THIS WEEKS MESSAGE
"The Mind and Character of
"How God Deals with His Servants" Paul the Apostle - Part 1
March 15, 1998
We're going to start this morning in the book of Job, but before I do I want to share something with you. I have been in the ministry since 1967 when God called me to preach. There have been a number of ups and downs over the years. This week was a rough week for me. Before me, I had a large number of "The Dove" magazines that we could not ship because we did not have funds to ship them. We also had a number of bills that were unpaid. Our outreach has never been as large as it is right now. I was sitting at home praying and having a conversation with God. The Lord spoke to me, as I was sitting there alone. He spoke to me about the subject I had preached on several times. This is what I want to share with you today. Personally I am in the same position as Job. Satan, for years, has requested to break my back. He has been given permission to put disaster after disaster upon me. He wants me to hand in the Towel and tell God that I am going to walk away from my calling, the ministry, and say that it did not work out. I would no longer be praising Jesus Christ.
Turn to Job, chapter 1 verse 7. "And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? [All of us at times will be tested.] Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face."
As the Lord was ministering to me he began to ask me questions. Why can't you praise me? Do you need more material blessings? Are you blessing me because your bills are paid? Are you blessing me because the message is going home? Are you worshiping me because all these things are happening or are you worshiping me because their name is written in the book of life or are you worshiping me because you love Me? Have I not sent to you workers? The last time The Dove was produced we had a small but very productive group. I had to hang my head in shame and say, "Yes! I do have that trend. When everything is going fine I can praise the Lord. But can God trust me if I do not have certain things and things go wrong in different places that can I will praise the Lord and lift my hands?" I made another covenant this week with the Lord. It is this. Satan is not going to break my back. Regardless of the outcome of this life, financially, materially, whatever it will be on the day that I am put to rest, I will be praising God. I will be thanking Him for what I have and not what I think I should have. I wanted to share this with you. As I look back on my life I believe what has been produced is correct. I do not have to be ashamed of what I have written or spoken over the years.
We're now going to look upon the apostle Paul. The name of Paul, prior to becoming a Christian, was Saul. It is estimated that he was born around two years after the birth of Jesus in the city of Tarsus [located on the south Coast of Turkey, close to the border of Lebanon]. He moved from Tarsus to Jerusalem, where he eventually became the chief prosecutor of the Christians.
As we look upon these men and women as God gives me grace to do this, I would like us to think in the eternal realm. America is very prosperous for you and I. Times could not be better. Money is flowing and everyone is happy. These are temporary things. You and I were created to live on a space ship called the planet earth. This is a space ship and we are traveling at an incredible speed around the sun. One rotation is called a year. We're tumbling and traveling through the universe. Everything is moving. You and I were sent down to this planet to this space ship to do two things. To learn whom God is, to be born again and be saved so that you can enter the last and final stage of our destiny, which is to live in heaven. That is the bottom-line.
I shared today, in our prayer meeting before services that the death rate in America is 6,000 people every 24 hours. This happens every 24-hours. In the same 24-hours there are 9,000 people born. That is a tremendous turnover.
Why are we here on earth? We are here to find God, to be saved. We are here to be fitted into God's perfect will, not only for this earth but for the next one also.
Let's say you are going to fly overseas and you have a stopover in New York for two days. Your original plans were for a short layover and then catch your next flight. You would not say to yourself that you're going to buy a house while you are staying in New York. Your stay is very temporary because the moment you are told that your flight is ready to depart you'll be on the airplane and out of the airport. You are in an airport called the planet Earth. You are here for a season or short time. You'll take nothing with you. You came with nothing. The only thing that you'll take is what you have done for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our houses and cars will be gone. All that we possess on this earth will be gone. We will move to our eternal home. When we get into the heavens we will then be with the Lord forever. Our time with the Lord will be emmemorable. That will be the time for us to plant our roots. We will stay with God forever. Our tendencies are to plant roots now where we are. Jesus told us not to lay-up treasures here on earth because they will be eaten away. We're to put our treasures in heaven. Everything we have here is temporary. It is on loan to us. Even our body is leased to us. What we need to do is to look upon eternal values and say, "Father, God, let me have the mind of Christ."
We are told that Paul was small in stature. He was a rabbi, a cabalistic rabbi. He was employed by the secret police. Today it would be similar to the Macade in Israel. His job was to hunt down Christians. Prosecute, and have them executed. Through this he thought he was serving God. In the book of Acts we find Paul doing his job.
Turn to Acts 8 verse 1. "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Can you imagine the prayers that the Christians would have had at this time? "Father, God, cream this guy, take him out. He is terrible. He is a murderer." Saul was hand picked by God to do a work for him.
Turn to Act, chapter 9 verse 1. "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men were women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus; and suddenly their shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard invoice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, went persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecuteest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they lead him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus."
We read in Acts, chapter 22 how Saul felt at this time.
Turn to Acts, chapter 22 verse 1. "Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. 2 And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith, 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect
manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. 6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. 12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. 17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles."
Lets go back about nineteen hundred years in history to the time of Saul. We're inside of Damascus. There is a Jewish rabbi called Saul of Tarsus. He is dressed in the tradition of that day. He is a man who is going to have a greater impact on this earth than any King, Emperor or political force. He stood and said, "What should I do?" He was told that he would find out by Revelation. He was probably about 35 years old at this time. He did not have the foggiest idea that of all the apostles he would rise above them because the apostles that walked with Jesus for three and a half years had not understood the fullness of the gospel. They refuse to take the gospel to the Gentiles. They still believed that the Gentiles were inferior and did not have a soul. Only Jews were men, everyone else were beasts. On that day in Damascus something happened that forever would change the church. We need more Saul's today to be saved. Today we are moving rapidly toward the rise of the anti-Christ. We cannot understand how fast we're moving towards the end times. There will be vast changes. Value systems will change. Most of the believers in Christ will take the mark. Most of the pastors today will dance around the golden calf. God is speaking to us and to other groups around the country and world. He is calling out men and women, saying, "Will you stand in the gap?"
I watched one of the most horrible things on television this morning. It was on a Christian network. I saw a man who I had written about in, "The Dove". He had been running a Christian prostitution ring in his church. He was telling people not to be afraid if you become rich. He then enticed them to become rich. As he was speaking I thought about Ezekiel where God said, "I will leave them at the charge of the house. They will bear their shame." I thought about how far Christianity has gone down in the United States. It is hard to estimate how far we've gone when a man of this stature is allowed on a Christian network and he rolls in money. The response from the people was to say, "Isn't this wonderful? We are going to get rich." They may get rich for a season but not the riches of God.
Some of you may not like what I'm saying but like John the Baptist and Jesus, someone has to speak out.
Turn to Acts, chapter 9 verse 15. "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and Kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake."
I believe that what the Holy Spirit is doing in these last days is to call us to an understanding that there is going to be suffering. There is suffering coming. As the world and church comes into more prosperity there will be a greater false anointing. There will be a tremendous pressure upon those people who will try to maintain the basic principle of the gospel. There will be pressure. There will be a lot of suffering. More then we can imagine at this time. Paul accepted his calling.
How did Paul become an apostle? Apostle means missionary. After his conversion to Christ he spent three years in seclusion. It was first in the desert and then in Damascus, and then to Tarsus for about 10 years.
Something that we need to understand is that at this time in history Paul thought of himself as just another preacher or teacher. He thought that he would do a little work. This is also our problem. You may look at where you are today instead of looking at what God is going to do with you tomorrow and thereafter. God has great plans for us. We're moving step by step into his plan. We need to be faithful so that God can move us. There are people here today who could be flaming world evangelists, missionaries, healing evangelists, Bible teachers that would bring people back to Christ. We do not know who is here today. We know this that we love the Lord. We love His word and we want to serve Him. The job you have today may not be what you are going to do for the rest of your life. God has a higher calling for every man, woman and child in the kingdom of God.
Turn to Galatians, chapter 1 verse 15. "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me."
What did God do with Paul? He had to prepare him. He sent Paul back to his hometown. Paul was a tent-maker. He probably worked making tents and preaching the gospel during his 10 year stay. During those 10 years he was known as the tent-maker, not the apostle. As a tent-maker he would preach the gospel, pray for the sick, love the Lord Jesus Christ, but he was known as the tent-maker Paul. Not the apostle Paul. Ten years is a long time. Ten years in God's kingdom is like ten seconds. During these years of loneliness is when God molded Paul for the suffering. God made him strong. He showed him what he needed to do and He planted him on the Rock, Jesus Christ. Most of us do not like to do our homework. Most of us say, "God, I am saved, baptized in Holy Ghost, on fire. Let me go out and preach the gospel." With that type of attitude more damage can be done then most people would believe. We need to do our homework. Homework is usually not fun. How does God handle this? He will park you and you have no choice as to where He will park you. He may not like it. He wants you to do your homework, get into the word, study and become mature. We think we do have time to this but you'll not go anywhere unless you abide in what God wants done. God will move you when it is time to move on. If you move in the flesh you'll be wounded, guaranteed.
Turn to Acts, chapter 13 verse 1. [This is about 14 or 15 years after Paul's conversion. He had now become a Bible teacher.] "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [How do we minister to the Lord? Do you realize that most of us do not have time to minister to the Lord? We are too busy. Ministering to the Lord means, that you shut yourself in with Him and you raise your hands in praise and worship to Him. You bless Him. You take time to tell Him that you love Him as you fast. We do not know how many times they fasted. Saul was extremely happy praising God, worshiping Him and fasting. He was not doing this to acquire worldly things; he was doing this because he loved the Lord. When was the last time you fasted for no other reason than you wanted to just get closer to God? When was the last time you got by yourself with the Bible and worshiped the Lord, reading the word and praying? Most of us have not done this for years because we have not made time. What are we doing? We are busy working on this airport that we are going to leave someday. Yes, we have to take care of our daily life but if we want to go someplace in His kingdom we have to take time for God. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." [This is when you will hear the Holy Spirit. You usually do not hear the Holy Spirit when you are busy. You hear the Holy Spirit when you are still and talking to God.]
The time frame here is between 45 and 50 AD. That is about the closest we can pinpoint the time. Saul's name has been changed now to Paul. He is on a ship, excited. He is on his way to do mission work. What was Paul's calling? Paul's calling was that of an apostle and to write most of the New Testament outside of the gospel. He is the one that shifted the church so that it would present the gospel to all the people no matter what race, or creed. He established that all are the same. He didn't know this. He was simply going to go out and preach the word. You do not know where you're going to end up before you are going to die. You have no idea what God has earmarked for you. Paul was still a tent-maker, now he was being moved into his calling.
How would you have liked a call from someone and they told you that you were going to be the head Bishop of the earth. Your response probably would be, "how much does it pay? What kind of authority will I have?" The response may be that you would receive this amount and your authority would be this and that. When God calls, He does not start you at the top. He starts you at the bottom. One thing that God knows is that our head will swell with pride. God has to keep us humble.
Turn to Acts, chapter 13 verse 4. "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. 6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: [Barjesus, means son of Joshua or the son of Jesus.] 7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, [Paul is on his first missionary trip and meets this wizard who is trying to hinder the gospel from being preached. Paul decided he was going to use some Holy Ghost power.] 10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? [Think about what is being said here. He could have been sued. This person was with the counsel of the chief of that island. If Paul had not had supernatural power he could have been sued because the magician would have said, "He just slandered me. I'm going to see you in court." Paul had something to back him up. He had the Holy Ghost.] 11 "And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."
You and I have power. We do not have power to hurt people. But if anyone hinders the gospel we do have the right and the power to pray that God will remove them, incapacitate them, move them out of the way so that the gospel can be preached. We do not hear Paul apologize for what he did. He did not apologize. He took authority and the gospel was preached. Where do you think his boldness came from? It came because he had spent time with Jesus. He had spent time with Him alone in prayer and fasting. He knew that he could trust Jesus. Some of us are asking for healing. We say, "Oh, God please heal me of this and that." Your healing may not come immediately. The reason for this is that we do not have the faith because we cannot trust God. We do not spend enough time with Him. How much do you trust a stranger? We only trust someone that we know. We need to get to know Jesus Christ.
Paul and Barnabas now traveled to the southern Coast of Turkey.
Turn to Acts, chapter 13 verse 13. "Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem." [In this verse it tells us of fallout. John decided not to stay with them any longer. This will cause a conflict later on.] 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. 16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. 23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: 24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. 26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30 But God raised him from the dead: 31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. 32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. 38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. 42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."
[Immediately we see here there is a conflict. Satan will not tolerate the gospel to be preached. Satan will not tolerate for you to be set free from drugs and alcohol. Satan will not tolerate that you'll prosper in the kingdom of God. He does not want any us to have progress. The moment that we preach the gospel and something is happening there is persecution. It may come from your family and people that you love the most. People that you think would support you, turn on you. They want to destroy you and silence you. This is how the devil has worked for over 2000 years. Jesus said, "I came not to send peace but to set the sword." In every family there is conflict because the moment that someone is saved the rest of the people become very angry. When you are filled with Holy Ghost there is more conflict. When you begin to receive revelation there is more conflict. The closer you walk with Jesus the fewer friends you'll have. The ones you will have will be real friends. Because they will be the ones that love the Lord. These are real friends. Paul ran into trouble immediately.] 6 "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost."
Turn to Acts 14 verse 1. "And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, 6 They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about:"
Paul, from this moment on never escaped persecution. How many times have you seen President Clinton and his wife emerging from a church in Washington D.C.? He's clutching a Bible as he leaves a church from a Sunday morning service. The pastor greets them in his glorious robe as they pass by. Was there a change in Clinton's heart? If there was we have not seen it. Has there been any repentance? We have not seen it yet. What is being preached in a church like this? Probably they do not preach on sin or the commandments. You shall not comment adultery. That scripture is probably not read. He is probably preaching that God loves you. God is one big love bear and there is no condemnation for those in Christ. God wants to prosper you. He wants you to be rich and have a good time. Jesus loves you. This type of sermon attracts people but it will not change a heart.
Turn to Exodus, chapter 16 verse 1. "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, and which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:"
[These people lived in Egypt. They were probably a little bit on the fat side. They ate very well. They were not used to long walks or the desert.] and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
What would you have done if you had seen God move in Egypt with the 10 plagues and all the miracles including the parting of the Red Sea? If you also witnessed the pillar of cloud. You saw the Red Sea engulf all the Egyptians. In your safety you had a praise meeting thanking God for a day or so. As you are marching into the wilderness you sacrificed your cows, sheep, oxen and donkeys because there was not enough feed and water for them. They came out of Egypt with a lot of cattle but as they moved further into the desert the cattle were eaten or died. They realized all their blessings were gone. They said, "Moses, Aaron we want to go back to the flesh pots in Egypt. When we were there we had plenty of meat to eat and all the things that went with it. We had a good time there. We're not having a good time here in this desert. Why are we here in this desert?
Have you ever thought about this? How do you think God felt? Israel that came out of Egypt, few of them loved God. They loved God's attributes.
You have been saved, washed in the blood and you have wandered into the wilderness. You look back and say, "Before I got into this narrow walk I sat at the flesh pots and I had grease running all over my mouth. I had all that I wanted. Look what I have now, hard times. I do not know if I want to continue. How many people that you know do you think will take the mark of the beast when it is introduced? There will be advertisements on television and in newspapers saying, "That from this time on, you'll not be able to purchase food, gasoline, hospitalization, prescriptions, drive your car, own your home or anything in commerce unless you have the mark of the beast. I believe it will be a computer chip. How many believers in all the Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Evangelical Free Church do you think will say, "Let's walk out into the desert?" I predict that most of them will say, "Forget it. We have to live. We are going to make an appointment today to go down and get the mark." I predict that the majority of the believers at that time will take the mark, because they will cling to the fleshpots. What a tragedy!
Turn to Exodus, chapter 16 verse 4. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out to gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no."
If you read the rest of the chapter you'll find that this is the first time that God manufactured cereal. He let it rain from heaven on the ground. It was called manna.
Turn to Acts 14 verse 7. "And there they preached the gospel. 8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: 9 The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, 10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. 11 And 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. 12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: 16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 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. 18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them."
The gospel was preached with signs that followed. I want to challenge you and myself today. Why do we follow Jesus? Do we follow Him because we love Him? Do we follow Him because we do not want to go to Hell? Do we follow him because we know that He is King of kings and Lord of lord? Do we fear Him? Or do we follow Him because we love Him? Jesus said, "If you love Me you will keep My commandments." As you look upon other people would you like them to say that they love you because you give them money, you feed them and you do all kinds of different things for them or would you like them to say that they love you because of whom you are. I see Jesus in you. I love you because you are you. Does that not make you feel warm inside? Doesn't that make you want to respond to that person? That is how God wants you and I to treat Him. He is our Father. He is our daddy. He wants us to love Him. Not because He is rich but because He is our daddy. He will never leave us or forsake us. This is that kind of love the Paul had. Nothing could persuade Paul.
Despite the healing of the impotent man, the persecuting Jews were able to change the mood of the people into hate for Paul, and he was stoned.
Turn to Acts 14 verse 19. "And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew [him] out of the city, supposing he had been dead. 20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe."
In those days when people were stoned the rocks they used were about 15 pounds. They would have dug a pit and put the person in the pit then they would throw these heavy stones upon them. Usually what happened when you were stoned every bone was broken in your body. They took Paul's body out of that pit and dragged him like a dog to the edge of the road. Can you imagine Paul lying there in the dust? The sun was shining down on him with people standing around not knowing what to do. We do not know if they were praying. He had no one to comfort him. We do know from Second Corinthians that Jesus was there. I believe that Jesus personally touched him and healed him. He may have said, "Paul, you are not finished." He was healed instantly. Paul describes what it was like when he was dead. He was caught up into the third heaven. He saw things that he was not allowed to speak.
Turn to Second Corinthians, chapter 12 versus 1. "It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory; yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities." This is when Paul forever changed. He was stoned. He felt the pain when his bones were crushed. He left his body and was taken to the third heaven, which is the throne room of God. He walked in and saw God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He realized eternally the glory and divinity that cannot be described on this earth. When he came back he stood up and said let's keep going. We have a job to do. Brothers and sisters in Christ we have a job to do. There is a glory out there for us. Jesus is calling us. This does not mean that we have to be stoned but we can walk as we are today.
It was now that Paul and Barnabas began organizing local churches, ordaining elders from the people. Paul went home and set up local churches. They did not have buildings; they met in homes or wherever they could. They began the work of God. The church was being born. Then he returned to Antioch his home church.
At his return to Antioch Paul, would be close to fifty years old. At this point he would not have known God's full plan for his life. He would not only lay the foundation of Christianity into Europe, but he also was going to be used to write a portion of the New Testament. This would be used to lead the church of Christ, for centuries to come, including spawning the Reformation by Martin Luther, into 16th century.
Know this today that you and I owe our salvation to Christ and Christ uses people. We owe our life to Paul. He was fifty years old when he came back to Antioch, excited. Do you understand that without Paul there would not have been a church in Europe? Without the church in Europe there would not have been an England. Without England there would have been no America. The whole civilization for the past nineteen hundred years was laid out on the road to Damascus. God took one man and used him to spread the gospel to the rest of the world.
God has a plan for your life. He goes beyond what we eat or drink. Look up and say, "Jesus, I want to spend time with you. I'm not going to look for comfort. Jesus, I want to know you. Can you hear what the Spirit is saying today? The first thing that God wants for you and I, is for us to know Him, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Emanuel the suffering Messiah. When you know Him and fellowship with Him, then He can take your hand and say, " Let us walk together and do some work in My kingdom. He is not interested in the actual work but He wants us to have a relationship with Him.
How many husbands have heard this from their wife when there has been an argument? You give a list of all the things that you do for her and you say, "What more do you want?" She says, "I want you." You say, "What do you mean, me? I work hard for all these things." She says, "No, I love you and I want time with you." That frustrates husbands. The reason being we never saw our fathers do that. Most of us do not know how to be husbands. Children do not necessarily want more money. They want Mom and dad to spend some time with them. Children that are happy usually have parents that spend time with them. Unhappy children do not have parents that spend time with them. God wants us to spend time with Him.
I want to challenge you today to recall how much time you have spent with Jesus this week. Was it five minutes, two minutes or was it zero. You know what it was in your heart. How many of you got alone with your heavenly Father this week? Are you willing today to say, "Father, I want to step up higher. I want to take a step closer to you today. I'm going to make a decision today. In the name of Jesus I am going to begin to spend more time with you. Lord I'm going to give you 15 solid minutes of worship and praise and reading the word. I will do this before I start my day." If you can do this every morning your business will explode. Your personal life will explode. Everything will fall into place, as God wants it to. If we say we don't have the time or dont make the time you will run a long time and come home with an empty basket. Take time with Jesus first and everything else will be added.
My heavenly Father we thank you today as we have reflected on Paul. Today we talked about relationships. Our relationship with you Lord. I pray for everyone that reads this that they will ask themselves if they have spent time with Jesus? Do I have a personal relationship with Him or is He just my ATM machine when I need something? Father, God, help me to make a decision today to come closer to you. In Jesus name, and Amen.
May God richly bless you is my prayer.