How does it feel to listen to a person you love and respect for the last time? It is very emotional, isn’t it? Imagine listening to your pastor shortly before he goes to be hanged for preaching faith in Jesus Christ? Tears would flow freely especially when you know he is going to die. This is the sort of a sermon you are going to hear today. This is the only speech directed to Christian believers in the book of Acts.
Paul held up his ministry as an example for the Ephesian elders in order to fire them up with zeal and knowledge for the gospel propagation and growth. He was also trusting that the Spirit of God would inspire them to more zeal for good works. He lived a transparent life so that he could say, "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews”. Paul served the Lord with great humility, commitment and zeal. The greater zeal than he had while a Judaizer, because it was now activated by the Holy Spirit. He was totally sold out for the gospel in that he served the Lord with ALL humility. If there is one ingredient needed in the service of the Lord is humility, if there is one character needed for the faithful Disciples of Christ, it is humility. Augustine very well captured the importance of humility by saying: For those who would learn God’s ways, Humility is the first thing, Humility is the second, Humility is the third.
My purpose toady is to cultivate in you, the Spirit and Word of God, a mind that is mission oriented. A missional minded believer must be submissive to His Master and be willing to serve. Why? You could be serving sin and the devil where it not that Christ set you free. Therefore, let us consider how to cultivate missional mind in reference to Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders. Four things you may consider on how to cultivate a missional mind:
1. CONSIDER PAUL’S MISSIONAL EXAMPLE (18-21)
This is what he talked about of his ministry:
1) I kept back nothing
He gave the believers everything that they needed for their spiritual growth. He did not keep silent in fear of hiding something from them that might have been beneficial (cf. v.27). He conveyed to them the riches of the salvation in Christ and the Spirit of God caused them to be attracted to Him so that they believed. It is our intentional purpose as elders of this church to keep noting from you.
We are committed to making sure that you know all you need to know so that you will be made wise for salvation and so be thoroughly equipped for every good work, that our Father may be glorified in you. It should be your principle to those that you have gospel influence to keep nothing from them. Keep back nothing from your children – read with them through the Bible and seek to explain it. That is why whenever we meet we seek to expose you to as much Biblical truth. The other day pastor Underhill started preaching through the book of Judges – very bloody reports are recorded, something that many would not want to preach from. But we know that God’s redemptive plan was being unfolded and we have no business withholding what God wants you to know. Be there this evening. Recently we read through the book of Leviticus with my family because it my policy to expose them to the whole counsel of God.
2) I preached to you and taught you.
He proclaimed the gospel in the worship places – synagogues, etc., but also he taught them daily in the Tyrannus Hall (19:9). His preaching was never done in secret. He publicly preached the Word in the city of Ephesus so that everyone had the opportunity to listen to the message of salvation. His preaching was never limited to the lectures to His disciples; He also went from house to house to instruct the people in the riches of the Word… he was always everywhere with the Word of God.
This is the duty of every Christian – to sell freely the pearls of the gospel, wherever and whenever the Lord has placed Him. Why don’t you have a consistent devotion with your family? Would it be that you make excuses? It might be that you say that you are not able to teach. But surely everyone is expected to teach one way or the other – mothers teach their children to cook – because they know it. How can you say you do not know when you have been taught yourself?
3) I testified to both Jews and Greeks.
He did not discriminate in sharing the testimony of salvation in Christ. He ministered and presented the Word of God to his own people the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. He was all things to all people so that he might win them over to Christ. He was a Jew to the company of the Jews and a Gentile in the company of Gentiles. He did everything possible to further the gospel of Christ (1Cor. 9:19). He never used His call to the Gentiles as an excuse not to preach the gospel. He testified to them about the salvation that there is for all who place their faith on Christ Jesus the One and only Saviour of all sinners.
He proclaimed of the repentance toward God and faith in Christ. These are the two sides of the same coin. Both Jews and Gentiles need to repent and have faith in Christ – whether old or young you need to confess and renounce your sins to God who you have offended gravely. You have to put your trust, faith and confidence in Jesus Christ. The purpose of my preaching today and all gospel preaching is to bring you to repentance, where you denounce and confess your wickedness and sinfulness and request God to be merciful to you. Whenever you hear the Word of God preached to you are to see your sins and trust in Christ. Faith in Christ is stopping to depend on yourself for anything pertaining to this life and godliness and cleaving to Him for all eternity as the anchor of your soul.
The task of every minister is to be a minister of God’s Word, not a minister to please people. He ministers the Word to the people but He first must be what God called Him to be – to bring to them His Word that they may also become what God wants them to be. God has given every minister a trumpet to blow in order to warn them of the war with sin. God has given every Christian a remedy for the problems of this world. The remedy is announcing Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of sinners. It is proclaiming Jesus to be what He claims to be – the forgiver of sins, the Great God and Saviour, the good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the advocate, the great Physician, the great high priest who brings eternal reconciliation between sinners and the Father. If the trumpeter or the trumpet fails to produce a clear sound the effect is that people will be captives of sin. Failure to preach the full gospel message is cruel because the effect is that the hearers are going to perish.
2. MAKE DELIBERATE PLANS AND GOALS FOR YOUR OWN MINISTRY (22-27)
Paul spoke of his future plans because it is proper for Christians to make plans and set goals. Paul had short term goals – to go to Macedonia (Thessalonica, Philippi), Achaia (Corinth) and back to Jerusalem. He also had long-term goals – Rome and Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28). Above all He had ultimate goal – heaven. This constituted his sense of direction in his life and ministry. He was under the arrest of the Lord to accomplish this and so he described this experience as one who was ‘constrained by the Spirit’ (v. 22). Although he had the revelation of the Spirit that imprisonment and afflictions await him there, he still had to go and do the will of God. Paul was a servant of Christ and so he did not count his life of any value or precious to himself. Remember that he who would want to save his life will lose it but he who will lose it for Christ will have it for all eternity. So Paul made deliberate plans so that he may finish his course and ministry that he had received from Christ. This ministry is of particular character – it was to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. He had to show people the generosity of God in offering free salvation to all sinners who trust in His Son Jesus Christ who has laid down his life to pay penalty for their sins.
This involves declaring the whole counsel of God. You cannot bring permanent relief to sinners without declaring to them the counsel of God. If there is one thing that you need to tell your relatives, friends and colleagues, it is the will of God – his counsel. So that they may know what they are – His creation, but those who have gone astray; they are object of His holy wrath because of the rebellion and depravity, and so they all deserve condemnation. Thankfully, God has provided His own Son Jesus Christ to save all who go to Him in faith and repentance. The message is to be preached in entirety – Genesis to Revelation every verse and chapter and book 66 books and nothing less. Never settle for a church that is not keen on declaring to you the whole counsel of God – many have compressed Bibles (they preach from very few passages). Not a passage here, a topic there – but it must be the whole, total sum of what God has revealed to His people so that you would be made for salvation.
Planning and making goals is consistent to the sovereignty of God. Making prior plans and setting goals is not inconsistent with a genuine trust in the sovereign will of God. Indeed, it is essential to seek the leading of God the Holy Spirit. The Word of God, prayer, circumstances, the counsel of pastors and Christian brethren and the proper application of Christian mind to the realities of our life situations constitute the means through which the Lord is pleased to guide us. The work of the Holy Spirit in our inner person is the essential thread that binds them together into one blessed unity of purpose and action. Given the reality of God’s provision for our guidance it would be foolish to drift from one challenge to another without a clear destination of purpose.
We must all work towards being fruitful for the work of ministry. This is not going to happen out of the blue, it must be as a result of well considered plans and goals, which are presented before the Lord and assessed in the light of His Word. We must always appreciate that our personal goals are not a substitute for looking to Christ – He has promised to never leave us, but to be with us always to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). So this is an ongoing relationship in which we progressively change our ways and plans to conform to His will. Paul listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit and followed in faith and found that his plans were modified by all sorts of unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, all our plans goals are to be set in the context of hope and the promises of God, and then we would be fruitful and bring honor to the Lord.
The reason why we come to church is not to fill the seats or a card of participation – it is to be equipped for the work of ministry. We come to be taught the Word of God that we may go to put it into practice – yes we come to be trained for the work of the ministry so that we may be fruitful servants. How else is Christ going to tell you, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of the Master.”? (Matt. 25:21) I want to warn you that being unfruitful is equal to one not abinding in Christ. Consider the words of Christ in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The question is what life goals do you have? Do you have any ministerial goals? What do you want to accomplish for the Lord this year? How about coming up with such goals as, I want to grow spiritually this year. I will therefore read through the Bible. I will devote ten minutes for meditating on the Word of every morning. In reference to being faithful to the Great Commission: I want to constantly bring the gospel to two of my friends – I will speak to them the Word of God once every week either face to face, by phone, text or email. I will have a meal with each of the two at least once every month at my cost. I will buy each of them Christian a book every year and will discuss it together with them.
3. BEWARE OF HERESIES (28-31)
Elders have particularly an overwhelming task of pastoring themselves and all the flock that Christ purchased with his own blood. They are expected to ‘pay careful attention’ in doing this work. They are to measure this task by the content of the whole counsel of God. How can the sheep be ready for the enemies so many if they are malnourished and underfed? The preventive medicine, the vaccine, for you against false teaching is first of all being taught the whole counsel of God. The goal is to feed the sheep sufficiently, fully and balanced diet of the Word of God so that you may grow thereby to maturity so that you may no longer be tossed by every wind of doctrine. The effect is that then you would be able to combat all these false teaching. The aim of the shepherds is to protect you and to present you before the Chief Shepherd as worthy in His sight.
These men have been appointed by Holy Spirit as the overseers or bishops to watch over the sheep by caring for them as the shepherd or pastor. The effect is to your welfare and protection against the enemies. Those who preach the Word of God faithfully have been appointed not by men but by the Holy Spirit. Although the church chose them (Acts 14:23; 2Cor.8:19) it is not as democracy because an elder is not the elected representative of a constituency. Therefore the church is only to choose those whom the Holy Spirit is raising up to serve Him. The ministry of the elders flows from the Holy Spirit and so elders have to have a divine mandate to serve, and when it is evident that such mandate is lacking then they are to be removed by the church.
The work is even more daunting because there are false teachers who so easily target the sheep in order to devour them. Paul knew that after he was gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. This was not only true during the first century but is true of us even now. Contentiousness, false teaching, personal animosities, bad attitudes will arise from the enemy the devil sending his messengers to come and ruin the Bride of Christ. The elders are to be aware of the false teachers from outside the church who are out to devour the members of the body of Christ, because the devil seeks to deceive even the elect – if that was possible (Matt. 24:24).
Sadly the problem is even compounded by the truth that there will be “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Some will come even from among the church who are not genuine but are wolves pretending to be sheep because they have killed some other sheep and have taken up the skin and put it on. Elders are particularly called upon to be vigilant lest they lose the sheep entrusted upon them to wolves so that they are left only to watch over wolves instead of sheep! These men’s tactics are to distort the truth in order to gather a following for themselves. Many times churches divide not because of a thirst for a doctrinal purity but because of a thirst for power and influence over the flock! (See James 4:1). Distorted teaching often merely provides an excuse for divisions already in existence. The point is that it is the task of the elders to take care to preserve the doctrinal purity of the church.
This is to be done by following in the steps of those who are your leaders. Paul set an example to these elders in Ephesus. He told them, “… remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears”. Paul’s example of ministry was not cold and heartless showcase of the truth. He completely immersed himself his mind, heart and emotions to his task of ministry. This is what the author of Hebrews told his hearers, to remember their leaders, who spoke the Word of God to them and consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. We are to imitate Christ and His apostles. We are to imitate out pastors in the manner of service if we will be missional in our thinking, in our desires and in our lives.
You are also to beware of heresies now and consider the present prospects of sharing the gospel. We live during perilous times when almost every preacher of the gospel has one false teaching or the other. Therefore, we would be wise to open our mouths and present the truth. Paul presented to them the challenges of the past and of the future. The truth of the moment is to expect great progress of the gospel at present and be involved in it. He commended them to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build up. This is true of you here today. Yes there are so many false teaching doing the rounds, but the question is what are you doing? You have been commended to God – God Himself and to the word of His grace – how can you keep quiet when God has entrusted so much to you? How can you not be part of the gospel team to proclaim the excellencies of the one who conveyed us from darkness to the light of the gospel of grace?
The point Paul is making in verse 32 is that it is not about men because they are apostles like Paul or pastors like me or anyone else to do the work and produce results – it is God and the word of his grace. He pointed them away from any reliance on anyone or anything other than God. It is God who is able to keep you from stumbling and is able to present you before His glorious presence with great joy. The means by which we all are prevented by God from falling to the bait of Satan is by the word of his grace. The Holy Scriptures are rightly called the word of the grace of God because they contain a wonderful revelation of the grace which is fit and sufficient for our every need. The Scripture is the means of Christian birth and growth as Peter says that we have born not of corruptible seed but of the living and enduring word of God and by it we grow up into salvation (1Pet. 1:23; 2:20). This is the means of fighting all untruths as our Lord Himself faced Satan during His temptations on the wilderness. Jesus is the Living and abiding Word revealed in the Scriptures. He is the one who loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church (Eph. 5:25-27).
In this sense be very careful of the preachers you watch or the sermons that you listen. In case you want video sermons please come to us and we will be happy to provide you with Biblical sermons where the Word of God is faithfully preached. Be careful what books and literature you read and give to others. Be also careful with the internet. I have always said that it is not wise to give anything to someone before you have read it or listed to them yourself. When you give out books and sermons, discuss with the people you gave afterwards so that more benefit may be got from it. It is your task to shield those that you are disciplining from false teachings. This way you all would be established and grounded in faith and godliness. Then God of all grace may confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
4. MISSIONAL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO MATERIAL POSSESSIONS (32-35)
He who is a missional believer at heart is not just concerned about possession because the Lord clearly said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And again, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:15, 33-34).
Paul had obeyed these instructions and so he said that he coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Samuel had said almost the same thing when he was leaving his office, he said, “Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you." (1Sa 12:3). Covetousness is idolatry and no one can serve two masters. Because when one has been taken up in material possessions he loses his heart to a different destiny because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Integrity while in the service of the Lord is of the uttermost importance because He sees all you do.
A right attitude to money is being willing to spend it to meet the necessities of the other people. Paul confessed that the Ephesians knew of his attitude in the manner in which he spent his income to this end. “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” A right attitude to material possession is to consider as money as something not to be to be preserved and hoarded, but to be spent for the sake of others. Paul did not just wait to be provided for by others, he served them by ministering to them both spiritually and materially – he provided for the needs of others. It is on such little things as buying someone lunch so that you may share the gospel or paying the fare to a fellow passenger in a bus so that you may talk; spending some money on buying a book for someone or burning a sermon on CD for a friend. It is such thing as willing to spend time on evangelism when you could be on your business. It is taking your leave to go on a month mission. It is making sure that you spend some time on devotion with your family etc that shows that you have made it your aim and ambition to please the Lord by gathering others to be His disciples.
Being tied to material possessions is also shown not just by what you own but also by the time you are willing to invest in order to gain more. It is especially magnified by comparing the time used to pursue material possession in comparison to the time spent in obedience to the Lord so that you may fulfill the Great Commission. Paul worked hard to meet his needs and those of those of others so as to be of great profit to the Kingdom of God. He said that in all things He had shown them that by working hard that … we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus … ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. It is our duty to help the weak because they need help anyway. Besides, the Lord promised more blessings to those who give than those who receive. For many of us we work hard to lift our standards of living and also so that we may leave to our children a decent inheritance. Nothing sinful in leaving the children with a decent inheritance but if we consider that we are stewards of the Lord’s wealth, as those entrusted with all that He has given us. Then we would be eager to invest more to the Kingdom of God. On this subject, may I recommend Randy Alarcon’s book Money and Possessions?
Randy seeks to explain six principles on giving:
a) God owns everything, I am His money manager
b) My heart goes where I put God’s money
c) Heaven not earth is my home
d) We are to live for eternity not for this life
e) Giving is the only antidote for materialism
f) God prospers me not to raise my standards of living but to raise my standards of giving
Whatever we have in this world we are to bear in mind that we will not take it to heaven – it is the work we do with the money we earn now that we will take to our destiny either for a reward or punishment. Remember this; He is no fool he who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can’t get.
Paul finished his speech in prayer kneeling down and was such an emotional farewell because Paul said that they would never see his face again. As I finish, may I quote Charles Simeon: “What we may meet, tomorrow and next week and next year, in life, or whether we shall ever behold each other’s face again in this world, God alone knows. But let us live for God, and for eternity, let us live as we shall wish we had lived, when we stand before the judgment-seat of Christ to receive our eternal doom. Let us go forward in the path of duty, assured that the rest which awaits us will richly repay our labours and the crown of righteousness our conflicts.