April 19, 2020

Sermon - Guided by God to Serve - Acts 20


Acts 20

Guided by God to serve…

I know what people think. They think that I work alone. That I enter a town like a lone superhero and boom – people are instantly wowed with my good news of salvation. That I am so intelligent, speaking things which are difficult to comprehend and without emotion.

But you know what. Those people who think like that, are wrong. I don’t work alone. I am always surrounded by a great team of people. Check out these folk with me on this occasion, or will be soon – Luke, Sopater; Aristarchus and Secundus; Gaius; my dear son, Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus. A community of God’s people from different places working with me. It is for God’s sake that I work and am His. It is my conviction that the good news of salvation can be had by all, through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead. As for being without emotion, clearly, they have never met me and therefore misunderstand me. Emotions are part of the human experience and that is what I am, a mere human being used by the God I proclaim, worship and serve.

I once was very different though. I was on a mission – a mission from God – or so I thought. A mission to defend God’s truth. It was my job to be God’s defender and root out the miscreants known as ‘The Way.’ Those people claiming that Jesus, Yeshua ben Joseph, had risen from the dead after being crucified. No way could God have a Son. That was blasphemy! Rubbish it was! It was! How could the Saviour of my people, the Jews, the Messiah, die on a cross – a Gentile cross at that - and be cursed by God? Patently absurd! Bald-faced and blatant blasphemy! No! No! No! It was my duty as a man zealous for the Law, to eradicate all those who were followers of this man, Jesus. Those heretics. Then… I still remember it as if it was yesterday. I was on the road to Damascus, embarking on my mission and boom! Suddenly a voice from heaven cried out “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

I asked who it was that was speaking and the voice spoke again “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

God had stopped me, arrested me (Philippians 3:12), shone his light upon me (2 Corinthians 4:6), and the mercy of God overflowed upon me (1 Timothy 1:14) and within me. Jesus is alive! WOW! It is true! Jesus is alive! Did you hear me? Jesus is alive! Jesus, the Messiah did die on a cross. But he came back to life, rising from the dead three days later just as He repeatedly said He would. Afterwards, he made many public appearances before He ascended back to God the Father. Then He appeared to me! Me! Saul of Tarsus! WOW!

That was about 20 years ago now. Now I am on a different mission. A mission given undeniably to me, by God – a mission which is to tell the world, by all possible means, this good news of Jesus the Christ. I, now named Paul, am no longer an enemy of Jesus, but now His friend. A friend of God! God calls me, friend - converted from a persecutor to being one of His faithful followers. This conversion was a total transformation by God upon me. My attitudes, character & relationship with God, have all been transformed and for His glory alone. My God loves me! Me! Unbelievable, isn’t it? My conversion is real, God continuing to work in me, upon me and through me.

So here we are today! Having just left that majestic city of Ephesus, where I spent the best part of the last 3 years. A city and people I love dearly – loved often with tears and joy. Recently as a result of my preaching and sharing the Good News of Jesus, some folk took exception and caused a riot.

So, onwards to Jerusalem and the believers there. I have a gift for them. A wonderfully sacrificial gift from the Gentile churches, to the Church there in Jerusalem. It is a practical way of looking after the welfare of the Church of fellow believers there in the magnificent city of Jerusalem. The churches in Macedonia and Achaia, are wanting to make a practical contribution towards the Christians in Jerusalem . Headlong we go, guided by God and serving Him. I will catch up with Timothy and Erastus whom I have sent ahead of me!

  • v1-2 – first we go north from Ephesus to Macedonia. I may just stay in Corinth for the winter.
  • v3 – Then I will return through Macedonia instead of sailing to Syria
  • v7-12 - Troas - Eutychus is raised from the dead by God
  • v13 - By foot to Assos
  • v14 - sailed to Mitylene
  • v15 - sailed to Kos, Samos and Miletus
  • v17 - Ephesus elders came to Miletus

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1. Overview

With that introduction, we come to tonight’s passage of Acts 20. The chapter, as you can see, breaks down into 3 sections.

  • v1-6 - Paul in Macedonia and Greece
  • v7-12 - Paul in Troas
  • v13-39 - In this section, Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian leaders.

As ever, there is a lot in this chapter for us. In preparation, as I read the passage, listened to it being read repeatedly and meditated on this chapter, two words came over and over to my mind. Two words which are important for the church today, just as they have been down through history.

2. Guidance - How are Christians guided by God?

  • Controlled by the Holy Spirit
  • Convictions and Conscience
  • Counsel and Circumstances
  • Lessons from the past

3. Service

Paul’s Service - How did he serve

  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Words

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