2019-02-10 – Acts 18.18-23 – If God Wills
Bible Text: Acts 18:18-23 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts |
2019-02-10 – Acts 18:18-23 – If God Wills
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.
Well one thing I can tell you is that it is nice to be back home. Traveling around Israel was simply wonderful, but just as Alice once said, “There is no place like home”. It is funny that the coldest day in my life here at home, was when I was in Israel. It was more than a hundred-degree shift from here to there. From -25 to +75 degrees, wow.
I put together a small slide deck to share with you of only 20 photos of the Holy land. But I must pre-curser that with the understanding that although it has much historical, religious, and emotional significance, it is not something that we should worship. Only God Himself is worthy of our reverence.
[show photo slides/movie]
What an amazing trip. Our tour guide Elly, being an agnostic Jew, I don’t think knew what he was getting involved in. We had 48 pastors and ministers on the trip. Each of which had a turn at reaching out to him, for him to consider again Jesus as his Messiah. He was really a amazingly intelligent man, lost, but wonderful none the less. Elly said once to us, which was very true, “before you see in black & white (regarding Israel and our understanding of Biblical history) but now you will see in color”. I will continue to pray for Elly, and also our Palestine Muslim driver as well.
In Today’s message we are going to see our dear brother, the apostle Paul as he is in Ephesus, reaching out and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those God puts in his path. I will remind you that this is now several years after Jesus ascended back into heaven, and this is Paul’s second missionary journey.
Please turn now to Acts 18, verse 18, page 985 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
You might recall the last sermon on Acts we read how Paul met up with Priscilla and Aquila, who were fellow tent-makers. They helped Paul and served in his ministry along with Timothy and Silas. We all need good partners in life and in ministry. I don’t know what I would do without you all at my side. And I can tell you that looking forward as we attempt to make a impact on Orion for Christ, your continued partnership and support and encouragement will be essential to our success for God’s glory and purpose alone. So thank you my brothers and sisters. Now let us dig into our verses here today.
18 After staying for some time, Paul said farewell to the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. He shaved his head at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.
It is presumed that Paul voluntarily took what was referred to for Jews as the Nazirite Vow, which includes not drinking any wine and not cutting your hair. When the time of the vow is completed, they would typically shave their heads. Paul didn’t have to do this, but this was his traditional custom for showing their commitment and adoration to God. Although the Nazirite vow is an Old Testament concept, there is a New Testament parallel to the Nazirite vow.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul later states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” For Christians, the ancient Nazirite vow symbolizes the need to be separate from this world, a holy people consecrated to God.
19 When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and debated with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he declined, 21 but he said farewell and added, “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
One thing I learned in Israel is that Jews enjoy a good debate. One night I stayed up and had a long talk with the desk-clerk at the hotel about God and the differences between Jewish and Christian faith. It was very thought provoking and although it was late at night, I quickly realized I needed to bring my A-game. We sparred on many issues, and I was surprised how much he knew about the Christian faith. He showed that he admired Jesus and the things He did. However, he also quickly denounced the idea of the Trinity and told me that Jews consider us as worshiping three separate God’s. He said that they can’t even enter into a Christian church because of that, however they can go into a Muslim mosque.
He also told me that the Rabi generally brings some topic or understanding to the people in the synagogue, then the men all give their opinions in debate. I thought that was pretty cool, and Paul in this verse is debating the Jews. I have no doubt that they enjoyed the sport of Paul’s debate as they wanted him to stick around.
Paul told them “if God wills” he would see them again. We are going to talk more about that dynamic more later as it is very important for us to understand.
22 On landing at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church, then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he set out, traveling through one place after another in the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
One of the first places we visited during our trip to Israel was Caesarea. It was a wonderful and historic place to visit right on the sea-shore. Our guide told us that that location was where all the wealthy people lived, both in Paul’s day and even today. Netanyahu currently lives there. The photos here doesn’t really do it justice, but it had some amazing architecture and even a fresh water aqueduct that was really an engineering marvel. Paul went from there to Jerusalem to Antioch, two of the main churches at that time. And from there he went around the other network of new churches. These locations were much more than a day’s journey. All I can say is Paul must have had some strong legs and quality sandals. We had a luxury bus taking us from place to place and it still wore us out. lol
Back to Paul’s statement “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills”. Well it is obvious that it was God’s will for Paul to return to Ephesus, because if you turn in your Bibles to the next chapter 19, it says right away that Then Paul returned to Ephesus. In fact he stayed for 3 more years, probably from the fall of 54-57 AD. God didn’t always grant Paul’s wishes, while he was a prisoner in Rome he wrote several letters where he yearned to be with the churches again, but never did.
“If God wills”. As Christians, we use that term a lot. I know I do. For instance, when I applied for a job, of course I would do my best to prepare my resume, I would network and learn all I could about the position. If I got the interview, I would practice before hand, and put my best foot forward to impress upon them my qualifications. But after all of that, I would say to myself and others, “if God wills, I will get the job”. Do any of you ever use that statement?
All of life entails situations where that statement could be used. Finding a wife or husband, getting pregnant and having children, getting into a college of choice, getting through a test or a medical procedure. It is good to lean upon God’s will as we are living out our lives. Jesus gave us a perfect example in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew 6:10 “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”, we recite it every week but do we really mean it?
You might be asking yourself how do we know what is God’s will? To address that, let us look at a couple related bible verses. The first I offer is where Jesus’s half-brother wrote in James 4:13–16 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
This is a warning for us not to take life into our own hands. As Christians, we should rely more, and trust more upon God’s care and direction. James is not suggesting that we don’t make plans or endeavor to make a profit, however we need to seek out God’s will and favor in all we do through prayer and through listening to the Holy Spirit that was given to us as Christians to guide us and to council us. God want’s you to trust Him. Everyone say with me “If God wills”.
Similar to our verses today in Acts 18, Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:19,
“I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.” Let me assure you that for most of his life Paul did not know if the next town might even be his burial place. Paul continued to leave his fate in the hands of God, and we should do likewise.
God will decide how long we live and when we die. And Paul and James’ point is: God means for that truth – and that reality – to shape our mindset and our attitude and our conversations. He means for that truth to be known and spoken about as we go about our lives. Show people what and in who you put your trust.
Jesus, the Son of God, also employed that same mechanism in the Gospels. One of the clearest is the way Jesus spoke of the will of God in Gethsemane when he was praying. We talked about this as we were visiting Gethsemane just a few days ago. As written in Matthew 26:39, He said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus is referring to the sovereign plan of God that will happen in the coming hours. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Yet he gave up His Holy position, He gave up even his connection to God in taking on all the sin of man. We were weeping in that garden as we contemplated that our sin caused Him to sweat blood before He was nailed to that cross at Calvary. God’s will was done that day. So sad but glorious at the same time. Thank you Jesus!
Jesus also said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). These words are tough brothers and sisters, tough but truth. Just because somebody says they love God in their words, doesn’t mean they really do. It should be evident in their character. Do they exhibit God’s loving character?
Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Here we have a very specific instance of what God commands us: holiness, sanctification, sexual purity. This is God’s will. But, oh, so many do not obey. Don’t get me wrong, we are all guilty of sin, none of us deserve heaven. But our character should be improving, becoming more God-like, as we live out our days.
Then Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There again is a specific aspect of his will in a command: Give thanks in all circumstances. But we all know that many do not do this.
One more example: 1 John 2:17, states, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever”.
So I conclude from these and many other passages of the Bible that there are many ways God shows us His good and sovereign will. The best way to learn of God’s will is to read his Holy Word. God gave us this Inspired, Infallible, and Living Word, and He wants you to read it, to know it, to live it, humbly serving Him and His precious church family.
As Christians, like Paul, we should all be actively seeking God’s will for our lives. That means that we should resolve to want what God wants in our circumstances. Trust God to take care of you. Trust that God wants only the best for you. And Trust that God Loves you so much that “In His Will” He sent His one and only Son pay the penalty for your sins on the cross, so that you can join Him in Heaven for ever more. I hope that you believe that. I hope that you, like Paul in our verses today, trust and obey in God’s will and divine purpose.
There is an old song called Trust and Obey that is dear to many peoples hearts. We are not going to sing it, but I will read you the first stanza..
When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Refrain: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Will you choose today to Trust and Obey?
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”