THE AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH

 

January 25, 2004

 

DIVINE GUIDANCE

 

Today we look again at the leading of the Lord, wrought in the hearts of His people, and presented to their minds and lives in His word. In particular, we specialise this time on the inward guidance, according to Biblical principles, but yet, in terms of spiritual constraint and an awareness of direction. Having already considered some Old Testament examples (cf. II Timothy 3:16), we come now to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

 

1.         First let us consider in Acts 8 the case of Philip. First he went to the inimical land of Samaria, and with staggering results, found many crowding into the kingdom of heaven. HOW was he guided to go ? We do not know of any specific prompting in this case, but we DO know of Matthew 28:19-20, which tells us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and teach them to obey whatever He has commanded. Going to Samaria was very dangerous for a Jew, on such a mission, but in the event, it was most blessed.

 

 

2.         Peter and John, hearing of this, were sent by the apostles to join him. The Lord had given to Peter some degree of leadership, and thus with John his coming was a confirmation of this going to Samaria, but notice that PHILIP FIRST WENT, and then only did those two apostles follow. This was initiative indeed. The apostles laid hands on some who professed to have believed in Christ, for perhaps they had formed a reliance on PHILIP rather than on the LORD (cf. Acts 8:12). In the process, the Lord confirmed and guided these men to preach and establish the Gospel in Samaria, and the Spirit of God found His place in their now earnestly believing hearts.

3.             Simon the sorcerer, being interested in people manipulation, was so fascinated by this work, which seems to have involved the decisive transfer by faith of the focus from Philip to Christ Himself in saving strength, that he offered money for this power. Power! Power is merely the arm of the deed: the desire and the design is more important! Peter rebuked him most severely and while the crowds of believers thus increased, suddenly, Philip received guidance to go out into the desert. Desert ? to desert this fruitful field for the desert seems amazing! This was an inner constraint from the Lord, direct guidance being given to go!

4.             Philip then saw a chariot, went up to it, being LED to do that by the Lord. Then hearing the occupant reading Isaiah, the Deacon asked him if he understood it. The official in the vehicle replied to Philip by asking, How can I unless someone guide me ? Requesting Philip to come and sit with him in the chariot, he cited some of Isaiah 53, where the Lordís judgment was taken away in humiliation, and asked, Of whom is the prophet speaking ? of himself or another ? Philip then preached Christ to him. The word of God ruled, the Spirit of God worked.

5.             Again, Philip might well have stayed to confirm things after the baptism, but being strongly led to leave by the Spirit of the Lord, he left as suddenly as he had come: indeed, there are times when a person intrudes, and this evidently would have been one of them, as this man having seen the light, explored his way in it. His earlier ruminations seem to confirm this!

6.             In Acts 9, you have Paul stricken by light, as he persecuted the Christians, and suddenly made receptive, he was guided by the Lord whom he there met in the light, to go to Damascus where he would receive instruction. Meanwhile, in an amazing development in divine guidance, a Christian, Ananias was given a vision in which the Lord told him to visit Saul, naming the street where he was lodging; but was afraid because of his persecutory reputation. The Lord reassured him, advising him that Saul was praying and had seen in vision a man of Ananiasí name putting his hand on him, so by the Lordís power restoring his sight. Thus Ananias, being led, went and so began the most amazing missionary program over the coming years, the church leaping to Asia Minor and then Europe, Rome and it seems Spain!

7.             Later, in Acts 13, you see people praying and fasting, and then being led by the Spirit to assign Paul and the large-hearted Barnabus to missionary journeys. Here is corporate local prayer for specialised purpose, vastly confirmed by what followed for Barnabus and Paul alike.

When later (Acts 15:38ff.), these two differed because young John Mark who had gone with them to Cyprus, but returned early to Jerusalem while the mission continued in harrowing times in Asia Minor: Paul did not now want to have this young man come on the next journey, while Barnabus did. Thus they went on separate missionary works. However Barnabus took Mark back to Cyprus, like a skilled teacher: result, in time that same Mark became like a son to Peter (Mark 5:13), and traditions suggest that his GOSPEL was formed in the presence of Peter. What a result! Paul for his part with Silas went on famous journeys, so that different gifts and requirements being placed differently, had wonderful results for all over the centuries!

8.             Let us however return to Peter as in Acts 10, where you see him again instructed to lead under the Lord Himself directly and personally. This time he has a vision of seeing unclean animals on a vast sheet, while he was praying. Arise and eat! came the cry. Protesting that the animals envisioned were unclean, Peter was horrified, but was told, What God has cleansed, do not call common! This vision was used, for soon men came from a Roman centurion, Cornelius, asking Peter to come to see their master. Should he go ? The Spirit of the Lord instructed him to do so. In due course they arrived, this leading to Peterís presentation of the Gospel to a group with the centurion. Peter then realised that Godís call in salvation can be to people of any nation, that seeking Him with all the heart is more important than any race, and with this, he turned the keys a second time, not in lordliness, but in clear insight into the teaching of Christ! The Gospel thus leapt from the arms of the Church to the armies of the Gentiles and fired them, God confirming this action with various signs, as it was a vast step into a space, not of comets and meteorites, but spiritual need!

9.             Acts 16 shows us a series of actions in leading which are most instructive. Thus in 16:6-10, Paul and his companion were forbidden by the Lord to preach the Gospel in Asia, in the general region where they had been; so they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of God would not allow it. Soon Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him, ďCOME OVER TO MACEDONIA AND HELP US!Ē Paul gathered that this was from the Lord, and soon moved to Europe, the site of that then imperial metropolis of Rome and so much else, establishing vigorous churches and meeting all kinds of assault with power and preaching with purpose.Here then is a vision of someone actually CALLING for help, and of the apostle ďassuredly gathering that the Lord had called usĒ They went as directed, by faith.

 

From all these things, we find that there is no clear limit as to HOW the Lord chooses to guide His children other than on three major paths:first that the word of God rules, that the Gospel and the teaching of what the Lord has commanded must reach the world, and thirdly that the Lord knows how to shepherd His sheep PERSONALLY in His own way, within those criteria. But to be guided by His EYE (Psalm 32), you need to understand Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24), being consecrated in life. Doesnot the rider delight in the willing and intimately aware horse ? and the Lord in those who trust Him and therefore His word! (cf. John 14:21-23).