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Friday, June 3, 2016

Paul's Farewell to the Elders


An important note to my wider readers: What follows are the rough notes for my sermon on the above subject. Various constraints have meant that I have not been able to flesh it out in a way that might make sense to folk who did not hear me preach it. I publish it mainly for my congregation who are in the habit of reading my blog in order to find the references made during my preaching.


22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit,
Howard reminded us this morning that God longs to speak to each one of us.
Paul did not go to Jerusalem against the direction of the Spirit, as some have suggested, but because of the guidance of the Spirit. People pleaded with him not to go (21:4, 12  We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.),
People pleaded with him not to go not because the Spirit prohibited his going but because the Spirit revealed the capture that awaited him there (21:11–12). Through a process of discerning the spirits … decided to go.

God’s Spirit seeks to guide us in all we do (choosing a career after school, college or apprenticeship or uni, job, spouse, a car … anything …. God wants to guide us … so that we can say: Compelled by the Spirit I decided …

Briefly, how does God guide us?
Go to the Lord
Understand His ways
Investigate all your options
Discuss it with others
Exercise your freedom

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Is 30:21

24 my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Paul often uses the metaphor of a race/marathon.
Near end of his life  … 2 Timothy 4
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

What you do......do well. Finish what God called you to start.  And most important, point 3: Keep the faith......why?   Because for Paul and of course for us, everything in our Christian walk is by faith:

24 my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Paul will later write a letter to the Eph where he will give us one of the grandest teachings on faith, grace and salvation ... Eph 2:1-10

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What are those good works … many, but back to Acts

35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
None of the four canonical Gospels record this saying of Jesus;
By this time—approximately ad 56 (25 years after the resurrection of Jesus)—written and oral collections of Jesus’ sayings had wide circulation. Some became a part of the four Gospels; others did not. The Gospel writers didn’t record everything they remembered about Jesus; rather, the Holy Spirit led them to record only selected sayings and deeds of Jesus (Jn 21:25   25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.). Other ancient manuscripts about Jesus have been discovered, but we cannot rely on them as God-inspired because the early church did not include them in the canon (officially recognized books) of Scripture. 

None of the four canonical Gospels record this saying of Jesus, however, it reflects Christ’s attitude throughout His ministry. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It is more blessed to give because that is when we best resemble Christ (Matt. 10:8 Freely you have received; freely give.;; Mark 9:35Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’; James 2:15–17 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ). So It is more blessed to give than to receive
Mt 25:34–40 best example of how and what to give … the best example of the “good works that God has prepared for us to do”
Feed, thirsty, clothe … speaks of caring about the poor
Visit sick, prisoners
Welcome strangers

So as he says farewell to the Eph elders, Paul reminds them and us:
1. The Christian life is like a marathon … long haul; 
2. Don’t be discouraged we have HS to guide us every step of the way and to strengthen us every step of the way … because this is a marathon of service … 3. We are saved in order to serve …. Especially the least among us.

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