Read Acts 3:1 - 10
The day began as any regular day for the crippled beggar. The man was positioned at his usual location at the temple gate called "Beautiful". This was a strategic location since the traffic was usually heavy during the three separate hours of prayer at the temple. People most likely would not pass him by without giving some sort of alms. The man has been crippled since birth, so naturally begging at this gate was a daily routine for most of his adult life. He just needed enough money every day so he could get by. Maybe he wondered if someone would just give him a large chunk of change maybe things could be a little bit better someday.
Unbeknownst to him things were going to change this day. The Apostle Peter and John were walking to the temple at about 3:00 in the afternoon and they came upon this crippled man. As the beggar looks up at the Apostle (probably anticipating some sort of monetary gift), Peter says, “I have no silver or gold." These are words the crippled beggar probably did not want nor does he expects to hear. Peter continues, “…but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
The Apostle takes the man by the hand and immediately the crippled man “jumped to his feet and he began to walk.” At this very moment he did something he has never done before in his life. He was walking on his own, without the help of others! He began to run and jump and praise God for this miracle. When the onlookers saw the man walking, jumping and praising God they were all filled with wonder and amazement.
I don’t think it would be wrong to say the crippled man got more than he was expecting that day. What began as a regular day; no different than any other, he was hoped to get some spare change from people who felt sorry for him but ends up healed of a lifelong handicap. In the morning money was all he sought. By the afternoon he was able to walk. The man now knew true happiness and joy.
This brings me to the point of today’s devotion... TRUE happiness. As Spirit-filled believers we should be the happiest people on earth. Why is that? Where does our source of true happiness come from? What does TRUE happiness look like? These are good questions.
Happiness does not come from material possessions. It does not come from temporal things like money, power, status or possessions. Happiness, true happiness, comes from something else. I believe if we were able to go back two thousand years and interview the crippled beggar he would not say, “Well on the day I was healed but realy all I wanted was some money. I wish those guys would have just given me money instead.” After this miracle I bet he could have cared less about money because what he found this day was far greater than a few coins of silver and gold.
Oftentimes happiness is found in the simpler things in life. The crippled beggar found that true happiness is found in those things that you least expect (in this case divine healing and a relationship with God) and it doesn’t involve silver and gold to bring him happiness.
The word "happy" is often interchanged with the word “blessed” in the Bible. One of the best passages on true happiness is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:3 – 11.
The key word Jesus uses is “blessed” or "happy." Thus a happy or truly happy person is …
Vs. 3: One who is poor in spirit. Now I know a lot of you may hear the words poor and automatically have a negative response. How could anything to do with poverty make a person happy? Well Jesus isn’t referring to finances here. A person who is poor in spirit is a person who is consciously and completely dependant on God. When individuals understand that there are things in life that are out of their control and there is a God who is in control should bring abundant joy and happiness to them. Our source of joy or happiness will come in knowing that we are children of the Most High God and we are be partakers in His Kingdom.
Vs. 4: The person who mourns. What?! How can sadness bring happiness? When we are able to see the hopelessness and sadness in the worlds rejection of Christ, the sins of humanity, evil and destruction it should cause great distress to those of us who believe. It should cause us to weep and cry for those who are lost. Yet in our sadness and grief we know that there will be a day when we will be comforted by Jesus himself and he will wipe away every tear.
Vs. 5: The meek person. The person who is humble and has chosen to live a life in finding satisfaction in the simple things is truly happy. Some of the happiest people I have met have very little to nothing but the clothes on their back and their relationship with Christ and this is enough for them. This is not to say that only the destitute and poor are happy. It refers to those who are content with a simple life.
Vs. 6: Those who hunger and thirst after God. True happiness and lasting satisfaction is only available in God. This does not mean people and even things can’t bring a sense of happiness to us, it’s just that they will not be the source of our full and sustaining joy and happiness. Those who desire to grow closer to Him and seek their pleasure, joy and happiness in Jesus Christ will truly and ultimately be satisfied, content and happy in life.
Vs. 7: Those who show mercy and compassion. Those who are truly compassionate are the ones who are truly happy. Their life is encapsulated in serving, helping and loving others and not in self promotion.
Vs. 8: The pure in heart. Those who have a genuine and authentic love for others and for God can know happiness to its full extent. Those who are the real deal are happy. They do not hide behind a veil or mask of false happiness. They truly are those who love God genuinely and have a real and transparent relationship with Jesus Christ. Their heart truly belongs to their God and Savior.
Vs. 9: The peacemakers. Those individuals who make peace and seek the good of the kingdom and desire unity over division are set for a joyous life. A peacemaker is one who desires over anything else God’s will and His Kingdom purposes. It is a man or woman who knows this world is not their home and peace is coming on the day God establishes his kingdom here on earth.
Vs. 10: The one who is persecuted for righteousness sake. This can only come by a Spirit-filled God centered life. The one who does not take a stand for God or is ashamed of his relationship is one who will be tossed around like the winds of the sea. This person cannot live a life of peace and happiness because they live a wishy washy life. Those who are persecuted for their faith should rejoice because they are counted worthy of persecution. I don’t think this implies that you will be constantly happy during trials and tribulations but know that joy (from Jesus) comes after the dark period of life.
We all want to have happiness in our lives, family, church, community etc. Happiness is a good thing. I truly believe God wants us to be happy. However, He desires to be the source of our happiness and calls us to true joy through his Son Jesus Christ. Nothing this world has to offer can bring a lifelong lasting happiness. Craig Groeschel writes, “When we believe the things of this world will provide happiness, we’re settling for a counterfeit.” Counterfeit happiness is just what it sounds like; a false sense of happiness. I see this false and empty happiness among young people and adults alike; they are searching for happiness in someone or something just to find out there is no sustaining happiness in either.
These individuals go looking for ways to make themselves happy in things that cannot bring happiness. So often we tell God what WE NEED (like a little more money, a new car, understanding parents, a new job, a bigger house etc.) but He knows what we really need for happiness and these things will not bring true sustaining happiness. We may think that silver and gold will make us happy, but when we see that God has far greater things for us (eternal life, His Spirit, gifts of the Spirit etc.), it is exceedingly more valuable than anything we could ever imagine.
So where are you today in your quest for happiness? Are you pursuing a counterfeit happiness that is unfulfilling and driving a wedge between you and God? Are your pursuits of counterfeit happiness damaging relationships, hurting those around you, or causing you to be in full rebellion with God? Or is your source of happiness found in something other than yourself, someone or something else? Can you honestly say, “I am happy because my happiness is founded in Jesus Christ and living for His Kingdom.”
I pray you can.
Read Acts 2:1 - 40
The Spirit-filled life and church - what does it look like? How do we live the Spirit empowered life? What is the difference between a Spirit filled life and a flesh driven life? These are some of the questions I will answer today.
In Acts 2: 1 – 13 speaks of the the fulfillment of the promise Jesus gave to his disciples in regards to the coming of the Holy Spirit. This extraordinary occurrence happened on the day of Pentecost (50 days after Jesus’ resurrection). There was a great sound of wind rushing in the room, tongues of fire appeared above everyone’s head and utterances of praise in foreign languages were all evidence that the Spirit of God had indeed fallen on the disciples that very day. God fearing Jews who came from all parts of the known world witnessed this event and were amazed at what they saw and what they heard. They were perplexed and amazed that the only conclusion many could come to was the believers were drunk with wine. Peter, filled with the Spirit, addresses these accusations and explains exactly what was happening on this strange day.
Verses 14 - 36 have become known as the great sermon of the Apostle Peter. I am not going to look at the full content of the sermon (we will focus more on verses 14 – 21) and then look at the amazing result of this Spirit-filled sermon and what we can learn from it today.
Verse 14: This is Peter’s first actual sermon and what a sermon it was. It is the perfect example of what Spirit-filled preaching looks like. According to author and pastor R. Kent Hughes this sermon was his greatest because, “Of the place it occupies in history of redemption, greatest by its pure results (there were 3,000 converts), and greatest by virtue of it being a model for apostolic preaching (Gospel oriented and evangelical).” In his sermon he addresses the onlookers by simply explaining what was happening at this moment. He also counters the claim made by others that the believers were drunk with wine, since it was only 9:00 a.m.
He begins his sermon with a quote from Joel 2:28 – 32 which is a passage prophesying or describing this time when the Spirit will be poured out on believers. Peter informs his listeners that they are witnessing the coming of, indwelling, empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit which was prophesied by the Prophet Joel.
Vs 17: “In the last days…” Peter tells his listeners that the beginning of the end was at hand. Here the Spirit of God is being poured out onto the believers. God will Pour out is derived from the imagery of Israel’s heavy winter rains; it speaks here of abundant provision.  When the Spirit was poured out it represented the beginning of an undisclosed time frame known as “the last days” which concludes with Judgment Day. The result of God’s outpouring of his Spirit on all flesh is sons and daughters prophesying, young men seeing visions from God and old men dreaming dreams. All flesh refers to all of Judah or more likely Jews and Gentiles. In other words the Prophet Joel is saying “There will be a day when God will pour out an abundant provision of His Spirit on both Jews and Gentiles alike.”
“Sons and daughters will prophesy…” His Spirit will be poured out and his people will prophesy. When one prophesies he/she speaks to the people and encourages, uplifts and as we will find out lead unbelievers to salvation (1 Corinthians 14:5). Steve Thompson writes in his book YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY, “Prophecy is not just speaking human encouragement; it is speaking divine encouragement. In simple terms, prophecy is ‘hearing’ from God and speaking what you hear in order to build, comfort, or encourage someone. To prophesy is to hear from God and speak to men.”
If I may be so bold as to suggest that prophesying is something the Church should be practicing more today. Now I am not referring to predicting the future or proclaiming loudly and annoyingly judgment of the end of the world. I speak about the type of prophesy that entails believers listening, seeking and hearing from God and sharing these words with one another (not to control or get what you want) for the building up of the body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul tells us Prophecy is the greater of the gifts when it comes to edification or building up the church body as a whole. It is not necessarily a greater gift as a whole, but in the church body it is more beneficial. According to the Prophet Joel there will be no gender or age discrimination, His Spirit will fall on male and female, young and old, Jew and Gentile alike. Young men will see visions (this is noteworthy since visions were generally reserved for specific people but after God’s pouring of the Spirit it will be available to all).
We notice in Joel 2:28 – 34 a promise made by God concerning an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all people regardless of race, gender or age. The Spirit will be active during the last days. God will reveal his plan, purpose and promises to his people of all ages and it will be for the building and edification of his Church. Peter tells us that the filling of the Spirit is no longer just reserved for the prophets but it is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. This includes you and me; we just need to pray for the Spirit of God to fall upon us and be willing to receive it when He does come.
The sermon Peter preaches is an amazing display of the Holy Spirit empowering a believer to preach the Gospel because Peter preaches with boldness and conviction about Jesus Christ. If you recall only fifty days earlier this same man denied three times the same Jesus he is now speaking of. He feared for his own life just fifty days previous and now he stands before over 3,000 people publicly speaking unashamedly about Jesus Christ. Another way we see evidence of Peter being empowered by the Spirit is by looking at the results of his sermon. Over 3,000 people became believers on this day. Only the Spirit of God can pull this one off. Had Peter given this sermon in his abilities and power, it would have fallen on deaf ears and the end result could have ended in a riot or death. As we can see when the Spirit of God is present, things happen and they happen in a big way.
If you are a student of history take a look at some of the great revivals in church history and you will see a common thread in all of them…. Spirit-filled preaching. Take a look at the first Great Awakening in America which happened in the mid 1700’s when a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon entitled “Sinner’s the Hands of an Angry God”. From a pulpit Edwards stood and solemnly read from his notes with a slow cadence and not very eloquently the words that would seem to push someone farther away from God than to draw them nearer. But the Holy Spirit was at work and the second time he gave this sermon it was met with people weeping and crying out in repentance to God. It is even said that the bars were closed because there was no business because people were getting save. This led to the first Great Awakening and is one of many events in history where the Spirit of God did remarkable things. This revival was a result of the Holy Spirit as were all revivals in history. Many people today try or have tried to usher in revivals but are usually met with little to no response as a result. Why? Because we as humans cannot bring forth revival! This is the Spirit’s job and we must allow Him to do His work.
I believe as Christians we can choose to live one of two ways; in the Spirit or in the flesh. We can live in the power of God or in the power of ourselves. We can try to live the Christian life in our own strength and ability and never experience the power of God because we do not want to give up control of our lives. I wonder why would anyone ever want this? Why would you want to depend on your abilities, intellect and means to manipulate situations to make them work for you and your benefit? Why would you want Christianity to be one more thing that you do in your life? Why would you want to add it to a list of other groups that you belong to? You may be a member of the golf club, the library, the VFW, the book club and the church. But a member of the Body of Christ is not something you join, pay your dues and attend a meeting or two. The Spirit-filled life is not something you belong to it is a way of life.
God desires for us to be men and women who are fully submitted to him, empowered by his Spirit, obedient to his word, sensitive to his voice, encouraging to one another and using the gifts he has given us. He desires for us to live in His power and get our abilities from Him. He knows we are just human beings and without His power we are no more than that. The Spirit-filled life is all about being men and women who rely on the Holy Spirit for the power and ability to live for his glory. This is really what is happening in today’s text. Peter (empowered by the Spirit) gave a sermon that stirred the crowd and eventually brought 3,000 people to faith in Christ, thus giving birth to the church age. Is this something he did in his own strength? NO way! The Spirit of God was upon him and the words he spoke were Spirit filled thus the result was a supernatural phenomenon.
So what is our response for today? We can look at this passage and say, “Hmm, that’s a good story. My challenge for you today is to not settle for the self-driven, self motivated, and self reliant life. God has more for you than just “being a Christian”. Pray for God to empower you to live the Spirit filled life. He wants you and me to be children of the Kingdom who have a passion for Jesus and desire to see and lead others to faith in Jesus Christ. This cannot be done in your own power, you need to pray, more specifically pray for the gift to prophecy (as Paul wrote). How do we do this? Doesn’t God give us gifts according to his will and not mine? Let me close with the words of Jack Deere, “Ultimately, the reconciliation of divine sovereignty and effective human prayer is a mystery. The Scripture teaches both, so pray for the gifts you want, because your prayers may affect the Holy Spirit’s desire to give you gifts… God is answering prayers today for spiritual gifts. If you want the gift of prophecy, pray for it.”
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. Includes index. (Joe 2:30). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Thompson, Steve. (2001). You May All Prophesy p. 9 Charlotte, NC: MorningStar Fellowship Church
 Deere, Jack (2001) The Beginners Guide to the Gift of Prophecy Ventura, CA Regal From Gospel Light.
Read Psalm 98
Psalm 98 is a Psalm of David and gives us a glimpse at the heart of a man who dedicated his life to living in continual praise and thanksgiving. This is a Psalm of public praise to God for his faithfulness in making and keeping His promises and for answered prayer. It is directed as a prayer of offering of thanks to God for his constant care. It is also a Psalm of heartfelt worship and humble gratitude towards a God who is everlasting, compassionate and faithful to keep his promises. In this expression of his gratitude, he has left us all a worthy example of how we should respond to God’s wonderful deliverance.
Vs 1a: “I will give you thanks with my whole heart” – David publicly and unreservedly proclaims that he gives God thanks with his whole heart.
Whole heart – inner part, inner man, mind, will soul… his whole being. David is not only giving ordinary or mundane gratitude; he is not just giving lip service to God. According to John Calvin, David’s heart is, “one that is sincere and not double.” It is genuine heartfelt thankfulness.
Vs 1b “before the gods I sing praise” – He unashamedly sings before the gods praise. The word gods can be translated as angels, kings or the gods of the kings. It seems the most probable translation would be “before the rulers and kings I will sing praise” since the Israelite's were monotheistic in worship.
Vs. 2a: “Bow down toward your holy temple” – David prostrates himself in reverence toward the tabernacle which represents the presence or the dwelling place of God. He knew his proper place before an Almighty God. He was not proud, instead he was humbled at the presence of God. This was not the actual temple since the Temple had not been built yet, so it was probably the tent or tabernacle that David bowing towards.
Vs. 2b: “I give thanks for…” – Three things David gives thanks to God for.
Vs. 3: “On the day I called you answered…” – David praises God for his answered prayer. As a result of the answered prayer his faith and spirit was strengthened in God. Aren’t we all encouraged or strengthened in faith when we actually witness an answer to prayer. When what we have prayed for comes to pass it certainly builds our faith and encourages us.
Vs 4 - 5: “All the kings of the earth…” – This is either a prayer request or a confident expectation. Regardless in David’s soul strengthening answered prayer he is confident that there will be a day when all rulers will acknowledge God as Supreme ruler.
Vs 6: “For the Lord is high, he regards the low…” These are words of comfort and encouragement to David and should be for us as well. As great, magnificent, awesome, amazing and awe inspiring God still cares for the common person. He is a God who is for the broken, humiliated, lowly and repentant.
In Psalm 51 David writes, “A broken spirit and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise.” Those who are humble and know their place before the Almighty God; He will remain close to and give regard to.
The proud, self dependent, unrepentant and haughty person will be distant from God. He will remain distant because proud individuals see no need for God, other than for personal gain or benefit (note he does not abandon them he just cannot get close to them, and not because he can’t but because the proud won’t let him come close). The proud are too proud to admit their failures, short comings or even acknowledge their sins. They come to God when things get tough and they can’t get themselves out of the predicament they are in.
Vs 7 – 8: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble…” David speaks of God’s protective hand in preserving him in times of danger and trouble. Even though his life is endangered by his enemies God has remained faithful in providing protection for him.
“right hand of power” – God’s almighty and divine power in physical and spiritual salvation. It is only God who saves.
Psalm 98 (For us today)
Upon reading this Psalm it is nearly impossible to not respond with the same amount of gratitude and praise towards God as David did. When I think back to when the Holy Spirit called me from the self-centered sin infested life I was living and I was invited to become an adopted son of the Almighty God, how can I not thank God with my whole being? A casual “thanks” is not enough to express the heartfelt gratitude I have towards the God who reached down and called me to be his child. It is not enough for me to give him lip service. I respond to God by giving him my whole being; my everything; I devote my life to serving Him (not as a way of trying to pay back what I could never pay back) but as an act of thanksgiving and gratitude.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Ps 138:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Ps 138:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Read 2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:4
We cannot completely understand God. There is so much we do not and cannot understand about Him; yet he is completely knowable. When I personally think about God and who He is, I am overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder. God is eternal. He has no beginning or end and our small minds cannot comprehend this. God’s love is never ending and this blows my mind. His grace is unfathomable and yet we are completely dependent upon it. Everything about God is perfect…His love, power, and holiness etc. Everything we do know about God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is synonymous to God’s Word. It gives us a glimpse of God (his attributes, nature and works) and it, as we will see in a moment, is profitable to the believer in so many ways. One way specifically is that it points us in the direction of how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ. Knowing the Bible is essential to knowing God and knowing God is essential to life.
Background of 2 Timothy
Paul’s second letter to Timothy (Paul is writing from prison in Rome) – He writes to encourage Timothy to persevere in the ongoing persecution and trials he is and will be facing because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is Timothy’s mentor. Timothy was a young Pastor at the time of this writing and Paul has a special bond with Timothy. The purpose of this letter is to encourage Timothy to stand firm in the faith during the good and bad times. In some ways it is a farewell letter to a good friend and colleague. The time of Paul’s death is uncertain but it is looming.
Chapter 3 Overview
In Chapter 3 Paul writes about the rise in persecution and godlessness that will happen in the last days. He says people will love pleasure (money, sex, & self) more than they love God. These godless individuals will be rebellious towards God and toward one another (they will be proud, arrogant, and disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and without self control). What is worse is these godless and rebellious men and women will give the outer appearance of being godly but they are in fact just the opposite. Timothy is commanded to stay away from such people. They are slanderers and rebels like the Egyptian magicians Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses (Exodus 7:8 – 13).
Those who love the truth and follow Jesus will inevitably be persecuted and evil will go from bad to worse. Timothy is commanded and encouraged to continue in the truth of what he has learned from childhood; the Sacred writings which are able to make one wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Vs. 14: “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…” Paul has instructed and mentored the young Pastor Timothy. We also find that Timothy’s mother and grandmother (Lois & Eunice) were integral in raising Timothy as a believer in Jesus Christ.
The sacred writings Paul mentions makes one wise to salvation – Scripture as a whole (N.T. and O.T.) reveals Jesus and teaches us about him.
All Scripture is breathed out by God – This is a vivid illustration of the Scripture. All Sacred writings that Paul just mentioned are inspired and ordained by God’s authority over all other secular writings. The Bible, the Word of God was given by the Spirit of God to men throughout history and it is without error. It is trustworthy, dependable and divine. This is what Paul is saying to Timothy.
John Calvin writes, “This (authority of Scripture) is a principle which distinguishes our religion (Christianity) from all others, that we know that God (has) spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they have been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.” Calvin basically says that as believer’s we need to establish the fact and be good with the truth that Scripture is God’s Word and not mans. It is in fact divine and commissioned by God.
The Apostle Peter confirms this in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2:13 – “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
The Bible is God’s Word… This truth is essential to our Christian faith.
Scripture is Profitable for…
Preach the word – Proclaim and herald the divine truth.
What am I called to preach? I am called to preach the Word. I am to preach the full word of God both the Old and New Testament because salvation in revealed in these Testaments.
Be ready in season and out – Be continually prepared to give an account for all God has said and done. The Christian (not just pastors) must continually be on duty in regards for giving account for our faith. It is important for us to know what we believe and why we believe it. We are to preach the word when it is convenient or inconvenient.
Reprove – Convict of errors
Rebuke – Correct
Exhort – Comfort
A time is coming when people will not receive or “endure” sound doctrine. In fact they will not only just dislike it they will despise or hate it. The truth will offend. In turn people will seek to hear words that make them feel good or validate the sinful lives they are living (make them feel good). My friends we are indeed living in this time. People do not want to hear about sin, conviction or holiness. They want to find preachers that will endorse their sinful ways. They will seek teachings that do not promote change or transformation for holiness sake. Paul exhorts Timothy because people will turn against him, ridicule, criticize and persecute him because He will preach the truth (Humanity is sinful and in need of a savior and that savior is Jesus). He will be persecuted because people will want to hear the teachings of teachers that are not true to the Word of God. So Timothy needs to remain faithful and continue to preach and not let anyone deter him.
The Word of God is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This weapon is not only used as a means of defense but also is used to strike back. The Word of God is powerful, when Jesus was tempted in the desert he used to Word of God to fend off the devil and it was sufficient. It is living, it is active, and it is transformational. Everything about the Word of God points us to Jesus and Jesus is the fulfillment of the Word of God (I John 1:1). If you are a believer you must cling to the Word of God; you must know it and love it, for in it is power, salvation and truth.
I am posting the transcript from the sermon I preached this Sunday at First Presbyterian Bradenton in case you were unable to hear the message live. I hope you enjoy and are encouraged.
Read Genesis 1:26 – 31 & 2:4 – 7, Ephesians 2: 1- 10
“Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Am I important?” “What is my purpose in life?” These are questions you may have asked, you may be contemplating or struggling with them today. These are good questions. These are important questions. These are questions I am hoping to answer today.
Do you believe there is a God who created everything? Do you believe there is a God in heaven who cares about you and about the world we live in? Do you know that you are a unique creation of God? We are not here by accident.
Today we will look at 3 observations about God’s relation to humanity in regards to our purpose in life. These observations are foundational to our uniqueness and purpose.
Vs. 26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The sixth day is the climax of the creation account. It is here that we find humanities origins, purpose and call. You and I are created by God. He formed us. We are crafted by the hand of God and He has taken great care in creating us. umanity is more than a lump of clay or a pile of dust. He is a creature that was crafted by the hand of God with great. If you note in God’s act of creation he merely speaks and things come into existence; yet with man we are told that he created or crafted man from the dust or clay and made the dust and clay into something new, something living. Something in His likeness.
God causes a deep sleep to fall over Adam and he takes a rib from his side to form and fashion woman. It is interesting to read Martin Luther’s take on this, “God might have taken a bone from a toe and thus signified that Adam was to rule over her; or He might have taken a bone from his head to indicate her rule over him. But by taking a bone from his side, God implied equality and mutual respect.” The end result, woman, was pleasing to Adam. He declares, “Finally! I have someone like me, and someone who is compatible with me and can be my companion!”
In this we have seen that we are his reflection. We are created in His image we have dignity. We have worth. My friends we are truly God’s beloved creation and we have purpose.
So what is our purpose?
So to go back to the questions I asked at the beginning of this message…“Why am I here?” “How did I get here?” “Is there a point to my life?” “Do I have a higher calling in life that just existing?” “Am I important?” “What’s the purpose of life?” I would hope that you can see the answers to these questions are yes. You have purpose and your purpose is to worship God and to enjoy him forever. It is to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ, and it is to offer hope by promoting Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
If you take anything with you today, please know you are a unique creation of God. You have purpose and that purpose is established in your understanding and relationship to God, who loves you and has a plan for you.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ge 2:4–7). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ge 2:21). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Here are four observations in regards to prayer that I would like to note.
The Power of Prayer
Yesterday I established that sometimes God says, "No" to our requests. So the next question that many have is Why does God say, “No”? If God truly loved us why would he say, “No” to us? Here are four reasons.
Read Acts 16:6 - 15
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if God answered, “Yes” to every prayer you ever prayed? It would probably be a chaotic mess. I thank God for not always answering prayers the way I desire. In fact when I look back on my life I am thankful that sometimes God said, “No” to my prayer requests. Does this make him a mean God? Does this mean he doesn’t care about me? Does it mean God wants me to be miserable and unhappy? No, I believe it could mean just the opposite. God never says, “No” just because. There is always a purpose behind his “no” and we will see how this is true as we look at the passage for today.
Hindered by the Holy Spirit
Vs: 6, 7: Paul and his companions were on a mission’s trip and they were in Phrygia and Galatia with the intention of going to Asia. Paul’s desire was to go to Asia (Asia Minor) to preach the Gospel and we are told the Holy Spirit had forbidden them to go there. They changed their plans and when they came to a place called Mysia they decided to go north to Bithynia and once again they were forbidden by the Spirit of Jesus to go. We don’t know exactly why they were not permitted to go to these places but we will see that God had other plans in store for them. We also do not know how they were hindered (did God physically restrain them or put closed doors in their path?), we just know they were. As far as we know Paul was not doing anything wrong nor was there a known sin that hindered him. He was zealous to proclaim the Gospel wherever he went. We just know Paul’s desire was for one place and God’s plan was for another and they were not the same.
Vs. 9, 10: In a town called Troas Paul receives a vision of a man from Macedonia who was urging him to come down to him to help them. It seems at this point God’s plan was to bring the Gospel to Europe instead of Asia (Not that the Gospel would never come to Asia, it just wasn’t the right time). It is also at this point the author and physician Luke joins their missionary journey because in verse 10 the writer begins writing in the first person (we instead of they). From this point on Luke travels with Paul on his missions journeys.
Vs 11 - 15: The men set sail from Troas they went north to Samothrace and Neopolis and eventually ended up in Macedonia to share the Gospel (in a city called Philipi) and remained there for many days. On the Sabbath the group went to the riverside to find a place of prayer. They began talking to a few women who were there. One of the women who heard the Gospel was Lydia. Lydia was a gentile woman who was a seller of purple (a very expensive and luxurious purple dyed cloth). The Spirit of God was at work as He opened her heart to receive to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ and she was baptized (with her household) as a believer into the family of God. Lydia became one of the first Christian converts in Europe. She was probably a wealthy woman because she offered to put Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke up in her household. This is significant because Jews typically would not stay in the home of a gentile, let alone a gentile woman.
When God Says, “NO”
The Spirit of God is fully at work in this passage. We get a pretty vivid picture as to how God works for His glory and His purposes when he does things we are not expecting. In this account we see the importance of seeking God’s will and allowing His will to trump (so to speak) our will. It is apparent Paul’s desire was to proclaim the Gospel to the people of Asia (and this was a good and noble thing) but this wasn’t what God had in mind for Paul at this time. So often we are bent on doing what we want to do that we are not sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God. We plan, set goals, create and cast vision, mission and strategies (as we should in accordance to God’s will) and we sometimes fail to seek God’s purpose in all of our desires; because sometimes our will and God’s will do not line up. Often, if we are Christ followers, our desires and plans are not bad, sinful or selfish but our plans are not what God has willed at this particular moment. This can be frustrating at a personal level because we put a lot of time, effort and resources into our plans just to see the door closed on us and we think we have wasted all of our time, effort and resources when in fact the closed door point us in the proper direction. James Montgomery Boice writes, “We need to understand that ‘closed doors’ though they are a type of negative guidance, are nevertheless true guidance.” It is important to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and flexible to change when God is the one who initiates it. Certainly Paul could have argued with God and complained that God didn’t do but he sought God and was sensitive to his leading.
 Boice, James Montgomery: Acts, Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1997 p. 274
As many of you know already that I have just released an Advent Devotional. I would like to share the first devotional with you. Please click on the book cover on the side bar to get a digital Kindle copy of the book.
Read Romans 8:19 - 23
The Bible is God’s message of hope. It is hope for today and for all eternity. Our hope is firmly rooted in the reality and anticipation of our future redemption. The Bible speaks to the fact that a person who believes in Jesus Christ has a future that is greater than anything he could possibly fathom or even experience in his lifetime here on earth.
The New Testament book Romans speaks about all of creation longing for redemption or liberation. The author speaks about how humanity groans inwardly and outwardly to be redeemed and renewed.
Author and Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, Timothy Keller, writes, “We are told (in Genesis) that we were created to live in the Garden of God. That was the world we were built for, a place in which there is no parting from love, no decay or disease. It was all these things because it was life before the face of God, in his presence. There we were to adore and serve his infinite majesty, and to know, enjoy, and reflect his infinite beauty. That is our original home, the true country we were made for… (and presently) we have been living in a world that no longer fits our deepest longings.”
We are like square pegs trying to fit into a round hole. We were not created for death, decay and destruction, we were created for life, multiplication and fellowship with God. Our hope is in the truth that one day we will be free from this earthly body and redeemed to eternal glory. Until then, we eagerly wait for that future event. Our bodies may be getting older and for some of us our parts don’t work as well as they used to; so, we continue to long day after day for the newly restored body and eternal fellowship with God.
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