The Roman rulers were especially sensitive to any hint of uprising so the charge that someone wanted a king other than Caesar would have received attention. We know Jesus was not a political king, but a spiritual ruler. Jesus still rules today, although we can refuse to acknowledge it. Jesus desires us to follow Him and put our will aside to do His will. This isn’t a natural thing for humans to do and we must have the help of the Holy Spirit. 

1 Cor. 2: 14 Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit. 15 Those who live in the Spirit are able to carefully evaluate all things, and they are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God.[2]

How about you, is Jesus your King? Have you submitted to Him? Just as there was a harvest of souls despite the battle in our story, the same is true today.

To hear how there is a harvest of souls in the battle, listen here:

[1, 2] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Phil. 2:10

Paul and Silas have preached in Thessalonica and as a result have a mob after them. Acts 17:5-6, They (the mob) attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too[1]

The mob now blames Paul and Silas for turning the world upside down and now disturbing their city. But who is so disturbing that it has the power to turn the world upside down? Jesus. I have found that when I speak of God in generic terms, most people will listen. But if I mention the name “Jesus,” people become much more defensive. Why would that be? If they think Jesus is a nobody, why would they become so disturbed? 

Are people disturbed by the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus? John 14: Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.[2] Or is it the fact that Jesus is Lord and we should submit our will to His? Phil. 2: 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[3]

The name of Jesus has power that the enemy wants to avoid and doesn’t want to acknowledge. How about you? What does the name of Jesus mean to you?

To hear how there is a harvest of souls in the battle, listen here:

[1, 2, 3] Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. 

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Psalm 2:2-4

Paul and Silas had the courage to persevere and began to preach in the synagogue in Thessalonica. It was there that God gave them success, but then trouble begins.

Acts 17:4-6, Some of the ethnically Jewish people from the synagogue were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas. Even more devout Greeks who had affiliated with Judaism came to believe—along with quite a few of the city’s leading women. Seeing this movement growing, the unconvinced Jewish people became protective and angry. They found some ruffians hanging out in the marketplaces and convinced them to help start a riot. Soon a mob formed, and the whole city was seething with tension. The mob was going street by street, looking for Paul and Silas—who were nowhere to be found.[1]

As Paul and Silas explained who Jesus was using the Jewish scriptures, many, but not all, believed. Those that didn’t believe were jealous and wanted to damage the group that did believe. But how to do that? Mob action. There will always be those who are willing to be part of a riot, especially for a price. This strategy worked 2000 years ago, and we still see it used today.  The mob was out for blood as they searched for Paul and Silas but couldn’t find them. Scripture doesn’t give us an explanation, but I believe God was protecting them.

Don’t be surprised to find that there is still pushback from the enemy when the Gospel is preached. In fact, expect it. The enemy doesn’t give up territory easily. But we can be assured that God is still in control. Ps.2:2-4,The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one.“Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.

To hear how there is a harvest of souls in the battle, listen here:

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society 

Today’s Scripture & Insight: 1 Thess. 2:2

We’ve been following Paul and his team on his second missionary journey. Let’s review what has happened so far. Paul has entered new territory as he entered Philippi, it is the country we today know as Greece. There he has many converts and the Lord uses him to cast out a demon in a young girl. This miracle has unintended consequences. Paul and Silas are beaten and falsely imprisoned. But even there they continue to sing God’s praises.

God sends an earthquake which gets the jailer’s attention and Paul uses this as an opportunity to witness to the jailer and his whole family. Then Paul and Silas must leave town and they move onto the city of Thessalonica. How did they have the ability to persevere? Why didn’t they just give up? Paul gives us the answer in a letter that he would write to the church at Thessalonica.

1 Thess. 2:2, You remember how we had just suffered through brutal and insulting attacks in Philippi; but because of God, we boldly stepped into the open to tell you His good news, even though it would likely mean more conflict for us.[1] 

Paul and Silas could continue because of their faith in God and the purpose God had given them. They could persevere through the power of the Holy Spirit who gave them the courage to persevere. How about you? Where do you need help to persevere? God is only a prayer away.

To hear how there is a harvest of souls in the battle, listen here:

[1] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Eph. 6:10-13

The battle between good and evil is a repeated theme throughout Scriptures. As we turn to Genesis chapter three, we see the evil serpent tempting Adam and Eve to fall into sin. Satan can’t harm God, so he attacks those who God loves. That is, you and me. If you have ever have had children, you begin to realize that you would give up your life to save theirs. 

Satan is called the god of this world. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:4, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” [1]

Our heavenly Father sent His Son to die for our sins as part of this cosmic battle to save His children. We read in Hebrews 4:14-15 about how Jesus defeated satan on the cross. 14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. [2]

We only have to read the newspaper or turn on the news to realize we are in a spiritual battle. The enemy is doing anything he can to destroy mankind. In John 10:10, we see the contrast between the devil and Jesus. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. [3] Wherever the enemy goes he kills, steals, and destroys. Jesus does just the opposite because He comes to give us a rich and satisfying life. Riches are not worldly riches, but spiritual riches. 

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica about the spiritual battle that was going on as he tries to minister to them. 17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but satan prevented us19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy. [4] 1 Thess. 2:17-20.

Paul tells us as we enter into this cosmic battle, we need to put on the full armor of God. 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. [5] Ephesians 6:10-13.

Take time today to pray and read God’s word; this is how we put on the full armor of God. 

To hear more about Paul’s second mission trip, listen here:

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Co 4:4, Heb. 2:14-15, John 10:10, 1 THess 2:17-20, Eph. 6:10-13). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

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