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Life of Paul Part 12 - The Trappings of Power

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
March 6, 2020 12:00 am

Life of Paul Part 12 - The Trappings of Power

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Well the morning every body. Hey, it's wonderful to have you here. We want you to take a Bible and let's open it together to ask chapter 13, Matthew Mark Luke John acts thank you Don of this book of the New Testament. Acts chapter 13 as we continue in our study of the life of a great man. The apostle Paul.

Now you know in just a couple weeks were coming up here in Washington on the 29th anniversary of Watergate as we all know Watergate.

The activities there included burglary. Wiretapping of breaking and entering the violation of campaign finance laws sabotage and using the IRS upon his political enemies which I think was the lowest of all and and also of course as you know Pres. Nixon seven closest aides were all convicted of various points of conspiracy and perjury and obstruction of justice and sent to jail in Pres. Nixon himself resigned. The only president in United States history ever to do that so that the word Watergate has, gone on here in our culture to become synonymous with the abuse of power and everything ugly and corrupt and dicey about power and it reminds me of a quote by the British poet Percy Shelley. He said power like a decimating pestilence pollutants. Whatever it touches, which led to Francis Bacon saying this is the highest proof of virtue is to possess power without abusing it. I love that that's an incredible quote the highest proof of virtue is to possess power and not abusive. Not today were to talk about a very Washington DC top converting to talk about power were to see in the Bible.

A man who, because of his love of power self-destructed his life and then we want to talk about how you and I as followers of Jesus Christ living in Washington can handle power in a way that is healthy and wholesome and that doesn't produce the same result in your life and in my life. So let's look together here in acts chapter 13. Remember now. Of course the background, the apostle Paul and Barnabas were the pastors of this church in Antioch, and God stepped in and called them out to become the first missionaries in the history of the church and to begin what we know of as today as Paul's first missionary journey.

That's where we pick up beginning of verse four and the two of them, namely Paul, Paul and Barnabas set off on their way by the Holy Spirit went down to Solutia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaim the word of God in the Jewish synagogues and John this is John Mark, of course, was with them as their helper another three things we learn from these verses about the beginning of the first missionary journey. The first is we learn where it went.

Look at your map show you what's going on here. Yeah, okay, here's Antioch, the city where Paul and Barnabas were Jerusalem course down here Solutia the little port and they sailed over to Cyprus and landed here at Salamis which is on the eastern side of the island of Cyprus at this time Cyprus was a major stopping point on the trade routes between the East and the West. Salamis, of course, was the main port on the eastern side of Cyprus and as such, it became a major commercial center and this is where Paul and Barnabas landed to begin their missionary work. The second thing we find out from these verses is that John Mark was along with them as their helper in the talk more about that next week because he figures very significantly in the events that followed, and the third thing we learn is that Barnabas and Paul as soon as they landed. The initial place that they went to begin their ministry was to the Jewish synagogue to the Jewish community. We know from the writings of Josephus to Jewish historian that there was a very large Jewish population in Salamis and that's why the Bible says that they went to the synagogues plural because they were obviously more than one in light of the large number Jewish people that lived here. Melanie stopped for a moment and say that we need to understand that this is this idea of going to the Jewish community first synagogue wherever the Jewish people were meeting as soon as he arrived in town became the lifelong strategy of the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. Whenever Paul wanted her new city. The very first place.

He would look to go would be the local synagogue and you say why.

Well, there were two reasons.

Reason number one is that because of their role as God's chosen people.

Paul did this as a courtesy to them. Romans chapter 1 verse 16 I am not ashamed of the message of Jesus Christ.

Paul writes, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then also to the Gentile. And so Paul believed that as a result of the role that the Jewish people had is the chosen nation of God in spite of their unbelief they still deserve this courtesy as they do today. Second of all, the second reason Paul went there. Is that because of their familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures. He figured he wouldn't have to start from scratch with these people.

I mean these people already knew the Bible they already knew that there was one living and true God. They understood monotheism. He didn't have to teach them about the fall of man or soon, or creation or substitutionary atonement.

He didn't have to teach them about a Messiah who was coming one day to be the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world is all that all he had to do Jewish people who already knew all this is show them how Jesus really well is this Messiah that the Old Testament had problems that he did this by going back into the Old Testament and showing people how the birth the life and ministry the death and the resurrection of Jesus fulfilled every prophecy of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Paul's expectation was that by going to the Jewish community he could get a quick core of people to begin as believers in Christ because he didn't have to do much with them and then he could use that core to begin reaching out to the city now.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it didn't but anyway that was a strategy working to see him repeat this strategy in every single city that he goes to well what happened.

Let's look for six it says and they traveled to the whole island until they came to pass Foss and there they met a Jewish sorcerer and a false prophet named bar Jesus. He also had a nickname Ellen, the same fellow who was an attendant who was an advisor to the proconsul Sergius Paulus not showing the map again and show you what happened here. We got Paul and Barnabas there. Here at Salamis and the Bible says they began going west across the island of Cyprus right like this until they arrived at the capital city on the island. The city of pass Foss which was on the West Coast. Now all Cyprus had been a Roman possession.

57 BC and this was the capital city of the Roman possession of Cyprus and the Roman ruler, the proconsul who was a civilian. He was a professional politician name Sergius Paulus lived in the city because this is where the capital was any hapless attendant. He had this a magician. This sorcerer, this necromancer of the suit layer name Ellen. Now this was common for rulers in the ancient near East.

If you read the story of Daniel. You know, Daniel ran into these guys and had to deal with them in Nebuchadnezzar's court.

If you read the story of Moses you know Moses had to deal with these guys and you will Brenner's court.

I mean, these were the guys who were there and this guy has won this guy named elements okay will look what happens next on, by the way, before we go on, let me just say, you know, a study was done on this man's life by Sir William Ramsey in the early 1900s.

William Ramsey was a professor of classical art and archaeology and linguistics at Oxford University a wonderful believer of very well educated man and he did a study among others on Sergius Paulus and what he found is that this man's name appears in Roman records, and various inscriptions.

He came from a noble family who had a history of service to the Roman Senate and Empire and that he found that this guy Sergius Paulus according to Roman records was in Cyprus serving as the proconsul according to those Roman records exactly at the time that the Bible says Paul and Barnabas showed up, or roughly 49 A.D. in that interesting. The more we dig up the more the Bible proves to be back delete the way it says it is totally accurate.

We know this guy was here, not just from the Bible but from Roman records okay now this guy elements. Look what happened next. Verse seven and the proconsul for middle verse seven and intelligent man sent from Barnabas and Paul because he wanted to hear the word of God well I love that he heard these two itinerant preachers were coming across his island and being an intelligent man is that I have like to know what these people have to say bring the morning here. Let's hear what they have to say about this daughter there's so they came in and the implication here is very clear he was interested as a tall, he was really paying attention you say why will look at the next verse, verse eight, but Ellen was the sorcerer opposed Paul and Barnabas, and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith of Paul and Barnabas are sharing with this guy and he's about ready to make a decision. This guy elements jumps in and start arguing against Paul trying to convince the proconsul that this is Don this is stupid. Who are these beggars get on outta here and he made Paul Mayer Nepal was not the right guy to make many watch verse nine then Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and he looks straight at elements of some of the versions of the Bible say he fixed his gaze on elements.

I'm telling you some Paul filled with the Holy Spirit and an unhappy would not be the guy you want to fix his gaze on you.

You did not want to be in elements to shoes right this moment and look what he said. He said you are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right you are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery, will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord is verse 11 and now the hand of the Lord is against you.

You're going to be blind and for time, you will be unable to see the light of the sun and immediately missed in darkness came over elements and he groped about seeking somebody leading Bonner hand oh model going to be in opposition with Paul watch verse 12 and when the proconsul saw what happened. Please will yeah I guess so. If I've seen is not believed to you that he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord, you know it's interesting to me here that Paul did not adopt our modern view of pluralism notices we live in a world where our view is since there is no absolute truth. We have to be equally tolerant of every-ism and every apology because we really can't be sure what's right and wrong that one Paul's attitude at all my friends. Paul believed that when the Bible says it was God breathed and inspired and absolute truth.

Paul believed Jesus when he said John 14 69. The way the truth and the life. Nobody gets to heaven except by me. Paul believed to three word Jude said that we are to contend earnestly we are to contend earnestly for the true faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, and as far as Paul was school was concerned, opposing somebody trying to come to Christ in the way of somebody trying to make a decision for Christ like elements into the proconsul was actively trying to bring about somebody's missing heaven and he wasn't tolerant and he wasn't pluralistic about this he said wait a minute Powell. This is true, and if you get in the way of this. Guess what it's going run you over. Know we can be nice.

We can decline we can be gentle and we can be respectful, but it doesn't mean we gotta be pluralistic when it comes to the truth of the word of God. The truth of the word of God is not intended to be pluralistic.

It's intended to be absolute once and for all and we are intended to contend for the truth of the word of God. We can do it nicely.

We can do it respectfully. But we need to do it passionately and copy the attitude of the apostle Paul in our world today that says there is only one way to heaven.

And we need a contend for that truth in every way that's possible. We don't just go well you know you are.

You go your way, I'll go my way that one Paul's friends and that ought not to be us. Whatever happened to our good friend Sergius Paulus. Well, actually we have a we have all records of church history to tell us what happened to this guy, you know, he gave up being a Roman politician and he turned out to give his life to the service of Jesus Christ and rotor tradition tells us that when Paul went to Spain, towards the very end of his life. He took Sergius Paulus within an and is ever going to France, he commissioned him as the Bishop of Narbonne, which is a city in southern France right on the Mediterranean coast and left him there as the leader of the church in that area. So, how cool is this. This guy ends up being the first Bishop of the French Riviera. I mean how cool is this I think is a pretty color and that's what happened to our good friend Sergius Paul. Well, that's as far as want to go today because we want to stop and ask a really important question you don't know what that question is so nice, allowed here, and here we go. 123 that's right is a lawn, so will not every bit of the French Riviera and frankly I don't care what the first Bishop of the French Riviera was what difference does it make them online will I think a lot. Let's see if we can figure it out together.

You know when it comes to behavior I always think it's a good idea to ask the question will I mean, for example, why do dogs chase cats think about that one is another one. Why do people refuse to look at you when you're trying to merge into stop traffic. Why is that, here's another one.

Why do Jewish people never pay retail.

That's one that that that's a good one as now.

I got one more for you.

Here's another one. Why did this guy elements oppose Paul on the people do things for reason why did he do this why to stand up and try to talk the proconsul out of believing in Jesus. Now you take a rocket scientist to figure this out was all about power. He was, he had a power position. He was the number one top dog, chief spiritual advisor on the whole island of Cyprus and even though he was a false prophet. He was smart enough to see what I'm saying that it Sergius Paulus became a follower of Christ. He was on Sergius Paulus.

We became a follower of Christ was going to base everything he did on the truth of the word of God, not stupid magic and stupid sorcery analyst was on so he didn't oppose Paul because he was trying to oppose truth. This guy didn't care about truth. All he cared about was power and what he saw was that Paul and Paul's message was a threat to his power, pure and simple, and as a result of that love the power. Look what happened to the guy look at the self-destruction you brought on his life friends in 2000 years on things change. We live in a town where people still do this to themselves every single week.

We live in a tower for the love of power.

People do things that are stupid and hurtful and an unwise and bring all kinds of damage on themselves and the people around them and changed and you know something about this town because I lived there almost 30 years. Something about this town is you can come to this town on a Morton Powell you can come to this town not even looking for power and if you stay here long enough, the stuff just like a small dog and hangs over this town. It's amazing how much of it you'll find yourself absorbing and being given just by being here.

It's really kind of scary there somewhere you sit here today, where positions of power right now in government in the industry. In corporations, positions of power in education and other places that you never dreamed you never have. When you came to Washington to God is anything wrong with that. No power was wonderful. As long as we handle it properly. But if we go we don't handle proper biblically.

If we don't handle it righteously.

Power will corrupt our characters power will warp our spiritual senses and power will lead us to make stupid disastrous decisions just like this guy elements that it will do it.

So my question is we close is what can you and I as followers of Jesus doing this town to insulate our lives from the trappings of power. What can we do so that whatever power and influence. God gives us.

We can handle it without destroying our lives.

I got three suggestions number one, number one, if we want to handle power in a wholesome, healthy ways with Doug destroy our lives.

Number one, we must see all power.

As a direct gift from God. Psalm 75 says this not from the East nor from the west, nor from the south comes exultation comes power comes influence. God is the one who lifts one person up and puts another person down your saw car not too long ago.

I need a power car. You know these things you hear and before you see you understand what I'm talking about and I saw this thing. I was right behind it and the guy driving it in a big old bumper sticker on the back and here just simply said this. It said I earned it! Well, no, I'm sorry you did know you did. You gotta work hard and you monitoring the money to buy but the position the authority the opportunity to make that money and buy that power car is not about you and me and friends. Whatever position you got today.

It's not about you. He is not about your own for your own cleverness your own smart your own capacities your own toughness. Let me tell you something there a lot of people in the world smarter than you tougher than you and more capable than you. And they're not where you are today has nothing to do with that. It has to do with God making a sovereign decision to put you where you are today and that power you got that position you got that influence you got. It's a sacred stewardship that's been entrusted to you by Almighty God that you hold only at God's pleasure, and my friend, God can take it away anytime he's ready to stewardship, not an entitlement.

When a person begins to see power like this through the lens of the word of God as a stewardship, not as an entitlement. It it makes a profound change in our attitude suddenly were not arrogant about it anymore because we realize we didn't know it was not God in his graciousness in his kindness picking me or you out all of the people who, frankly, many of a lot more qualified than you and me and given us the positions he's given us, and that produces humility, not arrogant and friends. This is important because of the one thing more than anything else and you and I need to handle power without a killing humility. You look at every single person who powers ever destroyed and I can promise you one thing they got Erica and that's how it happened. Humility comes from recognizing whatever power, influence and authority. We have all at God's gracious gift is not about you and me know comes from the applicable second suggestion is we must remain acutely aware of powers transient nature.

Look at Proverbs 23 verse four. Do not weary yourself to gain riches and power would not be a great life verse for the city. Do not weary yourself to gain riches and power Y for they are quickly gone.

The Bible says they sprout wings and fly off into the sky like an eagle. I remember the story by Katharine Hepburn when she presented an Oscar to Rod Steiger. She gave him a hug and as everybody was clapping. She whispered in his ear. She said enjoy it buddy because it doesn't last long. And if you don't believe that's true. You just ask every ex-Republican Committee Chairman in the Senate if you don't believe that's true, many can be gone just like that and now if that's the way it really is in France's question, why would we compromise our integrity question, why would we hurt and damage people question why would we lie and cheat and connive and to see to get something we tend even hold onto. Why would we do that, I believe their people in this town who really think that power something they can get in. Once they get it. They'll never have to turn it loose so when God says what God said. He said it like it sprout wings and fly golf like an eagle in the sky and being that that's true in summer you know this because there's nothing that does nothing but love in our world better than yesterday's executive. Some of us know this being that that's true, why would we prostitute our character to get some we can even hold onto. If we see power biblically. It's not worth the trade third and finally, if we want to handle power in a healthy way. We must third of all learn to see the purpose of power biblically.

I love the story, remember when Jesus when the disciples were all fighting about who was to be the greatest member that don't want to know who's going on. Most power logo Jesus said to Luke 22. He said the kings of the Gentiles love the Lord their power over those 100 just like you guys are talking, but as my followers. You are not to live this way. Whoever among you desires to be the greatest one power fellows.

Okay let me take some whoever among you desires to have power he must be the servant of all justice by Jesus in the Messiah. I didn't come to be served. I came sir, and again, my life as a ransom for many felony stop for just a second and said you're here and you've never trusted Jesus in a real and personal way as your Savior. One of the reasons you may not of done that is because you don't really understand why Katie I mean, if somebody asked me 30 years ago.

Why did Jesus come on you $10,000 right now you tell me why Jesus came close I could not claim the money I didn't have a clue. I knew something about cross not to be know anything really about that and it was only when I begin understanding why Jesus came that it made sense to give my life to.

Why did Jesus come. He tells us right here. He came to serve us and give his life as a ransom for you and for me. He came to pay for your wrongdoing and my wrongdoing. So we do have to pay for. He came to open the doors of heaven so we can enter in freely because he is the part ransom. We don't have to be the ransom for our own wrongdoing and now if you're here, you understand why Katie I just explained it to you in the deal that he offers is you trust him as your personal savior. He will be your ransom and you can walk away free in the sight of God. Why would anybody in their right mind not take that deal. I don't understand. That is the best deal going in the universe. Why would anybody not think that the less they don't understand it. Now you understand. I hope you'll take it. Hope you'll think about those of us were followers of Christ Jesus's words to have impact regarding what were talking about. Think about it now. How much power did Jesus have at his disposal, power to long will you Knox yeah I mean he said the blind people see and they thought he said people here and they heard the lame people get up and they got up.

He said the dead people come alive again and again while you much power did he had he had power unbelievable power you right now, here's my question. Did Jesus ever use that power to benefit himself ever to think of one example where he ever used it to benefit him. I can't what he say here that I didn't come to be served. I came to serve you and that's all the power I got at my disposal. That's why it's here so I can use it to help you God folks, that's the biblical view of power that God doesn't give us power to use on us. God doesn't give us influence and authority to benefit ourselves and see how how much of a big shot, we can become and see how many resources we can amass that the worldly view of power. That's a simple view of power.

The godly view of power is power and influence is given so that I can turn around. You can turn around and use it to help other people. That's how Jesus used only when we see power like this only when we see it like this, but I believe we can handle power and not become the victim of those wonderful article in Time magazine out several years ago by fellow named Stephen Berquist, Stephen Berquist is a professor of psychology at Hall believes anyway.

He did a study title the article is the bigger they are the harder they fall, and he did a study on all the people you and I recognize their names who amassed enormous amounts of power and influence and wealth, and in all self-destructive Mel DiMarco Leona Helmsley Donald Truong even Betsy Michael milk you know Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, running all of these are listed in his article and he tried to see as a psychologist. What was it they all had in common.

What was this thing that when they got to the top like that it had all this power they they made stupid decisions and self-destructive your we found he found exactly what were talking about that would lead to their demise. Is that instead of seeing all that power and authority as an opportunity to serve others.

All they try to do is consume it on themselves.

Listen to what he said ask at the end of the article. What would save these people.

Here's what he said. He said what is missing in the self-destructive people is deep community.

See the one thing community, serve others, you got involve others deep community or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. He says go be part of a community subordinate yourself to a greater cause serve people with your power serve people with your influence.

He said we do that we don't take advantage of people. We don't exploit people and we don't abuse power brands seeing power as an opportunity to help and serve others. Instead of as an opportunity to benefit ourselves.

This is the biblical worldview of power. This is the way Jesus exercised it and this is the only outlook on power that will keep us from becoming a victim of its can we go back and close with Francis Bacon's quote, the highest proof of virtue is to possess power without abusing unbelievable. And that's God's hope for you that's God's desire for you and for me and I want to share something closing with you. Hope you don't misunderstand my heart or take wrong what I'm about to say but you know coming up this summer.

I would've been pastor here McLean Bible church 21 years. I'm hoping to keep going for a while but but I'm smart enough to know one of these days it's going to be over one of these days the Lord's going to say that's it. Juan is going to take it away as fast as he gave it to me. I know that this coming I got some things that I cherish. I got some aspirations that I cherish from when that time happened. I want to be able to get to that time without punching holes all in the side of my ship, I want to Dr. thing safely. I want to stay faithful to my wife. I was a faithful to my children and faithful to my family. I want to stay faithful to this church and finish that way I don't want to do anything that would disgrace Jesus Christ door or lead people in this city to point at me and say see him. That's why I'm not interested in talking you about. These are some things I cherish pate one other thing I cherish that I'm very serious about that is when I'm gone.

I really hope that it will be true that would be authentic. The people in this church can say you know what I really did like some of the decisions he made, and I really didn't like the ties that he wore in and I really didn't like this without loving the one thing I'll say about that guy solemn to use the power and the influence God gave you not to advance himself, but he used it to try to help us. He used it to try to serve us.

He used it to try to make our lives a little better to make our families a little better to help our children grow up to be men and women of God to make our load a little bit lighter to give us a little ray of hope. I mean he didn't go off trying to be a celebrity around the world. He served us with what God gave folks. I cherish that because to me that's what this is all about. It's all about using whatever God's given me are you. Whatever God's given you to serve other people and what just think would be wonderful if we when you were tired from your company. Wouldn't it be wonderful when you step down from your position wouldn't be wonderful when you gave up your office. If the people around you could say one thing I'll say about her. One thing I'll say about him.

He didn't use all that power on himself.

He used it to help us. Can you imagine being paid a higher compliment than that I can't when you be wonderful if everybody in the house and the Senate down Capitol Hill would be wonderful if that was their attitude would be wonderful if they said they want. We use all this power and this authority is that awarded I get reelected word about what committee were on and worried about how much authority we can carry around and worried about how much weight we sold around in the restaurant wouldn't be wonderful if we stayed and worked and saw we could do for the American people from a heart wonderful will. I know there's a few people out there like that, wouldn't it be great if they were all like that that we can't change the lives of every congressman and senator in town. We can change our own. I want us Jesus wants us to be a model in this town of how you handle power right number one we handle it we handle it humbly because we know it's not about us about God choosing to give it to us.

Number two, we handle it with integrity because we know it's fleeting and it's not worth compromising our integrity to get in number three. We handle it as servants, realizing whatever power would God, we've got it to benefit others, not ourselves friends. I'm hoping these three principles will change our life and you know what, if you and I live these three principles you and I can handle any amount of power. God ever gives and be safe, but sporadic. More thanks for talking to us today about a real Washington subject power write down where we live in. Lord I pray that you would give us through our message today. A strategy to live in this town with all the trappings of power around us and be able to live a healthy, wholesome, right life and not allow power to corrupt and hurt us. God change the way we think changes are very value system change the way we act in the aspirations for our life, because we were here today and we learn from the word of God and we pray these things in Jesus name, amen

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