Acts 20:17-34; Judges 14-15; Job 42
Whether it’s a political campaign or someone advertising a product, a good consultant will remind the candidate or the ad company to stay on message. It’s easy to get distracted and support other good causes or deal with other good issues on the campaign, but when people do that, they lose focus and the message becomes garbled. The consumer, or the voter, becomes confused and isn’t sure exactly what they’re being told. Consultants will remind candidates or people with a product to turn every question or every situation into an opportunity to proclaim the greatness of the product. Staying on message is an important skill in campaigning for office, selling products, or advocating for a cause.
The early Christians were great about doing that. Whether they were dealing with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, testifying before the Sanhedrin or a group of leaders in a foreign city, or explaining a miracle they let people know of their need for Jesus as Savior. Paul got the elders of the church in Ephesus together and in describing his ministry and encouraging these leaders he reminded them that he stayed on message – and what a message it was! “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21)
It would have been easy to stray from the message that people needed to turn to God in repentance and have faith in Jesus. The Roman Empire was full of distractions. The Jewish leaders sought to turn the church away from Jesus and sometimes early Christians began to focus on the outward signs of what a Christian should look like, rather than the need to repent and have faith. Controversies arose in the early church over feeding widows and circumcision. They made arrangements to have deacons take care of the widows so the leaders could focus on preaching repentance and faith. They took care of the circumcision issue so that the old Jewish ways wouldn’t interfere with the spread of the gospel. Paul got kicked out of many towns because of his simple message of turning to God in repentance and having faith in Jesus. It would have been easy for Paul to look at social issues because ancient Rome had many of them. Whenever he did, though, it was all measured in terms of leading people to God in repentance and teaching them to have faith in Jesus. We do some things because we have repented and have faith, and those things will help others to follow our path. We don’t engage in some activities because people will see those activities and hold the idea of repentance and faith in disrepute. Paul stayed on message to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s still easy to get distracted from the message we are called to share about turning to God in repentance and having faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes you hear about the divide between sharing the gospel and churches participating in the social gospel. If you share the gospel with people and don’t meet needs you won’t see a lot of results. If you meet needs of people without sharing the gospel you haven’t given people the opportunity to take care of their greatest need of all. In our world today, staying on message means meeting the needs of people while explaining to them that we care because God loves them too. We must engage our culture. We must meet the needs of people in poverty or who are going through difficult times – but we must always do so reminding people that they are called to turn to God in repentance and to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord, there are so many needs out there, and it feels so good to help people meet their needs. Remind me though, that I am called to stay on message and teach others to turn to You in repentance and to have faith in Jesus Christ while I am helping to meet those needs.