REDIRECTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: How many of ya’ll have ever been frustrated with your GPS? I get angry at mine all the time – “Why are you taking me this way?” “No, I’m not turning here!” “This thing took me around my elbow to get to my thumb!” Sometimes I even want to throw mine out the window! But, there’s another kind of GPS. It stands for GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM. Unlike the one in my truck, this one has always rerouted my life for the best! With that in mind, this is our first message in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians called GRATEFUL and this message is titled REDIRECTED and we’re actually going to begin in the Book of Acts.
Acts 16 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 Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the 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.
Question: Paul concluded, through the Holy Spirit and a vision at night, that God was closing some doors for a reason and opening a new one. What doors have closed for you in the past year? What have you concluded? Have you concluded that God is in control of your life and he is redirecting your life for the best? Or have you concluded that God doesn’t care and your life has no direction? Can you see His divine hand directing and redirecting your life? Is Christ your Savior?
Context: The passage we just read gets misinterpreted and misapplied a lot. Any little obstacle is considered to be the hand of the Holy Spirit. Any odd dream is taken as a vision from God. Before we can correctly interpret Acts 16, we need to first correctly understand Acts 15. Listen to how Acts 15 begins 1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Who were these men from Judea and why were they insisting that the Gentiles should be circumcised in order to be saved? Paul gives us more information about them in Galatians 2 where he tells us that these certain men were from the “mother church” in Jerusalem where James, the half-brother of Jesus, was their pastor. This church was composed of only Jewish background believers with the goal of reaching other Jewish background people with the gospel. But, something changed in Acts 10 when God sent Peter to a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius. Remember, God had to convince him first with a vision of the clean and unclean animals coming down on a sheet from heaven. As Peter was preaching, Cornelius and his family and close friends responded to the gospel, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. When the Jerusalem church leaders heard this, they were hesitant to accept them but when Peter explained to them what had happened, they glorified God saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18) In other words, they informally approved the conversion of the Gentiles. This was always God’s plan but what a big step for them! Think about it – the Jewish believers moved over to let you and me climb on to their family tree! How many of us would’ve done that!
But, as more and more Gentiles started getting saved, some of the Jewish believers from James’ church in Jerusalem became concerned that these new converts were going to weaken the moral standards of their community and change their identity as God’s covenant people. So, some of them took upon themselves to go from place to place telling the newly converted Gentile Christians that they were not saved unless they were also circumcised. Circumcision is what set the Jewish people apart from the world. It brought great persecution and suffering to them. It was central to their identity as God’s people. They felt that Gentiles needed to suffer a little before they could have equal status among God’s covenant people. These men were “the circumcisionists” or “the Judaizers.” Imagine the confusion and the division this brought in the early church. People were questioning each other’s salvation. They were questioning the truth of the gospel. What was Paul’s response? Listen to verse 2 “Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them…” Meaning: There was a big fight. Souls were hanging in the balance. As they say, “this was a hill worth dying on.”
Application: Church people fight over silly stuff. They die over ant hills and give up the mountains of doctrine and theology. Paul fought for what mattered. Salvation is a mountain worth fighting for. Ephesians 2 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Don’t let anyone add any rituals, traditions, or personal convictions to your salvation. There are other doctrines like Trinity, Incarnation, Inerrancy, Resurrection, etc.
What happened next? The church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and the elders at the Mother church. Again, Acts 15:7 says, “when there had been much dispute…” Meaning: Hours and days of arguing and debating, proving and disproving went on. You can imagine the frustration and stress, harsh words and hurt feelings. Then Peter stood up along with James and John and others apostles, elders, and brethren and made the decree that the Judaizers had no authority to interfere with the salvation of the Gentiles and that salvation is only by grace through faith. As Paul says in Galatians 2:9 “they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship…” What a powerful decision! If it wasn’t for this, we wouldn’t be here today.
When I think about all this, I can’t help but wonder “why did God allow all this mess?” Why did he allow the Judaizers to go around confusing the people? Why did he allow Paul and Barnabas to go through all these arguments and struggles? Why did he allow this controversy to rock the church? Listen carefully: All this mess was a blessing in disguise. It helped clarify and solidify Paul’s thinking. It prepared him to write letters like Galatians and Romans. If it wasn’t for this controversy, we would’ve never heard of Galatians 2 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 3 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And…Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Romans 3 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…22…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Application: You can look at the frustrating times and seasons in your life as a hurdle or you can look at them as a gift from God. You can get bitter and angry with God or you can trust God that he’s still working in your life. You can become discouraged or you can be teachable. The choice is yours. Paul grew the crisis in the church.
I believe that Paul chose to trust God and God helped him to grow in his knowledge and wisdom. But that’s not all. Something more was about to happen. Paul wanted to go and visit those churches that were rocked by the controversy but then there was a falling out between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. Paul chose Silas and started going through Syria and Cilicia. What if Paul had become bitter over that matter and decided to take a break from God? I believe that would’ve been the last we would’ve heard of Paul. Paul remained faithful in his calling.
Then he came to Derbe and Lystra where he met a young man named Timothy whose mother was a Jewish believer and his father was a Greek. Hint! Hint! When God wants you to head in a new direction, he will bring certain people into your life who will help you in the journey. Now as he was travelling through Phrygia and Galatia, the Holy Spirit closed the door to Asia. As he came to Mysia and tried to go into Bithynia, the Holy Spirit again closed that door too. There is a direction in which he was talking Paul. Then when he came to Troas, there was a vision of a Macedonian man saying “Come over to Macedonia and help us” and it finally dawned on Paul that God was leading him to Europe! If you read Acts 16 without taking into account what has happened in Acts 15, any obstacle and any dream may appear to be God’s will when it’s not. The controversy was being used by God to prepare Paul to go to Europe. We wouldn’t have the Letter to the Philippians if Paul had failed to answer that call.
I’m often shocked at the way people make decisions – They move, change jobs, start relationships, break relationships thinking somehow that the Holy Spirit is leading them when he’s actually a million miles away. It’s only when you are submitted to his leading and guiding, it’s only when you are teachable and obedient, that you can conclude that it’s God who is directing and redirecting your life.
Invitation: What have you concluded? Is the Holy Spirit leading your life? Is Christ your Savior?