Acts Series #41
Back to the Beginning: When Church was Church
Communion With Christ
Beginning in chapter 1 and extending through chapter 26 we are on an extended story of Paul defending himself and his faith in Christ before the Jews as well as the Roman Authorities.
Let's pick up the story from Last week in Chapter 23 …
READ CHAPTER 23
As we study the life of Paul, I believe we should be able to relate to much of his life.
Perhaps we haven't experienced the depth of his trials and persecution.
But, physical attacks, spiritual attacks, verbal attacks, discouragement around every corner, defeat lurking in every shadow. This was fertile ground for disillusionment, depression, and a spirit that would quit and go home. Those who should be FOR him seemed to constantly second guess him, and those who were against him, were HARDSET against him.
Yet as we look at the Paul, we see steadfastness, single mindedness, determination.
HOW? Perhaps as you look at Paul you have been wondering, how does this guy keep on going. He must be a sadist. He must be a glutton for punishment.
Is it possible that YOU, that I can live with this kind of perseverance and determination?
The Answer is YES.
So what was the key for Paul?
Acts 22:17-21 Paul talks about being a new convert and in Jerusalem "I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking … leave Jerusalem … go, I will send you far away"
Acts 18:9,10 "one night the Lord spoke to Paul … 'do not be afraid; … I am with you … no one is going to harm you"
Acts 27:23-25 "… and angel of God … stood beside me and said 'do not be afraid … you must stand trial before Caesar' …"
2 Tim 4:16,17 "… the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength …"
"Ok Pastor, but come on, he's PAUL"
What's the KEY to Paul's determination
And HOW can I get IN on it.
Look at my title today and go back with me to verse 11 for our message focus today …
YOU CAN have the ability to stay in focus, on task, through difficulty, determined, directed, without wallowing in depression and discouragement.
Communion with Christ was Paul's key.
Look at verse 11
Personal communion with Christ …
Paul heard God's voice, because he wanted to hear God
Paul knew God's direction because he delighted in the Lord and was eager to obey and follow …
Let's talk about Communion with Christ … What have we learned about Communion with Christ from the Life of Paul?
First of all, Communion with Christ …
1. Determines Direction
1. Paul was not "winging it"
Paul was not trying hit and miss and see what works
2. Paul had a direction from God because he was in communion with God through Christ Jesus
3. Walking with Christ leads us in the way we should go.
Ps. 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you
4. How did David know God's direction?
He sought it every morning
Ps 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul …
5. How do I determine Direction in Communing with God?
Questions to ask yourself regarding direction
- What has God already said? The Word of God is the tool we have to know what God has said. Turn to the Word of God FIRST
Go to the Word of God with Intention to OBEY
Obey the revelation you HAVE and you'd be surprised the wisdom for direction you will have
Ps 143:10 teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground
Ps 32:11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing all you who are upright in heart!
The reason we don't have direction is NOT because God doesn't speak, it's because we don't obey the light we have
REJOICE IN the Lord
Rejoice IN his commands and word
Rejoice in the GIFT of his word.
Don't look for FRESH revelation if you don't obey the revelation God has already given
- What does your heart desire?
As you delight in the Lord, his direction becomes clearer. You want HIS best and he gives you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart
- Does your heart convict or affirm?
1 Jn 3:21-24 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him 23 and this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us
If your heart affirms your desires and doesn't conflict with the Word already revealed by God then ask …
- What does the Spirit confirm?
The verse we just read in 1st John v 24 we know it by the Spirit he gave us
Rom 8:16 "The Spirit himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God's children"
When we commune with God, our Spirit which is settled with God's Spirit and when they are inline … we know it and we feel it within
- What does the Body say? Henry Blackaby, in "Experiencing God" says that God Speaks through his Spirit, by Prayer, his Word, Circumstances, and The Church.
You were given to this Body and this Body was given to YOU. As a part of that … I have been given to you as a Pastor and Shepherd. Part of what a shepherd does is direct the sheep.
It's amazing to me over the years how the Word being preached from the pulpit comes in line with what the Lord has been saying in my personal study, what I've been sensing in my Spirit.
Other parts of the body, other brothers and sisters in Christ will also affirm the direction of the Lord.
Do not despise the gifts of God in this body …
We commune with Christ through other believers
Through the Body and Leadership that the Lord has placed over us and around us
Through the Spirit of God which lives within us
Through our Conscience that confirms or convicts us …
Communion with Christ gives us direction
But Communion with Christ
2. Defeats Discouragement
The thing the gets us more often than not is INWARD but OUTWARD …
So Jesus says, in the Greek tharseo /thar-she-o/ translate here Take Courage or Have Courage or Be of Good Cheer
Jesus loved this phrase, probably because he knows that we need to hear it
A. Take - Receive - be in the state of being of … have … hold to …
Mt 9:2 - Jesus said to a man who couldn't walk "take heart" - don't believe your current circumstance
9:22 - He said to the woman with internal bleeding "take heart"
Mt 14:27 - to the disciples in the midst of a raging storm while Jesus walked on the water "take courage"
Because Troubles are PART of this world Jesus said in John 16:33 "take" heart because I've overcome the world
TAKE from ME (Jesus) because you don't have it yourself
Be in this state of being because the state you are in
Courage is confidence in self or in the cause. It is being unafraid to bear the consequences in order to complete the task
Take from me COURAGE when the circumstances would normally call for fear
Take from me and be in a state of cheer when the circumstance call for sadness and discouragement even depression
This is a deep thing that Jesus says to Paul and to us. It is deep tharseo /thar-she-o/ means
"to trust someone or something"
"go out bravely"
Communion with Christ builds your courage
Boosts your spirits
Gladdens your Heart
Deepens the well of courage
Communing with God through his word, in prayer from our Spirit to His, on a daily, moment by moment basis, defeats discouragement
Communion with Christ determines direction … defeats discouragement
And finally communion with Christ
3. Defines Destiny
"As you have testified … in Jerusalem … you must also testify in Rome"
A. Confidence in Purpose
1. God had a plan for Paul
God has a plan for you
Communion with Christ gives you a reminder and insight into your destiny
God's purpose for Paul was for him to
testify about Christ.
2. When individual believers and the Church as a whole fails to commune with Christ we lose sight of our purpose … as we said a few weeks ago we take our eyes off the ball.
3. Confidence in his purpose is what enabled Paul, in chains, with a threatening crowd, seized the opportunity to witness for Christ in Jerusalem
4. Confidence in his purpose enabled him to get up from a pile of rocks in Lystra, and reenter a city that had stoned him and preach the Gospel and then do it in the next town and the next.
5. We can maintain direction and determination when we are confident in our purpose
Communion with Christ that defines destiny also is
B. Strength in Persecution
2 Cor 4:8-12
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
1. Persecution, trials, difficulty is Just God's way of putting his wonder and glory on display through our fragile lives
2. We keep getting back up
We, we keep moving forward so that the Life of Christ might be seen through this body of death.
3. If we were superhuman … who would relate?
4. If Paul had a perfect existence how could we relate?
5. But through communion with Christ, fellowshipping with him we have strength in persecution
6. There is purpose even in persecution. There is a purpose in trials
7. Paul needed emotionally and spiritual strength to withstand the persecution that his destiny might be fulfilled
Communion with Christ defines our destiny and gives
C. Determination for perseverance
1. Paul was getting his desire, he had been wanting to go to Rome for months … Acts 19:21; Rom 15:22 he wrote of his desire and frustration because he couldn't get there … BUT … now he gets to go!
2. Knowing your destiny enables you to perseverance
a. How did David stay determined in perseverance?
b. He knew from God his destiny
c. David stood and faced Goliath without fear
d. He chased down the Philistines
e. He survived the attacks of Saul
You remember Saul grew to hate David and attacked him, chased him, sought to kill him. But David was not afraid. Why?
Because he knew his Destiny.
Psalm 18 has an introduction that says "he sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul"
49 Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord;
I will sing praises to your name.
50 He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.
Did you hear that? David sang these words after the Lord delivered him … yet he said the Lord gives his KING victories and kindness to his ANOINTED
David persevered because he had already been anointed and he KNEW he would be KING
He knew and believed the promises of his destiny
Abraham took Isaac to the Mountain of Sacrifice because he BELIEVED that he was going to be Father of Nations
Paul could persevere because the Lord told him, you are going to Rome …
He could persevere because to Live is Christ and to die is gain
Communion with Christ encourages you with direction for today
It defeats your discouragement tomorrow
It defines your destiny giving
Confidence in purpose
Strength in persecution
Determination in perseverance
I love the personal and powerful statement
"The Lord stood near Paul"
Does the Lord Stand Near you?
Or is that just something for the Apostles and prophets?
We have something that Paul did not have …
We have the Word of God in print
We have the SAME thing Paul had, The Spirit of God living within us
Adam and Eve walked with in the Garden
Enoch Walked with God
Jacob wrestled with God
Abraham knew God as a Friend
The Lord Stood near Paul
But Communion with God … doesn't happen by accident
Communion with Christ is intentional
Communion with Christ is conditional … it happens because you place yourself in position to be in communion with Christ
As we close can I be practical with you?
How do we experience the Lord standing near us?
How do we hear his voice?
·1 Steps to communion with Christ James 4:8
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
1. Come Near Continually - Communion happens in a daily effort to know God and fellowship with him
Daily Bible Study
Quiet Time with God
Be Still Before God
Learn to Listen for his Voice
The more you hear his voice, the more you will recognize his voice
We are under attack and we must walk with God stay close by his side
** There's a mongoose called a ichneumon (ik-nuhmen) and it can defeat a Venomous snake. The ichneumon only attacks the snake when it is near a certain plant that has leaves with an antidote for the snake bite. When it is bitten, the mongoose, retreats to the relief of the plant, which saves its life. It is ready to attack again, each time returning to fight the enemy
Come Near to God
2. Wash - cleansing of actions through obedience to the commands of God
3. Purify - cleansing internally through the washing of the word, confession and cleansing from the Spirit
4. Be Single Minded -
Ps 86:11 teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name
J. I. Packer
J. I. Packer writes in his classic Knowing God: "How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is demanding, but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God."
He adds, "Meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us-'comfort' us in the old, strong Bible sense of the word-as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ."*
True to his Conscience
Trusting God's Revelation
Targeting God's Purpose
Paul walked with God
Can I light in us a spark today that we can fan into a flame of lives that walk in step with God
You can't make it on what I give you here alone
You can't make it on a TV show, or Bible Study
You and God walking together in fellowship and communion
No Promise Verse, Only God
Years ago a young missionary had to flee from western China. An infuriated mob hotly pursued him. He hastily boarded a river boat. The mob, too, came on the boat. Then he jumped into the river. The mob began to throw spears at him. Miraculously he escaped, unharmed. When he was telling of the ordeal later, a friend asked him, "What verse from the Bible came to you as you were darting beneath the boat to escape the spears of the mob?" "Verse?" he asked in astonishment, "why, the Lord Himself was with me!"
IN THE GARDEN
And he walks with me
And he talks with me
and he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known
[Ps 23:1] The LORD is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
 Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD