The gospel is not an offer to improve your lifestyle, it's a command often resulting in hardship.
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Acts 14 (ESV)
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
2 But the unbelieving Jews
stirred up the Gentiles
and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
3 So they remained for a long time,
speaking boldly for the Lord,
who bore witness to the word of his grace,
granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
4 But the people of the city were divided;
some sided with the Jews
and some with the apostles.
5 When an attempt was made
by both Gentiles and Jews,
with their rulers,
to mistreat them
and to stone them,
6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,
7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked.
9 He listened to Paul speaking.
looking intently at him
and seeing that he had faith to be made well,
10 said in a loud voice,
“Stand upright on your feet.”
And he sprang up and began walking.
11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done,
they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian,
“The gods have come down to us
in the likeness of men!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
13 And the priest of Zeus,
whose temple was at the entrance to the city,
brought oxen and garlands to the gates
and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it,
they tore their garments
and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,
15 “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.
16 In past generations
he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness,
for he did good by giving you
rains from heaven
and fruitful seasons,
satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium,
and having persuaded the crowds,
they stoned Paul
and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
20 But when the disciples gathered about him,
he rose up and entered the city,
and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
21 When 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 that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church,
with prayer and fasting
they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia.
25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga,
they went down to Attalia,
26 and from there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.
27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together,
all that God had done with them,
and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.
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Acts 14 Summary
Paul & Barnabas make a habit of attending Sabbath worship at the local synagogues in the cities that they visit and are often invited to speak. Their preaching of the gospel has an effect on all who hear it: a great number of both Jews & Greeks believed (v1), but at the same time it stirs others to anger and intolerance.
When Paul heals a crippled man, the locals conclude that he and Barnabas are Greek gods, and worship them accordingly. But it's not long until the same bandwagon that's falling down at his feet are stoning him and leaving him for dead.
Yet by God's strength Paul survives, and undaunted, continues to preach the gospel as they travel.
On their way back, they stop at all of the new churches and put elders in place to shepherd the new congregations.
In our society, we treasure the freedom people have to form their own opinions and beliefs. Certainly this is good governance and something to be thankful for.
The down side to this culture is that core beliefs about who God is and who we are begin to have the same value as opinions about who makes the best French fries: There is no right or wrong belief.
That's not how God sees it.
Verse 2 can be literally translated as follows:
Those who disobey God by refusing to believe the gospel...
God's Word is not an opinion you can take or leave depending on how it jives with the current season you're in or lifestyle you're pursuing. It's not a enhancement to improve your quality of life as long as it works for you.
Quite the opposite, it's a standard of truth that you must conform every aspect of your life to.
Verse 23 describes what it really means to believe the gospel. Your life is not your own, rather, it
has been committed (handed over) to the grace of God.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father God, who has made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them (v15).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will strengthen you to endure hardship and to live with a focus on entering His kingdom (v22).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: