But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”
22 The crowd listened until Paul said that word. Then they all began to shout, “Away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!”
In this passage from Acts 22, Paul had been preaching to a crowd of Jewish listeners. He'd been sharing his testimony of how Christ had appeared to him on the Damascus Road, where he had been en route to imprison and even kill followers of Jesus Christ. He had been speaking of all that the Lord had spoken to him, and had been directing him to in his life. The crowd was giving his words their attention. Everything changed when Paul said that Jesus had also commissioned him to take His message of life to the "Gentiles," that is, all those who were not Jews. At that word, "Gentile," his "listeners" stopped listening. They couldn't accept that. In their view, only a Jew was subject to God's favor and blessing. Only a Jew could be His. The Jews had been looking for their Messiah for centuries. They believed that when He came, it would be for them alone. They did not believe that Gentiles could have any portion of their God. A Messiah who came to offer life to all people, was not a truth they could accept. And that brings me to the subject of this writing. At what point might the Lord say something that you will not accept? What word might He speak that causes you to turn away?
I have been preaching and pastoring now for 35 years. I have found most people very open to hearing about certain aspects concerning faith in Jesus Christ. They respond to the truth of the love, peace, joy, and abundant life that He offers in Himself. That's a Jesus Christ they can accept. However, when I tell them that He is also a Savior who demands absolute commitment to Himself, a Savior who bluntly says that there is no other pathway to the Father but through Him, well, those words have caused a lot of people to stop listening. When I add that He also calls us to, demands of us, holy and pure lifestyles, lifestyles of forgiveness, generosity, and selfless love for others, many turn a completely deaf ear to it all. Such words can bring about a cessation of all listening. I've also known the the result of someone "shouting" in one way or another, "Away with such a fellow!" Words have power. There are no words that carry more power than the words spoken and given by the Father through Christ the King. They cut to the very core of our being. We will either hear them, or reject them. Which happens more often in our lives?
It also needs to be said that this cessation of listening is not limited to unbelievers. Even in the lives of those who profess to be His, He can speak a word that can cause us to turn back from Him. This happened in John 6 when Jesus told His followers that their own works could never save them, that coming to Him wasn't the result of their effort, but His. When He added that only those who fully surrendered all of themselves to all of Him could be His disciples, verse 66 says, "At this point, many of His disciples turned away and no longer followed Him." He'd spoken the word, and words, that they couldn't accept. What word has He spoken that you can't accept?
In verse 67, Jesus asked those who remained, "Are you going to leave too?" Peter's answer was, "Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life." This is what it comes down to in the end. To whom will you and I go when He speaks the word we find so difficult to receive? Where else do you, can you find true and eternal life? In human philosophies? Those have been trusted in for thousands of years. What real peace, joy, and life have they brought? The evolving of the human race? Where do we see any evidence of that? Has the human bent toward murderous violence lessened in this world? Other religions? All other religions tell one how they can work their way to God. In Christ, the Father came to us, and on the cross, did the work and paid the price that we might know and have Him. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with the Author of Life itself. Be assured, in living that relationship, He will speak words, many of them, that will offend our flesh. What happens when He does?
So I close with the repeating of the question. What word is it that when He speaks it, you'll stop listening? When He does speak it, where and to whom will you go? Christ alone has the words that give eternal life.