fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Puzzled by Simplicity?

Puzzled by Simplicity? by Julie McAllen

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch?
Time to get a new watch.
Simple questions deserve simple answers. So what makes us laugh at third grade jokes? We never expect simple answers.
In school I loved solving those long algebraic equations. I found delight in discovering that “x” plus “y” actually equaled “c” after filling up half a page and twenty minutes on the problem. As much as I enjoyed the “aha!” moment I wondered when in the world I’d ever need to use that process. Since graduating high school my math skills have diminished to balancing my check book and figuring out which can of soup is the cheapest per ounce. So much for algebra. But I remain fascinated with puzzles.
Have you ever found yourself engaged in solving puzzles in the Bible? As with my one time love of algebra, I can fill up pages of notes on a biblical topic with a satisfying “aha!” moment only to wonder when in the world this would be useful. There is no shortage of debatable topics offered to those who find themselves in biblical discussions. Are we in the last days? Is God a trinity? Are the gifts of the Spirit for our time? Is there a land promise left to Israel? Should women be ordained ministers? Were the six creative days literal 24 hour days? Do they deserve an answer? Of course they do and it is never a waste of time to resolve these questions for ourselves or others. But it is not the simple answer most deserving of our attention.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Is 53:1)

What is the Christian’s message? Has it changed in the last 2000 years? Where it has, you will find problems. Look at your church, what is it’s main message? Look at your evangelism style, what is your message? Being a puzzle person by nature and a former evangelizer with a complicated last days message, I am always taken aback by the simple conversions of individuals in the Bible. Can it really be this simple?
One such story is of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip in Acts 8:26-40. The eunuch was reading the scroll of Isaiah when Philip came along side him to explain it’s meaning. This eunuch was basically on his way home from a worship service. He was familiar with prophecy, but still had not heard the message.
32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
(Acts 8:32-34)
From this we learn he was reading what we now know as Isaiah 53:7-8. He was not yet acquainted with Jesus Christ and that is why he asked Philip “who is the prophet talking about?”

What do you think Philip explained to him? Did he come along side him to tell him about the last days? The origins of the universe? Convince him that Jesus was God Himself? How to be a good Christian?

35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:35)

What is the good news about Jesus? What is the message?

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
  (Is 53:4-6)
The word of God says Jesus took all our sins on himself. Have you ever missed that point in giving a witness? Don’t.  That is the message. Have you ever been convinced that you need something else? Philip’s witness was about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. That was the gospel to which this man responded and got baptized. Did you notice that the eunuch’s trust in Jesus’ sacrifice was all that was needed for baptism? He did not have to have a thorough knowledge of every deep prophecy or clean himself up to accept the sacrifice Jesus made. He was baptized right there on the spot! And then went his own way rejoicing. What? It can’t be that simple! There’s got to be a longer equation to solve!
If our message has become the second coming, have we overlooked the purpose of the Lord’s first coming? Who has believed our message? Read Isaiah 53.
If our message has become an argument about the trinity, but his role as the promised Messiah has been missed, we frustrate the message. Read Isaiah 53.
I find it interesting that Philip is the disciple in this story with the eunuch. I believe Philip understood Jesus to be God by the time he was giving a witness to the eunuch, but I don’t think he was a trinitarian at his own conversion and baptism. He accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, but was still confused as to his triune nature after 3 years of discipleship (John 14:7-9). Yet, Philip’s message was not about accepting the trinity. Philip started in Isaiah 53.
Peter’s message also was Isaiah 53.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pe 2:24)
Paul understood the message of Isaiah 53.
16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Ro 10:16-17)

What message have you been listening to and sharing? If it’s gotten complicated, simplify, bring it back to the good news that faith may follow the thing heard. Our gospel is not a message about angels and demons. Our gospel is not about piecing together evidence concerning the last days, winning someone over to the trinity, tapping into spiritual gifts, or scaring someone into submission through a message of hellfire or Armageddon. Our gospel is the same gospel that Paul preached, the same gospel that the eunuch was baptized under and later went his own way rejoicing. Our intention and compulsion is the same as Paul’s who said…
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 )
So what time is it when an elephant sits on your message?
Time to get a new message.
Try starting at Isaiah 53.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie


July 21, 2009 - Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Julie,
    Thank you for such a great post! Sometimes I tend to get distracted by “solving puzzles” in the bible. Thanks for reminding me of the “simple” message of the Gospel we share.

    Comment by Linda | July 22, 2009

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