2019-02-24 – Acts 19.8-10 – Slandering the Way
2019-02-24 – Acts 19:8-10 – Slandering the Way
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 today.
(Visiting Palestine Pastor, VBS, Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron)
Read: The Wisdom of Larry the Cable Guy….
I am pleased to present to you a message today based upon the life of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Paul is risking his life almost on a daily basis in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the known world. He is following Jesus’s Great Commission command to tell the people that they can be saved. Many times people ask me why God didn’t just save everyone all at once. I heard a great explanation the other day, it is because God has always treated us special in that He gives each of us the blessing of choice. Think of it like this, if you went on a date and the other person said, you must love me, how likely are you going to comply? You can’t force love. God wants people to want to have fellowship with Him, He wants you to want to choose to love Him. And in that regard, God sent His Son so we might know His person, and know His love personally. Then God chooses to employ us, to tell the people of the world about God’s amazing love, so that they can choose for themselves to follow and love Him. That is what Paul is doing here, and that is what God want’s us to be doing as well. Amen?
Please turn now to Acts 19, verse 8, page 986 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
Paul had been traveling now through the interior regions of western Asia Minor and is now in Ephesus, all of which is now modern-day Turkey. Last week we saw how He along with Priscilla and Aquila were teaching and correcting the Christians regarding their understanding of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is also important for us to continue to strive to teach and clarify God’s will as Scripture presents itself to the people God puts in our paths. We are never done. We are always learning and we need to continually sharpen our swards, like iron sharpens iron, for the benefit and glory of God and His will. In these next verses we see Paul continuing in this manner.
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, arguing and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
Paul was a Roman citizen and a Jew that was converted to Christianity. Jewish culture embraces debate, arguing and persuasion; it is almost like a sport to them. In the short time I was in Israel earlier this month, I had the privilege of debating almost every day with some Jewish folks. I was thoroughly enjoying myself in that capacity, and I know they were enjoying the intellectual conversation as well. Again, in general, it is part of their nature. Paul was there for three months trying to persuade them that what was written by the Profits about the coming Messiah-Savior in the Old Testament Tora, has been satisfied in the life and person of Jesus Christ. And He (Jesus) said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved.” He also said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. That is probably what some of Paul’s arguments was all about. But they didn’t want to believe. Isn’t it frustrating when you pour yourself into others so they might consider, and yet they still choose not to. That is what Paul was up against.
9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
The word used here “hardened” reminds me of when Moses went before the Pharaoh and asked to take the Israelites out, the Pharaoh hardened his heart, that is until the last appeal, when God finally hardened Pharaoh’s heart. You ever run into anyone who had a hardened heart? It isn’t normally a good thing, let me tell ya. Some people’s hearts are so hardened, I don’t think you could chip it with a chisel. But I am not intending to mean a physical hardened heart, like when somebody get hardened arteries. Instead, I am referring to the hardening of their heart regarding care, compassion, love, and in Paul’s case here, the willingness to listen or reason. These people are stubborn, they were set in their ways and they didn’t want to budge. This again has to do with our ability to choose. That is the way that God wired us. These folks, despite having the Billy Graham of their day Paul present the Gospel to them personally, refused to listen.
Then it says they started Slandering the Way. That is the title of today’s message, Slandering the Way. Let me break that down a little bit for you. Slander of course means “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation.” or “making false and damaging statements about someone”. This doesn’t indicate exactly what they said, other than that they were Slandering the Way”. The Way, is what they used to call Christians before they were called Christians. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. I like the term “The Way”, I always thought it would make a good name of a church. Maybe we should get T-Shirts with “The Way” on them, do you think that would be cool?
So because of their hardness of heart and mind, Paul finally left them after three months of trying to persuading them. That reminds me of another verse where Jesus, during His Sermon on the Mount said, Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)
Repeatedly sharing the gospel with someone who continually scoffs and ridicules Christ is like casting pearls before swine. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit inside us to determine what to say and to whom, and when is it prudent to walk away. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that we should refrain from preaching the gospel to those God puts in our path. Jesus Himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors. But He also said to the disciples, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14). We are to share the gospel, but, when it becomes apparent that the gospel is not welcome, we are to move on. We are responsible to share the good news; we are not responsible for people’s response to the good news. Pigs don’t appreciate pearls, and some people don’t appreciate what Christ has done for them. Our job is not to force conversions or cram the gospel down people’s throats; there’s no sense in preaching the value of pearls to swine. Jesus’ instruction to His apostles on how to handle rejection was to simply go elsewhere. There are other people who need to hear the gospel, and they are ready to hear it. That is exactly what Paul did here in these verses.
Look at the end results. The last verse says, “This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. If Paul had stayed and continued trying to argue and persuade the folks in the synagogue, then he probably would not have been as effective. Paul listened to the Holy Spirit, he moved on and made a significant impact on that part of the world.
Now I want to move back to the Title of this message, Slandering the Way. That word slander is a topic that we all should become more sensitive to in our Christian walk. Slander is something we should avoid at all costs. This week I am sure you heard about the actor who made up a story about a hate crime that it is now believed he concocted himself. He will now see his day in court and probably will be prosecuted and spend some time in jail. It is so sad to see people conducting themselves in this manner.
The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words can do a great deal of damage to those who have been slandered. Slander is making a false verbal statement that damages someone’s reputation. Slander differs slightly from libel in that libel is a written defamation of character; slander is only spoken. The Bible says a lot about slander, in both Old Testament and New. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 10:18, “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”. And in 1 Peter 2:1 Peter wrote, ”Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” Slander is so high on God’s list of wrongs that He included it in the Ten Commandments, The ninth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Bearing false witness includes slander because of the untruths being spread. Slander is simply lying about someone with the intent of causing others to view that person in a negative light.
Slander is malicious lying, and God hates lying. Proverbs 6:16–19, There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Also Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy”. Since God is the author of truth, anything untrue is in opposition to His nature and therefore repulsive to Him. Both slander and gossip are wrong, and Scripture often condemns them together but slander takes gossip to a whole new level. Gossip collects someone’s secrets and passes them to others; slander makes up its own secrets and broadcasts them wherever they will do the most harm.
The New Testament references slander as part of our old sinful nature. Slander has no place in our lives when we become born-again, new creatures in Christ. Colossians 3:7–8 says, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Our words are to be complementary to the glory of God, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Those who know God have a responsibility to refrain from slander; James 3:9–10 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be”. Slander is one practice that must continue to endeavor to put to death if we intend to follow Jesus. And If I can do it, then anyone can.
I grew up in an environment that was riddled with foul language. Just about everyone I knew used language that was not Christ-like in character; and sadly slander and insult were only a couple of mechanisms that were frequently employed. Then I joined the Army and that further enhanced the negative speech and practice. Although I knew it was not wholesome and ultimately beneficial for me to use such language, I found myself slipping into it as a normal practice just to fit in with the crowds I was hanging with. Later when I stopped running from Christ, and I chose to clean-up my act, I found it rather difficult to rid myself of such practice. But over time, and with much council and mentors encouragement, I have pretty-much eradicated that practice, praise be to God.
In Romans 1:28–32, Paul lists many traits of what he calls “a depraved mind”, and slander is included in this list (verse 30). When we slander others, we are choosing to step out of the path God designed for us. He will not participate with us in our attempts to destroy someone else with our words. Slander comes from the heart, and when we are tempted to speak untruths about someone, we should first examine our own hearts to see what ugly root is producing those desires. Jesus Himself said, “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:18–19). God wants us to see that slandering someone is an indicator that our hearts are not right with Him. A desire to slander can spring from a root of bitterness, from unresolved hurt, from unforgiveness, from jealousy, or from other sins of the heart. Or we all know very well that we can get caught up with folks that love to fuel such negativism, and maybe we say things we aught not say, or maybe we are goated to do so by the company we keep. If that is the case consider finding yourself a new crowd. Maybe one that includes brothers and sisters in Christ, that are concerned with your behavior and your Christ likeness.
God’s grand and ultimate solution for slander is for us to love each other. We don’t slander people whom we love (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”. Love wants the best for others, and that means guarding their reputations as we do our own It is what we call the “Golden Rule”. Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”. Love is the fulfillment of the God’s law”. When we focus on obeying the Lord by loving as He loves us, slander will not tempt us.
So in conclusion, as our brother the Apostle Paul ran into people who were “Slandering the Way”, you too, if you are carrying out the Great Commission in spreading the Gospel to those God puts in your path, will inevitably run into people who will slander you, call you foul names, and maybe even take part in Slandering the Way. Like Paul, do not satisfy their evil desires by fighting, or taking the slander bait and insult them back. Instead I suggest that even though they sometimes will hurt your heart, as they are really insulting God Himself in their actions, take the opportunity and show them and yourself and God, that you really love them, and like Paul, choose to walk away. And as you go, pray for them, for they obviously do not know what they are doing.
As a result of Paul’s walking away that day, “all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord”. God greatly blessed Paul because of how he dealt with, and how he reacted to, the insults of the people. And we too should choose to take the high-road in such interactions, and in doing so, I have no doubt that God will bless you as well. Amen?
We started this message out today with a few quips from Larry the Cable Guy,
I was curious about his life story and I fell upon his testimony this morning.
I cannot play the whole thing, but I got a short audio clip that I think you will find of interest. [Play Audio]
Larry the Cable Guy (Daniel Whitney) is actually a Baptist Preacher’s kid, and he grew up on a pig farm in Nebraska, loading cattle trucks. In his message, he addresses the slander he spewed out during his career performances. He is regretful and remorseful, however as you heard, he has now returned to Christ’s calling on his life. And for that I say Praise the Lord. If there is hope for Larry the Cable Guy, then there is hope for you and I too.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation
Let us sing: Amazing Grace..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”