People of Lystra, “Why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order 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.” (Acts 14:15)
Paul and Barnabus were responding to a Lystran crowd that was about to sacrifice oxen to them and decorate them with garlands as gods. It was all because Paul had spotted a faith-filled lame man and called him out for healing. The crowd had concluded that Barnabus and Paul must be Zeus and his son Hermes respectively. The people were mistaken. As soon as a translator explained, Paul was quick to correct their conclusion. But before he could express himself fully, and share about Jesus, a religious lynch mob caught up with him and knocked him unconscious. However, his recorded response suggests how he might have continued and begs the question: do we draw wrong conclusions about God’s interactions with us?
“People of Lystra, you are mistaken. The miracle that you saw is certainly out of this world, but it’s not from the gods you worship. And it comes for a different purpose than you suppose. You see, we did not heal the man. We are not gods; we are not even outstanding people. But God uses us to show His compassion to the needy and to glorify His name. Miracles don’t shine a spotlight on the person who does them; they highlight God.
People of Lystra, look how powerful our God is. But notice how He cares for individuals. Don’t think that He is aloof and angry. He is not grumpy and grumbling in a distant heaven. He does not need appeasing with special rituals. Don’t cower from him in anxiety or shame. Go closer. Get to know Him.
People of Lystra, don’t misread manifestations of God. His signs don’t mean that your imagined gods are real. They are not signs that your gods have come down to license your lusts and indulgences. Miracles are not the endorsement of your philosophies or the activation of your dreams. They are not a pat on your back to send you skipping on your own chosen way. No; the signs point to a new way.
People of Lystra, miracles are like the first fruit on a tree. They give a taste of the way of Jesus, the true man-God. They show it leads somewhere sweet. Your way is pointless, fruitless (“vain” is the word I used before). Did you ever truly benefit from worshiping your gods? Turn from your aimless ways. Ditch your gods. Turn to the new way.”
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