Faithlife Sermons

Preserved for a Purpose

Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:02
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Staying Alive

There I was, hanging upside down from a three story tree-house… I should have died.
There I was, stabbed in the throat by my brother with puppet stick, drowning on my own blood. I should have died.
There I was, flying through the air with my bike left 20 feet uphill behind a broken ramp. I should have died.
Dodging spears and axes, reckless with power tools, leaping off roofs, riding bikes off roofs, lost in the mountains… how many stories have I told you over the years where I should have died!
The time we slid off the road up to Yosemite, held on to the road by a tiny bush, passing kids back to safety through a window. I should have died!
Why has God preserved my life? There must be some big reason. Am I the “chosen One”?
Over and over again we have seen Paul almost die. Beaten, stoned, arrested, he narrowly escapes. In these next few chapters, Paul narrowly avoids beatings, condemnation and likely execution. He is preserved.

Paul and the Tribune

Remember Paul was about to be torn apart by the mob in the Temple, and as the soldiers carried him away Paul asked to tell his story, and he testifies… and the mob wants to murder him again. So, the tribune decides to flog him:
Acts 22:24 ESV
the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
Exploratory flogging. Or you could ask him? But just as he is about to be whipped...
Acts 22:25–26 ESV
But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
Paul is saved. The tribune is amazed, he bought his citizenship, but Paul was born a citizen. He was saved by his Roman citizenship… something he was born into.
I call that Providence: preserved by the hand of God who moved that piece into play long before anyone knew it would be needed.

Paul and the Sanhedrin

Then, Paul goes up before the council, before the Sanhedrin. And he testifies to his innocence. He pulls no punches he calls out the high priest, remember the man who helped condemn Jesus to the cross… he call him out:
Acts 23:3 ESV
Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
You “whitewashed wall”… quoting Ezekies - a wall painted to look whole but truly about to collapse. Then “Oh, sorry, didn’t know he was the high priest. And they are ready to tear him apart!
But Paul, a Pharisee among Pharisees, theologically trained, he knows just what to say:
Acts 23:6–10 ESV
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
Saved again, if only just.

Paul and the Ambush

This is how much they hated him:
Acts 23:12 ESV
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
and they plot to ambush him… but his nephew heard the whole thing:
Acts 23:16 ESV
Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.
Think about that for a second. It is a secret plot to kill the man… did they invite his nephew in? Was his nephew passing by? In the right place at the right time? This is a ludicrous turn of events...
Or, I call that Providence. God preserves Paul. The nephew tells Paul, Paul sends him to the tribune, and they sneak Paul out with hundreds of soldiers to transfer Paul to the governor’s headquarters in Caesarea. Saved from a “city set upon his destruction”.

Paul and Felix

Paul is then in the custody of Felix, the governor, who actually knows the theology well, he knows of the Way. He defends himself from the accusations of the Jews to Felix and...
Acts 24:22–23 ESV
But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
And Paul gets to keep sharing Jesus with Felix and his wife.
Acts 24:26–27 ESV
At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Woah, woah, woah. For how long???
For two years!!!?
Paul is preserved… but he is in prison for TWO YEARS in Caesarea. Preserved from destruction, from execution… sure, preserved by bureacracy...
but who’s idea was it to put Paul on the bench?
And this guy Felix takes over, that’s when Paul gets to again tell his story before King Agrippa and Felix, King Agrippa says “if you keep going, you’ll make me a Christian” (love that)… and Felix ships him off to Rome.
… on the Mediterranean Cruise from hell, more about that next week…
Where he spends 3 years or so on house arrest.
Let’s put this in perspective. We have followed Paul for 10ish years? Paul has about 10 years left to live, before he is ultimately executed in Rome. Who’s bright idea was it to put Paul on “the bench” for most of those coming years. 2 years in prison here Caesarea, a few months of travel, 3 years in Rome, we think a short fourth mission trip to Rome and maybe Spain… and then back to Rome and execution.
That’s a terrible plan.
On the one hand we see God preserving Paul. Miraculously, all the pieces in in play.
On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t seem for Paul’s comfort, for his good, for his freedom, for his self-fulfillment, for his growth, for his actualization… It doesn’t seem great for Paul at all!
God is preserving Paul. Why?

Preserved for What?

Way back, before the beginning of Paul’s imprisonment, this huge and radical life change for the traveling missionary and itinerant pastor. Jesus shows up to Paul and makes it clear.
Paul: I am going to preserve you… for a purpose.
For what is God preserving Paul for?
Acts 23:11 ESV
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
What has God preserved Paul for?
God preserves Paul to be his witness in Rome. And for the next few years Paul is invincible and he knows it. It’s especially clear in the Mediterranean Cruise from hell (next week).
God preserves Paul for a purpose: to be his witness in Rome.
And another reason. A kind of secret reason. Luke doesn’t write about this because I don’t think Luke knows about this. I don’t think Paul knows about this. We get to know about this.
Why does God put Paul on the bench, first in Caesarea, then in Rome. Yes, to be a witness in Rome.... but Paul does something else while he is “on the bench.”
We aren’t entirely sure which ones he wrote from Caesarea, which from Rome… maybe even people theorize a stint in prison in Ephesus even though Acts never mentions one. But there in prison, on house arrest, Paul writes the “prison epistles.”
The letter to Philippi, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon at the least.
God preserves Paul to be his witness in Rome.
God preserves Paul to write His Word to the Church.
And in so doing, Paul encourages and equips the church for millennia. God preserves Paul for what will be his greatest legacy, his letters, far beyond what he would accomplish on the mission field. Millions, Billions would read the words he wrote of necessity because now he couldn’t travel, couldn’t be there!
God preserved Paul for His Purpose: to testify and to encourage and equip the church.
God Preserved Paul for His Purpose: to bring glory to God, to build His Kingdom.

Why Has God Preserved You?

Next week I get to baptize Dylan and Ella. They have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. You know what every kid has asked me at some point? Why can’t I just go to heaven now?
Heaven sounds awesome! Let’s go.
Why does God keep us around after our salvation prayer, after our baptism, after he has saved us… the best stuff is coming in resurrection glory. We will have time for everything then, we will have literally forever, eternity, life and life abundant. Fulfilled and made perfect...
If you don’t long for that day, you don’t get it!
Why am I still here? Why are you still here?

Story of a Kidney

My aunt got a kidney yesterday. People were praying in Atlanta that it would happen, we had no idea, God had a plan… from Wednesday evening, at the doctor Thursday morning, got the call Thursday night to come in, surgery at lunch on Friday. Boom! New kidney and everything is great so far!
Aunt Jane had no sense of urgency or crisis, the list was supposed to take years… but I believe this: the Great Physician knew better and that she needed that kidney yesterday. And that God preserved her life… and did so for a purpose.
And there is no doubt in my mind that Jane Mackintosh will live this out because she has always lived this way: the purpose of her life is to do what God wants her to do. His will for His kingdom for His glory.
God has preserved her for a purpose, for His Kingdom, for His glory. To be his witness and to encourage and equip His people.
Or right here among us, Aunt Vicky. A walking miracle. How beautiful to see you… God has preserved you for a purpose.

You Are Preserved for a Purpose

For His Glory. For His Kingdom.
You may remember a thousand times, like I can, a thousand times where you should have died. Where Jono almost killed you.
For every time you may know God saved you, He could have protected and preserved your life here on earth in ways you never saw, couldn’t fathom, didn’t understand.
What is certain, absolutely certain, is that in every way you are alive and here and drawing breath only because Your Creator and Savior God wills it to be so.
And it’s not about you. If it was just about you and your comfort and your good GUARANTEED the best thing for you would be heaven, resurrection and glory. Boom. Merry Christmas.
It is because you being here right now serves to bring God glory, to build and strengthen God’s kingdom, to encourage and equip the child of God next to you… to witness to the lost child who lives next door to you.
God may give you the explicit word, as He did to Paul, you are going to testify in Rome. He may silently and almost secretly use your ongoing faithfulness to affect millions or billions… as He did Paul’s letters in that time.
But what you should have absolutely no doubt in… you are here for His glory, for His kingdom. And if what you are doing this afternoon isn’t inline with that… cancel your plans.
Cancel your plans.
Cancel lunch.
Everything you do should be realigned to His purpose… it’s the reason you are here. And you will never be happier, more fulfilled, more joyful than when you are inline with His purpose.
Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
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