Acts Series #29
Back to the Beginning: When Church was Church
Following the Spirit of God
The Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity.
We tend to take extremes in regards to the Holy Spirit. We either elevate him to a place beyond what is scriptural … Remember that Jesus said he will "glorify the Son" … that he will not "speak his own words but the Son's" so we are not to EXALT him OVER the son …
But … we often take the other extreme in some parts of the Church, we all but ignore him all together … we don't speak of him, we don't listen to him, but worst of all we don't obey him and follow him.
God in his wisdom, majesty and glory has chosen to manifest himself in three personalities, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit …
Let me list some things about the Holy Spirit for you that we might be sure and know who He is:
Ps 139:7 - He is Omnipresent Where can I go from your Spirit?
1 Cor 2:10,11 - He is Omniscient - The Spirit searches all things …
Gen 1:2 - He is Omnipotent -
Heb 9:14 - He is Eternal
Acts 5:3,4 - He is called God - You have lied to the Holy Spirit, … lied to God
Mt 28:19,20 - He is equal with the Father and the Son
Rom 8:27 - He has a mind -
1 Cor 2:10 - He searches out the human mind
1 Cor 12:11 - He has a will
Acts 16:6,7 - He forbids
Acts 16:10 - He leads
Acts 8:29 - He speaks
Rom 15:30 - He loves
Eph 4:30 - He grieves
Rom 8:26 - He prays
The Holy Spirit of God IS God … His leadership is NOT as from a subordinate leader.
He is leadership should not be seen as suggestions from a friendly neighbor across the backyard fence.
The Holy Spirit of God IS God and he knows the mind of the Father, the plans of the Godhead, the purposes of divinity and seeks to lead us into union with God's will, plan and purposes
What is it to be Led by the Spirit of God
What is it to Follow the Spirit of God ..
Well … it is not something out of a movie, it is not something to be romanticized
Let's read from the story of the early church from the Missionary Journey of Paul
READ Acts 16:1-15
Now this is a large passage and we could preach three or four sermons from here, but let me make 3 Important Observations regarding Following the Holy Spirit of God
He is altogether God
He is altogether Trustworthy
We must be altogether Obedient
We worry so much about the what ifs
What if I misunder stand him
What if I make the wrong move
What if I didn't really hear the Spirit
I would venture to say though, that we are certain of some areas where the Holy Spirit is leading. Perhaps we are uncertain about the results of obedience
Well Let me Give you Some Reasons today why NOT to follow the Spirit of God … That's RIGHT … reasons why NOT to follow the Holy Spirit.
Because Following the Holy Spirit can be Dangerous …
So Reason Number One
1. Following the Spirit of God Costs you MORE than you Thought
Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit Paul invites Timothy along on the mission trip.
Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit Timothy agrees …
Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Something happens that the scripture just runs right by … "so he circumcised him because of the Jews …"
Hey folks this is not just like … "So, Timothy got a decoder ring" or "So, Timothy got an earring", or Timothy had to dress a certain way or "Timothy got a tattoo".
No, chosen, called, following the Holy Spirit, Timothy had SURGERY!
Timothy got a circumcision, that is surgery that is performed on a newborn baby before he's old enough to say "NO", done on a baby when it's rather insignificant, but on a young man this would be a BIG deal, it affected him physically, mentally, and spiritually. It went to the heart of his identity.
You might ask WHY would they do this, In the last chapter the decision was made that Christians didn't HAVE to be circumcised, that they didn't have to be "burdened" with it but were taught to abstain from food sacrificed by idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from immorality.
So WHY? Why take the extra, painful, humiliating, inconvenient route?
There is a difference in being required to do something as a requirement for salvation and CHOOSING to do something in order to better minister to a particular group of people
The Holy Spirit led in this way because he wanted to remove all obstacles from their success in ministry
How committed are you to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit?
Well it is going to cost you more than you thought
William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the abolitionist paper, The Liberator, once SOLD his bed and slept on the floor to buy more newsprint to publish his attacks on slavery. His epitaph cites the courage of conviction; "I am earnest … I will not retreat a single step, and I will be heard"
Would you go through surgery in order to complete the ministry that God has for you?
I read of a missionary that was lead by the Spirit of God to take the gospel to slaves in a certain part of the world.
He SOLD HIMSELF into slavery so that he could most effectively preach the Gospel to those people.
Timothy could have said, "I'm not going to be circumcised, my Father is GREEK, and besides the church authority said, I don't need to do that, so if some people don't like it, that's too bad
But the Spirit led that way, so the question is, will you DIE to your SELF in order to relate to them?
Will you be willing as Timothy to set yourself apart as uniquely belonging to God, in order to follow the Spirit of God?
In the late 1800's if you served as a missionary in the Congo of Africa, it was called "A shortcut to heaven" …
Following the Spirit of God is difficult and will cost you much more than you thought …
Missionary Charles Thomas Studd a missionary in China, India and Africa is quoted as saying
"Forward ever, Backward never, Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel Bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell."
Toward the end of his life after serving on 3 continents, Studd wrote "My only joys therefore are that when God has given me work to do, I have not refused it"
Reason number 1 NOT to follow the Spirit of God is because it will cost you MORE than you expected
Timothy became a great tool in the Spirit's tool box because he learned early on to commit to follow the Spirit no matter the Cost
But the second reason you should consider to NOT follow the Spirit is …
2. Following the Spirit of God will Change Your Plans
See one of the "problems" with the Holy Spirit is that he doesn't usually follow OUR plans.
Paul traveled throughout Phrygia and Galatia WHY? Because he wanted to? NO … Because the Holy Spirit KEPT HIM from preaching in Asia
But Paul, I'm sure, had great plans for Asia, … By the way this reference to ASIA is NOT so much the Far East as would think of Asia, but most likely in the area of Turkey today. But Paul had a heart, had a passion, had a mission to that area with the gospel. Did they need to hear the Gospel? Yes, did God love them, YES, but the Holy Spirit had a different Plan for PAUL.
If God has a different plan for, even if you have a passionate burden for some area of ministry, you can TRUST God, to take care of that area, and you Follow the Lead of the Holy Spirit of God
God changes our plans … that's what he does … so don't follow him if you don't want him to change your plans … I told you earlier of C.T. Studd … he was a famous athlete in England before God got ahold of him. Yet after coming to Christ he heard the call to China. While there he inherited the equivalent of $500,000 and within 24 hours he had given it away. When sickness sent him home to England, he heard the call of the Lord again to Africa. He was told he would quickly die if he went. He said "I've been looking for a chance to die for my Lord". In 1910 he left for Africa and the Lord even changed his quick death plans, as he served 21 more years before dying on the field.
Paul tried to go into Bithynia but the Spirit would not allow it
Twice there the Lord changed his plans. Then in Troas Paul had a vision of a Man in Macedonia, North of Greece … that's Southern Europe … begging "Come over to Macedonia and help us"
The Lord had called to preach the gospel
So the next step in God's plan was finally revealed to Paul.
If you don't want God to change your plans …
Don't stay close enough to him to hear
Don't listen to the Holy Spirit when you hear him
Don't be sensitive to the Spirit's leading
Stick with your plans over God's plans
Or … if you want to Follow the Spirit of God … do the opposite
Be faithful where you are until you are sure what he is saying, keep sharing the gospel until you get a clear word
Then like Paul GO … Immediate obedience is the way to Follow the Spirit
Paul did not dwell on the change in plans, he just followed … don't dwell on what might have been follow what is
Reason ONE, NOT to follow the Spirit is because it will cost you more than you thought
Reason TWO is because HE will change your plans
3. Following the Spirit of God Takes you to Expected Places, With Unexpected Results
Well Paul went Philippi in Macedonia …
God has cost Timothy more than he wanted …
God had changed Paul's plans
Now … we're finally here so let's do what we do
When Paul went into a town, he would do one of two things.
On the Sabbath, he would go to the synagogue first because people there were at least seeking God. If there weren't at least 10 men in a city that were Jewish they couldn't have a synagogue but they would have prayer meetings outside the city, so Paul could go there. He would lead those men who are leaders and seek conversion to use to start the church.
So, there wasn't a synagogue, but on the Sabbath went to the expected place of prayer.
Remember it was a "man" who was calling him to Macedonia, instead of Men … Paul found women there … and began to share the gospel … but instead of a Jewish women, Paul connects with Lydia, her name suggests that she was a former slave thus a Gentile and she had become a wealthy dealer in Purple, the most sought after color of fabric for the wealthy, but she was a worshipper of God and her heart was opened to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh by the way … She was FROM Thyatira, which was a city that did Major Business with Asia Minor. HMMM you think the Lord used her to impact that area that Paul was concerned about originally?
Paul goes where he is expected to Go but GOD breaks out and does it in a way he never expected.
I've got bad news for you folks …
If you follow the Spirit of God … he DOES unexpected things
Rabbi's of that day would say "it's better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!" … But former Pharisee Paul didn't see things that way anymore
Don't follow the Lord, he will do unexpected things … you will never know what to expect
"SO Pastor … we know you are using reverse Psychology on us, but with all that said, why WOULD we want to follow the Spirit of God?"
I'm glad you asked …
I think of John 6:66 when Jesus had told those following him, how hard it would be to be faithful and follow it says "from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him"
Jesus asked his 12 disciples "are you going to leave me to?"
And Peter gave our answer "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe that you are the Holy One of God"
My answer to why Follow the Spirit of God is the same
Where ELSE are you going to go?
If you don't follow the Spirit of God …
1) you won't be a part of training the next generation … you might miss the joy of leading people to Christ after dying to self to reach them
2) you won't hear the heart cry of the lost and hear the call to GO to them
3) You won't see the walls begin to break and a city come to Christ
4) You won't know the JOY OF THE JOURNEY of walking with the Spirit, the intimate relationship the blessing of being a friend of God.
When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my Father took me to my first baseball game at Old Cleveland Stadium. Now the funny thing is that I don't remember anything from that baseball game. You know what I remember? I remember the trip, the journey to the game with my Dad.
It wasn't about the game it was about the journey with my Dad
Three weeks ago was the 30th anniversary of my Call to the Ministry of the Gospel. And in 30 years of ministry, be sure of this, I could tell you great stories of things that God has let me be a part of … but the greatest thing has been the journey, following the Spirit of God.
1 Cor 2:9,10 says this NO eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him … but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit
Hey … Following the Spirit of God is NOT what you have thought …
No … it is MORE much More …
Won't you come … follow … walk?