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Battle for the Mind - Part III

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Strengthen the Faith of Committed Servants that Brings Glory to God.

Acts 14:19–28 NASB95
19 But 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. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25 When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27 When 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. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples.
Paul is in a non-Jewish town were the Jewish population is small enough that there is no synagogue. As Paul has been proclaiming the gospel the Greeks there are those who have trusted and accepted the gospel message but then I also saw last week how the Greeks were so poisoned by their beliefs that they couldn’t move on from exalting Paul and Barnabas as gods even after Paul and Barnabas tried so hard to convince them of the source of all things is the living God not their stone gods.
Here is the problem with trusting in stone gods and having your mind poisoned, even though it is not easy to evangelize those whose minds are poisoned it is easy to keep them poisoned. The Jews who were against Paul and Barnabas in Antioch and Iconium have played the people of Lystra against Paul. Verse 19 says the Jews, “won over the crowds.” I am not sure how they did this but some how they won the crowd over. They didn’t win them over by bringing them to an understanding of the Hebrew Scripture. What they more then likely did was state that Paul was a false god who was trying to turn them from their gods. Paul was no god at all. Paul himself said this. They feed on the Greeks desire to serve their own gods and lied to get them to turn on Paul. the intention of the Jewish elite was to get Paul out of the way by any means necessary even if they themselves had to break their own laws to get it done.
Here is what happens when people are swayed with lies, the one who they honored as their god now they want to put him to death. This is an interesting verse because it states they supposed him to be dead and dragged him out of the city. I need to look up the Greek and what it means here by suppose but typically mobs are so pumped full of adrenaline it is hard for them to stop even if the body was lifeless because he was knocked unconscious. Could that have happened sure and maybe they were so rage filled that they just stopped, “supposing” Paul to be dead. Was Paul dead or was he unconscious, pretty much every scholar says the wording is of he appeared to be dead but was not. Why Luke wrote it this way I can’t answer but there is one thing I know for sure, Paul got back up.
Acts verse 20, after the mob left and the disciples stood there bewildered, Paul nonchalantly stands and enters the same city the mob dragged him out of. Barnabas was not a part of this but he was there in the city . The reason why Paul was stoned and not Barnabas is not spelled out for us in the text. The Jews wanted them both dead. It could have to do with their personalities Paul was the outspoken one and Barnabas the encourager. Maybe they cornered Paul on his way back from the grocery store and Paul isn’t one to back down so it was easy for them to go after him. Regardless Barnabas and Paul, knowing that the minds of these people are severely poisoned, leave the next day for Derbe.

Making Committed Servants

Verse 21-22, In Derbe the apostles do not seem to run into much opposition. Luke provides a quick note here, “After they had preached the gospel to the city and had made many disciples, they returned to the Lystra and to Iconium and Antioch.” The Jews who followed Paul to Lystra didn’t follow any further because they believed him to be dead. Thinking they were victorious returned to their own homes. Paul was free in Derbe to preach the gospel. Here is the real victory, people were being saved from their sins, disciples of Jesus Christ were being made. The real key here, though, is not the disciples being made the emphasis now is on the reach of the gospel and the continued work for those disciples of the towns Paul had found opposition. Here is the thing, salvation is not the outcome of the gospel, the outcome of the gospel is to make disciples.
Jesus gives the disciples the great commission In Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew 28:18–20 NASB95
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 didn’t say, ‘go out into all the world and get people saved,’ he said go out and make disciples of all the nations. Evangelism and the gospel is two prong, it is presenting people with the need of a Savior and once they trust in the Savior now they need to be taught how to live like the Savior. Jesus doesn’t just want people to acknowledge sinfulness and ask for forgiveness and that is all. And Evangelism is not for the sake of putting a notch in your belt, a tally of how many people you brought to the Lord. It is about people making a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus Christ and Glorify Him and the Father in the process. All to often when it come to the good news or the gospel people stop at conversion but never have the follow through to discipleship. Jesus didn’t want converts He wanted committed servants. He even told His disciples to count the cost of following Him. You can’t go in halfhearted and fickle, you are either all in or not at all. Paul knew the risks of following Jesus, he counted the cost and he was willing to pay for it with his own life. He is a committed servant and it takes committed servants to produce committed servants. This takes encouragement and it takes training.
The irony here is kind of funny. The people of Lystra were so gong ho about Paul and Barnabas being gods and they are ready to offer them sacrifices but they were also very fickle. They were easily swayed away from thinking Paul a god to stoning him. This is why when it comes to evangelism it is not a halfhearted decision but what Jesus calls for is a full commitment. When you think about people who have fallen away from the faith. These are people who in two ways have made a halfhearted commitment and also where not encouraged and had their faith strengthened. It is a serious commitment with serious repercussion. As of right now we don’t have to worry about being stoned to death, but it can happen in our life time. So we need to be fully committed and we need to have the mindset when we go out and evangelize that we want to see these people to be fully committed also.
Paul and Barnabas were committed servants producing committed servants. They didn’t just evangelize and move on they evangelized and for the purpose of strengthening and encouragement. It takes a lot to be a committed servant, to live by faith especially in a world that is full of darkness and where minds are being poisoned against who you believe in and trying to poison your mind against your faith. Paul even tells the people in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” It is not easy to be a committed servant, there are obstacles in our way and most of the time they come our of nowhere. Our faith is continually shaken. So in order to be committed servants we need the encouragement and strengthening of other committed servants. It’s funny Paul can turn to these men and say to them, hey I know what it’s like to die for the cause of Christ, but I’m still plugging away. I’m in the same town where you saw them stone me, I will keep going and so should you. This is the only good fight worth fighting, so keep up the good fight. (Galatians: Paul says he was scared for Christ)
Paul saying this also echo’s Jesus’ own words. Jesus warned His disciples they would face persecution and tribulation. He made it clear to those who followed Him that it would not be easy to follow Him. Now Paul tells the disciples the same thing. There is never any reason to try and tell people your life will be so much better if you trust Jesus. It’s not going to be better until we stand before Him for all eternity. If anything life will get harder. Try telling people that the next time you gibe the gospel. Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins, He took God’s wrath so you don’t have to. If you acknowledge your sins and confess it to God and accept this is truth you will be forgiven and spend eternity with God but your life is going to get harder. People will flock to the Kingdom for sure. Well guess what Jesus did this, Jesus always made sure those HE taught and the people who followed Him knew the Christian life isn’t a walk in the park.
There are those out there who love to preach an incomplete gospel. There idea of evangelism is to win souls by any means necessary. They have the idea the ends justify the means, well that is a philosophy that will states you do what every it takes to get people saved. That isn’t biblical because that means you would even have to lie. Then when the people face persecution and hard times or when they don’t receive some some half-baked promise that was presented, they turn from God and Jesus all together. Becoming a Christian is simple but being a Christian is hard. It takes discipline to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. It takes discipline to go to someone and give the gospel, evangelize them and then disciple them. It take discipline to honor and glorify God, it takes discipline to be Holy as God is Holy. It is a lot of hard work and you’re always under some kind of an attack. The world hates you and the world wants you to fail as a Christian. So as we walk in the dark world constantly barraged by the enemy who hates us know that it takes discipline and encouragement to get you through.the is why the church is so crucial to the growth and strengthening of the believer. As I was studying this passage and thinking about encouragement and suffering and the strengthening of people faith, our church messenger was going off with the people in the church praying for Darlene as she went through her surgery. The prayers and support they recieved as they went through this is what the church is for. That is why we need to be honest about what God is doing and how we feel. You can’t be encouraged by others if you keep it bottled up. Then what will happen is, when the tribulation comes, and it will, you won’t be able to handle it.
Paul knows what it meant to go through suffering. In fact, Jesus told Paul he would suffer many things for the sake of the gospel, Paul provides a list of his sufferings and most of the things we are about to read, have yet to happen to Paul. So I can assure you Paul is not just preaching to them but reminding himself as well. He provides this life in 2 Corinthians 11:23ff. As he tells people how they must go through many tribulations it is a reminder they of how he will go through many tribulations also.
2 Corinthians 11:23–28 NASB95
23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

Establishing Godly Leadership

Another strengthening of the faith is making sure the people in the church that have been established are cared for. So in verse 23 we read, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” The church was not just established and Paul didn’t Pastor them from a distance. They weren’t just given letters and left to themselves. Paul made sure there was adequate leadership in the church men who could teach, train and pray for them. This goes to say that Paul didn’t just come in and get people saved and move on. He has a two prong gospel message, evangelism and discipleship. In order for Paul to leave men behind as elders they had to fit the qualifications. This means Paul spent some time with these people. Training and teaching them. This was also a strengthening to the people of those towns. Seeing those who have spent time with Paul now commissioned to teach and train them. Paul left there and they were now in the hand of the Lord to lead God’s people.
The church needs to have people who can think and run it. Paul provides the qualifications for elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-16.
1 Timothy 3:1–16 NASB95
1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
These qualifications have a lot of do with a persons conduct, how a person lives and that life is a godly life. The elders of the church have a very high responsibility, they are held to a higher standard because the church of the living God. is the pillar and support of the truth and if the church is the pillar and support of the truth, guess what the elders are to do, defend the truth. The elder makes sure nothing comes in that can tear down the pillar and the support so they must hold to the truth and defend it even with his life if he has too.
Peter echoes this in his first letter to the church. 1 Peter 5:1-5.
1 Peter 5:1–5 NASB95
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Peter tells the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you,” important not their flock but God’s flock. Big deal this should take away the idea of power and knock down the elders pride. Peter continues, “exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily.” There is a difference between someone who is forced into a position and someone who volunteers for it. The volunteer wants to be there and they want to serve, the one who is forced will do it but it will be obvious they don’t want to and they won’t put out the effort of a volunteer. “According to the will of God; and not for sordid gain but with eagerness; nor yet lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” It is all for God not for self. This is the job and function of the elder, to lead God’s people to strengthen and encourage them in the faith.

Producing Faith that Glorifies

From there Paul and Barnabas continued to move on and they returned to the church that sent them in Antioch. They went from town to town until they reached Antioch and there they also encouraged them and strengthened their faith by telling them of all the things God had done. There is something very powerful in glorifying God and truly attributing to Him the credit for all the work He has done. When God is truly glorified and His works are proclaimed it strengthens the faith of the believer. It is obvious who is glorifying God and who is glorifying self in the guise of glorifying God. Those who glorify God don’t need to end it with all the glory to God. God is glorified in the persons story. Those that are truly honest about how they handled a situation and what they learned. Like Brad’s stories it isn’t because Brad is an incredible teacher it is because God is bringing these people to Himself and all Brad is doing is teaching them the truth of Scripture.
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