Why are you here today? What do you hope to receive today? Why do you go to church? Is it because your friends are here? Is it because this is what you have been doing over the last 30,40, 50 years? Is it because we have coffee and goodies to eat? Unfortunately, too often these are the many reasons why a lot of us come to church on a Sunday. We like to fit in. We like to be loved. We like to having some sort of routine in our lives. We go to church because that’s what we have done for many years and so that’s just what we do.
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12:
Do Everything Without Grumbling
“ ……continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
Here in these instructions from Paul we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The words fear and trembling in the Greek (Original Word: τρόμος, ου, ὁ) is used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but does his utmost to fulfil his duty as a disciple. I don’t know about you but this idea of trembling is not one that brings to church on Sundays. So knowing that this is God’s word, how do we experience this truth in our lives. You are probably wondering why are we so worried about continuing the work of salvation in fear and trembling. Well lets consider the consequences of not embracing salvation in fear and trembling. Our Lord was quite explicit in his warning to us in Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” There is scripture after scripture instructing each of us to not assume our salvation. However so many do! So how do we prevent ourselves from being one of those many who will say, but Lord I did this and that in your name only to hear him say, get away from me I never knew you. Folks our calling as disciples of the almighty God is to be blameless and pure, children of God without fault. The concept of being without fault is something that is generally foreign to most of Christianity. For too many in their Christian walk like to hold onto imperfection in their relationship because it is easier to embrace our faults because the alternative would require that we agonize over every word we say, thought we think and action we take.
Scripture – Acts 14:1- (ESV)
Paul and Barnabas at Iconium
14 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 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!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and 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. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 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.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
Engaging the Word
Experiencing God in His Fullness
In Acts we see as our Lord moves in mighty ways to shake the foundations of this earth for his glory. We see the hearts of people are changed not by ten’s and twenty’s but by the thousands. Here in chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas have just left Antioch and have now moved onto Iconium which is just over 100 miles away. The first thing we notice here in this passage is that as they come into Iconium, the first place that they enter is the Jewish Synagogue. Paul, Barnabas and all the disciples illustrate time after time that their purpose is twofold in nature.
Experiencing Christ in all of our lives
Firstly, they go those places where they can engage those who are lost. They don’t go knocking on the doors of their neighbors, they don’t stand on the street corners throughout the city, they don’t build a church, they go where they know the people will be. This is of critical importance because oddly enough so many of us do the exact opposite in the church. When we experience the good news in our lives, we tend to focus on experiencing the hand of God in our church rather than in our lives. We meet God where we found him and too often leave him there to be found again on Sundays rather than taking him with use where ever we may go. Our Lord is not a trophy who likes to be visited on Sunday mornings, rather he is our Lord and Savior and desires to be in every aspect of our lives. From they way in which we talk, how we act to those around us on a Tuesday morning, they way in which we love our wives or husbands, the measure in which we respect our bosses, the way in which we work, even how we handle our arguments and disagreements. In all of these moments in our lives, our Lord desires to be a part of and desires to reveal his presence in.
Speaking through our Lives
Secondly, we see here in verse 1 and throughout the book of Acts, that Paul and Barnabas speak in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. From an outsides perspective we would probably conclude this sentence to being saying that these men were great speakers. However, I believe that they were not speaking with these great celestial voices, but rather speaking with their hearts. Remember that Paul’s life had been revolutionized on the road to Damascus and now all that he could see was the purpose of bringing what had been give to him to those around him. He didn’t care whether you were Jewish, Greek, African, man or women, he just wanted to share the joy of the Lord with the lost. He didn’t care if you thought he was crazy. He didn’t care if you wanted to throw him in jail. He just wanted to share Jesus.
Experiencing God in his fullness Application
For so many of us in the church today, we look at what happened in the book of Acts and we wonder at times why God does not do what He did in the early church today in our presence. For some of it you may even be wondering if the events illustrated in the book of Acts are actually real. As illustrated throughout the entire book of Acts, the people of God were entirely sold out to the promises and purposes of our Lord. They were willing to be challenged and changed by the presence of our Lord. They were willing to trust in his presence and protection. They were willing to be considered crazy. They were willing to be stoned. They were willing to imprisoned. They were willing to die for the name of Jesus.
This past week, I read an article an article entitled, “Dear Christians there is one thing worse than being an atheist”. In this article the writer tells us;
“As Christians, we tend to think that atheists are in the most dangerous spiritual state. Indeed, they are in a dangerous state. But not the most dangerous. The atheist is surely closer to redemption than the “Christian” who hangs onto the name but empties it of its substance. There is nothing worse than being a casual Christian who lives, and acts, and thinks, and in most every way believes just as the atheists do. It is better to be an unbeliever and know you are an unbeliever than to be an unbeliever and think you are a Christian.
Whenever the “decline of Christianity in America” is discussed, the focus is always on the dwindling number of professed believers. But that is not really the problem, nor is it the truest evidence of Christianity’s decline. If the Church had lost 5 or 10 percent over the years, but the remaining 70 to 75 were truly on fire with the faith — if they were authentically and substantially Christian — our culture would still be in fine shape. It is not in fine shape. By their fruits you shall know them, and the fruits of our “Christian country” seem strongly to suggest that we are not a Christian country at all. And if we are not a Christian country, despite our majority Christian population, then we must consider whether America’s Christians — many of them — are really so much different from her atheists.” (Daily Wire, Matt Walsh)
Today we have to ask ourselves are we a people of the wide way or the narrow gate. Do we care what other people say or think of us? Do we hide amongst our Christian friends or are we meeting those in need where they are? Do we bring Jesus to the world out there or do we hide our Lord in our church for Sundays? I don’t know about you but I want to be a man of the narrow gate.
In Philippians 2:15, Paul tells us that in this crooked and twisted generation we will shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. Who is the word of life? Jesus! As the scripture tells us, “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Paul knew this truth as he brought forth the revelation to those who desperately needed Christ. Here in this passage in Acts, it says in verse 3, verse 9 and verse 15, that Paul could not help but share the “Good News”. Isn’t it incredible that we have been given this incredible promise. We have been given salvation. We have been given hope and yet so many of us through our actions hate to share the good news with those who so desperately need it. Our calling as believers is to not focus on the incredible miracles of our Lord but rather just our Lord. Paul and Barnabas weren’t going around trying to perform miracles, rather they were going around just sharing the good news and the Lord used them to not only reveal the truth but his powerful hand.
Here in this passage we see as mankind taking the working of our Lord and try to turn it into idolatry. They start to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods, only to be quickly corrected. Unfortunately, too often the sin of men focus so on the miracles of God and twist it into their own purpose. The miraculous hand of God is for one purpose and one purpose only. To point all glory back to him who should be worshiped and given all praise. It is there that the true way is to be found. It is there that truth is revealed and it is only there that life can be experienced.
I am taking some major steps of faith in this coming year for our church and I don’t know how we are going to half of what we are called to as a people but I do know that God is on the move and I’m tired of standing still. So let’s be radical together. Let’s trust in our Lord’s provisions. Let’s trust in his protection. Let’s take our hands of the steering wheel of our lives and let him move. Today is our day of Acts. Today we are the Pauls, the Barnabas and Lydias. Today let’s watch God work.