In Jerusalem, AD 30, Jesus died on the cross, resurrected on the third day, and then ascended into heaven. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles, giving them power, purpose, and a plan. Out of joy, the church was born. Empowered by the Spirit, Peter gave his first sermon, and 3,000 hearts were transformed. Hearing, receiving, and repenting, the young church walked in unity and garnered praise. Out of joy, the gospel creates community.
Peter and John then continued to spread the gospel through preaching and miracles, and the church grew by 5,000. In AD 31, Stephen gave a powerful sermon, and the enraged crowd stoned him, making him the first Christian martyr. Around AD 34, on the road to Damascus, the Lord transformed the heart of Saul, a man who persecuted countless Christians, and Saul became Paul. After this conversion, the gospel continued to spread through the ministries of Paul and Peter. God gave Peter a vision and used him to first reach the Gentiles.
In AD 44, King Herod Agrippa the First executed the apostle James and had Peter arrested, but an angel rescued Peter, leading him out of the prison. As the believers were scattered because of persecution, the center of operations for Christianity then turned from Jerusalem to Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were sent out on their first missionary journey.
In AD 49, an argument arose over whether it was necessary for Gentiles to follow Jewish traditions and customs, particularly circumcision, but the Jerusalem Council sent a letter to the Gentiles affirming that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation. Meanwhile, in their missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark traveling with them, and they separated. Barnabas and John Mark then sailed to Cyprus, while Timothy joined Paul, as they spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor and Greece.
We must keep reminding ourselves of the gospel so that we are careful not to drift toward false gospels. A church consumed with itself will move away from the truth and move toward irrelevance. Salvation comes only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, not traditions, not customs, not good works. This is the message that must move forward, because the mission doesn’t stop. Out of joy, the church multiplies.
[End of video]
I could just keep watching that video and not even preach a sermon. Seriously. Hey, y’all look good. It’s good to see you. My name is Matt. If we’ve never met before, I am the Home Groups pastor here. Y’all look good, but that’s not news. You always look good. Let’s turn to Acts, chapter 18, verse 24. While you’re turning there, I’ll get us caught up a little bit.
At this point in the narrative, the apostle Paul has a Jack Bauer quality about him. It’s undeniable. If you don’t know who Jack Bauer is, just tune into Fox in a couple of weeks. We all thought he was dead, but apparently he resurrected. Paul has gone through arrest. He has gone through prison. He has been beat up. He has narrowly escaped prison. He endured a riot. He has been tried. He’ll be snake bitten and shipwrecked all in the chapters to come. So he’s probably beyond anything Jack Bauer ever endured.
In this passage, these five chapters we get to look at here, Paul is really in the middle of it. He hasn’t even seen the worst. Our reading through Scripture today is going to focus on his third and final missionary journey, spotlighting Ephesus, where he will spend three years before he goes to Jerusalem and ultimately to Rome where he will die. We’ll follow the story of the gospel spreading like a wildfire.
I think in these five chapters… I’m really not going to get to them all. I want to be honest from the front end. I don’t know how to preach five chapters. But in these five chapters, hopefully I’m going to be able to pull something that’s helpful for us. We’ll see in here that when the Holy Spirit falls and the gospel is preached, the gospel affects our head, our heart, our hands, and our land.
What I want to do is show how we can bring this to bear in our own place and time and see specifically how the gospel will affect our head, our heart, our hands, and our land. We should start by walking through the story. We’ll look at Acts, chapter 18, starting in verse 24.
“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
So you have Apollos, this brilliant Alexandrian, on his way to Ephesus. He’s well educated. He’s silver tongued. He’s enthusiastic. If you knew him today, he would have probably been the valedictorian of his high school. He probably would have gone on to Harvard and had a really likeable personality. Apollos is that kind of guy.
He loved and he spoke well of Jesus, and he knew his Bible. It’s probably better to say he knew at least some of his Bible. There were gaps in his knowledge. The text says he only knew the baptism of John. He really didn’t have a healthy gospel. We don’t know exactly what he didn’t know, but we do know he didn’t know enough. Does that make sense?
As I read some commentaries from smart people who write books about the Bible, there was a thread through them. They said Apollos was likely not up to speed on the Holy Spirit. He probably didn’t understand what happened post-resurrection, specifically with God dropping the Holy Spirit like a bomb at Pentecost.
He probably didn’t know that, and if he didn’t know that, he wouldn’t know that when Jesus stepped out of the grave, he blew open a door into an entire new creation, starting with us, where God was putting to death the very worst of us and was flourishing in us and around us the very best of him, pushing back darkness and actually charging us to colonize earth with heaven. If he doesn’t know that, then that’s kind of a big deal.
But I want to say Apollos was a faithful brother. He really was. It’s not that his knowledge wasn’t accurate, but it was incomplete. At some point, in all of our conversions to Christ, especially if we’re new believers, that’s true of us. We don’t have a full gospel. We’re always growing to understand more about God, and this is the importance of why we have to use our heads to do that.
When I first got saved, it was like two years after that they asked me… I was in high school, my senior year. They asked me to preach a sermon at Plymouth Park Baptist Church. I got up, and for about 30 minutes, I don’t know what I talked about, but I told everybody Paul was a general in the Roman army. They were like, “Hey Matt, did you know you said Paul was a general in the Roman army?” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, of course I did, because he was, right? Y’all don’t know that?”
For about a week I had to look through every book I could find to finally prove to me I had completely made that up out of the air. He was not a general in the Roman army. But I was growing to understand the Bible. I was growing to understand the gospel. That’s okay. It’s okay if you, being a young convert, are growing to put the pieces together.
If you’ve been walking with Christ for a significant amount of time and you’re not using your mind to really understand and comprehend the things of God, that’s a completely different story. This is why we look at Priscilla and Aquila here. I love their ministry. They pull him aside, and they make the gospel more clear to him.
Apollos has a good basis for Christianity, but Priscilla and Aquila come and say, “Listen, man. You have to use your mind, because the sum of the entire Scriptures is the gospel, and it doesn’t seem like you are really understanding that.” One of the things I want to encourage you guys in, especially you guys who are growing in your faith, is as you use your mind, it’s important to recognize it is a God-given gift for you to be able to understand and to discern the things of God.
The intellectual abilities and capacities you have to put two ideas next to each other and synthesize them and take a truth in is a God-given gift. When I think about us using our minds here, us using our heads, I have two concerns, and I want to tell you what these concerns are. The first is that I think some of us trend maybe a little bit more toward apathy, and I think some of us trend a little bit more toward arrogance. I know in seasons of my life I have struggled with both.
The first people really may not care ultimately about the gospel. Here’s what I mean by that. We talk about the love of God, and you’re like, “Listen, man. I’ve heard about the love of God my entire life. I get it. I’m thankful you’re saying it, but it’s really for somebody else, because when I was 9 years old I came to faith. I walked down an aisle and made a decision for Christ. I get the love of God. I get the gospel. Can you move on to something more practical?”
On the other side, maybe the more arrogant side, you see guys and gals a little too prideful who go, “Listen, I kind of have the gospel thing figured out. Seriously. I can write for you a 15-page paper on the extent of atonement if you need me to. I understand the gospel.” To the first guy, I would say this: You may not be captivated by the gospel, but do you know Peter says the angels are? This is in 1 Peter. He says the angels are mesmerized by the gospel. That’s the word in the Greek. They’re mesmerized. They’re captivated by the gospel.
Then you really think about that story. You think about, “What’s an angel, and what has an angel seen?” An angel has seen the glory of God. He has seen God’s face, yet this story about Jesus becoming a man to save a broken humanity fascinates even the angels. They’re captivated by it. You are captivated by something. I promise you are. There’s something you spend a lot of time thinking about.
If it’s not the gospel, if you’re not just overcome by this story, then I think you need to recognize there should be concern for your apathy, and to the other guy, the guy who is maybe a little bit too much in love with his ability to think, maybe a little theologically arrogant… I don’t care what kind of master’s degree you have on your wall telling the world how biblically literate you are, how theologically sound you are. You may have a master’s degree on the wall, but you are never going to master the gospel.
The more you learn about the love of God, the more you’ll be humbled by it. Honestly. The more you learn about the love of God, the more you’ll go, “Man, you know what? As much as I know, there’s so much more I don’t know. There’s some new application I’m not seeing. There’s something more to study.” You’ll bow and you’ll seek to understand it, because you’ll say, “These are his words. This is my mind. In humility I’m seeking to understand, because I know his thoughts and his ways are higher than my ways.”
As the psalmist says, he has wondrously multiplied his thoughts to you. He has given you and me the ability to use our minds to understand, so using our heads matters. This is precisely why Priscilla and Aquila are pulling Apollos aside to feed his mind and to help him understand. I’m not asking for a nerd fest around here. There are too many nerds already.
I’m not saying your Christianity is prerequisite on whether or not you can tell me Calvin and Luther’s different view on the Lord’s Supper. That’s okay. If you know that, that’s great. Seriously. It’s kind of exciting if you know that. But that doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. It doesn’t mean you have to know that to be a Christian.
If we sat down and had a conversation and I asked you questions like, “Help me understand why Jesus had to die. What does grace through faith mean? What’s promised to you in the resurrection? What does it mean that the Holy Spirit has deposited himself in your life?” and you can give very little to no explanation there, I’m not saying you’re not a Christian, but I am saying there are significant gaps in your knowledge and you may very well not be a Christian.
It really is high time, as I encourage you as your pastor (and so many of you guys do this well), to really understand the gospel affects our minds and the mind is a gift from God to be put to use to understand God. This is exactly what Priscilla and Aquila are doing. The best thing you can do if you don’t understand is to ask for help to understand.
Because I have five chapters, I seriously have to fast-forward. I really don’t like this, because I could camp out on a lot of these passages. Let me transition for us. Here’s what’s happening. Apollos hammers. Paul comes back to Ephesus. The Holy Spirit falls. We see disciples made, and it’s really an extraordinary two years. Ephesus gets Paul for two years.
Our lead pastor, Matt Chandler… If you have spent any time listening to him preach, he loves this passage. It’s one of his go-tos. I think he has done due diligence here, so I’m not going to camp out in this passage, but it would be something to look at and study, because he loves it. I will pull something from this text in Acts 19:26. It’s clear here that the gospel is not just affecting their minds, but it’s also affecting their hearts.
Demetrius is the guy who’s talking. He’s a silversmith. He makes silver. He’s one of the leading businessmen of the day. He says, “And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul…” I can hear his voice being condescending. “’…this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.
And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.’ When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, ’Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’”
I totally slept through Greek mythology freshman year of high school, to be honest. I know it was interesting. I know some of you guys know a ton about it. I don’t know a lot about it, but I do know this. Artemis is Zeus’ daughter and Apollo’s brother, so that makes her kind of a big deal. Then you dig further into her life… Do you know that the largest structure in the Greek world was her temple?
If you were to get on Wikipedia right now… Don’t act like you don’t do that all the time, like I do. I got in trouble in seminary for referencing Wikipedia on a term paper. I didn’t know you couldn’t do that. If you were to get on Wikipedia and search for the “seven wonders of the ancient world,” the temple of Artemis in Ephesus would be one of those seven wonders. This is a big deal.
She’s the goddess of fertility and death. She helps women in childbirth, and they have, in Ephesus, solid pride over this girl. In verse 35, another guy talks about the sacred stone that fell from the sky. Apparently, the legend goes that Zeus himself had dropped this meteorite down on Ephesus, and that was proof positive of the fact they were to be the temple keepers of Artemis the goddess. They had so much pride in the fact that she reigned in their backyard, or really that they reigned in her backyard.
There were 33 shrines, in addition to this ginormous temple dedicated to her, where the Ephesians would go and worship her, hope on her life, and really give their hearts to her. So what do I mean by heart? That’s an easy confusion for us, because when we think about head and heart… We think in my head is what I should want, but in my heart is what I really want. The Bible doesn’t do that at all.
In fact, when the Bible talks about the heart, it talks about it being the home base for all of our thoughts, all of our feelings, all of our actions. It’s the driver’s seat for everything we think, everything we believe, everything we say, and everything we do. There’s this professor, Tremper Longman, a really smart guy, who says that the best… We don’t really have a word in English for heart. The best word we have for heart is your motives. Underneath what you say you want, what do you really want? That is your heart.
When you think about this definition, it actually gets interesting if we inject it into the story. So what’s happening? Demetrius is walking out saying, “Paul is saying none of it’s true and that she’s not a god.” Think about the significance of this. She’s the pride of the city. She holds sway over their lives. They live in the shadow of her temple. They thought about her all the time. She was sovereign over death and over the birth of their children.
Demetrius is saying, “Paul is threatening our livelihood and her majesty,” and the riot itself is indicative of the fact there’s actually a threat. The Ephesian Christians are saying, “I don’t want to trust her anymore, because I want to trust him. I don’t want to trust the rock; I want to follow the man who came out of the grave,” and they forsook their sacred myths. The gospel was just falling all over the place there.
We have our own myths here in Dallas. The Ephesians have their myths, and we have our own myths too. If you’ve spent any amount of time in Dallas, you’ve probably heard this one. I’m a “Dallasite.” I’m a local. I grew up in Coppell. This is what I heard growing up: we are the city of prosperity that wasn’t even supposed to be.
Here’s how that myth goes. There may be some truth to it a little bit. We have no ports here. We don’t have any navigable water. There’s no oil or gas. We have miserable summers. Amen? Our 12 hours of spring are over. Summer is here. It felt like a sauna. It was swampy in here today. Thank you very much. It’s still April, mind you. It’s flat, and it’s ugly. With the exception of DBU and White Rock Lake, yes, it’s flat and ugly here.
That’s not our actual history. There are plenty of reasons why Dallas was an attractive city in the 1800s, but I won’t nerd out on you and tell you what they were. I did love this line an author said in a book (I love how ambiguous that is), that in Dallas, myths masquerading as history enjoy almost incontestable rule.
As the myth continues, by determination and power and skill and savvy and sheer good luck, we made ourselves a city here. A lot of that is true. We have built ourselves a great city. I think we can acknowledge that. It is so much cheaper to live here compared to other cities in the United States. Can I get an amen, people who have lived elsewhere? Some of us don’t realize that. We have a stable economy here. We have 1,500 burger places here.
We have really good-looking people here, honestly, who marry each other then spawn other good-looking people. We have great schools. We have great suburbs. We’re finally on the map with our barbecue with Pecan Lodge. Isn’t that place awesome? You have to wait two hours to get it, but it’s great. In 15 years, when LBJ is done, we’re going to have the best road system in America, apparently. We used to have the Dallas Cowboys as a football team. That was awesome. Hey, I’m a Cowboys fan. Don’t act like that offends you. It offends me.
Everything is bigger and better, and what comes with the myth here is the promise of a charmed and comfortable life. That’s why people are flocking to this city in droves. But here’s what I think happens, guys. I think over time we begin to buy into the stories of Dallas. We begin to be participants in the myth, and we begin to believe ourselves to be entitled to this charming, comfortable life we have here.
Beyond that, we think the best of Dallas is ultimately promised or owed to us. That’s not just true about Dallas. We have all kinds of personal, individual myths we bring into our hearts that we believe are true, our own little sacred rocks we believe fall from heaven that actually don’t. We give our hearts to them, and they typically look like you believing you’re owed something because you’re special, or if you do X, then you’ll get Y.
Maybe here are some of our myths: “I’m going to be married by this age [insert age]. My spouse, current or future, won’t have any crazy in them whatsoever. None. The only person in human history that will be true of. I’m going to marry an absolute knockout. She is going to look like a supermodel, and she is going to be so spiritual it makes everybody else sick.”
Or you go to the converse. You go, “I really don’t care what they look like, but we’re going to be like Forrest Gump. We’re not going to worry about money. Seriously. Because he’s going to be rich, and we’re going to have everything provided for. We’re going to give a lot away, but we’re just not going to have to worry about money. I’m going to be sexually attracted to my spouse well into my 70s and 80s. We’re just going to be that gross couple who writes books about romance. Seriously, every day of my life it’s just going to be sexual attraction.” I’ll stop there.
“I’m only made to work for myself. I can’t really work for others. God kind of wired me that way. I deserve to retire well. I need to be a vice president before I’m 30 years old. My destiny is to have healthy, athletic, intelligent, good-looking kids. I deserve to drive this car. I’m supposed to live in this neighborhood. I’m putting in all of these hours so I can get this.”
Guys, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’ve read this Bible cover to cover, and I promise you none of that is promised to you in here. Not one of those things is promised to you in here. Not one. When I think about some of you guys… It may very well be the case that all of your myths, everything you’ve ever wanted, have actually come true in your life.
You may very well be like Tom Brady, who’s the quarterback for the New England Patriots who’s also a model in his own right. I’m just going, “Man, I’ll take one of the two. Honestly.” Three Super Bowls before he’s 30 or GQ model, but he’s both. Anyway, I’m dealing with it. He was interviewed when he was 30 years old, and the guy asked him, “Hey man, you’re married, you have these great kids, three Super Bowls. It’s pretty fulfilling, right?”
He said, “Yeah, I mean, kind of, but there’s got to be more than this.” Brady said that. I think some of you guys are thinking, “There has to be more than this.” On this spectrum of the myth, some of you guys may be on the far end, and you’re going, “Yeah, Matt. Those myths are true, and they’re not coming true for me. My job is lame. I can’t even find a job. Buy a house? Do you know how much debt I’m in? I can’t buy a house. Trophy wife? I’m just trying to get a date.” You’re on the other side.
What’s really interesting here is that… I want to be really clear. It’s not bad for you to want these things. I want you to have more money than you need so you can give your money away. I want you to have model marriages. I want you to have wonderful, blessed, healthy, intelligent kids who go and do great things. I want those for you. But you have to remember that when the Bible describes the heart, it’s talking about your motivation, what you want more than anything else, and I really think some of you guys want your myths more than you want Jesus. You really do.
I think you need to recognize, like the Ephesians did, that Artemis is a god who’s not a god, and the God of the Bible, the real Lord… What he has promised you is nothing other than the fact that he will die for your worst sins, that he will substitute his life for you, that he will bind himself to you eternally, and that he’ll keep you as the apple of his eye. That’s what he has promised you. I promise you it’s more substantive. It’s a far greater deal than anything hollow you’re throwing yourself at.
That’s what the Ephesians are understanding. They came to realize Artemis had never given anything to them they didn’t have to sacrifice for, so her love was conditional, and beyond that, there wasn’t even any power there but that Jesus, who was God, had sacrificed all of his life and had freely laid it down for them, and it melted their hearts. Is it melting your heart? Is the love of God melting your heart?
As we continue through this story, we see that Paul has to get out of Dodge. He runs to the outskirts. He says his goodbye. The gospel is affecting his head and his heart, but we get to look now and see how it affects his hands. We’ll go to chapter 20, verse 7, to look at this. This is about a guy named Lucky.
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer.
And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, ’Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.’ And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.”
This is Paul’s farewell tour. He’s leaving the next day. He realizes he has a night with them, five hours, and he’s giving them all he has. He goes till midnight. They think he’s wrapping up. He’s clearly not wrapping up. That’s one of the oldest tricks in the book if you’re a pastor. Eutychus can’t take it. His eyelids are getting heavy. He falls out of the window. Paul literally bores him to death.
He is taken up dead. The Bible doesn’t say as dead. It says dead. That’s important, because Luke, who wrote Acts, who’s a doctor, isn’t going to misdiagnose death. He was dead. So Paul saunters down the stairs and kind of lays over him, and he resurrects. Paul had that kind of spiritual authority. He stands up, and Paul is like, “Don’t worry about it. He’s okay.” They’re freaked out, but they’re ultimately encouraged.
You think about Paul putting his money where his mouth is, redeeming his time. He has five hours with these guys. He wants to make the most of it, and he decides to teach. This is interesting for us, because teaching is not Paul’s main talent. Second Corinthians 10 says this about Paul: His bodily presence was weak and his speech was of no account. He was not Apollos. He was a brilliant mind, a great thinker. He had a strong pen, but he was likely at times a very boring preacher.
It was amazing that his so-called lack of talent didn’t bother him. He was fully convinced that the power of God manifested in him and whatever he lacked in talent he more than made up for in spiritual authority. That’s why he can say in 2 Corinthians 12 that he’s going to boast all the more gladly in his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on him.
Honestly, if I’m just laying out my heart for you guys, Paul has me nailed, because if one of you guys in this balcony, on account of this sermon being so boring, keeled over, fell off the railing, and died, I would seriously mail it in and quit the ministry. I really would. So I’m thankful for guys like Paul who are farther along, more mature than me, Steve Hardin-types who walk in a lot of trust of what the Lord is doing, so that I can learn from them, because I need to learn from them too.
So he’s doing evangelism and discipleship, which is every one of our callings, to a man, to a woman, that we are to evangelize and disciple. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “I’m really not able to do that. I don’t have that gifting. I’m not winsome. I’m not good at it. I’m not clever. I’m not articulate.” Trust the Lord. Seriously, trust God. Trust the Lord on that.
Do you know that the Bible says he can do immeasurably more than you can even think and imagine? Do you know you can’t even put it in your head right now what the Lord could do through your life if you so gave your heart to him and said, “Use me” and boasted in your weaknesses? Do you think he needs you to be profound with words? Do you think he needs you to be articulate? Do you think he needs you to be winsome? No, he needs you to be broken and weak and to acknowledge he’s greater and he can move through your life. That’s what he needs.
I think, especially in our millennial generation (I’m an older millennial shepherding a lot of younger millennials), we’ve been told we’re the best at everything our entire lives. Remember all of those trophies we got for coming in dead last? I mean, I didn’t know what consolation meant until I was like 16. I’m like, “Mom, what are these trophies for?” “You didn’t get first, second, third, fourth, or fifth, Matt.” “Okay.”
Guys, I’m telling you. We have this culture of the superlative. We love to be told we’re good at things, and we trend only toward the things we’re good at. I’m telling you, it’s okay if you’re not good at something to try something and ask God to use it. That’s okay. Do it. Seriously, watch the Lord move in that.
Are you walking in your talent, or are you walking in your authority? I promise your talent has a much lower ceiling than your authority. You look at Paul’s hands. He maximized his time, and he believed God could do things he wasn’t good at. How about you? We continue through the story of chapter 20, verse 32. This is Paul talking to the elders of Ephesus right before he heads to Jerusalem where he’ll be arrested. It’s a really emotional scene.
“’And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ”It is more blessed to give than to receive.“’
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
You look at Paul, and you look at this good tired. There’s good tired and there’s bad tired. If you’re in college, you actually may be bad tired, because you go to bed at 3:00 a.m. and wake up about 7:00. That’s the way I was. I’m not trying to make a joke. You may be bad tired because physiologically you’re not giving your body rest.
There’s good tired and there’s bad tired. I know both of those kinds of tired. I have a three-week-old son, so hopefully I’m living in the good tired. I’m dreaming about naps I’ll never take again for the rest of my life…until they go off to school, I guess. You look at Paul’s life, and you look at the fact that the Lord used him to catalyze this movement in Ephesus, and he didn’t even have the same privileges I have as a full-time pastor.
I get paid to do ministry full time. Do you know Paul didn’t? In the morning every day, from about 8:00 a.m. to noon, he woke up and made tents. Every day while he was in Ephesus. He provided for himself there. But it seems like the gospel, this others-centered life, this great gospel giveaway of Jesus, compelled his life to continue to go and to serve and to work hard for others because the Lord had worked hard for Paul.
He’s saying it’s better to give. I know you’re tired, but is it the good tired or the bad tired? What kind of tired are you walking in right now? The good tired is good. The bad tired, you’re wasting your time because you’re self-absorbed… That’s something you really need to think about. Just hear me when I say it’s only going to get more tiring. It really is.
When I think about men who in their own tiredness still ask the Lord to move through their lives, I think about Isaac. Isaac Wimberley is one of my dear friends, and for the last 5 years, 250-some-odd Sundays, he has marched his happy butt up here and has led us in worship. It has been amazing, honestly.
I can’t even tell you guys the kind of attack and preparation and energy and confidence you have to walk in every week, four services a week, to be able to lead with the freedom he leads in. He’s a man of God who has given himself over to the Lord. When I see these guys latching on to Paul as he walks away, I can understand that, because part of me wants to latch on to Isaac. It’s hard to see him go.
So my question for you is…Who are those people around you who are latching on to you? Because even in your good tired, you’re having such a profound influence on their life. You have such a ministry to them. What are you doing with your hands? The gospel affects our heads, our hearts, our hands, and then ultimately it affects our cities.
When we look at Paul, I think Acts 19:10 is a good summary verse for his life. It says all of the residents of Asia (this is Jews and Greeks) heard the word of the Lord. I’m going, “What does this mean for me? Yikes. I’m kind of behind.” If I’m honest, that’s encouraging but a little disheartening, because I’m like, “All Dallas doesn’t know on account of my ministry.”
Let me comfort you a little bit with that. You’re not Paul. That’s okay. You’ve never met Paul. You’ll never meet a Paul. If you were to find somebody who was really interested in history and not very interested in Christianity and asked him, “Hey man, who are the top five influential people in the history of the world,” he would probably be intellectually dishonest to not name the apostle Paul. I mean, he had an extraordinary ministry. He really did. Your body of work doesn’t have to equal Paul’s for you to live faithfully to the glory of God.
I love that so many of you guys go big. I want to go big with you. William Carey, the great missionary, said that you would expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. But here’s where I think it starts. This is what James Hunter says. It starts with the faithful presence. You have a clear, articulate gospel witness. You have an incarnation of his love. You have a manifestation of his Spirit in every sphere of your life. In your home, in your workplace, in your neighborhoods, wherever God is calling you, you’re manifesting the love of God.
What N.D. Wilson says is that in all you’re creating, you’re aiming to please him; in all that you’re consuming, you’re aiming to mirror his tastes. Where you are showing what’s true and what’s beautiful and what’s good to everybody around you. You’re serving the needs of those around you who need to be served. On top of that, you’re giving them a clear, compelling verbal witness for the hope you have in the gospel. That’s a faithful presence. God will multiply and blow up whatever he needs to multiply in that. We’ll trust him in that.
If I have a concern, it’s this, especially pastoring you who I love… I love your idealism, but I think some of us, and this is a total Texan phrase, may be “big hat, no cattle” when it comes to this idea. You’re like, “No, this is what I’m doing. It’s this movement to take over DISD. We’re going to get into all of the schools,” or “No, we’re going to do this thing where all of the evangelical churches in Dallas network together. It’s going to be awesome.”
I’m like, “Man, that’s great, but have you invited your neighbor over for dinner?” “No, I’ll get there.” I’m like, “Dude, big hat, no cattle.” Faithful presence. God has called you to these spheres for a reason. Live unto the glory of God. Use your hands. Let it affect your land. That’s what Paul did, and that’s what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life.
When the good news spreads like a wildfire, it’ll affect your head, your heart, your hands, and those around you, your land. What does this mean for us today? What does this mean for those of us, some of us maybe not Christians, some of us Christians, who struggle? What does this mean for our heads?
Well, it means that when we are apathetic or we are arrogant to the gospel, when we just don’t care or we think we know too much, when we fail to listen and we’re deceived, we recognize that when Jesus was tempted by Satan, for Satan to tempt him, he clung to the Word of God and held fast. In him holding fast, he punched Satan in the face. He said, “Man doesn’t live off bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” He held fast to the Word. He used his mind.
When you think about our hearts, you think about how many things we give our hearts to right now, how many myths we’re bringing into our hearts. You think about this. This is fascinating. Jesus didn’t let a second of his life go by where he wasn’t completely motivated to love and obey his Father, not one nanosecond of his life.
We think about our hands. As self-absorbed as I am and as we are with the things we spend our time doing, Jesus’ life was just one others-centered act of love after another, where he condescended lower and lower, where he counted your life and my life more significant than his own life on his way to his death at the cross. He was willing to give his life up for ours.
You think about him being asked, “What’s the greatest commandment?” that he would say, “That you would love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength.” Jesus did this. Do you know that? Jesus did this. He loved the Lord his God with his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and he did it for you. He did it to substitute his life and to sacrifice his life for you, and he did it because he had to, because we really are that bad, and he did it because he wanted to, because he loved us that much.
You think about his body going into the grave, and then him coming out, resurrecting out of the grave as a new creation, and us being united to that new creation by faith. We think about the possibilities of a new mind. We have a renewed mind. We can understand and apply the things of God. We can actually apply the best news in the entire world to our lives.
You think about our hearts. We don’t have stony hearts; we have fleshy hearts. We don’t have to give ourselves to myths anymore. We can give ourselves to the right things. When you think about our hands, we don’t have to be self-absorbed. We can be others-centered. When the gospel spreads like a wildfire, it affects our heads, our hearts, our hands, and our land. How are you doing with it? How is the gospel affecting your head, your heart, your hands, and those around you? Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for your grace and mercy to us and for the privilege it is to be your sons, to be your daughters, and for the promise of the gospel and everything about it that we don’t know. Lord, I do pray that we would be humbled and that we would come to understand that we’re growing to love.
We’re growing to learn. We’re growing to discern, and you are making things right. You are making things clear. Lord, you are putting to death in our lives those things that don’t look like you, and you’re growing in our lives by the Spirit those things that are becoming of you, those things that look like Jesus. So help us.
Lord, grow those things in us now. Lord, help us. Help our heads. Help us to know. Help our hearts. Help us to love. Help us to be motivated with right thoughts that lead to right beliefs and actions, and help us, Lord, just to love and to lay down our lives like your Son did. We love you and we need you for this, Lord. We need you. We just declare our neediness to you. We pray all of this in Christ’s name, amen.