Langwarrin Christian Reformed Church ... a Light to the Nation

1.Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, I don’t know if it was the same with your children, when my children were little and it got really quiet in our house, they were normally busy with something they were not supposed to do. And when you walked quietly and suddenly asked: “what are you doing” you could see the shock on their faces when they were caught red handed in painting pictures on the wall or even my car, one day.

And when you asked them later; “Why are you doing these things” they could not answer. It was never their fault!

2.People fail to answer the question, “Why are you doing these things” because it exposes the wrongdoing in their actions. This is a difficult question to answer, but if you are honest, it will reveal also the thing you are struggling the most with, and if you bring it to the Lord, and repent, He will make you free.

In our Bible reading we know that the early church; received special gifts and the ability to perform miracles from God and that the Lord added great numbers to the church.

Paul and Barnabas did many miraculous works, one of which is recorded in the following passage.  In Lystra Paul performed a miracle where a cripple started walking.

3.There are a few things to understand here; Paul and Barnabas did many miraculous works, yet they did not travel as miracle workers. Their focus was always on preaching the gospel. “The apostles did not go into these cities to do miracles, and then to preach. Rather, it was the other way around: They went to preach the Gospel; and sometimes there were healings. The greatest miracle, and this is today still true, is if someone would leave the life of sin and follow Jesus.

The crippled man listened attentively to Paul’s preaching, and through hearing came faith. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.

4.We are still receiving Jesus as the centre of the gospel, and this was the message that Paul wanted to bring. It is Jesus Christ that makes us free from sin. It is Jesus who gives hope! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Jesus saves us from the crippling effect of sin and in Him alone there is hope.

Only when Paul saw the faith in the crippled, he said in a loud voice: “Stand upright on your feet. And he sprang up and began walking.”

5.But then something really disappointing happened, the people who heard the Gospel, and saw the gospel with a miracle that happened right before their eyes, reacted different than what we would expect, but still so typical of an unrepentant world. The crowd did not give glory to God but rather to their idols. Today it would be science! God performed a miracle but all they could see is their idols.

“Zeus and Hermes visited us” the crowd believed.  They called Barnabas Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the main speaker. In Greek mythology, it was common for the gods to come to earth in human form, though they did not always do so for the good of man. The people of Lystra had a legend that once Zeus and Hermes visited their land disguised as mortals, and no one gave them any hospitality except for one older couple. In their anger at the people, Zeus and Hermes wiped out the whole population, except for the old couple. Hermes was known as the messenger of the gods, so it made sense to the people of Lystra’s to think that Paul (the one that preached) was Hermes. Barnabas apparently had an air of authority about him, so they regarded him as Zeus.

Still it is so disappointing that the crowd honoured their idols instead of Jesus! It is always disappointing when people hear the Gospel, see the Gospel through God’s people, taste the Gospel through the Lord’s Supper, and still turn away from God to the world. This is so disappointing when there is not fruit to the Gospel message and people still continue in their worldly ways. There are so many examples in the Bible and in our history of people who heard the Gospel, but still continued in their sinful way and did not repent. We still see how people are leaving the church, and give many reasons, but fail to see their wrongdoings.

This is a sign of the deep misery of sin in the world. We also experience God’s grace through Jesus and the Gospel is still preached, but sometimes the response is distorted through sin. It is difficult to break with the idols of selfishness, greed, money, and sexual desires in the world. There can be nothing more difficult to leave the life of sin and follow Jesus. You need a repentant heart!  Still this is the only way you can be really free!

We can be free in Jesus alone, and we know and confess that Jesus died for us and is risen, and that His Spirit is living in us and make us share in His redemption. The apostle Paul gives good advice in Colossians 2 verse 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirit of the world, and not according to Christ.”The world, sin, philosophy, human tradition and even the spirit of this world, this can be if you are slave to the newest trend or fashion, or iPhone, want to make you a captive. And only Christ makes you free!  Through Jesus’ atonement on the Cross, teachings, hope, peace, and example, He changes us through His Spirit to repent from our sins, to face our trials and move forward with faith and in complete trust in Him and His Father and to live as He has instructed in His Word.

6.To be a Christian is to answer on Christ’s call to repentance and to confess that He is Lord and was made Christ by God and that I would recognize Him in my life.

This is not a limitation, but the true life. It is a joy to do His will and to give up those things that brings division between Him and us. This is my sin and my desires.

Paul wanted the people in Lystra and also you and me, to be free in Jesus! And he also wanted to correct the wrong way of thinking and showed them that the miracle is from God and not through their doing. They are not miracle workers, and they should receive no glory, but God alone!

Therefore, Paul asked: “Men why are you doing these things?  We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”

Paul did not preach to these pagan worshipers the same way he preached to Jews. He did not quote the Old Testament to them, but instead appealed to natural revelation, he said, “of like nature with you” and he referred to the things that even a pagan could understand by looking at the world and creation around them. He wanted them to be free in Jesus, bring their sin to Jesus, this is their idol worship and therefore he asked: “Men why are you doing these things?”

These were strong words from Paul to people who took their pagan worship seriously, but Paul wasn’t afraid to confront the crowd with the truth, and the truth was that their idolatry was wrong and blasphemy against the One Living God. They had to turn from it, repent and be free in Jesus!

7.Beloved, I believe that you should deal pastorally with sin and people who are hold captive to sin but sometimes you are not doing that person a favour if you do not address the sin. The preaching of the Word should also “reproof and correct” we read in 2 Timothy 3:16. The word “reproof” comes from a word meaning, “to expose,” and so the idea is, the Scriptures have a way of exposing our behaviour for what it really is. The Bible shows us what we’re doing wrong and makes it obvious. We read a passage, and we think, I’m doing that, and I shouldn’t” Our sin has been reproved. Therefore, dangers must be pointed out to believers and they must be showed their wrongdoing and taught to live according the Word of God as the measure of their life! False teachings must be exposed but also the dangers of life, for instance wrong friends and sinful behaviour.

But it should not only reproof, it should also correct. The Greek word for correct has the word “ortho” in it, and the word “ortho” refers to something that is straight. Perhaps you have been to an orthodontist and has been set back 10 grands. An orthodontist straightens teeth. So, must believers be warned to leave a wrong path and they must also be directed to the narrow road in Jesus alone.

Therefore, Paul did not only reproof the Lystrians, but also corrected their view. As Paul told them more about Jesus and what He has done, he especially wanted them to turn from these useless idols to the living God. Jesus could not merely be added to their pagan ways.

Sometimes people want to that and just add Jesus to their sinful ways. Yes, I love the Lord, but I also believe that the Lord accepts my sin. This is not true repentance, where we confess in Lord’s Day 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism that genuine repentance is the dying away of the old self and the coming of life to the new. This means that we should internally and externally flee from sin. This is the dying away of the old self, and positively it leads to the coming-to-life of the new self. This is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to do in His Word.

Paul called the Lystrian crowd to consider the real God, the One who stands behind all creation, not one of the lesser (and imaginary) Greek gods.

Beloved, Paul reproofed and corrected and led them to the Gospel again. He was stronger in his approach and sometimes we need to be in our correcting and reproofing to people who are not on the narrow path anymore! Sometimes we also need to ask: “Why are you doing these things” and lead them to Jesus and the Gospel again! This is God’s concern to save sinners from eternal judgment.

The Lord’s Word should be proclaimed, and the essence of the message should be Jesus. On the one side there should be proclaimed in and out of season to all that their sins are forgiven. The other side is the call to repentance to people who dishonours God’s love and sacrifice through Jesus. Yet it is not only about exclusion but also about love, the purpose for these persistent sinners are to repent from their sin and turn to Jesus. And if they repent, Jesus said in Matthew 18, “you have gained your brother.”

The apostle Paul had the Gospel in mind, and he wanted people to see that it is all about Jesus and that God should receive all glory. He was not afraid of persecution because He served an Almighty God.

 8.There will always be resistance!

Some Jews from Antioch and Iconium travelled more than one hundred miles to persecute Paul. They incited the people of Lystra against Paul and Barnabas and instigated the stoning of Paul. This was obviously an attempt to execute Paul and Barnabas – with the rocks being thrown by the same people who wanted to worship them shortly before.

Paul’s preaching in Lystra led to persecution and Paul were stoned and dragged out of the city, supposing that he was dead. When Paul was revived, he did not flee the city that stoned him!

Instead he immediately went back into it. He had been driven out of Antioch and Iconium by this traveling mob, and he was determined to leave Lystra on his own terms. He continued with His preaching, and he trusted in the Lord to preach God’s Word, and to correct and reproof.  And there was fruit. There was repentance!

A door has opened, and a congregation has been planted. In Acts 16:1 we learn that when Paul visited Lystra again, there was also a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. And he was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. This is to Him that the Paul later would teach in 2 Timothy 3: 16: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Brothers and sisters, I challenge you to consider asking these words to those you love, and you know struggle with an unrepentant sin: “why are you doing these things.” Do this in love, without judgment and do this with the Gospel in mind and without fear of political correctness. Love someone so much that you also care about their eternal life!

And also ask this question to yourself when you are bringing your sins and especially the thing you struggle, maybe it is forgiveness, maybe despair, maybe anger, to the Lord in daily repentance: “why are you doing these things.” Ask this in humble prayer and on your knees, in deep repentance and the Lord promises that He will forgive your sins in Jesus and make you free and give you peace. He will not break the bruised reed and He will not quench the faintly burning wick (Isaiah 43: 3). He will rather assure you of His forgiveness and grace in Jesus.

Do this, and you will also experience wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to do in His Word.

Amen