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The End of Things

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Acts 20 17-32 The End of Things

Maranatha Baptist Church. Sunday March 11, 2007. 10:00 AM pointi familye faithfulness of his father:'s. Whenever we experience the end of things it helps us conside

There is nothing more poignant than considering the end of things. Whenever we experience the end of things it helps us consider what is really important. I was struck this week by John Piper’s journal entry:

He recounted as he sat beside the bed of his father keeping a vigil. He monitored his breathing, he prayed aloud into his ear with Bible texts and pleadings to Jesus to come and take him. For Piper, he said that he felt an unusual sense of partnership with his father as he pressed on the Lord to relieve his father, this warrior of his burden.  He thanked God that his father is not suffering but quietly going home. His breathing stopped. Nothing more.  He stroked his fathers head and sang:

“My gracious Master and My God
Assist me to proclaim
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of thy name”.

His journal entry then recounted the faithfulness of his father:

“Daddy, how many thousands awaited you because of your proclamation of the great gospel. You were faithful. You kept the faith, finished the race, fought the fight. “Make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon that they might receive you into eternal habitations.”

Piper called the rest of his family

His final words were: “Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for sixty-one years of faithfulness to me. I am simply looking into his face now. Thank you. You were a good father. You never put me down. Discipline, yes. Spankings, yes. But you never scorned me. You never treated me with contempt. You never spoke of my future with hopelessness in your voice. You believed God’s hand was on me. You approved of my ministry. You prayed for me. Everyday. That may be the biggest change in these new days: Daddy is no longer praying for me.

I look you in the face and promise you with all my heart: Never will I forsake your gospel. O how you believed in hell and heaven and Christ and cross and blood and righteousness and faith and salvation and the Holy Spirit and the life of holiness and love. I rededicate myself, Daddy, to serve your great and glorious Lord Jesus with all my heart and with all my strength. You have not lived in vain. Your life goes on in thousands. I am glad to be one.

I kissed him on his cold cheek and on his forehead. I love you, Daddy. Thank you.

It was 12:55 as I walked out of room 4326. Just before the elevators on the fourth floor in the lounge, a young man in his twenties was sitting alone listening to his iPod with headphones. I paused. Then I walked toward him. He stopped his music. Hello, my father just died. One of the greatest tributes I could pay to him is to ask you, Are you ready to meet God? “Yes, Sir.” That would make my father very happy. You know Jesus is the only way? “Yes, Sir.” Good. Thank you for letting me talk to you”.

In Acts 20, the Apostle Paul delivered his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church. He was on his way to Jerusalem, bringing an offering from the Gentile churches for the needy in the Jerusalem church. Just as John Piper spoke words of comfort to his dieing father, Paul hoped to ease their physical burden of the Jerusalem Church, as well as to cement the spiritual bond between Jews and Gentiles in the church.

When I was called by the people of Everton Community Church to be their pastor a few weeks ago, it did not afford me the opportunity to say good-bye to many of you. I was asked back this morning to say farewell and share a message from God’s word. What more appropriate in a time of good bye than to get a perspective on transition from scripture.

What if you were to give a farewell today, what would you say? What would be your final words? To the church? To your family? To all people? Would you make a graceful exit? It’s very possible that your last words could be your most important.

In Paul’s farewell address in Acts 20, he spoke of the past, present and future

1-     His past work (Acts 17-21) 2- His present commitment (Acts 22-24) 3- His future concern (Acts 28-31)

I.                   HIS PAST WORK (Acts 20:17-21)

Acts 20:17-21  [17]Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18]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, [19]serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews, [20]how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, [21]testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

The ship on which he and his companions were traveling had made a stopover at Miletus, on the coast of Asia Minor thirty miles south of Ephesus. From there, Paul sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church.

He had decided (for reasons of time) not to visit the church at Ephesus (20:16). However his love and concern for that church compelled him to give this final exhortation to its leaders.

These men were especially dear to Paul’s heart. He was their spiritual father and the founder of the local church they served. For three years he had nurtured and taught them, enduring persecution from the Jews and a riot caused by the Gentiles. They had grown to spiritual maturity under Paul’s ministry, and he had released to them the oversight of the Ephesian congregation.

This message is unique for it is the only one Paul addressed to Christians that Luke records

He discusses: His Private Life: v. 19

Acts 20:19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews

·        The calling we have is serving Christ and not the whims or desires of anyone else.

Please turn to Galatians 1

There are many messages out there that call themselves the Gospel. Too often, Christians listen or read on the surface, not noticing the implications of what they are hearing or reading. If we look carefully, we can see the motive or end of a message:

Galatians 1:6-10   [6]I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- [7]not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8]But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9]As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.   [10]For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (ESV)

And in all things:

1 Corinthians 10:31   [31]So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)

·        One of the strengths of mananatha is humility in service. There is the right balance between doing all to the glory of God and serving the genuine needs of people.

·        I see it in the dedicated year in and year out service that you have in public ministries like AWANA, Seniors, and other teaching ministry, but also in the private ministry that many of you have in providing meals and helping where ever there is a need.

·        With so many appeals today, many experience fatigue in serving, but through great fellowship, you encourage one another to use your God given gifts and talents in genuine service.

·        In looking back with Maranatha, this church should be a people that see themselves as most blessed. You have seen provision from this land and building to deliverance from all kinds of sickness and disease.

Another thing Paul remarks upon in v. 19 is the nature of ministry with tears. Paul’s zeal for the Lord caused him to be grieved and pained when God was dishonored by unbelievers and believers. Those who share Paul’s passion will share his tears.

Three things in particular moved Paul to tears.

1)      First, he grieved over the state of the lost.

Romans 9:2-3   [2]that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. [3]For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (ESV)

2)      Second, he cried over weak, struggling, sinning Christians. To such believers at Corinth he wrote:

2 Corinthians 2:4   [4]For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. (ESV)

3) Finally, the sinister threat posed by false teachers caused Paul to say to the Philippians:

Philippians 3:18   [18]For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. (ESV)

·        On this earth we will always struggle with sin and its effects. The most painful experiences at Maranatha have been with those refuse counsel and depart either a ministry or the church before resolution. Some left because they were never Christians. Others because they failed to heed godly counsel. The most dangerous are those who espouse false doctrine or reckless advice. They must always be opposed for the sake of Christ and His church.

In acts 20 Paul described his private struggles but also his public duty:

Acts 20:20   [20]how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, (ESV)

He remained faithful to his calling:

Ephesians 4:12   [12]to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (ESV)

·        Maranatha is unique in the ability to publically discuss plainly the whole counsel of God.

·        Could Maranatha get to the point with house to house pastoral oversight. Detailed discussion and mentoring on family health and personal sanctification.

I. HIS PAST WORK (Acts 20:18-21)
 
II.
HIS PRESENT COMMITMENT (Acts 20:22-24)

Paul remained faithful in his calling and fearless in his mission

Acts 20:22-24   [22]And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, [23]except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. [24]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. (ESV)

As an excellent servant of Jesus Christ, Paul had a single-minded devotion to his one life’s purpose. He described himself as constrained by the Spirit by his strong compulsion to fulfill his ministry. Deō (Constrained/bound) is commonly used to refer to physical binding with chains or ropes (cf. Matt. 14:3, 21:2, 27:2, Acts 9:2, 12:6, 21:11). It is used figuratively to speak of the powerful tie of the marriage bond (Rom. 7:2, 1 Cor. 7:27, 39).

Please turn to Mt. 8

Paul’s sense of duty and responsibility to his Master drove him on his way to Jerusalem, not knowing specifically what would happen to him once he arrived there. He did know, however, that the Holy Spirit testifies to him in every city he visited that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him (cf. Rom. 15:31). It was revealed to Paul that he faced persecution in Jerusalem, though what that specifically would entail had not yet been disclosed. That would later be made clear to him by the prophet Agabus when he arrived in Palestine (21:10–11).

 

Matthew 8:18-22  [18]Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. [19]And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." [20]And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." [21]Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." [22]And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." (ESV)

  • We will always find excuses for accepting the call.
    • We’ll establish ourselves first, get money in the bank, wait till our kids leave home, the list never ends.

After a year of ministry in Hamilton, I found an opportunity to use my skills in Christian parachurch ministry. I thought I would do this until I found a church that was a good match. I became comfortable and kept putting off submitting my profile. I had the compulsion for pastoral ministry but became comfortable. The time came for the parting of the ways however.

·        Though years of confirmed impression, godly counsel, confirmed gifting, I go forward in pastoral ministry, but I must declare, like the apostle Paul, that I do not knowing what will happen.

·        I wonder how many have had the call of missions on their heart here but have dismissed it for desires of comfort or routine. How many have had a ministry idea but feared failure.

o       We will never truly be used by God if comfort and perceived safety is our ultimate end.

o       Search your heart, what has God been calling you to do. Realize that any true ministry will involve affliction but finish the course.

Paul’s response to the situation reveals his sacrificial spirit:

Acts 20: 24 [24]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. (ESV)

I think of the words that John Piper had for his dad and brought to mind the words Paul had as his death drew near, he wrote triumphantly to Timothy

2 Timothy 4:7   [7]I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (ESV)

I. HIS PAST WORK (Acts 20:18-21) II. HIS PRESENT COMMITMENT (Acts 20:22-24)

III. HIS FUTURE CONCERN (Acts 20:25-38)

Acts 20:25 [25]And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

In Acts 20, Paul Reminds the Church of their Duty

 

Acts 20: 26Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, [27]for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. [28]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.

Please turn to Hebrews 13

The term Elder identified them as pastors, with emphasis on their spiritual maturity, while the term overseers (v.28) describes their function.

·        The calling of leadership is a great one. The tendency in having a vacancy in leadership is to immediately fill it.

1 Timothy 5:22   [22]Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, (nor take part in the sins of others, keep yourself pure). (ESV)

·        The one thing that stuck me in conversation with over two hundred churches  involving questionnaires, interviews and preaching engagements. Not one looked at the requirements of an overseer in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 and asked how I fulfill them.

·        This is the standard for an overseer and should be the first place you consider future qualifications of an elder. How does this person exemplify these requirements?

·        Once someone is recognized with the gifts of leadership:

1 Timothy 4:14   [14]Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. (ESV)

And for the congregation:

Hebrews 13:7-17   [7]Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. [8]Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [9]Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. [10]We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. [11]For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. [12]So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. [13]Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. [14]For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. [15]Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. [16]Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.   [17]Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (ESV)

·        With so many blessings that Maranatha has had, there is real danger of complacency. As James 4 would warn us, Paul in Acts 20:28 admonishes us to pay careful attention to yourselves

·        In times past it has been easy to rest on our laurels and become complacent. It is at this time where Maranatha is most in danger. That is why God has raised up overseers

·        This is so important because the stakes are so high

o       This individual (v.28) is responsible for the church of God which (Christ) paid for with his own blood.

o       Maranatha is not your Church. It is not the elders Church or the Fellowship’s church, it is God’s church that he paid for with the blood of his son.

Paul has Reminded the Church of their duty and now Reminds them of the Danger

First, the Danger from Without

Acts 20:29[29]I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, (ESV)

·        There have been speakers here that I told the pastor, wheel me up from my deathbed, before you let this individual speak again.

o       Look at who addresses the congregation and protect the pulpit from error.

o       Look out also how false teachers can enter: from the library, video series and group discussion books.

o       One false teacher can confuse years of faithful teaching.

o       It does not have to be extended study of false teachers:

Paul warned the Galatians:

Galatians 5:9   [9]A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (ESV)

There is the danger from without, And now the Danger from within

Acts 20:30   [30]and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (ESV)

  • We can all ingest error when not discerning what we are hearing or reading. It may be an unwarranted assumption from what we have read, or listening/reading someone who is not careful in their proclamations.

This does not mean unbridled scepticism:

Acts 17:11   [11]Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)

Thank you for giving me the privilege and opportunity to serve as an elder at Maranatha Baptist Church and as I officially depart as one of your elders I leave with you the word of God:

Acts 20:32   [32]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. (ESV)

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