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Spread the Word Bishop Timothy R.

Carter 4-20-08 AM (NKJV) Locate with me two passages of Scripter Ephesians 6, and Acts 13

'We are called to share the Good News, both in the pulpit and in our daily lives .' Acts 13:4-12 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from th ere they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistan t. 6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain s orcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the pro consul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Sau l and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the fait h. 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked int ently at him 10 and said, O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devi l, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight wa ys of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you sh all be blind, not seeing the sun for a time. And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the pro consul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teachin g of the Lord. There are two distinct aspects to this story which I would like us to look at to day, both of which are concerned with people. The first involves Paul and Barna bas, and the second a man called Sergius Paulus who, we are told was the governo r or proconsul of Cyprus at the time that Paul and Barnabas were visiting Cyprus . The background to this episode in the expansion of the early Christian church is the setting apart of Barnabas and Paul, commissioned we are told by the Holy Sp irit, to embark on what has subsequently become known as Pauls first missionary j ourney, which took him not only to Cyprus but onward to Turkey. This was the st art of a remarkable travelling ministry. On his second journey Paul took the go spel into Europe, about AD50. His third journey ended in arrest, but he finally reached Rome in AD62 and although a prisoner was still able to preach freely. Paul wasnt the only one engaged on this missionary activity. Many others were pr eaching the gospel and helping the newly formed churches. By AD64, only some th irty-odd years after the death of Jesus, there were churches established in all the main centers of the Roman empire, and from these the gospel was spreading to surrounding areas. I m reminded of the early pioneers of our denominations and just how far these e arly preachers traveled in their desire to spread the gospel, both on foot or on horseback, to the point where not only their health but their family life was p ut in jeopardy. These men and women were fired up with the conviction that they too were commiss ioned by God to do this work, and this was the source of their strength, enduran ce and enthusiasm for the task. As a result of their efforts we see the many Ch urches of God around the world, a hopefully lasting tribute to the effect that a handful of faithful men and women can have on a nation and on the world. When word got around that one of these preachers was visiting an area, people wo

uld gather from miles around to hear what they had to say. No doubt there was a n element of curiosity, a love of oratory and a sense that this was a big social event in some of the more remote parts of the countryside, but underneath it al l there must have also been a yearning to know something about just what made th ese Pentecostal preachers tick. The effect that Paul and Barnabas had on the people of their day must have been similar, with interest spreading far beyond the towns within which they decided to stay. While they were in Cyprus on that first monumental missionary journey, traveling the length and breadth of the island and preaching in the Jewish synag ogues, the proconsul Sergius Paulus heard about their activities - a sign perhap s of the success of their mission. He seems to have been man with his finger on the pulse of life on the island, as might be expected in the highly organized R oman empire, and in this case seems to have been intrigued to hear about the mes sage that Paul and Barnabas were preaching on his patch. We are told that he was an intelligent man. An odd comment to make maybe, but w e can infer perhaps that here was a thinking man, and an enquirer after the trut h. He was a man of prominence and position, presumably enjoying a very successf ul and prosperous lifestyle within the particular social and political world in which he lived and moved. In fact we can read between the lines of the story in Acts and go even further. Sergius Paulus was a man searching for something higher than the material satis faction of his current position in life. He was searching for spiritual underst anding in a world that had enough belief systems to satisfy everyone - ranging f rom the Jewish concept of God through to the Roman and Greek gods, family deitie s, and corruptions of all of them. But was Sergius Paulus any different to people we know around us, or those we re ad about in the newspapers. Film or pop stars, footballers, politicians, wealth y and successful people who to our eyes at least seem to have everything that an yone could ever want - big house, money in the bank, holidays wherever and whene ver they want in exotic places, influence and fame - and yet still seem to be se arching for that missing something, for a spiritual dimension to their lives. And where do they turn? To all manner of faiths and sects, to spiritual advisor s, tarot cards, psychics and horoscopes. But this is nothing new. If we go back to our reading what do we find - in the employment of Sergius Paulus is none other than Elymas, his spiritual advisor. As a Jew, Elymas would have been familiar with Old Testament scriptures, but fro m the little information we can gather later from the words of Paul, it would se em that he was twisting the words to his own ends. We can surmise that he was i n it for the money. Paul sees what Sergius Paulus was blind to. Acts 13:9-10 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intent ly at him 10 and said, O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? So what does this story tell us so far? Well, firstly it reminds us that all me n have a spiritual dimension to their nature. Theres more here than just flesh a nd blood, mind and intellect. I was told many years ago that theres a God shaped hole in each one of us, and many spend their lives trying to fill it with all m anner of strange objects of desire. But none will fit the hole completely, ther

es always a gap that yearns to be filled. This spiritual dimension to our person ality is what the bible calls the soul. Sergius Paulus had a position which fully occupied his mind and intellect, and s upplied his material needs. But that didnt stop him from seeking spiritual answe rs to the great issues of life. Secondly, because God made man a spiritual being, it means that he cant help but search for spiritual truth even if, like Sergius Paulus he looks in the wrong di rection. There are many thousands of people out there searching - and not findi ng something that is relevant to their needs. And yet how can that be, when we h old the only true answer to the questions they are asking. Where theres a spiritual vacuum in peoples lives, they will seek to fill it in wha tever way they can, and thats largely the explanation for the popularity of New A ge philosophy, eastern religions, the growing interest in astrology, crystals, s piritism, witchcraft, paganism and a hundred and one other isms spring up today. But back to our story and Sergius Paulus. This important official heard on the grapevine something about Paul and Barnabus that impressed him. By sending for the two Christian missionaries, the governor was indicating a genuine desire to seek truth; and the Bible is clear on this point. God always loves a true seeke r. Jeremiah 29:13 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. God always honors the man, woman or child who is seeking him, and thats why he ma de it possible for Sergius Paulus to hear the Good News through the preaching of Barnabus and Paul. Cant you see how much responsibility this places on us as believers. We cant rely on those who are genuinely seeking the truth plucking up the courage to enter t his building and ask, however much we would love to see them and welcome them. These people are more likely to come into contact with us in our neighborhood, o ur place of work or within the social activities in which we or our children are involved on a weekly basis. When that happens then the responsibility is ours, however uncomfortable we migh t feel about sharing our faith with someone else. Ff someone could explain to m e why it is so hard to find the words to share something so precious to us as ou r faith and our love of God, then Id be very grateful, because it should be the m ost natural thing in the world. I can only assume that its lack of practice. Je sus once said to the Pharisees that if his disciples stopped singing his praises , then even the stones would cry out. Luke 19:40 40 But He answered and said to them, I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out. He also said that he who seeks will find Matthew 7:8 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

So it was that simple was it? Sergius Paulus heard tell of the Good News being preached, called for Paul and Barnabas, they shared their message with him, he b elieved and everyone lived happily ever after! If only life were so simple. No sooner had the message been shared than Elymas the sorcerer saw his livelihood flash before his eyes. He did all he could to d issuade his master from changing allegiance and coming to faith in Christ. And isnt that just the way it happens? When were feeling close to God - perhaps even as we sit in our pew on a Sunday - along come those distracting thoughts, Did I turn the oven on? What is she wearing on her head? Wheres so-and-so? And befor e you know it, the feelings gone. So here was the clash of spiritual powers that the New Testament warns us about. In the one corner the power of Gods Holy Spirit working through Paul; in the ot her corner the powers of darkness working through Elymas. The trophy they were fighting for was the soul of Sergius Paulus. Elymas knew full well that if the governor was converted to faith in Jesus then it was all over for him, and the c ause he represented. It was of course a predictable result. Paul, in the power of the Holy Spirit de alt with Elymas very effectively. Acts 13:11-12 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, no t seeing the sun for a time. And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord. This spiritual warfare for the souls of men and women is going on all the time i n our world. Satan does not like to see men seeking after the truth, and will t ry any trickery or deceit to prevent them from hearing the Word and accepting th e salvation it offers. On the one hand God says I gave my son as a sacrifice for your sins and the sins of the world. Believe in me, accept the salvation that I offer and enter into m y kingdom. To counter this, Satan answers Dont believe all that nonsense about sin and salvation. Youre as good as the next man. Forget it, its not worth the effo rt. I can show you a much easier way And so the battle rages on. Sergius Paulus heard the Good News, saw what happened to Elymas and believed. H e saw and he heard. These two things must always go together. Proclamation of the truth and practice of the truth are the twin pillars of effective witness to God. If Paul and Barnabas had not been obedient to the call of the Holy Spirit to mak e that first missionary journey, and had not been prepared to put their faith to the test, then Sergius Paulus would not have heard the Good News and may well h ave stayed under the power of Elymas the sorcerer - in other words, the battle w ould have been lost. We are called to share the Good News, both in the pulpit and in our daily lives. If we arent prepared to accept our part in the Great Commission of Matthew 28 To go and make disciples of all nations then how are people going to hear. For if t hey dont hear it from us, then they will hear the twisted story from others like Elymas, and we shall have lost the battle even before the bell has gone for the first round....and the pews in our churches and chapels will get emptier and emp tier.

About the Author Bishop Carter is the fifth generation of holiness preachers. He answered the cal l to ministry at a young age and has been preaching in the pulpit now for more t han seventeen years. He has served in ministry in various positions ranging from volunteer church custodian, to Mentor, to Senior Pastor and now, together with his wife, he serves as a Ministry Consultant. They live in Norfolk, Nebraska whe re he serves as Senior Pastor at New Life Church of God. He has been called on t o provide consultation for various ministries: counseling, seminars, womens retre ats, evangelizing, pastoring, fundraising, non-church ministries, conference spe aker, ministry training and more. He also served as a Teachers Assistant to a Pro fessor at Lee University for five years. He is an Ordained Bishop with the Churc h of God, Licensed Level 4 Church Consultant and a Certified Community Service C haplain. He has been recognized by the Consulting Department of the Internationa l Evangelism and Home Missions of the Church of God as a Ministry Expert. Bishop C arter holds a Master of Divinity with a Counseling Concentration from the Church of God Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministry from Lee University. They provide specialized training for churches and their variou s ministries, and offer innovative programs that span the field of church health , leadership training and resources. They deal with such critical issues as past oral counseling, church consulting, staff assessments, ministry planning, philos ophy planning, organizational structuring, demographic analysis, and a rededicat ion to the spiritual disciplines. He is a leadership trainer and church health e xpert; he can help propel you to the top! You will be inspired and motivated by his ministry knowledge and commitment to the Great Commission. He is a conferenc e speaker and church trainer. In addition, he has done extensive research and tr aining in the areas of discipleship, church growth, and ministry development. He is the author of several books. These are available for purchase at many locati ons. See Solution Ministries web site: www.SolutionMinistries.org.