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Todd leads us through Acts 13:13–52. This passage describes a pivotal point in the spread of the Gospel beyond Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:8). Yet this passage is not simply a record of “Paul and his companions” as they brought the Gospel to Galatia; rather, it is instructive to us today, if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts ready to respond!
Our Opportunity for Mission in Our Historical Moment: Truth Meets Myth
God's People: Quick to Go to Others and Slow to Leave Each Other
Inspiration and Invitation to the Proclamation and Demonstration of the Gospel
The Church our Mother and its Mission
The Proper Liturgy of the Church and the Proper Way to Deal With Sorcerers
Antioch: The Kind of Church (and Men) That God Uses
Good morning. We're glad you're with us, Watermark in Plano, Dallas, and Fort Worth. It's awesome. Happy Mother's Day. We are glad to be together. We are making our way through the book of Acts. I know sometimes on days like this in America, where since the 19-teens Woodrow Wilson said, "We're going to celebrate mamas," people might think, "We should celebrate Mom in church," and I would say, "No, we shouldn't." We should celebrate Jesus in church. Moms, I love you. You're awesome. Let's talk about Jesus.
When we talk about Jesus, we celebrate moms, because moms matter. I'm going to make that point very clearly today in the context of working our way through this little book called Acts. We've been diving in, and we are at a very pivotal point. We're about to see for the very first time where this guy named Paul was going to establish a church, which is all of our mother. It gives birth to us. It nourishes us. It cares for us. It directs us in the way we should go and sets us on the path of life. The church is all of our mother.
If you have a bad mama called church, you have one confused, hurting young lad. We're going to see where this great provision of God called the church came from. It came from a guy named Paul and his buddy Barnabas, who were set apart to go and take the gospel where God always wanted the gospel to go, which is to all the world. You're going to see today he's going to take it to a place it has never been, and we're going to have some applications that will encourage you all. I know it did me as I had a chance to spend extra time with it this week in prep for this time with you. Let's pray.
Father, thank you for getting to celebrate how great your love is for us and the amazing grace you have given us, a provision that allows us to be born into your kingdom, nourished, cared for, and developed, that we might live lives not defined by depravity and wandering but by glory and good. Help this church, which is made up of us, your people, be the bride to you it should be and the mother to the young it should be.
May we raise up pillars of strength, glorious women, strong men, who live rich and full lives. We thank you for the privilege of learning today and being encouraged, all of us, wherever we are on the journey of understanding you. Use this Scripture to open the eyes of our hearts that we might see you. In Jesus' name, amen.
I hope you brought your Bibles. Turn to Acts 13:13. That's where we're going to start. It starts in a really interesting way. It says, "Now Paul and his companions…" Why is that a big deal? It's a big deal because it's the very first time this "boy band" making its way through Asia is going to be labeled as us. One of the big problems with the Beatles… Was it Paul and John or John and Paul along with George and Ringo?
Anybody could have sat back there and smoked dope and banged drums like Ringo did, but Paul and John were the bomb. So who was it? Was it Paul McCartney and John Lennon or John Lennon and Paul McCartney? There were a lot of petty differences between the two about that. Shane & Shane don't have that problem.
What I would tell you, though, is that in the early days, if you just go back and look in Acts, chapter 13, the first few verses, it says "Barnabas and Paul." That's kind of how that whole show got started. Barnabas was this guy who really defended Paul. He went and sought Paul out and brought Paul to the church in Antioch over there in Syria and said, "This guy has some gifts." He stood up for him when nobody wanted to trust him because he was a former terrorist who was killing the church. I kind of get that. Barnabas said, "No, this guy has some chops."
Early on, Barnabas even directed where they went. They went to Cyprus, which is a little island just off the coast of Syria. It was Barnabas' hometown. That's where they went first. They made their way across that island, but as they got on that island, Paul's gift made itself known, and then all of a sudden, just 9 or 10 verses later, it's now "Paul and the band." I don't think Barnabas cared, because Barnabas had a big heart and cared greatly for one thing: that the gospel may go forth, and he didn't care if he got credit.
There's a really good lesson for us there. One of the things that has happened here at Watermark is that because of the renown of your faithfulness, not other believing communities but other faith communities, people of other worldviews, have come and said, "Can we spend time with you? We want to learn how to lead our people. We can't get our people to care about what we're doing. We can't get them to give to this cause."
They come here and walk around and see this amazing facility we're stewards of, and they hear that we've built it without any debt, without any haranguing or pyramid scheme or private one-off meetings or contracting with somebody who could raise funds, and they go, "How in the world?" Even more, they're shocked that every fire extinguisher doesn't have somebody's name on it. Every couch doesn't have a little metal plaque on it. This room isn't dedicated by the such-and-such family. They're like, "How in the world are you doing that?"
We just basically share with them, "Hey, listen. This is a group of people here who understand about the goodness and grace of God, and it's our great delight to take our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor, and to live for this King who has saved us and to make him famous. We're not trying to get our names on anything." Your selflessness, not caring about who gets credit for what you do, is one of the things that makes others really curious about this place.
I was encouraged last week. There was a pastor up here from a country dominated by Buddhists and Muslims. He leads a very large community of followers, and he has visited a lot of large churches in America. He said this to me, and it really encouraged me. He goes, "I've been to a lot of big churches, and in America I've noticed that everywhere I go, the pastor is king, except for here; I perceive that Jesus is King."
I just thought to myself, "Praise God. May that be true, Lord, ever-increasingly true." My name is not on this church. I know sometimes people meet me and go, "Hey, I go to your church." I always respond the same way. I try to be gentle, but in some way I want to get back and go, "Hey, you don't go to my church. This is not my church. I didn't live a sinless life and die for the sins of the world. This is Jesus' church. I just have a role to play here to encourage people and use my gifts the way so many other people are here and using their gifts."
This is Jesus and his companions going to work right here at this place. So many guys, especially guys who do what I do, say, "O God, I want you to change this city," and what they really mean is, "God, I want you to change this city through me." What I just want to say is, "Lord, I want you to change this city."
That's one of the reasons you increasingly see more guys up here on this platform. My job is to raise up other people's gifts and prepare the next generation of leadership in a way that I don't really care if people like the way that Paul sings more than John. I just want to sing about Jesus, and it's our job to do that together and not really care if our name is on something.
I love this church. This church, your church that you go to, the church I go to, has been an amazing mother to me, and it's because you guys really care about the kingdom and the King and not about who gets credit for what. You give that way, you live that way, and you serve that way, and people notice it. That little throwaway beginning of Acts 13:13, "Paul and his companions," is not a throwaway. This is a "Jesus and his companions" church.
Anyway, that band of boys set out from Paphos and came to Perga. Here's a map of what's going on, just so you can get a little sense. This is not mythology; this is history. This really happened. What you're going to see is this history that really happened really matters to you and me. There's a lot we can learn from it.
Over there is Antioch. That's modern-day Syria. It was about a 170-mile journey over there to Seleucia, which is on the eastern side of Cyprus, an island that's still there today. It's about a 100-mile walk across to Paphos and then about a 175-mile sail up to Perga. Today, the capital of Turkey is not far from there. That little harbor of Antalya is not far from where the modern-day capital is.
There's a river there that goes about 10 miles inland that you can sail up, and it takes you to a town called Perga. That's where Paul went: to this harbor city in Turkey. This is the very first time the gospel is about to go where the gospel hasn't been before. There were some believers on Cyprus. We know that partly because Barnabas was from Cyprus. It hadn't really taken hold yet, but it was always Paul's ambition to do this.
This is Romans 15:20. Paul said, "I aspire to preach the gospel, not where it's already named, so I wouldn't build on somebody else's foundation." That was Paul's great desire: to preach the gospel where Christ had never been heard of before. Let me just make a quick note. I do this especially today. You might look at this thing and go, "Man, I want my life to matter like Paul's." There is no better way for your life to matter like Paul's than to be a mama.
Why do I say that? Because what Paul aspired to is exactly what mothers do. They preach the gospel to somebody who has never heard the name of Jesus. I'm going to come back to that in just a second. I don't have to be a mother to do that. Daddies get to do it too, but moms especially, and I'll show you why I say moms especially. I run into folks all the time right here in good old Dallas, Texas.
I don't need to get on a ship and go north in the Mediterranean Sea (although that would be nice) in order to find folks who have never heard the gospel preached to them before. I run into folks all the time right here in good old Dallas, Texas, who have never heard the message of the gospel. I talked to folks last night who didn't understand the good news of the gospel. There are some folks in this room today who I guarantee if you asked them, "Hey, what's the central message of God's Word?" would stutter and stammer and take a shot, but they wouldn't really know.
At some point, when I'm talking to folks, as I did this week, I have a chance to look at them, and I just go, "Hey, has anybody ever really told you what the Bible says?" Sometimes people say, "Well, I don't really believe the Bible is God's Word." I go, "No, no, no. I didn't ask you if the Bible is God's Word. I just asked you this Book, which is the most published book in history… It is the most influential book in literature. You can't understand Shakespeare if you don't know your Bible.
It's the most influential book in philosophy. It's the most influential book in civilization, in governmental development. There is no debate among secular historians that this Book is the most influential book that has ever been assembled in history. So I'm not asking you if you believe it's God's Word. I'm just asking you, because I perceive you to want to be an intellectual individual, if you know what the central message of the Bible is." I go, "So what do you think it is?" They go, "I have no idea" or "I don't know. You'd better do those 10 things or God is going to slap you silly."
I go, "Well, okay. That's a piece of the metanarrative. It's a piece of the story, but do you mind if I take 30 seconds and explain to you what the central message of the Bible is?" Then off I go, and I say something along this line. I go, "If I had to give you a central explanation of what the Bible says, it's not a rule book telling you what you have to do in order to get along with God. It's telling you that none of us do the things we need to do to get along with God, and God isn't angry at us, and he seeks to set us free. It is a story of rescue and intervention in our lostness, that we might come home and be set free. Has anybody ever told you that?"
They just go, "No. I had no idea the Bible was a story of rescue. I thought it was a big rebuke." You just take people's intellectual presentation, "I don't know if the Bible is what they say it is…" "Okay, well, let's just lay that aside and ask you, 'This influential Book that you're not sure what it is… Do you even know what it says?'" Then you be ready to tell them. You don't need to go somewhere to some mysterious place that has never seen a person who owned an iPhone to share with them something they don't know. It is thick in this Bible-Belt city.
Let me tell you where else it's always present: in the life of a child. There's an old Spanish proverb that is a worldwide truth that says, "An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest." Isn't that good? I know that to be true. I spend a ton of time with people who didn't have a good mama. Mom was either enabling or controlling and was a helicopter mom. She flew in and, in her neediness, didn't develop you.
She smothered you, told you that the world rotated around you, instead of the fact that this is a big world and you have a place in it, but you need to know it's not about you. When you have a mama who isn't playing the role God wants her to, it sets you on a course that you're going to have to recover from. It's going to take a ton of priests to heal that. I actually this week came across a 603-page study put out by the National Academy of Sciences. Do you want to know where your tax dollars go? Right here.
It was written in 2000. It was titled From Neurons to Neighborhoods. It was a collective work of the National Institute of Child, Health, and Human Development; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Health Resources and Services Administration. They spent 600 pages, and guess what their conclusion is? "Mama matters." I'm like, "Well, thank you for giving us the intellectual backing for that, but you could have just read the Scripture and seen how important and true that is."
By the way, ladies, let me just say this to you, a little Mother's Day tip of the hat. First Timothy 2:15, a section of Scripture that talks about God's order… God is a God of order, so in every organization there need to be roles. One of the problems in most organizations is people with a certain role over other people are abusive in their power. That is not the way godly leaders lead. That's what Jesus said.
"That's what the Gentiles do. They have their authority, and they lord it over others." But he says, "Learn from me, for the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." To protect, to provide, to care, to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to consider others as more important than himself. That's the role of a godly leader.
First Timothy 2 talks about the fact that there are male and female. They are distinct. I'm not kidding. Go look at my Twitter feed (@wordsfromwags) this week. There was a scientific study that was just released by Israel that said scientists in Israel document that males are men and females are women. All right. While we giggle at that, do you know what's going on in our country? Do you know why they pushed that out? Because we're not too sure anymore, are we? Well, I'm pretty sure, and so is your Bible.
Your Bible says men and women are equal. They have equal dignity and value. Both are made in the image of God. Male and female he made them, but they are not the same. There are roles for men, and there are roles for women. I'm not raising my boys to be godly mamas, and my little girls don't need to be great dads. They need to develop their gifts and use their gifts and be what God intended them to be.
Women, there are certain roles you aren't supposed to play and you don't need to play. Isn't that a relief that you don't need to be all things; you just need to be who you are? So what significance can women have if they're not supposed to be the head of the organization called the church? First Timothy 2:15: "But women will be preserved [saved, given significance and meaning] through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint."
In other words, there is nobody, according to 600 pages of the National Academy of Sciences, who will affect our future neighborhoods as much as those who have the greatest influence on the early neurons of a human being. The reason our country is jacked up is we don't have enough mamas who are filled with faith and love who are being sanctified to become the woman God wants them to be and are filled with self-restraint.
When you get a mother who does that, just like when you have a church that's increasingly being sanctified, isn't about itself but about the kingdom, that's full of faith and love, you have a healthy people. I'm just going to tell you, Mom. You may not like your Bible. You might be an intellect. Well, I have a $40 book that's 600 pages that intellectual people say 1 Timothy 2:15 is right. That doesn't mean moms can't do other things. Women can be great lawyers, great doctors, great teachers, and great research scientists.
I have guys who sometimes ask me, "What does your wife do?" after they've told me that their wife is some titan of industry or this and that, I always respond the same way. I go, "Well, my wife gives birth to and shape to eternal humanity in the image of God. What does your wife do?" There is no higher calling than being a godly mom. If Mom doesn't do what she should do, our neighborhoods are going to be jacked up, and we're going to need a ton of priests to try and recover.
Paul wanted to be like a mom. He wanted to have that chance to work with the neurons of lost men to raise them up to be who God wants them to be. That's what all of us should be. So he came to Perga in Pamphylia, which is modern-day Turkey, and it says, "…but John left them and returned to Jerusalem." We're going to come across this again in Acts, chapter 15. John is John Mark. John Mark is Mark, who wrote the gospel.
He was discipled primarily by Peter. He was an eyewitness to many of the things that happened, and he was specifically the man who wrote the record of Peter's even greater eyewitness to the life of Christ. He was on this missionary journey with Barnabas and Paul, and as they made their way… It was fine to go on a missionary journey through some island nation that was just about 170 miles off the shore, but when he went 170 miles north and came up to the port of Antalya and started to make his way up…
He goes, "Look at this. We just ran into a demon-possessed guy, and now we're heading into the greatest civilizations the world has ever known, homes of commerce, philosophy, pagan systems, worldly success, materialism, power, and, by the way, a great longing and search for peace and meaning." No one knows why John Mark left. I don't know if he got a text from a girlfriend saying, "Come back home. I miss you."
We don't know what the reason was, but I know Paul wasn't happy about it. You're going to find out later he and Barnabas went after each other on the second missionary journey. When Barnabas said, "Let's get the band back together," he goes, "We're not taking Ringo. When we hit Asia, he bolted." Barnabas said, "Yes, we are," and Paul said, "No, we're not," and Barnabas said, "Well, then, I'm going to take him."
A little bit later, it took Paul acknowledging that Barnabas was right. Isn't that encouraging to you? The guy who wrote most of the New Testament got a little fleshy sometimes and didn't get it exactly right. That's why this isn't Paul's church he's planting; it's Jesus' church. Paul wasn't a sinless savior. He was a vessel that God used.
Let's explain maybe why John Mark didn't like this. If you're sailing into the port of Antalya, this is what you're going to see. Them there are some hills. It's the Taurus mountain range. Paul showed up and said, "We're going to go up over those hills to find the pagans," and John Mark said, "I think I'm going to go home, because Mother's Day isn't long from now, and sit in her basement and write the gospel." He bailed. We don't know why, but he took off.
I'll just make a quick note to you right here. Already we have demonic resistance on Paul's missionary journey. Now we have the discouragement of the crew you're traveling with bailing out on you. He has the discouragement of those guys. Here's a point. Demonic resistance, discouragement, and desertion are things you should expect if you're serious about gospel ministry. "Don't be surprised," it says in 1 Peter 4:12, "at the fiery ordeal among you."
It's not going to be easy. It comes to your testing. Are you in this because it's going to always be easy and always be good? No. You're in this because it's the right thing to do. Here's a guy, John Mark, who is going to be greatly used by God, but he deserts you. Do you know some of the folks we started this work with have deserted us? Some of our closest friends we used to vacation with have bailed, and to this day, there is real difficulty there.
It's painful that I don't get to share this amazing experience with them, and the awkwardness and the sadness that is related to that… It's just something that is going to happen. The Bible says, "Therefore, be of sober spirit. Be on the alert, because your adversary, the Devil, is trying to mess with you. Then what you should do is be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil for the Lord is not in vain."
I want to tell you, church, this isn't always going to be easy, and there are going to be some really discouraging things that go down, but persevere. "Don't grow weary in doing good, for in due time you will reap if you don't grow weary." By the way, Paul gave birth to the church. Second Corinthians 11:27-28 says this. See if this doesn't hearken Mother's Day. "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."
Okay, moms maybe aren't cold and exposed, but Paul is saying, "I went up through some serious mountain passes to get the gospel where it has never been before. It was cold. There wasn't a lot of food supply up there, and I have learned how to live with plenty and how to live with want. I can do whatever I need to do for the sake of the gospel. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That's exactly what a mama does.
Paul says in verse 28, "In addition to all these things, I had the daily concern and the pressure for the churches." Like a mama. With all of the battles in my life, I have daily concern for my kids. I'm just going to show you there are a lot of correlations here. If you get involved as a mother, be assured there will be demonic resistance to raising a godly child, there will be discouragement, and sometimes desertion, but you persevere and watch what God can do through somebody who's full of faith and love, sanctified, and full of self-restraint. That's just a good word.
Verse 14: "But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch…" That's a 100-mile journey. At 20 miles a day through the mountains, that's where he ends up. It is the civil and military center of Galatia. You're going to read a book later called Galatians. That is a region with Lystra and Iconium and Derbe and other cities we're going to get to in a moment. He wrote to this entire region of churches that he went to, and you're going to see that they had some issues as he planted this early church.
It says in verse 14 he went to the synagogue and sat down. "After the reading of the Law and the Prophets…" Which they do in every synagogue even to this day. "…the synagogue officials sent to them…" Which was common. If you had a traveler, especially if this was a Pharisee and a trained rabbi… When they would come, especially if they came from Jerusalem, they would say, "Give us the report." They couldn't jump on the Web and hear what was going on in the motherland. So they would say, "What news do you bring us?"
This is great. The leading rabbi and the leaders of the synagogue said, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." That is what you call a softball. That's what you want. I was on a nationally syndicated talk show one time that had opportunity to reach millions of people, and they were asking me to speak about some topics we had covered here that were of interest to their audience. It turned into a four-segment time, about 8 to 12 minutes per segment.
As we moved to that last segment, the guy said, "Hey, listen. When we come back, we're going to talk about this one topic we haven't really hit yet, and then I'm going to ask you to summarize all we've talked about. How much time do you need to do that?" I just go, "I don't know. I can do it in 30 seconds. I can do it in a minute. How much time do you want me to have?" He said, "Can you do it in a minute?" I go, "Yeah."
He goes, "Listen. When I give you this sign by my leg, you have to shut it down, because this is a live show and I have to kill it. I have to be able to wrap it up." I go, "Great. No problem." He says, "So I'm going to ask you to wrap up our conversation here to America." I go, "No worries." So we're talking. We get to the end of that little segment. He looks at me and goes, "Todd, I have a question for you. If you could tell America anything, what would you say to them?" I thought to myself, "Now that ain't what he said he was going to ask me, but since he asked me…"
I looked right into that camera and said, "Well, if I could tell America anything, I would tell them that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that God is not trying to rip them off, he's trying to set them free; that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people; that this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments aren't burdensome, and that until we figure out who God is and his relevance to our lives, it doesn't matter what else we talk about, because we're going to constantly do what seems right to us, and it's going to end in death."
He goes, "Um, oh. Well, okay, but what about related to the topic we've been talking about? How would you sum that up?" I go, "Great. I have 40 seconds left." Here's my question. If somebody said to you, "Brethren, if you have any word of encouragement, say it," are you ready? You're going to run into people, and they are going to be desperate for you to have an encouraging word.
The Scripture says, "A right answer is like a kiss on the lips." I know a lot of our young adults here are very pure and have never kissed somebody, but it's awesome. A kiss on the lips… That's saying it's a really wonderful thing. People out there are kind of going, "Hey, man, can you just fire all my pheromones and get the serotonin levels and endorphins just gone in my life?" People are desperate. This is a dark, discouraging world.
They may not use this exact language, but that's who you are. You are God's messengers, ambassadors, as if God himself was declaring through you his love for others and the world in a lot of different ways, a world just like the one Paul went into, filled with great success and amazing power and rituals that the world says are going to make people happy. Just like the world Paul was going into, they are looking for peace and meaning. Paul was ready. Put yourself in these shoes.
We do a thing here with our residents. After we teach them God's Word and theology, one of the things we do as their final exam is we give them an oral exam. We put them in a room and ask this question. "In 20 minutes, walk through the story of the Old Testament using the Abrahamic covenant as the central theme highlighted in each book. Go." Could you do that?
Here's the deal. This idea of "stand and deliver," like you always have to be ready to "preach, pray, or die," we always say… Paul was ready. Here's how you can get ready for your residency exam. This is the way he did it. He walks through the story of the Old Testament, leans into the New, and uses the Abrahamic covenant as a tie-in to tell people about the goodness of what the story of the Scripture is, even though they may not know it's the Word of God.
Paul stands up and says, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God…" There were always some non-Jews in the room who were trying to learn about this system of living that came from the Jewish people, which was good. God always wanted to bless the world through his people. They tried to make them Jews instead of people who really feared God, and Paul was going to say, "All you have to do is know God and respect his way, and if you kick against the goads, it's not going to go well for you." So he says, "Listen."
"The God of this people Israel chose our fathers…" If you want to, write in your Bible. You can always tell what the inspired part is because it's ink embedded into the page, and the part that's non-inspired is your handwriting. So go ahead and write in your Bible. Right next to verse 17 you might want to write "Genesis 12." That's the Abrahamic covenant. He's talking to Jews, and he's saying, "This all started when God chose Abraham and was going to raise Abraham up and said, 'I'm going to bless you so you might be a blessing to others.'"
Then he goes on to say, "…and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt…" That's Exodus. Then he gets specifically to chapter 12. "…and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it." Verse 18. Right next to that, "Numbers." So Genesis, Exodus… He skipped Leviticus, just like you do when you read your Bible. Now in verse 18 he's in Numbers.
"For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness." That's the book of Numbers. Verse 19: "When He had destroyed seven nations…" Deuteronomy 7:1 lists the seven nations. "…He distributed their land as an inheritance—all of which took about four hundred and fifty years." That's Joshua. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua. Verse 20: "After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet." That's the book of Judges.
Verse 21 (1 Samuel): "Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years." Verse 22 (2 Samuel): "After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart , who will do all My will.'"
Do you see what he's doing? He's just summarizing the books of the Old Testament that the Jews had. He's saying, "There's a story here. God loves the world. Israel was to be the means through which the world received the message of God's love. Israel didn't do such a great job. In fact, they did a really nasty thing.
When God fulfilled the Law and the Prophets through the exact representation of his nature, through the one who was the Deliverer and was all that the Messiah was supposed to be who the prophets told us was coming, who would set Israel on the course of ultimately being what God wanted it to be, they killed him."
Verse 22 is an amazing little verse that we have to acknowledge. The verse says, "After He had removed [Saul] , He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart…'" You go, "Todd, have you looked at the life of David? He had 70 really close friends who were mighty men. One of them had a smokin' hot wife whom he saw taking a bath, and he slept with his best friend's wife and then killed him to cover it up. That's a guy after God's own heart?"
Are you ready to answer that question? How could David be a man after God's own heart though that's what he did? You have to answer it. You have to be ready for that question. I've thrown together a thing on Real Truth. Real Quick. Go check it out. Take seven minutes and listen to it, and there's your answer. I think you'll be encouraged or you might already have it, but that might be something good to do on this Mother's Day.
Verse 23: "From the descendants of this man, according to promise…" He's saying, "All I'm about to tell you is what the God who cannot lie said he was going to tell you." God brought to Israel a Savior Jesus. When you get all the way through the Law and the Prophets, the last prophet is Malachi.
In Malachi 4:4, he says, "You need to make sure you listen to all of the law and do everything Moses, my servant, commanded you to do on Mount Sinai. By the way, nobody has done that. You're sinners, and you're in trouble. But what I'm going to do, because I'm not a God who's just looking to bring judgment but I'm a God who is looking to be just and the justifier of those I love, is I'm going to send you somebody in the spirit and power of Elijah."
Verse 5 says, "The prophet Elijah is going to come before the great and terrible day of the Lord," when you give an account before God about who you are and what you've been up to. He said what he's going to do is turn the hearts of daddies back to their children and the hearts of children back to their daddies "so that I will come and not smite the land with a curse." Boom! Close your Old Testament. Four hundred years of silence.
God promised this was coming. He's not angry at you. He's just sad for you, because you're living in a way that you think is life-giving but is not life-giving, so there's disarray everywhere. So here it comes. From the descendants of this man David came the promise. It says there was a guy who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. That's what they said about John the Baptist. He said, "There's a guy coming whose sandals I'm not worthy of untying," because they kept saying to John, "Who are you?" and John knew exactly who he was.
I love that little note in verse 25, where it says, "And while John was completing his course…" John's course was roughly 8 to 12 months, and he was out. I don't know how long your course is going to be, but you want to be like John, that while you're on your course, you're pointing people to Jesus, exalting him, and not caring that your name is the one associated with it. Jesus said, "Among men born of women there's no one greater than John the Baptist for one reason: he made it all about me."
John said, "Who do you think I am?" That's a question you have to answer. John knew who he was. He was just a servant of the King. He said, "You'd better ask yourself who's this guy I'm telling you is coming." That's what Paul is about to do. Verse 26: "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent." Paul knew this. Having received this message of reconciliation that God is not mad at the world but wants to save it, that he loves the whole world…
Receiving that message comes with the necessary responsibility to tell it to other people. So Paul says, "I am telling you, 'Listen.'" Think about where he is. This is a place that has never heard the story. He's walking in through human history. He's talking about what God wanted to do through the Jewish people to bless the world. They didn't do such a great job. He sends prophets to rebuke them. He told them there was a promise that was coming that was going to help them get it right so he wouldn't smite them during the time of great and terrible judgment.
There is a God. He lives. This isn't Greek mythology. It's not Roman mythology. It's not Hindu mythology. It's not Muhammad's later poetic effort in explaining who Allah is. This is history. Paul is about to say, "I'm about to tell you something." This is awesome. Verse 27: "For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath…" All they did was fulfill what the prophets said would happen, that they're going to continue to reject God by executing him.
"And though they found no ground for putting Him to death…" This was not a function of their intellect. It was a function of their will. They cared about themselves more than revelation, because that revelation called them to be servants, and they said, "We want to be kings." They said, "Pilate, you have to kill him." Verse 29: "When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid [the Messiah] in a tomb."
If Paul was a good communicator (I have a sense he had some ability), he just would have shut up right there when he was telling this story and just said, "The one who came to save the world, who was the visible image of the invisible God…they killed him." I have been overseas in places where we show the Jesus film that was made by our friends at Campus Crusade for Christ.
I've never seen the story I'm about to tell you happen, but I've seen people when they watch this Jesus, who was kind and loving and dealt with situational evil in people's lives, infirmities and sickness and expressions of broken lives because they didn't have godly moms and dads who taught them how to walk the way God wanted them to walk, and they see Jesus care for people, they see Jesus speak out strongly against injustice, they see Jesus lead captives free, and then all of a sudden they watch these power-hungry men falsely accuse him, imprison him, beat him, and nail him to a cross…
I have seen people watching this story happen… I've seen them weep. What I haven't seen happen is what is recorded a number of times by folks who show the Jesus film. At this point in the movie, folks pick up rocks and start throwing stones at the Roman soldiers and at Pilate, and they try to shut it down, because they don't want to see the story end this way. They literally attack the screen. "Stop this! This is the most awful thing in history."
I bet you Paul just let it hang right there. "God, who came to rescue you, was killed by evil men." Then here's this amazing thing in verse 30. "But God raised Him from the dead…" The story is not over. Hang in there. It's just getting started. After God raised him from the dead, it says, "…for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people."
"I met Jesus, the risen Lord. He appeared to me, this one who was the promise. No one took his life. He laid it down. Why? Because God is a holy God. He's more holy than you can imagine. You can never earn your own forgiveness, but this eternal, perfect, holy God needed an eternal, perfect, holy sacrifice. He solved it through the virgin birth of a woman, that he could identify with you and me and be an appropriate substitute.
He didn't have the curse of Adam. He wasn't of the seed of Adam. He was from the seed of God, born of a woman, fully God, fully man, so that he could live a perfect life and die for the sins of the world, and when God poured out his wrath on him, the wages of sin were eliminated, and it lost its sting, and God raised him from the dead to proclaim to the world that hope has come." This is when the crowd is starting to go, "Keep the movie going." Paul is telling them that, and he's saying, "I get to tell you this."
"And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus…" That's not from the grave. That's like "This Jesus…he matters." The whole world's history pivots on Jesus. It's like God is saying, "Pay attention to this guy." He raised him up and said, "This is me. This is what I've done. I'm not mad at you. I've come to rescue you, and I did it by modeling for you what love looks like. Whatever you want to make of me, look at my Son. He is the visible image of who I am."
This is Paul preaching for the first time over the mountains to people who had no idea about the love of God. What a message to carry. It's the message you have. Let me just show you what he did right here. He goes on and says, "By the way, I'm just going to remind you now. This is what he said to the psalmist. 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you.'" That's Psalm 2:7. Verse 34: "I will give you the sure and holy blessings of David." That's Isaiah 55:3. Psalm 16:10: "He's not going to undergo decay."
He's just saying, "All of the Psalms and the Prophets pointed to this Jesus, that he would." He said, "For David is not the one the promises were made to. David was a type of Christ. He was a picture of Christ. David is in the grave undergoing decay." Do you guys like the cartoon "The Far Side"? I love "The Far Side."
One of my favorite "Far Side" cartoons is a picture of a guy who's dressed in a composer's uniform, and he's sitting there by a piano. He has cobwebs all over him. His face is really gaunt. He has clearly been dead for a while. A guy is walking people through this house, and he's opening a door, and he turns around and goes, "Shh! The master is decomposing," because he died at the piano.
Basically, that's what Paul is saying. David is decomposing. He's dead. This isn't about David. When it was said that he was going to do this through the son of David, through the great and coming king, the great and coming king wasn't David; it was the Son of Promise who came from him, just like God said. It's Jesus. He is the great King. It's just what God said would happen.
Verse 38: "Therefore…" What are you going to do with this information? I'll tell you what you should do. You should have faith in the goodness of God. You should love God. You should sanctify yourself to become more like him, and you should be filled with self-restraint, that this is not about you, but this is your time to do what Paul did…through labor and hardships, through many sleepless nights, to take your life, your sacred honor, and all of your possessions and say, "What can I do for this King who gave himself for me?"
"Therefore, in light of what I'm telling you, if it's true, what are you going to do? First of all, you ought to receive the gift. Everybody who believes that God is good and that he has made provision for you is freed from all things." Do you hear that? To the Jew, you're free from dietary laws. You're free from festivals. You're free from pilgrimages. You're free from Sabbath laws. You're free from sacrifices. You're free from holy days. No one needs to be circumcised.
You're free from legalism. You're free from fear. You can be free from pornography. You can be free from guilt about your abortion. You can be free from despair that this world isn't right, because the world isn't right, because sin rules in the world. You can be free. This is 2 Corinthians 3:17. "For the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." You're just like, "Oh my gosh!" I love this.
Verse 40: "Therefore take heed…" Beware. "…so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you…" That you scoff at this, like, "There is no way God could be that good. There's no way that this cross that the good man died on that I wanted to throw rocks at the screen, that this most awful thing in human history God is going to pivot for my greatest good."
The Scripture says the cross is foolishness to the Greeks and an offense and a stumbling block to righteous, religious men. Paul says, "You take heed. You'd best not write this one off. You'd better do your work and see if what I'm saying is true, and if it's true, you'd better beware if you scoff at it." "If you're wise, you're wise for yourself," Proverbs 9:12 says, "but if you scoff, you alone must bear it." Isn't this amazing? Then he just goes from there.
I'll just close with this. You're going to see that Paul did everything he should do, and he's warning you… By the way, what I would offer to you is this. One of the things we see in this text is you can never say again "I can't trust God," because when you look at this story and what God has done in the midst of it, it just reminds you that God always has our best interest in mind in what he's working.
He didn't intend for evil men to do evil things, but he's going to turn it for his good. As I've said here multiple times, when hell applauds, like "We got God," God just laughs. He goes, "No, you never have this thing going on." There's a little phrase I use a lot. When people are talking about our faith… Our faith doesn't obligate God to do anything.
As a pithy statement, I'd say it this way: we don't have a faith that makes God do what we want; we have a faith that everything God does is good. That's really what this little verse from Habakkuk that Paul borrows and applies to the cross… That's what he's saying. Go listen to the Real Truth. Real Quick. I did with Joni Eareckson Tada when we talk about the question…If you have enough faith, will God heal you?
Go listen to what she says about that. We don't have a faith that makes God do what makes sense to us. We just have a faith that this God, who did not spare his own Son but delivered him for us all, is going to give us every good thing with him. "That's not good, but I'm going to have a faith that God is going to make it good."
Now when you preach the story of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, there are three possible responses you get, and there they are. Verse 42. People are going to say, "Hey, that is intriguing to me. Teach us more. I beg you, tell me more of this God. Tell me more of this story." Secondly (verse 43), some people are going to say, "Take my heart now. I'm ready. Let me jump in. I want to follow this Jesus. I want to give my heart to him."
Then thirdly (verse 44), some people are going to say, "Take this report of grace and shove it. You ain't preaching here no more." I don't know what the response is going to be when you do what you're supposed to do, but your job is not other people's response. Your job, your responsibility is to take this incredible good news that people are looking for a good word and give it to them and just go, "Therefore, beware."
The story ends in chapter 13 with the whole city assembling. Eventually, some of the religious men got fed up with Paul preaching about this completion of the Jewish faith. By the way, Christianity is not a new schism. It's not a new idea. If Abraham was here, if Moses was here, if Isaiah was here, if David was here, if Joshua was here, they'd be Christians. That's what Paul is saying. It's the most Jewish thing you can do to believe in Jesus. This is not some new idea. Paul is saying, "This is just God working through history. It's the completion of the promise. Scoff if you want. Believe if you will."
Father, I pray that we'd believe, and having believed, that we would not be individuals who just have some intellectual acceptance but that we would have transformed response. We know that not everybody who hears our message of hope is going to go, "Man, tell me more." Not everybody is going to certainly say, "Take my heart, O God."
Some people are going to say, "Take that message of redemption and shove it," and they're going to throw us out of their friend circles and throw us out of their cities, and that's okay, because we don't live for the applause of men. We live to serve our King who is going to come, and it is going to be terrible for those who do not know this story.
So let us keep telling it, so that on the day that men stand before God they will thank you for us, even in judgment, that we kept our behavior excellent because we believed in you, and on the day of visitation they would see that your people have been among them in the same way the Galatians had Paul among them. Lord, would you make this a church, this mother that gives birth to us and nourishes us and grows us, full of faith and love, increasingly sanctified, filled with self-restraint and Jesus-glorifying activity?
May we decrease so that your church might increase. If there are any here today, Lord, who don't know you, who have not yet come forth through the labor pang of the preaching of the gospel into newness of life, I pray they'd be born this morning, and I pray that every single one of us who have been born again would be more of the mother, the father, the single man, the single woman, the forgiven sinner you want us to be.
Thank you for a chance to gather together, for the privilege of knowing your gospel, preaching it, learning from it, and being reminded. May we go now into a world filled with much success, looking for much peace and much purpose, and give them a good word. In Jesus' name, amen.