“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 43

‘… they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.’

Acts 17:6-9

Just before the passage, above, Paul and Silas arrived in Thessalonica. The Holy Spirit led them all over the Near East, and gave them power to speak and act boldly, despite significant opposition. Often, when the Apostles came to town, they upset more than just the apple cart: Cherished institutions, relationships, arrangements, and more, were called into question, and even overturned by the power of the Holy Spirit, working through his Apostles.

Thessalonica was no different. Some people listened to the Apostles, and considered their teaching carefully. Paul and Silas did not just try to “win the day” through force of personality, or by putting on a show: “… on three Sabbath days (Paul) reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that is was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead….” (17:2-3) “Come,” Paul said, “let’s read this together. Hear me out, as I make my case.” Reasonable.

And yet, what the Apostles said was so radical, that the people who did not receive it – the people who did not like what Paul and Silas were saying one bit – did not miss the meaning of the Apostle’s message: Christ – not Caesar – is King. It was not, primarily, a political statement. Neither was it a statement about keeping politics and religion separate. Caesar, at that time, was thought to be a god-man. Everyone gave lip service to this, even if they did not believe it. Everyone did this because it was how everyone kept the peace.

We often try to “keep the peace” with religion, with church, with God – all that “stuff” – by thinking of God as a buddy, uncle, coach, or counselor. That is an uneasy peace to keep. I get it – I really do. Those ways of thinking about God, seem like they might be easier to cope with, or to ‘sell’ to interested people. The trouble is they are not Biblical – not by a long shot.

The Bible says that God is more like a king – The King – Jesus Christ. Yes, he calls us his friends (John 15:15), but it’s a little like a king calling you his friend – that’s awesome, but it doesn’t change that you are who you are, and he is who he is. Because he is the King, we don’t elect him, consult him, pay him, or check in casually: “How ya doin’ buddy!” We come to Jesus Christ, the King, in prayer, and ask for grace, strength, wisdom, provision.

One of our greatest challenges in getting to know and walk with God, in America, is that we have a history of not liking kings (and for good reason). But there is no other way to relate to Jesus Christ – He is our King, and we must obey him. The great, good news is that he’s the King with limitless stores of grace. He is the Good Shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine, to save the one, lost soul. That King saved me and changed me. Has he saved you and changed you? Then he is also your Lord.

Prayer: Lord, you are my Lord. You are my King. Begin again with me, Lord, and teach me to follow you, not as someone I consult or admire, but as the One who has made all things – all people – for your glory and for your Kingdom. Amen.

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