Monday, April 18, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Wait!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 20:17-35 (ESV).
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Set Apart by God
Paul was set apart by God to the work to which God had called him. He then was sent out to go wherever God would lead him, along with his fellow missionaries, to be the Lord’s messenger to the people, both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew), in presenting to them the gospel of our salvation from sin. Along the way, in his travels, he was met with both acceptance and rejection. Some people gladly received the message, and many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. Others rejected the message, and many of those persecuted him severely for his witness for Jesus Christ, and because they didn’t like the message of the gospel, for it offended them. So, although God was giving him a harvest of righteousness among the people, Satan was also working vehemently against him to try to stop the message from getting to the hearts of the people.
Paul was now in Miletus, but was on his way to Jerusalem, for he hoped to get there by the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is known in the Christian community as the day the Holy Spirit was endowed to Jesus’ followers, but it was a Jewish day of celebration before that, called the Feast of Harvest, and it followed 50 days after Passover, another Jewish celebration.
Paul was anticipating that, by going to Jerusalem, he may never return to Ephesus, and so this was his farewell visit with the elders in Ephesus. So, thinking about that causes me to imagine what that might be like for each and every one of us who follow Jesus with our lives. If we knew, for instance, that we had six weeks or six months to live, and we had close family, friends, and/or associates with whom we regularly have some type of relationship, what message would we want to leave with them?
Would we be able to say, for instance, what Paul said concerning himself, or even something close to that? Could we say that we have served the Lord with great humility and tears, even though we have been severely tested by trials and/or temptations?
Although contrary to the beliefs of some professers of Christ, I believe that being a follower of Christ does not mean we live in absolute sinless perfection. Yet, it does mean that we conduct our lifestyles according to the Spirit and not according to (in agreement with) our sinful flesh (See: Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24). If we do sin, we confess it, turn from it, and continue to walk in the ways of the Lord. Yet, lack of perfection is never to be used as an excuse for willful sin against God. We should live with integrity, and should be able to say with Paul that we walked the talk, and did not just talk the walk.
Could we also say that our message to people was something helpful to them, not in the sense of the way the world may term helpful, but according to God’s word and his standards? What did Paul consider helpful? It was to tell the people that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. So, what is repentance? It literally means to have a change of mind, but it is used in scripture almost exclusively with regard to turning away from our lives of living to sin and self, to God, to follow him in obedience. That is just about the most helpful thing we could tell anyone, isn’t it?
And, what is faith? If you read Hebrews 11 you get a very good idea of the meaning of faith. Most all of these people believed, and so they did something based on that belief. By faith Noah built the ark as God had commanded him to do. By faith Abraham, when called of God to go, obeyed and went, even though he didn’t know where he was going. By faith Moses chose to be mistreated along with his people rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. And, the list goes on. Faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead. If we say we believe Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, our lifestyles should reflect that belief, i.e. we should live, in the Spirit, as though we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and as though we have been truly resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
Would we be able to say with Paul that, although we recognize that being a follower of Christ means we will be hated and persecuted wherever we go, we consider our lives worth nothing to us, if only we may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given us – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace? Is this truly what our lives are all about? Can we honestly say that preaching the gospel of salvation is so central to our lives that we would give up all to follow our Lord in sharing the message of salvation with the people of this world? Would we willingly pick up wherever we are and go with God wherever he sends us? And, would we eagerly share that fact with those closest to us?
Could we, as well, say with Paul that we are innocent of the blood of all men? In other words, have we faithfully proclaimed the whole will of God to all those to whom God has placed in our lives and/or to whom he has sent us? Do we even know what the “whole will of God” is? I suppose there are many views on this subject. What I believe Paul meant is the whole will of God with regard to our salvation, leaving nothing out that might be pertinent to us having eternal life with God. So many people today are teaching half-truths, which are lies, and they are leaving out parts of the gospel which are essential to our salvation, because those parts make people uncomfortable. By doing so they are giving people a false hope of eternity in heaven based on a lie. They are not teaching the crucified life with Christ, but a mere watered down version of what it means to be saved by God’s grace, but which leaves the adherent still bound in their sins and without hope.
And, do we care enough about our fellow believers in Christ to encourage them in the truths of scripture and to warn them against false teachers and false teaching? Would these kinds of thoughts even enter our minds as we contemplate our “parting words”? Are we willing to risk the rejection of our friends in our social gatherings, or that of our family members, in order to warn them against those who would distort the truth for their own advantage, and who may be passing themselves off as servants of Christ? And, can we say that we are unselfish in our motives towards others in how we minister God’s grace to them? Do we do for others, in other words, in hopes we will get something in return, or do we minister to others’ needs honestly because we care about them and we expect nothing in return?
Do We Identify?
If we can identify with Paul even partially, and our heart is with him in what he said here, and this expresses the yearnings of our own hearts, and our desire for God and to minister his grace to others, we have to know, with Paul, that this will mean letting go of all that is of this world so that we can follow our Lord with undivided affection and devotion. It will take courage and strength we don’t naturally have to stand tall, and to speak the words that need to be said, even knowing that we may be hated and rejected and persecuted in return. Yet, we can be encouraged that our God is always with us, and he will never leave us or forsake us. We can sing his praises even in the face of much difficulty, and we can rest secure beneath his wings of protection over us. Even when those we love may prove faithless to us when we stand on God’s word, our Lord is completely faithful to all he has promised us. He will give us all we need to stand, and to keep on in our faith in him.
Wait! / An Original Work / February 8, 2014
Wait for your Lord. Be of courage.
Be strong, and take heart today.
God is always watching o’er you.
Trust Him with your life always.
Sing of your Lord. Praise His blessings.
Believe in His sovereignty.
He delivered you from your sin;
Gave you life eternally.
Rest in your Lord. Know His promise.
Beneath His wings rest secure.
Your God has a plan and purpose.
Let your faith in Him endure.
Trust in your Lord. He’ll not leave you,
Because He is faithfulness.
He will lead and guide; protect you.
In His love you can find rest.