Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Message is... (Acts 13:14-52

In Pisidian Antioch
The human spirit comes under a great many attacks during our lifetime. Sometimes a form of bondage results because of outside political and economic domination. The resulting condition becomes in itself, a system of control. The people we are meeting in this passage needed relief from both problems. Paul’s message of a dying and risen Lord who has the power to give life and meaning to everyone’s life still goes a long way even in today’s society. This hope longed for was echoed by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We will speed the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing. Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last.”

This freedom comes with a cost; with the Blood of Jesus.

After visiting the synagogues and arguing with the Jews of Antioch, Paul said these words which changed the course of the history: “From now on, we turn to Gentiles.”

Paul and his group started their trip into the inner countryside of Asia Minor. Note that it does not say, ‘Barnabas and Saul’ but ‘Paul and his companions.’ There is a change in leadership as Paul takes the leading role of the outreach to the, then, outside world. In route, John Mark leaves the troupe and heads home to Jerusalem. This will come up later as a point of disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.

They take a river ride up a valley into some fairly rugged and hostile areas which were filled with all sorts of bandits and onto an area that was a plateau of well over 3600 feet. (1236 meters)

It is in this area they come to a Roman garrison city. The founding “fathers” were army veterans and was the main outpost for a number of Roman settlements to their south. It is here at Pisidian Antioch that we can get a short glimpse of what a worship service looks like. After they had taken a seat, a section of the Pentateuch or the first Five Books of Moses were read.

*Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, and ends with the descent of Jacob and his family to Egypt.
*The commandment of circumcision, the promise to Abraham that he would receive the Land of Israel and that his descendants would be a blessing to the rest of the world.

Here, it is called the Law and the Prophets. The leaders call on these visiting strangers to share a word of encouragement to the group. It is his right to choose any passage and talk about it.

When it is all done, a translation into the local language would follow. The idea was to exhort and comfort the Jews as they lived in a pagan land as Faithful to their Lord.

Paul stands and waves his hand to gain their attention and addresses the Jewish men and those who are worshipper of the Hebrew God. He shows the men how God had been faithful thought history by rehearsing a few of the key events in their historic past that ended with the promise given to the Hebrew nation. In these passages, Paul outlines how the Lord had chosen them, how He lead them and how the Father’s of Old had responded in belief so that they could received those promises.

According to his words in Verse 20, all this history took place within a short period of time…only 450 years. This brought them into Egypt, there for 400 as workers, 40 years of wilderness wandering with Moses and ten years to battle the people of Canaan for the land that was promised them 450+ years before.

He moves on to the stubborn hearted people’s desire to be like the other nations—have a king. God gives them King Saul (Paul was named after him as he too was from the tribe of Benjamin.) He was not God’s first pick. He was looking for the likes of David. Look at verse 22

After removing Saul, He made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after My own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

This is the heart cry of the Lord even now. Has He found in you a heart that is toward the Lord? “A man after My own heart; he will do EVERYTHING I want him to do.” We are not talking about a robot or one who has no will of his or her own. What we talking about here is a person who wills to be doing what the Lord wants of him. For the reasons you are made: to obey God and to enjoy Him forever. It is really beyond our life-it truly belongs to God, Himself.

As you may know, the life of David was rocky at best. He had his problems with obedience. So what was it that God liked about David so much?

He knew how to love God and he knew how to worship.

Do you know how to love God? Giving Him first place in your affections. First place in your desires? Seeking Him first.

Do we know how to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth? We all need to improve on that one, don’t we?

Now, on to verse 23 "From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised.”

Here again, is the core of the message. This Man Jesus came from the family line of King David. He was promised to the World even before David lived! And now, here He is; the Promised One, just as God the Father promised, the Savior, Jesus, the Christ!

According to the Gospel accounts, the coming of Jesus was proceeded by the preaching of John the Baptizer. His message was to repent, turn from your sins and be baptized. This was to be a ritual washing as a visible outward sign of an inward changed heart in preparation of the soon coming Messiah. He pointed to the fact that the Promised One was not himself but another, ‘whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.' He was not putting himself down but lifting up the Name of Jesus!

Paul now gets very personal with the group. He calls them “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles.” He reminds them, for some for the first time, that the message of salvation has been sent to them. This is key. If the message would mean anything to anyone, these people who are hearing it would understand that it is theirs to embrace. To hold on to. To have become their own.

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

Those in Jerusalem did not recognize who Jesus was so they killed Him. They had their systems of belief that were really set up or founded on a faulty belief system. The people’s lack of knowledge was not simply their ignorance but they had a false understanding, a false path in knowing and thinking that lead them away from the Truth and from a right relationship with the God of the Bible in Jesus Christ.

This is so common, especially today. One of the great sadness of our human nature is that “religion” can really blind a person to the real way of Salvation. IF Salvation is from God, why follow a man made road to get there? Go to the source. Jesus has said that knowing the Truth will set you free. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Being religious was not the answer then, it is not the answer now! Trust in Him and you will find your resting place.

And, according to Paul’s sermon, the people of Jerusalem asked Pilate to take His life. Three times Pilate spoke up to end the so-called trial but they were determined to kill Jesus. Then they buried the Lord in a borrowed tomb.

Here, Paul begins to address what would be a major heresy of the early church. Did Jesus really die? Was He really only asleep. Did the coldness of the grave revive His body allowing Him to recover?

This is our third time doing the Alpha Course. Nicky Gumbel has given a number of proofs to the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus. He wrote this in his booklet "Why Jesus?" (Because this booklet being under a copyright restriction, I can't print it here. You can contact ALPHA International Publications, Brompton Road, London, England SW7 IJA, UK for details.)

Paul also emphasizes the historical reality of the resurrection. Later, he would write to the Church in Corinth:

1 Cor 15:13-16 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that,we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.

Paul continues to bring out that the Gospel is centered on the resurrection: that Jesus is alive.

32"We tell you the Good News: What God promised our fathers 33 He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

Therefore, Paul continues: I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Verse 39

Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

And I want us to know, and for me to remember as well, that only through Jesus could my sins be forgiven: I could be justified before our Holy Father and that He could see my sins no more.

That is the message we need to take to the Nations. The message our families and friends need to hear. It is not the matter of forcing this Jesus thing down their throats, but to explain that only thru Jesus can any sin be removed from our lives. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life.

40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 "'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'"

But someone IS telling us! Don’t remain in the seat of uncommitted! Don’t let our hearts grow cold or indifferent. Don’t wander around trying this idea out and that way to find truth because in anyone else but Jesus is foolishness. The Bible told us back then and is now repeating the claims that Jesus is on our side and willing to give us His forgiveness for our many sins. He has provided the WAY to His Home.

And how did the people in Pisidian Antioch receive this message? Some believed—as they should—yet some rejected the message. They were “filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.” Paul and Barnabas tried. They gave it their best shot and some disbelieved. What can be said about that? Try your best and leave the rest to the Lord. In fact, the message may not have been rejected because of your poor way to present it, it was rejected because they refused to believe the truth as found in Holy Scripture. See Verses 46-49.

It kept on spreading…

Resulting in v52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

That is what happens when we walk in a way that pleases the Lord. It is also the by-product of a life that is obedient to the way of the Lord. Are you filled with Joy and are you filled with the Holy Spirit?

May God give you an understanding heart as you think on these things. God to Jesus. He is the only one who can carry the load you are carrying...because He carried the Cross for you as well.