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Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
July 13, 2021 12:00 am

Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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July 13, 2021 12:00 am

Do real men cry? Can Christians show emotion without damaging their testimony and reputation? Yes! As a matter of fact, it's one of the Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians displayed in the life of the Apostle Paul.

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Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. Here's where Paul draws from the analogy of Ezekiel chapter 33 verses 1 to 6, where the watchman is responsible to blow the horn of warning of impending danger. And once he has blown that horn of warning, he is no longer responsible for the people that he had been appointed to warn. Paul, in effect, says, I have been the herald of Christ. I have been blowing the trumpet of the grace of salvation. And now that I've blown it, all of Ephesus has heard, I now have a clear conscience.

How clear is yours? Nobody likes the feeling of not measuring up. It's discouraging to feel like you're doing a poor job. Sometimes that mindset can creep into how we view our spiritual life.

But instead of focusing on what we might be doing wrong, it's usually more helpful to focus on how we can do things right. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, we return to Acts 20. In this section, we discover four habits of highly effective Christians. These are habits that were present in Paul's life and that you can foster in your life as well.

Would you like to know what they are? Here's Stephen Davey with today's message. If you're not there already, we're in the Book of Action, chapter 20, verse 17 and from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. Now, verse 18.

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. In other words, you elders know me better than anybody else knows me. You know, it moves me. You know, it troubles me. You know, it makes me laugh.

You know, it makes me cry. You know me real well by what you've observed. Verse 18, serving the Lord. Here's what you've observed with all humility, with tears and 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 or Gentiles of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, that's the end of just one sentence. That's kind of the long Paul line way of writing. But in that long sentence, he summarizes his past. He says, You have seen me over three years serving the Lord. The word serving could be rendered in the noun form, the bondservant or even more woodenly, the slave of Christ. It's one of the favorite expressions of Paul. So he talks about his relationship to the Lord in Romans Chapter one and Galatians Chapter one and Philippians Chapter one. He says, Paul, the slave of Jesus Christ, doulas, bondservant. And that day was one who voluntarily many times attached himself or herself to the household of a master and own nothing, had nothing except what the master gave and did nothing other than what the master wanted.

That's Paul's attitude. He says, I am attached to the house of God. And he, the master, gives me all that I have. And I do his bidding and his will. I'm his slave. Well, how did Paul perform as Christ's slave?

Three ways. Verse 19. First of all, Paul says, I serve the Lord with all humility. I serve the Lord with all humility.

Now, don't wait a second. Doesn't that sound like a proud thing to say? You have seen me, men, how I have served the Lord with all humility. Didn't he just disqualify himself as a humble man by saying that?

Didn't this prove he's proud? How can a person say they serve Christ with all humility and not be incredibly self-promoting in the very, the very saying of it? Well, the word for humility is a long original word. Fifteen letters make it up and I can't pronounce it. I could try, but it hurt my pride.

So I won't. But it means two things. It means to recognize on the one hand, your personal weakness and yet on the other hand, to recognize the power of God.

You could write into the margin of your text, the little word balance. This is true humility. It is a recognition of what Jesus Christ said and that what he said was true when he said, without me, you can do some things. You can do a few things.

You can do nothing. Wow. Our need for the power of Jesus Christ is not partial. It is total. Our dependence upon his strength is not intermittent.

It is permanent. So what Paul is saying here is that he has true biblical humility. It's nothing more or less than recognizing how deeply his need was and his weakness was and how great and powerful his God was and how truly dependent he was upon the strength of God.

So the first element to an effective, true Christianity is a stable perspective, a person who recognizes their weakness and yet the perspective of I can do all things how through Christ who strengthens me, the person who says, Oh, I can't do anything for God. I can't do that. I can't teach that class.

I can't. I can't serve the Lord. I'm nothing is not a humble person.

In fact, they are a very proud person seeking to enlist supporters in their self pitying hunger for compliments. The second way Paul says he serves as the slave of Christ is found in the next rather surprising expression. He says, I serve the Lord verse 19 with all humility and with tears. The second element to effective, true Christianity is a sensitive spirit. See, Paul here characterizes his ministry in Ephesus as a ministry of emotion resulting in tears.

What would make the great apostle, the great defender of the sovereignty of God and the purpose of God, one who had such a stable perspective in his weakness and God's power? What would ever cause a man like that to cry to say that my ministry with you was bathed in tears? I cried all the time. What would make him cry? First of all, Paul wept over the unbelieving lost Romans nine records, Paul saying in verses two and three, I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.

Why? Because as he wrote, I could wish that I myself were a curse separated from Christ for the sake of my brother. And imagine, ladies and gentlemen, so feeling burdened by lost unbelievers that you would be willing to trade your heaven for their eternal hell. He wept over those who didn't believe.

Have you ever? He wept. Secondly, over the rebellious sending believers, second Corinthians two, four, he wrote for out of much affliction and anguish of heart.

I wrote to you with many tears, the tears blotted in with the ink as he wrote, not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have, especially for you. Imagine this man writing to these sinning, disobedient believers and an Aaron church saying, I just want you to know that, that as I write to you, I'm weeping because I love you so much. He wept third over the vulnerability of the church. Acts 20, where we are looked down at verse 29. Paul wrote, I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves, men will arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples.

Here's the key after them. Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years, I did not cease to admonish each admonish each one with tears. He bathed his ministry with tears. Have you ever cried for the sake of the church? Have you and I cried that our church become effective, truly Christ like as we serve as the slaves of Christ? Third element of true Christianity.

We are to be selfless in persevering again. Verse 19, Paul, the slave of the Lord with all humility and with tears. Now here's the third way he served and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews. In other words, the same people that he's weeping over that would come to Christ. In fact, he would trade his heaven for their hell. He is now living in such a way that he's agonizing over them.

And yet they're agonizing over a way to kill him. He summarized his suffering for us in an almost unbelievable passage. Just just listen as I read Second Corinthians is he just kind of rolls out the trials.

He just sort of spells it all out. He says, I have been beaten times without number often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews. Thirty nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked a night in a day I've spent in the deep water after having been shipwrecked. I have been on frequent journeys in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren. I have been in labor and hardship through many sleepless nights in hunger and thirst, often without food and cold and exposure.

Apart from these external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for the church. Paul, surely God wouldn't allow you to have to go through all that suffering. You are his slave. You're his choice.

Surely not. But God did. He did. How did Paul not only survive, but selflessly persevere? If we just had a fraction of what he went through, we'd we'd look for the bench. How did he how did he how did he persevere the same way that James Culver, the young missionary pioneer, persevered? He was headed for the Fiji Islands to serve among the cannibals 100 years ago. And he, with his small missionary party, were on the ship bound for the Fiji Islands. And the sea captain was really concerned for them.

And he kept trying to dissuade Calvert and his company of going, risking their lives until finally he cried. And he said, young man, don't you realize that you will lose your life and the lives of those who go with you if you persist in following the Lord to those islands to which he responded? We died before we came.

We died before we came. Paul wrote, I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2 20.

I die daily. He also wrote in First Corinthians 13 31. One death had to do with his state and his position in Jesus Christ. I am crucified with him and won his daily experience.

I've died before I've come. When you get up with that kind of attitude, you can persevere. The fourth thing, the fourth element of effective Christianity is steadfast ministry. We would all like to be steadfast, wouldn't we?

Well, we have to be selfless and persevering, sensitive in spirit, stable and perspective. And here now, steadfast, verse 20. But 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. Skip down to verse 27. For I did not shrink.

There's that same phrase. I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose or counsel of God. In other words, Paul is implying there was a good reason for him to shrink back. The implication is that he was tempted to hold back.

Why? Because the truth is sometimes not only painful to hear, it's painful to deliver the whole counsel of God. Paul says, With you, Ephesians, you know, I didn't pull any punches. I gave it to you straight.

I didn't hold anything back. So in spite of personal discomfort, Paul delivers the whole counsel of God, and that whole counsel demands repentance toward God and faith in God. You want to belong to yourself, but there's been a radical change in ownership. Your desires, your plans, your will, your hopes are now exchanged for his desires, his plans, his will, his hopes. If you say that you have placed your faith in Christ, but there is no corresponding repentance where you have had this radical change of ownership, you are self-deceived. Theologians like to argue about which one came first, repentance or faith. I would say that they are both the initiating acts of a sovereign God. But the evidence in my own heart, apart from the Spirit of God that bears witness with my spirit that I am his, that I have indeed become the servant of Christ, is that there is the evidence of a change in ownership.

And so for you, too. Not only in spite of personal discomfort did he deliver the truth, but in spite of a prejudiced culture. Verse 21 tells us that Paul delivered the truth not just to the Jew, but to the Gentile.

And that ran counterculture, by the way, with his day. Judaism believed that the Gentile was a dog. A rabbi would wake up every morning and thank God that he had not been born a Gentile. Thank you, Lord. They were deserving of the judgment and wrath of God, but Paul is delivering the grace of the Gospel of God to not just the Jew, the house of Israel, but to the Gentile those that they would feel were dogs.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level. I found it interesting reading on a plane an article that quoted from the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, who was a student in England. And while he was a student there, he writes in his autobiography, he seriously considered converting to Christianity. Can you imagine the difference that Gandhi would have made in India had he come to faith in Christ? He wrote, It seemed clear to me from the Gospels that Christianity offered a real solution to the caste system that divided the people of India. So one Sunday morning, he writes, he attended church services and decided to ask the minister for enlightenment on salvation following the service. But when Gandhi entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and said that he should go elsewhere to worship with his own people. Gandhi left and he wrote, If Christianity has caste differences also, I will remain a Hindu. Edwin Markham wrote this poem, Some draw a circle that shuts men out.

Race and position are what they flout. But Christ in love seeks them to win. He draws a circle that takes them in. Paul now turns from viewing the past to facing the future.

Two things quickly about what he will say. First of all, he leaves with an uncertain path before him. Look at verse twenty two. And now behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying the bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself in order that I may finish my course in the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. I found that very encouraging. Did you catch the fact that the great apostle, the one who was chosen by God to introduce the Gentiles to the glory of God's grace, doesn't know the details of his future?

Look back at twenty two first part. I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. His path is as uncertain as yours may be today.

We have the misconception that when you sign on to become the servant of God, a slave of Christ, an effective Christian, a servant of the living Lord, that somehow God kind of unrolls the carpet to those choice servants and says, all right, now, for you, here's what I'm going to do next. Here's what's coming around the corner. Here's what's going to happen to you. And and here's how you to respond.

And here it comes. Servant hood means obeying without understanding. It means trusting without seeing. Paul says, I have an uncertain path before me, except for the fact that the Holy Spirit tells me that bonds and affliction await me in every city. Now, imagine that what God has told Paul is every city you go to, you're going to get into trouble. Well, sign me up for that.

I want to be on his team. He also leaves not only with an uncertain path before him, but a clear conscience within him. Verse twenty five. And now behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more.

Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. Here's where Paul draws from the analogy of Ezekiel chapter thirty three verses one to six where the watchman is responsible to blow the horn of warning of impending danger. And once he has blown that horn of warning, he is no longer responsible for the people that he had been appointed to warn. Paul, in effect, says, I have been the herald of Christ. I have been blowing the trumpet of the grace of God, the coming judgment, but also the grace of salvation. And now that I've blown it, all of Ephesus has heard. I now have a clear conscience.

Fascinating thought. How clear is yours? Has your family heard? Has the one whose desk is next to yours heard? Has your roommate heard? Has your neighbor heard?

What a challenge to us he is. Can we say that our city has heard? No.

Not yet. Let me make two summary statements of application. Number one, effective, true Christianity that is the servanthood of the believer attached as a slave to Christ, first of all, is willing to stand for the truth regardless of any outcome. Can you imagine with me for just a moment, there's an interview taking place on the dock with the Apostle Paul. We have a 20th century magazine editor or publisher who's come to interview the great one. They arrive at the dock and say, Paul, we'd like to talk with you for a minute.

Could we interview you for our magazine? Sure, I guess. Paul, we understand that you're finishing an effective, successful ministry, so successful that the church is flourishing and thousands have heard the gospel.

Leadership has been trained and it's been absolutely amazing. You know your name is a household name, I suppose. Paul, we'd like to talk to you about getting the rights to the things you've written, copywriting.

You know, I understand thousands of people are reading this stuff. And have you thought about that? Well, I imagine he'd say I haven't. The Spirit of God has given that through me, and I imagine he owns the copyright.

You'll have to ask him. Okay, well, Paul, back to the point. We'd kind of like to know if you would just summarize your three years in Ephesus.

Everybody in Asia Mind has heard of you. Everybody in Ephesus, we understand, has heard you preach and teach phenomenal ministry. Could you summarize and let's say two words the last three years in Ephesus?

Two words, sure. Tears and trials. Paul, that's not going to read very well.

In fact, remember all those young people who were encouraging to go into the ministry? Can you change it maybe to say challenges and victories? Yeah, that's better. No, no. Tears and trials. Well, how about miracles and healings?

No. Well, Paul, could you tweak a little bit of that and change it? We want this thing to sell a little bit. Well, okay, Paul would say. I could add a couple of words if you'd like.

Oh, we'd like that a lot. Can you give us a couple more words? Sure. Uncertainty and urgency.

That does it. Four words I would give you. Tears, trials, uncertainty, and yet in spite of it all, urgency. This is the caricature of true slaves of Christ, willing to stand for the truth even though it runs against the grain of even the Christian culture. Regardless of any outcome, second of all, these individuals are willing to follow the spirit regardless of any guarantee.

It was simply the passion of the apostle Paul to share the gospel of the grace of God. He didn't have any guarantee of safety or comfort or happiness. He was given an uncertain future. He had a clear conscience within him, and he knew he was headed into more trouble. But yet he was passionate about that, the kind of lifestyle that, ladies and gentlemen, you and I frankly avoid.

Close your Bibles and let me read you something that I came across. Louis Pasteur, who was the pioneer of immunology, I'm sure you've heard of him, lived at a time when thousands of people were dying each year from rabies. And so he worked hard for years on a vaccine.

He was planning to experiment on himself. He was convinced his vaccine was the right vaccine. When a nine-year-old boy named Joseph Meister was bitten by a rabid dog in his town, the mother knew of Pasteur and his experiments with this infection, and she convinced Pasteur to use the vaccine on her son.

Pasteur, since he was convinced his vaccine would work, injected Joseph for a period of 10 days, and the boy lived. Decades later, Pasteur was preparing for his end, his graveside, his service, even his headstone. And of all the things that this renowned physician could have chosen to have etched on his headstone, he simply asked for three words to be written carved there in his headstone. Joseph Meister lived. Of all that he did, he considered that his greatest legacy, that his efforts had caused another to live.

That's Paul. That is the legacy of everyone who considers themselves a slave of Christ, that our efforts, our persistence, our selflessness is to communicate to a needy world that has been infected by terminal sin, the antidote of the grace of God, so that by our efforts as individuals and as a church, all will live. This is Wisdom for the Heart and the message you just heard is called Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians. It comes from our vintage Wisdom archives and a series from the last portion of Acts.

If our teacher, Stephen Davey, sounds a little different from what you're used to, that's why. Thanks for joining us today. If you tuned in a little late and would like to hear what you missed, or if you just want to listen again, we've posted this message to our website. You can find that, plus learn more about us, at wisdomonline.org. The archive of Stephen's teaching is available on that site free of charge and you can access it anytime.

You might be doing something that keeps you from taking notes as we broadcast live, but you can go back later and download the manuscript free of charge. That site, once again, is wisdomonline.org. If you have a comment, a question, or would like more information, you can send an email if you address it to info at wisdomonline.org. You can also interact with us on social media.

You'll find us on Twitter and Instagram and you can subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thanks again for joining us today. I hope you'll be with us next time for more wisdom for the heart. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-23 01:46:04 / 2023-09-23 01:55:41 / 10

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