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The Living God

Acts 14:1-19

 

This message celebrates the true and living God!  Many have claimed to be the almighty.  One has proven to be.

 

Here in Acts, Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey, recognizing God has not only saved them and changed them but that He has left them on earth to accomplish some certain things…

 

Read vv. 1-7

        A few brief comments about Iconium… and then on to Lystra…

 

There’s a pattern to recognize here…

3 results of gospel preaching:

1.     Decision

v. 1  “so spake” = in such a way.  What does this mean?  That they were eloquent?  I don’t think so. 

Good illustrations?  Funny stories?  Alliterated outline?  I’m not against these things, we all ought to use any tools and resources at our disposal…but that’s not what gets people saved!  Only the power of God can save souls!

 

It says they “so spake”…I believe it was w/ the power of God!

1 Cor. 2:4

    And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

        You can tell when the Spirit is on a message, and when it is not…now granted, some may sit and quench the spirit, looking for problems, but for the sincere seekers out there, they are looking for something that God has His hand on…something real!

 

It’s amazing…I can speak to ears but only God can speak to hearts!  

Sometimes I’ll feel like I just hit a home run w/ my preaching, and this will change the world!  I go home and ask, “honey, how many truly great preachers do you think there are in this world?”  [fishing]  “One less than you think!

Other times I’ll just be sure that I have just laid an egg big enough to hatch twin dinosaurs only to find out God used it in spite of me by His Spirit!

 

This is why I pray for God to do what I cannot do…which is speak to hearts!

 

Decision…

 

2nd result:

2.     Disturbance

v. 2  “evil” = poisoned their minds against…

        When God’s disciples preached it usually resulted either in revival or riot!  [sometimes both!]

 

Paul got to town and didn’t check out the local hotel, but the local jail where he knew he was likely to end up!

 

v. 3  Just preach the Word, and let God handle the results!

 

You cannot preach the Bible w/out making some people mad!  I counted it up and we have lost the attendance of over 20 people in the last year for preaching topics relating to homosexuality, alcohol, co-habitation, tithing, gossip, or commitment.  Sometimes the truth steps on our toes.  Bible preaching rubs some people the wrong way.

Ill.—Billy Sunday was told if he preached against alcohol he’d make people mad…they said, “it’s like rubbing the cat’s fur the wrong way!”  He replied, “Let the cat turn around!”

 

Thankfully, we have a whole lot of new folks coming.  Now let’s pray that they want to hear the truth, for by God’s grace that’s what we plan to give them…in love, with grace, seasoned with salt!

 

By the way, this pattern is nothing new.  It’s that way in all churches that stand on the Word.  It probably sounded impressive when I told you we baptized over 400 in our first church.  What’s not as impressive is that we never had more than 200 consistently at any given time because of how many were sent running out the doors each time something was preached not to their liking.

 

3.     Division

v. 4  It’s impossible to remain neutral about Jesus Christ.

Matthew 12:30

    He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

        There’s only 2 kinds of people in our area as far as God is concerned…those under His love and those under His wrath…those who love Him and those who don’t…those who have accepted Him and those who thus far are rejecting Him…those in submission to His will and those in rebellion to it!

 

Our nation is highly divided over politics.  And the Bible is behind the most of that division, most of the disturbance, but thankfully is also responsible for helping many make right decisions!

 

In the next 3 verses God’s people were assaulted and run out of town, and so they preached the Word in new towns.

 

Moving on to the city of Lystra

v. 8-18             When they arrived in Lystra, they encountered this cripple who had never walked.  V. 9 says as Paul preached he sensed this man was w/ him and was being moved to decision.  He had faith welling up in his heart, so Paul called to him to rise and walk!

        The people had never seen such a demonstration of power, so here’s what they did next:  [completely unexpected!]  They decided Paul and Barnabus were gods [these people were steeped in Greek mythology, they are pagans/polytheists]. 

        Paul probably wasn’t much to look at so they considered Barnabas to be the leader, and said he must be Jupiter [Zeus].  They thought Paul was Mercury [wings on feet!] who was the god of speech.  [messenger]

 

So, whaddya do when the gods come to town?  You worship them!

It’s wrong to worship men.  “The best of men are still men at best!”

 

Beware of those who would flatter you…did you know these same people who are trying to worship them in our text will try to kill them just a little later?

v. 19        People are fickle, blown about by every wind of doctrine.  Later in Paul’s ministry at the end of Acts, he’s on a remote island and the natives see him get bit by a snake and assume he’s evil…then he doesn’t die and they say he’s a god!  [no middle ground of balance!]

        Just like Jesus’ day…one day they’re laying out palm branches crying “hosanna” and in a few days they’re shouting crucify Him!

 

I want you to notice that Paul is preaching about Easter still, as we should year round.  In stark contrast to their mythology, he’s telling them about the true and LIVING God!

 

Notice how he refers to their gods…

v. 15        “these vanities”.  This means “empty”/ “nothingness”…Paul says, there’s nothing to your mythological gods!

        Paul didn’t say, you can believe in your gods, that’s fine, we’re all going to the same place, just taking different roads…we all worship the same God, we just call Him by different names!

He said, it’s vanity…a waste of your time!

 

God put the desire to worship into the hearts of all men…even the most remote tribes who have never seen any society will have things they worship and are looking to!  And in the absence of the true, living God, men will worship anything!

 

This is why we must make it our mission to tell others about the true, living God.  Our area desperately needs a church that is on fire for God, showing what it means to be serious about God, not religious, but zealously in love w/ Christ and letting that make all the difference!

 

So, here’s the message, don’t miss this:

“What are today’s religious vanities people turn to?”

        There are many, but let’s name a few…

 

Most primitive form of worship:  Pantheism, which says, God is not personal, but is everywhere and in everything…in the river, trees, sky, universe, etc.  [native Americans believe this way]

 

Ill.—movie Pocahontas: 

“You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”

 

But this form of religion is the doctrine of demons!

Romans 1:25

    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

 

This the New Age Movement…which is really Age Old Pantheism!  Save the rain forests, spotted owls, whales, and the ozone.

 

The truth is, there is no “mother nature”, there is “Father God”, and He sits on His throne in Majesty…He’s not a rock or a tree!

 

Then there’s polytheism, which says there are many gods.  This is what Paul encountered at Lystra [& Athens later on!  Where they erected a monument to “the unknown God” just in case they missed one!]

 

Paul recognized that in all their culture and supposed wisdom, they didn’t know who the true and living God was!

        And did you know there are many today still involved in polytheism?  Take the people of India and their millions of gods!  Japan is the same way, among many others.

 

But America’s biggest religious vanity is jesus.  Lower case j.  Because today so many worship another jesus, more to their liking. Let’s hear Paul tonite…it’s vanity! 

 

Then there’s humanism, which IS a religion.  It is the dethroning of God and the enthroning of Man.  They believe Christianity is a crutch.  But a man wrapped up in himself is a mighty small package!

 

Even the atheist is worshiping…himself!  Atheism:  the worshiping of self!

Jeremiah 2:5

    Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

        We become like what we worship…where your treasure is, there is your heart!

 

So we come to materialismthe worship of things.

        And many of us make gods out of houses, cars, girls or boys, our computer or our TV!

 

But it’s all wood, hay, and stubble…it’s all vanity.  Let’s take the spirit of Easter w/ us all year long, worshiping the true and LIVING God!

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