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November 3 2019
Two Saturdays Not To Forget
There is the story of the young man who turns up at his pastors house to inform him that God has called him to be missionary in Switzerland. To which the pastor asks him, how is it that he knew that the Lord wanted this.
The young man says, “the Lord told me, because when I walked into a food shop with my eyes shut … and when I opened them the first thing I saw a Swiss Cheese and so I new the Lord wanted to be a Missionary to Switzerland”.
To which the pastor replied, “just as well you didn’t see a Mars Bar”.
Well that is one missionary story. In Acts 13 we find another.
In some ways Acts 13 feels like a long time in coming.
Way back in Chapter 9 we meet Paul, who was then called Saul.
He was a Pharisee and a hater of Christians, and yet by the most astounding events, he is converted after being spoken to by Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus says of Paul, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles …”.
Now, Paul is probably not the guy we would have chosen, after all, he was seeking to destroy the Church and he hated Jesus. However, the Lord takes his own counsel in such things and I am sure his counsel is better than ours. That in itself is a good lesson to learn, I think. So too is the Lord’s timing.
Paul was converted back in 33AD. It is now 14 years later and the church at Antioch under the direction of the Holy Spirit sends Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey to the Gentiles.
We saw last week the beginning of that mission with them traveling to the Island of Cyprus. After proclaiming the gospel on that island, they travel to a second city also called Antioch (not the Antioch they came from, this one is helpfully called Antioch in Pisidia.)
They go firstly to the Jewish Synagogue. At this Synagogue there are Jews, and God fearers, that is Gentiles who followed the Lord God but had not become Jews.
On this Sabbath day they are invited to speak and Paul grabs the opportunity with both hands and we are told what he preached in some detail.
At this point it is worth stopping and considering what he says as well as the focus of what he says.
Have a look:
From verse 17, it was God who chose Israel from all of the people in the earth for his purposes. It was God who made the people great during their stay in Egypt (it wasn’t natural fertility of Jews, God made them grow in number). And it was God who led them out of Egypt with an uplifted arm. In other words, God flexed his muscles in Egypt so that people would see his strength, God means the glory of the Exodus to be his.
From verse 18, it was God who bore with Israel in the wilderness.
From verse 19, it was God who destroyed the seven nations that they encountered as they entered Canaan. Sure … Men swung the sword, yes they threw the spear, yes they shot their slingshots, but as we know from Proverbs 21: The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
It was God who gave Israel the land of Canaan as an inheritance. If you give something to somebody as an inheritance, you own it.
It wasn’t the nations who owned the land of Canaan, God owned the land of Canaan and he gives it to whomever he pleases Paul says. The earth is the Lord’s.
From verse 20, it was God who gave Israel judges. These rulers didn’t rise up on their own: Samson, Deborah, Gideon, etc. God raised them up.
From verse 21, it was God who gave to Israel her first King, Saul. From verse 22, it was God who removed Saul just like Daniel says.
God changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings …The Most High rules over the kingdoms of man he gives it to whomever he will.”
That’s what’s in Paul’s mind here as he speaks about the removal of Saul in verse 22, second half. He raises up David, the son of Jesse, a shepherd boy, a harp player, and God, against all human expectations, says “that’s my man. He will be king”.
From verse 23, (and now we are getting to what the whole of history has been pointing) it was God who brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus. God brought Jesus to the earth, God brought Jesus to Israel and not by any mere, immediate, impersonal force, but you can see it at the end of the first the phrase he says “as he promised” which means this thing had been planned.
That for the whole of time God decided in the fullness of his time that he would do this: ‘a great saviour has come into the world’.
Jesus Christ is now centre stage.
In verses 24–25, we meet John the Baptist and what does he choose out of all of the things he could say about John the Baptist and of all the quotations he could quote of John the Baptist in the sermon he chooses to quote these words:
I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
Now Jesus said that nobody is greater born of a woman than John the Baptist. And John the Baptist says I’m not worthy to untie the shoes of Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul selects a word from John the Baptist that focuses all attention to Jesus, the Son of the living God.
The whole story is about Jesus.
God planned this long ago, before the foundation of the world, and carried it out step by step. God promised it through the prophet, God sent his son Jesus a great saviour and now God is sending to message to the nations.
In verse 27, he says the crucifixion of Jesus comes about, Just as it was planned.
Every hammer blow on the nails through his wrists was the work of his Father in fulfillment of his promises to vindicate his glory and save the nations.
Verse 29? “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.” So right to the end, it’s all the fulfilling of God’s word and God’s plan with Jesus at the centre.
Finally, verse 30, it was God who raised Jesus from the dead.
Did you pick up on the focus?
He is the Son of God.
He is the King whose kingdom will not fail.
He is the King forever.
He is the one in which all this history pointed.
Don’t ignore this King.
This is Paul’s evangelistic sermon.
It is pretty clear who is in the spotlight isn’t it?
I know, that Paul is speaking here mainly to Jews and some Gentile God fearers.
The way in which you evangelise to these people in first century Palestine is different to the way in which we might speak to people in Tamworth in 2019.
However, some things remain the same and I want to point out two things that remain unchanged.
The gospel message is a message about the Lordship of Jesus
It is as clear as day from what Paul says that it is
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus , first and foremost. King, Saviour and Son of God, risen Lord.
Now why is it then that so much of our modern day evangelism is about ‘me’?
Why is the message, ‘are you unhappy’? Come to Jesus and he will make you happy.
Why is the message, Jesus really would like you to follow him if that works for you?
Why is the message, ‘won’t you let Jesus be the King of your life? Crown him King’. Since when do we crown him?
Why is the modern gospel more about me and my needs that about Jesus and his authority?
You might not believe it is like that out there, but “me first” is the life blood of so much of modern Christianity.
In 2016 the number 1 bestselling Christian book was called The power of I AM, (Joel Osteen’s best seller in 2016), which doesn’t sound too bad.
Here is the summary:
Transform your self-image and embrace the power of positive thinking with two simple words: declare "I Am" and celebrate the life God has created for you!
I am blessed
I am valuable
I am Free
I am a masterpiece.
Friends, Paul’s sermon is so different. Here is Jesus the centre point of all of history. Here is the one towards which everything points.
When we tell our friends the gospel we talk about Jesus. Who he is, his authority, his power his position, and that he is a great saviour.
I am not saying we never speak of our heartaches and longings, of course Jesus is the only one who could ever satisfy them, but you only see that when you see how great he is, when Jesus is front and centre, not us.
I tell you the gospel message will never be glorious unless Jesus is the main thing. If our gospel has us as at the centre, it will not be a glorious message, simply because we are not glorious. Jesus is!
A scientist, a specialist in general relativity theory named Charles Meisner wrote about the attitude of Albert Einstein toward organised religion.
I do see the design of the universe as essentially a religious question that is one should have some kind of respect and awe for the whole business. It’s very magnificent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what their preachers said about Jesus and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more Majesty than they had ever imagined and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt that religions he had run across did not have a proper respect for the author of the universe.
I wonder if Einstein’s criticism would fit well with much that claims to be modern day evangelism. The poor Jesus, with his hands tied, hoping that you will crown him king of your life.
Could it be that Christians don’t seem to have seen as much of the majesty of Jesus as Einstein had staring through a telescope or studying his physics. That Christian just don’t seem to be talking about the real thing. There doesn’t seem to be a proper respect for the author of the universe.
The message of the gospel is the message that there is a wonderful saviour and he is King of an eternal kingdom, and all history leads to him.
Friends, don’t ever be embarrassed about making Jesus the focus of our message, nothing else will be even close to good enough.
The gospel message is a message about the Lordship of Jesus!
The second thing here is that the message of the gospel is
A message from out of this world (supernatural)
35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,
“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you
Here is a supernatural message. Here is the king who died and rose again. Here is the Saviour who does not see corruption, in other words: it is an eternal kingdom and an eternal King.
This is not a hope like so many of the gospels proclaimed today. The best the best they can do is give some hope in this world.
The gospel of Climate champions … that if we live right, and stop using coal we will build a clean new world here and now.
The gospel of the new sexuality, if you are free to live out your preferred sexuality, and you are accepted by all (forced or not) then at last you will be free to be the person you really are.
The gospel of social justice which seems to find injustice everywhere, that if we right all wrongs now, and punish the present for the perceived sins of the past we will enter a new age of peace and acceptance.
The gospel of materialism, that if we acquire and build our wealth, we will be safe from the dangers that come safely surrounded by our castle of things; and on it goes.
All of them proclaiming a salvation in this world.
You see, here is a message from out of this world. Here is a salvation from out of time. Here is a king and here is a kingdom which will not pass and will not fade. A salvation which means we can be right with God forever.
Here is the king who rose from the dead.
Friends, it is leaps and bounds beyond any gospel proclaimed today by the many evangelists on Facebook or at your work or at the ABC.
Friends they don’t even come close, so let’s not be ashamed of it.
Friends we have a message about the Lordship of Jesus and it is out of this world.
A message about the Lordship of Jesus
A message that is from out of this world
Well that is not the end of the story is it?
Paul and Barnabas are invited to come back again the next sabbath, and they do. This time the whole city is there, Jew and Gentile. That is extraordinary.
As they spoke, a group of Jew, filled with Jealousy began to contradict what was being said. In fact they end up organising a group that so disrupts things that Paul and Barnabas are driven out of town.
You might say “it sure looks like a failure to me … they have been run out of town”, but Luke is at pains to show us that this is simply not the case. In fact he wants us to see.
A message that can’t fail
You may have missed a couple of things on the way through. Let me show them to you.
When he is speaking about the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Jewish leaders, he says a very interesting thing:
27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him(Jesus) nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.
The crucifixion of Jesus was great evil, but not for a moment was it a failure. They only did exactly what the prophets said would happen.
Without knowing or meaning to, as they crucified Jesus they carried out the very plan of the Christ.
It was always part of the plan.
OR have a look at vs 46
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
The Jewish people were to be a light for the Gentiles, and they never were. As the Gentiles saw them, they were to be brought into the kingdom of God.
Well says Paul God’s promise is coming true in the way you least expect it, as the Jews reject the message of salvation the Gentiles receive it. It is as if they become a light to the Gentiles of what not to do and the gospel is received by the Gentiles.
The unbelief of these people ends up being the very way the promise of God is fulfilled.
Or the last little caveat.
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
It is not the way we expect it to be is it ? It doesn’t say “those who believe were appointed eternal life”, it’s the other way around. Those appointed to eternal life are the ones who believe.
Friends, we belong to a saviour whose purposes will not and cannot fail. Will unbelief cause the gospel to fail? Not at all, it will only end up serving the gospel.
Will those who oppose the cause of Christ cause it to fail, those who would kill and destroy Christians and the Christ?
Not at all … they will find they are only doing what was always a part of the plan and will only find (unwilling) they are bring glory to Jesus.
Is it a waste of time to preach the gospel message.
Never … in every case all those appointed to eternal life will believe. Absolutely certain.