- Sermon Notes
Living in God’s Calling and Purpose
February 5, 2022
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.
Illus. – It is like a GPS…
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, 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, and, flowing from this, also our connection with others. This brings fulfillment.
Matthew 22:39, The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].
The enemy also has a plan for your life, which is to work disconnect between you and God, and flowing from this, disconnect between you and people, living a selfish life. In other words, a life missing God’s purpose.
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, and the encouraging 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. There is some evidence that might suggest that this is the same Simon that helped carry the cross of Jesus.
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. Ministering to the Lord stirs calling
- 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 from 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 hearts.
- Some may ask, do we have to worship?
Illus. – A great illustration of this is when a loving married couple is out on a date…
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.
- God is so good to us. He saves us, renews us, forgives us, builds us up, keep us, loves us… He is worthy of our love, worship, and adoration.
- Ministering to the Lord is a great privilege.
- There is something amazing that happens when we worship. It is where God speaks to us, directs us, and it creates a space where God can reveal your calling and purpose.
Illus. – I remember when I experienced God’s calling on my life…
A. God directs the heart that is His
- Notice it says that “while they were ministering to the Lord” God began directing their steps.
- Many people are so distracted and busy that they have no time to minister to the Lord, but that is when we receive from the Lord.
- We can never out-give God. When you worship in spirit and truth, He responds by stirring your spirit.
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, and 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. – In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable of the man who has hoarded for himself all his life. This man then decides to sit back in leisure and enjoy the fruit of his hands… ‘This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you prepared?’
- Jesus goes on to say that this describes the life of a man who is not rich towards God. In the very next section, we find the famous words of seeking first the kingdom of God.
- God’s heart is that our lives would impact people, whatever that looks like in your purpose.
- This is even confirmed by scientific studies that show that those who impact other people with their lives are more joyful and happy. It is like nourishment to the soul.
Illus. – There is a study that reveals the traits of those who are the happiest. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which ran for 85 years, concluded that the greatest factor in happiness is relationships. The study splits happiness into two types, or buckets. The first is Hedonistic, in-the-moment self-centered happiness, (which doesn’t last long and is shallow). The second is when a person feels their life is satisfying and meaningful, impacting others even though they might have to make a sacrifice.
- Why? We are made in God’s image and He has a serving heart. When we do it, it is as if the heart gets a ‘thumbs up’ from God.
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.
- Holiness means ‘to be set apart’. God is the Holy One. He is set apart from all else. None is like Him. When He is holy in our lives, we set Him apart from all else.
- We cannot be holy by ourselves, but as we make God the foremost one in our lives, He sets us apart for Himself and makes us holy.
- He has set us apart, but we have the choice to be set apart, in other words, to choose to live as set apart ones.
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. – It is difficult to have a close trusting relationship with a teenager who tries to get away from you all the time, looking for chances to do wrong. When a teenager draws close and follows your heart it is easy.
- God has set up certain boundaries for our protection. If you are in a loving trusting relationship, your focus is not on the boundaries. If you’re not in a loving relationship with God, you will not understand the boundaries and will try to break through them all the time.
- God’s boundaries do not disappear. You can break free of it, but in the end, it will be detrimental to you and you will get hurt.
- 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.
- It is important to understand that fasting is not a legalistic concept, something you have to do. It is something that comes from a yearning to draw closer to God’s heart.
Illus.- I remember one time when I was young, I did not understand fasting and felt forced to fast. I didn’t want to do it, and as such, my heart was not in it. It was horrific. The only thing I could think of was food! But there was another time when I felt a stirring in my spirit, a longing to draw closer to God’s heart. This time, it was easier…
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 that 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 souls. Yet, they keep on putting in the very things that make it sick in the hope that it will get better. It is like cutting an open wound deeper and deeper hoping it will get better. 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.
B. Be stirred by the Spirit
- 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.”
- It’s interesting that when the church first began in Jerusalem it took 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.
- Now they were called by God for His purpose, stirred by the Spirit while ministering to God.
- 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.”
C. Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord
- We see that Paul and Barnabas were called to a purpose. But what about the other three men? Were they not important? Did God favor Paul and Barnabas above the others?
- We must remember that we are all called to different purposes. All have different gifts and functions. These men were called to stay where they were. They had to keep on functioning in the purpose to which they were called, whatever it was.
- Antioch, where they ministered, was the center growth point of the gentile church. Everyone couldn’t leave. Someone had to build up the church in Antioch.
- I do believe though that they were not doing it grudgingly because God has stirred their purpose in their Spirits as well.
Illus. – I have heard people say,’ I don’t want to follow God because I am scared that He will tell me to go work as a missionary…
- Just because God calls someone else to a specific purpose in a season, it does not mean that He has not called you for something else or to continue what you are doing for Him.
Colossians 3:23-24, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
- Our hearts should be focused on that God’s kingdom would come in our lives, living in intimate worship connected to Him as we wait on Him to direct our paths and strengthen us as we live out His calling in this broken world.
- This brings true fulfillment: Living in God’s calling and purpose for your life.
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.