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April 29, 2019

Red Light Green Light

by Matt Fray

...As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when PaulGreek he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of theOr that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:4-15 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=375bf3292b&e=82a9a8f891)

One of the most noticeable features of the book of Acts is the significant role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church. As we read, we see the Holy Spirit is promised by Jesus (Acts 1:8), comes to dwell in believers (Acts 2:4; 8:17; 9:17; 10:44; 15:8; 19:6), fills those preaching and praying (Acts 4:8; 4:31), sustains those persecuted (Acts 7:55), comforts the Church (Acts 9:31), appoints leaders for the Church (Acts 13:2; 20:28), and as we see in this and many other passages, the Holy Spirit guides the apostles in their missionary journeys by giving them either a “red light” to stop (Acts 16:6-7) or a “green light” to go (Acts 10:19; 13:4; 16:9-10; 19:21; 20:22; 21:4). One simply cannot encounter these stories without concluding that the Holy Spirit was the one establishing, ruling, and growing both individual Christians and the Church as a whole.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts is so striking to us is that the Holy Spirit seems less present in our lives today. But make no mistake—the Holy Spirit is just as real and active today as He was in the days of the early church. Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is with us permanently (John 14:16-17) in order to point us to Jesus (John 14:26; 16:13-15). And just as the Apostle Paul commanded, we are to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) in order to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). So as J.I. Packer puts it, our question should not be, “Do I have the Holy Spirit?” but instead, “Does the Holy Spirit have me?” In other words, each of us must ask whether we are being established, being ruled, and growing by the Holy Spirit like those in the book of Acts.

If you are a believer, you likely long for the Holy Spirit to have this kind of influence in your life. But for many, the actual process of being, hearing, and following the Holy Spirit seems mysterious, perhaps even intimidating. Driving in response to actual red lights and green lights is one thing, but living in response to the Holy Spirit seems like a whole other ballgame.

So how does the Holy Spirit speak to us? And how do we know what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do?

In the book of Acts, two principles quietly and consistently emerge.

First, the book of Acts shows that Holy Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word. We know this is true in a general historical sense; as Peter says, it was the Holy Spirit who “carried along” the men who wrote God’s Word (2 Peter 1:21). But in Acts, the apostles point out that the Holy Spirit also speaks to specific present issues through God’s Word. Peter refers to the Holy Spirit speaking about Judas’ death and the Jews’ opposition to them through the book of Psalms (Acts 1:16; 4:25). And Paul refers to the Holy Spirit speaking about the Jews’ rejection of Jesus through the book of Isaiah (Acts 28:25). God’s Word is living and active, and so the Holy Spirit not only illumines the timeless truths of God’s Word, but also the particular bearing of God’s Word on our lives today. If we want to hear God speak to us, the first thing we should do is open our eyes and read our Bibles, for there is no greater gift for our faith or message for our lives than God’s Word illumined by the
Holy Spirit!

Second, the book of Acts shows that the Holy Spirit guides us through Christ’s Church. What the Holy Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word He then guides us to apply through our brothers and sisters in the Church. Whether in matters of obedience (Acts 5:3-8), doctrine (Acts 15:28), or mission (Acts 21:4), the book of Acts shows us that the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church go hand-in-hand. While human beings are fallible and are subject to God’s Word, the Holy Spirit regularly guides us by wise counselors (Proverbs 5:7-14; 15:22) and godly leaders (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:5). If we want to be led by the Holy Spirit, we must emerge from isolation and engage in the community of the redeemed in Christ’s Church, where the Spirit Himself unites us for the good of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-13).

In closing, consider the question asked earlier: “Does the Holy Spirit have you?” Does He have your ear? Are you listening to Him speak to you through God’s Word? Does He have your life? Are you being guided by Him through Christ’s Church? May the Holy Spirit have us, and like the early church, may He then give us green lights to carry the good news of our risen Christ down every road to every nation.

1. J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp. 77-78.

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord,
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ,
Will be clear for all the world to see.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, “Holy Spirit” (2006)

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About the Author

Matt Fray
Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.

 

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Nothing Else Matters!

    [Jesus said,] "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life."

    John 6:63 NIV

    Key Thought

    The apostle Paul said essentially the same thing as in today's verse when he wrote, "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 and be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9). Paul was saying that everything is nothing without Jesus. So much of what we pursue — what I have pursued — really counts for nothing. Economic meltdowns, which invariably happen, are reminders that the only investments that last, that are sure, are investments in Jesus and his kingdom. So we are called to turn our hearts to Jesus, to be shaped by his words, guided by his Spirit and conformed to his character. Jesus' words are lasting, eternal, and life-giving. Better yet, there is someone lasting and eternal and life-giving in his words — the Holy Spirit. That is why one of the ongoing works of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is to bring to our minds the words of Jesus (John 14:26). So read the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But more than reading the words, ask the Holy Spirit to be alive as you read and are shaped and given life through the words of the Savior!

    Today's Prayer

    Holy God, I praise you! I thank you, Father, for sending the Son to die for our sins and for showing us the way home to you. I thank you, Jesus, as Son of God, for sending the Holy Spirit as my Advocate and Comforter, to be your presence within me and to bring me life through your words. I thank you, Holy Spirit, for living within me, and I ask that you conform me to Jesus and produce your holy fruit in me. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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