When God is your Guide Any Road is Good

by | Aug 6, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor Jim McCaslin

Scripture: Acts 20:17-38

The Apostle Paul suffered continual persecution and affliction while spreading the Gospel of Grace throughout the Mediterranean region. The Holy Spirit compelled him to go up to Jerusalem. His friends, the Ephesian elders, warned him not to go, but he went anyway since he knew it was God’s will for him even though he would be imprisoned just as Jesus was when he went up to Jerusalem. Paul was intent on finishing the race that God had given him to run. He bade farewell to his Ephesians friends after ministering with them for three years. They parted in loving tears knowing that Paul’s road of suffering for the sake of the Gospel was the good road that the Spirit had laid out for him.


Most powerful Holy Spirit bathe us with your Brilliance the Brilliance of your light so that we may serve you as your agents to bring the Saving Grace of your transforming good news to a lost and hurting well world Amen please please be seated

Well we are indeed continuing our journey today through the Acts of the Apostles and today we look at chapter 20 verses 17 to 38 where we find the Apostle Paul at melitus a port city about 30 miles south of Ephesus which was the largest city in the province of Asia with a population of around three hundred thousand now that City had the best Seaport in Asia was an important Trade Center it indeed ranked with Alexandria and Antioch of Syria as one of the most important cities of the Eastern Mediterranean Roman world and as Pastor David told you two weeks ago Ephesus was also the worship center of the Greek goddess Artemis whose sacred image was believed to have fallen from heaven her Temple was the center of this religious City longer than a football field more than 55 feet high and richly decorated with a hundred columns

Now before we examine today’s verses to see what we can take away as a church on Mission here in Jacksonville Beach I want to mention briefly something I touched on is somewhat of an added extra when I preached it to the 11 o’clock service last week that was the importance for us of the Gospel moving West into Europe rather than further east and to the more remote parts of Asia we do know from the first chapter of Galatians that Paul spent two years in Arabia after his conversion surely Paul could have planted churches there and composed his Epistles in the ancient dialects of that region what shape might Christian theology have assumed if Paul had done so Paul’s New Testament letters and early church liturgies might well have been written in Arabic instead we know that the Mediterranean region generally and the Greek language in particular gave shape to Christian theology the key ecumenical councils of nicaea and Constantinople in Western Turkey were both situated in the Eastern Mediterranean now it is true that early tradition has the Apostle Thomas spreading the gospel Eastward even to India while the Holy Spirit could have inspired biblical books and liturgy in the languages of the Far East instead Greek became the language of Christian thought for reasons that only God knows it seemed good to the Holy Spirit to have his words for the world come down to us first in Hebrew and then in Greek when Paul first crossed over to Macedonia the Lord of History had already decided that nicaea would be the initial site of our communion Creed now as we’ve said before the acts of the Apostle is also known as the acts of the holy spirit because the Holy Spirit routinely LED Paul and his companions in their Journeys and empowered them for Ministry so returning now today to melitus and the Ephesian Christians in Acts 20 we find the Holy Spirit once again clearly at work indeed we read in verse 22 that Paul felt constrained by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem now the Greek word translated constrained here has a sense of bound chained tied or compelled it’s a very strong word as if Paul felt forced to go to Jerusalem now Paul says that he doesn’t know what will happen to him there but he does know that the holy spirit is testifying to him in every city that imprisonment and if and afflictions await him we don’t know how the Holy Spirit was testifying to Paul was he hearing an audible voice that was so loud that the people around him heard it too just like the men with him when he encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus and was converted as we read about back in Acts 9. or was the spirit’s witness just a still small voice as it was when the Lord spoke to the Prophet Elijah or remember how the Holy Spirit led the elders at Antioch and acts 13 to send out Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey we weren’t told if the spirit spoke audibly or in a still small voice or just somehow led the elders to the conclusion that they needed to lay hands on them and send them on their way now regardless of how the Holy Spirit testified to Paul it was clear that his presence was so strong with Paul that he knew he simply had to go up to Jerusalem even though he was sure that imprisonment and afflictions were waiting for him there who would do that who would walk into such hardships voluntarily have you ever felt compelled to do something for the Lord even though you knew that trouble was waiting for you

Paul was bound by the spirit by some inner compulsion to go to Jerusalem you know at times when we’re saying our prayers and seeking to follow the Lord’s will we we still don’t know where to go we don’t know what road to take but here’s something you can always count on when God is your god any road is good

you know there’s a story told about the great Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr who served as a Supreme Court Justice from 1902 to 1932 retiring at the age of 90. an unbeaten record for the oldest Justice of the Court homes when quite old was reportedly catching a train one day and the conductor stood in front of him waiting for his ticket and judge Holmes was was searching through all of his pockets trying to find it now the conductor knowing homes said no problem sir I know you have the ticket somewhere you don’t have to find it Holmes replied that’s not the trouble my man I have forgotten where I am going

I I can relate to that at times

but the truth is a lot of people have no clear sense of direction they don’t know where they’re going they’re just existing aimlessly but remember when God is your guide any road is good

you know we know that Paul’s friends told him that heading for Jerusalem was traveling in a bad Direction but it was God’s chosen way for him and that made it good in a similar way that we call Good Friday good apparently Paul had sent word ahead to the Elders of the Ephesian church that he wanted to meet with them on his way to Jerusalem his ship would stop at melitus very briefly so he sent word to the elders to meet him there and they gathered perhaps on the beach these men loved Paul he was their father and faith they have prayed witnessed and suffered together he introduced most of them to Jesus Paul told them that he was on the road to Jerusalem that hotbed of his enemies and he was convinced that this was God’s path for him Christians in all the other churches had warned Paul that prison and suffering were in store for him and Paul agreed that trouble was up ahead but he said to the elders that’s all right I’m in the middle of God’s will therefore don’t worry about me just pray for me we’ve been talking about the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit ever since we began our journey through acts last fall remember how it all started back in the second chapter of Acts where the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and they even began to speak in other tongues you know I suspect that most of us don’t experience such power in our lives very often if at all was Paul such a super Christian that he was given this compulsion because he had the critical missionary work of spreading the gospel of grace to Jews and Gentiles throughout the Mediterranean that’s a good question as we examine church history and even look around us look around the world today we can see that God is still at work often in amazing ways and he does give each Christian whatever he or she needs to do the work that God has given them to do now most of us probably aren’t going to be called to go on a major missionary journey like the Apostle Paul and his companions but I know that the Lord does have work for each one of us to do I’m also sure that he will communicate it to us in whatever way he chooses

Paul has told us that he absolutely must go up to Jerusalem even though he knew full well that afflictions and imprisonments awaited him I wonder if he thought about Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem

when Jesus thought the time was right when that time had finally come he told told his disciples his friends that he had to go to Jerusalem where he would be handed all over to his own afflictions and imprisonment and ultimately to his crucifixion submitting to his father’s will that he must lay down his life on the cross of Golgotha Cross of Calvary to pay for the sins of the world a perfect Ransom or your sins and mine when Jesus finally arrives at Jerusalem he makes a triumphal entry on what we now call Palm Sunday and by the end of that week however he would undergo his final tribulation but first he would summon his friends for their last supper together he apparently wanted to tell them many things that he consider considered very important before his departure and we can read all those things now in what we call Jesus’s farewell discourses found in the Gospel of John chapters 13 through 17. you know in a way the Apostle Paul did something very similar when he summoned his Ephesian friends to meet with him at melitus so he could bid that bid them farewell what import important thoughts did Paul leave with his friends this farewell address at melitus is the only recorded sample of Paul’s preaching specifically to his fellow Christians he started off by reminding them how he had conducted himself while he had lived among them for some three years he had been oppressed and even persecuted by the Jews whenever he went to proclaim the saving good news of Jesus and despite all that he kept his focus on his mission and somehow remained humble while he went about the Lord’s work now humble man doesn’t mention his humility too much or he really wouldn’t be humble but I suspect that Paul wanted his disciples to realize that any Pride they felt because of their service needed to be kept under control since they had been saved by grace alone he reminded the Ephesians just as he reminds us that we boast only in the Lord Jesus Christ

you can’t help but Wonder how emotional Paul must have been while he was saying goodbye to his Ephesian friends after three years of intense work with them he he must have felt really close to them you know he had been under this amazing amount of both physical and psychological pressure and so he seemed to want to want to recount all that they had been through together teaching publicly in the synagogues and the marketplaces and privately going from door to door to houses that would receive them he had tried to share anything with them that would be helpful as they would continue in Ministry he reminded them that the heart of preaching the Good News of Grace was repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ can this be repeated too often we preached the necessity of repentance and personal faith in Jesus because the truth Bears repeating

Paul reemphasizes that his only aim was to finish the race complete the tasks that he had received from the Lord to testify to that good news of God’s grace

now having told his companions that preaching the gospel of grace was the ultimate priority Paul moves on to speak of other important matters he reminds them that the Holy Spirit has called them to serve as overseers as pastors and Shepherds to care for the flocks that God has entrusted to them realizing that false teachers would rise up even from within the church to lead people away from the true Gospel of Jesus there’ll be wolves in sheep’s clothing making it harder for them to identify the deceivers and just as he does today Satan disguises these false teachers as children of light so we must always be on guard especially as our our culture continues to move away from the truth

Paul was well aware that after his departure the church would be attacked from without and from within and false teachers false teachers would Prey Upon the flock showing no mercy from within the fellowship men would aspire to places of prominence speaking perversions of the truth and trying to draw away the disciples after themselves Paul’s letters to Timothy who served Ephesus a decade or so later attest to the presence of false teachers who were ravaging the church for their own gain and who had indeed come from within the church in fact from among the elders themselves

before Paul offers his final prayers for his Ephesian pastors and Friends he talks to them about the blessings of giving to others especially the weak to those in need physically morally or spiritually we know that Paul was a tent maker who had little money or possessions of his own and he encouraged his followers to care for the needs of God’s people without the thought of reward in verse 35 he says it is more blessed to give than to receive a phrase that we often use as a offertory sentence in our liturgy the specific words attributed to Jesus here don’t actually appear in any of the Gospels but their sense is found frequently in Jesus’s various teachings and they can be approximately paralleled in Luke 6 verse 38. where we read give and it will be given to you good measure pressed down shaken together running over will be put into your lap for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you and as the famous missionary Jim Elliott who was killed by the Native Indians down in South America giving his life to preach the gospel of grace said he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose or as Paul put it in his first letter to Timothy we should be generous and ready to share thus stirring up for ourselves a good foundation for the future so that we may take hold of that which is truly life

after sharing all these things with them Paul knelt down and prayed with them they kneel together in prayer we don’t know exactly what he prayed on that occasion but we can find many of his prayers in his various Epistles and his prayer from Philippians 1 verses 3 to 11 seems especially appropriate for his farewell to the Ephesian elders I thank my God and all my remembrance of you always and every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now and I am sure of this that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ and it is right for me to feel this way about you all because I hold you in my heart for you were all partakers with me of Grace both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel for God is my witness how I yearn for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God

then Paul tells them that he will not likely see them again on this Earth

by that time there is not a dry eye in the crowd

then they hug one another and weep unashamedly you know our relationships and gospel Ministry are often very strong

they escort Paul back to the ship and he sets his face toward Jerusalem we’re told he sets his face toward Jerusalem and that always reminds me of what we’re told in Luke 9 verse 51 that Jesus too set his face to go to Jerusalem

I remind you yet again when God is your guide any road is good every person here today has decisions to make about Direction about which road to take it could be whether to make a job change or whether to pursue a particular relationship or how to help a child in difficulty or How to Mend a troubled marriage

you don’t need to know some clever way to do those things you just need to know God’s way

you don’t have to be brilliant just faithful when God is your guide any road is good we’ll come to the Lord’s table soon and Holy Communion is a wonderful opportunity for destination adjustments

as we receive the mysterious elements of communion God himself draws near willing to dispense what is needed most included including Direction when we are humble enough to say I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord I’ll be what you want me to be

God will show you the desires of your heart that he has for you just pray not my way but your way Lord and remember when God is your guide any road is good amen

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