“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
It is a joy to preach through the book of Acts! It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply. As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid. Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.
As we arrive in Acts 20 in our sermon series we find Paul completely engaged in the Act of LIFE, even knowing that he is nearing the final leg of his journey. Paul’s relationship with Jesus had not simply become a part of his life — it was his life! It is in the midst of this Act of LIFE that we find Paul speaking until midnight only to be interrupted by a young man falling out a window and dying. Not to worry — Paul raises him to life, takes a short break, and resumes teaching until daybreak! Lets look at some key characteristics from Paul’s Act of LIFE.
- Living: Some have said that life is what happens while you are busy trying to figure out how to make a living. Paul understood that life was all about who you were living for! Paul would make plans and express desires but always sought, and listened to, God’s direction for his travels and life. He wanted to live in obedience to God. While he had his preferences, it didn’t matter where he was or how he got there, he was living for Jesus. If we want to see the world turned upside down for Jesus as it was in the first century, we must begin by living completely for Jesus at all times. Day in and day out, Paul lived for Jesus no matter what. Wherever he went he would worship God, seek out believers, and teach publicly and privately about Jesus being the only way to God. When we are engaged in the Act of LIFE, our living for Jesus must be full-time and evident to all who are around us.
- Instruction: Another part of the Act of LIFE that Paul lived out was the act of Instruction. Even on a tight time schedule, Paul does not neglect his responsibility and calling to pass on instruction in The Way to the people around him. In this chapter, as Paul heads toward Jerusalem, there is a quick stop in Troas where Paul teaches all night because he is leaving in the morning. Part of the great commission is a command to teach everything that Jesus commanded. Unfortunately, far too often we fail to be involved in instruction from either side. Either we think we know everything and don’t need instruction or we’re intimidated by others and let fear keep us from giving instruction — or more likely, a combination of both. Paul understood the great need to pass on all that he had learned from his pursuit of God. The Act of LIFE calls us to be involved in bringing up, discipleing, those who are coming up behind us. Learning to take Godly instruction and to be involved in passing on Godly instruction is an important part of living the Act of LIFE.
- Farewell: Part of the Act of LIFE that can be very difficult for many people is the act of Farewell. Goodbyes can be very difficult because they seem so final and we’re not always prepared for that. Paul understood the importance of using farewells to warn and prepare people for what they would face in the future. As Paul headed toward Jerusalem, he called for the Ephesian elders to come to him so he could say goodbye in person. This farewell was an important time for Paul to let the elders know what he was about to face — and that he was okay with it. It was also a time to warn them of things that they would face and help them to be prepared to handle the difficult times. When we are growing in the Act of LIFE, we need to be deliberate about our Farewells for both our benefit and the benefit of those around us.
- Embrace: At the very heart of Paul’s Act of LIFE was this act of Embrace. I find it interesting that after Paul warns the Ephesian elders of the terrible things that are to come, Acts 20 ends with the statement that what grieved them the most was Paul saying they would never see him again. Even as Paul would travel from place to place, his hearts desire was to embrace people with the love he had found through Jesus. Even when he would write very pointed and corrective letters to the churches, he made it clear that his love for them was not diminished. I’m not too sure we get that concept too often in today’s church culture. Churches split and divide, people are excluded and leave a church fellowship, and “church hopping” runs rampant many times because we’ve not learned the act of Embrace even in times of difficulty and disagreement. While that activity is harmful to the church, the greater problem is that it makes us very ineffective in reaching the unchurched. We will never learn to truly embrace those who are completely outside of a relationship with Jesus if we can’t learn to embrace those who are fellow believers. Embracing someone, whether within the church family or outside of it, doesn’t mean that we agree with or accept everything they do or say — it simply means we love them with the love Jesus has called us to have. The Act of LIFE calls us to learn to embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and to embrace the hurting and lost with the love of Christ.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of LIFE? Do you daily recognize and accept the call for every aspect of your Living to be done for Jesus? Are you willingly involved in receiving and giving Instruction in God’s Word? Do you make your Farewells meaningful in preparing people for what is to come? Are you able to Embrace people who need to feel the love of Jesus even when it calls them to go and sin no more? I pray that your response to the Act of LIFE will boldly show the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!