St Paul's UMC
October 2, 2022
  • Let Us Break Bread Together
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 102:24–27NIV2011

      • Acts 14:14–17NIV2011

  • What we just heard in our reading from the book of Acts , was a bit of a freakout show. Paul and Barnabas are confronting a crowd of people and desperately trying to redirect them to the truth.
    What had happened that caused such an urgent plea?
    If we back up a few verses, we find that the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Barnabas, had arrived to the pagan city of Lystra - located in modern day Turkey. The people of this town did not know of the God of Israel and his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
    They held different beliefs. Archeological discoveries near ancient Lystra reveal two inscriptions and a stone altar showing that the patron deities of that area were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes. There was a popular ancient legend at that time which told of these two gods disguising themselves as mortal men and visited the area in search of hospitality, but every home they visited turned them away. Finally a poor elderly couple took them in and in return the gods rewarded them - but everyone else’s homes were destroyed in a flood. It seems the people of that area were a bit sensitive about this legend and did not want to fail the gods again if they should ever decided to come back.
    So into town walks Paul and Barnabas preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. People gather to listen. And as Paul was preaching, he noticed one man in particular listening intently, likely nodding his head, and Paul also noticed that this man was paralysed from the waist down. In fact, he had been lame since birth. Sensing that this man possessed faith, Paul firmly instructed him “Stand upright! On your feet” (verse 10). The man did so, in fact the Bible says he sprang to his feet!
    Listen to the reaction of the people:
    Acts 14:11–12 ESV
    And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
    Paul and Barnabas - not speaking the local language - did not understand at first what was going on, but then the priest of Zeus showed up with oxen and garland - and it became clear to them what was happening.
    The people were worshipping Paul and Barnabas as gods - and they were about make a sacrifice to the two of them!
    This would be an act of blasphemy - and the proper Jewish response would be to tear their garments as a dramatic act of protest - as we see them do.
    They ran out among the people, yelling, causing a scene and saying “why are you doing this! we are just men like you!”
    Paul’s missionary journeys were certainly filled with interesting situations and challenges - but I want to draw attention to how Paul directs a pagan people to the truth about God.
    If we jump back to the previous chapter of Acts, Chapter 13, we find Paul and Barnabas visiting another town, Pisidian Antioch - but in this town they were preaching in a local synagogue to mainly Jews.
    Acts 13:16–17 ESV
    So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.
    From there, he walked them through the scriptures and led them to the gospel of Jesus.
    Paul started by reminding them of the special revelation the Jews had received from God - who He is and what He has done - which had been given by supernatural means.
    God had revealed himself to Abraham, Jacob, Moses and others throughout the course of Israel’s history. Through His mighty acts, like the Exodus, and the giving of the law, and the words of the prophets - God had made himself known. This special revelation allowed him to share how Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.
    Yet here in Lystra - Paul needs to adapt to the environment since he is speaking to a people who are ignorant of the truth - and so he appeals to what they do know.
    Acts 14:15–17 (ESV)
    “...we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
    Paul points to the natural or general revelation of God made to all people at all times. Evidence of His goodness, His provision, His love.
    One has to be pretty blind or stubborn to not see the created world, notice how it was designed to provide for life, and how - even in hardship, we can experience times gladness.
    Paul meets the people where they are, draws their attention to the evidence of God, and from there leads them to the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
    In several ways, the Church faces the same challenges that Paul faced in his missionary journey.
    Many of us grew up in a culture that was similar to Pisidian Antioch. An environment where most people were raised within a Judeo-Christian worldview.
    As noted by Timothy Tennant in his book Foundations of the Christian Faith:
    “People may not have followed the Ten Commandments, but they believed that they were true and that they reflected how people should live. Christianity was widely regarded as setting forth the proper moral standard for society. Christian values were generally defended in the church, in the home, and in society.” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, Tennant)
    However, today’s environment is more like Lystra. A pagan culture that has not been taught the truth about God - and instead worship lessor gods.
    Again Tennant writes:
    Our society increasingly doubts that truth is even knowable or that ultimate truth exists. The Bible is viewed as an antiquated and contradictory book with a questionable moral framework. (Foundations, Tennant)
    The goal of this sermon series, Foundations, along with the book study that starts tomorrow, is to reacquaint us with the ancient orthodox teachings of the Christian faith.
    The word Orthodox simply means “correct belief.”
    Each week we will examine one of the twelve affirmation of our faith as found in the Apostles’ Creed - an ancient declaration that has been used to teach disciples the core beliefs of the Christian faith from the earliest of times.
    So what is the correct belief of who God is as God himself has revealed to us through general and special revelation.
    The Creed starts with:
    I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
    There is only one God. Only one who is above all things. Only one who is Creator. This belief we share with with the other monotheistic religions: Islam and Judaism.
    But here is one place we differ: We believe this One God exist in three distinct persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We refer to this as the Trinity - a combination of “tri” meaning three and “unity” - as one. Three persons - one essence. This is a mystery - and all analogies will fall short. But it may be helpful to think of ourselves. We are three in one. Mind, body and spirit. You can’t have one without the other - but my body is distinct from my mind which is distinct from my spirit.
    I have heard the Trinity described as the fiery circle of God’s love. Love requires relationship and God as Trinity is a perfect relationship of love.
    God has revealed himself as Father. That means he can be personally known - another aspect unique to the Jewish and Christian faith. When Jesus was in anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested, we hear him pray:
    Mark 14:36 ESV
    And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
    There are many places where Jesus refers to God as Father, but here he uses the term “Abba” - which a a more personal term of affection that is like “daddy”, or pops, or whatever you may use.
    And that personal relationship is not just between Jesus and the Father.
    John 1:12–13 ESV
    But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
    As children of God, those who believe in Jesus can approach God as Father. We can know him personally, and we are intimately known by Him. We hear this in how Jesus teaches the disciples how to approach God in prayer - “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
    And just as humans were designed to point to heavenly realities - earthly fathers are supposed to reflect their heavenly Father. That means that a father is to be just, kind, loving, compassionate, a protector and provider. It is wonderful when we see earthly fathers who reflect godly character - but we also know that sin has marred this world and our earthly examples often fall short. This does not change who God is. He is, as the Chris Tomlin song declares “a Good, Good Father” - in all that He does and all that He is.
    Before Jesus even started his ministry, God declared at his baptism:
    Matthew 3:17 ESV
    and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
    He speaks the same over each of His children.
    The Creed also teaches us that God is Creator of heaven and earth.
    A couple of images to reflect on God’s majesty. Carina Nebula.
    Cats Eye
    Neptune
    Grand Canyon
    Genesis 1:1 ESV
    In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
    God created everything. Everything belongs to Him.
    Hebrews 11:3 ESV
    By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
    Psalm 8:3-4 David says,
    Psalm 8:3–4 ESV
    When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
    The God we worship is much greater than we can fathom - and yet he wants us to enter into a personal relationship with him.
    He is not God over just one group or tribe of people. He is the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, and God of every person, animal, plant, fish, bug, star, planet…everything in the created order and all that is in heaven.
    This immense perspective should humble us.
    “Compared to God’s life, our whole existence is just a little passing mist. Our entire existence is entirely dependent upon God who is the source and sustainer of all life.” (Tennant)
    And He has made us stewards of His Creation. Think about that. The Almighty Creator God has given little ol’ you and little ol’ me the loving responsibility to care for His Creation. The implications of that core doctrine, once you truly dwell on it, changes how you interact with the planet, how you handle your finances, how you treat animals, how you choose your food sources, how you deal with waste - it touches on every part of our daily lives.
    There is so much more we could discuss about who God is. Like the three omnis:
    Omnipotence - All Powerful
    Omniscience - All Knowing
    Omnipresence - Everywhere at All Times
    However, I want to close by returning to Paul. It is not enough to be be aware and acknowledge who God is and to believe in His Son Jesus Christ. We must share this truth with others. Find the starting point - whether you are speaking with someone from Antioch or Lystra - and share with them the Good News that,
    John 3:16 ESV
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    And God will be with you as you do so. If you read the rest of Acts 14, you will see that Paul was stoned and left for dead for sharing the Good News - but God was not done with him and got him to stand up and keep on preaching. The one we serve entrusts us not only with caring for his world, but rescuing all who are lost in it. And our Father will be with us every step of the way.
    Let us close by reciting the Apostles’ Creed together.
    Apostles’ Creed
    I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic** church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
      • Acts 14:11–12NIV2011

      • Acts 13:16–17NIV2011

      • Mark 14:36NIV2011

      • Matthew 3:17NIV2011

      • Genesis 1:1NIV2011

      • Psalm 8:3–4NIV2011

      • John 3:16NIV2011

  • Goodness Of God
      • 2 Corinthians 13:14NIV2011

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