Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, April 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/24/16 Sermon - Renewing Your Mind

 

“Renewing Your Mind”

Acts 14: 1-28

 

Here is an excellent example of humor in the Bible. If this chapter were to be made into a movie, I can see Tom Hanks playing Paul and Tim Conway as Barnabas as they are sharing the gospel with this group of people thinking they are being understood and feeling good about how everyone seems to be agreeing with them only to turn out the residents of Lystra have them mixed up with their Greek gods and are planning to offer sacrifices to them. Tom and Tim look at each other and decide the best way to prove they are human is to rip off their clothes. Who knows what the Lystronians really think, good grief, these men have been impersonating gods, so they decide to stone them. Humor aside, the concept of knowing the background of those one is witnessing to, may be of assistance. Be thinking about that as we look at what occurs in Acts chapter 14.

We left Paul and Barnabas, last week, filled with joy and filled with the Holy Spirit, having left the city of Antioch, after being driven out by the Jewish leaders.

This week in Acts 14, we find they had arrived at Iconium. They went directly to the Jewish synagogue and spoke. Many of those who heard them believed, both Jews and Greeks. But did you notice, again the unbelieving Jews stir up the Gentiles by spreading false information about Paul and Barnabas and caused mistrust. Paul and Barnabas continued to stay for a long time, sharing the truth, until there was a definite division between those who were on the Jews side and those that were on the apostle’s side. Well the Jews side won, because Paul and Barnabas caught wind that there were plans to beat them up and stone them, so the two men decided it was time go and they fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. Unperturbed, they picked up where they had left off and began sharing the gospel in the synagogue there.  

While in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas continue sharing the same message they have been sharing since they began their missionary journey. However, this time, in this place they run into a bit of confusion.

It all began when Paul happened to notice a crippled man who had been listening to him talk. Paul could tell by looking at him that he was catching on to the good news and believed. So Paul talked to him directly and told him to stand up on his feet. Without hesitation, the man sprang up and began walking.

Miracle beyond miracles!

Humans were not able to do such things. The crippled man may have believed in who Paul was talking about, but in the crowd’s mind, the only way this could have happened was if the god’s had come to earth in human form.

Two different responses to the same event.

The crippled man had faith to be healed, he had a hope for his healing and a trust that the God Paul and Barnabas were talking about was the God who could heal him. The crippled man had a trust in a God that would keep His promises. As we continue to read through the Book of Acts we see more of what God is like, He is a God who meets us and responds to our belief.

The crowd, on the other hand, is stunned!

In their minds the gods have come to earth!

Paul must be Hermes, who according to their religion was the chief speaker for Zeus, and Barnabas, the more dignified looking gentleman, must have been Zeus, himself! The crowd was so convinced of this assumption that they started to prepare sacrifices to offer to Paul and Barnabas, alias Hermes and Zeus.

If this wasn’t so serious, it could almost be funny. The reality is that we cannot explain what we see – except by what we already have seen in our lives. We can only use the words that we have in our vocabulary to describe events around us.

Paul and Barnabas were acting like gods, so they must be the gods. Zeus and Hermes were the only gods they had in their existence. Paul will run into this predicament over and over. People will keep taking what they think God must be like and place that concept as what the true God is really like. At this point Paul tried telling the people, the true God was the one who started everything. God was the one who makes everything around them happen. Paul and Barnabas end up ripping their clothes off to assure the crowd that they are really human, just like them.

They eventually convinced them not to make sacrifices for them, only to have the angry Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrive to speak against Paul and Barnabas. This time, the naysayers get the crowd so worked up they actually do stone Paul and he was left for dead outside the city. His fellow disciples go out to get him and discover he was not dead. They take him back into the city, only to have them leave the next day for another town, Derbe, where Luke tells us that they were able to establish a strong core of disciples.

Once Paul and Barnabas were assured the believers are established in the message of the Savior of Jesus Christ, they decided to return to the city of Antioch where they began their journey. Their return trip included all of the cities they had previously visited. At each city they stopped and encouraged those who believed to continue to grow in their faith. They reminded them that being part of the kingdom of God did not keep them from difficult times. They eventually take a ship that returns them to the church who had sent them on their missionary journey.

They proceeded to share with the other disciples how God had provided for them and how people of all nations were coming to faith in Jesus.

Paul and Barnabas had been on a journey that provided a variety of circumstances where they had to trust in the God they were sharing, more than they trusted in the words they were sharing, or the signs they were performing.

There isn’t much of a difference for those of us today who attempt to share our faith with those around us. Just like the citizens of Lystra everyone comes to an understanding of the gospel with some sort of historical knowledge of what God is like. If you were brought up in a Catholic home you would see God from the Catholic view. If you were brought up in a fundamental, strict evangelical home, you have a totally different view of God. Those living in Lystra had the Greek gods as their beginning knowledge. Many young people today have no previous knowledge of God. They haven’t been brought up in a church and He is no longer discussed in schools so there is very little opportunity for background information.

Regardless of what our background knowledge of God may be, every day we are to be renewing our minds, as we learn more and more about what He is like, and who He really is. The Holy Spirit is actively helping us to remember the facts of God that are real, but is continuing to teach us the new facts of God we have yet to experience. Paul shares this in his book to the Romans 12:1-2,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It is by the renewing of our minds that we are able to test and approve what God’s will is and when God is appearing in our lives. Jesus may appear in a new way, but the fruits of his presences will be the same. They are love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Paul’s mind had been renewed. Before meeting Jesus, face to face, on the road to Damascus, Paul thought he knew everything there was to know about God. He was number one in his class of Jewish theology. It was his encounter with God that renewed his mind, and as we read through the book of Acts we realize that in his efforts to share the gospel with Jews and Gentiles, he was continuing to renew his mind.

Change doesn’t come easy. It takes commitment to be willing to challenge what one already knows to be open to renewing your mind. We think that by holding on to what we already know we have security, when our security truly comes from our relationship with the One who holds on to eternity.

If we are able to renew our minds, we have a better chance at assisting others to renew theirs as we share the truth that has set us free.

We should remember what happened to Paul and Barnabas in this chapter, as an example, that everyone comes to God with previous notions. Let us seek the Holy Spirit to guide us in sharing the gospel in a way that aids in assisting others and ourselves in renewing our minds to further and more accurate knowledge of who God is and how He desires to be more and more real to us every day.

Let’s pray.