A Sober Farewell, part 2

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Acts 20:22-24

Paul’s Mindset

Paul’s mindset now comes into the discussion as he tells the elders about his intention to go to Jerusalem. He says that he doesn’t know what may happen to him there, and that everywhere he goes the Holy Spirit warns him of hardship and prison, and then he makes the statement that is the key in understanding his way of thinking: his life means nothing to him.

In several of his letters, Paul speaks of putting self to death, of life by the Spirit as opposed to life by the flesh, of the “old man” as opposed to the “new man”.  As you know, each of those passages is about mindset, about setting aside selfish motivations and interests in favor of serving the Lord and serving other people. To Paul, this meant that we set everything aside and are all in for the Gospel… but what does it mean to us?

In my experience, when Paul talks about death to self, we talk about other selfish people. In passages where Paul uses the expression “Spirit” and “flesh”, it seems that we talk a lot about the sins of others. When he talks about the new man and the old man, we like to talk about the shortcomings of others. When Paul talks about how he is all in for the Gospel no matter what the cost, we like to talk about the plans we have for next week that make it impossible for us to serve.

OK, maybe you’re right; maybe I’m painting with a broad brush. Yes, fine, maybe I’m being a little too direct… but you aren’t going to tell me that you have no idea what I’m talking about are you? You did notice that I used the word “we” didn’t you?

Yep, you’re absolutely right: Paul was an apostle, and they are kind of special. None of us are apostles, so maybe we don’t have any reason to have that kind of mindset…

But we are leaders, aren’t we?

Here’s a scary thought: This short paragraph is the set up for what he is about to say to the leaders from Ephesus… I’ll bet you can’t wait to see what he said next!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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9 Responses to A Sober Farewell, part 2

  1. pipermac5 says:

    Paul understood what we would like to forget, that as Christians, we are never “off-duty”. He was always prepared to share the Gospel, regardless of where he was, are we? He also knew that his plans were subject to change on a moment’s notice, are ours? Are we willing to change our plans, even divert from one destination and go somewhere else for the good of others? Paul was a pastor’s-pastor, the penultimate servant-leader, following the ultimate servant-leader, Jesus Christ. That is what he meant by “losing his life” for the sake of the Gospel.

    We may say, “But he was an Apostle”, which is true, but the Great Commission wasn’t just given to the Apostles, it was given to EVERY Christian. It took me a LONG time to realize that “ministry” wasn’t restricted to the “chosen-few”, that we are ALL called to “ministry”.

    I HAVE had to change my plans or divert from one destination and go somewhere else for the good of someone else, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, because people ARE important. My “official” ministry may only be one hour a week, but I have quit counting the times when I have been able to minister to someone otherwise, including during “R&R” days. I am no “shining-star”, but I hope that the Lord is pleased with my ministry.

    Blessing,

    Steve

  2. Mel Wild says:

    Amen. God has an annoying way of pointing our accusatory finger back on us! After all, it hurts having a big log removed from our eyes with such surgical precision. Ouch! 🙂

  3. Andy Oldham says:

    Great post! I think each of us should ponder our thinking in this way. Paul is speaking to us as well as our leaders. But, as you say, we tend to shift it off of ourselves and onto others. It seems the church today has a habit of this! I’m guilty. Thanks be to God for those, like yourself, who remind us of these truths.

  4. Steve B says:

    I am going to throw a spanner in the works and I could be very wrong but I want to divulge my 2 cents worth.
    Firstly as far as I know I haven’t ever pointed fingers at anyone since I do not know their standing with the Lord Jesus or their maturity levels as Christians will never know mine either.
    Secondly there seems to be an poor understanding of the Great Commission. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He is saying that they should be making Disciples of the Nations. As an observation there are many who give people the Gospel but don’t make disciples and this starts from the top down and I have been guilty of this also.
    Thirdly Jesus Himself said some sow and some reap. Interesting concept. How many Christians divide themselves into sowers and reapers. Of course the Apostles were both and there are probably many others who also do both but many try to do both and become frustrated when seemingly nothing happens.
    Fourthly Paul himself says in Corinthians that we cannot be everything
    1Co 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
    1Co 12:5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
    1Co 12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
    1Co 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
    1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
    1Co 12:30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

    It is all about mindset (as Don points out) where Jesus is first and everything else comes second. However sometimes God wants us to keep our house in order also. Know where you place is in the body, know your gifts and know what you are supposed to do and where you are supposed to be.

    This is an observation not a judgement. Too many ‘Christians’ what to be everything whilst too many other ‘Christians’ don’t want to do anything and either way everything stuffs up especially as Satan can find an opening to make thing worse.

  5. Paul lived in a time of active Christian persecution, few of us have really known that. India, Africa, China, Persia, Christians there have known persecution; Eastern Europe knew it up until recently; but those of us living in the Western world have really no understanding what persecution is. Oh, we may have to fight, here in America, for our rights; churches are under legal pressure to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion; we get called names for how some among us treat gays, even though the majority don’t believe in their begin treated unjustly; but that is not persecution. How many “God fearing” people in the West would continue attending services if it meant possible imprisonment or death? Paul had to deal with that at every destination, he had the tenacity and drive to not let anything stand in his way of doing God’s work, and we are the better for his efforts.

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