Monday, December 5, 2016, 10:44 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Will Uphold You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 20:16-32 (ESV).
With Humility and Tears (vv. 17-21)
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.
As servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should live exemplary lives, above reproach, in all integrity of heart, mind, words, actions and purpose. We should not serve God and minister to the needs of other humans for any other purpose other than to glorify God in all that we do, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love and obey God and to do his will. We should obey God in such a way that we are willing, as well, to suffer dishonor, reproach, rejection and persecution for the sake of his name, and for the sake of his gospel. We should, too, have such a close relationship with our Lord to where we feel what God feels, we hate what he hates, and we love what he loves. And, we should have the same heart, passion, pursuit, and care for the work of the ministry as Jesus exemplified to us.
We, also, should not fear the opinions of others, nor should we ever compromise our faith and convictions in order to appease the world or out of fear of persecution. Even in the face of great opposition we should be bold in our witness and have the courage to keep on speaking in Jesus’ name. We should not join in with so many today who are diluting the gospel to make it more acceptable to human flesh, but we should bravely speak out the gospel message as Jesus and his NT apostles taught it. They taught that we have to turn away from our sin, and we have to turn to God to walk in obedience to him and to his commands (his Word). They taught that faith in Jesus means dying with Christ to sin, being transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and being resurrected with him to new lives in Christ, living to Christ and to his righteousness.
Finish the Course (vv. 22-24)
“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.
When God calls us to be his people, his servants and his messengers, he doesn’t promise us that everything will go well for us, or that we will draw large crowds of people to us, and that everyone will like and accept us. Instead, he promises us heartache, rejection, abandonment, persecution, false accusations, afflictions, imprisonment, and that we’ll be hated as he was hated. Basically, if we are following our Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, and if we are following his model to us for how to minister his word, his love, and his grace to people, then we should expect to be treated in like manner as he was treated, even by members of our own families, and by our friends, neighbors and our church family.
But, we must have the view in mind of our own lives that our lives are not our own to be lived how we want, because we were bought back for God by the blood of Jesus Christ. “I” no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Jesus is Lord (owner-master) of my life, and he is the one who directs my steps, and who leads me in the way that he would have me go. God did not put us on this earth to live for ourselves, to please our flesh, and to waste away our lives indulging in what has no eternal value, and which often hinders our walks of faith and our witness for Christ.
Before he even created the world he knew us, and he had a plan for our lives. Everyone who believes in Jesus has been given gifts and an assignment by God within the body of Christ which we alone are to fulfill. We are not here to please ourselves, but to please our Lord and to do HIS will. So, we need to find out the reason he put us here, and then we need to do what he has called us to do, and complete the task he has given to us. We don’t want to waste away our lives on the pleasures of this life, and miss out on the joy of serving our Lord and making a difference in the lives of others, do we? We want to be able to say with Paul that, I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course…”
The Whole Counsel of God (vv. 25-27)
“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.
Paul did not hesitate to share Christ and his gospel wherever he went. He also did not hold back parts of the gospel message so as not to offend people, but he continually shared with those he met the whole counsel (will) of God. This means that he didn’t just tell the parts of the gospel about Jesus’ death on a cross for our sins, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, his sending of his Holy Spirit and his soon return. He also didn’t just proclaim that we receive Jesus Christ’s salvation by faith, but he explained what it means to have faith. He said that we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, we are transformed in heart and mind, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life (new birth), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
As well, he said that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (See: 2 Co. 5:15, 21). He also said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity, said Paul (See: Ro. 8:1-14).
Paul also did not give free license to continue in sin, but he said that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. And that Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Tit. 2:11-14). According to Paul, belief in Jesus means death to sin and living to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel message. And, this is teaching the whole counsel of God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we lie and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).
Care for the Church (vv. 28-32)
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.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, and as members of his body, the church, we are each given the responsibility to look after one another, and to encourage, build up in the faith, and help our brothers and sisters in Christ to reach maturity in Christ (See: Eph. 4:1-16; Ro. 12:1-8; 1 Co. 12:1-31). We are to use the gifts the Spirit has given us to minister God’s grace, in its various forms, to the family of God and to the people of this world. The gifts we are given are also to help edify, encourage, strengthen, spur, heal, instruct, comfort, urge, and counsel fellow believers in Christ in their walks of faith.
We also have a responsibility before God to look after our brothers and sisters in Christ and to help lift up those who are fallen, or to warn those who are wandering from their pure devotion to Christ. We are also to warn against wolves in sheep’s clothing who come into the church, but not to nurture, but to steal, kill and destroy. There are many false shepherds of the people who are leading them astray to a false grace gospel, and now to unity of faith among people of all religions and all walks of life. So, we must point these things out, and warn against deception, so that our church family does not fall into the trap of the devil and end up following after clever liars and deceivers instead of following after Christ and the truth.
I Will Uphold You / An Original Work / November 4, 2011
Based off of Isaiah 41:8-20; Ephesians 6:10-18
You are My servant; I’ve chosen you.
I’ve not rejected you; I’ve been true.
Do not be fearful; I am with you.
Don’t be alarmed, for I am your God.
I will give you strength, and will help you.
I will uphold you with My right hand.
All who’re against you will be disgraced.
Those who oppose you, they will perish.
Enemies you search, but will not find.
They war against you; nothing will be.
I am your Lord God, who takes your hand;
Says, “Do not fear, for I will help you.”
The poor and needy, water they need.
Their tongues are thirsty; no drop to drink.
I will give answer; not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow from within.
My living water I will outpour
On those who seek Me; and Me adore.
Jesus provided the sacrifice;
For our sins blood bought; He paid the price,
So we’re forgiven all of our sins,
When we invite Him to come within.
He cleanses us from our impure hearts.
His life within us gives a new start.