August 4, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
I want to show you a clip of one of my favorite TV shows growing up. Is that okay? All right, so as you start watching this introduction to this video, let me explain to you why this was one of my favorites growing up. See, I love superheroes…I don’t know…. because they’re awesome; maybe that’s why! What you find, if you get into a superhero conversation, is that people are either more a fan of the Marvel superheroes or the DC superheroes. If you don’t know what that means, just forget about it. But I’ve always been more of the DC guy. -so, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman…
But here’s what amazes me about Superman. I grew up in a very strict home. We couldn’t watch a lot of shows, but we could watch the throwback sixties versions of Superman. You know why? -because it’s awesome, so that’s why we watched it. But this is what blows my mind. Here’s Superman [clip showing in the background]. He’s got all of this power. He’s faster than a speeding bullet and faster than a locomotive; this is Superman. But he gets into a situation where he’s getting into a fight. He’s doing Superman-kind-of things. People start shooting guns at him, and he just stands there and takes it like a man. You know why? Because he’s Superman, and he’s awesome!
But what doesn’t make any sense is, he can have the boldness to do that, but when someone throws a gun at him, he ducks! This doesn’t compute. You’ve got the boldness to stand there and take a bullet, but you’re going to duck when they throw the gun?! I don’t understand. You’re Superman!
The reason I think this is funny to me is, this illustrates the life that you and I live. See, we should walk with some sense of confidence, courage, boldness in faith, and we may even try to do that. We get into a situation, and in that moment and on that day we’re really feeling strong, confident, and bold; we’re taking the bullets. And then all of a sudden, a curveball comes our way, and we duck in fear.
I think when we look in the text today, we’re going to see an example of what boldness looks like. I hope it is something that you and I can learn from, and maybe even exercise and implement as early as today or this week.
We’ve been walking through the book of Acts, and we’ve been doing it slowly and methodically. Today, we come to Acts chapter 14. We’re going to cover the complete chapter of Acts 14 today and walk through and hopefully learn some things about what we see in this missionary experience on this journey of Paul and Barnabas. -what we can learn from them, but even also go so far as to apply it to our own lives.
I. Speak with boldness when people take sides
The first point I want us to pay attention to today is the challenge to speak with boldness, even when people take sides. Let’s read the first few verses of Acts chapter 14 together, and I’d love to make some observations.
1 The same thing happened in Iconium; they entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers. 3 So they stayed there for some time and spoke boldly in reliance on the Lord, who testified to the message of His grace by granting that signs and wonders be performed through them. 4 But the people of the city were divided, some siding with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to assault and stone them, 6 they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns called Lystra and Derbe, and to the surrounding countryside. 7 And there they kept evangelizing.
A. When God leads you on a mission
We are called, we are challenged to speak with boldness, and I think that begins with learning to speak boldly when God leads you on a mission. In fact, you may want to write that down: When God leads you on a mission, speak boldly. Why? How could I have confidence in boldness in that moment? -because I recognize that I am being called and sent by someone greater than me.
See, Paul and Barnabas walked into this missionary journey. They had been called and sent by God (read the previous chapter). They had been commissioned and sent by their church to go for a specific purpose, to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, to parts of the world where the Gospel had never been proclaimed before. They’re going, and they’re taking that with boldness and with confidence. But when they walk on that mission and when they walk with confidence, even when they face opposition, they continue.
In fact, you could book-end verse one and verse seven. They’re continuing on this mission, taking it to the ends of the earth. Even after they face opposition, they continue to evangelize. Nothing is going to stop them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bullet or a gun thrown at him. They’re not going to duck. They are bold to continue.
But what we see is, there’s this recurring pattern that happens over and over again on this missionary journey. You get these unbelieving Jews that seem to be just following them everywhere they go, and what do they do? They are stirring up trouble. Have you ever had those people in your life? They just seem like they’re just there; they are that shadow that, everywhere you go, they’re stirring up problems and you find yourself so frustrated.
B. When poison polarizes the group
In fact, the imagery here that is used is, they’re poisoning the truth. So this tells me this is way beyond just somebody making life difficult. This was an intentional and deliberate effort to poison and distort the purity of the Gospel. We have to speak boldly in those moments. We have to speak boldly when poison polarizes the group.
Here’s the challenge for you and me: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a beautiful, pure picture of God’s love. He desires to have a relationship with man. He’s desired that from the very beginning. Sin entered into the world. He sent his Son, Jesus, as the only one who could pay this perfect sacrifice, who shed His blood on the cross. He was killed. He was buried. He rose again. He now has ascended to the throne of God. He sits at the right hand of God, ever interceding for us on our behalf. He absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf so that we can be made right and be in relationship with God.
That beautiful picture of God’s grace and hope gives us peace and purpose, but it has to be guarded. It has to be protected. What we’ve seen in the previous chapters, and we will see even more, is this continual effort by Jews to come in and add to the Gospel. -to add poison to it, to add action to it, to add works to it. And all of a sudden this pure, true message, if we’re not careful, can become stained.
You and I are commanded on a mission by God to be everyday missionaries carrying hope to the world, and in doing that, we’ve got to speak the truth of God boldly and protect the purity of God’s message, because what ends up happening is that people can easily become divided.
I may hear someone who, as we were warned in Timothy, sounds really good. They’re itching and pleasing my ear. This may sound like it could be true because it’s got enough truth to it that makes sense, and all of the sudden I start falling into these lies and believing that the Gospel is God’s love plus something. Before I know it, I’m falling into this trap, and I’ve been deceived.
So, literally here, we read in verse four that the people had begun to take sides. They were divided now in this message that had been communicated. Now they’re taking sides. “No, this is how you become right with God.” “No, it’s got to be this.” “We’re hearing what the Jews are saying, that it’s about the laws of Moses and being circumcised, and that’s got to be part of it.”
C. When you can rely on God and see Him work
And so, there’s this confusing message. What do Paul and Barnabas do? They continue to speak boldly. They begin to speak the truth because the reality is, truth can bind together what is divided. We have to speak boldly, though. We have to speak boldly, and you can rely on God and see Him work.
Verse three, to me, is the key verse in these first six verses. Let me read it again. In verse three, he says. “So they stayed there a long time and spoke boldly for the Lord [underline this], who testified to the message of His grace.” What I want you to pay attention to there is, God sent them on this mission. They became the bold mouthpiece of God. But it is God, He is the one who delivered the message. God speaks through them. We are His mouthpiece. We are His hands, and we are His feet. God speaks the truth, and God empowers them. In this situation, He empowers them with signs and wonders.
I doubt He’s going to do that for me and you, but what He is going to do is empower us to speak with boldness and to give us the words to say in that conversation, give us the phrase to use, the Scripture to come back into our minds so that we can encounter and engage people boldly with the Gospel.
Keep the faith when others doubt
You may say, “I hear this idea of boldness, but maybe I’m not wired to be a bold person. Maybe I have a more calm and sensitive demeanor. Boldness in the biblical sense, this is not a personality trait. This is evidence of the Spirit of God in our life. Boldness is acting by the power of the Holy Spirit, on an urgent conviction in the face of some threat. And that’s what you and I have been called by God to do, because more and more we’re surrounded by a world who doesn’t know of God and doesn’t believe in God, and we are challenged on this mission to be bold and to even keep the faith when others may doubt. Speak with boldness because you can stand for truth.
II. Stand for the truth when it may not be received
In fact, that’s the second point: Stand for truth, even when it may not be received. Let’s read the next couple of verses, and I want to make some observations about this for us.
8 In Lystra a man without strength in his feet, lame from birth, and who had never walked, sat 9 and heard Paul speaking. After observing him closely and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!” And he jumped up and started to walk around. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the form of men!” 12 And they started to call Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the main speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gates. He, with the crowds, intended to offer sacrifice. 14 The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men! Why are you doing these things? We are men also, with the same nature as you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should 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 satisfying your hearts with food and happiness.” 18 Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. 20 After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
A. Extend God’s love to those in need
Here’s what I want us to notice. I want you to notice that that they were taking a stand for truth by extending God’s love to those in need. So, they walked around as they walked into town. They see this person who is lame, and they immediately began to speak and notice his physical needs. They showed love and kindness and caring to him.
See, here at Calvary, we use some words a lot that sound really good, but sometimes we may struggle with applying them to our lives. We may make statements around here like, “Hey, we’re all about making disciples.” That’s biblical, right? That makes sense. Matthew 28:18-20, The Great Commission. Yeah, let’s make disciples. Or we’ll use words like, “Let’s Reach, and let’s Build, and let’s Send.” I mean, that sounds great, and it looks wonderful on graphics, but what does this mean?
This idea of Reaching is showing God’s love to those who don’t know Him. This idea of Reaching is taking the Gospel to places where it has not yet been, and that takes boldness for you and me, and I would say this: When we talk about the idea of making disciples, one of the foundational principles to it is showing God’s love in the way that we treat others.
When I show God’s love, even in a physical way (It may be providing food for someone. It may be providing clothes for someone. It may be helping someone who’s homeless find a safe place to sleep), whatever it may be, when I physically show an expression of God’s love to you by caring, I’m helping Reach you to begin this disciple-making journey. Does that make sense? So, it’s an expression of love. That’s what we see from them here.
B. Express God’s love to those who are confused
What I want us to notice next is that they are standing for truth as they express God’s love to those who are confused. See, we’ve got to understand, as Paul and Barnabas are going to the ends of the earth, the further they move away from the nucleus of Jerusalem, they move more into Europe, which has a heavy influence of Roman worldview and Greek mythology.
And we see some of this now bubbling up to the surface. Now, some of you probably studied Greek mythology in high school, so you see these names like Zeus and Hermes, and they kind of seem familiar. This is what’s interesting: When we read into the legends of the people of Lycaonia, what we learn is, they believed in their past history that at some point, Zeus and Hermes had walked among them in the flesh, and they did not acknowledge their presence.
So now, we get to Acts chapter 14. They’ve heard this legend, and now they see the miracles that Paul and Barnabas are beginning to perform, and they immediately say, “Oh! Zeus and Hermes have come back. We’re going to immediately sacrifice to them.” You can almost read into their mentality. “We’re not going to make the same mistake this time that we made before, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop us from making this sacrifice.”
Paul’s sermon focused on:
1. He is the LIVING GOD
And Paul and Barnabas, even in the confusion, they speak the truth boldly. They exercise love by saying, “Listen, I care for you so much, I can’t let you just to continue to follow this mistaken worldview and misunderstanding of who God is. Let me express to you the truth of who God is.” And he begins to tell them some things about God, three things specifically. He makes sure that they understand that He is the living God. He’s a living God; He’s not some idle that just sits there. He is a living God. We do not serve a dead god; we serve a relational God, and that matters.
In fact, I’ve even picked this up in my time traveling over into the east. A lot of times when pastors would describe God in maybe a heavy Buddhist or Hindu culture in India, for example, they would say, “No, no. We worship the one true living God. We’re not talking about just some other god that you can latch onto and worship like you worship all these other gods. No, this is the one true living God.” And Paul begins to speak to a worldview that’s rooted in Greek mythology, so there are tons of gods. He said, “No, no, no, no, no. We’ve got one God. He’s a living God.”
2. He is the CREATOR GOD
The second thing he makes note of is that he is the Creator God. He begins to unpack that God made the heavens. He made the earth. He made the sea and everything in them. He is cutting right to the heart of what Greek mythology would believe. He’s going right to the core and the foundational truths of their worldview and helping them see. “Hey, what you’ve always thought isn’t necessarily true.”
Can we just have a really short apologetics lesson? Would that be okay? See, when we look at different worldviews and different religions, we could lump them into three big buckets. One bucket would be the idea of naturalism that would say, “God doesn’t exist. Or even if He does, He is completely outside of creation. You can’t know Him. He doesn’t interact with you at all.” And so, that’s the idea that would really lend itself more toward agnostic worldviews. “I don’t believe in God, and if He is real, He doesn’t have anything to do with us.”
Then you come into this bucket that I would call transcendentalism, and it’s this idea that says, “Everything is God. God is everywhere. God is all things.” And in this bucket we may find religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism… where they say, “Yeah, I’m worshipping everything, and I would have no problem worshipping your God, too. I’ll just add him to my list, and I’m going to worship the cows, and I’m going to worship the trees and the sun and whatever else. Everything is a god.” There’s great danger in that mindset.
Third, we come to the theistic bucket, which basically says, “There is God, and there is creation. And God is actively involved in that creation.” Christianity, at its core, accepts this idea. It is not a religion. It is a relationship between the Creator of the world and His creation. God desires relationship, and that is the foundational core of the Gospel.
That’s where we have to begin. The Gospel story doesn’t begin in Romans chapter three. The Gospel story begins all the way in Genesis chapter one. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” God created Man, and God walked with Man in the Garden, because that has been His design from the very beginning.
3. HE is our SUSTAINER/PROVIDER
Paul begins to communicate that. He is a living God. He’s the Creator God, and he goes on to describe that He is the Sustainer and Provider. He’s our source of hope. He’s our source of strength. He’s a jealous God. He wants to get credit. He doesn’t want you to give it to some fake being who you claim lives up in a mountain. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants all of you. He wants to control your life. He wants to consume every fabric of who you are.
And he says in verse 17 that He has left witnesses, or another way you could say it is that He has left evidence for you that He is real. God doesn’t want us to live in doubt. God wants us to live in confidence, again, speaking boldly of who He is. He has left witnesses, or evidence. We can read in Romans chapter one, that He has left evidence of that in His creation.
We can look at evidence in the Word of God through this special revelation of Him giving us this love letter that we call His Scripture. He’s showing us Himself through His Word. He’s giving us a witness and evidence even in your life, as you are a walking testimony to the love, the forgiveness, the grace and the mercy of God, as you tell others boldly who He is and what He’s done in your life.
C. Expect God’s love to be rejected
See, you and I today are continuing witnesses of Him. But even in standing for truth, we can experience or express God’s love to those who are confused, and we have to expect that even still, God’s love will be rejected. You have to expect that.
Let’s see what happens in verse 18. They’ve clearly tried to communicate it, and it’s almost as if Paul is just getting warmed up. He hasn’t gotten to the point of starting to talk Jesus yet. He’s been trying to describe who God is, and then it’s as if in verse 18 he gets rudely interrupted. It says this:
18 Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. 20 After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
Even as they’re proclaiming the truth, they’re still receiving rejection. Notice the fickleness of this crowd. It reminds me of those Jews who waved palm branches as Jesus was riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. They shouted, “Hosanna! Here He comes!” And a couple of days later, they’re shouting, “Crucify Him!” How quickly the crowd turns when things don’t go their way.
We even see this same attitude here. The crowds are coming. “The gods have come in the flesh! We’re going to worship them. We’re going to sacrifice to them.” And all of a sudden, how quickly the crowd turns. Now they’re throwing stones and attempting to kill Paul.
You and I, we’re doing our best to be an expression of hope. We’re doing our best to speak boldly the Gospel, at home, in our workplace, on our ball teams, wherever we may go. But we have to expect that some people are still going to reject it.
Look to God for clarity in confusion
For some, their eyes have not yet been able to see the truth, and they continue to walk in darkness. When we’re surrounded by that confusion, even by that rejection, we have to look to God for clarity in the confusion. We have to always keep our eyes on Him because we have to recognize, truth can bind what has been divided. Truth can bring clarity to where we have confusion. And you and I (read in verse 17) can be witnesses to that truth.
Hey, I have lived in confusion, and I can tell you that God doesn’t want you to stay there. “Let me show you the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Thirdly, there’s this idea, or this challenge, that we spread hope as you spend time with God’s people. Let’s read verses 21 through 28, and let me make a few observations for you.
III. Spread hope as you spend time with God’s people
21 After they had evangelized 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 pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 After they spoke the message in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been entrusted 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.
A. Remain faithful in a post-Christian world (follow up and follow through)
There are three things that I think are noteworthy for us as we live this out, this idea of spreading hope as you spend time with God’s people. Here’s the first one: Notice the challenge to remain faithful in a post-Christian world. We see this in verses 21 and 22. What did they do? They had gone through these towns that had never heard the truth of the Gospel, and they had proclaimed this good news that, “Yes, even though you are a Gentile, God loves you and invites you into a relationship.” And they left them.
Now they’re following up, and they’re coming back to check on them. To me, that’s encouraging. When we follow up and when we follow through with people, it is an expression that, “I actually care about you.” And it’s an encouragement to people. As believers, this is a statement in the text of one group of believers encouraging another group of believers, and they did that by being faithful to follow back up, to stay in relationship.
Let’s go back to this idea of making disciples. What does this idea mean? I told you at the very beginning, it begins with this foundational truth of expressing God’s love by even beginning to help you meet a physical need. Paul and Barnabas even further emphasized this idea of disciple-making when they followed back up with people, followed through with people, and stayed connected with people.
I’ve often said it this way: For you to help disciple someone, it doesn’t mean you have to change anything about your life. You just have to be willing to take someone along with you. It’s as you are going. It’s walking through life with somebody on this journey of faith. Notice what they encourage them with. They gave them this message: “Hey, don’t lose heart, even when you experience hardships.”
Where had they just come from? He had just been stoned. So, there’s this attitude of empathy, of them walking through life together and saying, “Listen, trust me. I know this is hard. I just was almost killed, but I can tell you it’s worth it.” Let’s continue to live in boldness.
There’s this challenge to remain faithful, and I just believe as we live every day in Columbus, Georgia, and in the Valley, which has a growing population of post-Christian people, people who are not affiliated with church, people who don’t believe in God, and people who have never heard His Name, I’m convinced now more than ever, as we Reach, Build and Send, as we make disciples, we have to do this by genuinely caring and expressing love, oftentimes in the form of meeting a physical need and by being faithful and encouraging to follow up and walk life with them.
B. Recognize that leadership should be prayed for
Here’s the second thing we see in verses 23 and 24: Recognize that leadership should be prayed for. Leadership should be prayed for. I’m going to be selfish. I desperately need your prayers. I covet them. We as a church, we need to pray for each other, and in fact, I’ll keep saying this. Please join us every morning at 8:30am. Set a reminder on your phone. If you’re driving in the car, if you’re walking to get a cup of coffee and that reminder comes up at 8:30, just as you continue, pray for our church. Pray for me. Pray for unity. Pray for clarity. Pray for direction from the Holy Spirit. Pray that He will put us in positions to continue to Reach, Build, Send, make disciples in the Valley, and take the Gospel to the nations.
C. Report on God’s faithfulness and provision
Notice then in verses 25 to 28, they went back to Antioch. We’re seeing two cities that become a hub. You’ve got Jerusalem, which is becoming the central hub that the church blossomed out of and is still heavily influenced by Jewish culture. And now we’ve got Antioch, which has become this other hub where the missionary journeys to the ends of the earth are flowing in and out of, and it’s really primarily made up Gentile believers.
And so, they’re coming back to Antioch, and they’re reporting all the good things that God has done, and they’re celebrating it because here’s the truth and a never-changing principle of life: You celebrate what you believe in. You celebrate what matters. You make time and you make money for what’s important to you. You do. We always do, because the things that we care about, the things that we celebrate, that’s what we dig into.
And here, we see the opportunity to learn from Paul and Barnabas, that they’re celebrating what God has done. They’re celebrating that the church is growing. They’re celebrating that the Gospel is advancing. They’re celebrating that Gentiles are now a part of this faith family, and they’re loving it. They celebrate what God has done.
Celebrate what you believe in
We, as a church, celebrate who God is, and we celebrate what He has done. We’re about that baptize again in this church. It’s amazing that every week, except one over the last six weeks, we’ve been able to see people walk through the waters of baptism. That’s something to be celebrated, because of who God is!
We celebrate what we believe in. What do we say we believe in? We’re about making disciples. Or you’ve heard me say it this way often: We’re everyday missionaries carrying hope to the world.
- Today, I commit to boldly speak the Gospel this week.
- Today, I choose to study God’s Word to better know who God is.
- This week, I will commit to intentionally encourage my faith family.
- How can we, as a church, strive for unity and avoid division? How does a commitment to advancing the Gospel promote unity?
- With a world that is increasingly unaffiliated with religion, how can we be an expression of God’s love to a community that needs hope? How do you typically handle rejection when you share the Gospel?
- What are some specific ways that you can report and celebrate God’s faithfulness and provision in your personal life and in our church family?