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It's Complicated, Part 1

From the series Purpose FULL

How do you handle sudden change? When a giant wrench is thrown into your plans, how do you react? In this program, guest teacher Ryan Ingram encourages us to live a purpose-filled life even when our circumstances crumble all around us. It's easy to stay focused on our calling when life is good. But what happens there's a job loss, an expected diagnosis, or failed relationship? Don't miss Ryan's answer!

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Message Transcript

How do you discover God’s calling on your life? Like, how do you really understand His plan for who He has made and designed you to be?

And when we’re thinking about purpose, when we’re thinking about calling, we are wrestling deeper, more along the lines here of how do you live a purposeful life in a post-pandemic world? Is that even possible?

All the chaos and heartache and injustices and the things that we are constantly reeling from, and we’re just trying to keep our heads above water and just get through.

I want to give you three key thoughts for living a purpose filled life.

We left off Barnabas and Saul, with their calling and their commissioning – Acts chapter 13 – if you want to study the entire Scripture that we are going to be in, it’s Acts 13 through 15. They are called to go and share the gospel with the nations. And then they are commissioned and sent out. And so, I want to give you a map of what is known as their first missionary journey.

And so, here they are in Antioch. This is where they are called and commissioned. And so, then they go out, they go to the city or town of Seleucia, grab a boat, sail to this island of Cyprus. They land here in Salamis, they preach the gospel there. It is received and many people come to know Christ.

Then they travel through the interior of the island, sharing the gospel. And they brought along, Barnabas brought along a relative named John Mark, at the beginning of the journey with them. And so, they are traveling the three of them together, sharing the gospel and in Paphos, they experience some opposition, a sorcerer who was opposing them fiercely, it’s a kind of wild story in the presence of the proconsul there Paul actually declares in the name of Jesus, he is blinded for a season as he has tried to blind others, he goes blind – the proconsul – and everyone sees this. They are amazed and they give their life to Christ.

And so, they spend some time there and then they catch a boat and they sail all the way up to Perga.

Well, in Perga, they preach the gospel. It is well received. And they travel up to the interior, this whole region is known as Galatia. And they traveled to Antioch, a different Antioch than here. This is Antioch, Syria. This is Antioch, Pisidia. Antioch here, Paul preaches his longest sermon; lots and lots of people, specifically Gentile people, come to know Jesus. Well, this rubbed Jewish people very badly. And so, as they traveled to Iconium, some Jewish leaders come here and begin to incite and try to disrupt their teaching. And people come to know Christ in Lystra.

Paul actually gets stoned here because of the trouble that was caused for them. He doesn’t die; he gets back up, he comes back into the city, dusts himself off. Then they travel to Derbe; preach the gospel. And then they go back through all the cities they just went through, and they appoint elders or leaders to guide the churches to Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Perga. And from here, they sail all the way back to Antioch and they spend time just sharing and celebrating all that God had done and how He has opened the doors now to the Gentile people.

And here’s where the plot thickens in such a way that it leads them all the way to Jerusalem. And so, I want to catch you up to what led them to Jerusalem. It’s where it gets complicated. It’s where it gets messy. It’s where things actually forever change for the Church in some of the most incredible ways possible.

And it begins this way, if you have your Bibles, Acts chapter 15, verse 1. It says that, “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers.” Well, what were they teaching? “Unless you are circumcised, according to the customs taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” And so, what they are teaching is you, it’s not just believing in Jesus, you have to become Jewish. If you’re a man, you have to become circumcised. You need to live by the ceremonial law and all the food rites and all these other areas. Unless you do this, you can’t be saved or part of the fellowship of believers.

Well, you can imagine what happens. “This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute.” It says an intense debate with them. “So Paul and Barnabas,” notice what happens next, “were appointed along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and the elders about this question.” And so, there’s an argument in Antioch, you have what would later be known as Judaizers, those who wanted to make Christian Gentiles become Jewish in order to be saved. This is the reason Paul wrote his letter to those churches in Galatia against other Judaizers of this same reason here or what they were teaching.

And so, the church in Antioch says, “Hey, okay, this is important. This is a big deal. These are places that we haven’t necessarily defined yet. Instead of the two of you arguing, go to Jerusalem, go to the apostles, go to the elders, and let’s figure out once and for all what is reality? How – what does it mean to be saved?

Well, when they get to Jerusalem, they gather together and there’s a large group of the church leaders all together and it says this that, “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the Law of Moses.’”

Now, you’ve got to imagine, what is happening in the ancient world has never happened before. Jews and Gentiles now becoming one family, the family of God. And now they are trying to figure out: what does that look like? What does that mean? I mean, prior to this point, a strict Jew would not interact with a Gentile, would not eat with a Gentile, would not enter the house of a Gentile, and afraid of being defiled.

And so, they are trying to figure out, “Okay, well, how do we now act as one family?” And their reasoning was: make them Jewish.

Well, it says the apostles and the elders met to consider this question: Does someone have to become Jewish to be saved?

Now notice this, “After much discussion,” this wasn’t flippant, this wasn’t quick, this wasn’t – for some of us we feel like, “Oh, this is so clear cut.” “After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them. “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you, that the Gentiles might hear from my lips,” that “some time ago” was ten years ago when Cornelius first heard.

“…hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us; there was no restriction of the Spirit of God based on circumcision or any outward behavior.” You cannot earn your way to God, is what he’s saying.  “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through grace our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

That they are saved. Not by any outward acts or performance, but simply by their faith in Jesus. Well, then Paul and Barnabas get up and they begin to share all that God had done. Now, you’ve got to think about the shift, because as they began to spread the gospel and this was Jesus’ vision all the way at the beginning, that, “You would be My witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Now the Church is less a Jewish movement, it still is, and now it is a worldwide movement and there are more Gentile believers than there are Jewish believers. And they are sharing how God was working in their midst.

And then James, the brother of Jesus, known as James the Just, known for his following the strict letter of the law of the Hebrew Scriptures. So, when he has spoke into this matter, he spoke authoritatively. And everybody listened up.

And he said this, “It’s my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” How do you make it difficult? Well, if you’re going to enter the family of God, first, get circumcised. Ouch. Follow the ceremonial laws and dietary restrictions. He says, “Let’s not make it difficult.”

Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that a word for us? Let’s not make it difficult for people who are turning to God. “Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from meat strangled from animals and from blood. For the law of Moses had been preached in every city from the earliest times.”
And his point here is instead of becoming Jewish, the moral law of God of the universe applies to all of humanity across all cultures. This is incredible. In this moment, instead of having every other culture step into Jewish culture, he says, “No, no, no.” It’s Jesus and faith in Him that transcends every culture and meets every culture.

And he says, “There are things that you have to say no to like the worshipping of your idols.” That’s what was the part of what he was saying no to and living a life of integrity here.

And here we see, and they send out a letter to the churches with other people in authority with them to go out and share this news. This brought incredible joy back to Antioch and to all the other Gentile believers that all they had to do was believe in the Lord Jesus and they were saved.

This transformed the entire Church as we know it. It expanded the scope from a Jewish movement to a Jesus movement for the entire world.

Now, you’re thinking, Okay, what in the world? How do I live a purpose full life in a post-pandemic world? Throughout the text that we just read, I want to just draw your attention to three observations.

Three key observations in how we live a purpose filled life and we live in a world that has scarred and scared us recently.

In a world of defined by the religion of “me”, would you anchor yourself in the house and family of Jesus? In a world defined by the religion of “me”, would you anchor yourself in the house and family of Jesus?

I want you to notice the first thing, Paul and Barnabas, and they have this sharp dispute, right? And the first thing, as they are discussing that wasn’t like, “Hey, we are doing our own thing. You know what? We know we are right, we know you are wrong. You can go do whatever. We are doing our own thing, whatever.”

The first thing that they do is then they return to the source, go to the apostles, go to the elders and say, “Hey, we are submitting unto your authority and your leadership. You tell us, you tell us, because we are part of the family all together. We are part of this house in community.” You know, in a post-pandemic world, the predominant religion is the religion of “me.”

Well, what do I mean by that? Mark Sayers in his book Reappearing Church, great book by the way, I encourage you to pick it up, “The only authority is found with the individual,” he writes, “thus, there is no possibility of sacred order.

See, it’s easy to say, “I’m just going to do me.” But it comes at a cost. Rising anxiety, rising depression, sense of instability. See, in a world defined by the religion of “me”, you are rudderless, you are anchorless, you are adrift. And it says, “Anchor yourself in the house and family of Jesus.” What does it mean to be in the house? I would say most of us feel like, “Hey, I’m a part of the family of God. I’m a part of the family of God.” But are you a part of the house of God? There’s a big difference between being a house, like being part of the household, or a guest, right?

When you’re part of the house, household, like, you are have deep responsibility in that household. Like, my kids hanging out together, you know, there are chores that we have to do. Whether it’s cleaning or cooking or some of these sort of things, there is responsibility. But there’s a deep level of relationship, isn’t there? There’s a family sense that we are together, traveling. There are different roles that each of us fill.

And that sense of autonomy struggles against that sense of wanting to be a part of the house. And some of you experienced that. Remember that first time that you came home from college after extended time away and your parents are going, “You know, I know you have had a lot of fun, but in our house, this is kind of how we need to do things here. And if you want to go off and live on your own, that’s okay, but in our house…” Why?

Because there is a way of going about things in our house, in God’s house, in the house of Jesus.

And we can struggle with some of those things until we have the roommate that is so constantly messy and disorganized that all of a sudden, we become the one going, like, “No, there’s got to be some rules to our house.” See, there’s a difference of being a guest. And I would say most of us, most of us believe and feel like we are in the family of God, but we are more guests in the houses of Jesus or in the houses of worship.

We show up and we kind of partake and it’s like, “Hey, nice, I got this meal.” But some of the accessibility, some of the responsibility, some of the just going like where Paul and Barnabas going, like, “We are not doing our own thing. We are part of a greater thing. And so, we are going to bring this before you and whatever you say, we are going to do.

See, it anchors us. It anchors us into community, it anchors us into the ways of Jesus. Join the family and then get engaged in the house of Jesus.

Like, I’m coming into this community; I’m going to be responsible for certain things. I’m a participant. I’m not just showing up and taking. I’m someone who is bringing to the table. I’m coming recognizing, okay, I’m a learner as well. In a world defined by religion of “me”, anchor yourself in the house and family of God.

You may be part of the family, but are you a part of the house? Many of us have operated just simply as guests.