Don’t allow people to give you the credit for something that God does… Paul and Barnabas speak to their hearers about the Living God and they give all the glory to Him.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello friends, how are you? We’re looking at the 14th Chapter of Acts together these days and we’ve gotten down now to Verse 11, I guess. Paul and Barnabas are at a place called Lystra. There has been a miracle performed for this man who had never walked is now healed and he’s leaping and walking, an exact duplication nearly of what happened with Simon Peter and John when they paused and spoke a word of healing to the beggar who sat at the beautiful gate of the temple. Well, it says, “When the people saw what Paul had done they lifted up their voices saying in the speech of Lycaonia, ‘The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.'” And they called Barnabas Jupiter, probably because he was the older of the two, and Paul Mercurius because it says he was the chief speaker.
Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, whose temple was before their city, that means he was just on the outskirts in the entranceway of the city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates and would have done sacrifice with the people, which when the Apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of, they rent their clothes and ran in among the people crying out and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you. Preach unto you, good tidings that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God which hath made Heaven and Earth and the sea and all things that are therein who in time past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness in that he did good and gave us rain from Heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness and with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.
A couple comments here. First of all, the Gospel had already been preached, the gospel as we know it, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was raised again the third day and that he was seen, and that you could know him personally, and so on. This is the gospel and Paul preached it with Barnabas. Verse 7 says that. However, when he’s speaking to these people, who are townspeople, many of whom had not heard the message, and who were applying their heathen ideology in the evaluation of a miracle that had just occurred, he took a different approach. He reasoned from the point of view of the living God and God’s providence, and God’s goodness and God’s love and God’s care.
When I went out to the Orient the first time, I asked my friend Hubert Mitchell, “Hubert,” I said, “Give me some counsel. You know that I will be speaking to people who have never heard the Gospel before, and I don’t wanna make the mistakes of the first-time missionary. I wanna be a blessing. Tell me, give me an approach that will work on the mission field.”
“Well,” he said, “Brother, what I’ve always done all my life on the mission field… ” He was on the mission field for a good many years. He said, “What I’ve done is to speak to them of the living God because in every country they know, although they have many objects of worship and idols, they know that there is a living God who is greater than all of their deities, and so I speak to them about the living God who made the Heavens and the Earth, and who made them and to whom ultimately they are responsible, and against whom inevitably they’ve sinned and therefore are gonna be judged. And then I tell them about the Savior and how he bore their sins, and how God wants to forgive and to cleanse, and to give them a new life and so on.”
Well, I did this. I spoke in Japan and in China before the fall of mainland China to the Communists, and in India, particularly these lands where there were many people who had never heard the Gospel as we know it. For instance, you’d get on a train in Japan, These people are the most literate people in the world, 98% or 99% literate, and you’d speak to them and say, “Did you ever hear of a Bible?” “No. What is a Bible?” “This book that I have in my hand, and this tells about Jesus.” “Who is Jesus.” “Well, he’s the Son of God.” And the answer would be a sort of a bewildered look and a statement, “I did not know that the gods had sons.” You see, there’s an entirely different construct there. They don’t have what my old seminary prof, Dr. Champion, used to call, interpreting background of mind. Therefore, you have to start with something they do know about.
And so in these different countries, I found that you can, just as Paul did, talk about the living God. Acts 14:15, the living God. And I would do that. I would, for instance in Japan, I think I may have told you this once, a year or so ago. In Japan, I would look at my wrist watch, and I would ask in Japanese, “Ima nanji desu ka?” “Ima nanji desu ka?” What time is it now? And they would all look at their watches because every good Japanese wears a watch that keeps time and they’re a nation of on-time people to be sure. You miss the train by a quarter of a minute, you have missed it. Their trains leave on time. So I would say to them, I would hold an imaginary conversation, I’d say, “How do you know what time it is?” “Oh, you see, I’ve set my watch and I know.” “Well, how does your watch know what time it is?” “Well, I set my watch by the railroad station clock. Our trains run on time.”
“Well, how does the railroad station clock know what time it is?” “Oh, the station master sets it from the dispatcher’s office. There’s a tone that comes from the dispatcher’s office every so often and that sets all the clocks right.” “Well, how does the dispatcher’s office know what time it is?” “Well, he gets his time from the observatory?” “Well, how do the observatory people know what time it is.” “Well, they get their time from the stars.” “Well, how do the stars know what time it is?” And then there’s a silence, you see, because there isn’t any answer. And then I would say, “The Bible says, He, the living God, made the stars also. I wanna talk to you tonight about the living God.” I would say.
And we’d go on from there, to the living God, to the fact that he’s a holy God, to the fact that he’s given his holy law, to the fact that you’ve broken his law, every one of his commandments, you’ve broken them in some way, and that means therefore, that you have to meet this living God with all your sins on you, because it’s appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, and that’s why people need a Savior. And this living God loved you so much that He gave his own son to die for you and to bear all your sins on the cross. But he, not only died for you, he rose again from the dead. He’s alive today and by his Holy Spirit, he wants to move right in and live in your heart and life and think through your mind and walk in your shoes and live his life through you, if you’ll really trust him and accept him and turn from your sins and your wicked ways and your idolatry, and really trust this living God.
Well, you know, you say it in different ways in different cultures to be sure. For instance, in Japan, they cautioned me not to use the word ‘sinner’ as we know it because their connotation was ‘criminal’. So you had to get around that in different ways and you had to explain what you meant, that you don’t mean criminal in the sense of a person who’s a bank robber, but you mean a person who has come short of the glory of God, who has transgressed the law of God, and who has at long last failed to measure up to the simple law of, whatsoever is not a faith is sin. We have come short of God’s glory. We have transgressed God’s law, and we haven’t really measured up to his holiness.
And so, as I say, there are different ways of saying it in different countries and different cultures. But the message is the same, the living God. Oh, I’ve never been in a country in all the world where people didn’t realize that, above and beyond all of the deities which they feared and worshipped, there was indeed a living God greater than all of them. That truth is planted deep in the human heart. It’s there because “That which may be known of him,” Paul says in Romans, “is clearly seen from the creation of the world around about.”
And not only that, but God has put within you, what we call, conscience. And so down in your heart you know there’s a God, and as you look around at the creation, you know there’s a God. And so the two testimonies zero in to your consciousness and remind you that you need to know this living God, how to know him. Well, then you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, because he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Now, Paul used therefore the approach of the living God. It’s interesting to me that he didn’t accept, nor did Barnabas, any hint of greatness. Rather they rushed in and said, “We’re just human beings like you are. We’re men of like passions with you.” That is to say, “What you feel, we feel and what tests you tests us also and what discourages you discourages us and what wearies you wearies us, we are ordinary human beings.” They refused to take any hint of these accolades of greatness that were being thrust upon them.
I read just the other day of Captain Cook, a man of dubious integrity who bears unfortunately my name, except that his was a different little spelling in the old days. My name used to be spelled K-O-C-H until they anglicized it. So that kinda gets me out of being related to him. But the story goes, that when he was in the Sandwich Isles he allowed himself to be taken for a deity and allowed himself to be worshipped. But later on, somebody put an end to his life, and the same people who were worshipping him ended up murdering him. This is the story in any case as one historian tells it.
There isn’t any future in touching the glory. Uzzah found that out. They were going to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem, and of course, instead of carrying it on the shoulders of the priests and the Levites, they put it on a cart, which was in disobedience of God’s directions in the first place. But as the cart went along this rough road, the cart lurched and Uzzah thought that he would help protect the Ark. He put out his hand to steady it and God smote him dead right then and there. Don’t touch the glory. That’s the object lesson that you get.
Don’t allow people to give you the credit for something that God does. And you know that’s a very relevant and up-to-date caution, isn’t it? Because it’s a real temptation, if you sing a good solo to smile and enjoy it, and people say, “What a lovely voice.” And those of us who are preachers, it’s a source of satisfaction if somebody comes up and says, “That was a great sermon.” It’s nice to hear, isn’t it? Or if you’re a businessman and God has given you a special business talent, and someone says, “Oh boy, your brain has really worked right, and you’re so smart.” And so on. It’s a temptation just to preen your feathers a little bit and enjoy it. Isn’t that true?
But the child of God is going to remember that everything you have is from the Lord. “Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from above from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” Paul says, rather sarcastically, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Everything you have, you got from somewhere. None of us originated any greatness with ourselves. Isn’t it true? So don’t touch the glory. I think one of the reasons that God has blessed our Brother Graham so signally is that every time he gets his team together he reminds them of this tremendous warning. That no matter how much appreciation people may show for them, they’re never to touch the glory, that they’re to give God the glory because God has made it possible. And I think that’s one reason that the Lord has blessed our brother and kept him useful on a worldwide scale throughout these past several years.
But it’s the person who allows himself to soak up some of the sunshine and some of the glory, and makes himself a little more great in his own eyes, this is the person who goes down in obscurity and defeat. Remember will you? Don’t touch the glory. Don’t touch the glory. The living God. The living God. He’s the one to whom all glory and all praise should come. Yes, Paul and Barnabas refused the accolades and the praise, and in this case, actually the worship of people who were so amazed at what had been done.
Time has gone. Let me bow for a moment to pray with you. Dear Heavenly Father, teach us true humility today, not the feigned, unctuous meekness of a person who is trying to appear humble, but the genuine heart humility that knows how desperately each one of us needs God every split second of the time. Oh, may we so depend on Thee that it will be evident to everyone that what is done through our lives has been done by God. This I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, amen. Amen. God bless you, dear friend, all the way. That’s all for now.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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