How To Say Goodbye
By Bobby Blakey on January 2, 2022
How To Say Goodbye
By Bobby Blakey on January 2, 2022
Well, I'm sure that now that it's the second day of 2022, somebody's already said to you, seems like I haven't seen you in a year. Have you heard that one already? I'll tell you what, that joke never gets old to me. I'm one of those guys, you know. But it does feel like a long time since we've actually been in the book of Acts together. And we haven't studied Acts all the way back till November of last year. And, I mean, we've been doing Acts now for over a year, and so it might feel like it's been a while since we've opened up to the book of Acts. But I want to invite everybody here to open up to Acts chapter 20. And please turn there with me, and I just want to remind you of some things that we’ve already learned to get your New Year started because Acts 20 is unique in all of the book of Acts. It is the only sermon or teaching or speech that we have that is to the church about how to conduct themselves as Christians. All the other speeches, if you were to go through and review everything we've seen in Acts so far, it's either an evangelistic sermon, or it's like I'm on trial, and I'm defending myself. And we're going to see more trials to come. But this is Paul speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus, telling them how to be the church. And so, we really want to take some time and focus on this together. I think this is going to be a strong word from the Lord for our church, as we begin here in January 2022. So, I'm inviting everybody, including there's people out on the front lawn right now, can we give them a warm welcome, everybody? I know we’ve got people at home sick watching online, people traveling in other states who are watching this right now. Welcome everybody. Open up to Acts 20, and let's all stand for the public reading of Scripture. And I'm going to read the whole speech that Paul gives to the elders in Ephesus. We've already looked at part of it, we'll dive into the middle of it, and the rest of it will be yet to come in the rest of the month for us. But follow along as I read, Acts 20, starting in verse 17, all the way to the end of the chapter, let's give this our full and undivided attention. This is the Word of God.
“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. 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. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 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.”
That's the reading of God's word. Please go ahead and have your seat, everybody. And maybe some of that sounded familiar, if you were here around Thanksgiving in November, maybe that all sounded new. but we begin 2022 I want to encourage everyone to start reading through this passage. And really think what it's saying to us here at this church. And you can see that these guys that Paul, he knew these guys real well. I mean, he was with them for three years, admonishing them with tears. Like that's the longest we have Paul staying in any city was Ephesus. Do you remember what God did in Ephesus? Turn back to Acts chapter 19. Because these are the elders now of the church in Ephesus. And if you go back, you can see when we studied this whole chapter together last year, I mean, this was the city where the name of Jesus was exalted, where we got the idea of we want to see the name of Jesus made mega here in Huntington Beach. This was the city as it says in Acts 19: 20: “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” I mean, God did an epic work to plant the church, to save many people, revivals breaking out in the streets. Remember how there was a riot in Ephesus where they were shouting great is Artemis of the Ephesians. Because they were afraid that people were going to leave the temple there in Ephesus and stop worshipping idols. And they were going to go and worship Jesus Christ at the church with Paul. So, they started a riot in protest to what was going on in the church in Ephesus. So, these guys, they maybe got saved when Paul was preaching, they started to grow up during those three years. And then some of them become elders, the men who are going to lead the church forward as Paul moves on. And now he calls them to come to him in Miletus. And he gets to have a powwow with these men. And he says to them, if you go to Acts 20:25, this is kind of a big thing that we want to think about together today. When he says to them, “behold, I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.” So, he's already said, some things we'll review in a minute, but the big thing we are here to talk about is he says to them, this is the last time you guys are ever going to see me, and you can see that really affected them. It says at the end of the passage that we read, verse 38, they were sorrowful most of all because of the word that he had spoken that they would not see him again. Like these guys got discipled by Paul, Paul laid hands on them to be the elders leading the church forward. And now he says, this is goodbye. This is the last time you are ever going to see me. And these men are like they're weeping. These grown men. And they're hanging on him, embracing him, kissing him. Like these are men who love one another in Jesus Christ and the fact that this is goodbye, that's like overwhelming emotionally for these men because Paul has been such an inspiration to them. Now, these men knew Paul well.
Go back to verse 18. Let's just review. In fact, if you've got your handout, and you're taking some notes, pull it out, because we want to review the first two sermons, we want to make sure that the book of Acts is getting fresh in our minds again, as we begin the new year. And so, we started looking at how to be the church. And in verse 18 he says, “You yourselves know how I lived among you” when I was there in Ephesus. Or you could translate that, you guys know how I was or that's where we got the idea how to be the church. He's just reviewing, hey, when I was there an Ephesus, there were some things that you guys know I was about. One was verse 19. I was there to serve.
So that's number one: You want to be here to serve. That's the first thing that we saw. Paul is like I didn't come to Ephesus to be served; I came to serve. I didn't want to go see a church get started in Ephesus for how it was going to work out for me. I was here to serve Jesus Christ and to serve his people. The thing we learned is that you should ask not what your church can do for you. You should ask what you can do for your church. And it's just a disposition of, am I here for other people? Am I here for Jesus? Or am I here for myself? And that's just the wrong way to fundamentally think about church is we’re here … the greatest commandments are love God and love others in the same way that you would love yourself. So, if you put yourself first you're coming into church thinking wrong from the very beginning. You’ve got to come to serve. Whatever Jesus has gifted you to do and just serve other people even as more significant than yourself. And Paul is saying, hey, you guys know, I didn't come to Ephesus for my own personal benefit. I came there for your benefit. And I humbled myself, and there were many tears and hard times. You guys know how the Jews came against me. You guys know there was a riot against me in the city. Like you guys know how it was, I wasn't in it for myself. I was there to serve. And then in verse 20, he said, and you know “how I did not shrink from” profiting you. That's what he was saying, like the Scripture brings a profit into your life, it brings a benefit. And so, I was teaching you for two years. It says he taught every day in the Hall of Turanos so that all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. Do you remember that? Two years, he's teaching every day. And he says, Not only was I teaching in public, I was teaching in small groups, I was teaching from house to house, I was teaching in an even one on one setting, so I was teaching you any possible way that I could.
So, we learned number two: You’ve got to be prepared to profit from the teaching. You’ve got to be prepared to be taught in the word of God, and then you would have a profit in your life, that all “Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” so that you would be equipped for everything God wants you to do in 2022. And that was so encouraging last year, we looked at the Bereans, the more noble Jews … do you remember that? who are ready to receive the Word. And can you hear the sermon was, that was a sermon we did. And we saw people praying before they showed up. We saw people more ready to hear the word. I could tell people were showing up. They're like your handouts are not good enough. They've got their own like notebook. I mean, some people bring notebooks full of these handouts. God bless them. People have highlighters. People are busting out lap desks. It's getting downright biblical up in here at this church. People are showing up ready for the Bible. That's what we should be expecting when we come to church. And then verse 21 he said, and we're out there, I'm telling everybody who will listen to me, I'm telling them that they need to repent and believe in the gospel. He's giving them the message of Jesus Christ. He's one of the witnesses.
Let's get that down for number three: You need to be one of his witnesses. You need to be ready and equipped yourself to call other people to turn from their sin and put their trust in the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one who died on the cross to pay for their sin, and who rose from the dead to give them a new and eternal life and that we need to go and spread that message. So, Paul started with the review, hey, you know how it was when I was with you in Ephesus. I was serving, I was teaching, and I was preaching that gospel, and being a witness of Christ. And what was so encouraging for me as we studied that was, in our church, we started here in 2014, in Huntington Beach, and these were all like goals that we had. We wanted people to serve in the church. We wanted people to be taught in the church, we wanted to share the gospel, and the response of repentance and faith and see a lot of people get saved. And we can look back now, and we can praise the Lord for what he's done. And you know that on any given weekend, there's an average of two hundred people who are serving to make these services happen. And we have people who are open for the Bible, they're hungry for the Word, and even some of you are going out and leading other people to repentance and faith in the gospel. So, praise God for what he did an Ephesus. We've seen some of that here in Huntington Beach. But then he said this, and this was our second sermon, Acts 20:22-24. He said that, hey, I'm going to Jerusalem. And people keep telling me that prophets are prophesying in the Holy Spirit that when I go to Jerusalem, I'm going to end up suffering in jail, they're going to put me in prison. But he's like, I'm going to Jerusalem anyways. And because he said this, and I know this verse really inspired a lot of people, I heard a lot of people talk about Acts 20:24. “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.” He says, Yeah, I'm going to Jerusalem because I want to give a praise report to the church in Jerusalem of all these other churches that have been planted. I want to bring them the financial gift to meet their needs from all these other churches. So yeah, I'm going to Jerusalem, even if they throw me in jail. I'm going to Rome even if it kills me because I'm not living for myself. I'm not holding on to my own life. I'm laying my life down, and I'm ready to do it to the end.
So, let's get that as the summary of what we learned from those verses. You need to lay down your life to the end. Lay down your life to the end and we preach that message. Finish your race. Like hey, you might have started out in the faith. Well, the goal is you’ve got to get to the end with your faith in Jesus Christ; don't hang on to this life. Remember, it's those who lose their life who find it. It's those who deny themselves and take up their cross that end up with Jesus. And so, we preached that at the end of November, finish your race. Do you know that at this little church in Huntington Beach, the next three weekends, we have three memorial services lined up for three women who, since that finish your race message, have died? Like there are three ladies, all of them, their nearest and dearest family members will all testify that they were believers in Jesus Christ, and all three of them have finished their race since we preach that message. One lady whose family just started coming here, and we're going to have her memorial service. Another lady who used to be here until she moved to another state, and we're going to have a memorial service for her. And then there's a lady who is right here a part of our fellowship, she heard the finish the race sermon, and little did we all know, that would be the last sermon she would ever hear with us here at the church. And she finished her race. She's now in the presence of the Lord. Like she persevered to the end, and she completed the course of good works that the Lord set out before her. And see, this is something we need to understand ahead of time, before it's too late, that death is coming. Okay, if there's something we've learned in the last couple of years, it's that there's nothing we can do to prevent the inevitability, that everyone who sins is going to die, because the wages of sin is, okay. So, let's just let's just talk about this openly. Let's speak freely about this. People here at this church are dying, praise the Lord. All three of these memorials we're going to do the next three weeks are all people who believed in Jesus and finished their race, but people are dying. Okay, and let me just make this very clear, the government cannot save you from death. Let's make it very clear, doctors and medicine cannot save you from death. Oh, people may be able to help you in your life, but death is surely coming for everyone who has sinned, I guarantee you are going to die in the day that God has ordained for you to die. Nobody's keeping you alive past that point.
And so, I think we need to start the new year by just coming to grips with the reality of the world that we live in the way we need to be thinking is, I should not be surprised if people are getting sick, or people are dying, because that's actually what the Bible says is going to happen to every single one of us. Every single one of us is at some point, going to be looking at somebody that we know and love, and we are going to be saying goodbye to them, just like Paul here is in this passage with these men. Guys, this is it. This is the last time; this is goodbye. And there's weeping. And there are hugs, and there are kisses, and there's like, I can't believe this is the end. And this is how you want to say goodbye. So, what I want you to do today as we start this new year, and maybe people are thinking about New Year's resolutions are what are my goals? Or what's going to happen in this next year 2022 that we've now been given? Well, here's what I want you to think about your loved ones, if they were to die this year, have you said goodbye to them? Have you said what needs to be said to your loved ones? Like it's very possible that somebody you know in love, we're going to be looking at their picture, we're going to see their name, we're going to see the year that they were born, and the last year might be 2022 for somebody that's near and dear to your heart. And let's think about that now before it's too late, before we're wishing we had a chance to say goodbye. Let's ask ourselves what Paul says here.
Let me read these three verses that we want to dive into right now. Acts 20:25-27. And we're breaking this down based on these “And now” statements that he gives here where he says, “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.” Guys, this is goodbye. And I'm okay with saying goodbye to you men, these elders of the church in Ephesus, because I know I've already, even before this conversation here in Miletus in Acts 20. I've already, during those three years in Ephesus, I said everything there was to say; I gave you the whole counsel of God. I taught it to you straight from the Scripture. And so, if this is goodbye, I'm innocent, because I already said what I need to say to you. And let me just tell you, as somebody who gathers with families when they mourn their loved one who just recently passed, as somebody who spends a lot of time talking to people as they're going through this brutal reality of grieving their loved one that they miss, it makes a radical difference when you are saying goodbye, whether as a Christian, you said everything you needed to say to them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, or whether you feel guilty because you should have said things that you never said to them. Like I have seen people who, even though they're mourning their loved one, they're so thankful that God gave them the opportunity to share that good news with them, and to preach Jesus to them. And then I've seen people who are crying and they're crying, and they keep on crying for many weeks to come. Because they're wishing they had one more conversation to say what needed to be said. And I'm saying, hey, let's get ahead on this one. Let's not wait till it's too late to say goodbye to our loved ones. Let's be like, Paul, let's understand what he's saying here. He's dropping to these guys that this is it. This is goodbye. And he's saying, I feel at peace with it in my soul because I'm innocent, because I already said to you everything that needs to be said. And notice specifically, how he describes it here. If you look at verse 25, he says, I know that none of you among whom … notice how he describes it, “whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.” You guys aren't going to see me again. But look at how he describes it, who I proclaimed the kingdom to? Is that what you do? Are you proclaiming the kingdom? I love this concept that Paul has given here. Because when you think about the kingdom that is to come when you think about Jesus being the king of kings, and the Lord of lords, and how Jesus is going to return? And what if the 2022 is the year that he's going to do it? Well, when you think about Jesus coming back, that gives a sense of urgency as to why I need to talk to people now. I can't put it off.
See, there's two reasons, two compelling reasons as we begin 2022 that you should be going through everybody you know in love in your life. And you should be thinking, have I shared with them the gospel of the kingdom because one, they are going to die, and two, Jesus is going to come back, and they need to know about the kingdom before it's too late. And so, are you ready to share with them? Are you ready to proclaim the kingdom? Go back to Acts 14:22. And we've already seen this concept of the kingdom throughout the book of Acts. Paul loves to talk about this. Jesus loves to talk about this. I don't know why more Christians don't talk about the kingdom. I've grown up in the church for forty years in America, and when I hear about the kingdom, I usually hear Christians arguing in the endless theological debates, and Christians debating with one another. The Kingdom usually gets brought up in covenantal versus dispensational theology. And this guy is going off on this guy who's going off on this guy. And it's all one big argument. We should all agree as Christians that Jesus is the King, he's bringing back his kingdom, he's going to reign in righteousness, and you don't want to be on the wrong side of Jesus. Can I get an Amen from anybody on that?
The kingdom should be uniting us all, we should all be like, yes, I'm so thankful that I already, even in the here and now, I am a citizen of heaven. I am an ambassador of the kingdom of heaven here on earth. I'm so thankful to be saved out of this world that's passing away, and to be a part of the kingdom of the glory of Jesus, the kingdom of light. And I should be spreading the message of the Kingdom to anybody who will listen to me. That's how it should be. This should be our rallying cry, our King is coming, the kingdom is at hand, so you need to repent now while you still have a chance. That's how it is throughout the Scripture. Remember, we learned this in Acts 14:22, that he went around to the churches that God planted, Barnabas and Paul did. And they were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God. And we dove deep into the concept of the Kingdom on July 4 of last year; maybe some of you were here. And you remember that it's like, wow, the Kingdom, it's like here and now, that people could believe in Jesus and they could enter the kingdom, but it's also yet still to come. And we need to persevere until the kingdom is here. And that's the message we're supposed to be proclaiming. That's what Paul says, hey, I'm saying goodbye to you guys to who I came proclaiming the kingdom. I wonder how many of us here in this room right now have ever proclaimed the kingdom to somebody and said, hey, do you know Jesus is coming back? Do you know Jesus is the king? Like, are you ready? If Jesus came back, would you be ready? That gives a sense of urgency. We're not going to people and saying, you could use some Jesus in your life. 2022 will be better, you'll be more blessed with a little bit of Jesus. You don't need a little bit of Jesus in your life, you need Jesus, because Jesus is the only one who can save you from death. And Jesus is the one who's bringing the kingdom that's going to reign over all of the nations. If you don't get right with Jesus, you're going to die in your sins. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; there is no other name that anybody is being saved from death other than the name of Jesus Christ. And we need to let the world know. We need to let the world know that America, yeah, it's not going to get much better. All these other nations, I wouldn't put your hope in them. But there is a king and there is a kingdom that you can have hope in that will be everlasting. That will actually be the way life is supposed to be. And that Kingdom is coming in. You should get ready to be a part of it. We should be preaching the kingdom; this should be our message. This is how Paul went around talking to people. Is this how you're going to go around talking to people in 2020?
Go back to Matthew chapter 4. I want to just take us back to what Jesus said and this one statement summary of what Jesus began to preach – what Jesus preached here in Matthew 4:17. Go to Matthew 4:17. We just saw this a few weeks ago, because there's a prophecy in Isaiah that in the dark land of Zebulun and Naphtali, up there by the Nazareth in the Sea of Galilee, out of that dark land, a light arise, a light will shine. And Jesus fulfills that prophecy. He is the light of the world; he comes to call people out of the kingdom of darkness and bring them into his glorious life. And what he says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” I wonder, have you ever said that to anyone? Have you ever said to someone that they should repent, change their mind about life, turn from the ways of sin, to put their trust in Jesus, because the Kingdom is at hand the kingdom could be here? He said that he's coming. And he said, he is coming soon. And so, are you ready for the kingdom? That's the message if you summarize what Jesus was preaching in all the towns of Galilee. If you summarized it down to one sentence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Why is it so hard to hear Christians say those words today when that's the whole summary of the message of Jesus Christ?
So, let's get this down for point number one, a question for you to ask yourself, as we begin, the new year: Are your loved ones ready for the kingdom? Are your loved ones ready for the Kingdom? And this message of the Kingdom is so compelling, we should be going to foreign nations to tell this message. the message of the Kingdom is so compelling, we should be ready to move up to Long Beach and tell people up there. But I'm not even asking anybody to do any of that. I'm saying about your life right now. The people that you know their name, they know your name, you talk to them, you see them, your extended family members, maybe you just got together with over the holidays, friends that you've grown up with from back in the day that you've known for many years, people that you interact with regularly at work, and you talk to them, or people at your kids’ school that you talk to, or neighbors that live around you that you have an ongoing dialogue with, as you think about the people that God has put into your life right here right now, names that you know, and are growing to love. Or maybe they're hard to love, but they're in your life anyways. When you evaluate those people, like, are they ready to die in 2022? Are they ready for Jesus to come back in this new year? Are these people ready for the kingdom? And if the answer to that is no, well, who's going to go and talk to them about it? Because I don't think they're going to see it on TV. I don't think the government is going to start a program trying to tell everybody that really our problem is we should all turn to God and learn to trust him, like people used to do in the Great Awakening. Who wants to repent of their sin? I don't think that's going to be a government program that's going to get started. No, the program of the kingdom is only going to be pushed by the Church of Jesus Christ, and that's us. And if we're not going to talk to people this year, then who is? And they're just going to stay there in their sin, and death is coming, and the kingdom is coming. And they're not ready. If you really love your loved ones, let's start thinking about, wow, are they ready for the kingdom? Look what happens here in Matthew 4:23. Look at this summary of the ministry of Jesus. He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. We saw his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they're bringing him all the sick. Notice when you describe what was Jesus doing, well, he's doing miracles. He's doing healings. But what is the bread and butter? He goes to the town, he goes to the synagogue, he tells them about the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom. What have we seen Paul do? He goes to town, he goes to the synagogue, and he tells them Jesus is the Christ. He's preaching. He says, everybody that saw my face when I was proclaiming the kingdom, you're not going to see me again. This is goodbye. But I feel okay about it because I've already proclaimed to you the Kingdom. Have you already proclaimed to your loved ones what they need to hear about Jesus if they were to die, or Jesus were to return? Would you be able to say, like Paul does, when you're saying your goodbye to somebody you love? Hey, you know what? I'm innocent because I already shared with them what God would have me to say.
Go back to Acts 20 and you'll see that's the way Paul thinks. Okay, and there is a difference between knowing something in the back of your head and thinking a certain way. And my concern for a lot of us is that our Bible knowledge becomes back-of-the-head information rather than front-of-our-thinking way that we're addressing life every single day. And so, I want to encourage you, as we've learned something in the book of Acts, I mean, we've seen, we've seen an epic story of the Church of Jesus in the book of Acts. I mean, if you were here all the way back from the beginning, we saw revival in the streets of Jerusalem. I mean, there were thousands of people getting saved, and then they got persecuted. And the revival just spread into the whole country, Judea, Samaria; they started preaching it to the Gentiles. That was a big breakthrough that we saw. And then here come Paul and Barnabas, and they get sent out, and they're just going around after Paul's radical conversion. And after Barnabas encouraged him multiple times, they just go into any city and they start preaching the gospel, and Jesus starts building his church. I mean, the book of Acts has been awesome. We should all be expecting Jesus to build his church and save more people in 2022. Is that on the back of your head? Or is that in the forefront of your thinking? So, I want to encourage you, take what we have learned from the book of Acts, and let's get it this week. We don't have fellowship groups this week. Let's get some of the book of Acts back fresh on our brains. Let's get thinking about it. What have you learned? Maybe everybody here could go listen to an old sermon from Acts from 2021 and listen to it. So, it's like fresh, burning on your heart? Because this idea, look at verse 26: “Therefore, I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all.” Clearly, this was a way that Paul thought on the forefront of his mind. He's quoting there, Ezekiel 33. Ezekiel 33 wasn't some like, well, somewhere I've heard that, if you brought it up. Yeah, I know about it. I've heard that before. No, this is a way that he thinks like I'm saying goodbye to these guys, but I don't feel bad about it because I already said to them what I'm supposed to say. I'm innocent of their blood. This is a way that Paul clearly evaluated his interactions with other people, okay, this persons in my life, I've gone to this town, I've met this person, this person, and this person, how I said to them everything that needs to be said, to proclaim to them the gospel of the kingdom. I'm innocent, I feel good about it. I don't feel guilty. I've said to them everything that there is to say.
We already saw this in Acts 18:6. Go back a couple of chapters to Acts 18:6. Maybe you remember this from the Do Not Fear sermon that we had at the beginning of October, where Paul went into Corinth, and he was afraid of what was going to happen to him, and the persecution that he might experience there in Corinth. And so, the Lord actually spoke to Paul and said, do not be afraid, I am with you there. I have many people in this city, nobody's going to harm you here. And remember, there was rejection of his message in Acts 18:6. And when he was preaching in the synagogue and telling the Jews that the Christ was Jesus, when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, your blood be on your own heads, I am innocent from now on, I will go to the Gentiles. So, here in Acts 18, he's being rejected, and he's like, okay, you guys want to reject the message? I know, I'm innocent, because I gave you the message. I told you what I'm supposed to say. Now here in Acts 20, where these guys love him, and they hug him, and they don't want to miss him, he says to them, hey, I can say goodbye to you guys, because I'm innocent, because I've said what I have to say. Clearly, this is something not just that Paul knew was somewhere out there in the Bible, but this is a way that he thought. I'm meeting this person, I'm going to this town, I'm interacting with them. And Paul met so many different people in so many towns. I mean, even in the book of Romans, there's going to be a whole chapter where he just goes through all these different people that he knows. And here's how he evaluated his relationships with other people. Have I told them what they need to know about Jesus? If I had, and I'm saying goodbye to them, okay, well, I know that I've said what I need to say. Turn with me to Ezekiel 33, and let's see what he's quoting. Now, maybe you've heard about the watchmen on the wall here in Ezekiel 33. Maybe you know about that concept. But is that like a back-of-your-brain kind of a concept, Bible trivia kind of a thing? Or is that like, no, this is how I'm thinking. I’m thinking about my relationships with people moving into the new year. And I'm thinking, who do I need to talk to? Who do I need to proclaim the kingdom? Who do I need to tell about Jesus Christ? And this is what it says in Ezekiel 33, using this image of the watchman, and you got to go back to like the city of Jerusalem at the time of Ezekiel, or any kind of city at that point where they had walls all the way around the city, high walls to keep their attackers, the enemies, the foreign invaders out. And we have somebody, and this is before motion sensitive security cameras, we’ve got somebody staying up all night, and maybe doing different shifts, but there's a watchman, and he's up there at the top of the city walls, and he's looking out for our attackers, and he's trying to see them as anybody coming to get us in the middle of the night. We’ve got somebody on the watch, and it uses that, to say this in Ezekiel 33:7: “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel.” Ezekiel, who refers to as the son of man, that's you, you're the guy on watch for all the other Jews. “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” You'll be guilty of his blood. “But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” This is a real thing that we're being taught here in Ezekiel 33. And I can testify this is a real thing that I see in people's lives. As I talk to them, as they're mourning someone, they have now said the permanent goodbye to in death, and maybe they're afraid it is a permanent goodbye, that they're not going to see them again in heaven, there is a sense of guilt that people tangibly feel when they know they should have said something that they did not say. And he said, this is how it works. If you know the message from God, if you know the word of the kingdom, if you know the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you've got people in your life, and you were to find out that they died, would you feel guilty that you didn't share with them what you need to share? See, this is how Paul learned to think, not like, oh yeah, that's something I'm supposed to do. Maybe I'll get around to it sometime. This is how Paul actively thought as he's interacting with anyone, have I shared with this person what I need to share with them? If not, maybe I need to start praying about it. Maybe I need to start praying for those open doors. Maybe in 2022, with some people we work with, or some neighbors, we need to set up some meals and the whole intent of having a meal with this person would be to share with them the gospel. Maybe there are some letters we need to write to old friends or family members who live far away; maybe you need to plan a trip in 2022 because there's somebody who's been meaningful to you and your life and you've never really shared with them the message of the kingdom. to warn them that they're in sin, and they're going to die in their sin unless they turn from their wicked ways. And you're thinking, my vacation this year is going to go to where so and so lives because I’ve got to make sure I tell them before it's too late. This is a way we need to not just know that that's in the Bible, we need to learn how to think this way.
Let's get it down for number two: A second question to ask yourself, have you told them why they need Jesus? Have you told them why they need Jesus? And I tried to say that in a particular way, because this is not just, have you told them about Jesus, that Jesus is the Christ who died for our sins, who rose from the grave, that he was the one born on Christmas Day, that God-man who came to save us but no, like, you’ve got to tell them the part they don't want to hear. See, there's a reason that Christians these days aren't known for just bursting out of the church doors and going and telling everybody that the kingdom is coming, and Jesus is the way is because you have to say things to people that they usually don't appreciate and don't want to hear, at least regularly. There's the real possibility of people rejecting the gospel message because look back at verse 8. And look how it describes it here in Ezekiel 33:8. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, that’s not pleasant to say to anybody, okay? Like, somebody that you grew up with from back in the day, and every time you see him, it's good memories and you love them. Yeah. Hey, how’re you doing, O wicked one. Like, that's just not how you want to talk to people. Okay. Trust me, as somebody who regularly gets to tell people how wretched they really are, it's not a pleasant experience. It's not like, hey, this will be great. I can't wait. Hey, I'm glad a wretch like you will sit down with me today, so we can talk, you know. Let's make a list of your sins here together while we break some bread. Right? I mean, see, you're bringing up something that gets to why they need Jesus. See, there are certain things like sin and death and judgment that a lot of people want to leave out when they talk about Jesus Christ.
And it's interesting that here in Ezekiel, that's exactly what God goes to. How are you going to tell the wicked people that they are going to die unless they turn away from their sins? That is true, that is what's going to happen. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and the wages of that sin means that they are going to die. And no one here on earth will be able to save them from that. There is only one name, there is only one who came to save them, and he came to save them from their sins. That's why it’s needed. Sin might be the hard thing to say, but it's what makes the rest of the message makes sense. So, you’ve got to tell people they’re wicked, you’ve got to tell people they're in sin, you’ve got to tell people that if they die as they are right now, it is absolute worst-case scenario. Nightmare. Hard to even fathom how bad it's actually going to be. You want to complain about how things are going on on this earth right now? Don't die if you don't have Christ because it will get way worse. And you’ve got to feel that down in your bowels, you’ve got to feel that in the soul of who you are, and you’ve got to look at people, and if you care about them, you’ve got to let them know that they need to turn before it is too late, that they will die in their sins, or Jesus will die for their sins; it is one or the other. And I'm choosing Jesus Christ. And I'm going to beg and plead with them to choose Jesus as well. So, this is what we have. There are certain things that people want to leave out, this whole idea of repentance of sin, this whole idea that you are going to die and after it’s appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment, and that everyone will be judged according to what they have done if Jesus wasn't judged in their place. See, these are the things that people and churches and Christians are tempted to leave out of their conversation all over America. See, we're talking about Jesus, but it's like the light version of Jesus. It's like diet Jesus, the kind of Jesus we hope works with their diet that they're working on right now, rather than a call that the way you're living right now is going to lead to death. And I love you, and I care about you. And I don't want to say goodbye to you like that. So, you’ve got to go and you’ve got to say it ahead of time, you know. Sometimes I see what happens when we wait, when we procrastinate. The fact that God has sent us as ambassadors to tell people the good news of Jesus, when you put that off, sometimes you end up in a hospital and somebody's got tubes coming out of them, they’ve got needles sticking in them, there's beeping things, there's nurses coming in. And here you are trying to have the most important conversation of their life, or you're calling somebody like me to come in and have the conversation with them in the worst possible place to have the most important conversation. Like let's not wait for that. Let's do this now, let's do this right, let's do this at a time, let's realize that the reason you're here in 2022 is God's got something for you to do. And it's the other people that you know and love, he wants you to take them the message of eternal life before they die in their sin.
Have you done that? Have you shared with the people you are looking at? Well, this guy has been my neighbor for many years now. Does your neighbor know that he needs Jesus because you told him? Like, yeah, I think a lot of Christians know that's something we should do in the back of our heads. But let's learn from Paul. He thought about this way all the time. So and so, am I innocent of their blood? Yes, I am. I've said what I need to be say to that person. I haven't talked to them yet, so I'm praying about it. I'm looking for an opportunity. I'm trying to schedule a time. When am I going to tell them about Jesus because they need Jesus before they die or before he returns? So, you want to be able to say, and I've seen, this makes such a difference when someone you love dies, and it's only a matter of time till that happens when someone you love dies and you are saying goodbye. If in your soul you know you gave them all you’ve got you love them, you told them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God. It will make a difference when you say goodbye to that person, I promise you this. And if you say goodbye to them, and you did not tell them, you will regret the day that you heard this sermon in 2022, and you didn't do something about it.
So, I want to encourage you, now is the time. Let's not wait till the next disaster strikes, till the next sickness breaks out. No, let's go do it now. Tell the wicked ones that there is salvation, and one who died for us, one who took the judgment for us, and it is Jesus Christ. No, go back because he doesn't even just say to these people that he shared the kingdom or the gospel with them. Now look at verse 27. He says, this is now to the elders of the church where he was for three years. He says, “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” So, he's looking at these guys who are the leaders in the church. He didn't just give them the full gospel message. Now he gave him the whole counsel of God. He gave them everything that he knows that God said in the Scriptures. He gave it all to the like, this is a big phrase, and this idea to Paul, this was key, he didn't shrink back. See, this is going to be the temptation. I wish they would believe in Jesus, but then there are things I want to shrink back from telling them because there are things that are hard to talk about, hard to bring up. And Paul's like, when I was in Ephesus, I didn't hold anything back. I didn't say, well, I'm going to start with this, and then we'll get to this later. No, he already said in verse 20, you know “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” And now he says here in verse 27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” I gave you all of it. And I told you the parts that you wanted to hear, the parts that maybe you already knew, and the parts that you didn't want to hear and you never heard before. I gave you the whole counsel of God. And this is amazing that he said this to these guys that maybe got saved in the last three years. Because I don't even know if all Christians want to hear the whole counsel of God these days.
Like I don't even know if churches are down to teach the whole counsel of God. Like I mean, do you really have a plan to know this entire book? Like are you trying to study the entire thing? Are you trying to get familiar with everything that God said? And even as we talk about different things from the Bible, are you like, oh, good, this will be a good sermon. I like this one. And then some days you're like, oh, we're talking about this today. Oh, okay. I guess we got it. I guess I’m okay. I see your faces. Sometimes you guys, let's get real, okay? Oh, this is where we're going right now. Right? Okay. Like, are you down for the whole counsel of God? Or, let's be honest, do you just, is this like a buffet and the Bible is just like, I'll pick the parts I like. For many Christians, they're making their plans for their Bible reading for the new year. And what a lot of people do is they go read the verses that they already know, that already make them feel good. And they read them again, and I'm all for keeping them fresh on the front of your mind. I'm all for getting your soul stirred up. But what's the plan for reading the parts that I don't really know about? Or the things that I don't really like to think about? To get the whole counsel, see, for Paul, this was a big deal. He could stand in front of these men that had been a part of the church for three years, and he could say, hey, I gave you guys the whole thing. So, this is goodbye. But you guys are well equipped. I commend you to God and to his Word. And I've already taught you through the whole Word. And he did it in three years. That's a fascinating concept. I read a book last year about how a strategy for pastors to get the whole counsel of God to their church. And if we just preach through, like how we've been preaching through Acts, we've done our forty-third time opening up to the book of Acts. We've already been doing this for over a year with the different holidays and different messages; we've been going for over a year in the book of Acts. I mean, if it would take us thirty years to go through the whole counsel of God at this rate. Let's get real, not all of us are going to be here in thirty years. I don't know if I'm going to be here in thirty years. You know what I'm saying? Like, how is our church, how are you as an individual, going to get through this whole book? What's the plan? What's the strategy?
So, you got to be open to the whole counsel. And that means point number three: You’ve got to believe there are no bad chapters. You’ve got to believe there are no bad chapters, that all Scripture is really inspired by God and profitable for teaching. Doesn't matter how long ago it was written, doesn't matter how minor the prophet may be in your mind, no. Are you really believing, hey, I want to read it all? I want to see what God's message is from Genesis to Revelation. If there's a Bible study going on, if there's a group of people getting together to talk about it, I want to be there. I want to learn more about the Bible. I want to have a revival in my soul. And we've been saying this now for a long time. And some of you, you're on board with this because we started this thing called Scripture of the Day. And we read through all two hundred and sixty chapters of the New Testament. Anybody still here that did that together? What a great time that was. We went through the law together. Last year, we finished reading the prophets together. We went through the Psalms last summer. We read Proverbs one month. In November, we read the book of Job. Anybody read the book of Job around here? We read some prophecies last month. We have more people reading the Bible at this church than any other group I've ever been a part of in my life. It is inspiring. And I want to encourage you in 2022, there is more for us to discover in the Word of God. And if you haven't been reading with us, today is your invitation. On the way out, you can grab a calendar, and the calendar will say that this month in January 2022, it's got a full reading plan there for you that we'll all be doing; everybody's invited to do it anyways. And we're going to be reading the Megillah. Who's ever read the Megillah before? Does anybody even know what I'm talking about right now? I'm speaking Hebrew right now. Okay. The Megillah is a word that means scrolls. And the Hebrew Bible was broken up law, prophets and writing. And they had in the writings, three different books they would have, or three different collections that they had. And in the writings, they had Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and after Job came what they referred to as the Megillah. It was five small scrolls. That was a way kind of like they did with the book of the twelve, where they had twelve smaller prophets all in one book of Twelve. Or they would take five of the smaller writings in the Hebrew Bible, and they put them all together in the Megillah or the scrolls. Okay, and they are Song of Solomon, Ruth, lamentation, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, those are the five scrolls. Maybe you've heard of those books before I would imagine. As I say that list of those five books, there's probably one or two of those that you're really keyed in on, that you really like a lot. And then there's two or three of those that you have absolutely no idea what they're about. Not a clue. Well, over the next five weeks, we're going to read through those five books together. So, this week, everyone is invited to start your new year off in a romantic way, and read this Song of Solomon, everyone. And you're like, oh, wow, I didn't know we were going there right now. Right? Well, yeah, I wasn't planning on reading the Song of Solomon to start the new year. Well, I bet your spouse would like it if you read the Song of Solomon to start the new year. I mean, this crazy thing called love got a lot of people in the world's attention. What does God have to say about it? What's God's plan for it? So, I'm encouraging you please, will you read through this? This is a great way for our church, not only to preach through books of the Bible, like Acts, but to be reading through the Scripture all the time together. And some of you know the blessing of what I'm talking about. And some of you if you haven't been doing it, hey, let's read the Megillah together next five weeks. You just read a book every week. Song of Solomon, it's eight chapters. That's what we're saying to read this week, and then talk about it with somebody else from the church. Say, hey, did you read it? What did you think?
Every Monday night for the next five weeks, we will be meeting in the new building at seven o'clock, and I will be there to give you an introduction to the Song of Solomon tomorrow night at seven o'clock. I'll be there. We'll have pizza at six o'clock if you want to come early and hang out. And at seven o'clock, we'll be like what in the world is going on in this book? All right? Then we'll talk about it together. If you can't come and be here in person, you can watch it on YouTube Scripture of the Day. If you can't watch it Monday night at seven o'clock, it'll be on the internet. You could watch it the next morning when you wake up. But let's all get in the Word, into the whole counsel of God. Because whatever the whole counsel means, it definitely means all the Bible.
You've got two dashes there under point number three. First one is, All the Bible. You’ve got to have a plan to be getting all the Bible. And if you read with us, we'll be working our way through all of the Scripture. And so, we'd love to have the whole church reading together. But it's not just all the Bible. It's all the topics.
Let's get that down for your second dash there: All the topics. What are the things that if I were to bring them up right now and said, hey, here today, we're going to turn to this passage, and we're going to address this issue? What are the things that you're like? I don't want to talk about that. I get confused about that. That sounds controversial to me. That sounds too intense for me. What are the things that in your mind, maybe unknowingly, you have said that even though God has revealed them to you, in his Scripture, you have kind of said that's off limits? We're not really going to talk about that. Like, is there a part of the counsel of God that you are closed off to in your heart? I know there are some things when I bring them up, you can just tell people are like, oh, you're bringing that up right now on a Sunday morning for real? Like, that's how we're going to go. Like, maybe you could bring that up at a retreat or some kind of camp, but that's a little too intense for right now on a Sunday morning. But that's what God is saying to us.
Like, you can go back and if you ever go to our website, there's a tab “Sermons”. You can click on it and you can see every sermon that we have ever preached in the history of this church, there is a video on there that you can go and see. And you will see that every single one of those sermons comes from a text of Scripture. And whatever that text of Scripture says, that's what we're going to talk about here at the church. And if you're like, well, I don't like what you said about this. Well, it doesn't matter what I say about it. Is that what the Bible said about it? Now, if I'm saying something different than the Scripture, please, everybody come and rebuke me to my face, if I'm saying something different than the Scripture. But if I'm saying what the Bible says, and you're hearing what the Bible says, and we're both reading through chapter and verse together, and you don't like it, that's not on me. My hands are going to be innocent at the end of this.
Now, see, God is speaking to people, and people are deciding every day in real time to receive what God is saying, or to reject what God is saying. And if it's really coming from the Word, and you don't like it, that's not a god problem. Don't kill the messenger, that's on you. Are you really okay with everything God says, in the whole counsel of his Word, because Paul could look at these guys that he loves, and they love him, and he could say, this is it, this is goodbye? We'll never see each other again, after this. And I feel good about it because I've given you this. And I gave you the whole thing. I gave it to you straight. I didn't pull anything back. I said, here's what God says. And you've got it now. And so, if I have to say goodbye, you have the words of eternal life. Here you go. That's how to say goodbye. And if we're going to say goodbye to our loved ones, if we're going to have to say goodbye to somebody this year, let's make sure they've heard from us the message of the kingdom, the good news of Jesus Christ. If we're talking to people outside the church, we don't need to start debating things with them. Okay? So let me just make that very clear. If you're going to, if you get inspired to go talk to someone, you don't need to go talk politics with them, you don't need to go debate creation with them, you don't need to go get into some theological issue with them if they are outside of the church. What they need is they need Jesus Christ, and you need to bring them the gospel. Okay? Give them Jesus. Let them hear it from you why they need Jesus because of their sin that leads to death, that leads to judgment. They need Jesus. Let them see the tears in your eyes when you say, let them hear your voice quiver when you say it, because if they don't believe it, they will die in their sins. Let them hear it from you. Don't get caught up. But here inside the church, as people who have had our eyes opened to the Gospel, we should be people of the book, we should be open to whatever God says. We want to get sanctified. With some of you who have a foundation of repentance and faith, you want to go on to maturity, you want to know how that's going to happen through eating up this book. What corners of the Scripture are left for you to discover? What topics that are brought up in here are left for you to really learn this year? Could you say that you've got the whole counsel of God? Because we're going to experience a revival if we get our eyeballs in the Bible. Let me pray for us here together.
Father, we come to you at this new year, and we thank you for how Paul said goodbye to these men. And how he could say it knowing he was innocent of their blood. Because he had said to them everything that he needed to say about the kingdom from your counsel. So, God, I pray as we begin the new year, that we would resolve in our hearts to look at our relationships, the people that you've put in our life, the people that we know by name and we interact with on a regular basis. And how are they ready for the Kingdom? Have they heard from us why they need Jesus? God, I pray that you will give us some good goodbyes in the future because we hear this message today and we go talk to some people. God, I praise you for people. Last year families here at this church who faithfully witnessed and faithfully prayed and faithfully shared the gospel before people died, they saw them repent and turn to Jesus Christ even in the 11th hour, even in their last days before they died. God, I pray that you would use us for that in 2022, that there would be sinners right now walking around the world, and we would go and speak to them the message of the kingdom, and we would plead with them to turn from their sin, that they would enter the kingdom of Jesus Christ, that they would be saved by his blood. That they would build their life, they would start to really live in this year, when they would build their life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. God, use us to go and tell people, and here at the church, Father, please open up our eyes to see wondrous things from your Word. Let this be the year that we read more of the Bible and share more of it together. Get us back in the book of Acts, get us into these ancient Hebrew books that we don't know enough about, and let us experience the life-giving power of your Word working in our hearts. God, we ask you please be here at this church and build this church on the solid rock, on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Let us go on to maturity this year and use us to bring other people to faith. We ask you this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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