Saturday, December 24, 2016

"For God So Loved the World..." Merry Christmas!

Acts 14:11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in it.

As Paul and Barnabas traveled around modern-day Turkey, they preached the Good News to the Jews in the synagogue, and a good number of Gentiles. The passage says their preaching was "effective", and many came to believe. Greg Laurie, a modern day evangelist, said this about the apostle Paul,

"The apostle Paul had something essential for effective evangelism: a God-given burden for those who did not know Jesus Christ. In his case, the burden was for his own people, the Jews. He cared. It burned inside him."

Though Paul had a burden for his fellow people, many rejected his preaching. Though Paul's preaching was effective and convincing, it was not convincing enough for those whose hearts were hardened. We can effectively preach the Good News about God coming into our world through Jesus, but some will reject it "out of hand".

The other way God communicated through Paul and Barnabas was to "enable" them to do "signs and wonders". While this could mean a lot of different things, the one example given in the passage was when Paul healed a man "lame from birth". He did this by simply saying, "stand up and walk". The man jumped up and started walking. Importantly the text says, "When Paul saw that he had faith." The man believed the gospel when he heard it, which led him to believe that this same Gospel could heal his lifelong disability. Paul's preaching along with this man's faith produced something the Lycaonians had never seen. This caused them to think that Paul and Barnabas were "gods" come in human flesh.

At this Paul and Barnabas "tore their clothing". I love what they say, "We are only human! We are here to bring you the Good News and to tell you to turn from worthless idols." You see idols could not heal a lame man, they were in essence worthless. They had no real power. This implies Paul was preaching to the Gentiles. They were the nations that Paul was now called to reach.

What can we learn from this? One, we only need to preach the gospel, we can't "make" or "manipulate" someone to come to faith. All we can do is preach the gospel clearly, which is God coming to our world through Jesus Christ. Secondly, when there is the opportunity, God may enable us to do signs and wonders to confirm or authenticate the Good News. While those who receive the message need faith to believe, we need faith to believe God will do as He said and then leave the outcome up to God! Even when we pray for healing for someone, it is God's work to heal. May we have a burden for people who don't know God, and be bold like Paul. Then, we can leave the rest up to God! God we pray for a "God-given burden, for those who don't know Jesus Christ."

This is the Good News of Christmas. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son so that whoever so believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.

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