The Fruitful Life. No one wants their life to be a waste. Many may feel that there is. But here is a picture of fruitful work for God. To get to a place of fruitfulness we will work backward from working in the right field which is pointless if you don’t have the right seed to sow in that field and that’s pointless if you don’t have the right equipment. That's what we unpack from Acts chapter 16 verses 1 to 10.
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Acts. 16: 1-10 The Fruitful Life Introduction: No one wants their life to be a waste. Many may feel that there is. But here is a picture of fruitful work for God. To get to a place of fruitfulness we will work backward from working in the right field which is pointless if you don’t have the right seed to sow in that field. And that’s pointless if you don’t have the right approach to working- the right equipment.
1. The Right Preparation
Discernment: Circumcise or not to circumcise v.1-3 (cut on the body- a sign of belonging to the Jewish People). Could you belong without it? Could you be saved without it? The Jewish answer was no. The Christian answer – saw last week in Acts.15. So isn’t Paul contradicting everything in the letter he was carrying to the churches with the decision from ch.15? Isn’t this one of the contradictions people say fills the Bible? Well, you can guess I am going to say no. but more importantly- here is why!
A hurdle overcome – circumcision: Imagine two boxes: Principle and Policy- practical. You did not put the knife of circumcision into Principle- clear- didn’t save. But Paul is putting it in the box of Policy/ practice. “Paul was a reed in non-essential---an iron pillar in essentials”. (John Newton) Why do even that?
Cultural sensitivity v.3: what may have looked like compromise, Paul was in fact opening a door wider for the Gospel. He was equipping himself and Timothy for the context of their mission. Timothy confirms the rumors about his Christian character by his willingness to go through with this rather painful sacrifice for the Gospel. What was unnecessary for acceptance with God was advisable for acceptance by some human beings. In S.Africa there were tribes - unmarried men don’t come! This is discernment, essential for spreading the Gospel. When Hudson Taylor went in the C.19 to China- he shocked the other missionaries when he went native- started dressing like the Chinese- but he reached them! Application today? Red necks and Florida Crackers to Downtown Hyde Park- same Gospel but there may be slight changes in approach. Be wise.
So what about those Contradictions of Scripture? The integrity of Scriputure…?… Eg. V.10 v.10 We- Luke joins the story here- eye-witness cf to Richard Bauckham on the Resurrection. Be confident in Sc. No one needs to accept it as God’s word first before God can use it. That conviction will come later after the truth of God has started changing them.
2. The Right Seed:
Discernment leads you into fields of Fruitfulness: A job to be done v.4 – delivering the very message that said circumcision wasn’t necessary: Salvation in Christ alone- Jesus + Zero = Salvation. This is the seed of a fruitful harvest because it can change anyone’s life! Use the right seed! If you want potatoes don’t sow wheat!
Here it was taught well, explained well, applied well, and received well. The result v.5 sp. Growth- strengthened in their faith- the essence of what makes you grow- more faith well exercised. Realize it’s a gift. God is Father= ask and you will receive.
Also numerical growth- because spiritually mature believers are the best advocates for following Christ. The two go together – because faith is expectance, and you get what you expect- James 1:6; But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Also, note the order- invert it = disaster: Numerical growth without spiritual growth leads to huge problems in churches.
Instead, this growth was confirmation of both the wisdom of the Jerusalem decree in Act.15 and the act of circumcising Timothy and Tim’s willingness to make that sacrifice! The Holy Spirit put his blessing on all of it through fruitfulness. They reached a people where they were, not where they needed to be. And we need the same power of the Spirit amongst us today.
3. The Right Field:
The fruitful life happens when you are in the right place as well as with the right seed with the right preparation. Here’s a classic case of Guidance from God x3 emphasis: v.6- Holy Spirit, and v.7 the Spirit of Jesus. Then v.9 the Same Spirit this time comes with a vision ”Come over to Macedonia and help us.” We tend to downplay the place of dreams, and there is wisdom in not overplaying the importance. But it is a question of extremes: There is nothing in the NT when I read it to suggest that God can’t or won’t speak in this way should it be required. The principle we can all take from this is that by one means or another God is quite able to guide his children if they remain sensitive to his Spirit.
The Blessings of Closed Doors: Some will be a closed door or with an open door. Confused when God doesn’t give you opportunities? Frustrated with closed doors? Don’t be. Push, but if don’t open trust that a closed door is just as good as an open door when it comes to being directed by God. Maybe unforeseen dangers behind that closed door.
Hearing the Cries for help: This started the first mission of bringing Christianity to Europe! Alexander MacLaren said about this figure from Macedonia that he, “embodies the unconscious cry of weary humanity, knowing certainly that it sorely needs help, but, alas! Not knowing where is the help it needs.”(Commentary on Acts. Page 205). Don’t we live in a sea of such voices, crying out to us, from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, or shouts from newspaper headlines and government reports? So many know there is a problem in life: But they have no idea of the solution. Do we hear the voice of Christ’s commission within those cries? Which ones might he be calling you personally to respond to? Someone, you can hear? A friend with an eating disorder; confused about who they are; going through a divorce; their kid out of control; illness; bankruptcy? They are all Macedonian cries if you will only discern the Spirit in them. Who will answer? This generation of children going through youth group now, and you are the ones who need to hear this call. We need to send our people to towns and cities of Florida just as if they were missionaries. And beyond. Will someone here go? Would you go if he called?
Conclusion: Do you want to live a fruitful life? – for now and eternity? Then are you in the right place? Are you using the right seed? Are you working in the right way? Then listen to the cries all around you and bring them nothing less than Christ in all his power.
 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 254.