It's Not Me, It's You!

2023 January   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:19
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When the Mission Stumbles

Paul had had an interesting time after he entered Macedonia with his companion Luke after a time of ministry in Ephesus.
We read the story of Pauls’ journey along the route from Troas to Corininth in Acts 16, after a vision in the night asking him to come and help them.
According to Acts 16:10 “10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Luke joined the journey without discussion; only a change in the use of pronouns from “He” meaning Paul to “We” where Luke joins in the journey.

Off to Philippi

They sailed t Samothrace, then to Neapolis, and then went to Philippi, probably the hometown of the Physician Luke because of the way he puffs up its importance in his travel notes.
There they went to find a Jewish business woman named Lydia from Thyatira, who dealt in fine fabrics and dyes. She heard the Gospel message from Paul, opened her home to them, and things were looking up.
Until the next day, when a wizard’s slave girl couldn’t help but spout out that Paul and his companions were servants of God. Finally, when Paul got tired of her interrupting , he cast out the noisy demon that was causing the outbursts, and suddenly her wizard master couldn’t make a dime on her apparent predeictions.
It made the wizard so mad he took Paul to court, complaining these Jews were messing up the city and spoiling his income.
Paul got beaten up and thrown into prison, but about midnight God sent and earthquake that broke his chains and opened up that prison on Philippi.
That let to the jailer and his family getting saved, and a nice meal with the family. In the morning, hearing that they had beaten an imprisoned a Roman Citizen, they told Paul to get out of town quickly, to save their necks. Paul wouldn’t do it. He made the judges walk all the way to the prison and declare publically that they were innocent. The had enough time to go say bye to Lydia, and comfort the believers, and then took

Off to Thessalonica.

And this chapter begins in Acts 17. They found a Jewish synagogue, and shared about Jesus there. He felt he was talking to reasonable men who would certainly learn the truth of what he was telling them about Jesus and be saved. Some believed, but others who were running the synagogue got pretty jealous and raised a ruckus.
After getting a mob together, they went looking for Paul but couldn’t find him, so they nabbed the Synagogue leader, Jason, and a few new Christians, set them in front of the authorities and complained that
Acts 17:6 “6b “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,”
In other words, they were messing up the status quo, and no calm society is going to put up with that.
They complained this was against Caesar, because “they were saying there was another king, Jesus.”
Jason and the rest had to post bail to get out of that, and Paul and Silas were sent off to the next town with a synagogue, Berea. Of course you know what they did when they got there. They went in to the synagogue and shared about Jesus.

Now To Berea

where they found some more noble Jews, as Luke calls them in Acts 17:11 “11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Paul liked that. He shared about the Messiah Jesus, and they listened and searched it out. And not just the Jews there, but also Greek women of high standing and some Greek men too became believers.
This was looking good until the Thessalonian Jews showed up and raised a fuss, and so the Berean boys told Paul it was time for a road trip. Silas an Timothy stayed in Berea for a bit, so the new believers could get some kind of foundation in faith. But they were going to join Paul later in Athens.

Paul in Athens

was like a kid in a candy store, almost. Paul, a conservative Jew, was all cranked up because of the idols in Athens. But this was a thinker’s dream assignment. This was the seat of philosophy in his day. And Paul, pretty proud of himself, was ready to go head to head with them. Paul was sure his reasoning could stand up to them.
So he got a lecture invitation, I guess it was Saturday night open mic or something. And Paul launched into a lecture that he had probably rehearsed over and over in his head.
But here in Athens, this greatly educated Jewish Pharisee could not get any traction on the gospel. We find out that these assembled scholars and thinkers were not ready to hear about the resurrection of Jesus. .
Acts 17:32–33 ESV
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst.
and when you read the story with modern idioms in mind, it seems that Paul got “the bum’s rush” with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of response.
So, it was then. . .

Off to Corinth

where with Aquila of Pontus, and his wife Priscilla, recently settled from Rome after Claudius got them out of his city, Paul again went to the Synagogue, to persuade Greeks and Jews about Jesus the Christ. Booted out of the synagogue, after trying to reason with them from Scripture, he shook the dust off his garments and sandals and left the synagogue behind.
But next door to the synagogue was Titius Justus’ home, who was a Roman worshipper of God. And Crispus who led the synagogue became a believer. And many others heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Paul and a church was born there.
It seems Paul originally went to let the Jews know their Messiah had come; he wasn’t trying to start a new religion, he was just preaching the fulfilment of the promises of God for the Jews.
That’s when the Lord told Paul in a night vision,
Acts 18:9–10 ESV
9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
And so, with that confirmation of where he was supposed to do and where he was supposed to be, Paul stayed 18 months in Corinth.
That’s not new news to you, but I mostly wanted to remind you of just what happened when Paul tried to be Paul the Scholar, Teacher, Philosopher, and Theologian that he imagined himself to be.
You see, as Paul the Jewish scholar, he was booted from the city of Philippi, run out of Thessalonica by the Jews, pressed to leave Berea for the same reason, and then left alone in Athens for a time.
I want you to go back and read that record from Acts 17:22-33 again when you have a chance.
In Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and even in Corinth, the Jews didn’t want him , and didn’t want to hear about Jesus.
But in Athens, he was sure his great mind could go head to head with the students of Socrates, and other great thinkers. Paul was sure about the truth, and sure of his own abilities to share it, and certain that men of reason would be easily swayed to believe what is certainly true a bout Jesus.
And Paul, being Paul and doing his “Paul thing”, failed. He was unable to set up a church. He suffered humiliation for the cause of Christ and was disgraced in his ability to make religious arguments that would “stick” in the church as well.

The Mission Faltered, And Almost Failed

when Paul tried to put forth his own skills and abilities. It was only the intervention of the Lord that kept Paul on task in Corinth.
That background is important to the point of today’s message. And here is that point:
It doesn’t matter how much you know, nor how well you can reason. What matters is if you will let the work of Christ be the most important thing in sharing the message of Jesus.

It’s Not Me, It’s You!

Is a play on that very similar phrase that has been used so often when lovers break up.
It’s not You, it’s Me is the cowards way to say they are done with someone else. It’s a way to not quite tell the truth. An effort to make a gentler statement that might not hurt the injured party quite so much, to try to say the break-up is really about me and there is nothing wrong with you. More often, we really mean, “It’s not you, it’s me. But it’s mostly you.”
Well, for us this morning, we need to see something new in the phrase. Once Paul had bombed in Greece, getting run out of Philippi, and getting the Jews in Thessalonica riled up enough that they followed him to Berea, having the “No, thank you, please” reception at Athens and leaving the Jewish community synagogue in Corinth, Paul had to do some serious re-consideration.
Why won’t they listen to Paul’s voice of reason? He can see it so clearly: Jesus as the Christ of God just pops out of everything in the Jewish canon. From Genesis to Malachi, in the Psalms, from Isaiah, just everywhere. Even among the scholars in Athens, their own curricula pointed to the Son of God. Paul used every way of reason he could, and nothing really worked. People just couldn’t or wouldn’t understand the truth that he was sharing.
He finally had to get smart about getting smart. And when he finally did, the power of God showed up. When Paul finally heard God tell him that it wasn’t about the message of Christ but about how Paul was trying to get it across, things changed. God said to Paul, “It’s Not Me, it’s You!” so Paul took an honest, hard look at himself. That’s when he figured out why he was working so hard and getting no where.
Just to make it plain, here is the

Sermon in a Second: It’s Not About Paul, It’s About Jesus.

As good as he was, Paul’s ability is not what saves souls. Christ’s work on the cross is the only thing that can save.
You can’t reason someone into faith. You can argue the facts, but it is through faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the Cross to atone for your sin, that we have forgiveness in His name. It is when we believe by faith that Jesus was raised from the dead to prove victory over Hell that we have eternal life in Christ.

Redemption is Beyond Reason

1 Corinthians 1:18–19 ESV
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Saved by the Power of God

1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Humbled by the Folly of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:19–20 ESV
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

If Reason Were Enough, We Wouldn’t Need the Cross

You Can’t Argue Anyone Into Heaven

1 Corinthians 1:20–21 ESV
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

The Message is the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:22–24 ESV
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
To the reasoning mind, that just seems foolish. Which is why Paul had to come to grips with himself to put his brain on idle and let his heart speak of Christ’s work for us. Paul had to tell Jesus,
It’s not Me, it’s You!
When the message swung back to focus on Jesus, people were getting saved.
When the message was about the unreasonable Love of God, people got saved.
When the message was about the sacrifice of God’s Son to atone for our sin, people got saved.
When the message was about the empty tomb and the Resurrected Christ, people got saved.
1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Cross Overrules Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:26 ESV
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
You see, it’s not me, it’s Christ.
Paul’s Reason Didn’t Work to convince people of Christ.

Simply Saved People are Powerful

1 Corinthians 1:27–29 ESV
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Our Only Boast is Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:30–31 ESV
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Tell the Story. Let the Lord Save.

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