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Acts chapter 14: 1 to 18 Iconium and Lystra - gospel opposed

At Iconium and Lystra - opposition to the Gospel

Now it happened in Iconium that they [Paul and Barnabas] went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there.

Idolatry at Lystra

And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, "Stand up straight on your feet!" And he leaped and walked. Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

Introduction

Let us start with what we have already seen a number of times in the book of Acts. Paul and Barnabas arrive in Iconium and go to the synagogue. We see them faithfully follow the instructions of God to go first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. We see in the synagogue two groups of people - Jews and Greeks. Many believed what Paul and Barnabas spoke - God must have been speaking through them, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, we see here as we saw last week, that within the synagogue, those who should have known better, after all, they had thousands of years of history, Scripture, prophecy, as well as Jesus Christ himself coming into the promised land - they would have heard the stories, yet these Jews did not believe, and they created trouble. Here we see a fascinating attitude in play. We know from what we read that people in this town also worshiped the Greek gods, Zeus and Hermes, and historians say that the town had a temple to Zeus. Do we see the Jews stirring up trouble and preaching against this false religion? There certainly is, not mention that the two groups had been at war, with the minority Jews defending their synagogue against the heathen Gentile. Have you ever wondered why people spend so much time, energy and effort in arguing, warring, persecuting, and generally damaging true Christianity? The atheists attack, in the main, the Christian religion, and the Christian's belief in God as the great creator. Do we ever see the atheists writing treatise, public books, doing speaking circuits condemning our aboriginal dream time stories? If you ever want to know what true religion is, seek no further to where the devil is hardest at work.

Let us look at Ephesians chapter 6:

Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6: 11-12).

Paul writes from experience, built up over his ministry in places like Iconium - Christians are at war! Satan does not want the one true religion to survive. He will use whatever forces he can to attack and destroy whatever the Lord touches and saves. Paul writes our response to this, and more of this activity of the devil:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Nothing has changed since Paul wrote this - the Jews poisoned the minds of the believers. This may be why Paul writes these words to the Corinthians, we are warring against Satan who exalts himself against the knowledge of God. In response we are to bring every thought of ours captive - in obedience to Christ - the living Word.

Opposition from the Jews

These opening verses are very important to us today, as is Paul and Barnabas's response - they stay are long time in Iconium speaking boldly, and the Lord blessed their work by providing them with power to do miracles, signs and wonders. Later in the chapter we see the gentile response to this working of God and the Holy Spirit in their midst, as we have just read - they want to worship them quite a contrasting view to the non-believing Jew. Let us however, concentrate on this important point, the opposition that has come from within their midst. Let us not forget that Paul was a Jew of the highest order, well educated, and a Pharisee in his old life. Paul himself persecuted the Christians, so he knew all their arguments. But still, here he was preaching Christ to his fellow Jew, and they were being attacked by those very people that God had promised salvation to through His Son. We do not read what the arguments were that they were using. It does not matter. The lesson is clear. Satan will attack physically as we saw at the end of the last chapter, as well as using words in arguments against Scripture, false witnesses against the character of a person, and with words against the knowledge of God. We heard a couple of weeks ago about the knowledge of God - He knows everything absolutely. God is all knowledge. Satan wants to tear down that understanding in our own hearts today. However, we see here verbal poison being used by the very members of the synagogue who had the truth sitting out the front being read every day.

James tells us: Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8). What these verses tell us is this: We are to submit to God. If we draw near to God, God comes close to us. Repent sinner it then says - wash your hands (remember Macbeth's wife:

The servant- It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands. I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour.

Lady Macbeth: Yet here's a spot.

The doctor: Hark! she speaks. I will set down what comes from her, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

Lady Macbeth: Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? And so forth.

Shakespeare knew James, otherwise he would not have used this in his play. The final words of James is: purify your hearts you double minded What are your hands like - are they clean? How stained are they still; are you washing them and no cleansing occurs? What about your heart, or mine, is it double minded? What does this verse in James say when using the term “double minded“, and how does this relate to the Jews poisoning the minds of the new believers? Everything I would say, back then and today. We don't know what the problem was with those that opposed Paul and Barnabas. If they were rabbis then it could be said that they were afraid of losing power. Perhaps they were afraid of something more, or just ignorant. Whatever the reason they went all out to stop the gospel, to stay with old traditions, and not follow the Saviour that they were looking out for and waiting for, or should have been. Maybe life was too good in Iconium, despite having false religion all around. But there was a problem, and the message preached touched their hearts, and their minds and they fought hard against it. They attended the synagogue, read scripture, and hated the very one they were waiting to come and save them - as well as the very servants of Jesus Christ. This is what double minded means - reading Scripture, but understanding, linked arm in arm with worldly pursuits and pleasures, hands being washed with tradition, but no change of heart.

Again we see Paul wrote further about this to the Thessalonians:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

People do not love the truth when it affects them, usually personally - money, status, power, position, or past sins not repented. Becoming a Christian means repentance, confession, and following repentance and confession, restitution for the past wrongs is required - look at Zacchaeus; he repaid those he took too much tax money from - fourfold (see Luke 19). David needed to accept the loss of the illegitimate son and Paul spent three years in Arabia and carried a thorn in his side for the rest of his life. Some people find this too hard, and Satan will use every single power that he thinks he possesses to lie and deceive to stop people being saved. Actions and words and deeds need to match. ‘All for God' should be the motto.

However, I want you to take a further step here, and look at what was occurring. These were the Children of Israel; God's chosen people being the servants of Satan in deceiving, poisoning and persecuting the new believers. We know this because we can use the Old Testament and go back to the very beginning and read:

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great (Genesis 12:2-3).

They were people who worshipped in the synagogue - they identified themselves with this chosen people. They rejected Christ as indeed we have heard already, as Habakkuk and many others said they would: For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. God did the promised work, and they did not believe. In today's church are many who are the same. We have seven letters to the churches in Revelation that give the same sort of warning. We too have those within the Christian church who profess to be children of God, yet they fight the truths of God, matching each of the warnings in these seven letters. Ten's of thousands of Christians have perished in the hands of other's who call themselves Christian. The church of Rome said they were doing God's will when they sent forth the Inquisitors to destroy the true believers amongst them. Their fight was against those that served God rather than the papacy, other fought against the true doctrine, rather than man made doctrine that was more pleasing to them. In our own modern churches people fight the same wars, poisoning people's minds, these days rarely about doctrine, almost always about stuff God cares little about, like bearing grudges, pride, anger, being offended, failing to forgive, or things they no longer wish to believe in like the sin of homosexuality, or Scripture that provides a standard of behaviour that we do not wish to live up to. I am sure that we are all guilty in this respect. In Revelation 3 we read such lines as: for I have not found your works perfect before God (2); or - you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot (15); or - "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (17).

I wish it were not true, but we have not changed from the cry of Habakkuk, to what is described in Acts, to now as a people who oppose God, coming to worship yet not showing a skerrick of Colossians 3 in our lives:

 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14).

What was the response of Paul and Barnabas?

These men stayed: speaking boldly in the Lord for a long time. When men persecute us, argue against us, poison people's minds against us, when it is not true, preferring the gossip to the truth, preferring a convenience rather than tough love, do we stay? I trust that we do, for if we do, the Lord will work well through us. After all, nothing can separate us from the love of God, and if we preach righteousness, the hope of our salvation, then people may rise against us, but we must be willing to counteract the poison with the truth. Sure, I know that it does not always work though, and God shows us this in our passage we have read today - the people became so divided that they went to stone the two men, that they had to flee the town and went elsewhere - they did not give up the mission, they took the mission elsewhere, and they came back later on another trip!

Thinking on this, and knowing that the enemy here was within, what can one do? We are not here without purpose. Each of us has a job to do. We need to combat the lies, deceit and poison that surrounds our faith, our true religion. Jeremiah comes to mind with one response, and if it was good enough for him, it should be good enough for us:

"Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street." (Lamentations 2:19)

Is it every man or woman for him or herself, or do we care about the children and the next generation? If we fail to stay and weep before God, not for ourselves, but for our people, will we be able to stand before God and say, we did your will O God? How do we reach the ability to weep in such a way? Was Jeremiah unique - no, he was a man like us, just serving God whole heartedly. It comes to one thing and one thing only. I think we need one of the many passages John wrote on the action of Christian love - the real love that only comes from the Father. We cannot love without having God's love in us. Our own love is fickle, frail and very emotional. God's love is giving, sacrificial, and totally for the other person. In 1 John 3 we read:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3 :16-23)

 Loving in deed and truth allows us to meet Colossian 3's commandments, and will enable our hearts to truly see the need of the unsaved world, and those that are within our churches poisoning minds, and we will find ourselves following the lead of Jeremiah and weeping. It will enable us to stay a long time, even when our own brothers persecute us, and rile us, and do their best to turn our lives up-side-down.

God of our salvation

On the subject of the love of God, and His amazing grace, let us read an amazing passage, one that has more than one meaning within context I agree, however one that we today will read in all its simplicity of God's awesome power, a passage that gives us hope.

Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off! ' Therefore prophesy and say to them, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the Lord. '" (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

 I know this passage is prophecy, talking of Israel at the last days, but as you can see, that is not the only message in this Ezekiel passage on dried bones. Look at the line ‘our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.' It does not matter how impoverished the situation is, either for ourselves preaching against the poison of Satan's words, or for those who are saved but have slid so far into the depths of mire that all looks lost, the Lord will bring us up and out, take us into the promised land, He will allow us to live, He will breathe new life back into the dry old bones, and we shall know without doubt that we serve the ever faithful, the every glorious God of our salvation! Don't ever believe the lie that you can be lost, or there are folks that are lost that cannot be brought back and give up on them. Some days you will need to take your mission elsewhere for a while, but we see in Acts 15 that Paul and Barnabas went back, the bones still had life in them, one of them was Timothy, whose mother and grandmother must have come to salvation in this first trip.

I have probably dwelt long enough on this section, but it must be made clear. Never give up the fight. No matter the forces against you, dust of your shoes, leave for a while, and maybe, like with Paul, God will take you back again and again to spread the gospel of hope, even amongst those who at first do not want to hear the good news because it threatens the religion they hold dear - that comfortable, self-righteous religion, we are so fond of. If we backtrack to Revelation again, we can remind ourselves that each congregation will hold elements of Laodicea within it, and even as those lukewarm believers are told, so must we bear witness: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Let us move to the Gentile response.

 Here we see a completely different response. Imagine growing up with the stories of Homer's Odyssey, and hearing about the gods upon the mountain tops, visiting earth, and all the ancient folklore that went with it, weaving exploits of humans and gods together. This is your belief system, what you have grown up with. Yet the statutes do nothing, you have climbed the mountain tops and heard the thunder but seen no-one. Then one day, along comes two men. They are walking past a lame man (heard the story before?) and they heal him, and he dances off down the streets. At last, the very first indication in your entire life that such miracles or supernatural events occur outside the myths and legends you were taught. These men do not even come from your country, therefore they must be gods, for they have done something tangible only ever heard of in tales.

The gentile reaction is pretty predicable in the context of their religion. It did not take anything huge, just one lame man healed. Out comes the flowers, the oxen, the intent to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, for they had been sacrificing millennia without once seeing anything quite so remarkable. Sure, they prayed for rain and did festivals at the right seasons and the rains came more or less in response to their prayers, unless of course there was a drought and nothing worked. But here in living colour and animation were true signs of God, they saw what it was, but had no idea about who it was.

Paul and Barnabas knew at once the context for they immediately said:… you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them… If this small miracle kicks starts such an outpouring, it is because what was done before was useless. The temples, the priests, the various gods - all useless. So they then begin the job of preaching about the living God. See where they start - with creation!! In this modern world, this was something worthwhile remembering. The modern western person will have been indoctrinated into the lie of evolution. This is even in the church itself. Be warned though, unless you know the reality of science behind creation, you will strike a hurdle. Preach therefore God is the great creator. Preach that there are no compromises on this belief. As soon as you discard any of the creation story you are done for, because it reduces God in His majesty.

I was reading a book by Ray Comfort just this week[1]. He says that to assist you in your explanation, use the following four parts of the human body. Ray writes to pretend that the unbeliever is Mr Evolution, and the question is: are you going to evolve the blood, the blood vessels, the heart, or the lungs first? Clearly, the science is that all four are needed together, an evolutionary impossibility. Interestingly, most atheist or scientists know that, so they are looking for other ways evolution can be designed without there being a God. Just think about it for a moment, it touches me because of my health background. If you evolve blood to carry nutrients, then you need blood vessels, otherwise it just slops around in the cell, and quite frankly is useless. If though you have channels to carry blood, but no blood, whatever use is an empty channel or pipe around the body? If you manage to evolve both together - impossible, but let us go to the realms of impossible, then what gets the blood flowing the way it ought to? But if you create a heart without the other two, it again is pointless, and one cannot have blood without lungs of some sort, otherwise how does oxygen get from these newly evolved organs to where it is needed? A neat example of the workings of God, plain as day! So there you have it; follow the examples of our early church fathers - point out that God is the creator of all things. If they have a smart answer, ask them as the evolutionary machine when would they decide when to create platelets that only work when the blood vessel is cut - otherwise the blood escapes and the cells die - one cannot evolve from dead things!

In this heathen superstitious based response of being thought gods, Paul and Barnabas quickly move to state that they are only men, they serve a living God, one who has a witness, one who left people to their own devices - the gentiles, but now have opened the whole realm to them of salvation. Paul points to the two main events in the heathen calendar, the rain and the fruitful seasons - fertility, two things that the people would have believed came from their stone objects. The response is one of fervour, and that fervour had to settle before the work of the Holy Spirit could come in, and we see in the next sermon that the town is divided, and this time Paul is stoned.

I am not sure the absolute lesson here for the modern church. Here in Australia it is apathy and boredom with people believing in themselves only. They have Hollywood, or Bollywood, and know it is not real. To get  hold of people and their current interests you will be needing to know how to answer all those questions that sin brings into the equation - drought, crop failures, death, hardship, for life in Christ is not a ride in the park. I think that we need to remember the verses that remind us of this: We are hard- pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) and of course, verses such as Romans 5:3-5: And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Preaching the Gospel

The lessons of the gospels cannot be a once off conversation, for the minute people come against trouble, if we have not given the sure foundation or truth, and offered them support, love and encouragement once they have heard the initial message, they will be like the seed that falls on shallow ground, that springs up, then shrivels and dies.

As an interesting point, we see in our chapter that the last week of Christ is repeated in its own very small way here. As I said, Paul is stoned at the end of the day, so the crowd goes from worshipping him, to not protecting him against those jealous and envious Jews who do their best to poison the message. Remember how Jesus comes into Jerusalem, and the street is lined, and the pavement covered in clothes off the people's own backs and palm leaves, hysteria is close by as they think that the Roman rule is over, then they are disappointed, God does not give them peace on a plate, so within a week they are all screaming with the same voice: “crucify him“. A parallel for sure of what we have read today. Some may ask, I trust not yourselves - was this falling away God's fault for not enabling the sure foundation of truth to be laid? Absolutely not. In Jesus's case there were three years of ministry, miracles, and servanthood expressed in every action of our Lord, so I don't wish to confuse you here. We have already seen Paul and Barnabas teach from the Old Testament that the people will not hear, and they will reject the message - that is the Jews. So too the gentiles will not all accept the saving grace of God, but we are to go out and teach anyway. We ought to recognise that these ‘sound bites' we get in the book of Acts do not tell the entire story. If we back up, we note that Paul and Barnabas spent a ‘long time' in Iconium - no doubt preaching and teaching and filling in the gaps not read about in this short passage.

Application

What does this mean for us? A major point is that we need to truly know God, for we are to preach the gospel to folks who have the weirdest of beliefs, who have no idea about how we got here, in fact, they know evolution but have no idea about how it works - because it doesn't but don't let facts get in the way of a good story! People will say to you: if God is so loving why is there famine, war, children dying, earthquakes and tsunamis? Therefore, the other half of preaching the gospel is living the gospel and knowing God. Note the following: ‘The world judges religion not by what the Bible says, but by how Christians live. Christians are the Bible that sinners read. These are the epistles to be read by all men. ‘By their fruits you shall know them' from Matthew 7:20. (Bounds)[2]

Hebrews tells us: Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (12:14) and Peter tells us: 'but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16) We need say the same as Paul and Barnabas - we are human. We are people, and sinners (just saved by grace), as all are in this world - ‘the same nature as you'. Therefore, we have to live the difference salvation makes. The other half of this equation is being Holy. God is Holy, so to be Holy we must know God intimately. What is it about God that you love so much, or fear greatly, or find mind blowing?

Tozer writes this: The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. We casually use the name ‘Jesus', often without the reverence nor the title that should be used in the context of speech. Jesus Christ saves. The blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin. God gets called God, Father God, (which I think is the wrong way round - it should always be God the Father), Heavenly Father, or God the Father. Hebrew as a language has a vast array of names that identifies the various characters of God. Jehovah, and LORD, versus Lord is a good starting point to the emphasis of the character of God. We need to put God back where he belongs, not just an exalted being, with powers, but I AM. In Job Zophar the Naamathite asks this "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. "If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, then who can hinder Him? (11:7-9) We need to track down and start to express every character of our living God, by using some of these living descriptors  with the reverence that El Shaddai gives (Lord God Almighty).

I trust you get this point. Preaching the gospel is neither a walk in the park, nor universally accepted, or acceptable. Be willing to be stoned. Be willing to be believed one minute, and cast out the next. We have learned today that some of the worse attacks will come from within the church. It is surprising at times, who and how those attacks happen, but you need to view the church as Satan views it, and look for the weak spots. That is where the attacks will occur. Every area where pride is found especially someone who has an ego that is not satisfied, family groups with factions, and those who were once best friends falling out of something pitifully small and insignificant, yet insurmountable. Poison will pour out, and as Scripture tells us we must always.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Hebrews 12:4-5)

 Bitterness in particular is a great destroyer of many a church, often related to someone waiting for someone else to blink (usually apologise). It's worse if the other person has no idea that someone was offended by them, and that person expects acknowledgement! In our passage today we do not know what created the poison but we noted that Paul and Barnabas left town - they went back, but for a time they left town in order to pursue peace, allow things to settle, and for the Holy Spirit to work, and the church grew, the gospel continued to spread.

Conclusion

In our conclusion we cannot walk past the need to preach the gospel starting at the point God started - His creation, God as the creator. However, with the preaching we need to remember that we are the gospel message in that our actions are the interpretation that people see as “being Christian“ - that is saved. Therefore we need to know God so that we can be holy. A simple little word, but with so much depth we will spend a lifetime plumbing it, with the bonus of adding to our personalities the characteristics of holiness as expressed by God. Paul and Barnabas stated that their nature was the same as the people they preached to. We are not some super being, special person. What is special is Christ within us, as Colossians tells us: When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (3:4) Hear that incredible truth - right here in a conclusion! Christ who is our life. Is Christ your life? How often each day do I let Christ be my life? Sad isn't it. But that is the reality; let people know that without Christ within, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I would never understand the things of God. Never ever take credit for the salvation of a single soul, you can feel pleased, part of it, but God did all the work, you, and I, are His vessel, His instrument: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honour and some for dishonour. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20), and But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Allow the treasure to show itself forth, allow God's work to work. Do not hinder the Holy Spirit within, but hand all over to God, every aspect of life, and what a ministry we will have! However, as we have seen, there is one small catch - our love for our brothers and sisters.

In preaching the gospel and exhorting the saints we need to remember the words of John, who reminds us that love is the key. Even Paul could write:But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

If we cannot love our brother, we will fail in our mission for God, God loved us, even when we were yet sinners, so we to must love our brothers, even when they sin against us. Jesus himself tells us:

"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36)

We are to remember to preach the absoluteness of God, in the loftiest terms possible. Again, to Tozer who wrote: Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.[3] God is not only over all creation, He freely does what He needs to do to every single atom. That sore toe - God is there, the flat tyre - God is there, our own mortality - God is in control. Which leads to an answer to a question not really meant for here, but this quote is well put: Man's will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.[4] And because of that, man does not always believe in God, and some think they believe in God, but by their actions, God does not know them, and others fight against God spreading poison. What a tragedy.

[1] Ray Comfort (2013) God Speaks: Finding Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness Gospel Light, USA.

[2] E M Bounds (2012) E M Bounds on Prayer, Whitaker House, USA, pg. 332

[3] A.W. Tozer (2009) Knowledge of the Holy HarperOne, pg 74

[4] A.W. Tozer (2009) Knowledge of the Holy HarperOne, pg 76

Stephen B Simon (CCC) 26 January 2014
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