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Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Are These People So Closed To The Christian Faith?

Do you ever find in life that some things are hard to see and accept?

After a two year 'delay' Paul finally arrives in Rome. We read all about in Acts Chapter 28, and after only three days, he is hard at work, using every available opportunity open to him.

Paul called for the Jewish leaders in Rome. Why the Jews? He begins first with those who should be able to understand - those of his own background - those who believed in God. He had done this in all the various centres which he has visited over these past twenty or so years.

He needed to know the position of the Jewish leadership. This was his method, and it remained unchanged, even after all that they had said about him and against him. This is God's pattern too - to the Jew first.

Paul explains how he is innocent. He wants them to know the truth. His desire is to put the record straight. They would have heard rumours, tales, stories about this man, and he would tell of his being arrested in Jerusalem - "nothing could be proved and no-one could release me - so I appealed to Caesar - and that is why I am here in Rome." I just want to explain all this to you, so that you may hear it from my mouth. Paul is so open. Of course, there was another reason. Almighty God wanted His man in Rome.

"We have not received any letters about you", was their reply. "Nobody has come and said anything bad about you - no-one has warned us about you - but we want to hear what your views are about this sect which is called 'Christians'. People everywhere are speaking against this group and they are springing up everywhere. This new movement has appeared all over the Middle East."

Thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and people are speaking against this strange new faith. It continued to be regarded as a sect, and yet, this was the work of our Creator God. Our loving Father was at work in the world, and in one sense, so very few recognised it. That is also true today.

They agreed to meet for a whole day and hear Paul's reply. Here is an apostle who is eager. He does not have retirement on his mind - no sitting back and leaving it to the others. On he goes witnessing and explaining and teaching and serving as he makes himself available to God.

Look at how he answered. He spoke about the kingdom of God. He spoke about Jesus. He spoke from the Word of God, from morning 'til evening.

The word - this sharp two edged sword was at work. Some believed, and some would not believe.

There are always these reactions. "I'm convinced. I believe that this is true. I surrender and submit to Jesus and His Word." Or the opposite - "I can't accept that. I can't believe that. I'll argue against that. I'll use all my strength to fight against that."

These people then began to argue amongst themselves, and Paul watched these Jews go away. He remembers the words of Isaiah. Go and preach and speak to the people. They shall hear but never understand. They shall see, but they will never come to know what it is all about." This is always so sad to see.

Their hearts were hard. Nothing would go in. Nothing could get in.

They listened to it all. They heard him. They saw so much, but they were spiritually closed and deaf and blind.

Jesus experienced this too. After Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, some went out and planned to kill Him. When the sower went out and sowed his seed, most of it was snatched away. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on that donkey, only a very few realised the significance of what was happening. Others were furious.

Paul experienced similar reactions. Some believed. Some would not. Some did not. But, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT hindered.

Sandy Shaw

Sandy Shaw is Pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship, Chaplain at Inverness Prison, and Nairn Academy, and serves on The Children's Panel in Scotland, and has travelled extensively over these past years teaching, speaking, in America, Canada, South Africa, Australia, making 12 visits to Israel conducting Tours and Pilgrimages, and most recently in Uganda and Kenya, ministering at Pastors and Leaders Seminars, in the poor areas surrounding Kampala, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

He broadcasts regularly on WSHO radio out of New Orleans, and writes a weekly commentary at entitled "Word from Scotland" on various biblical themes, as well as a weekly newspaper column.


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