Declare the Truth! Shrink Not!

Acts 20:18-27 ESV

“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.

“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

Paul addressed these thoughts to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Now this church was probably not just one congregation, for the church is the body of Christ, the collective body of believers in Jesus Christ all over the world which meets in various locations. So, the church in Ephesus could have been a collection of small groups that met in people’s houses for worship, for prayer, for the teaching of the word, for fellowship, and for mutual encouragement and edification, as each body part did its work.

I have been reading through the book of Acts, chapter by chapter, and I haven’t done that in a while. And what is striking me is how much Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel. He was continually being accused of wrongdoing when he had done no wrong. People were fighting with him and they were attacking him verbally and physically, and they were turning others against him, and they were lying about him, etc. And I identify with him, for I have had similar experiences, but not in every way.

But the thing about it is that if you are someone who has come up against much persecution in various locations and at the hands of many different people, sometimes people will think you must be doing something wrong, that the common denominator is you, and so it all must be your fault. In some cases this may be true of some people, but we should never assume just because people have suffered unjustly at the hands of many different people over many years that it must be their fault. That is kind of like Job’s friends accusing him of sinning, and they would not let up, either.

And so sometimes, if this describes you in any way, you may have to do as Job did and as Paul frequently did in coming to your own defense and in explaining your circumstances so that others will accept, hopefully, that these things happened to you because you were obeying the Lord, not because you were a troublemaker. And perhaps that is what Paul was doing here. Knowing he might not live through what he was going to go through next, he wanted the elders to know that he served the Lord faithfully.

For when we serve the Lord faithfully in doing what he has called us to do, and in going where he sends us, and in saying whatever it is he gives us to say, through the teachings of his Word, we are going to be opposed by those who are opposed to Jesus Christ and to his full gospel message. And many of those people may be those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, and they may even be pastors of church congregations. But although they profess to know Christ, by their actions they deny him.

But when we love the Lord Jesus, and when our heart’s desire is to serve him and to obey him, we willingly accept that obedience to our Lord and to his calling means we are going to be hated, rejected, cast aside, not wanted, ignored, and persecuted for our walks of faith and for our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel. And so we follow where the Spirit leads us even if it means major persecution and/or death. For our goal is to finish the course and the ministry to which the Lord called us, by the grace of God.

But what is most important here is not whether we had a lot of friends or followers or “likes” or positive comments, but whether we served the Lord faithfully to the calling to which we have been called regardless of how we were treated by others who could not accept God’s calling on our lives, and who could not accept the messages he was giving us to share through the teachings of his Word. What is important is that we did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God, i.e. the full truth of his gospel message. For it is the truth that saves lives. The lies send people to hell.

The truth of the Gospel

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

My Jesus, I Love Thee

Hymn lyrics by William R. Featherstone, 1864
Music by Adoniram J. Gordon, 1876

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
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