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The Pilgrim Path (9-17-2020)

The Pilgrim Path---Acts 20: 17—21

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

“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; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ..."

PERSEVERANCE

In the writing of the First Century, I am not sure you could find a more passionate departing note than the Apostle Paul gives the Ephesian Elders in Acts chapter 20. He tells them that he loved them and that he poured himself out for them because of Jesus Christ and the mutual bond they held in the Gospel. It is quite moving. Paul basically says, “no matter what came my way---I served and never shrank back from benefitting you in Ephesus. You had to know of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.” Read through the chapter (beginning verse 17) and get a picture of “living love and perseverance.” Paul gives us some Holy Spirit inspired “clues” concerning perseverance in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Please consider these words from the text:

---“serving”---verse 19: Working for the LORD can become tiring. Doing the laundry. Handling the next project for the boss. Dealing with algebra. Helping an aged loved-one. Over and over and over…We must remember that it is the LORD who has called us to the task at hand. We must labor, “as unto Him.”

---“humility”---verse 19: Paul had the attitude (and so must the rest of us), “I can never do this work in my own strength.” The deeds of the day require that we look to the LORD and call on Him with incredible consistency and say, “LORD enable me and empower me---I’m inadequate without You!” Grace does flow downhill. He provides power to humble people---He rejects the proud.

---“tears”---verse 19: Paul was a soul-conscious man and a sin conscious man. He would shed tears for his own sinfulness (that yet remained)---and he would shed tears for the souls of the unconverted people in Ephesus, where the LORD sent him to labor for the Gospel. It is remarkable how the Savior will “lift you” where you are---when you confess your own sin---AND become concerned for the Lost people that are around you. This kept the Apostle Paul always “ready” to sow the precious seed of the Word of God with a grand sense of expectation (Psalm 126: 5, 6). The LORD is “ready” to forgive sin. The LORD is “ready” to supply what we need to forward the message of The Christ. These truths keep us going (even while the tears come).

---“trials”---verse 19: Paul had unbelieving Jewish opponents who did not think that Jesus was the Christ of God. They intentionally made Paul’s life and ministry as difficult as possible in Ephesus. Paul was undeterred. Trials are coming. The question is: will we allow them to make us lean-in to the Living Christ? Or will we allow trials to drive us away from Jesus---because of fear and lack of faith? Paul leaned-in to the God-Man and was made that much more effective as an Ambassador for the Gospel.

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION, Chapter 17, Of the Perseverance of the Saints

  1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
  2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, abiding of the Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
  3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

From William Gurnall: “Take heart, O ye saints, and be strong; your cause is good. God himself adopts your quarrel. He shall lead you on with courage and bring you off with honor. He lived and died for you. For mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, there is none like him. Christ poured put his blood as a balm to heal your wounds. He never turned his head from danger: no, not even when hell’s malice and heaven’s justice appeared in the field against him. A few days conflict will be crowned with heaven’s glory. In a word, Christians, every exploit of faith causes a shout in heaven while you slip out of your enemies’ hands.”

“I know no sweeter way to heaven, than through free grace and hard trials together, and none of these cannot well want another.” Samuel Rutherford

“God works in believers, both to will and to do; but he requires them to do their part while he is doing his.” Robert Shaw

“Wait upon the LORD and he will make your way plain. Hold fast what you have already learned of him, and pray for more, study for more, and act for more.” John Duncan

Grace and Peace in Jesus Christ Our Risen LORD, Pastor Jason