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Issues – Guidance

 Partake - Issues

Guidance

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G’day and welcome to Partake and our continuing series “Issues”. Today we are going to look together at the issue of guidance.

Solomon writing in Proverbs 3v5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

The Prophet Isaiah speaking in Isaiah 6v8: “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

When Jesus Christ called you personally and said: “Follow Me!” and you responded “YES, Lord!” that was the start of a beautiful relationship between the Living God and yourself. Perhaps the most common question all Christian Disciples ask is “How can I know God’s will and His guidance?” Now of course, being active in prayer and studying the Bible play major roles, in this and they are assured ways of building the relationship between God and yourself. But for this Podcast we will discover that are other aspects to be considered about being guided, and discerning what is God’s will for you and I. These involve being controlled by the Holy Spirit, through counsel and circumstances and through making wise decisions.

1. Controlled by the Holy Spirit

So firstly, the Christian Disciple is guided by being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Another way to say this is by submitting to the Spirit’s leading. Fundamental to being guided by the Spirit, is for you and I to be filled with the Spirit and to keep on being filled with the Spirit, or controlled by the Spirit. When the Spirit is quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19) or grieved (Ephesians 4v30), then the Spirit no long has control of you and I. In order to allow the Spirit control of us, we need to resubmit ourselves to God!

It is a good daily practice for you and I to do the following on a daily basis.

  • Confess all known sin (1 John 1v9) and accept unreservedly the certain assurance of being forgiven for your sins including the sin of quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. Sin is sin and there are no degrees of sin, big or small, it just is… Any sin creates a barrier whether (in our earthly terminology) it is a big sin like murder or a small sin like lying… Homosexuality and pornography are just as bad as lusting after that girl who just walked by – all are adultery…. That’s one of the reasons the Pharisees got it so mixed up and why Jesus Christ was indignant with scorn towards them misleading people.
  • Devote to being a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ (Romans 12v1-2)
  • Enable the Holy Spirit to convict you of anything wrong and sinful in your life (Psalm 139v23-24)
  • Seeks the Holy Spirit’s divine power in order to serve Jesus Christ (Galatians 5v16; Ephesians 3v16) and to do all things for glory of Jesus Christ, for this is one of the prime roles of the Holy Spirit, and sadly, often a neglected part of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the believer.

Additionally, part of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Christian Disciple is to yield to Him. Romans 6v13 and James 4v7 command this. In yielding to the Holy Spirit, the body (1 Corinthians 6v20) and mind (Romans 12v1-2) are given to Him sacrificially for the glory of Jesus Christ. Both the body and the mind are yielded, because the body activates what is conceived in the mind. It is a total dedication of all thoughts, plans and actions into God’s hands and the seeking of His divine wisdom.

Being guided by the Holy Spirit is illustrated in Acts 16v6-10 where Paul and his group of people acted quickly! “Paul and his companions went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus woul…dn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.”

2. Counsel and Circumstances

Additionally to submitting to the Holy Spirit, other people and circumstances are also great helps in regards to guidance. Proverbs 24 reminds us that: “The wise are mightier than the strong,and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger. So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say.”

We may not be going into physical war, but seeking the advice of others in trying to understand God’s guidance, plays an important role in deciding God’s will in the life of the Christian Disciple. When seeking the advice of others, we should bear in mind that the person should be a reliable, godly and faithful servant of God – and know us well. As Proverbs 25v19 says “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot”. However, as Christian s we must also be aware that even the godliest of people make mistakes, such as Nathan the prophet when he exhorted David to build the temple in 2 Samuel 7. In the end, each of us alone, is responsible for our own actions and for discerning God’s guidance for themselves.

Then we also have circumstances, which are a great learning tool. Circumstances surround us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, as Christians we are to live above all circumstances, while being mindful of them. Through circumstances, God often disclosed his perfect will. As Paul writes in Romans 8v28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Some examples of where God’s will was discovered through circumstances include:

  • Abraham being asked to substitute a ram caught in a thicket for his son, Isaac (Genesis 22).
  • God arranging for Pharaoh’s daughter to be bathing in the River Nile as the baby Moses floated by (Exodus 2).
  • Paul’s nephew over hearing a plot to murder Paul, and then reporting it to the authorities and therefore saving Paul’s life (Acts 23).

Now some may sceptically claim that these are purely coincidental, but if they are, and all others like these are, its an awful lot of coincidence!

3. Wise Decisions:

Now, its all very well to say that we are to make wise decisions. That would seem obvious! But how do we go about it? A great way is by endeavouring to maintain a right attitude, and asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Have I prayed and meditated on God’s Word regarding the decision?
  • Have I given every area of my life to Jesus Christ?
  • Am I prepared to be obedient to God? (Proverbs 3v5-7)
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will?
  • Do I truly love and acting lovingly towards other people?
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians 6v12)
  • Will it cause another person to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians 8v9-13)
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians 10v23)
  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10v31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?
  • If in doubt, throw it out! (Romans 14v22-23)
  • Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5v22)

For more to think about please do read Isaiah 6. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. Am I willing to do whatever God commands me to do?

Q2. Am I willing to be humble enough to ask other people’s advice?

Q3. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires so that God’s Will is achieved and His glory acclaimed?

Thank you

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6. Church Begins – Paul is sent

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6. Church Begins – Paul is sent

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Acts 9:10-31 “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.”

9:11 The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, 9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”

9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. 9:14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”

9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

9:17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 9:20 Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God. 9:21 All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!”

9:22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 9:23 When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 9:24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 9:25 but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 9:26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 He was with them entering into Jerusalem, 9:29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 9:31 So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Transformed

From the conversion of Paul, we go to the consequences of his conversion. The first consequence we maybe aware of is that he changed his name: changed from Saul of Tarsus to Paul of Tarsus – we read that in Acts 13!  Paul’s conversion was a total transformation. His attitudes, character & relationships with God, fellow believers and the unbelieving world were utterly transformed. A changed life is the uultimate proof, that conversion is real and the Holy Spirit is working. Now that through Jesus and his cross, Paul had been put right with God, Paul, as with all believers, enjoyed direct access to the Father, as the Spirit witnessed with his spirit that he was the Father’s child (Romans 8:16). Perhaps his prayers were for forgiveness of sins of self-righteousness & cruel persecution of Jesus & the church. And no doubt they contained worship. The mouth that breathed murderous threats against Jesus like a roaring lion, was now breathing prayers & praises to God like bleating lamb. Paul’s life was changed from self-righteousness to righteousness through Jesus. The evidence of this was a change in the way he lived his life.

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4. Church Begins – Let’s Get Organized

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4. Church Begins – Let’s Get Organized

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Today we go back to the beginning of Acts 6. So far in the book of Acts, we can see that the Church has come under attack by the world (through persecution) and satan (through deceit & moral compromise).

A new crisis has appeared. Unable to destroy the church by way of persecution and deceit, satan now tries to create a split in the church by getting believers to argue and fight with each other. If satan had succeeded in creating an implosion within this church, the only church in existence at the time, then the effects could have been devastating. I have had people tell me they want a church without any form of organizational structure. If a church has no organizational and leadership structure then it will soon have chaos instead of harmony, and will collapse rather than grow. Of course, some leaders are corrupt or make wrong decisions as we have seen already, but Godly leaders will not be corrupt and as we shall see, make decisions that are wise and based on prayer and spiritual insights.

So, what was the problem, what was the solution and what happened after it was resolved?

The Problem! (Actsv1)

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, a complaint arose from the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily service.

  • Good news – they were growing, but this had caused a problem!
  • Bad news – Some widows were not being cared for!

Hebraic Jews had always lived in the then nation of Israel, spoke mainly Aramaic and some Hebraic. They would have been well used to life in a Jewish society, the Temple and avoiding those who were not Jews: the Gentiles..

Grecian or Hellenestic Jews were part of the Jewish Diaspora, born elsewhere within the known world and had returned to Jerusalem. These mainly spoke Greek, and were well used to working with Gentiles.

We know that widows were and are important to God, because justice is important to God. God is a God of justice and mercy. In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, God commanded provision for those who were widows, oppressed or uncared for. The Apostles would have known about God caring for the widows and in Jesus teaching about justice for the poor and the oppressed. We know this because earlier in Acts 2 and 4, people were selling and sharing possessions and ensuring that people within the Christian community were being looked after and cared for. This included making sure that everyone got fed, particularly those who had no family to care for them. Somehow, unintentional or not, this group of widows were missing out.

What then happened?

The Solution! (Actsv2-6)

The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables. Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.” These words pleased the whole multitude. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Three things about the solution

Transformation of the Apostles – James, Peter & John particularly (v2)

Its not stated here, but a transformation had taken place! Only a few short time ago, the disciples of Jesus had refused to wash feet as an act of service (Peter); some had wanted positions of power and greatness (James & John). Their old nature must have started asking questions and prompting them to react negatively. The world has attacked the church, satan has attacked the church, and now satan would have been using the Apostles old nature to attack the church. But – as they are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and now have a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ, they react much more righteously and judiciously.

All together now! (v2-5)

Notice they gathered all the believers together for a church meeting. The gave their opinion or judgment if you like, that their ministry or time would be better spent doing what God had called them to do – to be leaders of the Church, praying, preaching, evangelizing and discerning how best to apply the 3 years of teaching that they had had when travelling with Jesus Christ before His ascension. Their time, rightly so, was best spent doing that, for that was their ministry of service. But other people in the church gathering, who had a ministry of service and overseeing the food distribution, could spend their time doing that! So what of these seven men with Greek names? They were elected by the whole church, both Grecian and Hebraic, to perform this duty. They may already have been doing it, but now were being set apart especially for this role. These men were controlled by the Holy Spirit and were wise. They were chosen to give relief to the leadership so that the Word of God and prayer would not be hindered.

Commissioning (v6)

Interestingly enough, the word diakonia is translated here as ministry. Another way to translate it is as deacons. But, they were not deacons in the way the Paul uses the word as part of a church government in 1 Timothy 3. Rather they were deacons, set apart for this specific task – it was their ministry. It may well have been from here, that Paul developed what some parts of the universal church understands of the role of deacons. So these seven men, were prototypes as it were, for the Paul-ine idea of deacons.

Note also that the Apostles didn’t say their work was more important than serving. They were just following what God had called them to do, just as God had called these seven men to take responsibility for providing food for the widows. So they were commissioned by God, by the laying on of hands and set apart to perform it. We know only of Steven and Phillip and that they continued doing other ministries as well as this.

The Result! (v7)

The word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly. A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

The result was growth! Growth and witness may well see the conversion of former enemies. Growth and witness may well see reasoning and transformation.

Now that the Apostles had time for their dedicated and unique ministry, all the widows could be fed, and all believers able to participate within the life of the church. Not only that, Stephen was instrumental in reaching the Apostle Paul (Acts 7:58). Philip was instrumental in reaching the city of Samaria and won over for Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian Eunuch who then took the gospel to Africa. (Acts 8)

This growth was where the word of God increased in its effectiveness in the lives of those unbelievers who would listen to the gospel. This growth was not merely addition but multiplication! It was explosive! So explosive that even former enemies were becoming converts! Sadducees were Jewish believers who didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection – yet they came to faith and started to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not hard to imagine that some of those Priests coming to faith in Jesus Christ were former persecutors of the Church! They were watching the church to see how best to attack and debate them. Yet found that they were joining the church, rather than continuing to oppose it. The church was preaching one thing and acting upon it. There was no hypocrisy within the church. The church was transparent – it lived as it believed. The church was seen as transformative and servant-like. While the Church continued to reason with others about the validity of Jesus Christ’s claims to be the Messiah, it would have not been effective if lives were not being transformed. If lives were not being changed, then no amount of reasoning alone would have seen the growth in numbers being added to the Church. Just as transformation and change alone would not have been the catalyst for growth, without the reasoning behind it.

Transformation

The early Church was a radical community of believers, growing quickly. At Pentecost, the church community began when the Holy Spirit filled the Disciples (Acts 2v4). The hallmarks of this community were commitment and transformation. This community was radical. It was where people’s lives were being changed as the Holy Spirit filled them. Instead of being a withdrawn people filled with fear of retribution from the Roman government and Jewish leaders, they became a people filled with boldness and joy. This church in Jerusalem grew by being a radical community imbued with radical individuals engaging with others and serving. It was a church where every member was asked and expected to play some role, in the life of the church. .

The Christian life is to be dynamic and active. As we have seen the word “deacon” here denotes ministry. Ministry is any service for Jesus Christ. When you serve as God’s deacon in this way, God’s honour is released. That’s why the embryonic Church in Jerusalem grew and flourished. This is done because service shows the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ to those being served and to those watching. That is to be our motive for service. Serving and ministry should never to be about what you and I can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is not glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is our goal as Christians. Spiritual growth comes from serving rather than being served. This is because what ever is given in service of God and others, faith grows and Jesus Christ gives back even more. Jesus speaking in Matthew 25v15-30 tells of the rewards for faithful service and the penalties for being faithless.

Serving others is a sign that you are trusting God and having faith in God. Serving God and others is the mark of a spiritually maturity and through service, the greatest servant of all, is reflected: Jesus Christ, who came to serve and give his very life for others (Mark 10v45). As Christians, we are to be as Jesus Christ (Romans 8v28; Philippians 2v5) and to serve. Yet if we are honest, we sometimes feel incapable, just as Moses did (Exodus 3). An excellent example to follow is that of the deacon Stephen.

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3. Church Begins – Persecution

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3. Church Begins – Persecution

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The world was changing, particularly for the Jewish people. They were still under the rule of the odious Romans, in the land God had given them. For centuries they had been expectant of a Messiah, a King, to rise up and rid them of the Roman oppressors. When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, did come – they missed Him. They had misunderstood what the Messiah was to do. The Messiah was not to lead a political revolution as they thought, but rather lead a spiritual revolution, bring people back into relationship with God. The worldview of the Jewish people needed to be changed. When worldviews need wholesale change of focus, problems arise. The embryonic church, followers of Jesus Christ the Messiah, was soon to feel pressure to change back.

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2. Church Begins – Power & Passion

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2. Church Begins – Power & passion

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1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

1:12-14 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had come in, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying; that is Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 2:1-2 Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

As we saw last time, Jesus has ascended back to the right hand of the Father. The 12 apostles are now back in Jerusalem and waiting. Waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. The Holy Spirit who indwells members of the early church. The Holy Spirit who empowers and transforms them! Remember Peter? Remember how just a few days earlier he had rejected Jesus Christ and openly defied Him by trying to stop Jesus going to the cross. This Peter who was dejected and defeated. In the early chapters of Acts, we see the disciples transformed. Lets concentrate on Peter for a good example of this. This is now a new Peter, transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who speaks with the authority Jesus gave the disciples.

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