Thursday, January 12, 2012

Acts 15:36 -18:22

Acts 15:36 – 16:10 – Ministry Changes

Paul had the heart of evanglism.  He not only shared the gospel with the people, but wanted to go back to visit the towns and lead the people to be disciples.  He knew shallow faith would not sustain them.  There was a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over Mark.  Paul felt Mark was unreliable since he had deserted them in the past and didn’t want to take him with them on the journey.  Barnabas wanted to take him, because he believed in giving second chances.  It’s a good thing God give us second chances – even third and fourth chances.  The actions of both men ultimately moved God’s work forward spreading the gospel twice as fast to more people.  Later Mark proved himself to Paul by his ministry.  Note: He also wrote the Book of Mark.

Paul took Silas, Timothy and Luke with him on his second missionary journey.  We know Luke went because he wrote the book of Acts and in 16:10 he says “… we got ready…” indicating he was with them.  How did the missionaries know where to go?  The Holy Spirit led them (Acts 16:6-10).  We learn God’s guidance when we listen to Him.  (Proverbs 3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” 

One way God leads is by opening and closing doors.  Paul was confident in his calling and he didn’t stop his journey just because the Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter Bithynia.  He surrendered to God’s Spirit.  Are you surrendering to God’s Spirit?  Sometimes God says “No”.  Paul had that experience and was obedient.

Principle:  God’s way of leading is step by step.

Have you experienced God opening and closing doors?  How alert are you with the Holy Spirit’s leading?  Where do you need God’s direction today?  If Jesus is your Lord, all He asks is for you to do the next right thing. 

Acts 16:11-17 – 17:15 – Ministry in Macedonia

When they reached Philippi, they found Lydia and other women gathered there to listen to their teachings.  Lydia and her household believed and were baptized. 

Also at Philippi, Paul and Silas met a slave girl who was possessed by evil spirits and predicted the future and began stirring up trouble for them.   Paul knew this was a danger to the word of God and commanded the evil spirit leave her.   Where God is at work the enemy is on a mission.  Satan can appear as an ally or with attacks.  Is there an evil influence you need to get away from?

Then they found themselves in opposition to authorities and were beaten and put in prison.  In prison they prayed and sang hymns to God as the other prisoners listened.   I can just picture Satan in a panic, because he knew God was at work.  Suddenly a miracle happened.  A violent earthquake shook the prison and the doors were opened and all the chains became loose.  The jailer awoke and was going to kill himself thinking the prisoners had escaped.  When he turned on the lights, he saw Paul and Barnabas still there and asked what to do to be saved.  Acts 16:31 “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.”   This doesn’t mean if you believe, your household will be saved.  It means if you and you household believe, all will be saved.  The jailer was filled with joy because he now believed in God.  This is an example of how God uses good out of evil and how blessings can come through troubles.

The jailor took them to his house, fed them and cleaned their wounds.  When morning came, the magistrates released them and they were told to go in peace.  Paul reminded them he was a Roman citizen and they had no right to treat him that way and they had broken the law.

Paul and Barnabas left Philippi and went to Thessalonica then to Berea.  In Berea they met with some of the same similarities as in previous places.  They always went to preach in the synagogue, some people believed and some agitated the crowns and stirred up people.

There were some difference though.  There the people received the message with great eagerness and even examined the scriptures to see if what Paul said was the truth.  That’s a great lesson for us all.  We should examine God’s word for ourselves and not just take the word of others as truth.

Principle:  God will lead you where He will grow you in trusting Him.

Acts 17:16-18:22 – Ministry in Athens and Corinth

Paul then went to Athens alone and while he was waiting for the others, he was tired and greatly distressed.  His heart was probably crushed, because the city was full of idols.  This was the greatest city in the world, but the people were lost.  They were atheists and materialistic.  They were probably like the New Age movement today.  The people spent all their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.  There was an altar with an inscription:  TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  The Athenian people were intellectuals and refused to accept the doctrine of the resurrection.  When they heard about the resurrection, some sneered, some refused the good news about Jesus and the resurrection; however some wanted to hear more and some became followers. 

Paul was prepared and gave them a brilliant message that God was sovereign and in control and that God commands they should repent. 
In Acts 16:24-31 Paul gives the message of the foundations of Christianity:
God is a living person – verse 25.
God is not live in temples built by hands, but He created everything – verse 24.
God is not distant from His creation, but near to each person – verse 27
God controls the universe – verse 24.
God controls geographical boundaries – verse 26.
God overrules historical events – verse 26.
God can never be worshiped through statues or images – verse 29.
God commands sinners to repent – verse 30.
God will judge the world through Jesus Christ – verse 31.

Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.  Many of the women were prostitutes and the city was considered “sin city”.  There the Jews opposed him and became abusive.  Paul said “…. Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clear of my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).  God encouraged Paul while he was in Corinth by telling him “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).  God encourages us, too - through scripture and through our Christian friends with support, their prayers, and their encouraging words.  How prepared and willing are you to speak to those around you?  How has His word encouraged you?

Principle:  God leads those committed to His truth to places His truth is needed.

Where God leads is not easy, but God will meet you there personally.

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