Tuesday, June 13, 2006

what's in it for me?

Two big points struck me from the past two days' readings. Yesterday we saw how the Lord can send his people out to preach the good news. In yesterday's reading, the Lord got the gospel to an Ethiopian official by sending Philip to the lonely desert road the Ethiopian's chariot was on.

Today we read how the Lord spoke to Saul the terrorist without needing to send anyone at all. Here again, someone is traveling on a lonely desert road. The Ethiopian official was reading from the scroll of Isaiah the prophet after worshiping in Jerusalem; Saul was out to arrest more believers after persecuting them in Jerusalem. The Ethiopian got Philip to preach to him; Saul got the Lord himself:

[S]uddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

from Acts 9.3-6
Here is what I learn from this:
  • God can reach anyone anywhere with the good news.
  • God can use his people to transmit the gospel;
    he can also tell people directly
  • God can reach people regardless of whether they have worshipful or murderous intentions
As I read the passage this time around, I wondered why it was that Saul was so excited about persecuting the church. What, I wondered, was he afraid of? Or if not afraid, then why? Jesus asks him that same question, but Saul never answers it. Instead, he asks a question back: "Who are you?"

A friend was telling me this morning about a conversation with someone who was considering Jesus. "If I go your way (that is, if I believe in Jesus), what do I get? What's in it for me?"

You may have noticed that Saul didn't ask that question. Neither did the Ethiopian official. The question, "what's in it for me?" just might indicate a complete lack of interest. If so, what indicates sincere interest, real interest? It might be something like this:
  • How can I get closer to God?
  • What does God want me to do with my life?
  • How can I serve God more fully?
Or if not those, at least
something like
  • Why can't I find satisfaction in life?
  • Where does true joy come from?
  • How can I tell if my life is going in a good direction?
  • Why do I have such a hard time trying to be a good person?
And how about you and me? What questions are we asking today? I hope I'm asking more "Who are you, Lord?" than "What's in it for me?"

posted 6/15

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