Summary: Are we like Paul and Barnabas builders in God’s Kingdom or are we more concerned about doing things in the way they have always been done with the result that we like the Jews miss the new things that God is doing and become wreckers rather than builders
Building something up is so much harder than tearing it down. We only need to think about the last time we had some redevelopment work done on our house to know that this is true. It takes no time to knock out those old windows or that old kitchen but it takes much longer to replace them. Gerald Ratner learnt this lesson the hard way after spending many years building up a family jewellery business. He then makes an off the cuff comment to a journalist saying that the jewellery he sells is crap with the result that he and his business are destroyed. In our passage today we have got builders and wreckers. Paul and Barnabas, the builders are on their first missionary journey. They have been to Paphos in Cyprus to Perga and Antioch and we now join them as they take the message of the good news to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe all towns in the southern part of Galatia. But everywhere they go the wreckers follow. But what about us? How would we describe ourselves are we builders or wreckers in God’s kingdom? Are our hearts like Paul and Barnabas who want to see the good news about Jesus Christ spread or are we more like the Jews who are more concerned about doing things in the way they have always been done with the result that they miss this new thing that God is doing and become wreckers rather than builders.
At every turn the wreckers are there trying to undermine what Paul and Barnabas are doing. We see this at both Iconium and Lystra. At Iconium verse 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. and at Lystra verse 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. Why are these Jews so against what Paul, Barnabas and God are clearly doing? Part of the problem is jealousy but the main problem has to do with change and this new movement of God and the Holy Spirit. The Jews do not like this new radical message that Paul and Barnabas are preaching. Paul is claiming that Jesus is not only the son of God but that Jesus is alive and that Paul personally met Jesus on the road to Damascus. This message is bad enough but Paul claims that God now wants the Gentiles to be able to come into relationship with him and to do so they do not need to become Jews first. This is at the heart of the letter that Paul writes to the Galatians. One only needs to look at the result of Paul and Barnabas’ teaching to see Gods hand at work. Everywhere Paul and Barnabas go both Jews and Gentiles believe verse 1 There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. Everywhere they go God acts with signs and wonders. But what is true then is true today. These Jews have lost touch with God they are no longer in relationship with him and as result they have become wreckers rather than builders in God’s kingdom. Just like those Jews then we too can so easily fall into the same trap. We too can lose touch with God and end up focussing on the unimportant things rather than on the important ones. Those Jews thought that their Jewish customs and ways were so important that the only way for the Gentiles to come to God was by adopting them. What they had failed to realise was that God had chosen them to be an example of what living in relationship with God was like and that actually what they should be doing was welcoming the Gentiles in with open arms. As a church or a group of believers here in Peasedown our task is to do the same thing. Our task is to be an example of what living in relationship with God is like. The better we are at this task the more attractive we will become. We will be builders rather than wreckers. But every time we resist change and insist on doing things our way rather than God’s way we will become wreckers rather builders in God Kingdom.
To be effective builders in God’s kingdom we need to learn some other lessons from Paul and Barnabas. We need to learn that our message must be consistent. Paul and Barnabas are always ‘on message’ verse 15: We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God. Despite being hailed as Gods themselves Paul and Barnabas point the people of Lystra towards the living God and away from the false Greek Gods that they were worshiping. Who or what are the false Gods in our society today? Who or what are the false Gods in own lives? Do we prize family, career, money or political correctness above our relationship with the living God? And are we prepared like Paul and Barnabas to step out of our comfort zones and challenge those around us to turn from these worthless things to the living God.