Occasionally I’m asked a question like: “How can I get more out of reading my Bible? It seems like when I hear you preach a passage, you see all sorts of relevant points in a passage to my life, but when I read it on my own, quite often I just don’t get it. What can I do?”
We’ve all been there and done that, haven’t we? Here’s one thing I often do to help keep myself on track – after reading a passage I go back through it and force myself to write down a one sentence observation or “sermon” on each verse or small group of verses. I did just that with the text I will preach from tomorrow morning (Acts 19:1-20) and what I wrote down for that passage follows. Perhaps it will serve as an example and an encouragement to you. Journaling your observations or “sermons” is all the easier if you have a wide-margin Bible.
(1) While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples . . .
Just as there was trust and harmony between Apollos and Paul as they ministered in each other’s ministry fields (Apollos in Corinth and Paul in Ephesus), so also ministers today out to strive to complement rather than compete with each other.
(2)and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (3) So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. (4) Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” (5) On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
The mark of a true disciple of Jesus is to not merely agree with, but to immediately act on each new understanding of God’s will for your life.
(6) When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (7) There were about twelve men in all.
God blessed those in far away Ephesus the way he had blessed those originally in Jerusalem at Pentecost; clearly God does not play favorites.
(8) Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (9a) But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.
Powerful, dead-on, God-pleasing preaching and ministry can illicit precisely the opposite response.
(9b) So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
Paul didn’t insist on throwing pearls to people determined to remain spiritual pigs, but rather moved on to others who might give the good news a better hearing.
(10) This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
All God-honoring ministry recognizes that the gospel is for all of humankind, Jew and Gentile alike.
(11) God did extraordinary miracles through Paul (12) so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
There is no limit to what God can accomplish through someone humbly given over to him and the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom.
(13) Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (14) Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (15) One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (16) Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
Spiritual ignorance added to greed is a recipie for personal danger and disaster.
(17) When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.
Sometimes the tipping point for conversion is an awareness of the failure of false imitations of spiritual truth and practice.
(18) Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. (19) A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.
To completely remove from your use anything and everything not in keeping with the will of God, is your task as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
(20) In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
There is nothing quite so clear and compelling, powerful and persuasive, as a life that has clearly changed.