Summary: We can learn a great deal from the way Paul and Barnabas went into a dark world with the light of the gospel. And things really haven’t changed all that much. People are still people, and they still need the gospel.
Passage: Acts 14:8-20
Intro: When New Tribes Missions goes into a new area, they have a plan.
1. it involves the missionaries living among the people, in order to demonstrate the unique life of the follower of Jesus Christ.
2. it involves learning the language and the culture of the people they are seeking to reach with the gospel
3. and when the gospel is presented, it is done so in a way that assumes no prior understanding of God and His ways.
4. I wonder if they got that plan from this passage?
5. Acts 14:8-20 is the story of the first incursion of the gospel into what we might call pagan territory.
6. every other time, Jews or God-fearers present; people who had a basis of knowledge about God.
7. but here in Lystra, this all changes
8. Iconium like Antioch, resistance from the Jews after proclamation.
9. here, no synagogue, because Paul and Barnabas take it right to the streets.
10. the city of Lystra kind of small, rural, 24 miles south of Iconium.
11. tribal people, with a mix of retired Roman soldiers and a few officials.
12. our world, even our country, is not what it used to be. Increasingly secular.
13. these principles still guide us.
I. Display the Power and Character of God.
1. they saw this man soon after getting to town
2. 3 way description of condition, probably crawled from place to place.
3. imagine this guys life, but God is going to change it.
4. v9, Paul saw something in his eyes as he listened, saw his faith.
Il) I see faith in the eyes of people in this congregation all the time! Warm eyes, smiles, nods.
5. God sent an opportunity for His power to heal to be displayed, His kindness.
6. and what happened shook this little town!
7. power can be misunderstood, certainly
8. this people came to a conclusion about who Paul and Barnabas were.
Il) 50 years earlier, the poet Ovid had revived an old local legend….
9. these people of Lystra were not going to miss this opportunity.
10. so they readied sacrifices, speaking in a language unintelligible to P and B.
11. God is in the invasion business, and so is constantly displaying His power.
12. displays it in creation, but man says it is chance at work
13. displayed power in Jesus, and most reject or ignore Him.
14. displays it in His transformed people, and we are ridiculed.
15. so what do we do when the display of God’s power is misinterpreted?
II. Always Point to the One True God
1. Oh the temptation!
2. here they are, celebrities! People thought they were gods!
3. what a wonderful platform for preaching the gospel!
4. these people would believe every word that they said, because they were gods!
5. certainly a little mixing of the message with local customs and beliefs would create a wonderfully effective religious brew….But man, did they blow it!
6. v 14, tore their clothes, mourning this terrible misunderstanding.
7. and then in v15, a very undiplomatic statement.
8. “turn from these worthless things”…very unfortunate phrase.
9. brothers and sisters, God will not share His glory with another.
PP Isaiah 42:8
10. why not? What is the harm?
11. because pretenders to God’s throne, however attractive they might be, will in the end be dust in the hands of those who worshipped them.
12. God loves His creatures too much to stand quietly by while they waste their lives and cement their eternal torment by worshipping false gods.
13. So in vv16 and 17, Paul begins to teach people about the living God
14. how tempting it is to find a middle ground, one that “respects” the religious position of another.
15. these people were trapped in idolatry, worshipping stone and wood
16. people in our day worship money and people and entertainment.
17. their only hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
III. Proclaim Truth at the Level of the Hearers.
Il) right now our kids are in Children’s Church. They are hearing the truth at their own level.
1. look at how Paul deals with these people, (he must have found an interpreter)
2. what do they know? They know that the rain falls and the crops are planted and reaped, and they eat.
3. they may have wondered about this or perhaps just taken it for granted, or believed that some false god like Baal was responsible.
4. so Paul sets them straight. It is the living God, the maker of heaven and earth (v15) that did it.
5. He is a kind God, a providing God, the giver of good things.
6. this is where they were in their thinking. But this revelation of God’s power and character was enough to cause them to worship Him.