It’s a Holy Ghost Thing
Acts 16:6-10 New King James Version (NKJV
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in [a]Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the [b]Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
The gospel is for the first time being preached on European soil. During this time, there were no lines between Asia and Europe and the missionaries sailing across the Aegean Sea were only conscious of traveling from one Roman province to another.
We know that from history, Europe became the first Christian continent and was until recently the main base for missionary efforts to the rest of the world. It was from Europe that the gospel fanned out to Africa, Asia, North America and Latin America.
Paul was only conscious of establishing new churches- here his mission to Macedonia involved visits to three principal cities: Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
In this Paul’s second trip, he visited his churches in Phyrgia and the regions of Galatia- these already having been established, Paul is concerned with pastoral oversight and nurturing and strengthening believers growing and maturing in the faith.
But, as they try to enter Asia (which was the natural way of their travels) they are hindered to evangelize by the Holy Spirit. Whatever way God wanted to, whether by a physical ban, uneasiness in the Spirit or prophetic word, Paul was to go a different way. v.7 “the Spirit did not permit them”
They “passed by” Mysia- they neglected it and went straight to Troas, whose harbor faced west to Macedonia.
So, coming from the east, the only way to go now was north-west—these traveled a great distance literally the farthest route southeast to northwest extremities of Asia Minor.
They must have been in a state of considerable perplexity, wondering what God’s plan was, so far their guidance had only been negative.
God sends a vision of a man in Macedonia standing and begging, “Come over to Macedonia (across the Aegean Sea) and help us”. Here we see the guidance of the Holy Spirit-
They are forbidden in one direction, invited in another, one way the HS says, “Go not”; the other He calls “Come”
Early evangelicals can attest to this: David Livingstone tried to go to China, but God sent him to Africa instead William Carey planned to go to Polynesia in the South Seas, but God guided him to India. Adoniram Judson went to India, but was driven to Burma.
We need to trust Him for guidance and rejoice equally in His restraints and constraints. Those who do not know the Lord will not understand. It’s a Holy Ghost Thing. What does it mean to you:
1. You cannot go without the Holy Spirit to guide you.
EVERY initiative in evangelism recorded in Acts, is the result of the leading of the HS. Either through prophetic revelation, inward prompting, external circumstances or visions. Moses understood this principle.
Exodus 33:15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.
Moses was convinced that without God’s presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything. When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he was saying, “Lord, if your presence is not with me, then I’m not going anywhere. I won’t take a single step unless I’m assured you’re with me!”
Moses knew it was God’s presence in Israel that set the people apart from all other nations. And the same is true of the church of Jesus Christ today. The only thing that sets us apart from nonbelievers is God’s being “with us” – leading us, guiding us, working his will in and through us.
Moses didn’t care how other nations received their guidance, formed their strategies, ran their governments or directed their armies. He said, “We operate on one principle alone. The only way for us to be guided or governed, to make war and survive in this desert place, is to have the presence of God with us!
“When the Lord’s presence is in our midst, no one can harm us. But without him, we’re helpless, reduced to nothing. Let all the nations of this world trust in their mighty armies, their iron chariots, their skilled soldiers, their new weapons. We will trust in the manifest presence of our God!”
I will not allow my compassion or emotional love for others persuade me to go where He has not sent me.
CS Lewis- Obedience is not legalism, it’s a symptom of salvation
We are NOT here to build our kingdom, but His kingdom. It’s not my gospel, it’s His gospel. So, if I am not allowing the Spirit to lead me, then why?
The Spirit goes where He wills- not where we want to go or do what we want to do. We wanted to plant a church in TX, but God wasn’t in that.
2. The Spirit’s guidance is not only negative, but also positive
some doors close, other doors open
Revelation 3:7 “And to the [e]angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true,“He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:
Ex: planting the church, Ft. Lewis and wanting to plant in Tacoma, Herb real estate guy
We were not allowed to plant in Tacoma, but we launched on the East Hill of Kent and ended up in Auburn valley. Again, not our choice. We wanted to plant in TX
Stop trying to break down a shut door! Don’t try to circumvent His blocked path.
Stop trying to make a relationship work that He is not in.
Tozer- “Most Christians do not hear God’s voice because they’ve already decided they are not going to do what He says.” AND I will caution you that if you persist in having your way, He will let you have your way.
But, RUN through those open doors! Sometimes, they are only open for a season.
3. His guidance is conditional.
God attaches a condition to his presence in our lives. We know that Paul was “all-in” for Jesus.
Philippians 3:8-9 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith
This condition is found in 2 Chronicles 15. In the previous chapter, King Asa had led the armies of Judah to a great victory over Ethiopia’s million-man army. Yet Asa testified it was God’s presence that had scattered the enemy: “Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, 0 Lord, our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude…So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa…” 2 Chronicles 14:11-12 NKJV
As Asa and his armies led the triumphant procession back to Jerusalem, a prophet named Azariah met them at the city gate with this message from God: “Hear ye me, Asa…The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God…But when they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them” (15:1-4).
Here is the secret of getting and maintaining the presence of God in your life. The Lord reminded Asa, point blank, with no holds barred: “Asa, don’t ever forget how you got this victory. You sought me with all your heart, turning wholly to me, when you were in trouble and I sent my presence to you. It was my presence that put your enemies to chase!”
Now Azariah was telling Asa, “Do you remember what the kingdom was like before you came to power? Everything was out of kilter, with no law, no guidance, no righteous teaching. Everyone was a law unto himself, doing his own thing!”
This is an accurate picture of many Christian homes today. Everything is out of order, with no authority, peace or rest. Everyone does what he or she pleases. Many such families have become tragic, dysfunctional messes. The church of the living God has been a consumer driven grocery store. You cannot go your way and do your thing and put God’s stamp of approval on it
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. No Christian home has to remain dysfunctional. God’s promises are unchangeable, and his word pledges, “For the rest of your life – as long as you continue to seek me – I will be with you. Whenever you cry out to me, I will always be found of you!”
This is not a complicated theology. Anyone can have the abiding presence of the Lord, if he or she will simply seek him for it.
James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (humility)
God also makes certain, special promises to those who determine to seek him with all their hearts. One such promise is a covenant of God’s presence. However, this covenant is strictly conditional. Scripture makes it clear that if we abide by the rule of this covenant, we will enjoy the incredible blessing of God’s presence in our lives. And this doesn’t refer only to issues of salvation. It speaks of being such seekers after God that his awesome presence is poured out on us – and it is seen and known by all!
God revealed this covenant of his presence through an unnamed prophet who delivered a message to Eli, the high priest of Israel. At the time, Eli was backslidden. The Lord had been speaking to him, warning him against allowing sin and compromise. But Eli had ignored all of God’s words. And now, this unnamed prophet said to Eli, “…the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” I Samuel 2:30 NKJV
The phrase “lightly esteemed” has to do with God lifting his presence. This doesn’t mean a person is damned, but rather that he’ll have to walk in the power of his own flesh. God was telling Eli, “I intended to bless your house, to favor you. But you’ve scorned me, becoming soft on sin and allowing your lusts to push me aside, Now I will take my presence from you!”
Many people come to Christ with a great, initial burst of faith. Yet over time their zeal wears thin, and they begin to neglect the Lord and go their own path and lightly esteem his commands. Yet they still believe God’s presence remains with them. No – that is a hoax, a lie, a delusion! The Bible makes it clear: If you forsake him, he will forsake you! IF you remain in ME, THEN
God’s promises never fail. But they are absolutely conditional. They require more than merely our cooperation. Of course, God will never abandon us or stop loving us. But if we remain in sin, his presence will not be with us – and our lives will no longer be an instrument of his powerful presence. We will live according to the flesh – striving, floundering, with no power or guidance!
3. The Spirit’s guidance is supernatural, not always logical or rational
It made no common sense to travel the path in which Paul and Silas were guided on- they were not permitted to go into Asia, and they neglected Mysia. For what purpose? Because God said so.
A good thing is not always a God thing. It would have made perfect sense to go into Asia. After all, didn’t He say “Go into all the world”? Well yes, but according to HIS plan. NOT yours. You can spend your whole life doing “good works” for God and He is not in it. He’s not in your way- He does things in His way and according to His plan.
“Lord, we did all these things in Your name” and HE will say, “I never knew you”
Success is not always a good measure of pleasing God- Mormons, Islam, JW’s, The sex industry all appear successful. The only true success in our lives is monitored and judged by God- did I do what He asked of me?
God dwindled Gideon’s Army down to 300.
He led the Israelites by way of the Red Sea (not the closest route)
He told Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan River
He used dirt and spit to bring eyesight to the blind. Abraham put Isaac on the altar. God does what He pleases.
His path is not the path of least resistance, it’s narrow and afflicted. It’s the path of trusting Him for the outcome.
4. The Spirit’s guidance is not only personal, but corporate
v.10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
On this secondary trip, Paul and Silas went about “confirming the churches”, strengthening the new believers.
“concluding” means literally to “bring together”, to “put together in one’s mind”, and so to infer from a variety of data. Luke is the writer of acts and he now joins Paul and Silas in this next missionary effort, being in Troas he deliberately draws attention to his presence. “we”; but this wasn’t about Paul, Silas nor Luke.
It’s not about ME, it’s about WE. It’s about His church. The church does not belong to the people, it belongs to Jesus. It’s interesting that the last church of history, The Laodecean church in Revelation, Laodecea meaning “the judgment of the people”. Lukewarmness is a symptom of a deeper problem, “me centered” Christianity.
John 17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep[a]through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
It is RARELY the case where one man will receive a Word from God without confirmation. This typically only happened in the OT and to specific men, but still God confirmed their word. EX: God told Matt he would build a church and then He confirmed that word in me. A lion doesn’t have to boast that he’s a lion.
Paul’s calling was confirmed. Timothy’s calling was confirmed. Peter’s calling was confirmed. These were not lone voices. God may speak to you, but that Word will be confirmed. “IN the mouth of 2-3 witnesses every word of God will be established”, the voice of the prophets is subject to the prophets– you’re not an OT prophet.
The Spirit is not guiding you to build YOUR ministry. He is about building HIS church and doing HIS will.
Matthew 16:1818 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not [a]prevail against it.
NOT, “Bob will build his own ministry and the gates of hell will not prevail” One day our work will be judged.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
We are fully accountable to God for our deeds. The LORD will evaluate each of us and HE will judge our works. Ask yourself: Am I being fully led by the Spirit? Or myself? Is my work for the Lord? Am I lifting Him up and glorifying Him? Or myself? Examine your heart and your motives. Is the Spirit truly your Guide?
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