Friday, June 23, 2006

Acts 13 A Public Testimony

Acts 13:13-41
The Good News
A Public verse Private Testimony

This story starts with Paul and Barnabas visiting a synagogue in Antioch. They are participating in the community worship and reading of the texts and they are invited to share a word of encouragement (verse 15). We then hear the there encouragement in the form of a public history. This history very well may have been painted on the Walls. The exodus of Moses, the Movement from nation states to a King. From Saul to David, and then the promise of a New and everlasting life and Kingdom.

Paul shares the Good news about Jesus - His death, resurrection and salvation through bringing people into a common Public Story. When we talk about sharing a Testimony we often think in terms of our specific personal (if not private) story. For instance, I came to experience the forgiveness and new life in Jesus as Savior and Lord after I saw my workaholic chain smoking Father give his life to Jesus and radically change his priorities, habits and character.

Paul is not giving the people a Personal Testimony, he is telling them the Public Good news that can be found in Jesus. This is incredible important on several levels.

1. Having only a personal testimony leaves our faith as only an individualized personal experience with God. In a pluralistic and relativistic culture we the have no more to say then any Spiritual person with their OWN home grown religion.
2. Having Only a Personal Testimony Requires that a Personal Relationship must be established before we ever start talking about the Good News.
3. Having only a personal Testimony makes it seem like Faith and the Good news is only about personal betterment and growth.

The temptation many Christians have in handling this first problem is to tell the Public Good News exactly as Paul told it. These are the people who are often seen as good Bible thumpers and scripture quoter’s. They think that to be like Paul is to quote what Paul said. I want to argue that to be like Paul we need to be able to share a word of encouragement to those asking. Therefore the Context we are sharing in will change what we Share.

St. Francis
Was a noble man and a Knight in the Crusades. In hearing the Gospel from Luke 10 Francis sought to Live the Good News of God’s Kingdom for his Context. Francis went forth at once encouraging the people of the country-side to repentance, brotherly love, and peace. In the time of war, he spoke boldly about peace. In the time of great poverty he spoke of generosity and feeding the hungry. His Public message of peace and care for the poor was so pointed to the context of his time that he would eventually come before the Pope and the Sultan. The Pope would eventuall recognize Francis as the Leader of a Spiritual Movement. The Sultan after capturing Francis would listen to his message and allow him to live and return home.

John Wesley
He was an ordained Pastor of the Church of England, but the message of the Gospel was not reaching the poor normal people. So he took a message of repentance, victory over alcoholism, and hope for the poor to the fields and Factory yards. His Public Testimony of Jesus Love, Salvation and New Life for all social Classes changed England and America.

BT Roberts
100 years later the same Movement would need a renewal of the Public message with a few additions. BT Roberts called for a refocus on helping the poor and called for the end of slavery as a part of Jesus Good News of God’s Kingdom for that Day.

I would suggest we need to observe what the Good News or encouragement would really sound like in our context (city or town)?

What are some of the Public Testimonies you are imagining or hearing?

People I know are in need of a message of peace, social justice, equality, racial reconcilation, care for the Foster Children, Help for the widows... and thing else you can think of?


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