The Real Deal-sermon text version

super dadIt’s Father’s Day, which is another day that’s not on the church calendar but we’re wise to recognize it anyway. There’s something I’ve never quite understood.

In many churches, the pastors take the opportunity of Father’s Day to chew the dads out:

  • Be better dads!
  • Man up!
  • Take responsibility!
  • Be the spiritual head of your house!
  • Do this! Do that!

Of course, many dads aren’t even there to hear the pep talk from Hades because to them, Father’s Day means something else: the golf course, the fishing tackle, or sleeping in.

Unlike moms who are expert travel agents for “Kingdom of God Travel Agency” and can plan a guilt trip to church with precision and detail, many dads just really don’t like dealing with church a whole lot. A man named David Murrow, who I got to know a bit over the Internet and a few telephone conversations, lives in Alaska. He’s a man’s man and he wrote a book called “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” I love that book! In it, he says about those men who profess to be Christian,

Let me be blunt: today’s church has developed a culture that is driving men away. Almost every man in America has tried church but two-thirds find it unworthy of a couple of hours once a week. A wise Texan once told me, “Men don’t go to church ‘cuz they’ve been.”

He rejects a “chickified” church that women love and men hate.  What is the Church as Jesus meant it to be? Jesus was a carpenter, a stone mason. He worked with his hands. His disciples? They were fishermen for the most part. Murrow writes,

They were lions, not lambs—take-charge men who risked everything in service to God…they were true leaders, tough guys who were feared and respected by the community. All of these men had two things in common: they had an intense commitment to God and they weren’t what you’d call saintly.”

Fast-forward to just this past week when a friend of a friend of mine on the Internet posted a photo of a “Father’s Day card for Mom” among the Hallmark selections under the Mahogany brand. Along with the photo, she posted this comment (She’s a black woman, BTW):

This makes me really sad…

As if we need something else to emasculate the black man. Single mothers can be applauded without diminishing the role and importance of the father and men who act as fathers in our community. A woman can be strong and independent but she can never be or fill what was intended to be filled by a man.

I was raised by a single mother who never sought to be my father nor did she ever speak badly of him. Nor did she ever pretend like her magnificent and job well done as my provider could replace some of things that I did not receive from my dad.

A mother is a mother. A mother will never be a father.

The Real Deal is what this honest woman seeks and craves. In a world of phony baloney pretenders, she wants the real deal: a father who is a father.

The Real Deal. Hold that thought. make matters even worse, we live in a world where people will go out and worship just about anything: money, sex, race, the planet and all the things in it, or what I witnessed this past week with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I watched and enjoyed the games. Like everyone else in Chicago, I was a Hawks fan.  Better yet, the Tampa Bay Lightning put up a good fight. But in the end, the cheers for “Bring the Cup Home!” won out and the great big silver idol, the Stanley Cup, came to Chicago again. “It’s time to call this a dynasty!”…all the sportscasters were saying. Dynasty and a hockey team is their king.

Look at these photos in the paper. The Stanley Cup behind glass as people wait in line to take its photo. The whole team piled photographically into the top of the cup. A special 24 page section in the newspaper. Every store and then some has Blackhawks gear to hawk. The parade filling the streets with cheering fans in red and black! The Stanley Cup with more protection than the Pope had!

All I can say is be thankful it wasn’t the Cubs which has become synonymous with Completely Useless By September.   If the Cubs won something big, we’d be insufferable on a scale you don’t want to see.

So the whole Blackhawks team, holding the big silver cup above their heads and kissing it and parading it around, I couldn’t help but think theological thoughts. I can’t help it. It’s who I am.

I wonder if God wonders why people don’t treat Him that way
or recognize that He is THE capstone on THE REAL DYNASTY.
Jesus Christ is the Real Deal for all eternity.

Imagine if people spent a ton of money on tickets to go to the stadium to worship God. Or maybe because they couldn’t get in to see such a big event, they dressed up in their God-jerseys and went out to the bars to worship God on TV. They had God-parties at home where they tuned in—because no stadium could hold such a crowd of those who wanted the Real Deal—and they sat on their couches and were glued to the entire time of worship. Because it wasn’t just a game. It was real…and eternal! And God is the Real Deal…our real Father in heaven and definitely worthy of worship.

We’re in the Book of Acts in our series Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles and today we’re looking at the Real Deal as it is presented in Acts 14 and we’ll see 6 things about the Real Deal.

First, the real deal unites …and it divides. The Gospel cuts both ways!

Acts 14:1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.  4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. (italics mine)

The people of Iconium were divided along party lines. Rivalries are fierce and jealousies can consume us if we’re not careful. Paul and Barnabas were so effective at what they were doing that some people wanted them taken out.

golden stateKind of like what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not that you’d know it in Chicago that the Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors who are now parading around their little god of gold. In Chicago, the big silver cup is everywhere, enough that you’d have to dig deep in the sports section to hear that LeBron James, the king maker, the ring maker, said five words that encapsulated what happened to James and the Cavaliers: “We ran out of talent.” They were exposed by all the injuries—especially the notable take-down of Kevin Love—that they were not the real deal.

The real deal unites …and it divides. So it did with Paul and Barnabas whose dream team was under attack in Iconium. What do they do? They flee before they’re killed. This wouldn’t have been simply a game /season-ending injury, theirs was a threat against their very lives.

6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news. 8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

The real deal unites …and it divides. But secondly, the real deal has power.

This is not like Paul had some self-chosen superpower to be able to choose to see people’s hearts. God gave him the understanding that this man had faith to be healed. Paul said, “Stand up on your feet”, and the guy didn’t just crawl or climb to a standing position…he jumped up and began to walk. The power was God’s power, the very same power that was present in the Good News Paul had been preaching. Gospel Power is unlike any other power out there.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

real dealThe real deal unites …and it divides.

It has power.

And third, the real deal is grounded in the truth.

Barnabas and Paul didn’t want to get credit for something that men cannot do apart from God.

They knew that Jesus is the Real Deal.

Barnabas and Paul? They’re not gods.  They are not king makers or ring makers.  They didn’t perform the miracle. God did.  Had it been up to them alone, they would have been like LeBron. They would have run out of talent and failed.

That’s one of the big problems with idols of our own making, kings of our own making, hopes and dreams grounded in people we make into messiahs when they’re just regular people. Life has a way of exposing that these man-made messiahs are like that red truck in the Ally Bank ad. Loaded with fine print and a limited time offer and not the real deal at all. We don’t want a close facsimile, a fake, a knock-off, or a pretender when eternity is in the balance. When our own salvation is at stake, only the Real Deal will do.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them

So, the real deal unites…and it divides; it has power; and the real deal is grounded in the truth. But the real deal…you know what? It exposes both love and hatred.

I think of Jesus’ words, Matthew 10: 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

In the Gospel, Jesus confronts our hearts with Truth and reveals who and what we worship. Love and hatred are exposed in our passage. Paul and Barnabas didn’t want to take credit for the miracles. They pointed to God. Had they taken credit themselves, the crowd would have been content with just another group of pretenders, fakes, and fine print. Little-g gods made in our own image are perfectly fine. Little silver gods of Blackhawks hockey. Little golden gods of Golden State. What and who do we love… and in what and whom do we place our trust?

The Real Deal has a way of exposing our love and our hatred and moreover, it exposes what we worship. Jesus is the Real Deal to beat all real deals.

So Paul and Barnabas aren’t able to soothe the crowds who wanted to worship them—a crowd’s love gone wrong! And the ones who hated the truth that Barnabas and Paul were speaking about Jesus who deserves to be worshiped. The haters go wrong too, and decided to take action:

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.

They wouldn’t have found Paul a threat if he’d been a girly man. If his words were just nice and he sang pretty little songs about loving a man named Jesus. His words had power and that’s why he was hated.

The real deal unites…and it divides; it has power; it is grounded in the truth; and it exposes love, hatred, and what we worship, but finally…and this is Good News.

The Real Deal of Jesus Christ inspires perseverance.

Because Jesus is the Real Deal and Paul is a man’s man, Paul doesn’t give up!   He’s kind of like Indiana Jones where he keeps on going!  You can almost hear the theme song playing in the background.

20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.  The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.

We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

So where are you placing your faith today? In some fake, some fraud, some knock-off…maybe some person, place or thing? Is your faith in some sports team with king makers and ring makers? Maybe in some manmade messiah?

Or are you on the lookout for the Real Deal? The One who unites and divides, because He has the power of God, and He is the truth of God—the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Are you on the lookout for the Real Deal? Because He is the One who is worthy of worship, and can keep us from falling and inspire us by His Holy Spirit to persevere. Eternity is in the balance. It’s not just a game. No fake, no fraud, no pretender is going to do the trick for eternity. But the Good News is that if you seek Jesus Christ, you will find Him. He’s faithful in that way, because He is…the Real Deal.



Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on June 24, 2015

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