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The Scriptorium

Blinded by Religion

Religion can blind people to truth - even secular religion.

Acts (13)

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27

Be sure to view the video introducing our study of Acts 14 and 15 (Lesson 13) by clicking here.

Read and meditate on Acts 14.8-13.
Apparently the people of Lystra didn’t know their own religion very well. The only time gods came down among men in the religion of Greece and Rome was to take advantage or revenge. Ask Leda, Europa, or Achilles.

For reflection
1.  These people are so blinded by their religion that the only explanation they could offer for Paul’s preaching and the healing of this man, is that their own gods had come among them. Religion is a very personal thing – even secular religion – and people give theirs up only reluctantly. In what ways does the religion of materialism, secularism, and narcissism make it difficult for people to embrace the Gospel?

2.  So the priest of Zeus moved to incorporate this amazing episode into the pagan religion of the Lystrans. This is as we might expect: The religious leader had to keep the people in line, after all. So he intended to wrap these events in the shroud of his faith. To the snow-blind, everything looks green. To the religion-blind, everything looks like their worldview. To Christians who are too friendly with the world, the temptation to bend the faith to suit the temper of the times can be great. Can you see how such an approach to the Gospel can lead to God’s truth being compromised? Explain.

3.  We should expect similar responses from people when we share the Gospel. They will want to fold our claims into their worldview because their worldview is “safe” to them and requires only that with which they’ve already become comfortable. If they can absorb the “idea” of God into, let’s say, the workings of “chance” and evolution, or the morality of pragmatism and tolerance, then they don’t have to submit to the moral demands of the Biblical God. They can simply take Him in stride, even if it means “stretching” their own faith a bit to accommodate some new information. Why does this tendency on the part of unbelieving people make repentance so important in proclaiming the Gospel?

4.  I can’t help but wonder what Paul saw in the face of this man to convince him he could be healed. A look of longing? Anticipation? The command to “stand upright” is important in our story. The Gospel restores people to the uprightness in which men were created, but which our silly, sinful schemes rob us of throughout our lives (Eccl. 7.29). Jesus wields a scepter of uprightness, and it has power to make all things new (Ps. 45.6). What are the implications of uprightness for our witness for the Lord?

5.  How would you expect a secular skeptic to respond to good works done by people in the Christian community? To your claim that Jesus rose from the dead? How would you respond to each of these?

Good works, good preaching, mixed responses. It has always been thus, and always will be thus. All people are religious in that they have some idea of ultimate goodness, beauty, and truth, and they are pursuing as much of that for themselves as they can. Christians know that God alone is ultimate goodness, beauty, and truth. But can we use the longings and hopes of lost people to “redirect” their “devotions” toward the Lord? Explain.

Closing Prayer
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.
O Israel, trust in the LORD;
He is their help and their shield.
Psalm 115.1-9

T. M. Moore

Each week’s studies in Acts are bound together into a free PDF that you can download for personal or group use (click here). Each week also features a video related to the studies of the week, which you may find helpful as you work through our studies in Acts.

Acts is the record of Christ’s ongoing work as King and Lord. This is the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Read more about the implications of this work in our new book,
The Kingdom Turn (click here).

Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Or, you can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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