Faithlife Sermons

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            One night in 1945 Captain Terry Simeral brought his crippled B-29 in for a safe landing amidst waiting fire engines and red flares, unloaded the plane, and entered the group headquarters tent.
His face was white.
He seemed to be in a state of shock, and it was several minutes before he could talk.
And incredible feat had been accomplished as Captain Simeral piloted his Pathfinder plane toward the enemy coast in order to drop phosphorus smoke to mark the mission’s target.
On B-29s it was the radio’s operator job to release the bomb through a narrow tube.
On this particular night Sgt. Henry Erwin received the routine order, triggered the flare and dropped it down the tube.
But there was a malfunction, and the bomb exploded and bounced back into Erwin’s face, blinding both eyes and searing off an ear.
Burning phosphorus melts metal like butter, and the bomb was now at Sgt. Erwin’s feet and eating rapidly through the deck of the plane toward a full load of incendiaries.
He was alone because the navigator had gone to the transparent dome atop the plane to make some celestial computations.
Not having the luxury of time to analyze his situation, Erwin picked up the white-hot bomb in his bare hands and stumbled forward toward the cockpit, groping along with elbows and feet.
The navigator’s folding table was down and latched, blocking the way.
Erwin hugged the blazing bomb under his arm as it burned the flesh over his ribs, unfastened the latch, and lifted the table.
He stumbled on, a walking torch.
His clothing and hair were ablaze.
Dense smoke filled the plane, and Simeral had opened the window beside him to clear the air.
“I could not see Erwin,” says Simeral, “but I heard his voice right at my elbow.
He said, ‘Pardon me, sir,’ and reached across the window and tossed the bomb out.
Then he collapsed on the flight deck.”
Amazingly, Sgt.
Erwin survived and went on to regain the use of his hands and partial vision in one eye.
Sgt. Henry Erwin is one of our country’s Congressional Medal of Honor winners, receiving it from General Curtis LeMay while still in a Pacific hospital.
The story of Sgt. Henry Erwin and the blazing bomb is one of the most amazing accounts of valor I have ever read.
It is a tribute to the human spirit.
Yet there is a bravery that exceeds even that.
It is not as dramatic, not as conspicuous, and not as likely to be remembered.
It is the bravery that is called forth by consistent devotion to a course or ideal.
It might be a young mother taking care of a handicapped child or a man standing up against a social evil or a student willing to go against the popularity of the student body in order to do what is right.
Well, our passage this morning gives an example of two apostles who were consistently courageous in their loyalty toward Christ.
They were opposed by religious and secular people alike because they spoke the truth of God’s Word.
They were sold out for the cause of Christ, even though it got them thrown out of town in one city and almost caused them public humiliation in another.
And yet again, in our passage they are in trouble again for preaching Christ and Paul ended up being stone for it.
This morning, as we examine this story, I want to provide you with four features about the commitment of these two men.
First, they healed in the power of God.
             Paul and Barnabas travel from Iconium because of the threat on their lives to the town of Lystra.
This is the first time on their missionary journey that they do not go to a synagogue.
One of the reasons this could be so was because the Jewish population was so small in this town so as not to have one.
We don’t know.
While there they encountered a cripple man from birth.
Luke said he could not use his feet.
In other words, he was impotent or weak.
This word can describe the faith of some believers.
But many times in Scripture it is translated as impossible – a word that describes our helpless condition in attaining salvation on our own.
Salvation is only made possible by God.
In this case, this man was destined to remain cripple the rest of his life, if God did not intervene and perform a miracle in his life.
So Paul recognizing that this man had faith to be made well (whole or saved) commanded him to stand upright on his feet.
The man sprang up (a single act) and continually began to walk around.
Well the crowd responded to the miracle, just like any crowd would respond today to a miracle.
Some may respond with skepticism or disbelieve.
Others may respond with a brief period of enthusiasm.
But this crowd responded by giving Paul and Barnabas the credit for healing the man.
In verse 11-12, the crowd spoke in their native language which Paul and Barnabas did not understand as we will see and they said the gods have come down to visit us.
There is an ancient story about these same two gods visiting a town in the area.
They were not recognized and received only a cool reception.
In anger they destroyed the town that had been so inhospitable.
With such a folk-tale circulating in this region, it is hardly any wonder that the crowd reacted in the way that they did, bringing forth a bull and wreathes and wanting to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas after a simple healing.
*ZEUS* Chief god of the Greek pantheon (Roman Jupiter).
Zeus was initially worshiped as part of an animistic cult, as the sky god with thunder as his principal manifestation.
Well before the time of Homer, however, Zeus had become the preeminent personal god of the Greek residents of Thessaly, with Mt Olympus serving as the focal point of the cult.
By NT times, Zeus was considered the Greek father god who possessed supreme powers.
It was not unusual that this misidentification should take place, since the Greek gods were frequently represented as taking on human appearances and intervening directly in human affairs.
*HERMES - *Greek god and the son of Zeus by Maia.
He was identified with Mercury in the Roman pantheon of deities.
In Greek mythology, Hermes was the messenger of the gods and the escort of the dead to Hades.
He was the god of fertility, the patron of music, the guardian of travelers, and the god of eloquent speech.
Folks, I remind you that you and I can offer healing today.
It may not be physical healing, but it is certainly spiritual healing.
And we are to offer it in the power of God.
You and I will never win a person to Christ by sure eloquence of our words.
Yet if we deliver the truth of God in his power, then we can certainly expect a response.
It may not always be the response we expected but we will definitely get a response.
Some will be misguided in their judgment, other will disbelieve, but still others will respond appropriately.
Our job is to offer the things of God in the power of God.
So they healed in the power of God.
            When Paul and Barnabas realized what was happening, they were deeply troubled and tried to redirect their attention to the real source of the healing.
The culture that Paul and Barnabas spoke in had many false ideas about true religion.
In fact, their praise of the apostles kept Paul from giving them the whole truth.
Isn’t it interesting that people want to hear the news about God but only on their terms?
To these Greeks, this was a new God to them among the many that they already possess.
Today, Christ is often made such a captive of men’s presuppositions (what they think he ought to be and what they want him to be) that they do not really understand Him.
Lloyd Ogilvie put it this way: “When Jesus was born there was no room at the inn.
But today we not only have room at our inn, but a penthouse suite away from reality.
Jesus is a V.I.P. to be honored but not believed or followed.
In America, he is a custom but not the true Christ; a captured hero of a casual civil religion, but not Lord of our lives.”
This is idolatry, plain and simple.
There are too many in America today who sees their faith “more like a fashion statement, not a deep personal commitment.”
In 2008, 15% of Americans are unaffiliated with any religious group or denomination.
Also, for the first time in history only 76% identify themselves as Christians.
These statistics present a daunting task for the church to have a new sense of urgency in presenting the gospel.
So Paul proceeds to tell the people that the God worth worshiping is greater than any image we can come up with or any false notion that we have of Him.
He is the creator of all things.
Notice that Paul’s approach to evangelizing these people was different from the Jews.
They had no knowledge of the one true God so Paul had to start with where they were in life.
He starts at the very beginning of the Bible and the creation account.
Today, I believe that the church needs to begin there with the gospel because people have no knowledge of God’s Word.
He reminded them, in verse 16, that God allowed the nations to walk in their own ways in previous generations.
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