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Getting Ready for Our Final Goodbye (Part 2)

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How can we get ready for our final good-bye? 1. Receive our ministry for God's Word (vs. 22-24). 2. Recognize the value of God's Word (vs. 25-27). 3. Remember the urgent need for God's Word (vs. 28-31).

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Getting Ready for Our Final Goodbye (Part 2)

The Book of Acts - Part 73

Acts 20:17-31

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - February 8, 2015

BACKGROUND:

*Acts 20 was a pivotal time in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. In these verses Paul reflected on the past, and tried to prepare the church leaders of Ephesus for life without him. Our main focus tonight is vs. 21-31, but to put it in context, let's start reading at vs. 17.

MESSAGE:

*Eugene J. Toni was a Vietnam veteran. In 1991, Eugene made a visit to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Standing under a full moon, he flipped through the directory of names on the wall. Mr. Toni was mostly looking for friends, but he turned to the T's in a long-shot search for an uncle he never met. Instead, Mr. Toni was shocked to see his own name. Eugene and his wife, Nancy, walked down to panel 17 and counted down to line 121. Eugene later said, "I showed her my name and then we both looked at each other like we couldn't believe it." (1)

*It was a wake-up call for them both. And this passage of Scripture should be a wake-up call for us. In vs. 25, Paul told the church leaders of Ephesus that they would never see him again in this world. But Paul was ready for that final goodbye. In tonight's Scripture, he helps us know how to get ready, and it all goes back to the Word of God.

1. First: We must receive our ministry for God's Word.

*Paul received His ministry to the fullest, and he testified about this truth in vs. 22-24. There Paul said:

22. . . "See, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

23. except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

*The Lord Jesus gave that ministry to Paul, and he received it to the fullest. How did Paul do that?

[1] First: He counted the cost.

*To the best of Paul's ability, he counted the cost of serving Jesus Christ. And Paul didn't know all the details about the trouble coming his way. But the Holy Spirit let Paul know that there would be a high price to pay.

*Again in vs. 22-24, Paul said:

22. . . "See, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

23. except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself. . ."

*In a most inspiring way, Paul counted the cost of following Jesus. And the Lord wants us to do the same thing. In Luke 14:27-33, Jesus clearly said:

27. . . "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

28. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it

29. lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him,

30. saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

31. Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

32. Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

33. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."

[2] How did Paul receive His ministry from the Lord Jesus? He counted the cost. And he ran the race.

*In vs. 24, Paul said, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

*About 10 years later, Paul was about to die, and he was able to testify that he had finished the race. In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

*Where would we be right now if Paul hadn't counted the cost and finished the race? Which great books of the New Testament would be missing today? Would the gospel have spread throughout Europe, over to the United States, and to us? Thank God that the gospel did get spread! And it did in large part because Paul counted the cost and ran the race.

*Now God has given each one of us a unique ministry for His Word, specific places to testify about "the gospel of the grace of God," and specific people to testify to about "the gospel of the grace of God."

*Because of who you are, and where you live, the people you know and the gifts you have, you may be the only person in the world who can touch a person in your circle of influence. Tell them about the cross, and what it means to you!

*One of the most inspirational people I met at seminary was a young lady from Russia. Her named was "Irene," and it's a miracle that she was ever born. Irene's grandfather was a Baptist preacher when that Communist monster Joseph Stalin ruled Russia.

*The grandfather and his wife had 12 children and one prized possession: A Bible. Irene's grandfather used to hide it under the bed to protect his family, but the KGB found out about it and forced the family to move.

*It was in the dead of winter. They had to travel by horseback and on foot to a place near Siberia. They had no winter clothes. Six of the twelve children died on the way. Irene's father was only 3 years old, and they thought that he was dead too. But when they laid him on a pile of bodies, he cried out and was rescued.

*Irene knows that she is only alive by the grace of God. And when the Soviet Union fell back in the early 1990's, Irene and her sister decided that they would do everything they could to serve the Lord. They came here to learn how to become church planters back home in Russia.

*Irene knows that she is only alive by the grace of God. But so are we! God had a vital ministry for Paul, God has a vital ministry for Irene, and God has vital ministries for us. He wants us to testify about "the gospel of the grace of God" where we live, work and play.

2. That's how we can we get ready for our final goodbye. We must receive our ministry for God's Word. We also must recognize the value of God's Word.

*Starting in vs. 25, Paul reminds us of the priceless value of God's Word. There the Apostle said, "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more."

*John MacArthur put this moment in perspective when he said, "Now ask yourself, what effect might this statement have on the words that followed? These are the last words they will ever hear from the great Apostle. Surely this adds considerable weight and solemnity to the words that followed." (2)

*Paul's listeners must have redoubled their attention, as he said:

26. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

27. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

*With every fiber of his being, the Apostle Paul strived to declare "the whole counsel of God." Every preacher, every teacher and every witness should do the same. Every sermon, every lesson, every testimony should strive to declare "the whole counsel of God," so that they all have the foundation of "Thus saith the Lord."

*The Apostle Paul surely recognized the unique value of God's Word, and so should we! But why is the Word of God so priceless? Why is it so valuable? There are many reasons why.

[1] And one reason is God's purpose for our lives.

*In vs. 27, Paul touched on God's purpose for our lives when he talked about the "whole counsel of God." That word "counsel" means "advice" or "will" or "purpose." This reminds us that God has great purposes for our lives, and He reveals them through His Word.

*As Rick Warren once said, "God has never made anything without a purpose. Every rock has a purpose. Every plant has a purpose. Every animal has a purpose. And if you're alive, YOU have a purpose." Rick also said, "If you want to know if God still has a purpose for your life, check your heart. If it's still beating, God still has a purpose for you here on earth." (3)

*God has great purposes for our lives, and He reveals them through His Word. Rick Warren did a good job outlining five of God's great purposes for our lives:

-"We were planned for God's pleasure: That's worship.

-Formed for God's family: That's fellowship.

-Created to become like Christ: That's discipleship.

-Shaped for serving God: That's ministry.

-And made for a mission: That's evangelism. (4)

[2] God's Word has infinite value, because it tells us about His purpose for our lives. And because it tells us about God's pardon.

*Everybody in the world desperately needs forgiveness for their sins. Everybody needs a pardon from God. And the only place they will ever find God's pardon is in God's Word. In this Scripture we see the essentials for getting a pardon from God. In vs. 21, the essentials are "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." In vs. 24, the essential is "the gospel of the grace of God." And in vs. 28, the essential is that Jesus Christ paid for our pardon "with His own blood."

*Verse 28 also establishes the divinity of Jesus Christ, because there Paul told those pastors, "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of GOD which HE purchased with HIS OWN BLOOD."

*By His grace, God the Son became a man and took the punishment for our sins when He poured out His blood on the cross. We receive a full pardon from God when we turn to our Risen Lord in repentance and faith. We also become part of His Kingdom. And all of this comes through the Word of God.

*1 Peter 1:18-25 explains these truths to Christians, and says we:

18. . . were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,

19. but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

20. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

21. who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

23. having been BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD which lives and abides forever,

24. because "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away,

25. but the word of the Lord endures forever.'' Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

*Russian Pastor Vsevolod Lytkin reminds us of the miraculous, soul-saving power of God's Word. When I read his story, he was serving the Lord as a pastor in Siberia, but Vse was raised in the home of atheists. His parents were Communist professors at one of the universities in the Old Soviet Union. However, they raised their son to "think for himself." During his teen years, Vse began to struggle with many spiritual questions.

*When the Communists told him there was no God, he began to doubt their teaching. So, Vse began to search for reading material where he might find the answers. The only books on religion at his local library were atheistic, but they often quoted verses from the Bible to mock or refute them. And that was enough to get the job done.

*Vse's greatest discovery was a set of encyclopedias on atheism. It was filled with Bible verses, and Vse copied every one of them by hand! God used that Scripture to work in Vse's heart. Soon Vse believed in Jesus and asked God to forgive his sins! (5)

*This is the infinite value of God's Word, and this is why Paul was so careful to "declare the whole counsel of God."

3. How can we get ready for our final goodbyes? We must recognize the value of God's Word. And we must remember the urgent need for God's Word.

*Paul had a great awareness of how much everyone urgently needs to hear and respond to God's Word. In vs. 28-31, Paul wanted to pass his passion on to those other preachers. So, Paul told them this:

28. . . Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

29. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

30. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

31. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

*These words came from a heart that carried the greatest sense of urgency. Paul had the Good Shepherd's passionate concern for His flock. And it was justified concern, because we live in a world where false teaching is rampant.

*John Phillips explained why Paul was concerned, saying that Paul "needed to give final instructions to the elders of the great Ephesian church. Already the winds of heresy were beginning to blow across Asia Minor, and within a generation Gnosticism would be in full bloom. Paul needed to think through the best way to bring together the Ephesian elders and pray about his last message to those men." (6)

*William Barclay explained that the Gnostics were false teachers. And they had come up with more than one reason to justify sin. The Gnostics basically believed that only our present physical bodies were evil, so there was no harm in satisfying our selfish desires.

*They actually taught that a truly spiritual man was so protected by the Holy Spirit that he could sin to his heart's content and take no harm from it. They even taught that true Gnostics were obligated to explore the heights and plumb the depths of sin, so they might truly know all things." (7)

*False teaching was rampant, and it still is today. Research can highlight many causes, but it all gets down to this: A low view of God's Word. Why do some churches teach that God approves of gay marriage and ministers? They have a low view of the Bible. Romans 1:21-27 speaks of people like this and says:

21. because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22. Professing to be wise, they became fools,

23. and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.

24. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,

25. who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.

27. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

*False teaching is rampant. Why do some churches teach that abortion is okay? Again, they have a low view of God's Word. But in Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord told Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.''

*Jeremiah became known as "the weeping prophet." He was brokenhearted over the destruction about to come upon the nation of Judah. Why did that happen? Here's a little of the Lord's explanation from Jeremiah 16.

*In Jeremiah 16:4-5:

4. "They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.''

5. For thus says the Lord: "Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people,'' says the Lord, "lovingkindness and mercies.

*Then in Jeremiah 16:9-12:

9. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will cause to cease from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

10. And it shall be, when you show this people all these words, and they say to you, 'Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?'

11. then you shall say to them, 'Because your fathers have forsaken Me,' says the Lord; 'they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law.

12. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one walks according to the imagination of his own evil heart, SO THAT NO ONE LISTENS TO ME.

*False teaching is rampant, and when people don't listen to the Lord, they will believe terrible things, make terrible decisions and suffer eternal consequences... -- UNLESS they turn to the Lord, trust in the good news of the cross, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We must always remember that people have an urgent need for God's Word.

CONCLUSION:

*In vs. 25, Paul told the church leaders of Ephesus that they would never see him again in this world. But Paul was ready for that goodbye, and in tonight's Scripture, he shows us how to get ready.

*It all goes back to God's Word, so if we really want to be ready, we must:

-Receive our ministry for God's Word.

-Recognize the value of God's Word.

-And remember the urgent need for God's Word.

(1) The San Francisco Chronicle 02111991

(2) Adapted from MacArthur, J: Acts 1-12; Acts 13-28 Moody Press - Source: http://www.preceptaustin.org/acts_2017-27_commentary

(3) Adapted from Rick Warren’s Week 1 Sermon for "Forty Days of Purpose

(4) PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE by Rick Warren

(5) SermonCentral illustration Contributed by Clark Frailey

(6) Adapted from EXPLORING ACTS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "Paul purposely alone" Acts 20:13

(7) Adapted from "Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series - NT" by William Barclay - Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew - Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Obligation of Purity" - 1 John 3:3-8

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