- Sermon Notes
God’s Calling on Your Life
In Acts 13 the focus of the book shifts in many ways. The focus has been on Peter and the disciples in Jerusalem, but now shifts to Antioch and Paul’s missionary journeys; from the Jews, the focus shifts to the Gentiles.
The title of this book could well be The Acts of the Holy Spirit. That also comes to the forefront in these verses as we now see the Holy Spirit setting apart Barnabas and Saul for the work God is calling them to do.
Paul and Barnabas are set apart for the work of taking the gospel to city after city, wherever the Holy Spirit leads them. That’s also one of the themes of this book; that the Holy Spirit is leading, directing, and ordering their steps.
David wrote in Psalm 37:23, The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
This is key to our understanding; that God is the one who orders our steps, that He establishes our way, and walks with us as though He were holding our hand even as He is establishing our steps.
This is the substance of our faith and we need to see that this was God’s intent for us from the beginning of the church. He has a calling on our lives and He has a purpose for our lives as well. There is life and joy that comes with living in His calling and purpose.
Many people lack direction or meaning or purpose in life and therefore are empty inside. God wants us to have life, and have it abundantly. Life is found in our relationship to Him.
This chapter begins at Antioch where there is a powerful move of God and many are responding to the gospel. In the first verse we meet some of the leaders of the church at Antioch. What an amazing group.
First, there’s Barnabas. We often refer to him as the encourager. Frankly, every church needs more people like Barnabas. Actually, we all need to be more like Barnabas. We are called to edify and encourage one another. In fact, every gift of the Holy Spirit is for the building up, the edifying, the encouraging of the church.
When Saul first came to faith in Christ Jesus, the leaders of the church were afraid of him because he had been the number one enemy and persecutor of the church, but it was Barnabas who took hold of Saul and defended him before the leaders of the church.
Barnabas is the one the church leaders in Jerusalem sent to Antioch when they heard about the moving of God in that city. He was sent to encourage them and one of the first things he did was to go and get Saul, also known as Paul, so together they could teach the word of God and build them up.
Then there is Simeon who was called Niger and Lucius of Cyrene. Both of these men are from Africa. Could this Simeon be the same Simeon who was forced to carry the cross of Jesus as he walked the Via Dolorosa, the road that leads to where Jesus was crucified? It is an interesting possibility.
John Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark is also at Antioch and he tells us the names of Simeon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus. How could he know such detail? It could be because this is the same Simeon here at Antioch.
Finally there is Manean who had been brought up with Herod. No doubt a man of influence and privilege and yet here he is humbly serving and leading. He has found a better calling.
God has ordered each of their steps and they find themselves at the crossroads of history. From these men we gain an understanding of what God wants to do in our lives as well.
I. Minister to the Lord
- There are many who do religious things, but only do so to be noticed by men. But these men were ministering to the Lord.
- Many people don’t understand that we are called to minister to the Lord. For example, when it comes to the songs of praise and worship, many people look for what they will receive, for the experience.
- I agree that it’s wonderful and powerful when our soul is moved by the power of the Holy Spirit in worship, but we need to keep our hearts fixed on the throne of God and bless Him with our heart.
Illus - When I was in the restaurant business, I found it hard to enjoy eating out because I always had a critical eye. I still have my pet peeves today. As a pastor and worship leader, I often found myself doing the same thing. But that’s not worship and that doesn’t minister to the Lord. Now I simply want to enter into the presence of God to bless Him.
Psalm 103:1-2, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.
- Ministering to the Lord is a great privilege.
- Notice it says that “while they were ministering to the Lord” that God began directing their steps.
- Many people are so distracted and busy they have no time to minister to the Lord, but that is when we receive from the Lord.
Psalm 22:3, You are holy, O You who inhabits the praises of Israel.
- When God inhabits your praises, your heart is ready to hear; and we need to hear, we need God to move our hearts.
Illus - Martha and her sister Mary picture this very thing. Jesus arrived at their home and Mary honored Him by sitting at His feet and listening to His words. Martha complained, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving? Tell her to help me.”
Luke 10:41-42, The Lord answered and said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
B. Worship Him in all you do
- There is a verse that says, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might.” But the reason for what you do is as important as the thing itself that you’re doing.
- In other words, we should do what we do “as unto the Lord.”
- Jesus gave a parable to teach about the importance of how we spend our lives, what we do with what we have been given. He finished by touching on the reason we should live to honor Him in all we do.
Matthew 25:31-40 What you have done to the least of these, you did these things unto Me.
Illus - This summer, as part of our summer classes, Jordi and I are teaching a class on what we have learned after 30 years of marriage. There are many great lessons and principles we’ve learned along the way, but perhaps the most important is that we have to “do it for the Lord.” Forgive… for the Lord. Be patient… for the Lord. Hold your tongue… because it honors the Lord.
- We certainly don’t do it perfectly, we have had our issues as well, but that’s why we have to learn to be like Mary and sit at His feet. We are changed only when we draw near to Him.
Romans 12:1-2, Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
II. Be Set Apart for the Lord
- While they were ministering to the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- This is a word that also applies to us.
A. Be set apart from the world
- When you’re being set apart for the Lord, you’re at the same time being set apart from the world. That’s a powerful perspective.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
- God is calling us to an intimate relationship as a good father is near to his sons and daughters.
Illus - This was true for us as well when we were raising our kids, especially when they were teenagers. It would be very difficult to have a close, trusting relationship to us if they chose to hang out with worldly friends.
- The disciples were also fasting as they were praying. Fasting is setting apart from the flesh.
- In other words, the flesh says, “eat, eat, eat,” but when you’re fasting, you’re saying “no” to the flesh so you can pray and be set apart for the Lord.
Illus - When I was in the restaurant business, at one point my partner and I had to decide whether we should put in a bar. We disagreed so we fasted and prayed. God gave me an answer that I should separate myself.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27, Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
- Fasting doesn’t just apply to food, you can fast from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
1 Peter 2:11, Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Illus - If your body is sick, you do something about it. Many people have souls that are sick because of what they are putting into their soul. Be set apart for the Lord.
- When you’re set apart for the Lord, your soul is alive. They were drawing near to the Lord and God poured the Holy Spirit upon them.
- As they were ministering to the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me… Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
- The Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the Trinity of God.
- It’s interesting that when the church first began in Jerusalem it took a persecution to get them to move out into the world with the gospel.
- Sometimes people are a bit too much like a mule that requires a 2 x 4 to get them to move.
Psalm 32:9, Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
- But now in Acts 13, they are ministering to the Lord, the Holy Spirit directs their steps, and they move.
- It’s a very different thing to be compelled by the Spirit, rather than by the difficulties of life.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, For the love of Christ compels us… He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
- Earlier in the book of Acts, we read that the Holy Spirit can be resisted. That’s what Stephen said to the Pharisees and leaders of Israel, “You men are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears and always resisting the Holy Spirit.”
- This is why Jesus said over and over in the book of Revelation…
Revelation 3:20, 22, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will dine with him, and he with Me… He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
- Being moved by the Spirit of the Lord, being compelled by the Spirit of the Lord, is a decision that we have to make.
- It’s a decision to minister to the Lord, to honor Him with your life. That’s why Joshua said…
Joshua 24:15, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Acts 13:1-5 NASB
1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.