Hello and welcome to Lechem Panim. So good to have you with us today as we study the Word of God together. You know, one of the men who has had one of the most tremendous impacts on history was a man by the name of John Wesley; not only for the content of his teaching, but also for his absolute persistence in the midst of some of the most intense rejection, persecution, and trials.
Wesley’s Journal— Not long ago I was reading an excerpt from John Wesley’s diary. In it he writes...
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne's. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John's. Deacons said "Get out and stay out."
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude's. Can't go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.
The Big Picture— You know, some of the greatest people in all of history; the people that God was able to use the most, were those who never gave up in the face of trials. People who didn’t let persecution make them bitter, but just said, “Jesus, I don’t know why this is happening to me, but I know that you are in control and will work this out for your glory.” John Wesley didn’t see the big picture of where those rejections he had encountered would lead. He didn’t need to see the big picture. All he needed was to say to God as Jesus did, “Thy will be done” and trust Him with the rest.
Steadfast Biblical Heroes-- As you and I go through scripture, we find that some of God’s greatest heroes were men and women who (at least at first) had no grasp of the big picture. All they could do was trust God in the moment. I think of Abraham called to sacrifice his son. I think of Job; about the purpose of his suffering; Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, then into prison because of a false accusation; but he ends up being used by God to save Egypt and the surrounding countries from famine. I think of Daniel, brought into captivity never knowing God was going to use him mightily; even young everyday couples like Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ parents); Mary undergoing rejection from of her community from a pregnancy she couldn’t explain; Joseph feeling cheated by Mary (at first), choosing to believe and obey God, and then sharing with Mary in that same persecution. Few of these men and women ever saw the big picture. But they didn’t need to. Each and every one of them were able to trust that God is good, He is in control, and He is working through their suffering to fulfill His plan. Now those men and women modeled a steadfastness, a patience, and wisdom that may at times seem unreachable to us. But these weren’t spiritual giants; they were men and women (like you and me) who simply said Lord I will trust you; I will do what you have asked me to do in the moment. And the only reason that you and I are believers today is because of men and women in the past like John Wesley who chose to remain steadfast under some of the most intense persecution, trusting in God.
Our Trust— Do we have that kind of trust in the Lord? That is the kind of faith James wants all Christians to have. He wants them to be a people who, through obedience and trust, are overcomers. And God wants to make us overcomers as well. James writes in...
James 1:12 (ESV)— 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
2 Images of Judgment-- Now I say all of this because here in our passage today we find Paul facing the same kind of rejection and trials that are typical of any true follower of God. But he recognizes how God is using those trials to change his direction/focus. And that is why we see here in Acts chapter 18 a dramatic shift in the ministry of Paul. It says that after these Jews opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And here we have two very interesting Old Testament images. The first (the shaking of his garments) [was an act of judgment that said, “You have had your opportunity, but now it’s over!” Today we might say that we were washing our hands of a situation.] Now this didn’t mean that Paul would stop witnessing to the Jews, but [his primary calling was to evangelize the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-48; 28:28).] Now the second image (the proclamation that their blood be upon their own heads) was also a proclamation of judgment. [To have blood on your hands means that you bear the responsibility for another’s death because you were not faithful to warn him. The image comes from the watchman on the city walls whose task it was to stay alert and warn of coming danger (see Ezek. 3:17–21; 33:1–9). But to have blood on your head means that you are to blame for your own judgment. You had the opportunity to be saved, but you turned it down (see Josh. 2:19). Paul’s hands were clean (Acts 20:26) because he had been faithful to declare the message of the gospel. The Jews had their own blood on their own heads because they rejected God’s truth.] And Paul is deeply pained about this (which he relays in great detail in Romans 9). And no doubt he is feeling discouraged again. But remember the key point of our passage last week: God sends encouragement when we need it most. And here we see that once again (just at the right time) God brings somebody into Paul’s life to be a friend and a support to him, a God-fearing Gentile name Titus Justus, whose full name may have been Gaius Titus Justus, very likely making him the “Gaius, my host” Paul refers to in Romans 16:23. And here we see that Justus opens his home for Paul to stay in and use as his preaching station, which was located in the perfect spot. It says in…
Acts 18:7 (NKJV)— 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue.
Connection With The Synagogue-- Now this was awesome because it gave Paul [continued contact with the Jews and Gentile proselytes], with whom Paul continues to share the Gospel. Now in that synagogue there was a man by the name of Crispus. And Crispus was in fact the ruler of the synagogue, which meant that it was his [job to see to it that the synagogue building was cared for and that the services were held in a regular and orderly manner.] And look at what happens after he hears the Gospel. It says…
Acts 18:8 (NKJV)— 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
Another Household-- And so once again, just as with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10, Lydia and her household and the Philippian Jailer and his household in Acts 16, we have yet another person and their whole household coming to faith in Christ. And this no doubt stirred the Jewish population in Corinth in a BIG way!
Pessimists, Optimists, & Realists-- But once again, this reinforces the truth we have been talking about; and that is that where Satan brings opposition, God creates opportunity. Now some people are pessimists. They are the ones who only see the problems. Other people are optimists. They are those who only see the positive. Now neither of those extremes is the right one. We are not called to be pessimists; nor are we called to be optimists. We are called to be realists. Now what is a realist? A lot of people who say they are realists are merely pessimists in disguise. But the true realist is one who sees the potential in the problems. And Paul was a realist. He wasn’t blind to the dangers and difficulties of the situation in Corinth. But he saw in those problems God’s great opportunities. And so one of the things you I must always remember is to not focus on what you can’t do, but what you can.
What We Can Do-- Now one of the things I love about our Church, Renton Park Chapel, (and this was really highlighted for me when Covid hit), because when our leadership met to re-group and seek the Lord as to how we were (and are) going to get through this, I loved how our team didn’t focus on what we couldn’t do. No, our team focused on what we could do; and what opportunities might arise through this pandemic that perhaps were not available (or recognized) before. And because of that our reach grew wider, not smaller. People’s giving of their time and resources went up, not down.
Be Realists-- But in thinking about this passage (and this truth in particular) God’s greatest heroes were not people with great resources or abilities. They were simply realists who were willing to seek God’s opportunities in the midst of the world’s problems. And so I want to encourage you today, let us be realists who are seeking for those opportunities. Satan may try to kick you and beat you down. He may try to fill your life with discouragement, trying to get you to quit. But when he does, remember that God sends encouragement when we need it. Remember also that where Satan brings opposition, God brings opportunity. And lastly, don’t focus on what you can’t do, but what you can do. Let’s remember those three things today. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.