Acts 20:18-38, Nothing Else Matters

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Jerry Simmons shared this Verse By Verse Bible study from Acts on Sunday, April 2, 2023 using the New Living Translation (NLT).

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As we look at acts Chapter 20 this morning, I've titled The Message Nothing Else Matters. Nothing else matters now. This idea, this phrase, this title, really as I was meditating on it and seeking to consider what the Lord had for us this morning. Saying I was really challenged by even just the phrase like nothing else matters. Lord, what can I share to follow up with that? Like what do I share after that so that everything is covered and I can say confidently and clearly nothing else matters? I mean, it's quite a bold. The statement I think and so it caused me to wrestle, but it was the the words that continued to resonate in my head. Can it be? True that nothing else matters, that anything I could share today would be so profound and so encompassing that nothing else matters besides what we will consider this morning. It really centers around verse 24, where the apostle Paul says. But my life is worth nothing to me. Unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. And and that. That sentence from the apostle Paul is really powerful to meditate on and consider. My life is worth nothing. My life has no value to me, Paul says. Unless I use it for finishing the work that Jesus assigned me. He's talking about the challenges that the Lord has been warning him that there's some pain and difficulty ahead, but. He says I don't care. Because I have no I find no value in my life unless I'm doing what the Lord has called me to do. And so if it costs me pain if it costs me sorrow, if it causes costs me, sleeplessness, or if it costs me my life, that doesn't matter. Because to take another course and to not do what the Lord has assigned me, well, that puts me in a position where my life has no value. My life is worth nothing to me. Unless I'm using it to finish the work that was assigned me by. The Lord Jesus. Really powerful statement from the apostle Paul. And it lends to this idea of there's nothing else that matters when when we consider what our lives are worth, we we need to consider the example of the apostle Paul and understand. What is it that God has called us to? Jesus encouraged us in this as well in Matthew Chapter 16. He says if you want to be my follower, you must give up your own way. Take up your cross. And follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more? Than your soul. Jesus challenged us to consider is there anything else that matters? Is there anything else that is worth more? But in order to gain your soul in order to have this benefit and this blessing, Jesus says you have to give up your own way. And you have to follow me. You can't be pursuing your own things and pursuing what you want and following your will and just kind of dabbling in the things of Christ Jesus says. Look, if you want to be my follower, you have to give up your own way. You have to turn from your own plans and ideas and goals, and you have to let me override all of those plans and desires and goals. And if you. Try to hang on to your life and keep what you want and keep you know what what you think matters. Disregarding what the Lord wants, he says. You're going to lose. Your life. You're not going to get the benefit of gaining your soul, but also you're not gonna get the benefit of the things that you're pursuing if you're trying to hold on to your own plans and desires. But if you give up your life for my sake, Jesus says. Then you will find life. You will find fulfillment you will find. Everything that you need and more than you can imagine. When you come back to this place of understanding, nothing else matters. What the Lord wants, what the Lord has provided, who the Lord is. He is all that matters in this life. It is what we are to be pursuing and seeking after coming to the same conclusion as the apostle Paul. My life is worth nothing to me. If it's not used. In the pursuit. Of God and his glory. We're going to walk through four points this morning to look here at Paul's words to the Ephesian elders and his example and his encouragement to them will help us to reflect on this idea of nothing else matters and to make sure that this is where our hearts and our minds are at. And so we're going to start walking through verses 18 through 21. Point #1. Nothing else matters. Have one message of repentance and faith. We need to have one message of repentance and faith verses 18 through 21 says when they arrived, he declared. You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now, I have done the Lord Lord's work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the. Plots of the Jews. I never shrink back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike, the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and having faith in our Lord Jesus. We're going to kind of 0 in on verse 21 in just a moment here for this point, but just setting the context for a moment, the apostle Paul is at the conclusion of his third missionary. Journey as a part of this journey, he spent three years in the city of Ephesus, establishing the church, teaching, teaching the church daily and doing the work of God there in the region so that all the Jews and the Greeks in the area heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then it was time for him to move on. He went to a couple of other places and then was making his way back to Jerusalem, and he lands at a port nearby to Ephesus, and so he calls the the leaders of Ephesus to come and. Meet him there. And he's going to give some final words in this exhortation to these Ephesian elders, the the apostle. Paul's going to say I I most likely I'm never gonna see you again. So here's my final words and and as such it becomes a very weighty portion for us to consider because we understand Paul has spent three years with these people. He loves them dearly. It's his last chance to say anything to them most likely. And so his words are chosen carefully and strategically so that they make the most impact on what these leaders need to carry on the work that God had begun there. And what's interesting is you consider all of that looking at verses 18 through 21, you can see that what Paul chooses to do is to set himself. As the example and pattern to follow. Not in a boastful and proud way. But in a way that he says I with all my heart and doing my best to serve Jesus, and I'm setting an example for you. This is how you ought to be leading the church in my absence. In verse 18, he says when they arrived OK, the Ephesian elders, they've showed up and he says, you know, hey, guys, everybody, you've seen me over the. Past three years. From the day I set foot in the province of Asia till now, you've seen my life. You've seen how I conducted myself. And I've deliberately worked hard to set a pattern for you so that you can recognize the way that we are to conduct ourselves. He says in verse 19, I've done the Lord's work humbly and with many tears. I've approached the work of the Lord with a particular way. Now Paul is setting himself as an example. This was. A practice that he did throughout the book of acts and you see him mention it many times as well in Corinthians, where there's others who would use the name of the Lord to try to promote promote themselves. It would take an entirely different approach to ministering the gospel in order to benefit themselves. They parade themselves, Paul says. Look, I've set for. You there's a. Lot of weeds that you can choose to go about the work of the Lord that he has called. You too, but. I've set for you. The model, the example that you're to follow. Think back over the past three years. I've done the Lords work humbly. With many tears. He also says I've endured many trials. From the plots of the Jewish people, I never shrank back in verse 20 from telling you what you needed to hear. I've had one message, he says in verse 21 for Jews and Greeks alike now. If any of us were to stand up and say, look at me, I'm the example. I think we would all wrestle with that quite a bit, right? But this was something that Paul would often do. He would write to the churches, he would say imitate me as I imitate Christ. Never imitate me as a replacement for Christ, but imitate me as a follower of Christ and and he always sought to conduct himself in a way that others could follow his example. And the apostle Paul here sets for us an example to follow, and that is that you and I are to be those who set an example for others to follow, that we are an example for others to follow, one way or another, and and especially so in this sense where he was establishing and working in the church in Ephesus. It's right and appropriate for him to say, follow my example, carry on the baton that I've handed off to you and continue the ministry. That has been going on. Don't go radically changing everything and following another philosophy of ministry all of a sudden, but follow the pattern that I have set for you. I think to help it maybe settle in our hearts a little bit makes sense in our heads. Maybe if you're a parent, you can think about it this way. When you're letting someone watch your kids for the first time. You set the pattern for them, don't you? You say. OK, here's their bedtime. Here's the kind of things that they're able to eat. Here's what I feed them. Here's you know the schedule that I keep when I'm taking care of these children. And so you're handing that off and you're saying please follow this example because. This is the pattern that we have raised them in. This is the pattern that they are familiar with. I remember. Back many, many years ago, when I was teenager young teenager, me and my sister sometimes would watch children together of, you know, friends of the family and such. And so there was this one family that we were watching the kids together was a little boy and a little girl, and we would do it. It was pretty regular and pretty. Consistent and I. I remember one of the first times. That we were watching these kids, the the parents had this kind of conversation with us. All right, here's what we let our kids do. Here's what we don't let our kids do. Here's the boundaries, you know. Here's what to follow. And one of the. Things that they said was. OK, they can watch these recorded shows back when VHS was a thing, and so they had recorded, you know, Disney Hour shows they can watch these shows. But we need you to Fast forward the commercials. We don't want them to see the commercials. So as they're you're playing back the show and the, you know, VHS tape. Fast forward the commercials, and so we said, OK. And So what do you think happened? We're watching the show and the commercials come on and we go, OK, we gotta Fast forward. And the kids go. No, please. Please let us watch the commercials. It's fine. We won't tell our parents. And being the. Awesome babysitters. We were, we caved and said OK, OK, yes. You go watch the commercials. But you know what the terrible? Thing was then the kids told on us and it was like, dude, look, if we're gonna let you, like, disobey like have our backs, at least, you know, like. But the parents had this instruction and and that's right and appropriate in a similar way. The apostle Paul is as an apostle. He's established the church, he has authority in the church, he says. Look this. Is right guys. You need to follow this example, don't deviate. From these things and and and the thing that he's going to focus on now in verse 21 is the message he's using himself as an example. But, but he's also saying I've had one. My sister just texted me. She doesn't remember that at all. We'll have a conversation later, Bree. One message, he says, follow my example and have one message notice for Jews and Greeks alike. Now, culturally Jews and Greeks were completely different. Came from different backgrounds. The Jews of course, had the Old Testament. The Greeks couldn't care less about the Old Testament there. There was a whole different mindset and culture and perspective. But Paul has been consistently teaching. Listen when it comes to the message. Doesn't matter who you are or what your background is, or what your familiarity with any kind of religion is. There is one message. That we are called to give and that is the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God. The the sorry, the necessity of repentance. And having faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I've had one message. How many roads are there to write relationship with God? There's one message when it comes to right relationship with God. There's one message when it comes to eternity with God. There's one message when it comes to salvation. Now, of course, there is lots of different variations and details that we can talk about around that one core part of the message, but. When you boil it down, there's one message. And faith in Jesus Christ. This is the message for Jews, for Greeks, for Americans, for Russians, for Mexicans, for Puerto Ricans, for I don't know any other nation. So this the same message. It doesn't matter if you were brought up in the church or if you were brought up in the hood. It's the same message. Repenting from sin and turning to God and having faith in our Lord Jesus. Paul tells Timothy and first Timothy Chapter 2. There is one God and one mediator who who can reconcile God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. We need to understand this. Idea this concept of. One message. This is the message. That God gave to the world at just the right time. This is the message. Repentance from sin. And faith in Jesus Christ. That is the message that we are to have. In our conversations with people around us in our. Relationships and our pursuits and our. Talking and our thinking, we we are always to come back to this core message and to make sure that this is the most prominent thing of all of the messages that we're talking about. It it doesn't necessarily mean that you know you only repeat the gospel all day, every day, and and that's all you say every day to everybody in every conversation. That that's not exactly what Paul is saying, but he's saying that there's no other. Message that supersedes that. This is always the priority. This is always first in line whenever there is a need to talk about. Well, getting right with God. On on one part, it means there is no other way to get right with God. But also on the other part is, well, any other conversation that I have. It might start. In one place it might start in various areas. But ultimately, I'm going to be working towards this one message. We saw a couple of weeks back in acts Chapter 17 the apostle Paul ministering in Athens talking about their various gods, and then the unknown God that they worshipped and and how he started from there, talking about their religion and what they were familiar with. But then he worked that conversation toward the one message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Have been resurrected from the dead. And so we, we need to have one message. Not a different gospel. Not a different message that is given to different people. Different starting points perhaps? But with always the goal and the objective. Of declaring this one message the necessity. Of having faith in our Lord Jesus. Faith in Jesus is a requirement for salvation faith in Jesus. Trusting in his finished work upon the cross is a requirement. For eternal life. The apostle Peter in acts chapter 4, verse 12, boldly told the Sanhedrin there is salvation and no one else. God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. It's not a popular message in society. It's not a popular message with, you know, the intellectuals of the day that there is one message of repentance and faith that's not a popular message. And so there's going to be. Create pressure to deviate from the message to accept and say. Well, maybe there is another message when you come from a different background or have a you know a different upbringing or a different understanding about God. And so maybe there is a different message. No, there's one message. Centered around Jesus Christ and what he did. And the call to trust him and repent from sins. We'll get to the book of Galatians as we continue on through the Bible in three years. Over the next couple of months. The Church of Galatia was a church that well, Galicia was a region, but the church is there in that region. They had begun with that one message. But then they had turned at the persuasion of those who had come in. To a different message, Paul writes to them in Galatians chapter one, saying I'm shocked that you're turning away. It's important to understand this is a possibility, even if we started out believing in Jesus and and we grabbed hold of that one message. Like the Galatians, there is the temptation at times there is the danger at times from turning away. To a different gospel. And he says in verse seven it's not even good news. This gospel that you're turning to. You're being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth. Concerning Christ. The Bible is very clear. There is one message. For life, for salvation, for eternity with God. There's one message. And Paul goes on to say, let God's curse fall on anyone who preaches any other message. You try to make that possible through your own works through your own religious activity. You try to make that possible through some other means or some other Ave. Paul says. May you be accursed because that is not the reality. It is not the truth. There is one message. Repentance from sin. And faith in Jesus Christ. And repentance from sin is an important part of this also. Again, it's just not a popular thing. It's not something that everybody gets excited about. You know, as we bring it up, as we think about these things. But but this is a necessary component of the message. The idea of, OK, I'm going to believe in Jesus and then my life is going to be the same and nothing's going to change and I'm going to keep on living the way I've always. That is not the message. The message is I'm going to believe in Jesus Christ and I'm going to change my whole life being born again. To lose my life. For his sake that I might find it and everything's going to be different, I'm going to need to repent from an old life from an old thought pattern, from old attitudes, from old behaviors. I'm going to need to turn away and stop doing those things. That God has called me. Out of. Repentance involves a turning from as well as a turning toward. And so in verse 21 he says the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God. That's repentance. It's not just stopping something. It's often been described as a U-turn right if you're going in the wrong direction and you hit the brakes and come to a stop, that's not repentance. Yeah, good job. You stopped going in the wrong direction. But you haven't started going in the right direction yet. It's repentance when you remove the the behavior that is against God and then you replace it with the behavior that is for God. This is the necessity. That you repent from sin and turn to God. That you now begin to pursue the Lord instead of anything else that you were pursuing before. One message. Of repentance and faith. You must give up your ways. Your patterns, your thoughts, your ideas. And you must embrace all that God says. All that God calls us to. And by faith in Jesus Christ. There is the promise. Of transformation, fulfillment, and everlasting life have one message. Listen, nothing else matters. There's no other message that you can have that compares to this. Now you know what it's like. When you have a conversation with somebody. And you're like oh. Yeah, that's right. I've had this conversation every time I talk to. This person it always. Comes back to. How hard their life is and how difficult it is and how everybody should feel sorry for them. And you could say, yeah, that person has one message. Life is hard. Should feel sorry for me. You talk to somebody else and you go. Oh, that's right. I remember. Yes, we're going to go right into the same conversation. We had a million times. You got to vote Democrat, and it's the only way to vote. It's the way Jesus would vote. And every time I talk. To them, that's what they say. That's the message. We're to have one message, but it's not to be. The social message, the political message, the woe is me. It's to be the message of repentance and faith. Everything that we have, everything that we need is found in Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. Not that we're forbidden to talk about anything else. But that we're. Always working back to that, that's the most important message. That's the most important thing, and our conversations need to come back around. To repentance. And faith in Jesus. Moving on to verses 22 through 24, we get point #2 and that is finish the work assigned to you by the Lord Jesus. Listen, nothing else matters. You need to finish the work that Jesus has assigned to you. Verse 22 through 24 says. And now I. Am bound by the spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don't know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. The work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of God. That verse there, verse 24 is really going to be kind of where we zero in and focus in on this idea of the work that's assigned to us by the Lord Jesus. But again, understanding the picture of what's happening here, Paul is calling these Ephesian elders together and he's saying, look, my time is over in emphasis. My time there is done. I had a work to do there. I had a season where I would be planted there and that season is over. Paul completed his work in Ephesus. And now he's explaining, and now I have a new work that is assigned to me in Jerusalem. I go bound by the spirit to Jerusalem. I don't know exactly what that work is. I don't know exactly what wheat awaits me. Except for, I know that it's going to result in jail and suffering. That's what the Holy Spirit keeps telling me. And so I'm headed towards. Jerusalem because I know that's where God is called me. And now? Having departed from Ephesus. My work there is done and I'm on to this new assignment. Now again, Paul is saying. The Holy Spirit is saying suffering is ahead. On this path. Heading into this assignment, it's going to be hard. It's going. To be painful. And Paul is declaring to these Ephesian elders. That doesn't matter. It does not matter to me. One thing matters. I must finish my assignment. I must finish the work. That Jesus has assigned to me my life is worth nothing in verse 24. Unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. And if. If we could have that heart. What a force for the Lord we could be. Nothing matters. Aside from what the Lord has assigned to me. In the new King James version of this verse. He says it this way. I do not count my life dear to myself. So that I may finish my Reese with joy. He refers to it. He uses the illustration of a race, but also it's personalized, not finish the race, but finish. My race, this work that Jesus has assigned to me, he views this. He pictures this as a race. I've got a course that is set before me, a race that I have begun and I need to finish that race. I need to hit the finish line and run all the way until the end and it's my race giving the opportunity for you. Me, we we each have our individual races. All of us do not have the same course. Going back to point number one, we have the. Same message. But delivering that message to. Well, it's different. For all of us. We all have different groups of people that God has called us to deliver that message too. We all have different areas and arenas where we're making an impact and called to be a witness unto Jesus. We each have our own race. We each have our own assignment from. Paul tells us in Ephesians Chapter 2 the same thing, but this way we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. You're a masterpiece of God. And part of that is. Your background. How he is composed? You. Your personality, your spiritual giftings the work that he's doing in your life. But part of that masterpiece is also the path that he's set before you. And here is. Like a master. An artist working all these little details in he's set before you opportunities that perfectly align with who he has created you to be and what he has gifted you to do. So that you can do the things he planned for us long ago. Long time ago, the Lord planned out some really incredible things for your life. And so he's made-up a syllabus. He's giving you the assignments. And he says, alright. For Paul. Chapter 4. You're going to be in Ephesus now. Chapter 5. We're moving on to Jerusalem. Chapter 6. There'll be another thing we'll get to that when we get there, but but this different season in your life, those chapters are just random numbers, not referencing anything in particular. But, but the idea is that there's these segments in our life and there's assignments that the Lord gives us during this season. Here's what I've called you to do. Here's part of my master plan for your life. I've planned it out. A long time ago. Now go. Fulfill those things, complete those assignments, and become the masterpiece. That I have prepared you to be. My assignment Paul says in verse 24 is the work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of God. Overall, Paul's assignment is the gospel, the grace of God. That is wonderful. It's good news. Part of that assignment. Included go to Jerusalem. Overall, this was his life's mission to talk about the wonderful grace of God, to give that good news, and the Lord called him from place to place at different times. The assignment was different. And this morning, I would ask you to consider what is your assignment from Jesus? What is that plan that Jesus has set before you? He's planned it out long ago. And and this season of your life, of course. You're not going to know all the future seasons. Unless the Lord has revealed that to you and given you some prophetic insight into what he has in store for you in the future, but you should at least know the present season, what is your assignment? What is your assignment from the Lord? What is it that he wants you to be in involved with? And engaged with. I think I can think about for myself. I have. An assignment from the Lord that involves. A variety of things. My assignment includes me as a man. Having fellowship and relationship with him. That's part of my assignment is to maintain. A close relationship with the Lord. So that I'm never lacking in zeal. But I'm fervently serving the Lord. Fervently walking with him. My assignment includes me as a husband. To love my wife as Christ loved the church. My assignment includes me as a pastor. To shepherd to feed. To minister. My assignment includes me as an employee. Yeah, that's part of my assignment. That's not OK out of the Lords arena now. Now I'm just in, you know, practical life. No, no, that's part of my assignment. God has me there as an employee. And so now I'm responsible to you. Well, serve my boss like. He were Jesus. I have an assignment to represent the Lord and to be a witness under Jesus, they're in the workplace, but I also have an assignment in this season as an employer in that same workplace. And have people that the Lord is placed under me. And the careers are in my. Hand and it's like powerful. I can just squish them. How will I use this role this opportunity? It's all part of my assignment. It's all part of God's master plan. It's not for me to figure out or do what I want with, it's for me to fulfill the assignment that the Lord has given to me. Jesus carried about this similar idea in John Chapter 90 express that he said we must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I'm here in the world, I am the. Light of the world. Jesus said. Here's my. Assignment while I'm here in the world, I am the light of the world. And he said follow my example. We must quickly carry out the things that have been. Assigned to us. By the father. There's going to be a a time the opportunity for us to fulfill that assignment over deadlines passed. Sorry, you can't turn in that late work. You missed that assignment. You missed that opportunity. So be about your father's business right now, Jesus said. That's what I'm doing while I'm here in the. World I am the light of the world. Everyone of us. Have an assignment from God and it might not just be 1 little thing that takes you know. 10 minutes a week. Your assignment from God is. All day, all night of every day of your. Whole life. You remember how you expressed it? Oh yeah, I gave my life to Jesus. You didn't say I gave 30 minutes to Jesus once a week. I gave my life to Jesus. And Jesus said great, I've got a master plan for your life. He says I'm I'm. The best that I can. To finish the work that was assigned To me.

Is that your take? Is that your approach? Do you know the assignment? That the Lord is given to you. At the end of his life, Paul wrote again to Timothy in Second Timothy, Chapter 4. And he's able to say I fought the good fight. I finished the race and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me. The Crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return and the prize. Is not just for me. But for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. At the end of his race, Paul was. Able to say. That was hard. I was kind of. I had some questionable moments there. I wasn't sure I was going. To make it the whole time but I. Fought the good fight. I finished the race. And now I know there's. A prize. There's a reward. That the Lord is promised. But but then he makes sure to point out. But it's. Not just for me. Your assignment. As you fulfill that as you do the work that the Lord has assigned to you, the surprise for you, there's a reward that God gives for us in our faithfulness to him. And so therefore. Since we're surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses like the apostle Paul, like Jesus Christ, like many men and women have gone before us. Let us strip off every weight. The sin that slows us down. And let us run with endurance, the race that God has set before us. Point #3 looking at verses 25 through 32. Take responsibility for those entrusted to you. Let's read the first few verses here verses 25 through 28, it says. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declared today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal life, it's not my fault. For I didn't shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock his church purchased with his own blood. Over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. And again, we're going to focus in on. Verse 28 but. What's happening here in these verses, as Paul is saying, I'm passing the baton. I've been with you guys for three years. But you're not going to see my face again. I've completed my league of the race here in Fesus and the Lord is moving me on. To Jerusalem and beyond, I. Don't know exactly what's there. But as the Lord moves me on in verse 26 and 27, very powerful, Paul says. I've been faithful. I did what the Lord called me to do. So much so, he says. If anyone suffers eternal death, it's not my fault. Their blood is not on my hands because I. I taught the whole gospel. I didn't shrink back from anything that God wants you to know. Speaking to the elders at Ephesus, he says, look, I fulfilled my ministry in that region. Now that doesn't mean that all of the region of Ephesus was saved. In fact, the reason Paul departed from emphasis right at the very end was part of the events of the riot that took place of the rebellion against Christians and their denial of idolatry. So there were many unbelievers still, but Paul is. Able to say. I've been faithful. I gave opportunity. Everybody in the region had opportunity to hear the gospel if they would choose to receive it and listen to it. I taught daily in the school of Tyranis, so everyone who wanted to grow in the faith, they were able to come, they had opportunity to come and develop. If they didn't attend and they suffer in hell, Paul says. I gave them the opportunity. That was my responsibility. I've been faithful. I couldn't make all of them choose to follow the Lord. But I was faithful to give the opportunity. And I didn't shrink back from different parts, from hard things to talk about. I taught faithfully everything that God wants you to know. But now again, Paul is saying, but that was my league. Of the race. And now, as he looks at these Ephesian elders, he's handing the baton to them and he's saying. Now it's to you. Now it's your job to carry on this work that God is doing in this region, verse 28. So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock his church purchased. With his own blood. Over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. I was faithful. I fulfilled my part. But now God is moving me on. So guard yourselves and God's people buttons to you. Your job. I was guarding myself and God's people. I was shepherding and feeding God's flock there in Ephesus, but now that's your responsibility. Guard yourself and guards guard God's. Now as we think about this and understand the instruction as to the Ephesian elders, the pastors of all of the House churches there in Ephesus. You need to understand this isn't just. Instruction to elders instruction to pastors. Because if. God has called believers to make disciples. Then every believer who is called to make disciples has people entrusted to them. Where God has said this person in your life. You're my testimony to them. You're my witness to them. You're responsible for their spiritual growth. You're responsible for their understanding of me, whether that be because they're sitting in like the school of Tyranis and hey, teach me doctrine and show me, or whether they're from afar, looking at your life and witness and testimony and watching that you're, you're called to be an example. You are called. To be a witness. You're called the make disciples. So you can receive this instruction to the Ephesian elders and take responsibility. Because there are people that have been entrusted to you. And the first step in doing that, Paul says. Is guard yourself. You're going to need to guard God's people, but first you need to guard. He gives a similar instruction to Timothy, first Timothy 4. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. You have a responsibility to guard yourself, to protect yourself. In order to protect those that God has entrusted to you. Paul worded it this way because. If you don't keep a close watch on how you live. You might not recognize that you've drifted. You might not catch on when you begin to teach things that are not true and that are not right. You might not be aware of it. There's that opportunity even for Timothy, even for Ephesian elders to be deceived. And so there needs to be this close. Watch this, keeping a guard on yourself. The first step to guarding God's people is to guard yourself. Now think about it this way. Paul is telling these Ephesian elders. Listen, don't expect me to come back into town and set you a straight if you go straight. Don't expect me to. You're probably never gonna see my face again. If you don't stay the course. You can't be relying upon me. OK, let's you know, if I go a little bit straight, it's OK. Cause you know, Paul's gonna come back in town. Probably in a year or so. And so you. Know that'll be my opportunity to be put back on track, no? It's up to you. It's your responsibility. If you go. Astray in your doctrine, in your life and your understanding of God. It's going to impact everyone that you interact with and everyone that you ministered to. And you can't. Put yourself in a position where you are dependent upon somebody else to set you straight. Now we all need other people to set us straight in our lives, but at the same time, we can't arrange our lives and set ourselves up to require that we have to guard ourselves. Accept that correction as the Lord brings it in. But to not structure our lives and not structure our spiritual walk in such a way that. The only way I can be set on track or make sure that I'm on track that to make sure that I'm right with God is if somebody else tells me or sets me straight. Let me put it another way. Do you have things going on in? Your life that you know need to change. But you're waiting for some external intervention. You're waiting for someone outside to come in and correct the situation. You're waiting for someone else to intervene. That's not guarding yourself. That's not watching your life carefully. And those things that are going on are impacting. Everybody that you're interacting with. It's a hard truth for us to accept. One of the greatest threats to the people around you is you. And so you need. To self evaluate you need to self correct. That's why Paul talks about in first Corinthians 9. I discipline my body to make sure that I'm not disqualified after I've preached to others that that I myself have not disqualified. I have to guard myself, take responsibility for those entrusted to you that starts with. And honest. And real relationship with God and dealing with things that are happening in your heart and in your mind. Dealing with things that are happening in your life. That God is calling you away from. And out of. Jesus said in John chapter 17, verse 19. For their sakes, I sanctify myself. That they may also be sanctified by the truth. Jesus conducted himself in holiness. For your sake, for my sake, our our only chance, our only opportunity to experience that holiness was because Jesus sanctified himself. In a similar way, God's entrusted people to you, he sent you as an example for people. And you're an example for them. Whether you're a good example or a bad example, you are an example. Take responsibility for those entrusted to you and guard your life. Guard your heart. Watch yourself closely. Guard yourselves, he says in God's. People in verse 28. Again, if you're called to make disciples. That means you're entrusted with God's people. If you have authority over anyone in this life, yes, your children are included in that you have. That entrusted with people. God's people, they're all his. Take responsibility. It's your job to make sure that you're right with God. It's your job to make sure they have every opportunity to know God, to see God, his character, his nature in your life. He goes on and says feed and shepherd gods flock. Feed them, shepherd them. Provide for them the word of God, provide them guidance and help to know God and to learn how to walk with God themselves. We're all entrusted with this kind of responsibility, but we don't always. The opportunity or step into the role that God has given to us reminded me of Ezra Chapter 10. Great sin. Hard problem to deal with. Ezra just sits down like in the middle of the street. He's just like, overwhelmed by how much needs to be done and how bad the problem is. And the elders of the people will say, Ezra, get up. It's your responsibility. I mean, we got your back, but we can't do this for you. Nobody else can. Do this for you. You need to get up. Be strong, take action, do what God has called you to do. Take responsibility. For those that God has entrusted to you, well, finally point #4 looking at verses 33 through 38. But again, we'll just focus on a couple of verses here. Verse 34 and 35 it says this. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who are with me. And I've been a constant example. Of how you can help those in need by working hard, you should remember the words of the Lord Jesus. It is more blessed to give than to. Here point #4 work hard to provide for yourself and others. Paul again sets himself as the example. Guys think back to the last three years. What was I doing? Yes, I was teaching in the school of Tyranis. Yes, I reached out to the Jews for the first few months teaching in the synagogues, giving them opportunity. Yes, I taught daily for two years every day to go through and walk through the whole Council of what God wants you to know. I I did all of that, but also on the side. I was making tents. I was not coveting your gold. I wasn't coming up with schemes or ideas of how I could get money from you. I was working hard to provide for myself. And for those who are my companions, those who are part of, you know, my team. But then also I was working hard to be able to have opportunity to be generous to those who were in need. I've been a constant example, he says in verse 35. How you can help those in need by working hard. Paul here is not saying, of course, that there is no opportunity for a minister to be provided for by the ministry. That's not the point that he's making here, the. Point that he's making. Is I worked really hard not to be a burden. I wasn't just slacking off and just, you know, sitting around and just collecting donations. I was working hard. I was diligent to be an example so that you would see the importance of working hard to provide for yourself to provide for your own and to give to those who are in need. This isn't just an exhortation for Paul or for elders. Second Thessalonians chapter 3. Without reading through that, you can check it out later on, but Paul encourages the Church of Thessalonika. This is the pattern to follow. I said this pattern in Thessalonika, Paul says so that you could follow that pattern to not be a burden to people. You work hard, you provide for yourself and beyond that. Provide for yourself. To such a degree that you have some to share so that you're able to be generous and to give to those who are in need, work hard to provide for yourself and others. Can all be summed up under this idea. Nothing else matters. Nothing else matters, guys. Summing up our life, summing up our existence this week ahead. Will you have one message of repentance and faith? Will you finish the work that Jesus has assigned you to finish this week? We take responsibility for those entrusted to you and will you work hard to provide for yourself and for others nothing else. There's a lot of other things that we can do and be involved in and and perhaps. Rightly so, without taking away. From these responsibilities. But let nothing take the place. Of what the Lord has called you to. But nothing else creep in and become more important and a priority. Over these things, let no other message take precedence. That no other work. Become more important than what Jesus has assigned you. Nothing else matters. I live my life. For the purpose of Jesus and what he's called me to, Paul says. My life has no value to me. It's not. It doesn't. Accomplish anything? There's no eternal value. There's no reward, there's no fulfillment. But if you want to be fulfilled, if you want to experience the most out of life. Here's where to focus. One message. The work assigned to you. Taking responsibility for your own spiritual life, that you might be an example and a witness and feed and minister to those entrusted to you. And work hard. Provide for yourself. Provide for others. Don't be a freeloader. Learn to be diligent and work hard so that you can be generous. So that you can share the love of Christ. In a different way. In the lack of burden in the provision.

That you give.

Nothing else matters. This is God's call for us. Let's pray. Lord, we. Us that you would help us to see the reality in our own hearts and lives and there be no. There's always room for improvement. Always room for correction. And so we invite you to do that. Help us Lord, to refine, Lord our hearts, our lives so that we. Can come more and more in line. With what you've called us too. And Lord may we be fully consumed with, concerned with and focused on. And you're calling in our lives. Help us, God, I pray that you would give us eyes to see the opportunities, the doors that you've opened, Lord, that we might walk through them. And truly become the masterpiece that you've designed us to be relying upon. You and your spirit with your message doing your work. Lord, may we represent you? To all those that you've entrusted to us. We pray this in Jesus name.