Where the Holy Spirit Leads

Daily Devotional: Day 151

“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. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7, NKJV).

Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled together, delivering the decision of the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff) to the believers in several cities. Today’s passage tells us that at one point, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word of God in Asia. The Holy Spirit further prevented them from going into the Roman province of Bithynia. Instead, the Lord directed them to go to Macedonia; and they complied (cf. Acts 16:8-10).

Why would the Holy Spirit forbid God’s servants from preaching His word in certain places? After all, God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). On the surface, the Holy Spirit’s decision doesn’t make sense. But if we look at things from a spiritual perspective, it should make sense. We need to understand and respect the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Jesus left Him in charge of the Church. To borrow a term from the corporate world, we might call the Holy Spirit, the Director General of all ministry tasks undertaken by the Church. Knowing this, we will do well to discern the will of the Spirit in all our ministry endeavors.

When Paul and his team were forbidden to preach in Asia and Bithynia, they didn’t fight it. They didn’t blame it on the devil. They humbly submitted to the Spirit’s will. How did they know that the Spirit didn’t want them to go to Asia and Bithynia? They discerned. Today, discernment is one of the critical areas of need in the Church. Without discernment, we would be operating in the dark, thinking we are working for the Lord, when in fact, we are on our own.

Some ministry decisions may appear right in our eyes, but to the Holy Spirit we would be operating against God’s will for us. Additionally, some things may appear to us as ministry opportunities, but to the Holy Spirit, that ‘opportunity’ may not be God’s will for us. At times we are so determined to do what we assume (without discernment) to be God’s will, that we fail to notice the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Bottom lineThe fact that you see an open door does not mean you must walk through it. Not all open doors are meant for you to enter. Some open doors are traps, not opportunities. Learn – by prayer and study of the Bible – to discern what the Spirit is saying in any given situation. Go where the Spirit wants you to go; don’t go where the Spirit doesn’t want you to go, even if you see opportunities; and finally, do what the Spirit wants you to do, according to the timing of the Spirit.

May the Father bless and increase you! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 10:1-15

Some People Do Not Want to Be Saved

Daily Devotional: Day 131

“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46, NKJV).

Paul and Barnabas spent time in Antioch of Pisidia teaching people about Jesus, the Messiah. On two consecutive sabbaths, they spoke the Word of God. On the second occasion, however, certain Jews in Antioch fiercely opposed Paul and Barnabas, contradicted their message and stirred up persecution against them. On the bright side, though, a considerable number of people believed the Word of God. Today’s Scripture reading focuses on part of Paul and Barnabas’ response to the Jewish opposition. Let’s proceed to examine the reading and see what we can learn from it.

When Jesus came into the world, He understood that His mission was to focus primarily on the Jewish people, not Samaritans or Gentiles. For example, He once stated, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24; emphasis added). The Apostles also understood this. Thus, at the beginning of their apostolic ministry, their priority was to preach to Jews first. Against this background, we can understand what Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews in Antioch: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first.”

But notice that right after affirming the necessity of preaching to the Jews first, the Apostles turned quickly to the Gentiles. Their charge against those Jews was that they had rejected the word of God and had judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life. These are serious words. Notice also that Paul and Barnabas did not push; they didn’t employ any tactics to get those Jews to believe. They understood when to stop, leave them alone and move on to someone else. That is the proper way of ministering the Gospel to people.

We can learn many important lessons from today’s story. But as usual, there’s only so much we can discuss in a Devotional; so, let’s focus on one important point, and that is: Some people do not want to be saved.

If you are not aware of this, you will waste your time and resources on them, while those who are truly hungry for truth and salvation are left without help. People who do not want to be saved are usually people who are not lovers of the truth. Even God leaves such people alone, and He gives them what they deserve by sending them a strong delusion (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). People who love truth don’t need much convincing, for they recognize truth when they see it and they will follow it wholeheartedly, even if the truth is a hard pill to swallow.

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prayer and study of the Bible, learn to recognize those who do not want to be saved. Share the Word of God with them, but do not waste time on them. If they are interested, you will know. If they are not interested, your job is done. Don’t push; don’t insist. Respect their choice and move on to someone else.

May the Lord let His face shine on you today! Amen.

For further study: Romans 1:18-22

Avoiding Distractions in the Church

Daily Devotional: Day 125

“Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas [Peter],” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, NKJV).

Paul played a pioneering role in establishing the church at Corinth. As was his practice, he left the church in charge of capable elders and teachers from the local community. Sometime later, he received disturbing report that the church had been split into at least four factions. There was the pro-Paul Camp, the pro-Apollos Camp, the pro-Peter Camp and the pro-Christ Camp. When Paul received this news, he was deeply grieved. He wrote his First Letter to the Corinthians, in part, to address this unfortunate development in hopes of bringing an end to it.

In addressing the problem, Paul begins by posing the question: “Is Christ divided?” The point he is making is that the church is all about Christ. And Christ is one; He is not divided into camps. Whoever divides Christ into camps is ignorant of Christ and ignorant of what the Church represents. Obviously, the Corinthians were not mindful of the things of God. They saw the church as any other social group that could be divided into factions to advance people’s individual tastes and preferences. The Corinthians also forgot that Christ alone was crucified for them and in Him alone were they baptized. The result is that the attention shifted from Jesus Christ to mere men and useless arguments. This behavior overshadowed the centrality of the Cross of Jesus and of its power.

 Today, we, too, need to be on our guard lest we fall into the same problem the Corinthians faced. When we lose our focus, we may think that the Church exists to cater to our flesh and its lusts. At times, we let our personal preferences and tastes dictate what the Church of Christ should be. One group says it wants ‘traditional’ music; the other group says it prefers something else. Within the same local church, we can create rivalry and competition by comparing one minster to another. Sometimes factions are even created based on ethnicity, race, gender or social status. And there are those who feel they are special because they were baptized or ‘touched’ by their favorite minister. Furthermore, we can idolize ministers or pastors to the point where it results in cult of personality. A similar thing was happening in Corinth, where some said, “I am of Paul,” and others said, “I am of Peter.” When this happens, Christ fades from view, and everything becomes about us.

The truth is, all these things are childish; they are a complete waste of time, and they distract from Christ and the urgency of preaching His Gospel. Let our focus be on glorifying the Name of Christ, for this alone really matters. 

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study: 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Answer for Yourself

Daily Devotional: Day 41

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself” (Acts 26:1, KJV).

It’s a privilege to be asked to defend your faith in Jesus. Yes, it is! When you get an opportunity to answer for your faith, it’s an honor for which you should be extremely grateful. Think about it: you get to speak for the Son of God and Savior of the world. Here on earth, there’s no greater honor. In our world today, there’s no shortage of opportunities for you to publicly answer for your faith in Jesus. When friends, relatives, or co-workers ask you questions about your faith, don’t get upset, and don’t panic. They’ve presented you with a golden opportunity. Confident, yet humble, embrace the moment, and go for it! Heaven is watching. Don’t be ashamed of Christ and his Gospel. Defend your Master and Savior. Tell people why you believe what you believe, and why you’re stuck with Jesus. It’s too late to be silent or indifferent. The day you got born again, the battle line was drawn. Therefore, like it or not, you’re on the battle field. It’s a battle for the truth of God and his Christ. Take your place and answer for yourself. Don’t back down.

Today’s passage recalls a moment in Paul’s life when he was held a prisoner in Caesarea. One day, he had to answer to the charges brought against him. He stood before King Agrippa, Bernice, Festus, the Roman Governor, and prominent Jews. King Agrippa said to Paul, “Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.” Then, Paul, standing before a King, a Governor and prominent people from among the Jews, he begun to answer for himself. For Paul, this was a chance to tell all the people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Everyone’s situation is different, but everyone has someone to whom we can witness about Jesus. Your audience may be someone at the mall, a relative, a friend, social media friends, a co-worker, your spouse, or your classmate. Don’t avoid conversations about Jesus; welcome them. And when you do, present a convincing defense of the Gospel, and explain why people should care about Jesus. Go for it.

Pray:

Daddy, I thank you for saving me through your Son. By your grace, I confess that I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is your power unto salvation. Fill me with boldness and wisdom from your Holy Spirit. And enable me to make the most of every opportunity to defend the Word of your Grace. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Acts 26:1-29

When You Yield to Jesus

Daily Devotional: Day 31

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

Paul puts it so well. What he says in today’s Bible passage is a concise and excellent description of what a Christian’s life is and ought to be. Let’s look at what this Scripture means for us. As a Christian, there are essential truths you must keep in mind always. One of these truths is that you are crucified with Christ. This is a deep truth, so take time to reflect on what that means. You didn’t get crucified with Christ physically, but you’re crucified with him nonetheless. It’s truth. Take a moment and visualize how being crucified with Christ would look like (Read Romans 6:1-23). The old you, i.e. the “you” before you got born again is crucified with Christ. That old self was unrighteous, a slave to sin and faced condemnation. It’s this self which is now crucified with Christ. This old self no longer exists; he is crucified, i.e. dead. Once Jesus got rid of the old self, he had to replace it with something else. So, you’ve been born again and given a new self, made righteousness and filled with God’s righteousness, just like Jesus. But here’s the thing: if you forget – and many Christians do forget – that your old self is crucified with Christ, there’s a big chance you’ll repeat the habits of the old crucified self. Again, read Romans 6:1-23; Paul explains this point at length.

The key is to remember what occurred at your new birth. If you remember that your old sinner-self is crucified and dead, it’ll make a big difference in how you operate. Of course, you’ll face temptation daily, but the truth of God in you will make you overcome. I know . . . It sounds simple, but that’s how it works. The Gospel is simple, but it produces amazing results. You must remind yourself often about the realities of your new birth until they become a normal part of your daily life; then, you can relate to what Paul says in today’s Bible verse. Like Paul, you’ll get to the point where you can confidently, but humbly say that you’re crucified with Christ; nevertheless you live; yet not you, but Christ lives in you. This is the essence of being a Christian, being born again, being identified with Christ. It’s the point where Jesus is in the driving seat of your life. It’s the best thing that could happen to you. If you’re reading this devotional, I’m excited for you. I’m praying that the Father’s wonderful plan for you be fulfilled, and that you enjoy this wonderful and glorious life Jesus has given you.

Pray:

Daddy, thank you for the wonderful life you’ve given me in Christ. I want Jesus to take over my life. I step aside and yield to his Lordship. You are my good Father. Let your will be done in my life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21