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.
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!