Paul’s missionary story teaches us three things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
1. The Gospel has the Power to Change Lives:
“And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.” (Acts 14:8-10).
This man is a picture of every person who is lost, hurting, broken, disillusioned, depressed, frustrated, and without hope in this world. Here is the power of the Gospel. This man’s weakness and problem was physical. He had no strength in his feet, and had never walked a day in his life. He had never run, never leapt, and never danced. But one day, a preacher came to town proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus. Not only were they telling the story about Jesus, saying, “Here’s what Jesus did in the past.” They preached, ‘You can meet Jesus today.” The crippled man believed them, responded to their message, and his life was changed.
What Jesus did for that man physically, Jesus can do for you – spirit, soul and body. Salvation is more than just having your sins forgiven and going to Heaven. The word salvation comes from a Greek word, soteria, which means salvation, deliverance, preservation, safety and healing.[i] Spiritually, you can be saved from your sins. Mentally, you can have peace for your troubled mind and joy for your heart. And physically, you can receive healing from your sicknesses. Jesus came to make us completely whole.
The Apostle Paul said: “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to IllyricumI have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19). In other words, wherever the Good News is preached, lives are transformed. Too many churches aren’t preaching the full Gospel. They are preaching that Jesus died so that their sins could be forgiven, but they’re not telling people that Jesus cares about your mind, will, emotions, and physical health as well. It is the full Gospel that has the power to transform your lives today.
2. The Gospel calls us to Repent – to Turn from our sins to God:
When Paul saw that the crippled man had the faith to be healed, he called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
“Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.” (Acts 14:11-15).
Paul and Barnabas were two ordinary men who had faith in an extraordinary God. They had just preached the Gospel, telling the people that Jesus had the power to transform their lives. There was a man in the crowd who believed what they said, responded to their message, and was healed. But then this crowd of superstitious people jumped to the conclusion that Paul and Barnabas were gods. At this point, Paul and Barnabas could have responded by saying, “That’s right, who are the men? We’ll take the garlands, thank you very much, and please, make your checks out to Paul and Barnabas’ Ministries!” They could have gladly received the praise of men, but they didn’t. They tore their clothes in grief and anger, and told the people, “It’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” As we contend for the supernatural to be released in our midst, we need to be so careful to give God all of the honor and glory for every miracle and transformed life.
Paul took this opportunity as an occasion to preach the Gospel to them, and what was his message? He told them to repent. He told them to turn from useless things to the living God. That word useless comes from a Greek word, mataios, which means fruitless, empty, futile, frivolous and hollow.[ii] This message has extreme relevance in our society today. So many people are looking to useless things to find fulfillment. This would include drugs, alcohol, gambling and sexual immorality, but it could also include excessive involvement in entertainment and leisure activities, if those things take the place of God in our lives. None of those things will ever bring you lasting satisfaction. Paul told the people to turn from those useless things to the living God. That’s what we call repentance, a change of mind, a one hundred and eighty degree turn. To repent means that we turn from our sins, and turn to God.
The Lord said: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13).
You can spend your whole life trying in vain to find fulfillment in useless things. The Prince of Preachers once wrote: “Men are in a restless pursuit after satisfaction in earthly things. They will exhaust themselves in the deceitful delights of sin, and, finding them all to be vanity and emptiness; they will become very perplexed and disappointed. But they will continue their fruitless search. Though wearied, they still stagger forward under the influence of spiritual madness, and though there is no result to be reached except that of everlasting disappointment, yet they press forward. They have no forethought for their eternal state; the present hour absorbs them. They turn to another and another of earth’s broken cisterns, hoping to find water where not a drop was ever discovered yet.” (Charles Spurgeon).
It’s sad but true that people can go to church their whole lives and never experience the Good News of salvation. There are people who were raised in the church that are still lost, hurting and broken, lacking joy and peace in their lives because they’ve never encountered Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a parking lot makes you a car. Just because your parents are Christians doesn’t make you one. It’s about: Do you know Jesus? Have you met Him personally?
Look at one of the other sermons that Peter preached in Acts:
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.” (Acts 3:19-20).
When you repent – turn from our sins and turn to Jesus – you will be refreshed, revived and rejuvenated. You don’t have to be anxious, worried or fearful anymore. You can find peace. True happiness in life is found only in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel! Peter also preached: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
Why is it important for us to preach the Gospel? Because Jesus is the only way to Heaven. There is a false belief prevalent in the world today that says, “All roads – or religions – lead to God. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” However, being sincere isn’t good enough, because you can be sincerely wrong. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). If what Jesus taught is true and the Christian faith is the only true faith, then Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not saved. I firmly believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and He proved that He was who He said He was when He was raised from the dead. Because of this truth, we have a responsibility to share the Good News about salvation through Jesus with everyone in the world, including those deceived by false religions.
The world doesn’t like it when Christians stand up and say, “Jesus is the only way to Heaven.” They believe that we are being narrow-minded when we declare that the Bible is absolute truth. It offends today’s modern, relativistic mindset when we say that certain things are right and other things are wrong. To say that there is only one true religion is not politically correct. But whether it is popular or not, I will never compromise my belief in the eternal Word of God.
Why must we proclaim the Gospel, and hold fast to the belief that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, even though the viewpoint is greatly opposed today? Let me give you an illustration to help you to understand this concept. Imagine a group of people on an airplane. The plane is going to crash, and the flight crew goes through the cabin handing out parachutes. They begin explaining to people, “The plane is going down. The only way you can survive is if you put on this parachute, jump out of the plane, and pull the ripcord.” Someone on the plane says, “I don’t believe in crashing after flying. I’ve never crashed before, and I don’t believe it’s going to happen now. I don’t need a parachute, and I’m not going to jump.” Even though that person doesn’t believe in crashing, when that plane hits the ground, they will be dead. The same thing is true of faith in Jesus. Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and if you don’t repent – turn from your sins and turn to God – you cannot be saved. Therefore, we must not compromise this truth, even though it may be unacceptable to the world.
3. When we Preach the Gospel, we will be Persecuted:
“Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14:19-20).
Wherever and whenever the True Gospel is preached, there will be opposition and persecution. Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary to Ecuador who, along with four others, gave up his life while trying to reach the Waodani people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He said: “That man is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[iii]
One of his fellow missionaries, Nate Saint, wrote in his diary, “If God would grant us the vision, the word ‘sacrifice’ would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short; we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ… People who do not know the Lord ask why we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget they too are expending their lives, and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”
Just before her martyrdom, Joan of Arc said: “Every man gives his life for what he believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have, we live it and it’s gone. But to surrender what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying, even more terrible than dying young.”
What’s your passion? What do you live for? There is coming a day when everyone will stand before the throne of God in Heaven and give an account of their lives. Are you ready for that day?
Goers, Senders, and the Disobedient:
In one of his powerful audio messages, Pastor John Piper made a bold statement when he declared, “There are only three kinds of people in relation to missions: Goers, Senders, and Disobedient: There are those who go to the missions field, those who send others to the field and support them with prayer and finances, and there are those who are disobedient.”[iv] Which one are you?
Not everyone is called to go to the mission field, but all believers all called to be involved in missions in one way or another. We’re either going, sending, or being disobedient to the Great Commission. Jesus is calling us to lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel. Will you respond to His missionary call?
“When Jesus had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38).
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] The New Testament Greek Lexicon.
[ii] The New Testament Greek Lexicon.
[iii] Jim Elliot, from his personal journal entry for October 28, 1949.