Monday, September 10, 2007



1In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.

It's important to note here that this new movement of the Way-the followers of Jesus-didn't avoid the synagogue or criticize it's bureaucratic systems, but continued to attend for a higher purpose. Those of you who are participating in the 21st Century Jesus movement that is growing rapidly around the world, must embrace the same pose with respect to the organized church today. There is no need to criticize it or avoid it. In fact, there is good reason to attend in order to attract more God-fearing, Jesus-loving people into the movement.

Paul had the opportunity to speak at the synagogue, since all visiting Rabbi's are invited to address the assembly. In this case, a large number of people believed his message of the Good News of Jesus.

8At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. 9This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he leaped up and began to walk. 11When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have become like men and have come down to us." 12And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.

Because of this spectacular miracle they began to worship them as Zeus and Hermes. Even the priest of Zeus in that city was leading the way. But then NOTE what happens next.

14But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. 16"In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." 18Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. 19But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.

NOTE, the same people who were all excited about the healing and were ready to worship Paul and Barnabas, are now ready to kill them! But why the turn? NOTE the reason for the worship was the "showy" part of the miracle (or the "vain things" mentioned here), but when they were confronted by the real miracle worker, the living God, Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, they were easily incensed to hate Paul and Barnabas. This is very common today as well. People are attracted to the external, the showy part of ministry, because there is a real sense of control. But when confronted with the living God, there is no way you will able to control the situation.

I experienced this many years ago in a church board meeting. A young man, who was really enjoying the incredible growth and attention and power he was sensing because of it, made this same dramatic pivot in the period of about an hour. I was resigning from my position, so he used all his charm to keep me from making this move, telling me that I was the greatest Bible teacher he had ever heard. But when he knew there was no way I was going to change my mind, he became so angry, spinning out of control, and used many adjectives against me-stupid, ignorant, irrelevant, obstinate, and more unmentionables. He was so upset that he was losing out on the "vain things" and turned against me in a most embarrassing way (for him and the board). It made no difference what the living God was doing among us.

Since Jesus apprehended my life in a fresh way over the last 4 years, I've seen this same shift in attitude among some of our people. As long as I kept the show (the "vain things") going, all was good. But, as soon as I moved into a pose of following the living God (Jesus), there was little show left. Only the reality of walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out. To these people I once was a beloved pastor, now I am someone who let them down and don't care.

Now, this next section fascinates me: 21After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." 23When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28And they spent a long time with the disciples.

Even after the rejection in those cities, they came back to strengthen and encourage the disciples in the faith. I love this. Again, as we saw yesterday, it isn't about whose fellowship it is. It's all about Jesus and those who want to be His disciples. WE WALK BEFORE AN AUDIENCE OF ONE-HIS NAME IS JESUS!



In Acts 13 and 14 we have what has been popularly called the 1st missionary journey. It's a mission trip to carry the Good News into other nations.

1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.

Prophets and teachers had different functions. The prophets were "wandering preachers" who had given their lives to listening for the word of God then challenging others to action, based upon this word. They always had a word from God on their hearts. The teachers were in the local churches with the responsibility to continue instructing believers in the faith.

It has been pointed out that this list of prophets is symbolic of the universal appeal of the Gospel. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Lucius came from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon was also a Jew but his other name Niger is given and, since this is a Roman name, it shows that he must have moved in Roman circles; Manaen was a man with aristocratic connections; and Paul himself was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia and a trained rabbi. In this little band of men there is exemplified the unifying influence of Jesus. Men from many lands and many backgrounds had discovered the secret of "togetherness" because they had discovered the secret of Christ.

Paul is speaking in a synagogue at Pisidian Antioch and gets a terrific response. After rehearsing the story of God's Messiah and zeroing in on Jesus, Paul goes on to say:

29"When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30"But God raised Him from the dead; 31and 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. 32"And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.' 34"As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' 35"Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' 36"For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.

The prophecy saying that the Messiah's body would not undergo decay. Paul is making his point that King David can't be the Messiah, because his body was buried and he is still dead (asleep).

Now, Paul sets forth the two most important things Jesus, God's resurrected Messiah, came to do for us: 38"Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

I love this and have shared it often with others: FIRST-Forgiveness--Most religious systems have a plan for dealing with our sins (where we fail and fall short of God's standard). And, they are all into some sort of performance-do, do, do-in order to fix their problems. Hard-wired in human nature is to pay for what we do wrong. We want to pay for it. So, we may try to compensate by giving gifts or stepping up our behavior a bit. Jesus came to make that payment for us. He is the only one to bring forgiveness to mankind.

I hope you sense how unique forgiveness is. Forgiveness is the only way to solve our relational bruises and wreckage. Forgiveness is not natural; it's a God-thing!

SECOND-Freedom--He says this is freedom from all things from which the Law of Moses could not free you. Ultimately, this is freedom from all of the performance that it takes to find that feeling of penance or payment-what forgiveness can produce most purely. Religious systems offer anything but freedom, but instead weigh you down with whatever their system believes is needed. Again, I say that "religion is man's best attempt to avoid going to hell." God wants a relationship and Jesus came in the flesh to demonstrate what that might look like. God wants a relationship. A relationship is when you've already been to hell and don't want to go back. That kind of relationship with Jesus brings FORGIVENESS and FREEDOM from all things!

44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

This message of Jesus bringing forgiveness and freedom is most attractive!



1Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

6On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly " And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." 9And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." 12And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15They said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, "It is his angel." 16But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.

GOD OPENS DOORS SO THAT NO ONE CAN SHUT AND SHUTS DOORS THAT NO ONE CAN OPEN. The encouragement to me here is: 1. No matter the "prison" situation in which you find yourself, God is more than able to get you out of it or, more than likely, through it. This is what I like so much about reading through the "Acts of Jesus", because He IS active among us and it's encouraging and empowering to be reminded of how He works.

2. My prayers that I offer to the Lord, many times not expecting them to be answered, are still answered by the Lord in miraculous ways. How many times have I said after praying and having that specific prayer answered, "I can't believe it!" The point is we must learn to believe it as we pray. We must learn to trust Jesus completely in all that we do.

Now, check out verse 21: 21On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. 22The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

This is an interesting contrast, isn't it. Herod has James killed and then puts Peter in prison with the intent of doing the same thing to him, all to please his constituency. Well, he pleased his constituency even to the point that they hailed him as a "god" and this is precisely what killed Herod. So, Peter, imprisoned, is out of jail free and Herod, free to do anything he wants, is now in the prison of death!

And, most importantly, "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied." The kingdom of God cannot be imprisoned or shut down. It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of the seeds, that grows into a large bush. Those who follow the God of gods and seek His kingdom will gain all that is significant and live forever. Those who play God and seek their own kingdom may gain the whole world and lose their souls.




1Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was given the riot act! They couldn't believe that he was associating with the Gentiles-the unclean-and that he would have given them the word of God in such a way that they received it. So, Peter shares with them the vision he was given where God made it clear, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." And, he also shared the message Cornelius was given by the Lord to seek Peter out. Then he says, 12"The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings these six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house.

Cornelius was told that Peter would speak words by which he and all his household would find salvation. 15"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17"Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 18When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

PRINCIPLE #1-God will continually break down your boxes and burst your bubbles, while blowing your mind! When Jesus is acting, you'll find things gloriously out of control.

19So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

22The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. It's like the home office was nervous again, fearful that some sort of movement might break out without their guidance and blessing, so they sent a very good man-Barnabas. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;

NOTE two things here: 1. Barnabas witnessed the "grace of God", not a new, highly organized program that was working in good ways, but the grace of God among these people.

2. Barnabas encouraged these new believers to keep on keeping on, keep doing what you're doing-true to the Lord. He's not soliciting submission to the home office (the leadership in Jerusalem). He's not asking them to join a certain fellowship.

Luke goes on to say, 24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Now NOTE what Barnabas did. 25And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch and for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers.

ONE QUICK NOTE HERE: The name Saul is interesting at this point. I've heard all my life that "Saul was his Jewish name before he became and Christian and Paul was his Christian name." BUNK! If that were true, then Paul ought to be called Paul here, since this is well after being apprehended by Jesus. I think this devilish little mis-truth is one of many little ways to keep us off message. Saul was the Jewish way of saying Paul and Paul was his Roman name. Paul (Saul) was still Jewish after bowing his heart to Jesus. Jesus doesn't change your cultural background, when He enters your life. He transforms you inside out with all your cultural quirks and nooks and crannies.

PRINCIPLE #2-It's not my fellowship; it's the fellowship of Jesus. The leadership of believers in Jerusalem thought this movement around Jesus in Antioch was theirs to guide and control, but it wasn't. By the grace of God, it was the fellowship of Jesus. NOTE-a few people gathered in Antioch around the NAME OF JESUS and a FELLOWSHIP BROKE OUT!

Then, NOTE Barnabas. He was obviously enthused by the excitement and new life of the fellowship in Antioch, so he sought out Saul to solicit his help in loving and teaching the considerable numbers who were gathering together in the name of Jesus. They stayed there for one year, but they didn't feel the need to claim this fellowship as their own or to call themselves church planters at the next "pastors' conference", because it was clear to them that this was the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS. And, this was the case throughout the early church. There was no misconception as to who owned or who was the planter of the fellowship. It was always Jesus.

What a difference it is today! That's my church. I planted this church in 1980. ME, MY, MINE, and I. And, you know what, I struggle with this same thing with the fellowship where we gather. It's easy for me to be hurt when someone leaves or chooses not to be part of the things we are doing together, as if this is a personal affront to me-as if it is MY FELLOWSHIP. I have to remind myself over and over that this is the FELLOWSHIP OF JESUS and wherever we go, we have the privilege of gathering with others from all of the flavors of ethnicity, religious affiliation and economic levels in this fellowship.