Continuing in Acts 13 Todd talks about how we as Christians should be people of peace, even as the world moves toward greater chaos. As God's people, we are to live life and love others in a way that authenticates who God is and His love for us. That means we are to not grow weary in sharing the gospel, we are to never stop sharing our lives with other Christ followers, and we won't allow the world and all its chaos to rob us of joy.
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
Hello, friends. It is great to be with you. We are going to take a good look at some Scripture tonight that I think will be an encouragement to you. This last little season, we've been going through the book of Acts. We dive out every now and then when there are things going on, but we have been making our way through this history of the early church. We're going to learn a little bit about what Jesus always intended that his people would do.
Who is the church? The church is not a place you go to. It is a people who live in relationship with a loving God who has made himself known to them, and it is our job to declare what Jesus declared when he was here. It was always the job of God's chosen people to make known to the world that which he desired for the world to know. For whatever reason, God didn't hire some cloud writer, some plane that goes flying in the sky and writes a message. He decided to reveal who he was through people.
Ultimately, we find out he decided to communicate who he was through the person of the Son, who is the fulfillment of all that the Law and the Prophets reminded you that you weren't keeping the law he gave you. He is Jesus, the exact representation of his nature. When Jesus came, he said, "The works I have done my disciples will do. Even greater works than these will they do. When I go to the Father, I allow you to have a relationship with God, and because you have a relationship with God, the Spirit of God will dwell in you, and then as you yield to it, as you listen to me, you will be able to do what I did, and even greater works than these will you do."
The work we do is not to reconcile the world to God through our own effort but through the declaration of what Jesus has done, which produces in our lives unity with God, which produces in our lives the measure of the man we should be. In other words, we become more like God intended humankind to be from the beginning. That's what the church should be: a constant reminder that there is a God who does powerful things, and there is nothing more powerful than making a selfish man selfless.
There's nothing more powerful than taking men walking like zombies, entranced by sin and sloth and a love for silver and sex and self-promotion, and making them others-centered servants. When you see God do that with a group of people, it grabs folks' attention. When all of a sudden there is a new animation, a new life in people, folks want to know what the source of that is. When you no longer walk as all men walk, when you don't fall short of the story God intended to work out in men, which is men full of peace, being instruments of peace and living in a way that leads to human flourishing, personal and corporate…
The world wants to know the source of that, and we are to tell them the source of that is God, ultimately revealed through Jesus, who did something for those of us who didn't lead to human flourishing in the way we lived but left a destruction in our own lives and the lives of others, and now we're in a world that is going to be judged, a world that is moving toward chaos in greater and greater ways because it moved away from the beauty God intended, and we're not freaked out.
We are people of peace because we have peace with God, and we know that one day God will make it right and will deal even with our flesh, which is fallen and corrupt and dying and prone to all that is in this world. I like to tell people we don't have souls. People don't have souls; people are souls. We have a body. The Scripture says the body we now have is a body of death. It is judged.
God in his kindness will take those who in this life have understood that their body is moving toward judgment and beg for mercy, and God will give them a new body. God will give us a reconciled, perfect body that will dwell with him forever. As it is now, though, we're to use our bodies to declare the kindness of God. Let me show you how faithful men have always done that. Acts, chapter 13. We're going to make our way through the first seven verses in Acts 14. Let's pick it back up in verse 44.
I'll remind you where we are. We're in the very heart of modern-day Turkey in a town called Pisidian Antioch, which maybe doesn't mean very much to you. Paul crossed over an entire mountain range, made his way about 100 miles inland, and then declared the story of God. When he did, word got out in the city that hope had come, that God wasn't going to leave men on their own to wander around, letting the blind lead the blind where they all fall into a pit.
He wasn't going to leave men around bound by religious systems and performance. He was going to set men free. That was good news to these people who were Jews who lived there, who were burdened by the law, and it was good news to people who were living burdened by their own sin and who knew that whatever men were offering that was going to lead to life hadn't led to life yet. Then here comes a guy who brought news of a God who had come to men in the person of Jesus.
So a week after he declared that story, which we studied the last couple of times we were together, it says, "…nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds…" This assembly happened in the temple. You have to understand the Jews had been there for a long time. Jews always welcomed non-Jews into their building, but there weren't a lot of non-Jews who were coming, because they didn't see life there.
They saw people who were bound by rules. Hopefully there were some real, true, God-fearing Jews, just like today I'm praying in churches all across the country there will be some real Christ followers. Not religious people but people who have a relationship with God. People who get up and drudge their way to church, people who are bound by performance and legalism in churches or synagogues or mosques today, are not life-giving people.
People who live in relationship with the God of freedom and peace, the God who gives joy, are people whose lives sing and who are a siren song to a world trying to sail its way to a safe harbor to say, "Come over here." When they come over here, they don't sail into death; they sail into life indeed, the Scripture says. So the Jews, who had been there for a while… All of a sudden, all of these folks showed up, and there are two problems with people showing up in your synagogue if you're a Jew.
First, you might be jealous, and we're going to find out they were. Secondly, you may not like the message that's making people show up. Jews believed they were justified, made righteous by God, because they did what God wanted them to do. In other words, this was, by and large, what had become Judaism of the day. The leadership of the Jewish people, instead of turning people's affections toward God, turned their hearts toward performance and, by and large, toward "We're going to be good enough long enough that God will accept us. We're better than the Gentiles, and you'd better be better than you are."
They had positions of power and authority over folks, and they made all kinds of laws that others had to live by. Jesus was not too happy about this. He said, "Hey, you are putting burdens on people." Jesus said, "The law is not bad. What's bad is what you're doing with the law. The law was never supposed to set you free. The law was to point you to your need for mercy." God in his system always had made provision for mercy. He said, "Quit heaping burdens on people. What I want you to do is declare to people the holiness and kindness of God through the sacrificial system."
Jesus said, "The sacrificial system was never ultimate. The sacrificial system was to point to the great Deliverer who was to come." He said, "I'm the great Deliverer." I'll show you how he did that and how he was going to do it early on in the church. By the way, this is important for the next couple of weeks we're in Acts. You need to know that when God is authenticating his Word he always does it through a certain kind of work that grabs people's attention.
Miracles, signs and wonders, are the rocket thrust that grabs everybody's attention as they see something new coming that is ultimately going to orbit around them. It is this launch that is spectacular, and people go, "I'll be. Something new is going to circle around me now." That something new was ultimately that God was going to deliver his people by calling them out of being stuck in the ways of the world.
He did that through Moses, and early on in Moses' ministry there were a lot of miracles. A little bit later, as men drifted from listening to the law of Moses, he brought prophets to them that they might know that these prophets were revealing to them the progressive revelation of God and that they spoke for God. There were many miracles early in the time of Elisha and Elijah, and then, by and large, the prophetic ministry after that wasn't too miraculous. It was just steady faithfulness once they had been set apart as God's prophet.
The third time you'll see it is when Jesus shows up and says he is the final and full revelation of God. He is the exact representation of the nature of God. Jesus said, "If you don't like my declaring that, if you don't like my words, then what are you going to do with my works? My works testify to who I am." Then after he leaves, early on in the life of the church there are many signs and wonders authenticating that these are the people who have, in fact, been reconciled to God.
God can always do miracles anytime he wants, to this day, but they are not, as we love to say, something we should expect to happen all the time. That's why they're not called "normacles." If you always seek a sign, he says, you're a "wicked and perverse generation." If you believe God can't do signs and wonders, if you believe God can't heal, if you believe God can't do miracles, then you don't know the God of the Bible, but if you demand that God does them every time you ask of him, then he is not God and sovereign over you; he is a genie for you.
What people do when genies don't serve them well is they throw them away and go searching for other genies. God says, "I'm not here for your pleasure. I am here to reveal who I am." One of the ways God reveals who he is is sometimes he puts people in positions where there is no other reason to rejoice except that God is for them, and the world watches them. Right now, we live in a world that is not as it should be.
When you live in this world with chaos and betrayal and death and disease and you can still sing, you're either crazy because you're not paying attention or you look it dead in the eye and say, "I can explain why the world is this way, and I can tell you with confidence this world isn't my home. I may not fully understand how God is going to work all of these things for his good, but I know him, and that's all I need to know. I trust in the one who will make all things good."
God doesn't call everything here good, but he will make all things good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Paul came and brought a message. He said, "It's not going to be your legalism, your righteousness, your résumé, your performance that's going to set people free. It's going to be Jesus."
It says, "…they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul…" There are two things that are going to go on here. They're jealous, and they don't like Paul's claims to how you're justified. "…and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, 'It was necessary that [we came to you] first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life…'"
"You're going to say you're good enough for God on your own." Paul is saying, "You're not worthy to be reconciled to God if that's going to be your attitude. I'm going to go and take the Word to the Gentiles." Now watch. I'm going to read through this for a while, because we've touched on this verse already.
"For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed you …'" *First Israel, then Jesus, now the church. *"'… as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth .' When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
Sometimes you're studying your Bible and you're going to come across words like election and predestination, and you're going to go, "That's tough for me, that God calls his people." You might ask yourself, "How can I be somebody who is appointed to eternal life? How can I be one of the called, one of the elect? How can I be part of that group?" Here's my answer for you. Don't pray that you would be appointed, as it says right here, to eternal life. What you need to do is believe in God's provision for eternal life, and that's how you know you can be appointed.
Let me say that to you again. Don't sit there and fret and wonder, "Oh gosh, am I one of the appointed? Am I called by God? Am I one of the elect?" Jesus says, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden." If you don't like your chaos, if you're burdened by legalism and churchianity and performance and dead works of men, trust in the living Word of God, and you will be somebody who is appointed to eternal life.
Now here's the deal. The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. They either scoff at the idea that God is there and he is good and that he would do something for you if he is there or they go, "I reject that anybody needs to do anything for me." If you have not believed in Jesus, there is one of two reasons.
Either you think it's a joke that there's a God and you're not paying attention through creation or to your own conscience, which is embedded in the souls of men, as God put eternity in the hearts of all of us, or you are a self-righteous individual who believes if your "good enough" isn't good enough, then God can just get along and go his own way.
If you want to know that you're one of God's elect, then just believe. John 1:12: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…" Or to say it another way, to be the ones who are appointed to eternal life. So if you're out there today and you want to know how you're one of God's chosen and elect, you respond.
Now listen. The first time people hear a message, they don't always respond. I'll share with you a story. Some friends invited me to go play golf at a really nice golf course recently, and it was fun because we had caddies. You felt like you were playing golf the way golf should be played. I had my own caddie, and the other three guys I was playing with had their own caddies, which means I was going to get about four hours of conversation with this guy.
As we start, we're just building a relationship and having fun, talking about the course and my friends and what he was doing, how he became a caddie. It turns out the guy had moved down from Chicago with his girlfriend, who he was residing with at the time, and had recently transitioned out of one job into another, so he was caddying for a while while he was looking for what he was going to do ultimately.
His wife was here getting some graduate education in a school. We kept talking and building a relationship. He'd every now and then ask a question about me. Not very many except, "What club do you want to hit?" or "I would recommend you hit this one," or "I'd putt it here not there," but we were just having a good time. As we made our way along, the conversation eventually turned to where I had a chance to ask him about what he did for fun while he was here in town.
I asked him how he was filling his weekends, and that eventually led to me asking him if he has a faith, if he hangs out anyplace where there's any kind of encouragement coming to his life from a spiritual perspective. He said, "Oh, I go to church." I go, "Awesome." I said, "Where?" He goes, "Well, I went Easter." I didn't jump down his throat and say, "Well, you ought to go more than Easter if you go to church." I just said, "Great, man. That's awesome. So where did you go?"
He goes, "I don't know. I think it was a Christian church." I go, "Well, that's a good choice." I kind of let it go, and we kept walking along and having a good time, basically. We talked more and more, and I found out where his wife was in school. I said, "Hey, I know a bunch of folks at that school. In fact, a bunch of those folks, that community of friends, that church, that group of people, hang out at the same place I do. A lot of folks from that school hang out at this place I go to called Watermark." He goes, "Where's Watermark?" I tried to describe it to him a little bit.
As we talked a little bit more, he goes, "I think that's the church I went to on Easter." I go, "Really?" He goes, "I think so." I go, "Well, what was it like?" He just said, "Well, it was really big." I go, "Okay. Well, that might be it." We talked a little bit more, and I go, "What did the guy talk about at Easter?" He said, "Oh, I don't know. About how we're supposed to come out of something into something else." That's what he said.
So I thought back a little bit about what the guy talked about on Easter, and I go, "Did he talk about El Chapo?" The guy goes, "Yes! Yes! He talked about El Chapo." I go, "That was Watermark!" So I said to him, "Why did the guy talk about El Chapo?" He goes, "I can't really remember. Something about being caught and then getting out." I go, "I think what he was saying…" This is how the conversation went down.
I go, "I think what he was saying was that El Chapo had this amazing escape. He dug this incredible tunnel and had all of these friends who helped him and it was a mile long and cost a million-plus bucks and was an engineering feat, but even when he got out, when he made this great escape, he was always looking over his shoulder. He knew he wasn't really out yet. He knew he wasn't really free. He was still under judgment. Though he was not in this little cell and was doing what he wanted to do, he wasn't free."
I go, "Do you remember what the guy did next?" He goes, "Tell me." I thought to myself, I already told you once. Basically, I go, "I think what he did is he said El Chapo's great escape is different than what Easter accomplishes." I just asked him this question, because I knew the faith community he grew up around still had a lot of works attached to it, that it wasn't just Christ alone; it was Christ plus what you do.
I said, "I think what he was saying is when you really understand who God is and what he has done for you through Christ and what the resurrection showed, that we are free and no longer under judgment… See, when you think of God, do you think of a God you have to appease and do all these right things for?" He goes, "Yeah, I kind of do." I go, "Why would you want to have a relationship with a God who's always checking up on you, especially one who never sleeps and knows your sitting down and lying down and knows the words in your mouth before you even speak them?"
I just said to him, "I think what the guy was saying is that what Jesus did was let us run out of the grave of judgment, because he paid a price for us we could not pay, and it is finished. The empty tomb is evidence that death has lost its victory and death has lost its sting, and what Jesus shows us is that God is not looking for us to perform but is looking for us to accept his provision." I said to the guy, "If you knew that God cared about you that much that he would pay for you what you couldn't pay, wouldn't you want to know him?"
The guy goes, "Man, that is really good. That is really good!" I thought to myself, "He was invited here by some friends. Who knows where he was sitting up there and what he caught. He tuned in a little bit when there were illustrations about El Chapo, but the illustrations are all going to point to one thing," and we had a chance to talk about it again and invite him into an opportunity to be among those appointed to eternal life.
When you go teach or when you share the gospel, the first time you do it, it may not completely sink in, but you keep calling people back to the gospel. This is what Paul is going to do everywhere he goes. Here we are in verse 49. "And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region." My prayer is that the Word of the Lord is going to be spread through Plano and Fort Worth and through you and everywhere you go and every caddie you have and every neighbor you have and every kid in your house.
That's what the church does. That's what the faithful always do. Converts always become evangelists, and Paul was converted. "But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district." Off they went, because they were jealous and had disagreed with how you're saved.
Verse 51: "But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium." They walked about another 90 miles down to the southeast of there and came to another city that was established, and they went, "Let's just preach here like we preached there." I want to throw this out really quickly, because this is important. It says they knocked the dust off their sandals. Why did they do that? Well, part of the answer is found in Matthew, chapter 10.
I'm going to take a bit of an opportunity to encourage you with something, and then we're going to nail what is the primary focus of the message today. There is an application here I don't want to miss. There is a time that you're supposed to walk away from people you are trying to commune with and fellowship with and do business with faithfully before God. When Jesus gathered his disciples together…
There are going to be two things you're going to see right here that are going to show up throughout the rest of Paul's missionary journeys and ought to show up in your life. It goes way back to the very first time Jesus had his disciples together, and he actually called them. Matthew, chapter 10, says he called his disciples. It says, "…and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness."
This can be confusing stuff, because people today who want to do what Jesus wants them to do… They too want to know, "Has Jesus given me authority to cast out spirits?" Well, yeah. The way we cast out, throw out, evil spirits is men throw themselves to the mercy of God. The phrase cast out is the word ballo in Greek. It's where we get the word ballistics. When you fire a gun, the ballistics is the rate of speed, the velocity at which that mass is ejected through that gun barrel. That's ballistics: to cast out. At what rate is it going to be thrown out?
The way you throw out slavery to demonic oppression, the way you stop being possessed by a master who wants to kill you and destroy you and steal from you everything God intends for you is you, by the authority of Jesus, invite Jesus in, and Jesus casts them out. What the disciples were given the ability to do was to bring them the truth of God's provision for people. He was giving them the ability to overcome the effects of the Prince of this world, who was ruining this world because men were listening to him.
There was divisiveness. There was hatred. There was immorality. There was a breakdown in society. All of the creation this wicked king was ruling over was corrupted. Jesus is going to say, "The reason people should believe you is I'm going to let you do some things… I'm going to give you authority over certain situational evils so they can see that the message you bring from me has the ability to deliver them from the moral evil of being a slave to sin and death."
This is really important, because the disciples changed people's situations. The work they did… "I can change your lameness and blindness and some of the situations you're in and allow you to physically see," which should make you go, "How in the world do you do that?" Answer: "Because of my relationship with God, and God wants you to no longer be bound to the one whose kingdom leads to death and disease."
It gave them moral authority to talk about the morality and kindness of God, and then it would compel people to give themselves to that God. Today, one of the ways you have moral authority to talk about the power of God, to bring people into relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, is by letting Jesus cast out from you your bondage to sin and death, where you no longer are held captive by fleshly lusts which wage war against your soul, because you now serve God, because you know God is good.
You're not like my caddie who thought God was somebody to make sure you don't get caught by again. You don't really run to that God. You just try and manage your relationship with him. But when you understand that God has run to you and gone to a cross for you and gave you his Son, you're going to want to live as faithfully as you can with him and before him. I go, "Wouldn't you want to know more of that God if that's who he was?" He goes, "Yeah." I'm not sure he has, but I declared to him the kindness of God, which I hope will lead him to repentance.
Do you know the kindness of God in such a way that you're attentive to his will and his way and his Word? This is really important, because if you remember, in Acts 13:44 it said the whole assembly gathered to hear the ministry of the Word. This is what faithful men always do. People who love God are always looking to give glory to the Word of the Lord. How do you give glory to the Word of the Lord? You listen to it. You say, "That's the most valuable thing I can hear. Show me more of it."
I told you I'm working through Psalm 119 this summer. I'm reading verses. Every verse in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in your Bible, talks about the goodness of God's Word. I'm praying through Psalm 119. "God, give me more desire to know your Word, because your Word leads to life." Jesus, the Word made flesh, provided life for me, which is reconciliation to God, and now the written Word, which is the Word of the Spirit, the Word of God, the Word of Christ, allows me to walk in a way that will lead to life indeed.
So when you in your own life, even when you face situations that are evil, do it with hope and peace, the world goes, "How are you not a slave to this broken, corrupt world? Also, I don't see in your life you doing the things that lead to bondage and addiction. You're not a slave to anything but life and righteousness." It's through Jesus.
Now watch. He said to the disciples, "I want you to go, and don't go to the Gentiles; go to the Jews. Tell them that what God said would come, the great Deliverer, has come. Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This is why Paul went to synagogues first. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.""Don't get money for that."
He gave them the ability early on in the life of the declaration of Jesus to remove from people situations of evil, effects of the fall, so that they might know that the one who's going to deal with the fall has come. The Real Truth. Real Quick. this week is…Is Jesus God? One of the things I talk about in there is in Mark, chapter 2, Jesus comes across a lame man. He sees a lame man lying there. What does a lame man need?
What a lame man needs is what a man who can walk needs. He needs to be reconciled to God. So Jesus looked at that lame guy and thought, "Your problem isn't that you're lame. Your problem is you can't walk the way God wants you to walk. You don't walk worthy of a holy God who is the Judge of the living and the dead, so you're going to be in judgment. You need to be forgiven." So Jesus looked at that brother and said, "Your sins are forgiven."
The people listening to that went, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" To which Jesus said, "Well, that's a great question." They thought he blasphemed, because he was doing what only God can do. Jesus said, "Let me ask you a question. What's easier to do? To say to a guy, 'Take up your pallet and walk' or to say to a guy, 'Your sins are forgiven'? But so that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I'm going to do something very hard. I'm going to reverse, like only God can, situational evil. Take up your pallet and walk." And that's what the guy did.
That sign didn't convert those guys; it made them angry. Jesus kept doing those in different places, but people started to listen and go, "Yeah, only God can do that. If he can reverse the situational evil in this world, maybe he knows something about what makes evil exist, and maybe he can do something about the evil in this world of which I'm a part, and you should run to him."
Church, listen to me. You give glory to the Word of God by listening to it above all else: your own feelings, your own inner promptings (unless they are informed by the Word of God), and you then free yourself from the situational evil of divorce and selfishness and addiction to porn and food and body image and thinking that money and things can give you joy, and you live your life in such a way that the people go, "You're free in a way I'm not," and you tell them why: because you have a new morality…not the morality of men but the morality of God, because you listen to his Word.
He says a little bit later, "Don't do this for yourself. If you get somewhere where someone doesn't receive you or heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet." This is what all Jews did every time they found themselves unfortunately in an unclean land, if they had to pass through it. Whenever they would leave Egypt or if they got stuck in Samaria or went someplace that wasn't ruled by God, they would knock the dust off their feet, saying, "I don't want any traces of that land to follow me."
Jesus is saying, "You go to Israel, and if they don't listen to the fact that the Messiah has come, when you leave that area, you're going to do something the Jews do to nonbelievers as a sign they are now, even though they are racial Jews, not sons of Abraham." So they knocked the dust off their feet. Verse 15: "Truly I say to you, it's going to be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them on that day."
In other words, he's saying because they've had greater revelation, the clarity of the gospel, and the Messiah who has come… Sodom and Gomorrah didn't have that, and Sodom and Gomorrah were judged. There's a principle in Scripture that while all men are accountable, the more you have to be accountable for because you've been given greater light, the greater the experience of judgment will be.
A lot of times, when we fellowship with each other in here and ask you to shepherd each other, you get in communities with people and are like, "This is hard." Why? Because even when you are reconciled to God we still have this tendency to not live very reconciled lives to God. Sometimes we quench the Spirit and grieve the Spirit, and when we do, we're going to live in a way that pagans live, so we're going to break down in relationship.
Some of us are just quirky or some of us are in the journey of becoming more like Christ. Again and again, we have folks who go, "I think I'm going to get out of this little community group of people." What I want to say to you is that we don't have that option. Jesus is to bring us together. There are really only four good reasons to change a community. In other words, we shouldn't be knocking the dust off our feet and saying, "I'm going to leave this community group of friends and go to this one," except for maybe four reasons.
First, you move. You've been living in Dallas, and now you're going to move to McKinney, so you're going to maybe hook up with a group of friends in McKinney because you can't get together that often. Some of my closest friends to this day… We live in almost a perfect 17-mile triangle from each other. We used to be in community. We still love each other and do things together, but we don't do our weekly community, because we're at three different schools with our kids. We have all kinds of different friends.
We don't see each other geographically or that often or that much. We are intentional to still keep a relationship, but we're not daily being God's provision in each other's lives in the way we once were, because we moved. What we didn't move is in our affections for and love for one another. So maybe you move. That's a reason. Secondly, you die. You don't have to be in community with people here on earth when you die.
Thirdly, you're called to multiply. There might be a reason where you don't move, and together, though you love each other, you just say, "Hey listen, I want to be with you, but there are other groups of people who need folks like us, that we're going to, for the sake of the mission… God wants us to teach others how to live the 'one anothers' of Scripture." You're not frustrated. You're not annoyed. You're not not around people whose personalities you don't click with.
You just say, "Let's agree that we're going to both multiply… Let's still be friends. Let's still get together and encourage each other in our new ministry focus, but let's go make disciples with people in other places. We've been devoting daily. We've been living authentically. We've been admonishing each other faithfully. We've been counseling biblically. We've been pursuing each other relationally. We've been engaging missionally together. It's time just for a season, maybe for years, maybe now permanently, to love each other but to be engaged missionally differently."
You have to make sure you're not just giving lip service to this, because there's a fourth reason you leave people, and it's not irreconcilable differences. It's because you need to knock the dust off your feet, because you can't fellowship with people who have rejected the way of Christ. This is important. I'm stealing this text for a moment to talk about this, because Paul is clearly dealing with nonbelievers.
If you're going to leave for some other reason than you're dead, you've moved, or you're really going to say, "Barnabas, you go this way; I'm going to go that way, so we can reach two new continents, and I love you…" You're going to find out that Paul and Barnabas have a fleshly break and split, and it wasn't to the glory of God. Later, Paul admits that was sin. "It was my mistake." It hampered the mission. When two spiritually mature men don't love each other and aren't diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…
Paul later wrote about that and implored us toward it. You leave somebody if after you go to them once in their sin and go to them twice, they just go, "I don't want to do what you want to do," which is "I don't want to give glory to the Word of God," and you check out. You have to then basically say, "Well, then I can't fellowship with you, because you're not committed to the Master and his way."
What we're not going to do is put up people who split up for any other reason than we agree that there is somebody there who is no longer pursuing light. We can't have fellowship with light and darkness. We're not going to have you leave because you don't like somebody and send somebody else to another group. We're not going to put somebody who is unwilling to pursue unity into other groups where they want to pursue unity.
We're also not going to take somebody who doesn't want to pursue Christ and put them in another group. They are outside of the fellowship of the church, and we always tell them, "This is how you come back." We grieve that we can't do business of the kingdom together. All this to say, don't be too quick to just leave. When you leave a town, a community, it's because they're saying, "We don't want your Jesus." Apart from that, we ourselves are not modeling what Jesus calls us to.
Let me just close with this and read these verses in Acts 14. Why did I just go back over this? Because the exact same thing repeats in the next town. Everything I just taught… Watch this. In Iconium, 90 miles away… Where did they go? To the synagogue. Why? Because that's where people who say they're attentive to the Word of God are. Start there. When the people who are attentive to the Word of God don't take the Word of God, then take the Word of God to anywhere anybody wants to hear about it and start over.
You're going to find out next week that when Paul talks to those who aren't familiar with the Word of God he talks to them completely differently (and so should you), but he gets to the same message: "God is there. He is good. He loves you through Jesus." He just doesn't build it through the Old Testament. So he goes there and speaks to a large number of people who believed, both Jews and Greeks.
"But the Jews who disbelieved…" Same thing, just like up there in Pisidian Antioch. "…stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. Therefore they spent a long time there…" Not in the synagogue but in the city, trying to build up those who did believe. "…speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace…"
That's what you do. You testify to the word of his grace. It's not if you're good enough long enough, El Chapo, they'll let you out. No, you are guilty of murder, of conspiracy, of bringing mayhem to a country, mocking justice, and bribery. I don't care how good you are in that little cell. For the rest of your life, you're never getting out. No, the word of grace is that you can be set free by a God who pays your debt.
"…granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands." Signs and wonders ought to be done by your hands. What's the sign and wonder? The ongoing mark of the New Testament church is our love for one another…our marriages, our community. It's why we don't just leave with irreconcilable differences, but we're diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
"But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles." Guess what's going to happen here? The same thing that happened in Iconium. The same thing that happened in Pisidian Antioch. There's going to be division, and it's going to come down to Jesus. Who do you say that he is? Watch this.
"And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel." When you know the goodness of God, even when you are run out of certain communities you'll pray for them, because I guarantee you…
Let me tell you what Paul is going to do. He circles back around his enemies and says, "How has it been going for you since I left? The grace of God is still available to you because you're still alive. I'm going to be coming right back through." Paul goes from Pisidian Antioch to Iconium to Lystra to Derbe, back to Lystra, back to Iconium, and back to Pisidian Antioch before he goes home. He continues to preach the gospel and to have the mark, the sign and wonder, of God's peace on his life, just like you should.
What's the ultimate mark? Love, peace, patience, kindness, joy, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, self-control. That's just a starter list that Paul later gave to the Galatians. This is the region called Galatia, formerly inhabited by Gauls, now inhabited by godly men who have been reconciled to God. I have to say it, because this week we were in it. Look back in Acts 13:52. "The disciples were continually filled with joy because they were filled with the Holy Spirit."
Folks, this week I was with some disciples (and they're still with us) over the bed of their soon-to-be-senior son who just went in for a simple procedure to get his wisdom teeth removed and had a catastrophic response to that anesthesia, and his body has not yet recovered. I have watched these dear saints of God who are members of our body, who many of you have been praying for… If you're not praying for them, you're not on Click and Pray.
David and Suzanne and their two other children, Sam and Charlie, are over the bed of their brother and son, Austin. We are praying that God would use the sign and wonder of healing his body and bringing it out of this state where he is nonresponsive back to life, but we don't know what God is going to do.
The sign and wonder that's going on right now that we know about is that Austin knew Christ. Austin has shared his testimony here. Austin had a faith with Jesus. Austin used to tease his mom when she would say what every mom says to a son who's driving too fast: "You'd better slow down." He said, "Mom, I'm ready." He used to tell his mom that, and she'd go, "Austin!" He'd say, "I know what's going to happen, Mom, if something happens to me."
That's not why you should drive like a fool, but you'd better know it or you're a fool, because even when you go through a simple procedure like a wisdom tooth extraction, you never know when your course and your race is done. The disciples were continually filled with joy. Let me just tell you something. It has been a marvel to watch Suzanne, David, Sam, and Charlie. While they grieve, they don't grieve without hope.
My friend Joni Eareckson Tada is often asked… She has been in a wheelchair for 50 years this summer. Joni was asked, "When you get to heaven and you have your legs, what are you going to do?" Joni, with a smile on her face, said, "The first thing I plan to do on resurrected legs is to drop on grateful, glorified knees to worship my King who loves me." What?
Do you want to know how I know the power of God? You get around Joni Eareckson Tada and you see joy in the midst of a wheelchair. You get around my friend Nick Vujicic and watch him with no arms and no legs from birth sing of the glory of God. You watch my friend Brandon Landis, who as a healthy 10-year-old boy in this body got some virus that has disabled him from speech and health and walking.
His whole body is dystrophied and maligned, and you watch him smile and stand here and sing to Jesus. You watch David and Suzanne Silva, and you run to their God, because it is a glory that though they are slayed, they do not curse him but praise his name. What kind of God do those people know? The God of grace, and you should know him too.
Father, I pray that members of this body would come to know the kindness of God and come to know it in such a deep way that they are ready for every trouble and every trial, every rejection, because they know the gospel of peace and have been set free. Lord, I pray the sign and the wonder of a peace that passes understanding and of love would be on them in such a way that the world would demand that we explain to them the hope we have received.
Everywhere we go now, into this city and cities we represent, may we preach the gospel. We'll have to do it more than once, but we'll keep preaching it. When enemies throw stones at us, we might duck, but we'll come back and preach it again, because we love them because you love them. If there's somebody here who doesn't love you yet, would you bring them now? In Jesus' name, amen.