For we have found this man a plague… Acts 24:5a
Every year people try to find a theme word for the New Year. Things like Purpose, Joy, New Beginnings are certainly among the favorites. My word won't be among the favorites…because my word for the year is Plague.
In Acts 24, the apostle Paul was brought before Felix, the governor of Caesarea. His accusers were a group of Jewish religious leaders, including the high priest, Ananias. As they began to state their case, the first thing they said about Paul is, “We have found this man a plague…” At least that’s how the English Standard Version translates the Greek word, “loimos.” It’s actually a pretty good translation…the literal meaning of the word is pestilence or…well, plague!
When I read it I kind of laughed, because of how much he was obviously in their heads! And while the specifics of the accusations against Paul were trumped up and false, this one was actually true. He was like a plague to their agenda of religious control. And under his leadership, the gospel spread like wildfire…or like a plague.
Then I began to wonder…does our enemy ever find me to be like a plague?
I’m really serious here! In Ephesians 6, Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We have real enemies with a dark agenda to destroy human lives and keep them from living abundant life in Christ. Do they see me, or us, as a threat to that agenda?
In the New Testament, the gospel created turbulence, everywhere it went, because it radically changed lives! And radically changed lives always disrupt the status quo. The gospel is an invasion of God’s presence through belief in Jesus Christ…marked by repentance, faith, and surrender to God’s life-giving purpose. The problem is there are many who have no interest in surrendering to God’s life-giving purpose. Consequently, the gospel makes many people very uncomfortable
So I guess my real question is…
If our spreading of the gospel isn't making anyone uncomfortable, are we really spreading the gospel?
It may sound odd, but one of my big New Year’s prayers is to follow in Paul’s footsteps and be like the plague! I want to be a carrier of the Spirit of God and His gospel of peace! And if the enemies of the gospel are made uncomfortable by God’s work through me, then I’ll know I’m on to something!
Here are a few things that will help all of us become carriers of the gospel this year:
1. Be full of Jesus! Daily time in communion with the Lord through the word and prayer will make a powerful difference. You can’t share what you don’t have!
2. Connect in biblical community. The early church always ministered in community and from community. We need the strength and accountability that community brings. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against the community He called the Church!
3. Share the love of Jesus freely! Look for ways to reach out and love people in Jesus name. They are all around us if we’ll stop and ask God to open our eyes.
4. Speak the truth of the gospel boldly! This is one of the hardest for contemporary Christians. We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated into silence! We think that somehow if we’re quiet and nice enough people will be so impressed they’ll just run to the gospel. It has never worked that way! And, as far as being intimidated into silence…no one respects a pushover! Be kind and respectful, but don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love…boldly! And…don’t expect those who refuse the truth to like it!
May you have a happy New Year full of the passion and fire of His presence! And may the enemies of the gospel fear you like the plague!