Listen and Obey God
This morning I'll be reading Acts chapter 16 verses 6 through 15.
And I'll be reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
The verses that I'll read this morning,,, 9-15,,, are part of the lectionary reading for today. But God wanted me to include verses 6 - 8 also. I've told you before how I use the lectionary as a starting guide for the scripture selection each Sunday and most of the time there is a message there that God wants told for someone but every now and then,,, He chooses something different,,, or like in this case,,, He adds to it.
6 They went through the region of Phrygia(Fri gia) and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia (Mi shi a), they tried to go into Bithynia (Bi thyn ia), but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.8 So, bypassing Mysia (Mi shi a), they came down to Troas(Tro us). 9 During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
11 Then, setting sail from Troas(Tro us), we ran a straight course to Samothrace(Samoth race), the next day to Neapolis(Ne apo lis), 12 and from there to Philippi(Phyl i pi), a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we thought there was a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. 14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira(Thya tire a), who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
God bless the reading and the hearing of your word this morning.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, as we begin this morning, we ask that you open our ears to hear and our hearts and minds to receive the message that you have for us today,,, In Jesus' name I pray,,, Amen.
I wanted to take just a few minutes to speak on the meaning of the holiday that we celebrate tomorrow.
As you know,,, it's Memorial Day.
A day set aside to remember the sacrifices that our service men and women gave for our freedoms that we enjoy today.
These men and women gave their all so that we can live our life however we want to.
The freedoms that we take for granted today came at a great sacrifice for many that never returned home.
We live in a great country with a lot of freedoms that were made possible by the men and women that gave their all for us.
But the greatest of all our freedoms,,, world wide,,, was given to us by someone that gave His all for all of us,,, and that was Jesus.
Through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross,,, and through His death and resurrection,,, we are saved from the penalty of sins which would have been death.
But Jesus paid the penalty for us and instead of death,,, we have been given eternal life.
This freedom wasn't free,,, Jesus paid the price.
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
And in it says:
Therefore, If the Son sets you free, you really will be free.
This week as we celebrate Memorial Day, let us remember to stop and thank God for those who have paid the price for our freedom.
Let us also remember to thank God for Jesus, who has set us free from the penalty for sin, because he was willing to pay the price,,, that we could never afford to pay!
Memorial Day shouldn't just be a holiday that signifies the beginning of summer,,, but truly a day of remembrance of the great sacrifice that these great men and women gave for our country.
Now,,, going back to the scripture that I read this morning,,, I wanted to use these verses that I read to help us see that,,,
First,,, we will look at ways that we need to be aware of doors opening and closing within our own life.
Second,,, we must have a vision for the work that God is calling us to do.
Third,,, we must be prepared to hear the voice of God telling us what to do.
Fourth,,, we must be prepared to work wherever our place of service is.
Beginning in verses 6 & 7,,, it says: 6 They went through the region of Phrygia(Fri gia) and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia (Mi shi a), they tried to go into Bithynia (Bi thyn ia), but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
How many times have you heard,,, or maybe even used these words yourself,,, God has closed that door or God has opened that door.
When I read the scripture this week,,, I was reminded of my own journey to get to the place where I'm supposed to be and I realized that there have been many opened doors that I've refused to go through and there have been many doors that were closed that I went through anyway.
I have been so blessed this past year to realize that even though I haven't been faithful to God in the past,,, He has been so faithful to me!
I can look back over my life and I can see where there were doors that I should have went through but I ignored them and went my own way.
You see,,, even though those doors were never shut,,, I didn't use them until it was almost too late!
But,,, I can see where God allowed me to go through some doors that I shouldn't have and even some that I thought that He was leading me to go through.
In every instance,,, I believe that the telling point of my taking the wrong door was by my disobedience of not giving God 100% control of my life.
That's the first thing to be aware of when it comes to doors opening and closing in your life.
You must have given complete control of your life to the Lord so that you will be able to tell if the door is opened by God or not.
The second thing to watch for,,, does it contradict scripture.
God will never open a door that will go against scripture.
There will be doors that will appear to open for you that go against the Bible and sometimes,,, the scripture can be bent to read what we want to read,,, instead of the truth that's really in the word.
That's where your relationship comes into play and makes it easier or harder to hear the Holy Spirit guiding us.
The third thing to watch for,,, goes along with what I just said.
If God is opening a door then it will be accompanied by confirmation.
Jesus laid out instructions for confronting sin among believers by saying in , "If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won't listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established."
I believe the same applies when it comes to God confirming something in his Word.
He will often confirm or establish a matter by "two or three witnesses" whether they be verses from the Word of God, advice from a pastor or someone that you know well and that has a relationship with the Lord, or by listening to the Holy Spirit.
Through prayer, discernment and seeking godly counsel, you should be able to tell if that "open door" and its confirmations are truly coming from God.
The fourth thing to watch out for,,, the door that God opens will probably require you to depend on Him!
This relates back to my number one reason for not going through the doors that God opened for me.
In my journey,,, my number one reason for not taking the doors that I was supposed to take result from my lack of faith in myself,,, which tells me that without giving up my control of my life and letting God lead instead of just trying to get by,,, I could never learn enough or be good enough to go through the door on my own.
I've spent my whole life telling myself that I'm not smart enough or confident enough or strong enough,,, etc.,,, etc.,,, and I realize now that on my own,,, I would never get that way,,, but by trusting in God and following Him,,, anything is possible!
And it will be the same for you,,, anything that God wants you to do and you think that you can't do it,,, will require His help to get you through it,,, you won't have to rely on your own strength to do it alone.
It's very evident that Paul doesn't have any of these problems.
You can see from the verses that I just read,,, that Paul apparently doesn't question God.
Twice we are told that the Holy Spirit prevented him from going to different places and there is no explanation.
Paul just goes on without question or reservation as far as we are told.
He goes on to the next place that he is sent.
There is no doubt that Paul is trusting God and allowing Him to lead!
Then in verses 9 - 12 it talks about the vision that Paul receives from a man in Macedonia that is requesting his help.
Paul and the others have decided that apparently God is directing them to go to Macedonia since He had steered them away from the other places.
And again,,, Paul is obedient and goes as the vision led him to go.
That is what we must do also,,, as individuals and as a church.
In anything that we try to do,,, we must be sure that we have the correct vision.
in the King James version says “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”
As a church today,,, we must ask ourselves,,, why are we here,,, what are we doing for God,,, what is our mission,,,
The same with ourselves,,, we must have a direction for our life to be fulfilled.
We were given the great commission from Jesus and it was one of the few things that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all included in their gospels about Jesus.
It was also included in Acts.
If it was important enough that all of them mentioned it,,, then we should really pay attention.
God has called each one of us here,,, this church body,,, along with every Christian,,, world wide,,, to share the gospel of Christ and to send that message all over the world.
Also in these verses,,, we see that Paul heard the voice in the vision and acted immediately when he heard it.
We too must not only hear the voice,,, but we must be prepared to act when we do hear it.
Another thing that I found interesting,,, John Gaston,,, on his sermon that I read on these same verses,,, mentioned that Paul heard the voice of a man,,, not an angel or the voice of God.
He said that God was wanting our focus to be on people,,, more in line with Jesus' life when He was here on earth.
You have heard it said before that you can’t take anything to Heaven that we have here on earth.
Oh but friends,,, we can make sure that all that we come in contact with,,, receive the information that they need to come into heaven with us!
That’s why that it is so important to tell others about Jesus!
Just as Jesus' focus was on people,,, and He died for each one of us,,, we must tell others about Him.
Paul said in , “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners… and I am the worst of them.”
Since Jesus loved people so much—we should love people too.
We have people every where that are hurting,,, confused,,, with no direction,,, but they are searching for something.
They don't realize what it is that they are searching for,,, but we know that they are searching for the peace that Jesus can give them and it's up to us to tell them!
Which brings me to the last point that I wanted to tell you about this morning,,, and that's to work wherever our place of service is.
Did you notice what Paul and the others did when they realized that God was wanting them to go to Macedonia?
Look at verse 10: 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
They "immediately" made efforts to set out for Macedonia.
This is what Paul desired to do more than anything,,, and they start immediately,,, as soon as they hear,,, to do the will of God.
Do we really understand that we also have a call that we must answer?
Each one of us?
When we think of missionaries,,, we usually think of those that go away,,, those that leave here and take the gospel to the unchurched in another country.
But,,, whether we leave this country or stay right here in our own community,,, we are all called by God if we are Christians.
According to John Gaston,,, we are either a "mission field" or a "missionary",,, right here in this church today!
In other words,,, if we aren't saved,,, we are a mission field waiting for the word of God,,, or,,, if we are saved,,, we are a missionary that should be spreading the word of God everywhere we go,,, even if we never leave this community where we live.
So again,,, God is calling us to spread the love of God,,, People are searching for it and may not even know that's what they are searching for.
And it's our responsibility to tell them!
And we are told to start immediately!
As we begin our week,,, I want us to remember that just like Paul,,, we must first,,, be sure that we have given our life fully to the Lord.
That way we can determine easier if the doors are being opened by God or we are straining to open them ourselves.
Just like Paul,,, we must trust God,,, and that will help us to see the vision God has for us.
Then be alert and aware of the vision that we need as a church and for ourselves personally.
Then,,, just like Paul,,, we need to hear the voices crying out for help and be sure that we are ready to work where ever we are needed.
And remember that we are all called to make disciples for the transformation of the world!
No matter where we are!
So as we sing our final hymn,,, let me remind you that the alter is always open,,,
If you feel God speaking to you,,, don't hesitate to come,,, maybe you just have questions,,, God will answer,,, you just have to ask Him,,, whatever the need may be,,,
As we sing the final hymn,,, come if needed!
Oakdale - Hymn Page 245 - Brown Hymnal