Summary: People will respond to Jesus in one of three ways.
July 26, 2015
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Opening words: I love this story. D.L. Moody once spoke with a woman who didn't like his method of evangelism. He replied, "I don't really like my method either. What is yours?” She answered, “I don’t have one.” Moody said, “I think I like mine better.” At the very heart of this morning’s scripture lesson is the uncomfortable topic of witnessing. How long has it been since you told someone what Jesus means to you?
This is sermon number twenty-eight in my sermon series called Church Planting. During the summer months, I have been preaching through the Book of Acts. This is no small task, because Acts has so much to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is vital to our future success. Human effort and determination are not enough to revive the church. It is the Holy Spirit who created the church originally, and it must be the Holy Spirit who revives the church again. With this understanding, let us look at our scripture lesson for today, Acts 13:42-51. Let me call this message The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Acts 13:42-51 42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’[”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever seen the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? I have to admit, it is one of my favorites. It is a western that stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach in the title roles respectively. Set in 1862 New Mexico, the plot revolves around the three gunslingers who are searching for Confederate gold. When it came out in 1966 it got mixed reviews. However, today it is considered a classic. However, I like High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josie Wales more. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was made for $1.2 million and grossed more than $25 million at the box office. I have seen it countless times on television. When was the last time you watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?
So what does this spaghetti western (it was made in Italy), have to do with living out the faith? What does this old movie have to do with the scripture lesson for today? The answer is simple. The title, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, makes the perfect outline for this morning’s message. If you don’t believe me, then let’s look at the scripture lesson together.
This morning we find ourselves in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Do you remember what has happened in the past? The answer is, a great deal. I do not have time to go back to the very beginning of the book. It will have to suffice to say that Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey. According to the text, they are on the island of Cyprus and their method of teaching is straightforward. They enter a community, locate the synagogue, and tell people about Jesus. Up to this point, everyone seems to be open to their message. At first, this community, Pisidian Antioch, also seems open to their message. This town will always be remembered because it was the first town where Paul’s message is recorded in the Bible.
His outline for preaching is chronological in nature. First, he tells them what God had done for them in the past. He reminds them of their nation’s time in Egypt. Second, he reminds them of the period of the judges. Third, he reminds them of the period of the Kings. Then, he gets personal. He reminds them of the one who God chose from all the rest, David. Through him everything would change; through his line the Savior would be born. You may have heard of him, his name was Jesus. Now, his was a life worth remembering. His time in this world was short but it had a long-lasting effect. His sad death looked like the end, but it was just the beginning. He was resurrected. On the day that Jesus returned from the dead, salvation was made possible for all people. Anyone, regardless of nationality, can stand justified before God. I have said it a million times. Your belief in the resurrection is not optional, it is indispensable! At first, Paul’s sermon was well received. It was so well received that he was invited to preach again the next week. That is when the story gets sticky.