Grace Baptist Church Decatur, IL



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The Living God

Acts 14:1-19


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We just celebrated Easter and how one claiming to be God proved it by rising again from the dead.  And if John Paul II would have come back to life following his death then that would have been better evidence that he was a deity than just his historic claim to be a god on the earth.  This message celebrates the true and living God!


Here in Acts, Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey, recognizing God has not only saved them and changed them but that He has left them on earth to accomplish some certain things…


Read vv. 1-7

        A few brief comments about Iconium… and then on to Lystra…


There’s a pattern to recognize here…

3 results of gospel preaching:

1.     Decision

v. 1  “so spake” = in such a way.  What does this mean?  That they were eloquent?  I don’t think so. 

Good illustrations?  Funny stories?  Alliterated outline?  I’m not against these things, we all ought to use any tools and resources at our disposal…but that’s not what gets people saved!  Only the power of God can save souls!


It says they “so spake”…I believe it was w/ the power of God!

1 Cor. 2:4

    And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

        You can tell when the Spirit is on a message, and when it is not…now granted, some may sit and quench the spirit, looking for problems, but for the sincere seekers out there, they are looking for something that God has His hand on!


It’s amazing…I can speak to ears but only God can speak to hearts!   I have no idea what God is really doing in many of our services…I may think He's going one direction but turns out He was going in another and I hear later from many what the message said to them and it clearly wasn't me.  That was God!


This is why I often pray for God to do what I cannot do…which is speak to hearts!


2nd result:

2.     Disturbance

v. 2  “evil” = poisoned their minds against…

        When God’s disciples preached it usually resulted either in revival or riot!  [sometimes both!]


Paul got to town and didn’t check out the local hotel, but the local jail where he knew he was likely to end up!


Point is:  you cannot preach the Bible w/out making some people mad!  Sometimes the truth steps on our toes.  Bible preaching rubs some people the wrong way.

Ill.—Billy Sunday was told if he preached against alcohol he’d make people mad…they said, “it’s like rubbing the cat’s fur the wrong way!”  He replied, “let the cat turn around!”


3.     Division

v. 4  It’s impossible to remain neutral about Jesus Christ.

Matthew 12:30

    He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

        There’s only 2 kinds of people in Decatur as far as God is concerned…those under His love and those under His wrath…those who love Him and those who hate Him…those who have accepted Him and those who thus far are rejecting Him…those in submission to His will and those in rebellion to it!


Our nation is highly divided over politics, socialism, morality, etc.  And the Bible is behind the division, and the disturbance, but is also responsible for helping many make right decisions!


Moving on to the city of Lystra

v. 8-18             When they arrived in Lystra, they encountered this cripple who had never walked.  V. 9 says as Paul preached he sensed this man was w/ him and was being moved to decision.  He had faith welling up in his heart, so Paul called to him to rise and walk!

        The people had never seen such a demonstration of power, so here’s what they did next:  [completely unexpected!]  They decided Paul and Barnabus were gods [these people were steeped in Greek mythology, they were pagans/polytheists]. 

        Paul probably wasn’t much to look at so they considered Barnabas to be the leader, and said he must be Jupiter [Zeus].  They thought Paul was Mercury [wings on feet!] who was the god of speech.


So, whaddya do when the gods come to town?  You worship them!


It’s always wrong to worship men.  I’m glad I’m treated as well as I am, but I’m “gladder” that I’m not worshipped, which would really set us all up for a fall!  “The best of men are still men at best!”


We're not Catholic bashers, but this scripture dashes to pieces the idea of worshiping such a man as the Pope!


Beware of those who would flatter you…did you know these same people who are trying to worship them in our text will try to kill them just a little later?!

v. 19        People are fickle, blown about by every wind of doctrine.  Later in Paul’s ministry at the end of Acts, he’s on a remote island and the natives see him get bit by a snake and assume he’s evil…then he doesn’t die and they say he’s a god!  [no middle ground of balance!]

        Just like Jesus’ day…one day they’re laying out palm branches crying “hosanna” and in a few days they’re shouting crucify Him!


Here we are post-Easter, and I want you to notice that Paul is preaching about Easter still, as we should year round.  In stark contrast to their mythology, he’s telling them about the true and LIVING God!


Notice how he refers to their gods…

v. 15        “these vanities”.  This means “empty”/ “nothingness”…Paul says, there’s nothing to your mythological gods!

        Paul didn’t say, you can believe in your gods, that’s fine, we’re all going to the same place, just taking different roads…we all worship the same God, we just call Him by different names!


He said, it’s vanity…a waste of your time!


God put the desire to worship into the hearts of all men…even the most remote tribes who have never seen any society have things they worship and are looking to!  And in the absence of the true, living God, men will worship anything!


This is why we must make it our mission to tell others about the true, living God.  And many in our town would believe in Jesus, and in the resurrection, but they don’t know the true God…it’s “another Jesus”, more palatable to their tastes, more comfortable!  Our area desperately needs a church that is on fire for God, showing what it means to be serious about God, not religious, but zealously in love w/ Christ and letting that make all the difference!


So, here’s the message, don’t miss this:

“What are today’s religious vanities people turn to?”

        There are many, but let’s name a few…


Most primitive form of worship:  Pantheism, which says, God is not personal, but is everywhere and in everything…in the river, trees, sky, universe, etc.  [native Americans believe this way]


Ill.—movie Pocahontas: 

“You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”


But this form of religion is the doctrine of demons!

Romans 1:25

    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


This the New Age Movement…which is really Age Old Pantheism!  Save the rain forests, spotted owls, whales, the ozone. And save Alaska from the oil drillers!  [if they went there they'd say, get me outta this God forsaken country and sink some wells so it can be useful!]


The truth is, there is no “mother nature”, there is “Father God”, and He sits on His throne in Majesty…He’s not in a rock or a tree!


Then there’s polytheism, which says there are many gods.  This is what Paul encountered at Lystra [& Athens later on!  Where they erected a monument to “the unknown God” just in case they missed one!]


Paul recognized that in all their culture and supposed wisdom, they didn’t know who the true and living God was!

        And did you know there are many today still involved in polytheism?  How about the people of India and their millions of gods!

        Talk to Jim Smith about the million plus gods of Japan!  They don’t know the real God but they have to worship something…we must get the Word out!


Let’s hear Paul tonite…it’s vanity! 


Then there’s humanism, which IS a religion.  It is the dethroning of God and the enthroning of Man.  They believe Christianity is a crutch.  But a man wrapped up in himself is a mighty small package!


Even the atheist is worshiping…himself!  Atheism:  the worshiping of self!

Jeremiah 2:5

    Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

        We become like what we worship…where your treasure is, there is your heart!


So we come to materialismthe worship of things.

        And many of us make gods out of houses, cars, other toys, our computer or our TV!


But it’s all wood, hay, and stubble…it’s all vanity.  Let’s take the spirit of Easter w/ us all year long, worshiping the true and LIVING God!



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