2018-10-28 – Acts 14.21-28 – Homeward Bound
Bible Text: Acts 14.21-28 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2018-10-28 – Acts 14.21-28 – Homeward Bound
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.
We have been going over the book of Acts, and we are witnessing through scripture how God is spreading the Gospel to the nations through the work of the early Christians. And like those early Christians, we too should be on mission, to reach the lost and to tell them of the Good News of Jesus Christ and how their sins can be forgiven. As a church, we should be excited to share this hope that we have to our neighbors and families as well as the dyeing world about us.
This is the last part of Paul’s first missionary journey. Eighteen months, 700 miles by land 500 miles by sea. I am sure they were ready to be Homeward Bound. You ever been on a long trip like that, where you could hardly wait to get home?
There is an old song called Homeward Bound by Simon & Garfunkel. Do you remember? [ Homeward bound, I wish I was, Homeward bound, Home where my thought’s escaping, Home where my music’s playing, Home where my love lies waiting, Silently for me]. What a great old song. There truly is no place like home
Please turn to Acts 14, verse 21, 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 was in Lystra, as they were going about spreading the Gospel, they healed a man that was lame. The folks there claimed that Paul and Barnabas were Greek gods, for which Paul ripped his shirt and denied their claims. They people were insulted and stoned Paul for dead. Paul survived that incident, and started preaching again despite the risks. The main focus last week was, just like in Paul’s days, many people don’t know who God is, and that is sad. We need to tell the folks about Jesus, and we need to be careful not to fall into the temptation of taking God’s glory as we are making a positive impact on our world and our neighbors.
But that is why this church exist brother and sisters, we are representing Jesus Christ to this world, and more directly, to this town of Orion, IL. This church was founded in 1843, and this afternoon we are happily going to celebrate our 175th Anniversary of its founding. This church has positively impacted this city and this area in many ways, and we are not done yet. We are now in the starting phase of a church re-plant. We have to get back to the basics of what it is to be a church. And we will see in these first verses here, the priorities of our church mission.
In your pew Bibles, this section is entitled Church Planting.
21 After they had preached the gospel in that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 They passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 After they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.
So reads God’s Word. If you have been following along in this first missionary journey of Paul’s, we have seen them travel from Antioch to these northern countries and towns, making believers, and experiencing many hardships along the way. These new city churches were birthed through some very challenging circumstances. Paul is on his way back to his home church. However despite the risk, he visits again these young church plants, to encouraging them and strengthening them, and setup up the leadership so that they might endure the hardships ahead, before he heads back home to Antioch. That is church planting done right. We are a church re-plant, and God willing we may someday plant a new church ourselves someday. As with many other life issues, the Bible provides a roadmap for success.
In this small narrative of verses this morning, we see the very definition of church being lived out. Today, in this new generation, I find many people asking about church, what is in it for me? Why should I go to church when I can stay home and watch great inspirational sermons on TV or even on my cell phone most any time I want. What’s in it for me? This is a great question, for which I am not convinced that we as the church have addressed adequately. I will attempt to answer this question in our sermon message today. In that I pray that God will be glorified.
So “what’s in it for me?” The primary thing we should realize as mature believers is that we join church together so we can advance the Gospel of Jesus together. Doing church and striving to carry out the Great Commission is tough. And like Paul says in these verses, if we are doing God’s will then we recognize that we will be going through many hardships. Jesus said this himself, He established the church so we can come together and to help each other get through life. We come together in church so that we might share wisdom, resources, muscle, and compassion, so that we can not only exist, but thrive and do great things,
on mission, to advance the Gospel to the world for Jesus. We come together in church not only to survive, but to thrive as we are doing His Good Work.
Another answer to the question of “what’s in it for me?” We are in this together. Life can be a lonely place brothers and sisters. In this age we are in now, families are more broken up today than ever, and that is so sad. But in this church, we have aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters to fellowship with. We need these ties that bind. It is instrumental for a healthy upbringing. And even though we live in the age that is saturated with “Social Media”, people are lonely. Yes they might have plenty of “friends” but many of these relationships are really so shallow. That is not God’s will for us. God wants us to have Christian relationships that are even stronger than even family. You might recall that Jesus experienced this dichotomy himself. It took a while for Jesus’s family to accept Him as their personal Savior, and until that happened, Jesus referred to His Disciples as His true family.
As a church family, we need to get close to one another not only survive but to thrive. And in doing so, God will give us His purpose and joy and experiences that we can cherish and enjoy for ages to come. And just like Paul and Barnabas shared their great adventures and experiences with their church family, if we are doing God’s will, then we too will have many stories to share. We are celebrating 175 years together as a church today, and in that we will hear of great stories about lives well spent. We are intended to live life together through church and live it abundantly. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The Third answer to “what’s in it for me?” Is that church gives you the opportunity to express your love for Jesus through Christ’s bride. Jesus calls this church “My Bride” and “My Body” That means Jesus is a part of this church and we belong to Him. The imagery and symbolism of marriage is applied to Christ and the body of believers known as the church. The church is comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have received eternal life. Jesus, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25–27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” He is talking about the church. If you believe in Jesus as your Savior. If you truly love Jesus for what He has done for you. Then you should know that He wants you to love His bride, respect His bride, and protect His bride until the day He comes back for Her.
This is your church family. And as we are celebrating this church today, we should endeavor to keep her healthy, through fellowship and encouragement and strengthening her for the mission God has called her to. Jesus wants you to love your church family “His Bride”, sacrifice for her and even die for her if necessary.
There are many other answers to the “what’s in it for me?” question. For me personally, I want my life to mean something, church gives me that opportunity. I value the network of believers here and around the world, church provides that to me. I value the wisdom and knowledge given by the Bible and the Holy Spirit and I want to learn more and to apply it more; church helps me in that. Finally, I know that I am a sinner, and I need accountability and much grace; church helps me stay on the right track. I love my church family, and I hope you do too.
Going back to our verses here this morning, one other thing Paul did for each of these new churches is they appointed elders. These were not apostles or seminary graduates. They were most probably mature members that Paul had spent a little time with, that Paul felt they understood the Gospel and were willing to continue on and protect the church family. That role of elder or pastor is an important role. Verse 23 says the church family fasted and prayed over them. They had to trust that God was going to equip them for the task ahead. It is a serious role to serve as pastor. The Bible shows that Pastor’s will be held accountable for how they lead the church. I am your pastor, your shepherd, and I know that role comes with a huge responsibility of caring for you, the flock. I thank you for putting your trust in me. I will endeavor to never take that trust for granted. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” I will do my best to serve you well, and I pray you will do your best to serve well too, for the glory and purpose of Father God in heaven.
Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey was finished. Eighteen months, 700 miles by land, and 500 miles by sea. The two apostles were committed to the task. They knocked down the Jewish & Gentile walls of separation that had existed for thousands of years. And they were successful indeed.
In the last few verses that Luke wrote in this chapter 14 of Acts it says, “They reported everything God had done with them and that he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles”. God is in the business of opening doors. Opening doors to all the different types of people, and opening doors to the people’s hearts and minds.
Matthew 7:7 reads, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Paul and Barnabas served as an instrument of God during these travels, but God accomplished the task. God opened the door to the Gentiles and effectively to us during this first missionary journey. And God still opens doors for those He puts in our paths as well. Like Paul and Barnabas, this church is an instrument of God. And although some of our instruments may just a little rusty, if we want this church to thrive, then we must use the gifts that God has provided. Choose today to be part of the glorious charge that God has given us. This is “a friendly church, in a friendly town”, and we have much work to do.
Our final verse 28 says, “And they spent a considerable time with the disciples”. They had many stories to tell and to teach what they learned. You too will have many stories if you are willing to follow the Holy Spirit in your lives. I can tell you that when I was young, living in Detroit, pondering what life had in store for me. I would have never guessed the amazing adventure that God had prepared for me. I have some fantastic stories yet to tell and share with you disciples, just like Paul got to share with his church family. And I want to hear your stories as well.
This is our church family, we are bountifully blessed here in Orion, IL and like Paul, we too have a Godly purpose. Inside this church we should be encouraging each other, equipping each other, we should be accountable to each other and loving each other. Showing mercy, compassion, and grace as we go on carrying out the Great Commission to those God puts in our paths.
And today we are going to celebrate. Some of the folks coming today will be feeling that they are Homeward Bound as they return to our church today. They love this church, and I hope you do too.
So next time you run across somebody with the question “what’s in it for me?” regarding church, give them these answers:
God gave us the church family so we can serve together for His purpose and glory.
God gave us the church family to help each other get through the hardships of life. The church network is an invaluable gift from Jesus.
God gave us the church “His Bride”, to take care of, and love; and to demonstrate how much we appreciate His saving grace.
You can’t do those things while watching televangelists or staying home. God intends that Christians stay together and serve together through church. Amen?
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.