Strength to Stand

Click here to read Acts 14:8-20.

The passage today has many things going on. First of all, we see Paul and Barnabas come upon a man who was crippled in his legs and couldn’t walk. Paul heals the man who is able to walk. The people in the crowd see the miracle and call Paul and Barnabas gods. Paul then is stoned by the people. All in a day’s work, right?

For Paul this basically was normal, it seems. Every time he went to a new place, the people would either love him, making him as high as a god, or despising him, forcing him to leave, either on his own or by stoning/lashing him. Sounds like a cool job, doesn’t it?

But pay attention to what is happening here in this passage. Paul and Barnabas come upon a man who couldn’t walk. Now we, in our cities and day to day life, see people all the time who seemingly cannot take care of themselves. Most of the time, people just walk on past. After all, “God helps those who help themselves,” right? Nope. God uses people to help those who cannot help themselves. Paul goes beyond any prejudice for a begging man, and (with the power of the Holy Spirit) heals him. The man is now able to walk and life his life all because someone stopped and gave him what he needed: physical healing which could have lead to his spiritual healing.

The crowd seeing all of this happen, think that Paul and Barnabas have special powers and begin to elevate them into the position of their gods. Paul began to teach the people where the real power comes from and how the man was able to be healed and who the real God is.

After hearing about the one true God, people in the crowd became angry. Makes sense. You don’t like people flat out telling you you’re wrong. Pride becomes and issue here. People in the crowd did not want anyone to “mess with” their beliefs, so they stoned Paul.

Think about how this passage can relate to you today, this week. The man who was crippled needed someone to help him. We all need help at times, and are grateful when someone pays attention and helps. But this is not just about us needing help.

Paul was the person God used to heal the man. You and I get to be people God used to bring his healing power, grace, and presence wherever we are. By the grace of God, we get to be the answer to another person’s prayers, if we’re paying attention to the voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit within us.

There will be things you and I do that people will love and want to tell us how good we are at what we do. Look how Paul did not allow the crowd’s praise to inflate his ego. He turned it back on the crowd, with humility, and told them about the real God of the universe. But, the people were threatened by an outsider coming in to tell them their whole lives were wrong.

Stand strong when someone helps. Accept the help. God may have brought them to you because of your prayers.

Stand strong with the mission that God has given you. Be an encourager, lift people up, bring the message of God’s love and presence wherever you are.

Stand strong in who God says you are. The praise of people will only make us conceited; but when our faith is in God through Jesus Christ, we can keep the right perspective of who and whose we are.

Even when it hurts or you’re being criticized for following Christ, stand strong that he is using you in mighty ways and trust he will continue to lead and guide you each and everyday.

Stand strong.

SENT OUT with Identity

This week, we began a 5 part series in worship called “SENT OUT.” Jesus does not call us to live comfortable lives, be comfortable in our worship, or expect everything to go just right simply because we follow him. He calls us to go out into our communities and out into the world to follow Him, make disciples, show grace; and this all begins by knowing our identity.

If I were to ask you, “Who are you?,” would you be able to answer this without stating what you do or describe your personality or preferences? We live in a culture that wraps our identity up with our job and what we like to do. This is not the basis of our true identity. Our true identity is a child of God, a person who has been made in the image of God.

In the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 3, Jesus goes to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. I invite you to read these words now:

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.””
Matthew 3:13-17 NIV

Jesus is on his way to be baptized. He is determined to follow through on this decision. People were coming from all over to be baptized by John the Baptist and repenting to turn their life over to God. Would Jesus have just been another person in the crowd? Would you be able to recognize Him? John recognized Jesus when He went in the water.

When we get baptized, we go with a resolve to publically declare what God has been doing inside us. This is not done lightly and we should not take baptism lightly.

In doing research for this message this week, I came across a story of a baptism in East Malaysia.
When Texas pastor Jim Denison was in college, he served as a summer missionary in East Malaysia. While there he attended a small church. At one of the church’s worship services, a teenage girl came forward to announce her decision to follow Christ and be baptized. During the service, Denison noticed some worn-out luggage leaning against the wall of the church building. He asked the pastor about it. The pastor pointed to the girl who had just been baptized and told Denison, “Her father said that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again. So she brought her luggage.”(Raymond McHenry, Stories for the Soul (Hendrickson, 2001), p. 48; submitted by Steve May, Humboldt, Tennessee)

This teenager knew she would not be welcome back home after being baptized and knew this meant she had a new life to live because she knew God had great plans for her life. How many of us would be willing to do the same thing?

Jesus was not made more into the Son of God after He was baptized; but His identity was confirmed and affirmed by the heavens opening up giving the divine revelation (Ezekiel 1:1, Revelation 4:1), the voice from heaven that proclaimed His identity and showed His authority for the work He was about to enter.

So now we have to ask the question, what does this mean for us today?
We get to be affirmed in our identity as children of God and share this truth to those in our family, and others around us.

We should always approach worship and the presence of God (which is all around us) with determination that God will do a great work within us and through us.

We get to share this message of grace and truth because we know our identity: Child of God made in His image. This means we go into the world and tell the gospel message with confidence. Remember, there are really two types of people in this world: those who know they are God’s children, and those who do not know this.

As we leave the waters of baptism, realize we are in the presence of God, we are changed and should allow God to continually change us. Remember these:
Why the Jordan River? The Israelites crossed the river with Joshua leading them after Moses died. They left their old way of life behind and entered into a new life, one that God desired them to have.
Put on Christ and clothe yourself with Christ (Colossians 3)
It is no longer I who live but Christ in me (Galatians 3:22)
It is God who does the redemptive work. This is where the power in baptism comes from. (1 Corinthians 1)
We have been equipped by the Holy Spirit and have been given gifts for reaching out to this world. (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)
From the beginning, God called His creation “good” (Genesis 1:26-27), and we get to join in the redemptive work with Him.

Trust that God is doing a great work in you and will do great works through you. Child of God, know who you are and know you have a great purpose and mission for your life. But, just because you decide to follow Jesus Christ, does not mean your life will not be easy or comfortable because we want it to.

Right after Jesus was baptized, He was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit and was tempted by Satan. Because He knew and was confident in His identity and purpose, He was able to withstand the temptations. You and I have this same power over temptations within us if we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within you and live through you.

Above all else, remember it is God who does incredible works and have given you the identity of Child of God. Stand firm in this identity and go into the world to make disciples for Jesus Christ.