Voice in the Crowd
Sometimes even the people who love us can get in the way of what God is calling us to.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Ever watch “The Price is Right?”
I think one of the most ridiculous things about the show, and there are a lot of them, is the fact that you can get help from the audience
Think about that…almost every other game show, that’s not an option.
For instance, if you’re stuck on jeopardy, it’s not like you can day, “Hold on Alex…What do you guys think?”
You can’t do it on wheel of fortune. In fact, Pat Sayjack, who wins for creepiest host ever, often hushes the crowd, “Now be quiet now!”
I guess on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you can “poll the audience” as a lifeline…
But on the Price is Right, let’s say you’re trying to figure out the last digit for how much a bottle of laundry detergent costs.
You’re not just stuck on your own.
You can turn to the crowd…and they can help you.
However, I’m not sure how much help they are. It’s just chaos.
Everyone’s shouting and holding up numbers.
And in the midst of it, you need to focus in on the people who you trust most.
Which, in this case, don’t focus in on the college guys because they’ve probably never bought laundry detergent in their lives.
We are going to look at a passage in the Bible today where Paul has to hear and then follow God’s voice above all others.
As a church, we’ve been studying the book of Acts in the Bible.
Acts is the 5th book in the New Testament and chronicles what happens after Jesus Resurrects and ascends into heaven.
It tells the story of how Christianity gets started and spreads like wildfire across the globe.
We’ve been following this guy named the apostle Paul as he journeyed across, what are now the modern-day countries of Greece and Turkey, and today, we’re going to rejoin him on his journey back to Jerusalem
We’re going to be in Acts 21 today.
If you want to follow along, Page 903 and YouVersion
(Acts 21:1-3) – NIV
1 After we had torn ourselves away from them (THE ELDERS), we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Pat-uh-rah. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo.
Okay, like usual in the Book of Acts, there are a lot of historical references to towns that we’ve never heard of.
So where in the world are they?
(Show Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey Map)
Paul starts in Miletus (just south of Ephesus), and they are sailing along the southern coast of Turkey.
To Cos, to Rhodes, and Patara.
Then, they cut across the Mediterranean, sail south of the island of Cyprus, and land at Tyre, which is actually one of the few cities in Acts that is still a city today (same name and everything), and Tyre is in modern-day Lebanon.
Then, we’re gonna see in a minute, here, that Paul’s going to work his way south towards Jerusalem.
The passage continues.
(Acts 21:4-16) – NIV
4 We sought out the disciples there (AT TYRE) and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home. 7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at “tah-luh-MAY-uhs”, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. (EXPLAIN PHILIP) 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. 10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus (EXPLAIN AGABUS) came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” 15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
Here’s what’s fascinating about this passage: God is leading Paul to Jerusalem.
He’s wanted Paul to go back there for quite some time.
All throughout Paul’s letters in the Bible, we see that Paul’s raising money from the churches he’s visited for the poor in Jerusalem.
And he wants to take that gift back there.
And on top of that, God himself, through the Holy Spirit (explain Trinity), is calling Paul to come to Jerusalem
We saw this in last week’s passage:
(Acts 20:22-23) – NIV
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
And it seems like other people are getting parts of that message from God too.
Except, what they’re focusing on is that Paul’s going to suffer if he goes to Jerusalem.
Look at verse 4 again
(Acts 21:4) – NIV
4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem
So, they too know, from God even, that bad things are going to happen in Jerusalem.
However, God’s NOT saying to Paul, don’t go. In fact, we know that He’s telling Paul TO go.
But Paul’s friends hear there will be suffering for him there.
The Prophet Agabus also confirms it
He took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet w/ it, and said, “Paul, The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem are going to bind you up like this and hand you over to the Gentiles (non Jews).
In other words, it’s not looking good for you there.
And then we see, that all of Paul’s friends, even his traveling companions jump in, and start pleading with Paul, “Don’t go! Don’t go!!”
And now, Paul’s in a dilemma, right?
God has told him to go. But all of his friends are telling him to not go. (even good Christian people)
What do you do?
It’s fascinating because Paul’s friends would have certainly known that God wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem, but they put Paul’s safety first.
When Agabus prophesied that imprisonment was coming, he never said not to go, he just said, imprisonment is coming.
But for Paul’s friends, that then meant, don’t go!
And now, Paul’s got all of these voices in the crowd saying, “Don’t go! Don’t go! Don’t go!” But God’s voice, in the midst of the crowd is saying, “Keep coming. Come to Jerusalem”
And sometimes the people who love us get in the way of what God wants us to do.
And it’s not necessarily because they don’t love God. Or don’t want you to love God.
It’s not that they even necessarily oppose you, or even that they reject God’s ways, but often, in their misplaced love, they just want to help us avoid pain.
A little over three years ago, when I first started telling people about how I believed God was calling me to start a church from scratch…I had to wade through this.
Some people told me, “Wow, that’s great. Go get ‘em!”
Others told me, like even some people close to me, “Can’t you just be a regular pastor?”
You know…go to some established church and be their pastor. That just seems safer. I think you should do that!
And it’s not that they didn’t love me. It’s that they did love me. They just wanted me to be safe.
But God doesn’t necessarily call you to be safe. In fact, usually he doesn’t.
You see this a lot with missionaries who go off to a different country.
God calls them at a young age to a different country, and their parents, who maybe even love God w/ all their heart, are the first ones to tell them not to go.
Jesus warned us in the Gospels that his crazy call on our lives could even divide families…
(Matthew 10:35-36) – NIV
35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
Maybe you’ve already experienced this as a follower of God.
You’re trying to follow God, and yet, even though it’s a good thing, the people around you are trying to persuade you not to.
And I don’t mean because they’re trying to persuade you to do drugs or something else.
That’s not what this passage is about.
This passage is about even the good people around you can sometimes get in the way of you following God because they don’t want any harm to come to you or you to be uncomfortable.
This happened to Jesus to. From even his closest friends.
(Matthew 16:21-23) – NIV
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Peter just didn’t want anything bad to happen to Jesus (understandably so), but that wasn’t God’s will.
And it’s hard when you feel God calling you to something, but people around you are saying, “No…don’t do that.”
That’s why Paul says to his friends, “Why are you breaking my heart?!”
This sucks. My friends want me to do one thing and I feel like I’m going to have to disappoint them if I obey God.
Sometimes people who love us can shield us from the cross
OBEYING THE RIGHT VOICE
But maybe you’re thinking…well, this isn’t really me… I’m not going to be a missionary to Pakistan or anything crazy, so I don’t have people telling me to not follow God because of the harm it’s going to bring me
But let me expand your thinking on this…there are plenty of ways in which we must obey God and yet people around us disagree.
Maybe God’s calling you to go on a missions trip…say to Haiti with us in January…but the people around you are saying, “Don’t do it. What if something happened?”
Maybe you feel like God’s calling you to start fasting, but people are saying, “Yeah, but that’s not healthy thing to do. That’s archaic.”
Maybe you want to start being more generous with your money to help other people or your church or a mission, but people are saying, “Just look out for yourself. Save up.”
Maybe you feel God calling you to start something…like a ministry to disadvantaged families…or an evangelism ministry…or a project to help single mothers…or anything…and everyone around you is saying, “Yeah, but that sounds like a lot of work. What about your family?”
“You gotta look out for you first!”
Last time I checked, I had to obey God first. J
See, and it’s not just when we put ourselves at risk that the people around us sometimes worry.
Sometimes they think they know what’s best for you and are “Looking out for you” in other ways.
Because that’s what Paul’s friends were doing. They thought that THEY knew what was best.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, God’s telling you to go Jerusalem, but here’s what you really oughta do”
Some of you as you continue to grow in your relationship with Christ are going to start to get this from the people around you.
As you grow with God, and you study His Word everyday, and you start telling more and more people about Him…
Some well-intentioned people are going to tell you to “just tone it down a little bit. You don’t want ppl to think you’re weird.”
Maybe even “Godly” people will tell you to settle down because they “care about you” and they don’t want anyone to think you’re weird.
But WHO are you living for???
Or, what about when you start prioritizing your life more around Jesus?
And you tell your kids they have quit some of the 14 different activities they’re in because you need to stay connected to church. Be in a house group…a youth group…grow in your faith together.
Because if you do that…. If you start making practical decisions around Jesus like:
“I think I’m going to quit working so much, so I can spend more time with God”
“You know…I’m not going to go to the cabin every weekend and check out for 3 months. That’s not why I’m on earth. I’m going to stay connected this summer.”
When you start making decisions oriented around Jesus and not just your own well-being, some of the people around you, who even love you, WILL question u
“How you could have your kids quit basketball to go to church?!? They need to learn teamwork. They can talk to God anytime!”
“You mean, you’re not coming to the cabin with us every week now? So, what, you love God now and you don’t love us now? IS that what God told you to do, not love people?”
When you boldly make steps towards living passionately for your Savior, people will question you, and some will claim that they only question you because they have YOUR best interests in mind!”
“Well, I think you’re just risking too much if you do this.”
“You’re going to lose out on time with your friends. And that could hurt you”
And people can tell you all of these sort of things, and they honestly feel like they DO have your best interests in mind. And maybe even their intentions are pure.
It was no different for Paul’s friends.
They honestly felt like they were doing the best thing for Paul.
But they only had Paul’s interests in mind, not God’s.
Today’s passage isn’t really a passage about HEARING God’s voice amongst all the others (there are other passages for that).
It’s a passage about OBEYING his voice among the others.
Because even in the midst of the chaos of the crowd shouting on The Price is Right, the contestant can still see how many fingers each person is holding up
It’s just a matter, of WHO do I listen to.
It’s like…do you ever play card game where there’s a TRUMP card?
Maybe high-card wins except for trump. And if spades were trump, it wouldn’t matter if everyone else laid an Ace of Diamonds, hearts, and clubs… if someone lays a TWO of Spades (the trump) they win.
And it’s similar in this situation. God’s voice is the TRUMP.
It DOESN’T matter if 500 people say one thing if God says the other.
It not one against 500 minds. 500 human minds together don’t even make up one percent of the amount of God’s wisdom.
He’s the trump.
He’s the voice in the crowd that you seek out!
And that’s the question before you:
Who are you going to listen to?
Now, ideally, those two things line up and give you the same answer, but like we saw today, it doesn’t always work that way.
But seek Him out. Talk to Him often. Read His word. Seek him out!!
But how do you keep trusting Him even when the people have decent points and they seem to care about you?
Paul’s friends weren’t making stuff up. They even had a prophecy from God that he was going to suffer there.
“Or sometimes it can be like Job in the Bible, his friends that were “consoling” him spoke a measure of truth at times…it just wasn’t from God.
So what do you do?
Well, eventually, if it’s something that you feel God calling you to do…
You do it.
Like, Jesus in the Gospels, eventually RESOLUTELY set out for Jerusalem.
Knowing…that indeed…he would be killed there.
But He goes.
You say to yourself….if God Himself is indeed calling me to this…(maybe it is to start something or go somewhere)…or maybe it’s to be more bold for Him…or to start cutting some extra stuff from your life to just more passionately follow Him and Him only….
But you say to yourself…I’m gonna do it.
You write it down. You tell people you’re gonna do it. You post it on facebook, you write it cement, you put it in your journal, you throw the dart on the map of the future and you walk towards it.
Just like Paul took this long journey towards Jerusalem.
And at ANY time he could have turned back.
In fact, think of it this way…NO ONE would have questioned him if he would have turned back and not went towards Jerusalem!
Even his strong Christian friends would have said, “Okay great, let’s just go back to Greece where it’s safer!”
NO ONE would have questioned Him. NO ONE would have known he did the wrong thing.
Well…except for 2 people. Himself. And God.
You’re not here to please other people. You’re here to please your Maker.
Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter earlier when Peter tried to talk Him out of, ironically going to the same city?
Jesus said, “Peter, you don’t have in mind the things of God, but merely HUMAN concerns
Don’t cater to just HUMAN concerns
You don’t want to live a life where you did what everyone else wanted you to do.
You want to live a life where you did what God wanted you to do!
Tell people you are more concerned about following your King than you are about avoiding pain.
Tell people you’re more concerned about obeying your Savior than avoiding ridicule or questioning.
You’re on this earth because He put you on this earth.
You’re allegiance is to Him…not to making other people pleased with you.
Sometimes He might even call you into danger. Into suffering even. Like He did with Paul.
That doesn’t mean He isn’t going to do great things through it eventually.
In fact, it’s through this suffering that God actually gets Paul to Rome finally.
Sometimes to bring about the greatest good, God walks you through the minefield first
And if He’s calling you to the minefield. Obey the call. Don’t make your decision based on if you think you’re going to suffer or not.
Make your decision based on what He said.
Plus, you’ll probably end up suffering more by not obeying Him.
Because then, He’s going to have to DRAG you there to get you where He wants.
Just go willingly. J
And know….that when you follow your God…He will be glorified.
He will expand His kingdom.
He will do great things through you.
So follow the King. Follow His voice. Even if everyone else tells you not to.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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