Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. I am excited to be embarking on another year’s journey together with you, because God has opened some amazing doors and I know that whatever Jesus has for us, if we’re loving one another, if we’re a healthy family, whatever it is that he has prepared for us we’re going to be ready for it. I know that our today is going to be greater than our yesterday. I’m believing that our tomorrow is going to be greater than our today. It’s been said that the greatest obstacle to experience the abundance of God in your life today is your refusal to let go of yesterday.
Today is your day, a place of contentment, joy and peace awaits you. It’s time for you to make your move into Christ’s abundance. You see, it’s just like in baseball, you can’t steal second base with your foot still in first. At some point you’ve got to start running forward, you’ve got to let go of the past, if you want to move into the future that God has planned for you.
But I wonder how many of you have ever noticed that so many people go through life without a plan. You know, they just kind of wander through life aimlessly day after day. I think it was Andy Stanley who said this and I think this is so important for us as we’re here on the threshold of a brand-new year. He said…
“Everyone ends up somewhere, but few people end up somewhere on purpose.”
Does anybody remember the movie City Slickers? Well, in the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal and this other guy, a character named Curly, are talking about the meaning of life. And Curly says, "Do you know what the secret of life is?" Then he holds up one finger and says, "This." He says, "Just one thing. You stick to that because everything else is meaningless."
And so Billy Crystal says, "That's great, but what's the one thing?"
Curly replies, "That's what you've got to figure out."
You know, Google became successful because they focused on that 'one thing.' For them that one thing was developing the fastest, biggest, and most accurate search engine on the planet, and everything else was second to that.
The question is as Billy Crystal asked: What's your 'one thing'? What is the one thing you want to pursue in your life more than anything else in the world? That’s what you’ve got to figure out!
Now how many of you would like to be financially free? You know, where you don't owe anybody anything, you’re totally debt free, and so you can give generously to whatever whenever God calls you?
Or how many of you singles would love to end up one day married with a strong, healthy, intimate Christian marriage?
How many of you, would love to end up so close to God that you know you’re pleasing Him, your driven by eternity, and you look forward to that day when He says to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant?"
How many of you would say, "I’d love to end up there?"
Well, let me assure you, that you can end up there, at any of those places, but you’re not going to end up there by accident. I promise you, that you won’t stumble upon success. You see, everyone ends up somewhere, but few people end up somewhere on purpose. And yet, as God’s children, you need to know that he has a plan and a purpose for you that is greater than walking aimlessly through 2017.
There’s a great verse that you may have heard on having vision that’s found in the Book of Proverbs. Most of us have heard the phrase in the King James Version recorded in Proverbs chapter 29 which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). Our modern translation says, “Where there is no revelation…” (Proverbs 29:18, NIV). Or the New Living Translation uses the phrase “Divine guidance” because as believers your life vision is a revelation from God; it’s his divine guidance in your life.
In other words, when we talk about having vision, we’re talking about having a revelation from God, and really connecting with God’s plan for your life. It’s not just about your goals or what you want for yourself, but it’s about what he wants for you. And so therefore, where there is no revelation for a godly family, half of marriages end up in divorce. Where there is no revelation for financial freedom, you can live in a very wealthy part of the world and still live paycheck by paycheck. Where there’s no revelation for your God ordained calling, you can stumble through life knowing that God has something out there for you, but always living under God's potential for your life. That’s why the Bible says, “Where there is no revelation; the people cast off restraint.”
And so today, as we’re kicking off 2017, I want you to know that God has a plan and a purpose for you in this generation. We have the opportunity to seek God together and to hear revelation from him as to what his “Greater Than” plan would be for your life. You see, with revelation people use restraint, with divine guidance people run to win, with vision people find life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). And so what I would like each of you to experience, is to wake up every day knowing that this is what I was created to do. And so I pray that you would get revelation of his purpose, knowing that he did not put you here by accident, knowing that you were created by God, that you were placed here at this moment in history because this is your moment when you can best bring glory to him.
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of God’s “Greater Than” plan for your life. Chapter 29 tells us,
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This is where we need revelation, because God’s plan to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future, isn’t some kind of self-centered consumeristic dream for our lives. It’s not like he sent his one and only son Jesus to shed his blood, to die, and to rise again so that we could have a better car, a bigger house, maybe a boat, or even travel the world vacationing. God’s eternal plan is “Greater Than” all that and so the proverb warns us,
“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18).
Therefore, at every opportunity, we want to surround ourselves with revelation of what God wants to accomplish in our lives. We don’t want to be stumbling through life, making it up as we go along, hoping to end up somewhere specific, but really having no idea how to do that. And so we want to experience revelation like the great men and women of the Bible did. You know like Moses, Rahab, David, Esther, Nehemiah, or the apostle Paul. Over, over, and over again, each one of them experienced revelation in four specific phases; and so today I want to share with you these steps for experiencing God’s revelation.
Let’s look together at Acts chapter 20. If you have your Bibles with you find verse 22 as I give you a little bit of context. Here Paul had been ministering to the believers in Ephesus. This was a church that he had planted. He loved this place and he loved the people there, but God began to stir within him, and he realized that God was calling him to something bigger, something new, something “Greater Than” what he was experiencing in Ephesus. So it was with great sorrow that he gathered the elders together and said, “It’s time for me to move on.”
I’m reminded of a story about the famous preacher D.L. Moody when he made his first trip to England. It was 1867 and he was so seasick during the voyage that he decided he would never sail again. He told them, "I do not expect to visit this country again!" And yet God stirred him to make five more visits to England regardless of how sick he felt.
My prayer today is that God is going to stir something deep inside of you, that because of the revelation of God you’re going to step out of your comfort zone and take a step of faith doing what God wants you to do or going where God wants you to go. And so I’m believing that God’s going to stir some of you, he’s going to show you something “Greater Than” what you’ve previously experienced, and you’re going to step out into the unknown. Here’s what Paul says in this emotional goodbye, he’s speaking to the elders, the pastors of the church, and in verse 22 he says:
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me… the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace” (Acts 20:22-24).
Now the first thing I want you to notice is that when it comes to revelation from God that it always begins with the Spirit’s prompting.
The first phase of experiencing God’s revelation is that as you’re seeking him in prayer that you’ll feel the Spirit’s prompting. The apostle describes it this way in the first part of verse 22,
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem...” (Acts 20:22).
In other words, Paul says, “This wasn’t my plan, but I was compelled by the Spirit.”
This word compelled means to bind or to be in bonds. Kind of like he was tied up and drawn along, he was being tugged or pulled along, it’s kind of like when you’re walking in the mall and there’s that place that’s making fresh cinnamon rolls. You know, you can smell it, it’s so good that you can almost taste it; there’s something drawing you in that direction. It’s uncontrollable, you feel it, it’s pulling you, you’re being moved in that direction, but it’s not something that you can really describe. Well, what Paul says is that it’s a move of the Holy Spirit, “He was compelled by the Spirit.”
Some of you may have experienced a moment like that, where you’re compelled, you’re bound by the Spirit, you’re being tugged along, when suddenly you see something or you recognize something that that just shouldn’t be, and you know in your heart that you could do something about it. There’s that something greater than yourself compelling you, this inner compulsion, and maybe you wish it wasn’t, because it’s moving you out of your comfort zone, but you can feel it pulling you toward something more, something greater than… something that’s going to require a step of faith.
And that’s the first phase of revelation, it’s the Spirit’s prompting, and maybe in the past you’ve felt that, you were stirred, it bothered you, and you had to move. You couldn’t stay where you were, you wrestled with leaving what you loved, stepping away from that which is comfortable, but you were bound by the Holy Spirit. That’s the first phase and I pray that you would experience that more and more as you seek God through his Word, as you look at the gifts he’s given you, and consider the life experiences that you’ve had, those things that point you to your own revelation.
The second phase of revelation is a sense of uncertainty.
It’s where you think you’ve heard from God, you feel compelled, but you don’t know exactly what to do next. That’s what Paul says in the second part of verse 22,
“Compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there” (Acts 20:22).
In other words, what Paul says is that he knows deep inside that he’s supposed to do this, that this is what God is a leading him to do, but that’s all he knows. He says, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.” And I believe that when it comes to revelation from God that this is purposeful, and maybe you’ve experienced this at different points in your life where you too felt God was leading you to do something, but you lacked the confidence to do it, because you felt like you needed details when all God wanted was for you to trust him.
And so maybe this year God is calling you to leave that place of security and do something radically new and exciting. Maybe he’s calling you take a step of faith and start a new ministry, but you’re uncertain, because you want details. And yet here’s what I want you to understand and I believe this with all my heart, God doesn’t often give us the details because we can’t handle them. And so what we need to do is to take a step of faith, to step into the certain uncertainty, because…
“Without faith it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
You know, we all want guarantees! And all God wants for us is to have faith in him, to trust him, and to follow the voice of his Spirit. When you step out and experience the thrill of living by faith, you may know that God is calling you to do something, but you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen next. And so the Spirit’s prompting is followed by a moment of certain uncertainty.
Some of you have been seeking to hear from God, to get fresh revelation, and you sense this compelling toward something, but you don’t know what to do. You’ve received the revelation, but you haven’t taken the first step, and so you won’t be able to realize phase 3 or 4 until you take step 1 and 2. And so what you need to do is to do what you can today so that tomorrow you can do what you can’t do today. You see, God will give you revelation, you’ll have the Spirit’s prompting, you’ll feel the certain uncertainty, you’ll know what you’re supposed to do, but you just don’t see how it’s possible, you just don’t quite know how. And so number three, the third phase of revelation, is to always expect resistance.
Paul says, “I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (Acts 20:22-23).
You know, we like to think that if we’re walking in the will of God, surely blessings and pleasures are sure to follow us all the days of our lives. But the reality is the moment that you put your trust in Jesus Christ and you step out in faith your enemy the devil has set his sights on you. Peter tells us, “Be self-controlled and alert. (and why? Because) Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And so the moment you step out in faith, believing the revelation, being compelled by the Spirit, you can put it on your calendar that your spiritual enemy is going to do everything possible to throw you off course. Your very real enemy, Paul says, “whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities,” your enemy is going to try to stop you from doing what God has created you to do (Colossians 1:16). It’s a predictable resistance!
And so in verse 23, Paul says, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” And you can see this same thing illustrated in every great story in the Bible.
God called Moses, “Bring my people…out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10) and yet you’ve got the Pharaoh… a predictable resistance.
God gave Joseph a dream in which he would “rule over” his brothers, but his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:8). There was a dream, a vision, and predictable resistance.
God gave Nehemiah a burden. He was compelled to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Passion for the city consumed him, but Sanballat and Tobiah said, “No way, we’re not going to let you.” It’s that predictable resistance.
When you hear from God and take a step of faith, resistance is guaranteed. When you determine to have a godly marriage and you begin to pray with your wife your enemy is going to whisper in your ear, “Who do you think you are? How could you pray?” When you take a step of faith there’s predictable resistance.
Maybe you want to get out of debt, you want to be financially free, and so you take a step toward it. Anticipate it! Expect it, because something very expensive is going to break by Friday, because there’s an enemy who resists you. It’s predictable resistance.
Some of you, for 2017 have a revelation of fitness, of well-being, you want to be in great shape and so you go to the grocery store and Twinkies are on sale for 75% off! You can expect it, because there will be the predictable resistance and you have to learn to press through that.
Today there are those of you that God is stirring you and you’re going to step out in faith into the certain uncertainty. You may be tempted to hesitate, to change your mind, but you need to press through it. You may be too busy, you may not have time, you may doubt yourself, but you’ve got a press through whatever resistance there is, and when you do you’ll move to phase four.
So number one, there’s the Spirit’s prompting. Number two, there’s the certain uncertainty. Number three, there’s the predictable resistance. And then number four, there’s an uncommon clarity.
This is that moment when revelation becomes reality, when those obstacles and difficulties become opportunities for God’s glory, it’s that “Greater Than” moment where God wants you to live. That uncommon clarity of which Paul speaks of in verse 24, listen to the power of his statement:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace” (Acts 20:24).
Paul says, “If I can do this one thing nothing else matters. This is why I exist, this is my purpose in life, this is my goal, my dream, and my revelation.” And I’ll tell you, this is what I pray for, this is what I want for you, that every one of you would have uncommon clarity, that you would experience the power of divine revelation. Because when you see and understand what you were created to do, you can endure the resistance, and you can press through great difficulties. You’ll wake up focused, because you’ll know why you were created and you’ll know that you’ve been put here by God to do something.
When you get to that place like Paul, where you know why you were created, and you know you’re doing what God called you to do, you won’t have any regrets. Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing if only…” Look at the uncommon clarity, “If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
You see, Paul knew what he was called by God to do. He’d received revelation, he was living for an audience of one, and he’d tell you, “I know why I was created. I was created by God in heaven, placed at this specific moment in history, and I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I can tell more people about Christ. If only you would come to know Christ the way I do” he says.
Today, you and I are on the threshold of 2017, we’re on the brink of eternity. What is your “greater than” revelation? What will you do with the rest of your life? Let God speak to you this morning. Receive your revelation, follow the Spirit's prompting, step into that certain uncertainty, press through the predictable resistance; and take the next step. Walk with uncommon clarity, step-by-step, faithfully led by the Spirit, knowing that you’re doing what you were created to do. Live out your revelation, because everyone ends up somewhere, but few people end up somewhere on purpose. You have been created with a purpose!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
January 01, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.