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Upper Level Christianity (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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January 26, 2024 6:00 am

Upper Level Christianity (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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January 26, 2024 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts


They continued with their faith.

Paul was the one that was converted. May we not give up. So you may have a child, you may have a parent, you may have a co-worker, preferably pronounced cow-auger because it's spelled that way.

Anyway, you may have someone in your life who you think is beyond reach, and they may be. you don't know, what you are called to do is do your duty, do your job. This is Cross Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the Book of Acts.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the Book of Acts chapter 21 as he begins his message, Upper Level Christianity. Acts chapter 21, we'll read verses 9 through 11, but we'll look at verses 1 through 16. We'll take verses 10 through 13. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his hands and feet, and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. Upper Level Christianity, that's what we're looking at preparing for this is very, very much humbled and a sense of inadequacy, which God responds to with, Yeah, yep, do your job, do your duty. It'd be all right.

He makes all things well, he does. Anyway, this is Upper Level Christianity we're discussing. There is, however, unfortunately, an Upper Level Anti-Christianity. We want to be aware of that, be on guard against it. And it is something that takes place with those who hear the gospel, grow up in a church, a good church, and then turn against the Lord. And we're not going to give up on those, we're not going to cave into them either.

We know what we're supposed to do. As for this man, Paul, death did not faze him. He had such a view of the throne of God in heaven that life on earth just didn't mean all that to him.

And so here we are, about 27 years or so after the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, about 27 years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And the question as we consider this section, or as we consider Acts, why is Paul trekking around as much of civilization as he possibly can? Why doesn't he just stay in one place and minister and develop the saints there? Why does he repeatedly disregard the high price of physical persecution so that he could preach Christ? Well, the first reason is the love of Christ.

That's what compels him. He wrote that to the Corinthians later, not yet, he hadn't written this letter to the Philippians yet, he had finished with the Corinthian letters, but to the Philippians he would later write, for to me to live is Christ, to die is gain. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he said, speaking of Jesus, he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.

This is who this man is, as we consider his letters, this is the man. This is what the Holy Spirit did through this individual. This adds much weight to the things he has to say, we call scripture. Again, 1 Corinthians this time, he says, for necessity is laid upon me, yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. He knew what he was supposed to do and he did it. He did it on a higher level of Christianity than most of us get to witness or to enter into, but we can benefit from it. We're not to get discouraged and say, man, this guy is on such a level, why bother?

That is not the right response. The right response is how much can I get from this and do something with it to the glory of God? And so his first motivation for trekking around civilization was the love of Christ, but also for the love of those who Jesus loved.

We can't forget these kind of things because they are meaningful. He also wrote to the Philippians, but if I live on in this flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor, yet what shall I choose? I cannot tell. So I'll pause there midway through this section. He says, if I live in the flesh, it's going to be meaningful. Where he's going, he says, I don't want to live in the flesh. I want to go home to heaven, but work here has to be done and God has assigned me work and I'm going to do it as best I can. He continues, for I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

In being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith. This again, upper level Christianity, it's not common. He reflects in his life, in these words, the attitude of God towards sin. His moving around, preaching Christ, taking the beatings and all the things that went with it, he's reflecting the attitude of God towards sin and that is continued hostility towards sin because sin hurts man. God tells us that the saints tried to do their best to impress upon those who they ministered to this very foundational truth. Sin hurts humans. Sin hurts living things. All creation groans, wrote Paul.

Now the keynote of the remainder of this book of Acts is centered in his bondage as a prisoner of Christ. He was never a prisoner of Rome. Rome thought he was.

They were wrong about that. The Philistines, they were wrong about Samson after they captured him. They found out if they cut his hair, he would be weakened. They didn't factor in that hair growing back and it did grow back and he used it to the glory of God and in so doing, he greatly lessened the tyranny and the assaults on his own people at the hands of the Philistines. This man Paul, a prisoner, he spoke in the last chapter to the elders at Miletus. He said, Now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there. He didn't care. Whatever was going to happen to him in Jerusalem was not enough to keep him out of Jerusalem.

Where do you get this kind of courage? He had every opportunity to back out of this. God was not forcing him to go to Jerusalem. That's what's going to come out of this section of scripture.

God was not forcing him, but God wanted him to go. Is this boring to you? Perhaps if it is so, because your life is lived worried about your life. You have picked things that will bring you down over things that will lift you up. Serving Christ exalts the soul.

That's why we sing with joy, the exaltation for Christ comes from what he has done for us. Insights, they matter. Insights into scripture, from scripture, they matter because they influence performance. Take away the insights that the Holy Spirit gives through his preachers and what do you have?

What are you left with? Those without biblical insight are missing out. They're missing out on building a stronger faith. And if these kind of things are just history to you, boring, maybe you have plateaued.

Maybe you have just flatlined now. And that zeal for your father's house is not consuming you. When they mocked the prophet Isaiah and said, who are you going to teach, children, line upon line, precepts, rule, all these, you know, insights.

Isaiah did not let them stop him, he continued. Those who get nothing out of the scripture and claim Christ to be Lord, I think are living on a lower level of the faith, not a place you want to encourage someone to be. Jude said, but you, beloved, Jude verse 20, building yourselves up on your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit.

Did you catch that, building yourselves up? You've got responsibility too. Don't sit there and wait for God to do everything. This life-changing moment really doesn't happen the way we want it to till we get rid of this life and we enter into that new life.

And that's part of what Paul was expressing in the Philippians, it's better for me to be with Christ. That's a life-changing moment. Yeah, there are these lesser ones when we get saved, that's a huge life-changing moment. But to have those experiences, you see that a lot on the internet, right? Life-changing speech, life-changing sermon.

And they really don't, they may excite you for the moment, but it calls for more than just one particular thing. Paul seems to have laid hold on that very thing that changes the life, not so much his, but those who he ministered to. And so we look now at verse one and he says, Luke writing, now it came to pass that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course, we came to Koss the following day to Rhodes and from there to Petara. Now Luke is documenting for us the weary and arduous labor of traveling. In all these centuries, it's still tough, it's still difficult. Paul would have liked a direct flight, he couldn't find one at this point.

He will get one, but not yet, wasn't available. But what makes a difference when you travel? Not only the desire to get to your destination, but your companions and the men that were with him, remember they're carrying a lot of money with them.

They were hand-picked, these men, for their faithfulness, their dedication, their trustworthiness, their loyalty, all of that wrapped into their diligence. And these are his companions and it certainly did lessen the unpleasantness of traveling. It says they had a straight course, the winds were with them at this point, won't always be that way. They land first in Rhodes, now Rhodes, not streets, actually had a big statue, not at the days of Paul, by this time it was gone, but at one time in her history, one of the seven wonders of the world was there, this giant ten-story statue of Apollos stood at the harbor's entrance, an earthquake toppled it. So at about the size of the Statue of Liberty, without the base of the Statue of Liberty, not over a hundred feet, to the angels, just a Lego set, the angels look at man's seven wonders than others, nah, this is a Lego, you should see what we got up here.

Anyway, coming back to this, that keeps things in perspective, does it not? Man is very impressed with himself, and there's some things to be impressed by, but to a point, verse two, in finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went abroad and set sail. So he manages to find his direct flight on a ship, voyage of about 400 miles, take about five days to make, verse three, when we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre, from there the ship was to unload her cargo, interesting, he goes to Rhodes and Tyre, phonetically, it's funny, I didn't write it, I just noticed it. Anyway, we've been considering Tyre quite a bit, they being that maritime superpower of commerce in Isaiah's day, not any longer, and they weren't that great in the days of Paul either, but still a shipping port, and this is now, you know, they're back into the area of Israel, they can now walk to Jerusalem from where they are, they won't directly, but it's coming, and he knew he's heading into the mouth of the lion. He had told, he knew this going back to when he was still in Philippi, writing to the Romans, this is what he says to them, he doesn't know what's happening at the time he writes the Roman letter concerning Jerusalem, but he knows it's not good, and he knows he has to be there, and he writes to them, he says, now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me. This is the great apostle Paul saying, I have something on my heart, and I want you to pray with me about this. He continues, he says, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints. These things were weighing on him, and it wasn't that he was looking for a peace about it, he wanted to complete his mission, and as he's traveling towards Jerusalem, and he stops off at Miletus to meet the pastors from Ephesus, you know, he goes through it with them, he gets to mainland Israel now, and he's going to go through it at Caesarea, and everywhere he goes, Paul, they're going to get you, coming from his own people, and they loved him, of course. How can this bore us?

How can we not see the value of these things? You know, you read that section in Romans 15, now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayer, and you think that there's nothing going more with that, that he's just asking for prayer. No, he doesn't, he knows he might face beatings, he's had them before. He understands what it's like to take a beating for Christ on one day, for maybe ten minutes, and then have to heal through that process for the next few months, from the wounds, and the shame, and then go through it again, because so many of these beatings were public beatings, and he faced them all. He looked at the job, he said, what does it call for? And then he went about fulfilling the work that was necessary. Okay, this calls for me to preach right now, even though I'm going to catch a beating, or be jailed. How can this bore us?

How can we not see the value of it all? How can we not place ourselves in this picture and say, that's high-level Christianity, I may not be able to get to that level, but I can grab something, I can get to some level higher than what I would have achieved had I not been exposed to these truths through God's Word. He says, and landed at Tyre. We are told earlier in Acts chapter 11, verse 19, we won't be able to read them all, it takes too much time, I'm going to give you the reference point, that after Stephen was murdered in his martyrdom, after he had gone to heaven, that the Christians suffered persecution in Jerusalem, and so they fled. They got out of there, except for the apostles. And when they did so, this is one of the regions mentioned that they brought the gospel to, but they were only preaching at that point to the Jews. They were preaching Christ as Messiah to the Jews. That persecution that they fled from was spearheaded by this man, Paul, before his conversion. What are the chances that here he is, I don't know, as we mentioned, 27 years later, he'd go a little less than, if you factor in his conversion times, about 20, 24 years later or so. Here is Paul, breaking bread, worshipping, praying, being loved on by the Christians he chased up there, because God saved him. Because the Christians did not cave to the persecution, they continued with their faith.

Paul was the one that was converted, and may we not give up. So you may have a child, you may have a parent, you may have a co-worker, preferably pronounced cow-or-ker, because it's spelled that way. Anyway, you may have someone in your life who you think is beyond reach, and they may be.

You don't know. What you are called to do is do your duty, do your job. You pray for them if God puts them and keeps them on your heart, especially if he keeps them on your heart. I think every Christian should go to their grave with somebody on their heart, because there's never a shortage. It's like, huh, there's nobody to pray for.

To have that worked out wonderfully. Everybody I know is saved. Well, they're not all going to get saved in your lifetime. That's no reason to quit. Some will. You keep at it. Look, discouragement is like gravel on the ground, if you live where gravel is. It's so easy to pick up. It's right there.

You don't have to do that. Verse 4, in Finding Disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

Here we go again, right? They were warnings. They were warned through the Holy Spirit. They knew the Lord is putting it on my heart that this is not going to go as we would like it to go.

But the prohibition was their interpretation. The Spirit was warning them that Paul would suffer persecution. He was not prohibiting Paul. You know, they want Paul to be safe. They don't want him to suffer any more harm. He's no spring chicken as people go.

He's been around a while. They figure, well, you know, he's paid his dues. He did not agree with that. He felt his dues was due monthly.

You could say it that way. The Greek really brings this out, I think, a little bit better than the translators have opted to give it in the New King James and the Old King James also. Either way, the Greek says really that Paul, you should not go to Jerusalem rather than you must not go to Jerusalem as the Spirit's leading them. The Spirit told the troubles coming. Paul, back in chapter 20, we should read it, Acts chapter 20, verse 22, we find that Paul knew that God was leading him there. And see, now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

Interesting. Agabus will only confirm what Paul says and really won't be bringing anything new to him, though the other, the spectators will be new to them. Paul continues, 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. Now here it comes, the part that connects him to Jerusalem in spite of the suffering, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

That's my job, to get to Jerusalem to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. God told me when I was converted, Paul could have said, that I'm going to suffer a lot of things for the gospel. And he sent Ananias to tell him that, and that's in Acts chapter 9, verses 15 and 16. So he knew what was coming, and he was good with that. He must not heed their advice when he was so sure of what God was telling him. You know, Nehemiah was probably one of the best leaders in the scriptures that we have. A man who just did not suffer fools. He could work with those who were weak, but he did not suffer fools.

Very intolerant of things that were way wrong. And at one point, you know, he was so successful, he said, we got to find a way to kill this guy. Maybe we could just tell him, they're trying to kill you Nehemiah, come to us and let's talk about this.

You know, flee the city, run away. And his response in Nehemiah 611, one that I've tried to live up to, but it's hard. He said, shall a man such as I flee? Well that's Paul. Paul said, shall a man that has been told by the Lord to go preach this ministry of the gospel, should I flee?

No, I won't do it. And he's certainly a different type of character than Nehemiah. We'll get to his response in a minute. But God is putting on display through this entire event, for all the believers, what upper level Christianity looks like. Now Paul's not the only one. Peter's going to go to his grave on an upside down cross.

He's not the only one. He's not the only martyr, but he's the one, it's the one story that God chose to center on. And here it is, being paraded before the believers. This is how you do it.

The honest response to this is, I don't think I can do that. Well you can't, but the Spirit of God can in you. They saw Paul's life at risk, but Paul saw souls at risk of being damned without the cross of Christ. And we would think that, well what awaited him was having suffered so much from unbelieving Jews, unbelieving Gentiles, and make believing Christians, and even some shallow true Christians. After putting up with all of that, he is still going. He's not discouraged.

Zeal for his Father's will has not cooled. I keep repeating myself, but it's, to me it's stark upper level Christianity. I want that to haunt me sometimes. I want that to be too, when I feel like, you know what, I'm just tired, or I'm fed up with this, or this and that, and it comes into my mind, there is an upper level of Christianity available to me, and I can avail myself of it.

I don't know how much of it I can do, but I know some of it is available, and that alone scares hell. Hell wants no progress in the life of the believer because they're afraid of it. God might use it to save a soul, to encourage a believer. Years ago in a vision, the Lord told Paul to flee from Jerusalem.

Now, and now he's just giving him a heads up with weights there for him. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at, or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-19 23:51:02 / 2024-02-20 00:01:29 / 10

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