But the Holy Spirit gives power

Acts 14:1-4 [In Iconium] Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.

Though he’s not named in Acts 14, the Holy Spirit’s presence is evident in Paul’s power in preaching about the grace of Jesus and in the miracles he and Barnabas performed.

I think Paul and Barnabas’ understanding of grace deepened on this first missionary journey. Luke first uses the word grace in connection to Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia (13:43), after Paul’s long sermon in the synagogue there. From then on, Luke uses the word frequently. Perhaps the change is in Luke’s own understanding, not in Paul’s.

Looking back to Paul’s sermon in chapter 13, do we see of the Lord’s grace? Through Jesus there is forgiveness of sins (v. 38). Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do (v. 39). Jesus offers grace, not law.

For those who despair of being “good enough,” this is good news indeed! Continue to rely on the grace of God (v. 43).

Every time we mess up, say what we shouldn’t, do what we ought not do, fail to do what we ought to do, continue to rely on the grace of God.

When things go right and when things go wrong, continue to rely on the grace of God.

When others hurt us, continue to rely on the grace of God. When we hurt others, continue to rely on the grace of God.

It’s counter-cultural, isn’t it? In our politically charged culture today, people can be written off if evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered, even when they were teens or college students. It doesn’t seem to matter how much good someone does, what sacrifices are made in service to others—if they mess up once (at least in the eyes of their critics), their whole selves and lives and families and work can be discredited.

The Gospel, the “Good News,” says NO. Jesus offers forgiveness, and change, and growth, and redemption. No one has to remain stuck in their inevitable mistakes, sins, or lapses in judgment, because forgiveness and healing are possible. Jesus wants us to live freely, joyfully, gratefully, not in fear. Grace is good news just as much for us as it was for the people in Cyprus and in what is now Turkey almost two thousand years ago.

Shutterstock: M-SUR

Haha. I searched Shutterstock for “counterculture” and got an amazing collection of hippie and “make love not war” and “flower power” images. This is the best I could do. Consider what “mainstream” means for YOU–what voices help define your values? And if I may use what has become, perhaps, cliché: What would Jesus say? I’m asking this very seriously.

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