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Take Two

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Take Two

October 15, 2000          Acts 15:36-16:10


Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30


          The title of this morning's message, "Take Two," reminds us of a filming session where the director says in effect to the actors that he is about to retake the filming of this scene.

          How many times has that been necessary in your life?

Have you ever had to retake a particular scene?

          Have you ever had to rethink, reconsider, revisit, reform, reconstruct, relearn, or revise something?

          You are not alone.

          These things should be thought of as basic assumptions in the limitations of our human condition.

          I am beginning to sense that there are times when I repeat myself.

          Perhaps the experiences upon which I draw are applicable to several different situations.

          Or perhaps I sometimes fail to remember what I said before.

          I beg your indulgence for what I know has or will come upon you also someday.

          I fear that I have even repeated this before.

          I remember my father who began to repeat himself even at the age of 45 before he died at the age of 48.

          It seems to get more pronounced the older one gets.

          So we consider this inconsistency with a shade of humor, knowing that we too will advance in years.

          Have you ever had to do anything twice before you seem to get it right or before it seems to get fixed?

          We had a power outage in the church a couple weeks ago when I found a main power fuse that slowly failed.

          While connecting the electricity to the new exhaust fan in the attic of the church this last week, I found only partial power on the circuit going to it.

          I had already worked on that circuit to get it functional since it was disconnected years ago so the faulty fan that was there could not be turned on and then blow a fuse.

          The short story is that I found another bad fuse that failed.

          It had only partially blown out and let partial power on the line.

          I was tired of taking that circuit apart.

          I had the procedure memorized in my sleep.

          Things must often be redone.

          The same thing happened on our car.

          I told you last week that it died on the freeway when Joan was driving it in the rain and we had to have it towed.

          I replaced the crank sensor and it is now repaired and running well.

          But the problem is that just over a year ago I had to replace the same part.

          And least I remembered what I did then and was able to repeat it.

          Sometimes I forget how I did something before and have to relearn it all over again.

          In the process of replacing the crank sensor, I discovered a side-marker light on the car that was broken internally.

          I also discovered that the front brake pads needed to be replaced again after two years on the old ones.

          But I called Jacobs Buick parts warehouse to order the side-marker light.

          A little over a year ago I had replaced the one on the other side and I knew I didn't want to stand in line a long time to get this one like I did then.

          The person on the phone gave me a pickup number and told me the price.

          I knew it couldn't cost $68 and tried to tell them.

          I said there is no way that particular part could cost that much even with inflated prices.

          But to no avail, I went to pick up my part.

          When I got there, they had not yet gotten it picked.

          So I left and did other business and came back later.

          When I got may part, yes indeed it was the wrong part.

          So I ordered the right one and waited the 45 minutes for it to come down.

          As I was waiting it occurred to me that when I ordered the one last year, it did not come with the nuts to attach it and I needed them.

          When there was a break in the line of customers, I asked about it and yes indeed I needed to order the nuts separately.

          I did this and waited another 30 minutes.

          I first got there at 9:30 but it was 12:30 by the time I got everything I needed (and it cost me $16, not $68).

          Another example of repeated effort.

          But I did remember I needed the nuts before it was way too late.

          You have the same situations in your life too if you think about them.

          Just like the roof we are replacing on the church.

          It has three layers of shingles on it.

          They need to be torn off and started over with a brand new layer.

          But in the process, the flat roof above the fireplace room has become damaged and started to leak again.

          This actually cannot be helped.

          It was bound to happen as the nature of the job we are having done.

          But it was just a few years ago that we re-plastered and repainted those beams and posts where there was previous water damage.

          In this life we should never be fooled into thinking that any of our efforts will never have to be rethought, reconsidered, revisited, reformed, reconstructed, relearned, or revised.

          We must even stay on top of our sin problems.

          We can never consider that once we have gained victory we are in the clear.

          We must strive to remain victorious on a daily basis lest pride cometh before our fall.

          We must remain totally dependent upon God.    

Tis the nature of this life we live in the flesh.

          And so it is also in ministry.

          Our human limitations seem to have a consistent way of revisiting us and reminding us of our consistent need for God.

          In our messages in the book of Acts we have learned recently of the mission and message of the church, how we can experience that message for ourselves as disciples, and about the basis we have for fellowship in the church.

          Now as the mission team of Paul and Barnabas consider a second missionary journey to share the results of the Jerusalem Council decision about fellowship as an encouragement to the churches in Acts 15:36 – 16:10, we encounter another theme having to do with our limitations in ministry.

Big Question:

What can we learn from the early church about some of the limitations we face in Christian ministry? 

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 15:36)

          Note that the second journey is a revisit plus an extension.

          New ground should not be charted if the first ground is failing.

          Missions is a theory of building upon what has already been established.

          Ultimately, we take this back to what Christ won at the cross.

          We take his victory into the world.

          When a country or a city is won for him we have an obligation to keep it before we advance further.

          Both (now divided) mission groups do this in choosing where they go.

          B.      Implication

Ministries we have established may need to be revisited.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 15:37-38)

          The first missionary journey started out with a defection.

          The second started out with a division.

          Both involved the same person as the issue of focus.

          Our work for the Lord is never without challenges.

          What makes us think it should be easy?

          Do we think that just because we are doing the Lord's work he should bear the brunt of burden?

          But whose work is it really?

          Isn't it ours?

          There wouldn't be work to do if it weren't for our sin that must be overcome.

          So where do we get off thinking the Lord's work should not be a burden?

          We are the burden and we must bear the brunt of it.

          But we can't do so successfully without God.

          So it is God who multiplies our efforts even in our failures in order to turn them into successes.

          Quite often, the very same people, like Paul and Barnabas, who in ministry have argued successfully for the truth – in this case the theological basis for fellowship – are tempted the worst on the same issue, as here with Mark, and the fact that they broke their own fellowship.

          B.      Implication

          Theological stands we have taken may need to be relearned.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 15:39-40)

          B.      Implication

          Partnerships we have made may need to be reformed.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four


          A.      Narrative (vv. 16:1-5)

          And here with Timothy, the issue that sparked the fellowship debate is what Paul now carries out on Timothy.

          But it is in fact done for the same reason as the things James wrote about in his letter.

          It was out of respect for those that Paul wished to not offend so as to convert to Christ.

          Note that Paul did not have Titus circumcised because that was the very issue at stake (Gal. 2:3).

          Paul has elsewhere said that he becomes like others to win them (1Cor. 9:19-22).

1 Corinthians 9:19  Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

1 Corinthians 9:20  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

1 Corinthians 9:21  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

1 Corinthians 9:22  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

          And he says neither circumcision not uncircumcision means anything – only the blood of Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:19  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

Galatians 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 6:15  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

          B.      Implication

          Issues we have opposed may need to be reconsidered.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


V.      Cycle Five


          A.      Narrative (vv. 16:6-10)

          B.      Implication

          Plans we have made may need to be revised.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

What can we learn from the early church about some of the limitations we face in Christian ministry? 

Ministries we have established may need to be revisited.

          Theological stands we have taken may need to be relearned.

          Partnerships we have made may need to be reformed.

Issues we have opposed may need to be reconsidered.

          Plans we have made may need to be revised.

Timeless Truth:

          No matter what our limitations, God is not.

The best lesson in ministry is that God is sovereign even over our inconsistencies, failures, and limitations – and we might add, even successes. As long as what we do is truly for him, he can make it work. He can bring fruit even from our frustrations. Even the apostles struggled as you do.

Have no fear of serving God. He will turn a profit from your efforts just as long as you don't bury your talent in the ground.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

 (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIVUS)

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