Monday, February 6, 2012

In Search Of Truth, Acts 20:32-38

As Paul prepared to say goodbye for the last time to a group of men he had become so close to, he knew he was leaving them in the best hands. God's hands. He commended them to "the word of his grace".

The truth God has revealed to us in written words, the Bible, is "undeserved favor"(grace) in the sense that it can build us up. There are times when God's word cuts us deeply, as it reveals sin that we've been living in denial of. But the default, long-term effect of God's word is to strengthen us with a reliable foundation for surviving life's hurricanes.

When we allow our lives to be conformed to God's vision for us, we are becoming "sanctified", set apart from a mundane, pointless, auto-pilot existence to instead be used by God in service to his cosmic agenda. As we grow in sanctification the inheritance waiting for us grows as well. (v.32)

Paul affirms the sincerity of his ministry to the Ephesian church leaders by denying the accusation of greed commonly leveled at philosophers of this time period. (v.33) Paul went above and beyond to avoid this accusation in his ministry. He performed manual labor (a shameful practice for a philosopher at this time) to financially support himself and those serving with him, instead of making his living from teaching the gospel as was his and everyone's right who preaches the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:14)(v.34)

In choosing to work a second job instead of taking payment for his teaching, Paul demonstrated the kind of hard working, selfless compassion we should have for others, giving of ourselves instead of looking for ways to benefit from those around us, a mentality that lives by these words of Jesus (preserved here but absent in this exact form in the gospel accounts): It is more blessed to give than to receive." (v.35)

These words have become a trite "churchy phrase" over the years, but if we believe in Paul's earlier words about sanctification and a future inheritance, Jesus' words are more than just a nice sounding idea. These words are a promise.

To be blessed means to be content, or satisfied in a way that is not dependent on our circumstances. Jesus and Paul are both promising incredible reward if we are willing to say no to ourselves more often. A multiplying inheritance awaits if instead of being a drain on the resources of others, we're willing to be spent of our own resources for the benefit of those we interact with.

The evidence is clear that this is the kind of life Paul lived, as he prayed with these men one more time before they embraced and kissed him in a show of both deep love and grief. (v.36-38)

I'm a hardcore nerd who has almost never shared common interests with others in my age group at church. In high school and college every week after group meetings the official "fun" activity was volleyball. When I was on staff as a worship pastor, nearly all of the other pastors went mountain biking together. If I want to do my nerdy things with other Christians, I usually have to find ways to make it happen myself.

Despite taking pride in my nerd status, it's hard being the odd man out and I sometimes have little pity parties in my mind, wishing others would reach out to me and take interest in what I like to do. But that isn't the Spirit of Christ speaking to my heart in those moments. Instead what I long to remember is that Jesus emptied himself out for everyone around him, and he promises something amazing if I am willing to do the same.

Next- Paul's Journey Continues

Coffee House Question- What common ground do you suspect you might share with some of the people you interact with in your church?

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