Friday, December 28, 2007
Acts 28 The Unhindered Gospel
The award-winning Australian film, "SHINE" features Geoffrey Rush, Lynn Redgrave, Noah Taylor, Googie Withers, and Sir John Gielgud in the story of a brilliant Perth pianist who has spent much of his life in a psychiatric hospital. David Helfgott, was a young boy apparently pushed to the edge by an incredibly strong father who had survived the Nazis as a Jew living in Poland. David Helfgott was a child prodigy whose interpretative genius promised a brilliant concert career. He won scholarships to an American Music school and the Royal School of Music, London. His father refused him permission to go, but David rejected his father and went to London. The father-son relationship ended. At the point of brilliant international success as a concert pianist, David suffered a devastating mental and emotional breakdown that threw him into years of mental blackness. He went from psychiatric hospital and closed wards to obscurity and years of absence from music. But through some amazing co-incidences and some people who cared for him, this hyper-active, babbling, incoherent street person finds hope, love that leads to marriage, a return to music and a concert career, David Helfgott, with a little help from his friends, has triumphed over everything. It is one of the most amazing stories of triumph over tragedy and loss.
The Acts of The Apostles has set the theme: You can triumph over anything! It is the story of a little church, a small band, imprisoned, brutalised, attacked by the Roman army, persecuted in Judea, Jerusalem and Samaria and in the cities of Caesarea, Philippi and Corinth. Yet it ends in the centre of the Empire with citizens acknowledging Christ as Lord. It is triumph over tragedy, a little that became much, the weak that became strong.
How can You Conquer your Conflicts?
1. Recognise What Is Important.
28:14. "And so we came to Rome." Paul wanted to reach Rome and proclaim the gospel in the heart of the Empire. From there the good news would continue to spread. In the beginning, the church had been told, 1:8 "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The Acts of the Apostles recorded the spread of the faith. By the last chapter the message had run west to Greece, east to Persia, south towards India, north to Turkey, over to Macedonia, to Italy, Rome, and then to Europe. Such was the spread of the gospel in the thirty years of this book. Paul, in the last chapter, is on the final stage of his journey. After staying on the island of Malta, on March 6, 58 A.D., 28:11 "after three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods "Castor and Pollux," two favourite gods of sailors. They reached the Bay of Naples. Rome was only 140 miles away.
12 "We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome."
Acts 28:30-31 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.
As we look at the 2 closing verses of Acts, we see the Apostle Paul busily engaged in the work of witnessing. He lays down the pattern that we are to follow as we live out Acts Chapter 29 in our day and time. You see, our duty in these last day is that we busy ourselves with spreading the Gospel and in winning the lost to Jesus. That is our mandate, that is our call and that is our mission in this world. Paul received "all" who came to him. He didn't discriminate, but shared Christ with all who crossed his path. If one will take a minute to look at the ministry of the great Apostle, it becomes clear that Paul was a witness for Jesus. He shared the Gospel with both great and small that he might win some to Jesus.
1. Acts 9:20 - The Jews in the synagogue.
2. Acts 9:29 - The Greeks
3. Acts 13:14-19 - To both Jews and Gentiles in Antioch.
4. Acts 16:12-15 - To Lydia in Philippi
5. Acts 16:23-33 - To the Philippian jailer and his family.
6. Acts 17:22-34 - To the Greeks in Athens.
7. Acts 24:22-25 - To Felix the governor.
8. Acts 26:1-32 - To King Agrippa
9. Acts 27:22-29 - To some sailors on a ship.
10. Philippians 4:22 - To those of Caesar's household.
Paul realized that every person he met was a candidate for salvation. Therefore, he did not discriminate, but reached out to all in the awesome love of God.
Those whom are lost are all around us, so finding people to witness to isn't a problem -
Chuck Colson tells the story of a Marine Corps commander in Korea named Chesty Puller. Puller's unit was frontally engaged in a fierce fire fight with a North Korean unit when word came that some of the enemy had slipped around onto his right flank. Then, a few minutes later, another scout radioed in that enemy troops had now moved onto Puller's left flank as well. Finally, the news came that North Korean troops had established a position behind Puller's unit: he was completely surrounded. Puller said, " they won't get away from me this time!"
2. Realise What Is Imminent
Paul spent his days pointing men to Jesus! He knew that the greatest need of their soul was for a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
But an unusual term is used here:
1. In the OT the kingdom of God was God's rule over all creation (Ps 103:19) and His kingdom in Israel (1 Chron 28:5; 2 Chron. 13:8). That kingdom was destroyed because of Israel's disobedience, but OT prophecies predicted that the kingdom would be established on earth by Christ, David's greater Son, and that He would reign in truth and righteousness (Isa. 9:6-7; Dan 2:44; 7:14).
2. Christ came to Israel and preached the kingdom. He said "repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat. 3:2). The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are synonymous in the Gospels. One emphasizes the fact that it is God's kingdom, and the other emphasizes that it is a kingdom that will come from heaven. Christ came to His own people but they rejected Him, and He warned them that the kingdom would be taken from them because of their rebellion and given to another nation (Mat 21:43). He taught His disciples to pray that God's kingdom would come to earth (Mat 6:10). He preached a literal glorious kingdom that would be established on earth. Peter, James, and John were given a foreview of it on the Mount of Transfiguration (Lk. 9:27-31). He said Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be in the kingdom (Lk. 13:29). He corrected the view of those who thought the kingdom of God was going to be established at that time (Lk. 19:11-27). He said the kingdom would be established after the Great Tribulation (Lk. 21:31). He said He would drink the fruit of the vine with His disciples in the kingdom (Lk. 22:18). When the disciples were arguing about who would be great in the kingdom of God, Christ corrected their thinking about the nature of greatness but He also confirmed that the kingdom of God is a literal kingdom that will be established at His return (Lk. 22:24-30). Jesus plainly stated that His kingdom is not of this world NOW (John 18:36). His kingdom will come when He comes in power and glory to establish it.
3. The kingdom of God is in a mystery form during this present church age (Mat. 13:10-11).
A "mystery" is truth that was hidden in the OT but revealed in the New (Rom. 16:25-26). The OT did not see the church age in between Christ's two comings.
During the church age, the kingdom takes a strange form not described in OT prophecy. The king is in heaven and the kingdom is not yet established on earth. Instead, the kingdom of God resides in the small, despised apostolic churches, while the devil's false kingdom grows quickly and spreads throughout the world (Mat 13:31-32).
4. Believers enter a spiritual kingdom of Christ when they are born again (Col. 1:13). This is the kingdom comprised of all who submit to God's authority.
5. The kingdom of God will come to earth in its prophetic fullness at the return of Christ (Acts 14:22; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Thess. 2:12; Jam 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2 Tim 4:1; Rev 12:10). Believers are not building the kingdom of God on earth today. They are snatching brands from the coming fire before the day of salvation is finished (1 Cor. 9:19; 10:33; 2 Cor. 5:11, 18-21; 6:2; Jude 23). Today the "whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19), and the devil is its god (2 Cor 4:4). The apostles and prophets in the early churches (as described in the book of Acts and the Epistles) did not band together to accomplish grandiose social-justice projects; they did not pursue artsy activities; they preached the gospel and shined as lights in this dark world by their holy lives. Christ's Great Commission emphasizes gospel preaching (Mat. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:46-48; Acts 1:8).
A kingdom that is more powerful than Rome? Yes! God didn’t leave you here to enjoy the indulgences of this world but to bring the message of the gospel that translates people out of the Kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of God! Yes, at the heart of the mighty Empire of Rome, there was an even mightier kingdom at work, the Kingdom of God. You are an Australian citizen. But you are a citizen of the kingdom of God! The Kingdom of God is God’s inbreaking into this sinful world right now and taking out a people for Himself. As a consequence, Paul had full confidence in the power of God to break into the lives of those who were lost, and take out a people for Himself, who were both Jews and Greeks by nationality. The early church caught Paul’s confidence and courage.
For that early Church, was a passionately evangelistic Church. Its members rejoiced, and its persecutors complained, that its teachings spread like wild-fire. “We are but of yesterday,” wrote Tertullian, “yet we have filled your cities, islands, towns, and boroughs; we are in the camp, the Senate, and the Forum. Our foes lament that every sex, age, and condition, and persons of every rank, are converts to the name of Christ.” And in three centuries the Roman Empire itself capitulated unconditionally to the triumphant Church!
They realised what was imminent.
The word imminent means its at the door. its close at hand. the Kingdom of God is close at hand.
Its close at hand because this world is running out of time.
Its close at hand because the end of all things is near.
Its close at hand for the last chance for a soul to be saved is so close.
Its close at hand because the Lord is taking people out now from the dominion of darkness and transferring them into the Kingdom of His own Son. He is imminent, He is breaking into this world with the gospel!
And lo I am with you all always unto the end of the age. He is Imminent!
Our message isn't about this church, our denomination, or our personal opinions. Our message is about Jesus and His death, resurrection and love for sinners. After all, it isn't our persuasiveness, our wit, our wisdom or our familiarity with Baptist doctrine that saves, it is the Gospel of Christ and it alone that has the power of salvation.
Notice that Paul says in Romans 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel." There are times when you may have to be ashamed of your denomination or of your church, but you never have to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It never changes, never compromises, never weakens and never fails - Isa. 5:11!)
Let us learn that as we go through life, our highest duty before God and to our fellow man, is to share the Gospel of a loving Savior with a lost and dying world because His Kingdom is Imminent!
3. Revolutionise What Is Imposed
Your Circumstances Are Not Hindrances But Helps
Paul used his circumstances to reach his goal. Gordon Moyes led the Australian Olympian Betty Cuthbert to the Lord. Betty was a heroine to us at the Melbourne and Rome Olympics and again in Tokyo when she won more medals. But the race she is now running against multiple sclerosis brings from us a wave of admiration. She is using her changed circumstances to win another race and witnessing to her faith. Some plan that some day, somewhere, when the sun is shining, they will write a poem or compose a song. The best of poetry and music are not made like that. They come out of suffering. Acts 28: 20 So, for this reason I’ve asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I’m wearing this chain.”
The chains they were imposed by God. One end may have been imposed by Rome, but the other end was held by the Lord’s hand. Here was a compliment from God. A handicap from heaven.
A handicap is a compliment in the athletic world -
(1) Runner - the race even, one handicapped.
(2) Golfers - the hard course with sand traps, lakes, dogleg greens that roll in every direction.
Tennis - “Why don’t they take down that net?”
A handicap is a compliment in the artistic world.
Michaelangelo’s “David.” From Top to bottom, it was made of rejected stone.
A handicap in life is a compliment of God.
What can a crippled man do? A blind man? A man in prison? A broken-hearted, afflicted man?
John Milton - “On His Blindness”, “Paradise Lost”
When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest He returning chide--
Doth God exact day-labor, light denied? I fondly ask.--But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replied, “God doth now need Either man’s work or His own gifts; Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best: His state Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait.
John Bunyan, spent 12 years in Bedford jail for his faith and in there he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.
William Cowper battled bi polar depression. And he wrote: “There Is A Fountain”
Robert Louis Stevenson battled tuberculosis. Robert Louis Stevenson - to George Meredith: “For fourteen years I have not had a day’s health. I have wakened sick and gone to bed weary. I have written in bed, written in haemorrhage, written in sickness, written torn by coughing, written when my head swam from weakness . . . My battlefield is this dingy, inglorious one of the bed and the medicine bottle.”
Because money was too scarce in the home of Pastor (Reverend) Clement Moore to buy Christmas gifts for his little daughters, he wrote for them the lines beginning “’Twas the night before Christmas . . . .”
Because a heavy snowstorm just before Christmas damaged the church organ in a little Tyrolean village, the pastor (Mohr) and the organist (Gruber) set to work to compose a carol their choir could sing without accompaniment -- so gave us “Silent Night.”
Because a mother had no soft bed for her baby, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and placed Him in a manger – we have a high priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities . . .
Viktor Frankl. German concentration camp. “They took everything from me, my home my family they took everything from me but the one thing they couldn’t take from me, my right to choose my response. “
Joni Errickson Tada is a quadriplegic. David Helfgott was certified as insane. But they all used their circumstances to achieve their goals. Don't let your handicap or limitation or circumstance stop you from achieving what God wants you to accomplish.
Paul is imprisoned. He is in chains. Now he was in prison in Rome. Some said: "That is the end of his work!" Wrong! He would do his greatest work from there!
He would write His prison letters. He would witness to his prison guards.
He would invite people from all over Rome to meet him at his house for a quiet or not so quiet chat.
2 Timothy 2: 9 For this I suffer, to the point of being bound like a criminal; but God’s message is not bound. 10 This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
God’s Message Is Not Bound!!!
It’s not bound in Paul’s circumstances. Its not bound in yours either.
Paul was successful and triumphed over everything because he recognised what was important and realised Who had imposed his handicaps. He used his circumstances, whatever they were. What are your circumstances? Some of you have been battling for years against some enemy, maybe drugs or alcohol. Some may be disabled physically, some have been scarred by war, physically, mentally, emotionally. Some here are unemployed, some lonely, some in advanced age. But there is nowhere that God cannot see you, hear you and use you, if you use your circumstances. God can use you and you can triumph over anything!
He Recognised What Was important.. proclaiming Christ.
He Realised What Was Imminent, The Kingdom Of God.
He Revolutionised What Was Imposed.
He was thought to be a prisoner, but he was setting the gospel free throughout the empire.
2 Cor 4:8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
2 Cor 6:4 But in everything, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by pressures, 5 by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, 6 by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the message of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left, 8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; as deceivers yet true; 9 as unknown yet recognized; as dying and look—we live; as being chastened yet not killed; 10 as grieving yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing yet possessing everything.
There are always possibilities. We must find them, use them, and then maximise them. Even in prison Paul made the most of the opportunities presented to him.
So Paul preached boldly the Gospel. Paul could not go to the synagogues or to the few churches in Rome. But what happened? People came to him. They listened and some believed.
Paul wrote letters to Philemon and Timothy, the Colossians, Ephesians and Philippians. Much of the rest of the New Testament is taken up with the letters he wrote from Rome's prison. If Paul had been free to visit those churches, we would never have had been the riches of those letters. Paul had discovered a great secret. Your limitations do not matter, or your handicap or disability. You can do all things through Christ. Paul said Phil 4:12-13 "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Do not whine! Discover Paul's secret and triumph over any situation. No matter what life has dealt with you, you can still win with Christ!
1. Recognise What IS Important.. sharing Christ!
2. Realise What IS Imminent.. the Kingdom of God!
3. Revolutionise What IS Imposed, turns trials into Triumphs.