Sunday Sermon: ‘Open Doors vs. Closed Doors’ pt 2

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Today we continue in our study of open vs closed doors. Jesus said to the church of Philadelphia – “I am the one who opens the door that no man can shut, and who shuts the door that no man can open.” (see Revelation 3:7)

I. What Should We Do When We Face a Closed Door?

Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. 6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 

As Paul set out on his second missionary journey, he first revisited the churches he and Barnabas had established years earlier. Afterwards, he attempted to go into an area known as Asia Minor. But as our text says, the door was closed. Then he tried to go into another region known as Bithynia, but again the door was shut. What should we do whenever we encounter a closed door? Last week I made three suggestions:

A. We Should Surrender Our Will to the Father’s Will            

Though Paul and Silas probably didn’t understand why the Spirit was closing these doors, they did not try to force their way through them, instead they submitted their wills to the will of God.

B. We Should Seek to Grow Closer to God

Though the Bible doesn’t tell us what Paul and Silas did during this down time, I am confident to say that they no doubt spent a great deal of time in prayer and the reading of scripture. Why do I say that? Look back at Acts 13.

Acts 13: 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 

Paul’s ministry began with prayer and no doubt it continued with prayer. It was Paul who wrote that we should “pray without ceasing.” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Paul also wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything.” (See Philippians 4:6) “Pray about everything” Paul tells us. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small for Him to be concerned. Jesus said that the Father sees every sparrow that falls from the sky. Then Jesus also said, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (see Matthew 6:26) Of course you are. God is concerned about every area of your life, and therefore, whenever you and I face what we think is a closed door, one of the first things we should do is to pray and study God’s Word.

C. We Should Become Very Sensitive to the Holy Spirit            

Jesus said that when the Spirit would come, He would guide us into all truth. (see John 16:13) A verse of scripture that has always been special to me is Isaiah 30:21 “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” The Bible tells us that the Spirit speaks, but we must have ears that are attuned to hear Him. I’m sure that as Paul and Silas waited and prayed, they listened very carefully to whatever the Spirit might have to say to them.

II. What Should We Do When We Face an Open Door?                          

Acts 16:8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. 

A. The Spirit Spoke to Paul  

1. How Did the Spirit Speak to Paul?

How do I know that it was the Spirit who spoke? The Bible doesn’t directly say that it was the Spirit. If it wasn’t the Spirit speaking, Paul had better not listen. The Bible says – “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) How do you test the spirits to determine whether or not they are from God? I test them by the Word of God. If what I am being told doesn’t line up with what I am taught in the Bible, I don’t receive it.

How did the Spirit speak to Paul? In Paul’s case, the Spirit spoke through a dream or a vision. Does that mean that we should always listen to our dreams in order to hear the Spirit speak? If you will study your Bible carefully, you will discover that God spoke through a dream only a handful of times throughout the entirety of scripture. Even in Bible times, it was very rare for someone to receive what we might call a God-inspired dream. Personally, I would be very leery of trusting my dreams in order to determine God’s will. I think that most of my dreams have more to do with what I ate for supper than what God is trying to communicate.

How does the Spirit speak to us today? In the study, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says that the Holy Spirit speaks through “the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.”

Not every voice we hear is from God, neither is every open door. Perhaps you will remember an incident in the life of David when he had the opportunity to kill his enemy, king Saul. See 1 Samuel 24:1-7. Some of David’s men tried to tell him that this was an opportunity sent from God. In other words, this was an open door. Rather than killing Saul, David mocked him by cutting off a corner of his robe. Yet, afterwards, David regretted what he had done. His conscience convicted him and he realized that not every open door has been opened by God.

One of the things I always do whenever I am trying to make an important decision to search for some sort of biblical example. If there is no precedent set in scripture, I am hesitant to do it. 

2. What Did the Spirit Say to Paul?

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 

What is most important is not how the Spirit spoke but what the Spirit said. The Bible says, “He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit saith…” (see Revelation 2-3) What did the Spirit say to Paul?

In his dream, Paul saw a man from the country of Macedonia beckoning them to come over and help them. Whenever you study the book of Acts, do so with along with a Bible map; it will help you in your understanding.

The plea to ‘come over into Macedonia’ meant that Paul and Silas were to leave the country where they were at, and to cross over the Aegean Sea and enter into a new land. The reasons the other doors in Asia Minor had been closed was because God was about to take Paul and Silas into Europe. Sometimes God has doors awaiting us that are bigger than anything we can think or imagine.

The man pleaded with Paul and his companions to “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” Help them how? Paul knew that this was God leading him to take the gospel to them. What people need more than anything else is for someone to tell them about Jesus.

B. The Spirit Put a Burden on Paul’s Heart

Acts 16:10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Paul and his companions responded immediately to God’s call. There was no ‘let me think about it and pray over it for a while’, but rather an immediate response. This was now a burden that God had placed upon Paul’s heart.

One of the things I like to do is to read biographies of great men and women of God. In reading these biographies I have noticed something very important. Each seemed to be driven by some special burden God had placed upon their heart.

It was John Knox who prayed to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” It was Jim Elliot who wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” and thus he and his friends were willing to put their lives in jeopardy in order to take the gospel to natives who had never heard.  The Bible says that Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem in only fifty-two days because he was driven by a burden. Jeremiah the prophet became discouraged and tried to quit the ministry because no one was listening to his messages. Yet he later wrote, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (see Jeremiah 20:9) He had to tell people about God because it was like a fire burning in his bosom. It was a burden to defend God’s holy name that caused a young boy named David to go out against a giant named Goliath. Jesus said that it was His meat to do His Father’s will and even when He knew it was near the time for Him to be crucified, the Bible says that He set His face like a stone, determined to do His Father’s will. Paul’s burden to was to preach the gospel to people who had never heard and to establish churches.

May I ask you a very important question? Do you have a God-given burden? Is there something that you know deep in your heart God has given you to do and you’re determined to do it?. If not, let me make a couple of suggestions:

1. Get Involved in Some Way

While we were at Tennessee Temple, Tammy and I often heard that it is easier for God to steer a vessel that is already moving. That’s why we tried to say yes to whatever God set before us.

A verse of scripture that has motivated me a lot is Genesis 24:27. Abraham’s servant named Eliezer was sent to fetch a bride for Isaac. He didn’t know exactly where to go and he didn’t know exactly who to pick. But he said this, “I being in the way, the LORD led me…”

2. Pray to God to Give You a Special Burden

Pray for God to reveal to you His will for your life. And once the Lord gives it to you, give your life to Him to do it. I once read in some of Warren Wiersbe’s writings that no one can do everything well. We need to determine who it is that God has called us to be and then we need to give your life to it.

C. Dr. Luke

Acts 16:10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

There’s one other important detail found in vs. 10 that I need to call to your attention. In this verse Luke changes over from saying ‘they did’ to ‘we did.’ What does that mean? Who did Paul meet in Troas? He met his lifelong friend and companion, Dr. Luke.  

D. The Journey into Macedonia  

Acts 16:11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony… 

1. Philippi

Upon arriving in Macedonia, Paul and his companions went straight to the city of Philippi. Why Philippi? Verse 12 tells us that it was a major city in the country of Macedonia and a Roman colony. In other words, Philippi was a cultural and commercial hub for much of that region. If Paul and Silas could plant a church in Philippi, they could evangelize all the neighborhoods around it.

Did the Spirit pick Philippi or did Paul and Silas? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Let me say this, just because we walk by faith and not by sight, that does not mean that we unplug our brains. We read from the book of Romans –

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 

The word ‘prove’ means to recognize and to respond properly to what God reveals to us. God’s highest objective for our lives is to mature us in the faith and to make us more like His Son.

2. Prayer Meeting  

Normally the first-place Paul would go whenever he entered into a new city would be the Jewish synagogue. Part of this was because of the burden Paul carried for his fellow Jews, and part of it was because he knew that many of the men who attended the synagogue already had a basic knowledge of scripture and therefore might be more open to hearing about the Messiah. Yet he didn’t go to the synagogue in Philippi. Why? Because there was no synagogue there. It took at least ten Jewish men in order for a city to have a synagogue and apparently, there weren’t ten Jewish men living there. So now what do they do?

Acts 16:12 … and we were in that city abiding certain days.

The Bible says that they were “in that city abiding certain days.” First of all, that tells us that they were there for a few days before the Spirit revealed to them the next step. Secondly it tells us that they had their eyes and ears open. As best as I can translate these words, it means that they wore out a path going back and forth through the city, looking for where God was working.

Finally, they learned of a prayer meeting along the river bank and so they went there and waited for whoever showed up. The Bible says that a group of ladies came to the riverside to pray.

Acts 16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Once they realized that God was working in the hearts of a group of ladies who were meeting by the riverbank to pray, Paul and his friends go there and wait. I’m sure they also did some major praying.

3. Conversion of Lydia 

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Among the women who came to the riverside to pray was a woman named Lydia. Scripture says that she was a merchant originally from the city of Thyatira. Do you know where Thyatira is? It’s a city back over in Asia Minor, where Paul and Silas originally wanted to go and preach the gospel.

One of the things we do is send missionaries out across the world to preach the gospel to those living in foreign lands. That’s wonderful; however, do we also realize that often God sends the world to us? Rather than always seeing immigrants as intrusions, perhaps we need to see them as invitations to tell them about Jesus.

The Bible says that Lydia was already a worshipper of God. Does that mean that she was already a Christian? No, for this verse also says that God opened her heart to hear and understand what Paul was preaching and to receive Christ as her Savior. Lydia was not already a Christian. She was someone God was drawing to Himself and once she heard about the Savior, she accepted Christ as her Savior.

The Bible says –

Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

Paul and Silas were obedient to tell these ladies about Christ and the Lord used Paul’s words to bring her to salvation.

Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.              

God opened Lydia’s heart and she became a believer that day. Immediately afterwards Paul baptized her and then she did what every believer should do – she opened not only her heart to the Lord, she opened her home to her Christian brethren.

Application  

Throughout life you and I are going to encounter a lot of open and closed doors. Really the question we should be asking is not ‘does this appear to be an open door?’, but ‘do I sense that this is God’s door?’ Even closed doors can be good if they are directing us to God’s doors.

What are God’s doors? Jesus said,

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The first door God opens to us is salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the door we must pass through if we are going to go to heaven. The first door we must pass through is salvation.

The second door is surrender to His service. Jesus said, “If anyone enters by Me…” The second door God wants you to pass through is a surrender of your life to do His will. Jesus said,

John 10:3 The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  

Paul said that he saw a vision of a man from Macedonia beckoning them to come over. I wonder if who Paul saw was the Lord Himself. Jesus was calling them to Macedonia to minister.

The third door is satisfaction. Jesus said,

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

As I go through life, I pass through that door called Jesus several times every day. I try to filter as much of my life as I can through Jesus and whenever I follow Him and do His will, I find great joy and satisfaction in my soul.

 

 

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