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Summary: If we want to be in the center of God's plan for us, we must seek Him individually and we must be in deep connection with an individual church that is faithful to the Word.

Connections: The Believer, Church, Holy Spirit and Great Commission

(Acts 12:24-13:3)

Transitions can be hard to make; we have recently transitioned to an empty nest, the lost of dear family members, and a host of other adjustments based upon changes in our society, as you also have had to do. We are trying to hit moving targets.

We are living in days of transition in the Kingdom of God. For nearly 200 years, the West – particularly the USA and the UK – have been the bastion of Biblical faith. The seat of influence is transitioning east, as China will become the leading Christian nation in a few decades. Korea is already arguably more evangelical than the U.S.

Transitions as to the epicenter of God's working are not new. We left our last series in Acts at the end of chapter 12. This is a transition point. We go from Messianic Jews for Jesus to Semi-Jews for Jesus and now to a movement that is more gentile than Jew.

This section is a turning point in the Book of Acts.

• New center: Antioch (Syria) instead of Jerusalem

• New central personality: Paul instead of Peter

• New direction: Targeting both Jews (first) and then Gentiles instead of targeting Jews but not turning away gentiles

• I call this section, "Paul Launches Out: The First Missionary Journey, Acts 13:1-15:35."

Main Idea: If we want to be in the center of God's plan for us, we must seek Him individually and we must be in deep connection with an individual church that is faithful to the Word.

I. God Leads and Uses An Array of INDIVIDUALS (12:24-13:1)

• a diverse collection of Jewish believers; the church invented diversity

• even Jews had their many cultural differences

A. Barnabas, son of CONSOLATION

B. Saul called PAUL

C. John MARK

• Barnabas' nephew

• Early church made up of many extended families

• Church met in John Mark’s mother's house

D. Simeon, Called NIGER

1. Niger means black; he would be an African Jew, born a Jew or a convert

2. Ethiopia was very Jewish, for example.

3. Mark 15:21, "They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross."

4. Simon and Simeon used interchangeably; Luke when calls Simon Peter "Simeon" in Acts 15:4, (E+SV) "Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name."

E. Lucius might possibly be LUKE (inflections and variations)

F. Manean brought up with HEROD (intimate friend from childhood)

1. Kingdom of God is about God and people. He uses people, & He calls us to reach people who are hungry for God. It is about people & God.

2. W.A. Criswell (Acts: An Exposition, Volume 2, p. 126) put it this way:

… when Lincoln delivered the [Gettysburg] address, he put an emphasis upon one word in that dedication. We always say: "That the government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth." But … Lincoln … said, "that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth."

• When we view people as functionaries, we dehumanize them.

G. PROPHETS and teachers: who, what, do we have them today?

If we want to be in the center of God's plan for us, we must seek Him individually and we must be in deep connection with an individual church that is faithful to the Word.

II. God Uses the Collective Church Family: The Holy Spirit DIRECTS When God's People SEEK Him (13:2-3)

A. Worship by FASTING implies intensely SEEKING God's direction

1. "For seldom if ever is fasting an end in itself. It is a negative action (abstention from food and other distractions) for the sake of a positive one (worshipping or praying)." John Stott

2. They were intensely seeking God’s will; motivated by willingness to obey

3. Do you seek God's will beyond whom to marry…or a move?

B. How did the Holy Spirit SPEAK?

1. After worship, prayer, and fasting

2. Probably a prophet…

3. When we do a wedding, the groomsmen in back room; wait for a cue.

4. Do you listen for the Spirit to speak? The Word, the church, or through a brother or sister?

C. God had already CALLED them

1. This was a specific location and task, but the general call occurred earlier

2. Paul was called at his conversion…

D. The church can RECOGNIZE God's will, not determine it

1. The cannon of Scripture; ordination, baptism, board meeting decisions

2. The call to missions: supporting foreign missions is part of what makes a church a church and not a religious benevolent society: our OBLIGATION is to fulfill the Great Commission in some way…not an OPTION

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