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Aug 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 31, 2016 – Acts 20


From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Acts 20:17-21

Intro: We have all been hurt by someone we loved

A parent, a friend, a teacher, a mentor
– someone we trusted, someone we assumed had our back
• I’m not saying we’ve been let down or disappointed by others
◦ but, in some way we have been injured
• sadly, it’s not rare that a person’s worst injury came from a Christian leader
◦ a Sunday school teacher, a youth pastor, a trusted counselor

Our emphasis at Reflexion is our spiritual journey
– as we go on, we seek to make progress in wholeness (salvation)
• this means healing from past wounds, self-inflicted or otherwise
– but it also means trying to avoid sustaining new injuries
• this is what I hope we get from today’s scripture

1-16, More of Paul’s travelogue — and notes from Luke’s journal

This includes notes from Luke’s journal (notice us and we in vv. 5 & 6)

Forgive me for skipping the details of their road trip and sea voyage
– but jumping into the middle of it, we come to a short story
• it was Paul’s last night in Troas and he wanted to make the most of it
◦ the scene is a third story room of someone’s home
• because it was nighttime, they were burning many lamps
◦ we get the picture: lamp flames and BTUs of human bodies
◦ the room was very warm
– a young man could not resist sinking into a deep sleep
• this meeting came at the end of a workday for most of them
◦ the young man moved to a window and sat on the ledge
◦ as Paul kept on talking, the boy fell out window
• the boy had a common name: Eutychus –a compound of good and fortune
◦ I’m surprised few commentators point out the irony:
◦ the name of the boy who fell to his death was “Lucky”

Paul was among the people who rushed downstairs
– perhaps he was thinking of two instances in the Scriptures
• two boys had been brought back to life by two prophets (1 Ki. 17:17-22; 2 Ki. 4:32-37)
• Paul performed the same actions that Elijah and Elisha had performed
◦ soon he looked up and announced to the bystanders, “His life has returned!”
– after this, they returned upstairs, shared meal and observed Communion
• then Paul went back to preaching and continued until dawn

Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved. (NLT)

The remainder of the chapter: A workshop on leadership

Paul sent for the leaders of the church at Ephesus
– this would be his last encounter with them
• he wanted to make certain they were prepared to carry on
• that in his absence, the church would continue to thrive

So far, all of Paul’s speeches in Acts have been positive
– namely, through Jesus Christ, God pours out his grace on us
• but Paul’s message to these leaders has a darker tone
◦ everything in God is still wonderful
◦ but humans can be–not so wonderful
• if his speech here sound less like the previous ones,
◦ it does sound more like letters — less evangelistic and more pastoral
– Paul includes a strong warning against false teachers and imposters
• these warnings appear in almost all of his letters

Now I urge you, brothers, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and [obstacles] contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such me are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Ro. 16:17-18)

• not only Paul, but the letters of Peter and John contain similar warnings
◦ and Jude’s entire letter is devoted to this theme
◦ Jesus’ first words regarding the time of his return was, See to it no one misleads you

Paul had a warm relationship with the Ephesian Christians
– and these were his last words to them
• so it was not out of place that he talked about himself
• and everything he says about himself distinguishes him from pseudo-leaders
You yourselves know . . .
• first, they knew Paul’s lifestyle when he was with them
◦ his service, humility, sincere devotion (tears), and trials
◦ he never backed off from teaching them anything profitable
• second, they knew Paul’s message
repentance (turn to God) and place your trust in Jesus

A few days ago I took a book by Elie Wiesel with me to a doctor’s appointment. I was reading his comments regarding the prophet Hosea, whom God commanded to marry a prostitute. After giving birth to several children, Hosea’s wife left him and returned to her old business. The God told Hosea to retrieve her. (Wiesel points out that the first time, God simply told Hosea to marry her, but the second time he told him to love her!)  Through this heartache, Hosea learned something about the heart of God. He also learned something about reconciliation. Wiesel says that “the key to the tale. It can be expressed in one word: teshuvah. Repentance is possible. And it is endowed with a healing and redeeming quality. At the end, husband and wife are reconciled–as are God and Israel. In Jewish history, no break up is eternal.”

Paul told them where he was going from there

He had two thoughts in this part of his speech and he introduced both with:
And now – Paul explained how he felt compelled to get to Jerusalem
• he did not know what to expect when he arrived there
◦ all he knew is what he had learned from God’s Spirit
◦ that wherever he went, chains and stress would be waiting for him
• Paul was confident he would be able to manage his suffering
◦ that was because it did not define him
◦ and the work he did was bigger than himself
And now – as for the Ephesians, they would not see him again
• so he cleared his tab with them them
◦ he had fulfilled his spiritual obligations and responsibilities to them

At this point, Paul addressed a serious and pressing issue

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock
– why did Paul think this was necessary? It will soon become obvious
• it did not entail checking everyone’s theology when they showed up
• Paul’s concerns included the following:

  1. The believers in the Ephesian church belonged to God
    • the Spirit had appointed those leaders
    ◦ they answered to him
    • they served in God’s, which he purchased with His own blood
    ◦ they were to shepherd the flock, the church
    (the same word Jesus used with Peter, “Shepherd My sheep”–Jn. 21:16)
    ◦ false Christian leadership see people as objects to exploit,
    ◦ not as persons to protect and nurture
    I do not seek what is yours, but you (2 Cor. 12:14)
  2. Paul predicted that after he left, wolves would arrive
    – Eze 34 – leaders who fed on flock instead of flock
    • sheep are their prey
    – Paul used the adjective savage to describe them
    Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10)
    • I have heard preachers belittle their followers
    e.g., “Jesus said we are sheep and sheep are dumb” (not the Lord’s point)
    • I’ve known pastors who threatened followers (implicitly or explicitly)
    e.g., “Leave us and you will lose your salvation”
  3. Here is “the most unkindest cut of all”
    – from among your own selves
    • when a Christian leader shatters a person’s trust has been shattered
    ◦ the emotional and psychological damage is extreme
    ◦ frequently, the victims lose their trust in God as well
    (some people can no longer read the Bible, because when they do they hear the voice of the preacher or teacher who violated their trust)
  4. Speech is their primary weapon — speaking perverse things
    – perverse can be misleading
    • what is meant is that they “twist” scripture and the truth
    Your tongue devices destruction,
    Like a sharp razor,
    O worker of deceit.
    You love evil more than good,
    Falsehood more than speaking was is right.
    Your love all words that devour,
    O deceitful tongue. 
    (Ps. 52:2-4)
  5. The next two items are two sides of same coin:
    – they draw away the disciples, in order get them to come after them
    • it is possible to talk the Bible while drawing attention to oneself
    – I have seen false prophets at work – it’s horrid
    • ministries have been ruined, homes wrecked
    ◦ people have been driven not only from church, but from God
    • some leaders assume God’s authority over the lives of others

A true spiritual leader, Paul commended them to God

To God and also to the word of His grace
– the value of that word is its ability to build them up
• a good reminder that the word that builds up is the word of grace
◦ the word of condemnation tears people down

Soren Kierkegaard, “… not everyone who builds builds up” [a person who adds a room to their home does not build “up,” but builds an “addition.”] “To edify is to build on some foundation. … Love is the deepest foundation of the spiritual life.”

– again Paul cleared his tab, this time in regard to finances
• we do not need to be reminded of spiritual leaders whose chief interest is money
◦ see 2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Timothy 5:3-5
• as to defending his integrity in ministry, see Numbers 16:15; 1 Samuel 12:3-5; Nehemiah 5:14-19

Conc: After his speech, Luke paints this beautiful scene of a sad good-by

When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

What was expressed here was a spiritual love
– this is the true condition of giving and receiving Christian ministry
• Christian leaders love those who are placed in their care
• the first church I served forty-five years ago hosted a reception two years ago
◦ friends came from around the country and it seemed that time had intensified our love for each other
◦ now they are planning another another reunion
– we say these good-by’s to Christian friends and family,
• but even as we do, we look forward to the ultimate reunion

Until then, shelter yourself in Jesus
If a Christian leader says something or does something that gets you confused, discouraged or that feels oppressive to you, go to Jesus, receive his grace
Do not listen to anyone who wants to tell you what Jesus thinks of you
He will speak to you for himself — and his word is always grace
Always love, encouragement, reassuring — his word is life
Shelter yourself in the One whose presence is with you always, even to the end of the age

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