Guaranteed by Pastor Abidan Shah

GUARANTEED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Guaranteed

Introduction:  Have you ever had to follow up on a guarantee only to find out that the Guarantor was no longer in business? This happened to me recently. On our date days, I usually end up at bookstores. Nicole really loves that…We went by a used bookstore where I had a discount card that also gave me points each time I used it. We pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars. The sign wasn’t lit up either. I knew something wasn’t right. So, I walked up to the door and there was a handwritten sign that said – “Thank you for your business. We’re out of business.” I almost cried! The discount card with the free points was now useless. Thank goodness that it was just a few free points towards some used books. But, imagine, if it was something much more important. Unlike that bookstore, God never goes out of business. He always stands behind his guarantees, especially when it comes to his work in our lives. That’s the title of our message, GUARANTEED, in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Has God begun a good work in you? In other words, are you saved? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If you have, can you see his work daily in your lives? No work, no salvation.

Pray: Holy Spirit – Continue the work that you have begun in our lives. For those who have yet to see your work in their lives, help them to see their need to be saved.

Context: Last weekend we learned that Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was based upon Trust, Joy, and Hope. In today’s message, I want to focus on the last point of “Hope” a little bit. Paul had the solid assurance, based on his positive relationship with the Philippians, that God was working in their lives and that he would finish the work that he had started. Listen again to verse 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What is the good work that Paul is talking about? How does it apply in our lives today? The message is deep but those are the 2 main points:

I. WHAT IS THE GOOD WORK THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT?

 

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work…”

Background: The “good work” that Paul is referring to in this verse is God’s work of salvation, more specifically, God’s work of grace in the life of a believer. Paul says the same thing in his letter to the Corinthians – 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” Don’t forget – Salvation is God’s work in the life of a person. It is God who initiates this work and it’s always by his grace.

Application: Has God’s work of grace happened in your life? Have you experienced what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”? Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

Something else here – Paul refers to 2 days when it comes to someone’s salvation:  First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ. First day is the day that you and I get saved. The Day of Jesus Christ is the day when Christ will return for us. This second day was very important to Paul. He mentions it again in Philippians 1:10 “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” Here’s the point that Paul is making – Between the First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ, God will complete what he has begun in the life of a Christian. In other words, our salvation is ultimately God’s responsibility. The Guarantor of my salvation is not me. The Guarantor of your salvation is not you. The Guarantor of our salvations is God himself. He never goes out of business. Salvation from start to finish is God’s work and he never leaves a job half-done.

I know there will be objections to this that people will raise. Some will say – Yes, God is responsible but that does not exempt you from your responsibilities to live according to God’s Word, reject sin in your life, and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. They will quote passages like Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When people bring up that verse, I remind them to keep reading – 13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In other words, working out your salvation is understanding what God is doing in your life which should lead you to fear, which is humility, and trembling, which is obedience. Let me give you couple of more references to help you understand how God is responsible for your salvation – Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 2 Thessalonians 2    13 “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” In other words, your part was to trust, God’s part was to seal you with the Holy Spirit.

What if the Enemy tries to steal you away? 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” What if the trials are too much? I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Romans 8    37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What if a person knowingly messes up? I Corinthians 8:11 talks about a weak brother perishing and Romans 14:15 talks about the weak brother being destroyed. The context here implies “self-condemnation,” “defilement,” and “wounding of the conscience.”

Here’s a big one – Galatians 5   2 “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing…4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Paul is frustrated with the Galatians because they were going back to the law, to circumcision. He’s telling them that if they do that, it’s a waste. He does say something very harsh and it’s exactly as it sounds. He tells them that if they go back to the law (self-effort), they’ll be lost. What do we do with this? Again, you have to look at the context. Go to Galatians 5:10 “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind…” Paul is giving them an “impossible possibility.”

For e.g. Like a parent telling a child – “If you do that, you are no child of mine.” Let’s say the child does that anyways. Does that mean that he is no longer a child? Even if the parent disowns, it is not possible. By DNA, it cannot be done.

What about 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” This is about the end of times. I Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him”? This is again a warning about the end of times. Overall, the abandonment will be by those

II. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO US TODAY?

who never heard the true gospel.

  • free to serve (Imagine if you had to fight for a nation while trying to prove your citizenship. How tiresome!)
  • Hope in the face of despair
  • No need to sorrow, self-condemn, or wounding of the conscience. Think about the Galatians in Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Are you safe? Are you secure?

 


 

Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Impact

Introduction:  Have you been to restaurants where the food may be great or not so great but the service is wonderful and friendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You want to go back. You even recommend it to friends and family. Now, how about restaurants where the service is horrible and unfriendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You don’t want to go back. So also with churches, they can make a positive impact on you or a negative impact on you. Today we will see how the Philippian church made a very positive impact on Paul and this is the kind of church Clearview needs to be. The message is titled “IMPACT” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Paul says in verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” In other words, every time Paul thought of the Philippians, his heart was filled with gratefulness. What emotions come upon people when they think of you? What impact have you made on the lives of those around you? A major reason for the positive impact was that the Philippians were saved. Paul calls them “saints in Christ Jesus.” Are you “in” Christ Jesus? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the Galatians and the Corinthians, the Philippians had made a very positive impact on Paul and his ministry. His heart was filled with joy when he thought of them. As he says, “every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” What a beautiful complement! In a few minutes, we will be celebrating the Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the opening verses of Philippians are perfect to help us examine our hearts, individually and collectively. Are we Christians who make a positive impact on others? Are we a church that makes a positive impact on others? There are 3 things that stand out in the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. First is TRUST. Let’s begin in Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ…” Typically Paul would have referred to himself as an “apostle” of Jesus Christ, as he does in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. He would do that to remind his readers of his authority. Let me give some examples – Galatians 1   1 “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” We find a similar tone in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1   1 “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 2 Corinthians 10:10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” In other words, they were saying that Paul is ugly and he can’t preach!” But not with the Philippians. He knows that they respect him already. Paul trusts them and he doesn’t pull rank on them.

Listen also to how he addresses the Philippians – “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…” First, he addresses them as being “in Christ.” It means that they are united with Christ in his death, resurrection, and their new life. He especially acknowledges the bishops and the deacons, the episkopos and the diakonos. Who are these two groups? The episkopos are the same as the presbuteros or the elders. They are the ones who oversee the work of the ministry, give it spiritual leadership, and serve as pastors, depending on the size of the church. The diakonos are the servants who serve by taking care of the needs of the congregation and any other need that might arise in doing the ministry. These are the 2 positions we have at Clearview. Then he says – 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two words he focusses on are “grace” and “peace.” Grace is what you need to get saved. Peace is what happens when you get saved. Romans 3   23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Application: Are you like the Galatians and the Corinthians or like the Philippians? Are you a trustworthy person? Are you full of grace and peace?

The second thing that stands out in Paul’s opening words is JOY. Listen to verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” When Paul wrote these words, he was sitting in a prison in Rome with Timothy his co-laborer, his student, and his son in the ministry. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” 14 “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” More than likely Paul was under house arrest in Rome since Acts 28 tells us that he was able to send letters and receive friends. But don’t misunderstand, this was every bit serious as he remarks in Philippians 1:20 “…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: Paul knew that there was a strong possibility that he will not come out of this prison alive. In the midst of fear, doubts, anger, stress, frustrations, disappointments, when his mind turned to the Philippians, a smile came over his face. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I know several Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them on a sofa here below—distance—in their case, might add enhancement to the view.” 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy. The words for joy are found over 50 times in Paul’s writings. In fact, he lists it as one of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does he have this feeling of joy? 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul remembers how they cooperated with him and helped him from the very beginning.

Application: Do you bring joy in the minds of others? Are you fellowshipping in the gospel at Clearview? Are you here to win others to Christ?

So far we have seen TRUST and JOY. Here comes the third thing – HOPE.

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We will look at this verse again but next week but what a complement! The word for confident is “pepoithos.” It is the perfect participle of “peitho.” He uses it several times in this letter. Philippians 1:25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Just the thought of the Philippians inspired hope in Paul as well.

Application: Are you a person that others can look at with hope? Are you a person who inspires hope in others?

What kind of an impact are you making? Are you in Christ? Are you saved?

Transformed by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRANSFORMED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Transformed

Introduction:  Have you seen people transformed at the snap of a finger? Back in the day when people still answered home phones, you’d be having a horrible day yelling at the kids, and then the phone would ring. What did you do? In the nicest voice possible – “Hello!” There was a transformation but it was temporary and fake. There’s another transformation that comes when a person comes to know Christ as their Savior. It is permanent and real. That’s the title of today’s message: TRANSFORMED. 3 different individuals were transformed in Acts 16 through the power of the gospel.

Acts 16   13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Question: The Lord opened Lydia’s heart and she heard the gospel and was transformed. Has the Lord ever opened your heart? Have you ever heard the gospel? Have you ever been transformed? On a different note, Paul was faithful in sharing the gospel with Lydia. Are you faithful in sharing the gospel with others in your life?

Context: After receiving the Macedonian call at Troas, Paul and his missionary team (Silas, Timothy, and Luke) concluded that God had called them to Greece and they set sail. Listen to Acts 16   11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis…” Keep in mind: The distance from Troas to Neapolis was over 150 miles. The island of Samothrace was the perfect halfway point. Neapolis, which is modern day Kavalla (Nicole and I have been there), was the port city for Philippi, which was 10 miles inland. Why am I mentioning all this? All these details again prove the historicity and accuracy of the Bible. Let’s keep reading: 12 “and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony…” I don’t have time to go into all the details as to why Luke calls it a “foremost city” but here are just a few facts about Philippi – First, it was a very important and prosperous city in the Roman Empire. One reason was because it was a Roman colony inhabited by Roman veterans. You can imagine the sense of pride among the citizens. The Via Egnatia, a major Roman Road connecting the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium, was the major east-west road through the city. Philippi was no Athens or Rome but visitors would be amazed by the large Roman agora, the temple, the library, the Commercial agora, the palaestra (Greek wrestling school), the theater, the 42-seat toilet with running water, the Roman baths, the acropolis, and the many shrines to the various gods and goddesses. Listen carefully: When Paul got the call to the region of Macedonia, he could have chosen a less prominent, less intimidating, and a little safer place to begin but he didn’t. He chose Philippi because it was different than the cities back home in Asia and it was time for the gospel to step out of the familiar and the safe.

Application: God is doing some amazing things at Clearview. He is taking us into regions that we have never been before. It is intimidating. It is unnerving. But, let’s not be afraid of stepping out of the familiar and the safe. Are you ready for what God has for us?

Now we are going to see 3 very different transformations of 3 very different people by the same gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by Paul:

1st TRANSFORMATION – 12 “…And we were staying in that city for some days.” Paul must have tried to make inroads into this new culture and social environment and maybe he hit some brick walls but he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t pack up and head home. Instead, he changes his strategy. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made…” Back in the east, Paul would begin by going to the synagogue but there’s no synagogue in Philippi. Paul hears about some people praying and practicing Jewish customs outside the city by the Zygaktis River or the Krenides River. Why by the river? Water was necessary for purification. “…and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.” If Paul had stayed in the city, he would’ve never met these women. He stepped out in search and God sent these women. What happens? 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. Don’t you find this ironic! Paul had a vision of a Man from Macedonia asking him to come and help them. Instead, he finds a Woman from Thyatira! “Seller of purple” meant that she was a business woman who sold those famous dyes from Thyatira which came from the root of the local madder plant. “…The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Application: Let me give you a less than impressive principle: “If you go looking for lost souls, you will find them.” The reason many of us don’t have any lost souls is because we are not looking for them. Our Mission at Clearview is to lead all people into a life changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” That’s why we keep finding them! Let me add, don’t be alarmed when God sends a “Woman from Thyatira” instead of a “Man from Macedonia.”

2nd TRANSFORMATION – 16 “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” This slave girl was much like those oracles of Delphi who told the future through ecstatic utterances. There was no truth in these prophecies since Luke does not use the Greek term “propheteuw” but “manteuomai,” which is pagan and false prophecy. But there’s something darker here. Luke says that she had literally, “numa puthonos.” Our translators say “a spirit of divination” but it’s really the “spirit of the python.” It is based on the myth of Apollo defeating the giant serpent “Python” and then this name was given to Apollo’s priestesses at Delphi. The Romans would’ve enjoyed this display of Greek culture and history and must have paid good money to her owners but think about it – she was someone’s daughter or sister or grandchild who was in the clutches of the Devil and was being destroyed from within.

Listen carefully: Don’t open the door of your home, your family to evil Satanic things. You may say, “It doesn’t bother me.” My answer: “Who says the devil is going for you.”

17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” This seems odd that the Devil will go around broadcasting the gospel. Don’t misunderstand. This has nothing to do with the gospel. This was only to distract and gain publicity for himself. 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her…” Why didn’t Paul deal with her the very first time? Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention yet. Maybe he didn’t want the girl to get hurt. “…And he came out that very hour.” Don’t miss this: There was no long drawn out discussion and process of deliverance. The name of Jesus through a man of God set the girl free.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not she accepted Christ as her Savior. I hope she did. But there was definitely a transformation that came into her life. The name of Jesus sets people free.

3rd TRANSFORMATION – Let me quickly summarize: The masters of that girl were angry because Paul had messed up their business. They accused them of being Jewish troublemakers and had them beaten with rods and thrown into the prison. Now comes that familiar incident – Acts 16    25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Someone said “that’s the original jailhouse rock!” 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

You never know what God is doing in someone’s life. He is preparing them to meet you so they can meet Christ.

For e.g. Young man whom Dr. Shelander met on the train who was on his way to commit suicide.

Have you been transformed? Are you helping someone else to be transformed?

Redirected by Pastor Abidan Shah

REDIRECTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

JourneyWithChristChurchPowerPoint_presentation

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?

 

 

 

 

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