The Right-Side Up Life: Acts Series #29
We are traveling along with the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. We move now from the conquest of Philippi to the challenge of Thessalonica. In chapter 17 of the Book of Acts, we have the remarkable ministry of Paul as it continues in three cities. These cities are Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens.
As we study Paul’s ministry in these three cities, we discover different responses to the Gospel. We will see first rejection of the Gospel. Next, there were those who received the Gospel. However, when we arrive to Athens, we find those who ridiculed the Gospel. The same responses back then are the same responses today when the Gospel is preached.
When Paul came to the city of Thessalonica, we learn one of the keys to the missionary strategy which the Holy Spirit has laid out for us. Thessalonica was one of the leading cities of Greece. In fact, it was the second largest city. Thessalonica was a rather large city of 200,000 people. Today it is known as Salonica. They’ve taken off the ‘thess’ in front of it and just call it now Salonica. It had an excellent harbor in those days. It was a business center. What I really want you to know is that it was located on the Roman highway known as the Appian Way.
What is that all about? That shows us the strategy that the Holy Spirit is leading Paul to follow. The Appian Way was the main highway of the Roman Empire that connected the east and the west. If the Gospel could be planted at that crucial, strategic touch point on the map, that means that the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ could spread more rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. That was one of the key strategies and it is still a strategy that missionaries follow today. The Gospel needs to be planted in cities. What goes on in the city will radiate out into the areas around the city.
When Paul arrived to Thessalonica, he had a rather remarkable ministry. In fact, as best we can tell in Acts 17:2, he stayed there less than a month. He was three Sabbath days in the synagogue as the verse tells us. So, evidently his ministry lasted less than a month. I less than a month, a local church was founded. Many people are won to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Later, the Apostle Paul addresses two of the letters of the New Testament—I and II Thessalonians—to this particular church. When you read those two letters you will discover that this church was well-grounded in the faith. They have been taught Bible doctrine. They were evangelistic in their outreach. In many ways it is the most ideal church you will find in the New Testament. Paul faithfully preached the gospel. It is astounding what God did in that city.
Then, of course, you find in Acts 17:5 that some people got out in the street and mobbed and there was an uproar. There was a riot. Everywhere Paul went there was either a riot or revival. Some places Paul had a revival and a riot.
The Gospel is a divider. Satan is never, ever happy when people come to know Christ. The devil is never happy when morality is brought forward in a city or in a nation. The devil’s crowd always gets upset about it. Then right in the middle of this uproar is a statement made in Acts 17:6. It think it is one of the most fascinating statements in the whole Bible. We read about the ministry of Paul with these words: “These that have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Isn’t that an interesting phrase? They turned the world upside down. These folks had just turned everything upside down.
Of course, we know that statement is not correct. Paul and his party were not turning the world upside down, the devil and sin had already done that. It’s the devil that turns things upside down. We are living in an upside-down society. We are living in a time when people want to say right is wrong and wrong is right, good is evil and evil is good. The devil and sin have literally turned everything upside down in America. But when Jesus comes, He doesn’t turn things upside down, He turns things right-side up. Aren’t you glad for that truth? He does that in a city. He turns a city right-side up. He does that in a church. He turns things right-side up. He does that in a life. He turns a life right-side up. It’s wonderful what Jesus can do!
I heard about a little girl in Sunday School one time. She said the New Testament ends with Revolutions. I thought that’s not far from true. It brings a revolution in your life when Christ comes. He puts things back in right perspective. Some of you are all upside down. You have thing all messed up. You have your priorities upside down. You have your life upside down. You have your family upside down. What you need is a revolution for Jesus Christ to put your life right-side up.
That’s the kind of church I believe Christ wants today—the right-side up church. Archimedes the mathematician said, “Give him a fulcrum long enough and strong enough, and he could move the world.” God has placed in our hands a mighty fulcrum message. It is the message of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Gospel message is mighty enough and powerful enough to turn things right-side up.
In this chapter we will learn about the right-side up life. May the Christ who is head of the Church gives the leadership qualities necessary to have a right-side up life, ministry and church.
I. We Will Need To Exemplify The Savior
When we read these verses we just cannot help but see that the Apostle Paul was like the Lord Jesus Christ. We all ought to be like Jesus. We know that we do not imitate Christ in order to be saved, we know that we are saved because we have identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. However, the Bible says that the Lord Jesus has left us an example, that we should follow in His steps. We should exemplify Jesus. People should see Jesus in our lives every day.
Paul exemplifies the Lord Jesus in his worship. We read in Acts 17:2, “and Paul as his manner was, went into the synagogue.” Does that remind you of someone? When you read the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible says, “As His manner was, on the Sabbath day, He went into the synagogue. That was his church of that day. By the way, Jesus belonged to a dead church. He belonged to the synagogue in Nazareth. However, the deadness of his church did not keep Jesus from going.
When the Apostle Paul came to cities, he not only won people to faith in Christ, but he also started churches. Churches are very important. The church is that which Jesus Christ is going to come for on this earth. The church has an eternal, permanent lasting ministry. That’s why when Paul came to a city, he gathered those people together and got them into a local church. Are you a part of a local church?
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” We are to assemble ourselves together. Don’t be a church hobo—just kind of going from church to church, checking it out. Some people check the news to see what’s going to be on Sunday. “Let’s go see what Dr. Floop Snoop is going to be preaching on today. Let’s check him out.” “Let’s see how the music is going to be over there. They are going to have Dirty Herman and the Four Runny Noses singing. Let’s go check that out.”
No, we are not to attend the local church that way. We are to get involved in a local church. Be a part of it. The Bible says that Jesus loved the church and gave himself for it. If Jesus loved the church enough to give himself for it, you and I ought to love our church enough to live for it and to be faithful to and to serve it. We ought to be like Jesus in worship.
Not only should we worship the Lord on Sunday, but we ought to worship the Lord every day of our lives. The Apostle Paul lived his daily life as an offering up to the Lord. Every day of our lives we ought to be like Jesus. We ought to be worshiping the Lord. Jesus Christ was in constant communion with the heavenly Father. He lived a life of worship. Paul lived a life of worship. Every day of your life you ought to live a life of worship.
Not only do we see him exemplifying Jesus in worship. That’s what a right-side up church and Christian ought to do. Next, we should exemplify Jesus in our walk. I think about the way Jesus walked on this earth. When Jesus walked among people, everywhere Jesus went the Bible says he was doing good. Everywhere Jesus went, people were better because Jesus had passed that way. Blind people were made to see when Jesus walked by. Deaf people were made to hear when Jesus walked by. Lame people were made to walk when Jesus walked by. People were better because Jesus came by.
The same thing was true in the life of Paul. People’s lives were better because Paul passed through town or city. Go back to Philippi and see what God did through Paul there. Lydia was better because a man named Paul came through. A slave girl, possessed by the devil, was better because Paul came through. An old jailer, on the verge of suicide, was better because a man named Paul came through. He was like Jesus in his walk.
Are people better or worse because we walk by? When we touch lives, do we touch them for good or for evil? It is not enough to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you are going to take an upside-down city and turn it right-side up for the Lord Jesus Christ, we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. The second leadership quality is:
II. We Will Need To Expound The Scriptures
In Acts 17:2 we read, ”and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging.” Paul traveled the Roman Empire with the Savior in his heart and with the Scripture in his hand. In so doing, the Apostle Paul literally righted the Roman Empire, started a revolution in the Roman Empire that eliminated slavery for the terrible, social evil that it was, and brought purity, sanity and wholeness to a society. The Bible will turn things right-side up again.
He went into the synagogue on Sunday. Paul opened the Scriptures and shared and expounded God’s Word, the Bible. We learn a little bit here about how to do it, with three words in verses 2 and 3: “reasoned” and “opening” and “alleging.” These three things ought to happen when the Scriptures are expounded. The word “reasoned” means—what does the Bible say? We need to know what the Bible says. We are living in a world today where there is a confusion of voices.
When we turn on the television and celebrities are expressing their opinion on any kind of subject imaginable. They think just because they have a pretty face that makes them an expert. Or just because somebody has a talk show, he thinks he knows it all. I hope you don’t form your opinion by what you listen to on television, or talk shows, or from celebrities, or these kinds of people. Most of the time they get it upside down.
We need to find out what the Bible says. The Bible will right-side up a lot of upside down thinking today. I’m not interested in the latest magazine. I’m not interested in quoting you the latest editorial. I’m trying to tell people what the Bible says because when the Bible is preached it will turn their life right-side up. God has His truth, and the devil has his error. The Apostle Paul told them what God said, what the Bible has to say.
Then the word “opening” means to make it plain, to make it clear, to make it understandable. That is my responsibility—to make it clear. Sometimes people say to me, “Preacher, I don’t know how in the world you got that out of the Bible. I never saw that.” My job is to get it out from God’s Word for you and help you understand it.
Notice the next word “alleging.” That word literally means to lay alongside of. Paul took the Scriptures, what God says and God means in the Scriptures and laid it alongside their life and applied it to their daily life. This is purpose of the Bible. It’s to lay the truth of the Bible alongside our lives so that we can adjust our lives to the teaching of the Bible.
In our country we are run by the rule of law. We have rules to go by. You don’t go by the whims and the fancies of a mob in the street. You go by the rule of law. The same thing is true in your life. It really doesn’t matter what you and I think about. The question is—what does God say about it and how do we adjust our life to what God teaches in the Bible? Are you willing to lay the Bible alongside your life and then adjust your life accordingly? Are you willing to bring your financial life to the Bible and live accordingly? Are you willing to take your family life, husband/wife, sons/daughters and live your family life according to the teachings of the Bible? Are you willing to lay your business life down alongside the Bible and then adjust your business life according to the teachings of the Bible? If we will do that you will have a revolution in our lives and some things that are upside down will be made right-side.
The Bible must be expounded correctly. It must be expounded powerfully. Paul said, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Paul was saying that it wasn’t just mere words. If preachers are preaching the Bible and if they are yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit when the Word of God is preached, there will be spiritual power in the preaching of the Word. God’s Holy Spirit takes the Word and turns people’s lives right-side up.
In the fifteen century there was darkness and gloom all over the world. A man named Martin Luther came upon the scene. The common people were not allowed to have the Bible. The Bibles were chained to the pulpits in the churches. Martin Luther put the Bible in the hands of the common people, and it was like the light bursting on humanity as they move from the dark ages into amazing light.
There was a man named John Wesley, preaching in England. They banned him from the churches. So, he went out into the open fields and preached the simple gospel of Jesus and tens of thousands of people received Christ as their Savior. And Methodism was born and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ moved forward, setting things right-side up in power.
The third leadership quality needed for a right-side up life is:
III. We Need To Extend Salvation
A right-side up church offers Jesus to its city. Paul said in verse 3, “That Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead. This Jesus whom I preach unto you is Christ.”
He just tells once more the simple story. It’s that Jesus died on a cross and rose from a tomb. We have heard it so many times. Even though we have listened to it so much, we somehow get away from the cross. It doesn’t move us the way it ought to move us. The cross was in the heart of God from all eternity. The Jewish people in the days of Paul missed it totally. They read their Old Testament and they saw the fact there was going to be a Messiah of glory, but they missed the fact that there was going to be a Messiah of suffering. They caught the glory passages, but they missed the suffering passages.
Yet, if you will study your Old Testament, you will find deeply embedded in prophetic Scriptures the clear teaching that when Christ came, He would suffer and He would die.
When Jesus when out to the cross of Calvary and suffered and died, He was fulfilling what the Scripture had said: “must needs have suffered.” No one ever suffered like Jesus did. Jesus Christ suffered an infinite amount of pain in a finite period of time. When Jesus went through that grueling, that awful, that horrible, that despicable death, that bloody, gory sight and scene on the cross, He was doing something that you and I can’t do for ourselves. He was making one payment forever for our sins, making it possible for us to be saved.
This is why the cross is beautiful to us. It is a beautiful symbol to us. That’s why Christians wear crosses around their necks and put crosses on their churches. When you understand what the suffering was for, then you begin to see the beauty of it.
There was a little girl whose mother’s hands were terribly scarred. As the little girl got older, she got to that stage where she was so self-conscious and embarrassed about her mother’s scarred hands. Finally, one day in exasperation she said, “Mom, your hands are so ugly and so disfigured and so scarred. Mom, what’s wrong with your hands?” The mother said, “Darling, I knew you would ask me sooner or later and I’ve been waiting for you to ask. When you were just a little baby in the crib, I was out of the house one day and I turned, and the house was on fire. Darling, the first thought that came to my mind was my precious little girl. I ran back into the bedroom, and I got you, but before I could my hands were burned, and the doctors have done the best they could. I scarred my hands, darling, rescuing and saving you.” When she said that the little girl began to weep. Tears began to erupt from her eyes. She reached out and took her mother’s hands and began to smother them with kisses and drop tears on them. She said, “Oh, mom, please forgive me, I never knew. Those are the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen.”
When we talk about the cross and we talk about the nails and the thorns and the blood and the anguish of it all—there’s beauty in the cross because it was on the cross that Christ paid the price for our sins.
That’s the message. Then He arose again from the dead. Hallelujah! I’m glad we don’t have to wait until Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection. Every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. “Up from the grave He arose.” On the third day He tore the bars away. He put the keys of death, hell, and the grave on His hip and he ascended back to the right hand of the Father, and He is alive forever more. The Lord Jesus Christ can turn your life right-side up because He is alive in heaven and turns your life up heavenward.
The Bible says they believed it. Would you believe it? Would you receive it? When they did, the Bible said the whole place was transformed. In I Thessalonians 1:9 Paul wrote to these same believes, “for they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you and how you turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God. That is what it means to be turn right-side up. That is taking things upside down and putting them right-side up. Turning to God from idols.
There was a man who had a T-model Ford. It quit working. He was on the side of the road trying to get his T-model Ford to work. A man came riding by that he didn’t know and said, “Excuse me sir, could I help you?’ He said, “If you can. I can’t get this T-model Ford to work. The man worked on the motor and made an adjustment or two and said, “Now try it.” Sure, enough it cranked right up. The man looked at the stranger and said, “My gracious in the morning, how in the world did you do that? What is your name?” The man said, “Henry Ford. Good day.”
The man who made the car knew how to make it work. The God who made you knows how to make you work. He knows how to take that upside down life of yours and turn you right-side up and make you work, make you serve, make you live, and make you become what you really want in your heart to be.