2018-10-21 – Acts 14.8-20 – Who is Your God?
Bible Text: Acts 14:8-20 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts |
2018-10-21 – Acts 14.8-20 – Who is Your God?
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.
Do you feel old-man winter creeping up upon you? The wind is blowing, our furnaces are running, the leaves are falling. We even got a skiff of snow. Time to make ready the snow blower I dare say. I love the four seasons, but like anything else, preparation is the key for success. Are you making ready for winter?
Earlier this week I had some negotiations with a really nice lady in Wisconsin. It was a business transaction, however I generally use any excuse I can to present the Gospel to those I meet, and this incident was no exception to that rule. In that light, she told me that she attended a local church, for which I did some quick investigation and found it was similar in belief and practice as our church. However, she also revealed that she believed that her “god” is really the energy inside her. Well of course that statement lead to a lot more discussion. But that got me thinking about you all, I know most of you pretty well, and I think I know your beliefs in this regard. And I hope and pray that you know our God as He makes Himself known in our Bible. You see there are no options here. Either you believe in Jehovah God, and Jesus Christ or you don’t. And as a result, you are either going to Heaven or you are not, based upon that fundamental understanding. Today’s message is called Who is Your God? My hope is it might cause you to solidify this issue in your mind once and for all.
Please turn to Acts 14, verse 8, page 981 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
Last week we read where Paul and Barnabas were dealing with some difficult Jews as they were going about preaching the Gospel on the first of three missionary trips. The hateful Jews started poisoning the minds of the people so they would even consider stoning Paul and Barnabas. Hearing that, Paul and the others fled to Lystra, where our story continues today. I will remind you that all this is taking place after Jesus was raised from the grave and subsequently ascended into heaven. Now the Apostles are going about making new disciples and starting new churches for Christ.
Mistaken for Gods in Lystra
8 In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. 9 He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet!” And he jumped up and began to walk around.
In our family, we have been very blessed in that our children were born healthy. My brother however, has a dear grandchild that was born with Spina-bifida. With that condition, she had to undergo several major surgeries within the first weeks of her life so she might have the chance to walk and use her limbs. She is now three years old and has limited movement in her legs, and is a very happy little girl. Although it was a challenging situation, we praise the Lord that she is not totally handicapped. This man in our first verses here, had been lame from birth. He never knew how to walk. Perhaps he found out about Paul and Barnabas’s previous encounters and heard that they had a gift of healing. Or perhaps he was just touched by the Holy Spirit during Paul’s message, but anyway somehow he had exhibited extraordinary faith, and Paul noticed that faith in him. Paul looked at the man directly and said with a loud voice “Sand up on your feet!”. That is how we would say it in the military, maybe when a senior officer came into the room. But this time it wasn’t directed to a crowd, it was only directed to this man that was lame. I am sure it probably shocked the man, and everyone else within ear-shot. Immediately, the man “jumped up and began to walk around”.
Let me ask you, when you were a child, how long did it take you to learn to walk? I did some checking, and I found that most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months and are walking well by the time they’re 14 or 15 months old. I also know that most injured people when they have been restricted from walking for a long period of time, takes weeks, or months sometimes to get to walking right again. Here this man, who has been lame since birth, was healed by God through Paul, and it says he suddenly leaped up and started walking around. So the miracle that was performed this day, was not just a healing, but it also gave him strength enough to leap up and walk. The people that witnessed this were shocked I am sure. They probably knew this man had been disabled all his life, and now he was leaping up and walking around. I know sometimes you see these kind of things on TV, for which I have my doubts, but I know God heals, and God performs miracles, and this one was so believable that they even wrote it down in our Bible history book here.
But notice also that the healing came as a result of this man’s faith. Paul perceived that he had the faith to be healed; he desired it, he hoped for it, and Paul was just serving as the instrument for God’s healing powers. And that goes along with when Jesus was going around healing people, over and over again, Jesus told them “your faith has healed you, your faith has healed you”. And I believe that same healing power can be done today as it was demonstrated here. God can heal, ladies and gentlemen. I have seen it in my own life and in others as well. He created the heavens and the earth. God can heal indeed.
I believe the apostles were given special healing powers to help proclaim the Gospel to the nations. However, I also know that each of the apostles died themselves, and their families died as well. The gift of healing was given for the purpose of bringing new believers to an eternal healing, not just mortal healing.
I believe that our focus should not be on this mortal existence, but instead more about our eternal condition. But God chooses who to heal, and who not to heal, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And to that I say, praise the Lord.
11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought bulls and wreaths to the gates because he intended, with the crowds, to offer sacrifice.
By them saying “The gods have come down to us in human form!” they almost got some of that correct, in that, God did come down in human form. Jesus that is, God incarnate, or God in the flesh. But of course they were referring to Paul and Barnabas, and in that they were wrong. The Holy Spirit healed these people through Paul and Barnabas. We too, who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, can do things through His power. Maybe not heal people, but miraculous things nonetheless. I have seen God’s work in me and through me, through the years. Giving me the words to say, giving me wisdom and strength in tough situations for instance. Let God work His miracles through you. You will be blessed in that.
Do you remember studying mythology in school? Mythology means the study of myths. The crowds here thought they Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes. Some versions say Jupiter instead of Zeus, and Mercury instead of Hermes, and that is okay because the Romans regarded Jupiter and Mercury as the equivalent of the Greek Zeus and Hermes. Greek and Rome had a lot of influence upon this area of what is now Turkey. The Greeks were known to worship many different gods, somewhat like the Hindu do today. They even had a temple just outside of town dedicated to Zeus, so when the crowds proclaimed Paul to be Zeus, the priest of Zeus wanted to offer the sacrifices to him. What a mess this was for Paul and Barnabas. Instead of getting people excited about the Gospel and Jesus, they were instead exciting some of them to fall further away from the one true God.
This is a fallen world, and satan is using these myths in our story to keep people from accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And sadly that is still the case today. So many people are fed satan’s deceptions, that causes them to repulse Christ. No matter what you do, they will not listen. A sad situation indeed; (sigh).
14 The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: 15 “People! Why are you doing these things? We are people also, just like you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own way, 17 although he did not leave himself without a witness, since he did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” 18 Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.
Regarding the seduction and attention they got; many people, even pastors fall victim of these dynamics. How many Actors and Sport heroes have we seen over the years come to destruction because they fall for the praise and admiration of the crowds. Even pastors and politicians are enamored by the praise of man, and within a year or so, they fall to the utter depths of despair and sin. So sad to see.
How do Paul and Barnabas respond to these acts of worship? Do they bask in the glorious attention? Do they relish the over-the-top affirmation and support? Do they change their online handles to @Zeus and @Hermes, and retweet the people’s praises? No, they ran into the crowd as fast as possible, and declared that they were men not gods.
To Paul and Barnabas, the allure of human approval — acceptance, esteem, and intense admiration — seemed more dangerous than enticing, more threatening than tempting. And they knew the roots of the crowd’s flattering idolatry would eventually kill each and every one of them. So they confronted them, risking their skyrocketing social statuses, with a brave call to worship the living God instead.
I love what they said here.. knowing that the gentiles didn’t have the Jewish faith understanding to lean upon, Paul instead pointed to the obvious evidence of God in all of creation. They probably didn’t even know the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. I like what Paul says later in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”. “Without excuse”, one cannot look upon nature and not realize there is a God that loves us, and has prepared a place for us, and is watching over us. That is what Paul is trying to show them. Another great verse is from King David in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; …
its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man it enjoys running its course. It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat”.
Our God is the God of all creation. Paul was stating the obvious in hopes that they would turn from the myth of Zeus or Jupiter to the one true and living God.
But our last verses , starting at verse 19 says:
19 Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.
20 After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
Having narrowly escaped being worshiped by the crowds, Paul immediately faces a new crowd — a mob that responds very differently, even violently, to his news about Jesus. One group tries to worship him, and the next tries to murder him. One moment, he’s exalted as a god; the next, he’s brutally beaten and gasping for life. One moment he’s the celebrity pastor god; the next, a notorious villain being executed in the street. Such a sad circumstance, the life of a evangelist.
Paul was beaten with rocks, and then left for dead. Stoning was a common practice then, and it still is practiced in places like Saudi Arabia today. And for what, for simply giving them the good news about Jesus. This heinous persecution is happening all around the world right now. Places like India and China, and throughout the Middle East, missionaries know they might be imprisoned or murdered for their faith. You may have seen in the news the other day, Pastor Andrew Brunson was freed Friday after being detained in a Turkish prison for nearly two years. Persecution is real, brother and sisters. Satan uses and excites other religions to take retribution upon Christians all over the world. We should be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So how did Paul respond to the attempt on his life — the most severe criticism, opposition, and persecution imaginable? Did he give up? No, he went to another city to say more about Jesus, and then he went back into Lystra — where stones still laid on the ground covered in his blood — to encourage the believers there. That faith in action, bravery only comes from God. Whenever we are feeling persecuted or simply scared, we should think of Paul here, he is a great example.
Paul accepted their rejection, embracing the hostility, because he did not live for what they thought of him, but instead for what he thought of Jesus. Paul did not make decisions so that more people would like him, but instead so that more people would love and follow his Savior.
A couple of key points I want you to take away today,
Like Paul and Barnabas ripped their clothes (Rip a shirt?) in protest as people were trying to give them the honor that belonged to God alone. We too should never take the credit or honor that only belongs to God alone.
Please know that just as Paul tried so hard to convey, our God is a real living God, not dead or make believe; we should be doing likewise. Jesus Christ appeared to us in the flesh so that we could know Him personally. He alone is worthy of our worship, and He loves you so. I hope you believe that
The folks in Lystra were believing in the myth of Zeus or Jupiter, and for that they would not see heaven. And the lady I talked to earlier this week believed in the god of energy inside her, even though she went to church regularly, she may not see heaven either. So this morning I got to ask you, Who is Your God? Are you prepared to answer that question? Let me tell you my personal answer.
My God is the God of Abraham, Isiaac, Jacob and Moses. My God is the triune God of the Father Sone and Holy Spirit. My God created this universe for me, and He gives me everything I truly need, and He forgives all my sin. He sent His Son Jesus to this world to die for my sins even though I don’t deserve it. He loves me so, and I cannot wait to be with Him in heaven for all of eternity. I am humbled and am truly grateful. Therefore I choose to serve Him and carry out His will, to tell others of His great love.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”