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“The Direction of the Holy Spirit”

I. The Church’s Divine Helper

The church exist as a result of the Holy Spirit, it was He who gave birth to the body of Christ on the day of Pentecost when He was poured out upon the disciples.  Without the Spirit of God in the church, it would be nothing more than a social club or a service organization.  But when the Spirit of God is given His proper place, the body of Christ becomes a dynamic force of change in a sick and dying world. 

A.     The Work of Direction

1.     While on earth, Jesus directed the ministry of the Apostles.

q  After the ascension, Jesus continued to direct the church, only now through the Holy Spirit.

q  In the book of Acts we see how the Holy Spirit directed the activities of the early church.

q  There we see the tremendous success the church enjoyed and observe how well a church can function when the Holy Spirit directs it.

q  Today we see how poorly it functions when the Holy Spirit doesn’t direct it.

q  We must strive to be led by the Holy Spirit in everything we do; this is what the first century church learned to do very early on.

B.      An Exclusive Institution.

2.     It began in Jerusalem & its converts were all Jews.

a)       That all Began to Change.

1)          Peter Healed Aeneas at Lydaa & Raises Dorcas at Joppa (Acts 9:32-43).

(a)         I like the fact Peter was simply being led of the Lord to accomplish the will of God in each town he came across. 

q   He didn't set up big town meetings or announce miracle crusade rallies, he simply allowed the Lord to show him what to do as he arrived in each town. 

q   God desires to work the same way in our lives today.  Let's be open to how God wants to use our lives to bring about His will.

(b)        It needs to be pointed out that Peter had no way of preparing for this encounter, he merely came across this man as part of his travels. 

q   God doesn't show us what He will have us doing for Him ahead of time. 

q   He wants us to walk in a dependence upon Him and His power, so that when we encounter a situation we will look to Him for direction and strength. 

q   He wants us to feel utterly helpless and weak: first of all because it is true, and secondly it drives us to prayer asking for His direct intervention.     

(c)         The result of our ministry, as was with Peter (9:35) is to turn people to the Lord not to us.

q   Jesus said He would draw all people to Himself (John 12:32), not Benny Hin.

3.     God’s Preparation & Its Results: Unclean to Clean – Acts 10:1-11:18

a)       The Preparation of Cornelius – Acts 10:1-8

1)          He was a “certain: man (10:1)

(a)         The entire section (10:1-11:18) reveals the fact the Jews were very reluctant to minister to the Gentiles, thus Cornelius is a very important "certain" man.   

(b)        God has those specific "certain" people He wants you to reach.

2)          He was a  “religious” man (10:2)

(a)         He is described as being devout, feared God, prayed and gave to the poor.

3)          He was a “prepared” man (10:3-8)eH

(a)         Cornelius' heart was thoroughly prepared for the further revelation God was going to give to him through Peter. 

q   When a person responds positively to the little light they have been given about the Lord, God will then give them further revelation, usually by sending a believer to them. 

q   There are so many people in our society like Cornelius who need to be reached, who pray and try to do good deeds but are not saved.

(b)        The first eight verses of the chapter simply show how God is drawing Cornelius to have a personal relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. 

q   The believer today needs to have the same confidence in the fact the Lord will prepare the hearts of those He has called us to minister to. 

q   He will do this; not only for those who need salvation, but also for any person He may call us to serve.  So when you step out to be used by the Lord, be confident He has prepared the hearts of those you will personally serve.

b)      The Preparation of Peter – Acts 10:9-33

1)          By Giving Him a Vision (10:9-16)

(a)         The sixth hour (noon) Peter went up to the housetop to pray (v.9). 

q   This was a usual custom of the Jews since the houses had a flat roof for the people to grow food, rest, meditate and socialize. 

q   The Jews also practiced the custom of praying three times a day as seen in such O.T. passages like Ps 55:17 (morning, noon and night) and Dan 6:10.

2)          By Letting Him Ponder the Vision (10:17)

(a)         Peter didn’t at first understand the dream (10:17), until the next day (10:28)

3)          By Providence (10:18)

(a)         The way in which God intervenes in the daily routines of man to bring about His will and purposes.  It is those times when you see the hand of God in situations in your life, when you are convinced that these circumstances just can't be coincidental.

4)          By the Spirit (10:19-23)

(a)         This is often how I know the Lord is speaking to me.

q   I sense a strong pull upon my heart or a desire to do a specific thing, and then all of a sudden the opportunity to do that very thing is made available to me.  The circumstances in my life make it available for me to fulfill the inner desire.

q   Peter had gone to Caesarea under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  It was the Spirit who directed his activities, even though those activities departed radically from Jewish tradition.

5)          Both Cornelius & Peter were Prepared by Prayer

(a)         No specific verse is listed here because the entire story shows how God spoke to these two different men while they were in prayer. 

q   Prayer serves as a way to communicate with the Lord, but it also helps the person be prepared for the work God desires to do in and through them. 

q   Prayer has a tendency to soften the heart and make the believer much more pliable in the hands of God. 

q   If you want to be in the place where God uses you on a daily basis, prayer is a vital key to see this take place.

e  1 Samuel 12:23; Matt.14:23 after preaching; Mark.1:35; Luke 6:12; 1Peter 2:21

C.     The Work of the Spirit In Missions – 11:1-18

1.     Peter defends his ministry to the Gentiles.

a)       What can we learn from this section?

1)          The Spirit of God Wants to Lead Us Individually.

(a)         In verse 12, it is recorded that the Spirit told Peter to go with the men.   The Lord desires to lead us today in a personal way.  Try to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life on a daily basis.

2)          The Spirit Will Lead Us To Share With Others.

(a)         The Spirit told Peter to go with the men and he ended up sharing with a group of people about Christ.  Since the Lord sent the Spirit into the Church to empower us to be witnesses (Acts 1:8), great chances are that He is trying to lead us to share with others about Christ.

3)          The Spirit Will Lead Us Into Situations Where We Will Be Uncomfortable.

(a)         Stated in another way, the Spirit wants us to walk by FAITH and not by sight or emotions.  Peter must have felt uncomfortable to a degree as he came in contact with all these Gentiles, but he knew it was the Lord who was leading him. 

q   Don't think that being led by the Spirit will be easy or comfortable.  Oftentimes, the Lord will place you in a spot where you don't exactly fit in or are used to being in.  This is exactly where we need to be so that we will totally turn to the Lord and depend only upon Him. 

q   Don't think that the Lord will only put you in a spot to minister where you can do it easily; He will often put you in the most unusual and difficult places.

4)          The Spirit Can Be Trusted.

(a)         When the Spirit leads you into a place in which you are not the most comfortable, you can trust Him to work through you in a supernatural way. 

q   Allow the Lord to lead you in uncomfortable spots and then watch Him work through your life in ways you never thought possible.  The only way to know this is to experience it personally. 

5)          Peter Appeals to “the Word of God” & “the Work of the Spirit” (v.16-18)

(a)         The words which Peter refers to are found in Mark 1:8 from John the Baptist.

(b)        The Authority, which Peter appeals to, is the Spirit of God.

q   When we give as a defense the Word of God and the Work of the Spirit, the only conclusion people can come up with is that it is God who has done the work.  

q   But when you give as a defense that you reasoned, or you decided, or you felt that such and such should be done, you are on very shaky grounds and people have solid reasons to question your actions (2 Peter 1:16-21).

D.     Prophets & Circumstances.

1.     The Gift of Prophecy.

a)       As they ministered to the Lord (prayer & worship).

1)          The Holy Spirit Spoke to the Church Through One of the Prophets

(a)         Extremely Important Point: Notice that the Holy Spirit said it was the work, which He had called them to, and not the work Jesus or the Father had given them.  The point is that Jesus left the Holy Spirit in charge of the work of missions here in the world. 

(b)        Of course, Jesus and the Father are a part of this since they are God, but the Holy Spirit takes on a definite role in the area of missions. 

(c)         Each person of the Trinity has a specific role in the redemption of mankind. 

q   Jesus, and not the Holy Spirit, died on the cross. 

q   In the same way the Spirit of God has been given the task to empower, motivate and direct the Church in the task of world evangelism. 

q   This means it wasn't the Church's idea, nor was it Paul or Barnabas' idea to go out and preach, but it was the Holy Spirit who originated this plan. 

q   The Holy Spirit has separated all of us to a specific task for evangelizing the world, and He is the one who will direct and empower us to accomplish His purposes. 

q   The Lord does not want us to come with our plans and then ask Him to anoint and bless our great ideas.  The Spirit wants to inspire and reveal His plan to evangelize the world, and desires us to be excited and open to His perfect plan. 

(d)        Verses 3 &4 supply us with the proper way to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

q   (v.3) Says the church sent them out, (v.4) says the Holy Spirit sent them out.

q   This is a picture of how the church is to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit in the work of the ministry (Phil.2:12-13).  

2.     Troas: Macedonian Call – Acts 16:6-10

a)       The Spirit forbade them to Preach the Word in Asia & Bithynia.

1)          God Has A Specific Plan (16:6)

(a)         Some people act as if God does not have a specific plan for their life or ministry.

(b)        God's plan was very specific which teaches us that we are not the one who decides where we will minister, or adopt the idea that one place is good as another.

Pastor Chuck Smith

         God ordains and anoints a specific person for a specific spot in the world.  God uses all our background and experiences to prepare us for a very specific purpose in life, which also includes being in a specific place.  He is able to prepare you in a different area of the world, put you in a specific place, and while He is preparing you, He is at the same time preparing the very people to receive the ministry He has equipped you to do.  Our God is so wise!  The best place to be is the place in which God has both prepared us for, and the one which is prepared for us.  Don't make the mistake of thinking location is not important and as long as you are doing ministry it is acceptable to God.  Read closely, the Spirit did not permit them to preach the Word in certain areas.  It is not alight to be doing the right work in the wrong place, we must do the right work in the right place.  Hopefully, we are all trying to find the very place God has for us. 

2)          God Closes One Door To Open Another Door (16:7-8)

(a)         When the Lord closes a door for ministry in one place it usually means He will open another (in His time) somewhere else.

(b)        Don’t get discouraged or think the Lord is against you when He closes a door.

q   He is simply trying to get you into the place where he wants to use you to the fullest potential. 

q   The Lord desires us to preach the Word but according to His plan and purposes and not the ones we devise in our own wisdom.

(c)         Don’t expect the Spirit to lead us in some extraordinary or supernatural way.

q   Sometimes He puts hindrances in our path (Zech. 3:1-2; Matt.4:1; Rom.1:13)

q   Sometimes He will allow circumstances to arise that prevent us from doing a certain thing we wanted to do.  Paul’s letter to the Galatians seems to indicate this.

3)          God Will Direct Us To The Right Spot (16:9-10)

(a)         One of the ways God communicates His will to us is by limiting our choices by closing off certain opportunities.  He will eventually open up the right door for you to walk through, but sometimes this takes time (Col.4:3 through prayer; Rev.3:8)     

(b)        The following points might be helpful in your attempts to discover the will of God.  The first list is the things not to do and the second are a thing we should do:

3.     Points on helping you to discover the will of God.

1)          Don't Give Up: When the door closed for Paul to preach in Asia and Bithynia, he simply tried to find another area where He could preach the Word.  Too often, people give up when one opportunity closes and they read it as God being against them.  If one area closes look for God to open up another opportunity. 

2)          Don't Be Crippled: Sometimes people get so nervous about making a bad decision, or one that is not God's will, that they never decide on anything.  They are always praying but never making any headway and decisions are never reached. 

3)          Don't Rely Upon Yourself: God has a plan, you do not know it, you are not able to figure it out, you are not wise enough to understand God's plan, and you are not smart enough to plan your own life.  Since these things are all true we need to seek God, learn to depend upon Him and desire His will to be done.

4)          It is O.K. to make Mistakes: Paul made a mistake when he tried to go into Asia and then made another mistake when he tried to go into Bithynia.  We all make mistakes when trying to figure out the will of God.  There is no full proof system.  You will make plenty of mistakes in trying to figure out God's plan for your life. 

5)          It is O.K. to Use the Trial and Error Method: Paul went in one direction, and the door closed, so he went in another direction.  When you are faced with a decision to make and you are not sure of God's exact will, pray and ask God to shut the door if it is the wrong direction.  If you make a wrong decision and discover wasn't the will of God, simply move in another direction until you find His will.

6)          Do Pray! I hope I do not have to explain this point.

7)          Do be Led by the Spirit: The Spirit is the one who was directing the missionary team and so we too need to be led by the Spirit in our decisions.

8)          Do Depend Upon the Lord: The Bible tells us to not lean to our own understanding but to trust in the Lord in all our ways (Prov 3:5-6).  We need to realize that God has a specific plan and will, and that we are not the ones who are in charge.  God wants to work out His specific plan and we need to depend upon His wisdom and submit to His plan.

9)          Do Trust the Lord: Trust the Lord that He will eventually work out His plan in our lives if we are willing to follow Him and do His will.  Trust Him to answer the very prayers He told us to pray when we are to ask for His will to be done.  Since He told us to pray this way, we need to be assured that He will communicate His will to us somehow. 

10)     Do Realize it is not Easy: Finding the will of God at times is not an easy task.  It is difficult because we are not able to hear God as clearly as we would like, and the fact the devil is out there to distract us and to stop us from doing the will of God.  Paul even said that the devil hindered him from visiting the Thessalonian Church as he desired (1 Thess 2:18). 

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