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The Importance of Obedience - Life of Paul Part 70

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
February 23, 2021 7:00 am

The Importance of Obedience - Life of Paul Part 70

So What? / Lon Solomon

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February 23, 2021 7:00 am

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Good morning. How's everybody?

Good. Good morning all you folks down in overflow. We're glad you're here. Hey, how about taking a Bible if you brought it open to Acts chapter 20. We're going to be continuing in our study of the life of that great man, the Apostle Paul. Now, you know, when it comes to farewell speeches, we here in America have had some pretty momentous ones. I'm reminded, for example, of General Douglas MacArthur and the speech that he gave on May 12, 1962 to the cadets at West Point. Part of what he said was this, and I quote, Today marks my final roll call with you.

The shadows are lengthening for me. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes these words, duty, honor, country. End of quote.

And then who can forget the final speech of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 3, 1968 there in Memphis the night before he was assassinated. He said this, and I quote, I don't know what will happen now. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.

Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain and to look over into the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land.

And so I'm happy tonight. I'm not fearing any man, for mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. End of quote. Now the reason I bring these up is because today we're going to look at another farewell speech. It's a farewell speech that the apostle Paul makes here in the Bible in Acts chapter 20 to a bunch of church leaders from the church of Ephesus. It's a speech in which Paul explains the world view that shaped his life. It's a speech in which he explains the value system that drove his ministry. It's a speech in which he defines the way a true servant of God ought to act and think and evaluate life and relate to other people. And if you're here today and you're a follower of Christ and your goal is to be a man or a woman of God, your goal is to be a powerful servant of Christ the way Paul was, then folks, this speech is the most life defining speech in the New Testament for you and for me.

And so we're not going to hurry through this speech. We're going to spend a few weeks on it and we're going to try to pull out of it all of the impact that God has built into it for your life and for mine. Now a little bit of background. Remember the apostle Paul is on his third missionary journey.

Let's show you a map. He has sailed from the city of Philippi in northern Greece to the town of Troas in northwestern Turkey. He has with him two things. Number one, he has an offering that he took up from the churches in Greece to bring to Jerusalem and give to the poor believers there. The other thing he has with him is a group of men, a group of representatives from these churches where he collected money who are traveling along to be able to certify that the money is being handled in a godly and a righteous way. And Paul has spent a week in Troas and now he sails again on the way to Jerusalem and that's where we pick up the story.

So let's look at verse 13, Acts chapter 20. We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, Luke writes, intending from there to take Paul on board because he had decided to go to Assos on foot. And when we met him at Assos, we took him aboard and we went on to Mytilene.

Now let's go back and show you the map and you see that the distance from Troas to Assos is about 20 miles. Paul walked this 20 miles while the rest of the group sailed it. You say, well, why in the world would a man walk 20 miles when he had the chance to ride on a boat?

Well, I don't know. I mean, maybe he missed his cardio that week. I have no idea why he did it. Maybe he just needed some time alone to think.

Who knows? But they picked him up on the boat there in Assos and then sailed to Mytilene. The Bible continues. And sailing away, we arrived the next day at Chios and the next day we crossed over to Samos. And on the following day, we arrived at Miletus. Let's go back to the map and you can see that Paul was steadily moving on this little coastal vessel south down the coast of Turkey. And, you know, this was a little ship that put out every day and sailed as far as it could and then every night pulled into a port and stopped.

In New York City subway terms, this is like taking the local train. You understand that Paul got on, not the express, because they're stopping at every little port. But they finally got to Miletus, which as you see was very close to Ephesus. And the Bible says, verse 16, Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem.

If possible, by the day of Pentecost. And so from Miletus, verse 17, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church to come there to Miletus and meet with him. Now remember, Paul has only been gone from Ephesus for about a year, a little bit less.

Before that year, he spent three years consecutively in Ephesus, working with, discipling, mentoring, teaching, investing in these church leaders. And so he invites them now to come and meet him in Miletus, knowing that this will be their last meeting here on earth. Verse 25, he actually says to them, Now I know that none of you will ever see me again. Maybe you guys heard the story about this man who walks into a fortune teller, and he says to her, here's my question. He said, I want to know, are there any golf courses in heaven? She said, Well, I don't know.

I've never been asked that question. She said, Can you give me a week to work on it? He said, Sure. So he came back a week later and sat down and he said, Well, she said, Well, I got an answer and I got good news and bad news for you.

Which do you want first? He said, Give me the good news. She said, The good news is, yes, there are golf courses in heaven. She said, The clubhouses are immaculate.

The fairways are long and luxurious. She said, The greens are exquisite. And he said, Wow, that is great. He said, What's the bad news?

She said, You tee off tomorrow at ten thirty. Now, now the point is, if you knew you were teeing off tomorrow up there at ten thirty, if you knew that this was the very last day that you were here on earth, and you had one last opportunity to gather around you all your closest friends and all the people you loved the most and the people you had poured your life into the most and to speak to them one last time before you left, what would you say to them? Well, I'll bet you, you would try to think of the most compelling, the most significant, the most life defining truths that you knew, and you would try to talk to them about those truths. Well, friends, that's exactly what the Apostle Paul did here. That's why this message is so powerful, so compelling, so valuable for us, because in this message he's trying to share with these church leaders the most significant values in his life as a servant of Christ.

Now, what does he actually say? Well, look, verse eighteen, And when they arrived, Paul spoke to them and said, You yourselves know how I lived the whole time I was with you, three years, and how I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and with trials that came upon me through the plots of the Jewish community in Ephesus. Paul said, You guys remember when I came to town, I came with a humble and a self-effacing attitude. When I came to town, I came as a servant who reached out and cared for people with tears in his eyes, and yet I got blasted by the Jewish community in town.

They hated me, they rejected me, they publicly vilified me, they tried to kill me. Now, you say, Well, Lon, why were these Jewish people so upset with Paul? Well, Paul's going to tell you.

Look what he says next. Verse twenty, For you know, Paul says, that I did not shrink back from declaring to you anything that was profitable when I was there in Ephesus, and especially I declared that Jews and Gentiles alike must turn to God in repentance and put their faith in Jesus the Messiah. You see, what set these Jewish people off in Ephesus against Paul was not his humility.

What made them so angry with him was not his compassion or the fact he had tears in his eyes when he cared for people. What made these people just spit and mad was the content of what he was preaching. These Jewish people in Ephesus didn't want to be told that they needed to repent, that they needed to change their mind about the way they were living life. These Jewish people in town didn't want to be told that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. They didn't want to be told that they had to put their faith in Jesus as the only way to get to heaven and to get eternal life, and yet Paul kept telling them that. Paul refused to stop telling them that, even when they abused him for doing it. Now, may I stop for just a moment and say, if you're here today and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way, may I say that if the apostle Paul were here today, twenty centuries later, you know what he'd be preaching to you? He'd be preaching the very same thing he preached to these people. Because God's standards have not changed in twenty centuries, friends.

They're still the same. If you want eternal life and you want to go to heaven and you want a relationship with God and you want your guilt forgiven, there's a way to have it happen, but it's the same way Paul was telling these people. Number one, you have to repent. You've got to change your mind about the way you're living and make a U-turn in your life. And number two, you've got to embrace Jesus Christ and what he did for you on the cross as payment for your wrongdoing in the sight of God. And then you get everything else, eternal life, heaven, a relationship with God.

So if you're here today and you've never done that, let me just challenge you. Exactly what Paul said these Jewish people need to do is what you need to do, and I hope you'll think about that. Now, let's just ask the question, you know, if Paul was preaching a message that was this unpopular, if he was getting this kind of hostile reaction from people, then why did he keep preaching it? I mean, you know, no politician getting poll numbers this bad on some issue would have kept going with it.

I mean, a politician would change the issue. So why didn't Paul getting bad poll numbers and emphasis like this change the message? Well, friends, that's a great question, and it leads us to talk about the first pivotal issue, the first pivotal principle in this speech about being a follower of Christ, and that principle is the obedience to God. You see, the reason Paul didn't alter his message is because this was the message that the Lord had personally commanded him to preach. Look what he says to King Agrippa when he's speaking to him in Acts chapter 26. He says, King Agrippa, Jesus appeared to me in a vision on the Damascus road, right, we all remember that, and said to me, for this purpose, Paul, I have appeared to you to appoint you as a minister to both the Jewish people and the Gentiles to open their eyes so they receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. So then, Paul says, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to this heavenly vision, first to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem, and then to the Gentiles also. I have preached what Jesus told me to preach, and that is that people need to repent and turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, folks, as followers of Christ here today, this is the crucial point that I want you to see. Don't leave here without getting this, and the point is this, that in Paul's mind, what he was preaching wasn't a matter of personal choice.

It wasn't a message that he was free to change whenever he felt like changing it, when the poll numbers got bad, when people got upset with him for saying it. In Paul's mind, what he was preaching was a matter of direct obedience to God. And he says that, Galatians chapter 1, he says, Am I trying to win the approval of men or of God?

For I would have you know that the message I preach is not something I got from men, rather I received it directly from Jesus Christ. And you see, this is why it didn't really matter to Paul whether people liked it or not. And this is why it didn't really matter to Paul whether people persecuted him for the message or not. And this is why it didn't really matter to Paul what the poll numbers were one way or the other in any city he went to. What mattered to Paul, he says in verse 24 of this chapter, the only thing that matters to me is that I finish the race and complete the task that the Lord Jesus has given me. Friends, the only thing that mattered to the apostle Paul was obeying God.

And do you see here that this is the first principle that he hones in on talking to these church leaders. He says, You know what drove me when I came to that town? Remember what drove me?

What drove me was obedience to God. Now that's as far as we want to go in our passage today because we got a really important question to ask. And I've been gone for a couple weeks, I know you're rusty, but you can do this now. So you ready? Here we go. Nice and loud.

One, two, three. So what? You say, Lord, so what? See, this is great. I appreciate that. You're up there preaching your heart out.

God bless you, brother. But you know what? What difference does this make to me?

I don't see how this relates to my life at all. Oh, let me tell you about it. Friends, listen, look here in Acts chapter 20 as Paul begins explaining to these Ephesian church leaders what made him the mighty servant of God that he was. Please notice that the very first issue Paul covers is this issue of obedience to God. And as followers of Christ, we must understand that in God's vocabulary, obedience is a treasured word.

Look what he says. Malachi chapter 1 in the Old Testament. He says, a son, God writing, God speaking, honors his father and a slave obeys his master.

So if I am your father, where is the respect due me? And if I am your master, where is the obedience due me, says the Lord Almighty? Friends, the whole Bible is full of this message. Namely, that God is not primarily interested in rituals, creeds, or doctrinal statements. God is not primarily interested in prayer books, hymn books, or religious activity. God is not primarily interested in taking communion, whether you're a member of a church or whether you attend every week. First and foremost, above everything else, God is interested in obedience.

That's what he said. Jesus said, John chapter 14, if you love me, you will attend church. No, it's not what he said. He said, if you love me, you will obey what I command. Jesus also said, John 13, now if you know these things, you will be blessed if you sing hymns about them.

It's not what he said. He said, you will be blessed if you do them. Hey, what did James say? James 1-22 said, prove yourselves doers of the word, not just hearers of the word. And Psalm 111 says, a good understanding have all those who do God's commandments. There's a wonderful story in the Old Testament about King Saul, 1 Samuel 15. And God appears to Saul and he says, Saul, I got a job for you to do. I want you to go to this city of Amalekites. I pronounced a curse on them and I want you to wipe out the city. And I want you to not only wipe out the people, but I want you to wipe out all the livestock and the animals.

Completely obliterate this city because I've cursed them. And so Saul, he goes, but he gives God halfway obedience. He spares the best sheep and the best oxen and brings them back home with them. And as he's walking back home, he meets the prophet Samuel. And Samuel comes up to him and says, hey, Saul, how you doing? Saul says, oh, I'm doing really well. I have gone and I have obeyed the Lord. And Samuel says, you did?

Yeah. He says, well, then what then is this bleeding of sheep that I hear in my ear? Now you see that, that's hysterical. Do you understand what he's saying?

What he's saying is if you did what the Lord told you to do, there ought to be no sheep to bleat anywhere. Saul dead. Oh, forget it.

All right. It really is hysterical here. It's funny. And so Saul says to him, well, he says, Samuel, you know what? He says, I spared the best of the sheep and the oxen and brought them back so we could sacrifice them to the Lord our God. Samuel said, you did, huh?

He said, let me tell you something, pal. 1 Samuel 15, 22, he says, does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he delights in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, Saul, to obey is better than to sacrifice. God thinks sacrifice is wonderful, but the thing he wants from you is he wanted you to do what he told you to do. Not interested in your sacrifices. And friends, the bottom line of all this is simply that you and I can never become true men and women of God. You and I can never become powerful servants of Jesus Christ like Paul was until we get serious about obeying God. That's the bottom line.

I love A.W. Tozer, the writer of half a century ago, the Christian writer, and here's what he said, and I quote. He said, have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late and how little revival has resulted? Considering the volume of prayer that is ascending these days, rivers of revival should be flowing.

That no such results are in evidence should not discourage us. Rather, it should stir us to find out why our prayers are not answered. I believe that our problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying and it simply will not work. End of quote.

I think he's right. I think if a church obeys God, they see God move. You can pray all you want, all day long, but until we get serious about obeying God, we will not see God move. Either in our individual lives or in our church family as a whole. You say, well, like, what are you talking about? I mean, you know, what do you mean obeying God? Well, let me give you some areas to think about. Some areas where God may be calling you to obey Him.

And let me just ask you how you do it on some of these areas. For example, maybe God's asking you to go seek somebody's forgiveness that you know has something against you. Matthew chapter 5 says, if you're presenting your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother or your sister has something against you, leave your offering at the altar and go first and be reconciled to your brother or your sister and then come back and present your offering. You say, well, yeah, but you don't understand it wasn't my fault. I didn't do it. It was their fault. Why should I apologize when it's not my fault? I didn't cause this problem.

They caused this problem. And if they're upset with me, that's their fault. And why do I have to go first and humble myself and make a fool out of myself? No, no, no, they ought to come to me first.

What reason can you possibly give me why I ought to go to them first? Well, I can give you one reason, because Jesus told you to. And to me, that's all the reason you need.

It's all the reason I need. Jesus didn't say that He cared all that much about whether it was humiliating for you to do it. He said, just do it. Now, the question is, are there people that you know have things against you today from business, from personal relationships in your family? Have you gone to them and humbled yourself and tried to reconcile with them like Jesus told you? Maybe God's calling you to make restitution to somebody for something you did wrong to them. You say, well, I can't.

It's too costly. Friends, it won't be as costly as disobeying God's going to be in your life. Maybe God's calling you to talk to somebody about their relationship with Christ. And you say, yeah, but you don't understand. When I try to talk to people about Jesus, I mean, my armpits get all wet and I get caught in my mouth. I stand there and I go, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. And nothing comes out of my mouth, you don't understand.

It's embarrassing. Well, you know what? God didn't ask you whether you'd be embarrassed. God just called you to do it. Maybe God's asking you to stop sleeping with your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your fiancé or to knock off that adulterous relationship. You say, shh, nobody knows about that. Well, you think God doesn't know about that?

What, are you crazy? You think he doesn't see? Maybe God's calling us as men to stop undressing women with our eyes or to deal with a pornography problem in our life. Maybe God's asking some of us to take on some area of Christian service for him or to forgive somebody who really hurt us and yet God's saying you need to forgive them. Or maybe God's calling us to set aside some time for Bible study and prayer and our daily schedule.

Friends, it really doesn't matter what the individual issue is. What matters is, have you obeyed God? You know, I just returned from leading a tour to Israel. Everything went well.

Thanks for those of you who prayed with us or prayed for us. But every year when I do this, I always have people who sign up who are shacking up together here in the United States, living together unmarried. And then they want to go on the tour and share a room.

And I always have to call them and say, I'm sorry, you can't do that. Well, how you live in the United States is your business. But this is a Christ-centered tour that I'm running according to biblical standards and you cannot shack up on this tour. So you either need to break up and get roommates or you need to get single rooms and not visit each other while we're on the tour. You understand what I'm saying?

But you can't room together, I'm sorry, you just can't do that. If you want to go on the tour, I'll send you money back, but you can't do that. Well, anyway, on this last tour, I got a registration from a couple, different last names, same address. And so I said, all right, here we go again. So I decided to call them up and deliver the bad news to them. But before I did, I'm always curious to see what the ages of people are doing this. So I looked down to where their ages were.

The lady was 69 and the guy was 70. And I thought, whatever. And so I said, all right, well, you know. So I called them up and I said, I'm sorry, you can't do this. And the man laughed at me on the phone and he said, we're married.

We go to your church for cotton-picking's sake. He said, we just haven't changed our last names yet. We're recently married. And so it all worked out and we let them have a room together and everything.

And we did. But while we were on the tour, we were talking about this and laughing about it one day after dinner. And the lady said to me, she said, you don't really have couples who try to come on the tour and shack up like this, do you?

And I said, yeah, at least one or two every tour. And she said, well, certainly those are not people who attend McLean Bible Church. And I said, no, actually, the truth is most of them do. And she said, I can't believe that. She said, how can people come to McLean Bible Church and hear what's taught there from the Word of God and still shack up? I said, well, I'm going to answer that question for you. The answer is that there's a difference between hearing God's Word and obeying God's Word. And, you know, I told her I've learned something. The truth is that whether people attend McLean Bible Church or not, most people do what they feel like doing.

And that's just the way it is. Now, friends, I want to ask you as we close today what kind of follower of Jesus Christ you are. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ who does what you feel like doing?

Or are you a follower of Jesus Christ who does what the Lord tells you to do? You say, well, Lon, that's kind of a complex question. No, it isn't.

No, it isn't. It's a very simple question because there's only two ways to answer it. There's only two authorities that we could possibly live under as followers of Christ. One of them is the Word of God and the other one's what you feel like doing. That's it. Now, the answer to the question may be ugly, but it's not complicated.

It's one or the other. And let me just say to you, friends, that the authority for your life, whether you're living under the authority of God's Word or what you feel like doing, that answer is going to define the health and the wholeness of your Christian experience. That answer is going to define the power and the effectiveness of your service for Christ. And that answer is going to determine the level of blessing that you enjoy from Almighty God on your earthly life.

There's an awful lot riding on the answer to that question. Moses said, Deuteronomy 11, he said, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse. A blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord and a curse if you disobey them. And so I'm back to my bottom line that we started with a few minutes ago, namely that you and I can never become true men and women of God.

You and I can never become powerful servants of Jesus Christ like Paul was until we get serious about obeying God. And so I want to ask you here today kind of where you stand on that. There's a lot riding on the answer. Let's bow our heads together, shall we? With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, I'd like to give you a moment to really talk to God about that question. I'd like to give you a moment to talk to God about areas of your life where you know He's calling you to obey Him.

But because these things make you step out of your comfort zone, frankly you just haven't been willing to do it. And I want to challenge you today to make a decision that you will be glad you made for the rest of your life. A decision not only to obey God in that specific area or two, but a broader decision.

A decision to live your entire life under obedience to the Word of God from this day forward. So if you need to do business with God, you take these quiet moments and do it. Lord Jesus, obedience is hard.

Let's face it. Because every time you ask us to obey you, it's pretty much universal that you're pushing us out of our comfort zone. And it demands a level of commitment, and it demands a level of dedication to be willing to go there. I pray that we would be those kind of people, men and women like the Apostle Paul, who say the only thing that matters to us is that we obey God.

And we're willing to step out of our comfort zone, and we're willing to take risks, and we're willing to be humiliated, or whatever else it takes. But we're going to obey God in every area of life. Now Father, this is the stuff that men and women of God are made out of. This is the stuff that great servants of Christ are made out of. And we pray that you would challenge our hearts to be those people today.

For those folks here today who've prayed about individual issues in life, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a fiancé, someone who's upset with them, a change in their schedule, whatever. Lord, give them the courage, and give them the resources they need to keep the commitments they've made to you today. And grant that we might walk out of here today as a people, saying, we've decided that we're going to follow Jesus, and we're going to obey Him. And if nobody else goes with us, that's alright. We're going to follow and obey anyway. And Lord, we know if we're those people, not only will you bless our lives, but you'll use us to rock this city. And that's our prayer, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-11 00:55:17 / 2023-06-11 01:07:42 / 12

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