Summary: In times of "doom and gloom", the Family of God is positioned to take its greatest step since Pentecost if we will let the Holy Spirit be our constant companion and guide to speak and live the truth of Christ in love.
DRAWN TO JESUS BUT PUT OFF BY UNCHRISTIANLIKE CONDUCT
Although I went out for high school football but sat on the bench due to my lightweight, one important lesson I learned was: The quickest way for a star to get on the wrong side of the coach is to be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Such behavior not only put the team in a hole but left the referee with no choice but to send the star to the bench to keep me company. So, no matter how drawn to the star the coach and the fans might have been, they were put off by behavior that could cost them the game.
As I read from a book about the church, entitled An Unstoppable Force, one particular rant hit me hardest the essence of which was this: An indictment we cannot reject en toto is that the Christian faith, as it is being expressed, is no longer seen as a viable spiritual option. . . While many people call themselves Christians, many “others” reject Christ because “they” call Christians hypocrites . . . And, in some respects, we have indeed become merely religious rather than sincerely Christian.
That said, do not overlook the fact that the world is still drawn to Jesus (as seen when millions flock to theatres when a movie such as the Passion of the Christ is being shown) but the world is often put off by a negative perception, rightly or wrongly, of The Church, due to bad behavior on the part of a few who occupy pulpit and pew, and are made prominent on the evening news time and time again.
Yes, I know: news organizations tend to highlight the bad and omit the good; “one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel”. All the more reason why ordinary folks who love Jesus must be seen and heard, contrary to the advice I was given as a child growing up in a large family . . .
Now, as children of God, members of the Family of God, let us realize: We are called to be a community with a common unity that is governed by love for God and for one another! We no longer belong to ourselves, but to the Body of Christ.
Stop and think about it: People who make up the Christian Community in which you and I live . . . move . . . have our being, are the very people with whom we will be spending eternity with God as our Father! Better start liking each other! After all, what is the purpose of it all?
In our text today, we see people who, despite their failures, were called into the kingdom of God. We see an “open-door policy” which forced “self-righteous” followers of The Way to make a decision regarding acceptance of other believers – which in the affirmative would leave some of them feeling very uncomfortable – but the overarching issue with which these believers were confronted took precedence: The Christian Community was poised to take its greatest step since Pentecost - Acts 13:1-52 . . .
SENT OUT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT might have been the Headline of the Antioch Church Newsletter when Paul and Barnabas were set apart to take the message of the gospel to all the world and then as they set out on the first missionary journey – a journey which would last for three years. Set apart, sent out by the Spirit, their assignment was clear: to spread the message of God’s salvation everywhere!
In this passage of scripture, we find them in Antioch of Pisidia where they were given opportunity to tell their story in the synagogue: “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak!”
A most unusual invitation!
Apart from the Holy Spirit, never would these ambassadors for Christ have been allowed to stand up in the synagogue, of all places, to speak. But speak Paul did - with boldness! He spoke the truth in love!
Speak the truth in love, and be heard! Speak the truth in fear of what others might think or say about you . . . in derision of those who have honest differences of opinion . . . in condemnation of variations of views or difference of opinion on the same subject, and be tuned out!
Why, Paul even received an encore! ‘We want the whole city to come, see, and hear”! There were three dynamics at work in this most unusual of situations: Encouragement! Enthusiasm! Excitement!
Three emotions based on good news! Worshippers needed to experience these three then . . . worshippers need to experience these three now!
As a matter of fact, these three emotions of a genuine spiritual experience are exactly what Christian believers need worldwide! Reclaiming and proclaiming “His Story” (The Greatest Story Ever Told) in word and in deed – via personal testimonies . . . mass media . . . film-making . . . best-sellers . . . large and small gatherings in public places . . . forums . . . Facebook . . . Twitter . . . even the political arena . . . !