Use the Force-- Acts 14

Acts: God's story continued...  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”
Thank you for calling us into this life in Christ. A life redeemed by his death. A life undeserved, forgiven all because of your condemnation. But also a life, that isn’t just saved for eternity but a new life to be lived here and now. And you have given us all thing that pertain to that life and a life of godliness.


2020 was kind of a wild year. The world came to a screeching halt, and in a lot of ways it provided some time for things that I have neglected over the years.
I hope that what I’m about to confess doesn’t alter your opinion of me negatively. But Annie and I utilized Covid to finally watch all the StarWars.
I have never seen them, and I have to admit… don’t really care to see them again. Just me.
But by far my favorite scene of the entire Series comes in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Luke Skywalker has already solidified himself as part of the Rebel Alliance, attempting to resist and push back the Evil Empire. But they are just getting trounced. And it becomes apparent that the Rebellion needs something more...
Something more powerful. Something that can actually stand against the power of the darkside. At that moment, Luke sees a vision of his mentor encouraging him to go to the planet of Dagobah to be trained by Master Yoda.
Yoda is a master in the Force, which is the only weapon that can counter the power of the DarkSide. So he sets off to train him.
He jumps on his back, and Luke is running through the Jungle while Yoda is whipsering training secrets into his ear.
He says, “Run, Yes a Jedi’s Strength flows from the Force. But beware of the darkside. Anger, fear, agression, the dark side they are. Easily they flow!
Luke then questions, “Is the dark side stronger?”
Y: No! Easier, Quicker, more seductive, but not stronger.”
Luke says, “How will I know the good from the bad!?
Yoda says, “You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense.”
What Yoda teaches young Luke Skywalker, is how to be in touch with and harness the power of the Force, and once he does the entire battle begins to tilt in favor of the LIGHT not the Dark.
Many of us today are in the same position as Young Luke Skywalker.
You’ve joined the proverbial Rebel Alliance.
You’ve put your faith in the Good News of Jesus that we looked at last week. You are in the Light. Attempting to resist the ever creeping crawl of the darkside.
But if you were honest… you just feel powerless. Like you’re trying to fight. Trying to lives this life in Christ, but just getting trounced. You know you’re fighting on the right side, but defeats just keep piling up.
You’ve trusted in Christ, but feel like the temptation to sin, the mistreatement of the world, and the trials of life are just conquering you over and over and over again.
So… you’re beginning to wonder… Is the darkside stronger?
If that’s you this morning, I’ve got some really good news for you. Because the disciples and churches that Paul and Barnabas have planted in their first missionary journey are in the same exact spot.
They had joined the Rebel Alliance, but needed some training.
So in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas serve as their Master Yoda’s. They jump on their backs and say, “A disciple’s strength flows from the force. A disciple knows how to use the force for defense.”
So before I define what the biblical equivalent of the Force is and how we can harness it, let’s read our text for today.
Read Acts 14
Acts 14 ESV
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. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 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. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel. Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 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!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 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. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “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. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 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.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. 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. 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. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 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. 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. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.


Missionary Journey Tracing
This is mostly Part 2 of where we started last week.
Let’s trace where Barnabas and Paul have been on their 1st Missionary Journey.
Comissioned in Antioch and sail from Selecuia to Salamis in Cyprus.
Traverse on Foot from Salamis to Paphos (Governor and Bar-Jesus)
Sail from Paphos to Perga (John Mark is out)
Perga on foot over Taurus MNTS to Antioch in Pisida
Where Paul delivers the Gospel.
Christ’s Condemnation and Your Justification!
Now many rejected, but many believed
Acts 13:52 “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Now Acts 14 opens with them walking from Antioch of Pisidia to Iconium.
Acts 14:1 “and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.”
Learning of the plot against them they...
Iconium to Lystra and Derbe (14:6)— where they continued to preach the gospel.
Here a healing happens. Paul could see the work of Grace in this man’s eyes.
I can too… now you guys don’t want to look at me.
But these villagers (didn’t speak Greek vs. 11) began worshiping them and sacrificing to them. Flood them with the Praise of Man!
But Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and had him STONED! (vs. 19)
Paul pops up and went to Derbe.
Now look with me at Acts 14:21-23
Acts 14:21–23 ESV
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 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. 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.
Vs. 21 & 24— they began retracing their steps all the way back to Antioch in Pisidia to Pamphylia, to Perga, then sailed to home base (Antioch in Syria)
Which was, Acts 14:26 “where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.”
So their first missionary journey is fulfilled. All the work.. the Work of the Grace of God is fulfilled. So what was that work?
It’s 2 Parts:
And last week we saw, the Gospel of Grace that Saves Sinners.
The Gospel that teaches Christ, though guiltless, was condemned on your behalf. So that you, though guilty, are forgiven on his behalf!
And as Romans 3:23 says, “this is by GRACE.”
Acts 13.
But it was also the work of Grace that Strengthens Saints.
It does both.
They travel through the areas and preach the Grace that Saves Sinners.
They travel back through those areas and preach Grace that Strengthens Saints.
Both of these aims is the Full Work to which they were Commissioned.
For Paul and Barnabas, and all of us are commissioned to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. But not simply to make converts, what did Jesus say in Matthew… Go and make disciples.
Disciples are followers of Jesus. Not accepters only.
Disciples don’t just accept the Grace that Saves, but they grow in the Grace that Strengthens.
As a Jedi’s strength comes from the force, what I want us to see this morning is that a Disciples Strength comes from Grace.

The Force

Grace is the Force! As Yoda would tell you, A Disciple uses Grace for knowledge and defense!”
And church it is so needed! The churches here in our text needed strengthening,
Because, it is through many tribulations that you will eventually enter into the Kingdom of God.
You need strength, because this journey of following Christ is rife with difficulties. Paul knows! Just look at some of the difficulties in their first missionary journey
Withstood by Bar-Jesus
Abandoned by John Mark
Persecution in Antioch and drove them out of the distric.
Vs. 2— Poisoning of Minds
Vs. 5— Mistreated
Vs. 19— Stoned and left for dead.
But there is one more that is much more subtle, but equally dangerous!
Vs. 18— the Praise of Man.
Oh how the praise of man is seductive. One minute the crowds are laying out palm branches shouting “Hosanna in the highest!” And literally a few days later they are screaming, “CRUCIFY HIM!”
One moment they are offering sacrifices of praise and worship to you, and the next they’ve been persuaded to STONE YOU AND DRAG YOU OUT OF THE CITY.
the praise of man is part of the darkside! An attempt to uproot you, sway you. Weaken you.
Paul and Barnabas knew from experience, this journey is tough.
You need the Force, You Need Grace, because through many tribulations will we come into the Kingdom of God, forever conquering the Evil Empire!
Church in Galatia
But let’s take a quick, but deeper look into why it is so essentail that Grace strengthens and encourages our continuation in the faith.
These churches (vs 23) that had been established due to the Work of Grace were all in the Province of Galatia.
Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe
And this missionary journey occurred in 48A.D… so the churches here are established in 48 A.D.
Now although contested, many believe that Paul’s letter “Galatians” is his first epistle ever written. Maybe written as early as 49A.D.
His work of strengthening and encouraging didn’t end when he left… he continued in it a year later, writing the letter “Galatians” because they needed it!
They were under great tribulation. The Jews who had recently stoned Paul, had followed his footsteps and were seeking to dismantle the churches that Paul had established.
They came to the Christians telling them to forget Paul, and if they really wanted to be the people of God they needed to be judaized, or circumcised.
So Paul writes to them, Galatians 1:6-7 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
It was GRACE that got you SAVED, so don’t turn from it. STAND in that GRACE because it’s GRACE that Makes ou STRONG
He exhorts them, Galatians 2:18 that since you have been justified by grace (the gospel of grace that saves sinners) “For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”
Don’t try and rebuild the gospel of works. The Gospel of Grace Saves, but they needed to be exhorted with the Grace that Strengthens.
Paul was deeply troubled and concerned about the faith of these churches. To the point where he says, Galatians 4:11 “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”
And concludes his letter by sternly exhorting them, Galatians 6:18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
So do you see the tribulations that the churches are facing?
False Teaching, Societal Pressure, erosion of the Gospel of Grace!
So what does Paul do in his letter? Just exactly what he did in person…
Acts 14:22 “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.”
And he did this by reminding them of Grace. May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit!
The Galtians’s needed Strengthening, and the Church’s strength flows from the force, and that force is GRACE!


What is Grace?
Unfortunately, I think this aspect of GRACE is rarely understood by the Saved.
The most common definition is unmerited or undeserved favor.
We apply this definition primarily to the salvation of sinners as we saw last week. That the condemnation of Christ, and subsequently the justification of self is a work of His grace!
Romans 3:24 “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”
I love this definition. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and your eternity depends on it. None of us would be saved if grace were not undeserved favor.
So the Churches have been established here in Galatia due to faith in Grace.
Yet, if you busted out a concordance what you’d find is that there are
131 uses of grace in the ESV bible
124 in the NT (86 from the Apostle Paul), which is why he’s called the Apostle of Grace.
But of those 124 usages, many don’t reference salvation at all.
2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:1 “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,”
Romans 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel (of Grace) and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Did you hear all that?
Grace abounding so that having all sufficiency in all things.
Be strengthed by grace.
Grow in grace.
Grace in which we stand.
find grace to help in time of need.
So taking these references and many many more we have to expand our definition of grae, outside the confines of purely salvation.
So… Grace is not only the inclination of the character of God (His Throne is Grace), but it is also A FORCE that works in us to change our capacities for work, suffering, obedience, and simply put to FOLLOW JESUS.
Grace is THE FORCE, and a disciples strength comes from GRACE. The GRACE that saves sinners yes, but also the grace that strengthens saints.
Church’s Need Both
Churches need planting yes… that is salvation by grace.
Churches need watering and rootedness… that is strengthening by grace.
Followers of Jesus need converting… that is salvation by grace.
Followers also need confirming… that is strengthing by grace.
Paul’s calling was to awaken sinners… that is salvation by grace.
But as he retraces his steps he also has to establish saints… that is strengthing by grace.
Grace is the FORCE, used for knowledge and defense, or in the words of Acts 14… used for strengthening and encouraging of disciples.
Ok, so you’re in.
You’ve put faith in the Gospel of Grace for salvation, proverbially joining the Rebel Alliance, and you’re aware that you need practical help to be strengthened and established in your faith....
So now we turn to HOW? How do I harness the power of the force of grace to grow?
Do I have to do handstands and lift objecs with my mind? Is that my training?
Unfortunately no… because that would be cool.
But How? How do I harness the Force of Grace?

Harnessing the Force

Require Effort
The first thing I need to say is that Harnessing the Force of grace will take effort.
Hearing that should create a little bit of a resistant reaction right?
I mean, I thought grace was unearned favor… that it is by definition a gift. That I can’t earn it.
That’s true! It is unearned!
But listen to Dallas Williard on the subject,
“The path to spiritual grwoth in the grace of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the Grace of God! Paul writes, “His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God within me (1 Cor 15:10)!”
Growing in Grace requires effort church, and as Williard concludes, “It is well-directed, sustained effort that is the key to the keys of the kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry and life!”
It is this lack of effort that often leads to the weakness we feel in the life of faith.
We place faith in the grace of salvation, and then consume some christian servicecs and think that is all there is to christian faith. We become passive.
But Harnessing the Force, requires training young Luke.
But Growing in Grace that Strengthens requires effort
But Effort that is well-directed.
We have to actively direct our effort toward the right MEANS of GRACE
Means of Grace
God is not playing Hide and Seek with you. He wants us to be sure and draw near with confidence to his throne of grace, to actually receive practical, tangible grace in times of needs.
But… He does not give His grace in means that we devise in our own wills and desires.
He has made Himself Knowable and Accessible in means of His Own Wise Choosing.
He has appointed specific means of grace for us.
Now God, is not limited to these time tested- Means of Grace, but he has established those that I’m about to share, and if we put well-directed effort toward them you will grow strong in grace and continue in the faith, regardless of tribulations
So what are these means of Grace? Simply put they are the spiritual disciplines of the Christian Faith.
There are several personal disciplines that we’d be wise to aim our effort at:
Silence and Solitude.
Study, meditation, prayer, fasting.
Giving, journaling, confession, and others.
But for our sake today, I want to list 4 Corporate Means of Grace that have been established in the Church since the Book of Acts.
the reason I’m honing in on Corporate Means is becasue that is what Paul did in our text here. He focused his strengthening and ecouragement to the corporate churches in Galatia, and I want to do the same for us here in Richmond Hill.
Like the church’s in Galatia, we are a newly established church plant, and instead of assuming that we can devise our own means of grace, I want us to direct our corporate effort toward His Means, not our own.
So let me give you 3.
The Word
One of the Primary Ways that the Souls of the saints are strengthed in Grace is through the reading and preaching of the Word of God.
The early church regularly devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching. or the Preaching of God’s Word.
The foolishness of preaching is an ordained Means of Grace referred to as the power of God in 1 Cor 1.
So we preach the Bible, not opinons or some new, flashy way of communication… why?
Because we don’t want eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of his power.
Faith, and growth in faith, comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God.
So every time we gather we:
Read the Bible. Pray the Bible. Preach the Bible. Sing the Bible.
Because the Word of God is a means of grace, that if we direct effort toward it we will harness the Force and be strengthed in faith.
So, church you need to attend. To Be here. Every Sunday.
To Bring your Bible. Follow along. Take notes. Pay attention to the lyrics sung. Meditate on them. And harness the Force.
A disciples strength flows from grace, and Grace flows from the Word of God.
Secondly, there is Prayer
The Early church also devoted themselves to the prayers.
Corporate Prayer, or Prayer that Coleman prays after announcement, or Prayer I pray before or after sermon aren’t mere transitions for production purposes.
When we pray corporately, I am speaking on behalf of our church as an ambassador of Christ.
And you, listening, are in agreement and by His Grace we are unified together and come together boldly into the throne room of grace, asking for grace.
But it isn’t just our formal times of prayer. Prayer as a means of grace, includes our worship as well.
Worship- Worship is a form of prayer, prayer as praise
Let’s take our second song today as an example: Lord I need You
The Lyrics state:
Lord I need you, Every hour I need you, My one Defense, My Righteousness, Oh God how I need you.
We sing that with directed effort, collectively and it is just breathing out corporate prayer to music.
So… Every Sunday
Agree in Prayer. Pay attention to the lyrics sung, and pray them through praise. And by so doing you’ll harness the Force.
A disciples strength flows from Grace, and grace flows from Prayer.
Finally, the Sacraments
The Church holds two Christ ordained Sacraments: Baptism and Communion.
Sacraments are holy signs and seals of grace, instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits.
The language of signs and seals comes from Romans 4:11 when circumcision was a sign in the OT. A visible marker pointing to the power of God and His redemption of His people.
Sacraments are signs that serve as visible reminders of God’s provision of Grace to His People.
The first is Baptism
Baptism is rich in symbolism. A sign of washing or purifying. A symbol of sins being rinsed off of you.
In going under the water— Identifying yourself in Jesus’ death by symbollically dying to your old way of life.
In coming up from the water— Identifying yourself in Jesus’ Resurrection by symbollically being raised to a new life in Christ.
When we have Baptism here at CBC, it is a visible means of grace for the entire church.
Witnessing it, and partaking in it directs are attention to the grace of God and His power to make what was dead, alive. What was old, new.
So… be baptized if you haven’t.
And when we have our next Baptism Service which is May 14th, direct your effort to the grace of God.
The second is Communion, or the Lord’s Supper
Jesus himself insituted the Lord’s Supper at a Passover meal with his disciples.
Passover was an Old Covenant sign to remember God’s Great Grace in bringing them out of slavery to Egypt.
The meal included a lamb because it was the blood of a lamb on their doorposts that allowed death to passover them.
Likewise, the Lord’s Supper celebrates God’s Great Grace in bringing you and I out of slavery to sin.
It is a meal that includes BREAD— which symbolizes the Body of Christ which was condemened for you.
And WINE- which symbolizes the blood of Christ which was shed for you.
Partaking, regularly in the Lord’s Supper makes GRACE visible.
A disciple’s strength flows from grace, and grace flows from the Sacraments.


None of this is earthshattering or new and novel… simply an encouragement to be strengthed, to continue in the faith. But to do so you need Grace.
Joining the Rebellion isn’t enough. You need the Force of Grace, to overcome the darkside.
And God in His Grace, because He sits on a Throne of Grace has actually provided means of HIs grace that will help in times of need.
Corporately I’ve discussed 3… The Word, Prayer, and The Sacraments.
So, to conclude our time together this morning we are actually going to take the opportunity to direct our efforts to the visible grace of God and be strengthed.
We are going to partake in the Lord’s Supper.
If you’re serving, go ahead and make your way.
So here’s how I want you to direct your efforts:
Our Team is going to play in the background.
And I want you to direct your efforts Vertically.
Examine your relationship with God. Are you in communion with Him or is their separation due to sin? What are those sins? Confess them. Are you in communion with HIm, or does he seem really distant right now? Talk with Him.
Direct your Efforts horizontally
Examine your relationship with others. Is their any tension, disunity, or division between you and other brothers and sisters in Christ?
Are there any offenses that need to be forgiven?
Are there any offenses that need to be confessed?
Would you do that now? Direct your effort.
Paul says, “Let a person examine himself then, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
After you’ve examined, we will direct our efforts together in the partaking of the meal. .
1 Corinthians 11:23–24 ESV
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:25–26 ESV
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Let’s stand together and let me Pray
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