We’re gathering together again for another powerful message in our Church in the Wild series where we’re journeying through the book of Acts and learning how to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our current culture. In part 4 of our October series, Pastor Alexa shared an encouraging message detailing the missionary journeys of Paul.
In Follow Me as I Follow Christ, we discover 3 practical principles from Paul’s journeys to apply in our daily lives that will help us grow closer to God and share the gospel of Jesus with our world. Throughout October, we’ve been looking at the early church in the wild and we’re continuing on with the life of the apostle Paul in Acts chapters 13 through 21.
As you’ll remember from the ending of Pastor Eric’s message last week, Paul was originally Saul before his spiritual transformation. Saul was an enemy of the cross before having a dramatic counter with the Lord and, in response, then committed to living his life for the Lord and transforming into Paul, the man God designed him to be.
Following his transformation, Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament and set an amazing example for us as a follower of Christ. We can learn a lot from his life! Paul was an incredible communicator of the gospel and his ministry quite literally changed the world. We’re diving into the 3 missionary journeys of Paul in Part 4 of Church in the Wild to see how we can practically follow Jesus better by following Paul’s example.
In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul writes: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We’re discovering now how to do exactly that!
In our lives, our experiences and circumstances–the things we go through–shape our views, outlooks, principles, and perspectives on life. The ups, the downs; the highs, the lows; each curve of our journey shapes our personal and world view. In addition to our experiences, the Word of God also shapes who we are in the name of Jesus. Experiences help create our framework for life that guides us in how to live.
Pastor Alexa kicks off Follow Me as I Follow Christ with her version of Pastor Eric’s New Zealand story from part 3 of our October series. Be sure to listen to the comically relatable story! Here’s the takeaway from her reflection: our unique, individual experiences shape our personal perspectives of each circumstance and situation we face throughout our lives.
Whether big or small or silly or sad or challenging…we all go through a range of experiences throughout our lives that shape us into people we show up as in our world. When we read through Acts 13 through 21, we see many details of Paul’s experiences through the recording of his life. Our goal is to not only observe Paul’s history, but also discover the principles Paul learned through his experiences that shaped his life as a Christian. It’s these principles that give us an incredible example of the believers God has called us to be.
Our lives look nothing like Paul’s, of course. Even still, we see 3 practical principles from Paul’s experiences that we, too, can apply and utilize in our current culture. As we journey through these chapters in Acts, we will be encouraged to make Christ our very life, to live with joy no matter what we face, and to live for an audience of one. Amen!
Paul’s first missionary journey begins in Acts 13 and is recorded through Acts 14:28. This journey takes place in 48 A.D. through 50 A.D. In this first journey, Barnabus accompanied Paul as his ministry partner.
Acts 13:4 – So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus?
Let’s take a look at one particular experience of Paul and Barnabas that will define our first principle to apply from Paul’s journeys:
Acts 14:8-10 (NLT) 8While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting 9and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. 10So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
We see here that Jesus has performed a mighty miracle! But the surrounding crowds in Lystra perceived this miracle as confirmation that Paul and Barnabas were Greek gods. Because of this, the people in the community started bringing them sacrifices. Of course Paul and Barnabas shared the gospel, the truth that there is only one true God, with the people of Lystra, but the townspeople wouldn’t believe it. Take a look at what happens next:
Acts 14:19-20 (NLT) 19Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
The important thing to notice in this passage is that Paul was not afraid of death–there was literally nothing that could stop him from pursuing his God-given purpose. This experience helped shape Paul into the man he would become when he wrote these verses 15 years later:
Philippians 1:21 – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Colossians 3:4 – And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.
Philippians 3:7-9 (NIV) 7But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Here’s our takeaway: In order to be the church in the wild, we must have the revelation that Christ is our very lives, that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
How does that apply to us? It means that Jesus cannot just be a part of our life; He can’t just be a Sunday thing. Jesus cannot just be a religious tradition or something we do with our families. Jesus is meant to be our very lives! This doesn’t need to be some practical thing; it’s a posture of our heart.
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” –C.S. Lewis
As we follow Paul in this way, we can grow as followers of Christ. To live is Christ, to die is gain!
What does it look like in your day-to-day life for Christ to be at the center of everything?
It’s unlikely that we will ever be stoned like Paul. What does persecution for our faith look like in our current culture?
How do we keep God at the center in the face of adversity?
Paul’s second missionary journey takes place in Acts 15 through 18 around 51 B.C. to 53 B.C. During this journey, Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians and his missionary partner this time is a man named Silas as they visit churches they’d established. We’re taking a look at one particular story during this two year period.
Be sure to read the full chapters for all the details to the story, but to sum up the story, Paul and Silas are arrested, flogged, stripped, and put into prison in response to setting a young girl free. Here’s what happens in prison:
Acts 16:25-26 (NIV) 25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
Paul lives life with immense tenacity! In an unimaginably horrific situation, he actively chooses to worship the Lord. These are some of the scriptures Paul wrote during this second missionary journey:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong in Christ Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 – And may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation.
In the worst of times, Paul had a choice to make. He chose to pray and rejoice! We can follow Paul’s example because he first lived the life he instructed us to live as well. God is always bigger than our circumstances! Worship is a form of warfare for us; God will always come through for us.
Here’s our takeaway: In order to be the church in the wild, we must live with joy in every circumstance.
Whether we realize it or not, our testimony is powerful! Just like Silas and Paul’s. People are always watching, listening and when we respond to life’s circumstances with God’s peace and joy, people will wonder about the reason for our hope. That reason is Jesus Christ!
Think about a challenging situation you’ve experienced recently. How would that time have looked differently if you had been joyful in that circumstance?
How does being joyful in every circumstance influence other people’s (spouse, children, coworkers, friends) perception of you and of God?
Paul’s third missionary journey takes place in Acts 18 through 21 during 54 A.D. through 58 A.D. On this journey, Paul wrote the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans as he wrote letters to those corresponding churches. The portion of Paul’s journey we’re focussing on takes place in Acts 19 in the city of Ephesus, where Paul was preaching the gospel.
At the center of Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis, one of the false idols worshiped by the people who lived there. In order to worship the idol, people had to buy silver shrines as offerings. When Paul began sharing the gospel, so many people started getting saved that the silversmiths in the town started to go out of business. Needless to say, they were not happy! When we take territory for the kingdom of God, the enemy never likes it. Here’s what happens next:
Acts 19:23-27 - (NIV) 23About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way (Jesus). 24A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
As riots begin to form, Paul has a decision to make: appease the silversmiths or continue to preach the gospel. Instead of defending himself or trying to compromise with the business owners, Paul continues his mission and further spreads the Good News.
We have a powerful lesson to learn from Paul’s example: To be the church in the wild, we must live to please God, not people.
Galatians 1:10 – Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.
Like Paul, we too are called to live for the approval of God alone! There’s no denying that this charge is a challenging one to follow. Pastor Alexa shares a relatable struggle with choosing to please God over people in Follow Me as I Follow Christ that we can all learn from as we strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our culture.
God always has a plan. Sometimes, His plan doesn’t make sense to us in the moment, but 10 years from now we will look back and realize God’s hand was so actively at work in our lives that only He could be responsible for the fruit produced. God leads us and guides us daily as long as we are people who live to please Him.
Proverbs 29:25 – Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 – For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our heart.
These verses highlight the utmost importance of living for an audience of one, The One. Aiming to please God and God alone and living our faith to the fullest is a decision we will never regret! People will come to follow Christ because of our obedience to Him and our commitment to living our lives for the one true God alone.
How do we know if we’re living to please God or to please people?
Share a time when you actively chose to live in pursuit of God’s approval instead of the approval of others and how that experience helped strengthen the foundation of your faith.
Throughout Paul’s missionary journeys, he faced incredible challenges and difficult experiences. We can follow Paul as he followed Christ by embodying the principles we learned in Acts 13 through 21: To live is Christ, do die is gain; have joy in every circumstance; and live to please God, not people. As we do that, we will be the church in the wild and we will help the gospel to go forward in our city, in our community, in our state, and beyond. Amen!
Lord, we love you and we are so grateful to gather around your word. Thank you for giving us Paul’s example to learn from and grow from. God, we ask that you give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation and knowledge of your teaching. Please speak to us and encourage us and we strive to embody the same devotion and intentionality as Paul. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen!