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As Todd walks us through the end of Acts 28, he encourages us that we—today, 2,000 years later—are living out the mission of the entire book of Acts: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is alive and well, and there is nothing that can stop it. Do you have a saving faith, and are you on mission today?
Acts 2018 and Beyond
From Acts 28 to Ad 2018: This Is No Fable
Sailing in the Storm
The Evidence of a Relationship
The True Story of Paul Can Be True of You: Passion, Providence and Peace
Calm in the Midst of Crisis
Courage That Comes From Love
Good morning, friends. Hello, others online and at our other campuses. It's a sad day in the history of Watermark. This is the last week we're going to be studying Acts verse by verse. I need to ask your forgiveness. A lot of my good pastor friends did it in 103 weeks. This will be the fifty-third week we've been in Acts, so I raced through it. I will correct that. We'll come back to it in years ahead and glean all that we have left on the table. But I want to tell you…this is a sad day.
Every time I'm asked the question, "Todd, what's your favorite book of the Bible?" I can say with great integrity it's the one I'm spending the most time in. There is so much truth, so much relevant information in God's Word. All Scripture is inspired by God. It's God-breathed and has been preserved. It's given to us. It's profitable to teach us, to reprove us, to correct us, and to train us in righteousness so that the man and woman of God can be adequate, equipped for every good service. I have seen that in the book of Acts like very few places.
This chapter we're going to finish today, Acts 28, is not the last chapter in the book of Acts as much as it is the ending of the first chapter of the history of the church. That's what it is. The first chapter of the history of the church is closing up, but the church is continuing on. There's so much more to do. Last week in verses 1-11 we looked at in Acts 28… When I was done, I titled that message From Acts 28 to AD 2018: This Is No Fable.
We are studying history. You're going to see elements Luke drops into Acts 28 this week that are purely in there because it's not made up. It's historical, narrative fact. It talks about ways that ships sailed in the seas in the first century. It shows different lands that are still there from the first century to today. This is history, and what you're learning is how God's people live in history.
I have a good friend who was a member of Watermark in the early days, the very first guy who was part of our follow-up ministry here. He called every visitor himself when we first started. There weren't as many, but Greg did that. Greg has since gone to be with the Lord, but there were a number of times Greg was involved overseas, and he would take his young son Jackson with him. One time he was with Jackson in India.
He had already been all throughout Europe. They'd been to Africa and a number of different places. Jackson was watching all of the ways God was working. When you're a younger person and you go overseas, people are just curious. "What in the world are you doing here?" They're used to maybe older individuals going overseas to serve, but when they see a young man there they really take note of him.
So Jackson was often asked to share while he was there, and he would do his best to explain, as a 10-year-old, that he was traveling with his dad to bring grace to people. His dad Greg asked, "Jackson, what do you think God has you here for?" and Jackson just said, "Dad, I think I'm here to serve these people." Then he said this amazing statement. He goes, "And, Dad, you know what? I think I might be in the next edition of the Bible." Because he saw the way God was using him. He saw God at work.
Now listen. There's probably not going to be another edition of the Bible that's released in our lifetime, but it's not bad theology out of the mouths of babes. You and I are continuing the narrative of God working in the context of history that we are reading here in Acts. This is the end of the first chapter of the church. The book of Acts is not so much the acts of Peter and John and Paul. The book of Acts is the first acts of the Holy Spirit working through fallen humanity.
Let me just show you. We're going to jump really quickly to the very end of the book of Acts. I'm going to show you something amazing. In Acts 28, let's read verses 30 and 31 together. It says, "And he [Paul] …" You're going to see the abrupt ending of the first chapter. "…stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."
This is what you need to know: that wasn't the end of Paul's life. Paul was released after two years. We don't really know where he went. There's some discussion whether he went back over into Asia Minor and visited some of the churches he had written letters to. We know from his letter to the Romans the reason he wanted to come to Rome initially was to stop, give a high-five to the believers who were there, help them mature the church that was there and reach others who were in Rome, and then make his way farther west.
Paul longed to go where the gospel had never been preached. In order to get to Spain, farther west, he had to go through Rome. So we aren't really sure if he went farther west or if he went back to the east and visited churches. All we do know is that a couple of years later, two years after he was released, he was back in Rome, and Nero, in his insanity, started to kill the church after he was looking for individuals to blame. Paul was not in prison at this time because of Nero's persecution of Christians. That was going to happen in about two years.
What you're going to find out is that this is not about Paul. Luke isn't really concerned to tell you what happened to Paul, because this isn't Paul's story. This is God's story. It's the Holy Spirit's story. It's what God is doing because he loves people, and he's willing to use some terrorist who comes to a clear understanding of who God is to further God's gracious work. Let me just encourage you. He's willing to use you and…I'm going to make a clear point today…he wants to use you.
If you know who Jesus is, if you have a right relationship with God, then you are going to be used in the same way we have seen people already used in the first chapter of the church. This is Acts, chapter 2018, or circa 2018, and you need to be in the next edition of the Bible. Every single time you yield to the Spirit of God, you are fulfilling prophecy and you are an answer to prayer. You want to talk about a great life purpose statement? "What do you want to do with your life?"
"Well, I want to be a fulfillment of prophecy, man, and I want to be an answer not just to any prayer but to the prayer of God when he was on earth." The prayer of Jesus is that we would love each other the way he loves the Father, that we would be one the way he and the Father are one, that we would declare the excellencies of God and the provision of God through Jesus Christ to reconcile sinful humanity to himself, that the works Jesus did, even greater works than that would we do, collectively, as we yield to the Spirit. Jesus prayed that.
Every single time you yield to the power of God, you are a fulfillment of prophecy. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "Hey, listen. I'm going to tell you something. The greatest powers on earth are going to have no ability against you. The gates of hell will not stand against you." In Acts 1:8 the Scripture says, "You will receive power." The word there is dynamis. What English word sounds like dynamis or is spelled like that? Dynamite.
We take the word dynamite from the Greek word for power. As Paul would later write in 2 Corinthians 10:4, "…for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." God has given his church the ability and power to do the things we're reading about in the book of Acts, to be people who flip the world, a world that is bent on self, destruction, and rebellion against God.
When the grace of God shows up through the preaching of the grace of God, through his people who have been reunited with God and forgiven by God who become agents of grace for God, something amazing happens. Let me just make it very clear. The book of Acts doesn't care about telling you that Paul, some two to three years later, is executed and beheaded by Nero, because this isn't about Paul. This is the acts of the Holy Spirit and his people.
The reason Luke ends the book this way, that the gospel of Jesus is going out with all openness and unhindered, is because that's what God said would happen. I think of the long-time-ago quote I read by Woodrow Wilson. When the world was starting to experience great threats as the world wars were increasing and they were losing some battles, in order to comfort people, Woodrow Wilson said he would rather be a loser in an ultimately victorious cause than a winner in an ultimately defeated one.
Can I just say this to you, church? There are going to be some battles we lose along the way. We're going to be at times, it looks like, losers, but we are in an ultimately victorious cause than winning for a moment in one that will ultimately be defeated. Every single time you yield to the power of God, you are a fulfillment of prophecy and an answer to Jesus' prayer.
There's a lot that wasn't put in the book of Acts, including what happened to Paul ultimately, because it's not about Paul, just like it's not about you. But there are some things in the book of Acts we can know. We have seen already the power God is going to use to accomplish his purposes. The power of God is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells those who believe.
Let me just say this to you. This is a big deal. It's so confusing. One of the things people who graduate from seminary still don't have an understanding of… It's amazing. They gave this survey to people who graduated from seminary and asked, "What do you wish you understood more about?" They said, "I wish I knew more about how to discern the will of God and what it means to be indwelt with or filled with the Holy Spirit." Oh my goodness.
Let me explain this to you. It's not as weird as it sounds. God is sovereign and in control over all things. In his permissive will, he allows people to quench his Spirit, to grieve his Spirit, to not walk in the holiness of God's sovereign, direct, causal direction and influence. He allows, permissively, people to rebel against his providential will, to walk by a different spirit…a spirit of deception, a spirit of man, a spirit of the age.
But what he's not going to do is let you reap blessing, peace, joy, and everything men ultimately long for when you pursue those things in a way that's contrary to where they must exist. Let me say it again. I say this so many times. The reason God doesn't bless you when you don't walk with him… I mean, ultimately bless you. I'm not saying sin doesn't have a season of sweetness. It does, but it's like poison wrapped in candy. It's just a matter of time before you suck through that thin layer of pleasure, and it all of a sudden starts to erode and rot in your life.
God doesn't do that because he's mean. He can't give you what doesn't exist, and life doesn't exist apart from him. That is why you're going to find God again and again in the Scripture using his people to say this: "Thus says the Lord, 'Return to the ancient paths where the good way is, and walk in them, so you can find rest for your souls.'" But as it says in Jeremiah 6:16, the world said, "We will not walk in them. We're going to walk in our own way. I trust my own spirit. I trust my own understanding more than I trust yours, God."
Here's the deal. This is the power of God. It's his Spirit. When you walk with God and decide to participate with God in doing what God wants, you can be sure it will be accomplished. There are going to be times God will allow trouble and trials and what appears to be a thwarting, but even in that God is going to show his immense love and grace and patience, because he's not going to force anything on anybody.
The way we ultimately accomplish what God wants is we align ourselves with God's way. Being filled with the Spirit means you are controlled by the Spirit of God. What kind of person would want to be controlled by the Spirit of God? Answer: People who know God is good. People who are wanting to walk in the ancient paths of God. One of the verses I'm quoting again and again to people, especially younger folks, is 1 John 5:3. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome."
I was reminded this week when God created man, the very first words out of God's mouth. Catch this. It says God blessed them and commanded them, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Walk on earth in my likeness and image. Do on earth what I do in heaven, that you would walk with me and live the way I want you to live on earth." Why? Because that is the blessing. God set us up. He didn't say, "Do these things and I'll bless you." God blessed them and told them what to do so they could have life.
Do you understand that sequence? It's very important. God wants to bless us. There are people who go, "I don't want to follow God. I'll find life on my own terms." You'll never find life there. But when you understand that God is kind, good, merciful, just, and loving, that he redeems even those he should destroy, that he makes provision for those who mock him, you're going to go,
"What kind of God is this, that he would demonstrate his love for me in while I was still an enemy of God he gave his life for me? What kind of God wants to bless me and does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit?" Even his passion to reveal his glory among the nations is so the nations can see him for all his kindness so they would seek him all the more so they can be blessed. This is great stuff.
The power of the church is a right relationship with God, and when you repent and say, "No longer will I follow a way that seems right to me or lean on my own understanding, but in all my ways I will acknowledge you," that's how you are a person who is back in right relationship with God. You trust in Jesus and yield to God's will and way. That's our power.
The pattern is that we would walk in that continually. When we repent… "I don't hate you, God. I need to be forgiven by you. You are a kind God." We now have the power of relationship and intimacy with God, and now we walk with him. That's the pattern of the work of the church. We see that in the book of Acts.
The proclamation of the church is seen in the book of Acts, that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried, raised on the third day, in order that God might be just and the justifier of those who have faith in him. We've learned from the book of Acts what the power of the church is, what the pattern of the church is, and what the proclamation of the church is.
We learn from the book of Acts the perils we will face. There's going to be sin and compromise within, and there's going to be persecution and trials without. So don't be surprised, because you're not home yet.
We learn the priority of the church in the book of Acts. The priority of the church is to declare his excellencies and call those who are in darkness to his marvelous light, and then to teach the Word and bring believers to maturity, that they might walk with us and continue the pattern and the proclamation in the midst of the perils by the power of a right understanding of God for the glory of God. That's all here. That's what we've learned. Do you see why this book needs to be studied? You ought to.
Let me just insert this right here. Sometimes things happen and you wonder, "Does anybody really know I did something?" Paul has been pretty much the star of this book. You could make a case from Acts 11-28 it has been a lot about Paul and his companions, because we're seeing that God is fulfilling what he said he would fulfill.
The last thing Jesus said on earth was, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then we'll go to Judea, then we'll go to Samaria, and then we'll go to the uttermost parts of the earth." So it's about what God said he would do, not about Paul. He happens just to be the agent. It's not about us. We just happen to be the agent he's working through in Dallas and many other places.
Sometimes you do a lot of things and wonder if anybody ever notices. Have you ever heard of Nicholas Winton? Nicholas Winton is an interesting guy. Most of you guys go, "I have no idea who Nicholas Winton is." I didn't either until about two weeks ago. Two weeks ago or so, we came across what is called Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here's a picture of Nicholas. You won't recognize him at all. He's probably about a 29-year-old man. You're going to see another picture of Winton with children. This is why Nicholas Winton came to my attention.
Nicholas Winton's birth name is Nicholas Wertheim. He is a German Jew. Every year, by the way, around Holocaust Remembrance Day, I try and learn about somebody else who did something in the midst of the horror that was the Holocaust. Six to eight million Jews were killed by Hitler and the Nazis, 1.5 million of them children. The reason I do that is to remind myself of people who risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in order to do something about the evil that was around them.
I look at my generation. I need to be reminded that something far worse than what we say is the greatest human atrocity in the world, where 6 to 8 million Jews and 1.5 to 2 million children were killed by Hitler in his maniacal evil… I wish to believe that if I had been there I would have been righteous among the nations, that I'd have been like Corrie ten Boom, that I'd have been a Schindler, that I'd have been a Nicholas Winton. So I always try to find a new hero. This year it was Nicholas Winton.
By the way, I live in a day that makes what Hitler did look dismissive. I live in a generation where since 1973 in America alone almost 60 million children have been eradicated in a holocaust called abortion. I just want to say this to you. If you're sitting out there and you're a mother who has brought their child to termination in the concentration camp of a Planned Parenthood or some other abortion clinic, let me just say this to you. God loves you. He's not angry with you.
The pain and the haunting… Even though at that moment when you had that abortion you became un-pregnant, you know you didn't become an un-mother, and that's why every year you know exactly when your child would have been born, and every year you count how old they would have been, and you see a child the age of the child you terminated. That's what I'm talking about. When you don't walk with the Holy Spirit, when you follow the spirit of man and the spirit of the age, there's a haunting and a despair that comes on you.
God wants to forgive you, deliver you from that. We have a ministry here called Someone Cares, where other women who have made that exact same decision can come alongside of you and tell you where they have found the grace to forgive themselves for that action. We have a ministry to dads who have been a part of that, who have funded abortions or left women alone to figure out what to do and in their scared state maybe made a crisis decision.
We have a ministry called Forgotten Fathers, and I would encourage you, if that's part of your story, to seek us out. Just write down your name, email, and "Forgotten Fathers." Men, we'll reach out to you. Women, write down "Does someone care?" and your email address, and we'll have a woman who has been through that same situation call you. If you're there now and you're scared, let us help you.
Nicholas Winton did something. It was October 1, 1938, when Hitler seized a portion of Czechoslovakia. What happened is a bunch of individuals who were considered enemies of Germany rushed to more central Czechoslovakia. They went to Prague. They lived there in refugee camps. The conditions were awful. At this time, Nicholas Winton lived in Britain. When he was 2 years old, his parents moved him out of there. They changed their name in order to synchronize more inside of Britain at the time.
So now he was a 29-year-old stockbroker, a very successful man, and had assimilated into all of the economies and prosperity of England. In November of that year things started to get kind of difficult, because different nation states were no longer allowing refugees to get out of the oppression that was in their land because they tried to appease Hitler. They said, "We're not going to let these people you want to destroy come out, because we don't want you to come destroy us."
So it became more and more difficult for people to escape nations Hitler was surrounding and gathering Jews later for, ultimately, extermination. In December of 1938, a friend of Nicholas Winton said, "Hey, I know you have a Christmas vacation coming up. Would you come here?" Winton was on his way to go skiing in the Swiss Alps, as most 29-year-old successful stockbrokers would do, but instead he decided to go to Czechoslovakia to visit his friend to see the plight of those who were suffering and not living the way he was.
Something had happened to Winton from the time he was 2 to 27. While he was in England, he ran up against people like Paul who were familiar with the goodness of God and fulfilled the pattern of the church to walk in the Spirit and fulfilled the decree of the proclamation of the church to share about Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the third day, who faced the perils of criticism and lived the priorities of the church to their fullest. Nicholas Winton had become a believer. He did the most Jewish thing a Jew could do. He believed in Christ.
It was that love of man he received when he became a follower of Christ and saw the value and dignity of everybody that caused him to not go skiing but to go and look at the hardship and plight of others. While he was there, he realized there were a lot of people who were never going to get out of Czechoslovakia. So he went to parents there and said, "Listen. I know many of you are never going to get out. It's especially hard for children to get out, and your children are not going to get out even if some of you get out."
So he set up shop in a hotel room and wrote down as much information as he could about every Jewish child in the Prague ghettos at the time. He began to go back home over the next three months and back to Czech and back to England and back and forth and try to get all this information. He worked through the British government in order to say, "How can I bring these children here for a season to care for them until their parents can sort out what's happening in Prague?"
Well, Britain increased the red tape, made it extremely difficult, and actually said, "It's going to cost you 50 pounds per child just to get them a visa, even if you get a visa. We don't want children flooding over here. You'd better make sure somebody is going to take them." So he put advertisements in magazines and newspapers, and then he would go to people's house when they said they were interested to learn more about the plight of Jewish children. Fifty pounds in that day and age was similar to about $4,000.
Finally, he had purchased a visa for them. He then arranged for transportation on what was called Kindertransport, where he would get these kids and have them come up out of Prague through Germany, across Germany, into Holland, pay for their visas there, put them on a ship, sail them across the North Sea, have them arrive in England, and then have them placed in different English families. This young stockbroker took care of $2.6 million in visas alone.
There were 669 kids saved by him, and no one even knew his name. In fact, his wife didn't even know. He was a single man at the time. When he got married, he didn't say anything to anybody. Just forgotten, just like Paul. Story is over. Move on. But I will tell you Nicholas Winton was not forgotten. Let me just talk about this. Paul did what he should have done in his day and age. Paul is just like you, but he was rightly related to God. Therefore, he had the power to do what God wanted him to do, and boy, did he ever do it.
He walked in the pattern God wants men to walk. He faced the perils men will face when they're hated by a world that doesn't want God's pattern, who hate God's proclamation, and who hate people who live according to God's priorities. Paul did that, and Paul knew what he was doing was continuing the gracious work of God, just like you and me. Let me show you. While Paul was in prison for those two years, Paul wrote a letter to the church at Colossae, and this is what he wrote. This is Colossians 1:24 and following.
He says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…" This is Acts 28:30-31. This is part of what Paul did. He wrote letters to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and he wrote a letter specifically to Philemon called Philemon about a slave he had been in prison with while he was in Rome. Paul said, "I rejoice in my sufferings because they're for your sake." "…in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church…"
Watch this. This is what's amazing. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. The church is the body of Christ, which is to say we're the visible image of Jesus. When people think of God they should think of Jesus. Every kindness and every goodness and every provision that is true of God can be seen in Jesus. When you read Jesus you go, "I like that God." The world loves Jesus.
Here's the question. The visible image of the invisible now seated at the right hand of God, Jesus, who will return one day and show that he is, in fact, raised from the grave… His visible image on earth is his church. What do people think about the visible image of Jesus? I would say not very much unless they run into many of you, because there are a lot of you who, by the power of God, are living according to the pattern of God, proclaiming the goodness of God, facing the perils that are in this world, and living according to the priorities of Scripture.
Paul said, "I am thrilled that I continue in my sufferings, filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Let me explain this. What is lacking in Christ's afflictions? Nothing in this sense. He said, "It is finished. I don't need to suffer anymore. There's no more work you need to do. The wrath of God has been poured out. There's an eternally perfect sacrifice that has been given by God in order to meet God's eternal justice."
It is finished, but what is not finished is God showing his love and kindness for the world. So God uses his people to be his hands and feet to care for others. Paul said, "My suffering shows you how much God loves you. I'm a child of God, and God is letting me go through all the hardship (that we read about historically in the book of Acts), and that suffering he lets his child go through is an evidence of how much he loves you." Just like the suffering of Christ is evidence of how much he loves us. Paul is saying, "I'm going about this."
Colossians 1:25: "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints…" We see what God was doing in the Prophets and the Law and the promises and the covenants.
"…to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." The hope of God being exalted among the nations is the church doing today what the church did in Acts. Watch what Paul says in verses 28-29. "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ."
There is the priority of the church: to proclaim him and to teach and admonish so that every man can be reached and then developed to full maturity. How do we do it? Here's the power and the pattern. Verse 29: "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." Paul says, "This is not about me. That's why the story doesn't end talking about me. It talks about how the gospel is going to do what the gospel is going to do."
Question: Do you want to be a part of it? I know I do. That's why I study men who have done it faithfully: so I can learn from them. Let me show you something. Acts 28. We're on the island of Malta. That's where we ended. If you remember, Paul had done something amazing. He had healed Publius' father from a disease that was on that land. We saw he prayed before he went in and did it. He didn't assume it was going to be about him. He was making it very clear, "If God uses me to bring grace to you, it's God who's bringing grace to you, not me."
Then it says in verse 9 many were coming to him (and probably his friend Luke who was with him) and were getting cured. The word there for cured is the word therapeuo. When you get therapy you are getting healing, which is why if you're getting soul therapy you only want to go to people who understand how the soul is really healed. Don't go to a therapist who's going to give you a spirit of the age for your healing. Go to somebody who's going to direct you to the Healer of the soul.
It says many were coming and getting cured. Not everybody was probably cured of every fleshly disease, but some of them were probably treated by Luke in a very real way. Now this is what's so great about Paul. Paul himself couldn't heal himself from some affliction he wanted to be healed from, but it wasn't about Paul. I was reading historical records about this day and age, and one guy who, frankly, is not a supernaturalist (he doesn't believe miracles often happen) was making some observations, and I thought he made a really good one.
He said, "Great men ought to live to provide for others all the comfort they never themselves ultimately experience." A guy named William Barclay, the man I was talking about, essentially wrote, "It is one of the wonders of grace that such men as Paul did not grow bitter but were content to be channels of blessing which they themselves never enjoyed." He made the observation that Beethoven was like that.
Beethoven brought almost immortal music into the world, but he never benefited from it. Do you know why? Beethoven was deaf. Do you guys know that? Beethoven never heard the music he composed, but it wasn't about Beethoven. It was about Beethoven using his gifts to create a sense of glory, majesty, wonder, and enjoyment for others. That's us. What Barclay was observing is that's what Paul did.
He didn't even have the chance to heal himself. God said, "No, my grace is sufficient for you, but you still use your sufferings to relate to other people and comfort them with the comfort with which I've comforted them, and you bring therapy to their souls, and sometimes I'm going to let you bring healing to them." When you see people who do that who don't make it about them (verse 10) they're honored in many respects.
So off they sail. Verse 11: "At the end of three months…" I just have to stop when I see that and go, "Wait a minute. Three months. What did Paul do the last three months?" Well, he saved 275 other people on the ship he was on. He converted a pagan island of Malta and brought to them the gospel of Christ, and he made the name of Jesus more famous.
I was talking to some guys this week, and they were talking about different things they were watching. I go, "When do you guys get the time to watch this?" They go, "Well, every now and then we binge-watch." I go, "Okay. Let's just say I'm sick and laid up and can't do all the stuff I'm doing right now. What should I binge-watch?" They go, "Wagner, have you ever seen Making a Murderer? You should binge-watch that. Have you ever seen Stranger Things?" I go, "No." They go, "You've got to binge-watch Stranger Things."
I started to think about what I did do with my last three months. What did you do your last three months? Did you binge-watch Stranger Things? Catch up on the seasons of The Office you lost? Did you make another $50,000? Did you get top 10 in 10 games of Fortnite? What did you do the last three months? Look at what Paul did the last three months. It wasn't about Paul and another 50 grand and the distraction of Fortnite or Stranger Things.
I'm not saying it's not appropriate to have some seasons of leisure and enjoyment. It's certainly not wrong to use your gifts to provide resources for yourself that you can be generous with with others, but if that's all you're about and there's no transformation of the Malta you're in, something is not as it should be.
"At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers…" Castor and Pollux. It's not in the Scripture. We just know that's what was on the front of the ship. Why? Because they were the gods of navigation, so many ships had them on the front. There's the historical record again. "…for its figurehead." Luke is just dropping in, and he's a historian.
He said, "After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium…" That is at the tip of the boot of Italy. This is a historical place. If you see the boot that's Italy, right there on the toe is where Rhegium is. It's a great port city. They went up from there to Puteoli, and from Puteoli they made their way then…
Verse 14: "There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome. And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us…" Just so you know, the Market of Appius… Have you guys ever heard the phrase "All roads lead to Rome"?
Everywhere around the world, anytime you landed at a port or in a certain town or even if you were in the middle of Medo-Persia, you could find the Silk Road that would lead to another road that would lead eventually to the Appian Way, which led ultimately to Rome, because that's where it went down. Paul longed to get to Rome. Let me just remind you. Paul wasn't going to Rome to bring the gospel there. It had already been there.
Do you know he already wrote the letter to the Romans? Somewhere along his third missionary journey, Paul takes the time and writes a letter to the Romans. How about this? If you got a letter from somebody that was the book of Romans that explained the sovereignty of God, the unity of Jew and Gentile, the provision for God for sinful man, the hope of the world, how to live in response to the kindness of God, who God is, and the basic dogma of the church…
If that was the letter your buddy popped you, wouldn't you want to meet that guy? Word got out that Paul was coming, and when he was 40 miles away at the Market of Appius and 30 miles away at Three Inns, it says the brethren came out to him. What happened when they came? "…when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage."
First of all, let me show you something Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 1:11-13. "I long to come to you that I might be encouraged. I want to impart some spiritual gift to you so that you can be established in your faith." Verse 12. Watch this humility.
"…that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you…"
"I want more people to believe, but I want you to grow, because I want to preach the gospel. I'm not ashamed of it, and I'll go preach it in Rome. But when I get there, I want to encourage you." This is what brethren do. Every time, if you're a biblical community… When the believers in Rome hooked up with Paul and went 40 miles to meet him…
After being shipwrecked and bitten by a viper and questioned all along the way, all of a sudden he got alongside some other believers, and it caused two things to happen. It strengthened his heart and caused him to praise God. I just thought to myself, every time we come together, when we drive in from wherever we drive in…
Every time your community gets together and we are hospitable to one another or experience fellowship together or do biblical community, this is what you need to ask yourself. "Is our community doing what God wants us to do? Is there mutual encouragement?" This is what Christian community or Christian hospitality should always do. It should be a source of songs to God and strength to men.
So let me ask you, those of you who are here who are members, when you gather together, do you walk out of there going, "Praise God for these people who remind me I'm not crazy, who remind me it's not about me, who remind me by example that I should use my gifts not to further my own comfort but to build up the church and to declare Christ's excellencies to others and to be a part of the suffering that's going to be a declaration of God's love for others. Praise God when I see the faithfulness of God working out in the church today. Lord, it strengthens my heart to be with these people."
Some of you guys go, "That's not my community. It's a whipping. They're awkward. Some of them are stuck in sin." That's part of the perils of the church. Sin and compromise within, persecution without. Here's the thing. Are they still committed? If they're a member here, they ought to be committed to dealing with their sin and their compromise, finding forgiveness, being reconciled to one another and to God, and getting back on mission again so we can sing praises to God's grace and his kindness toward us, and then we can be together again as brothers in arms.
If your community is not creating a source of songs to God and strength to men, your community isn't biblical, and we want to help you. If you, when you come to Watermark, don't walk out of here singing songs to God because you've been reminded of his grace and your heart is strengthened to be more about what the church in Acts 2018 should be about, then you have to get to another church and run there.
The problem with America today is most folks are going to go to church, and their hearts won't be strengthened. They're going to be comforted in their compromise. They're not going to walk out singing praise to God; they're going to walk out being largely uninspired again. May that never happen here.
It says in verse 16, "When we entered Rome…" Think about the journey Paul went through to get there. "…Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him." I'll just make a quick note here. Paul was chained for the next two years to a Roman guard. The reason you're going to find out that Rome had not yet received the charges against him… Paul's was probably the last ship to make it through in the winter.
The Jews were probably not anxious to get over to Rome to prosecute him, because they already saw that Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa said, "This man is innocent." Rome did not take kindly to false or random charges filed against a man. And you want to go and prosecute Paul? Then not only do you send Paul to Caesar, but you have to send the prosecutor there. They knew if they showed up… "They've already told us Paul is not guilty."
They didn't really care for Paul to be decreed guilty by Caesar. They just wanted to get him out of their business, just move on. That's why, by the way, Paul was released in two years. The statute of limitations for charges in that age of Rome was two years. If nobody came to press charges, then you were free.
But even while Paul was chained… Think about that. You're a missionary, and you're chained to pagan centurions in rotating four-hour shifts. Paul is like, "This is a dream. The guy can't even run from me." So he writes this to the Philippians. Remember? During these two years, he didn't catch up on Stranger Things. He wrote Ephesians. He wrote Philippians. He wrote Colossians. He converted a runaway slave. Watch what else he did.
Philippians, chapter 1. "I don't want you, brethren, to think that my circumstances have turned out for anything but the greater progress of the gospel." He says, "…so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear."
"Don't fret. God has me locked up to guys on four-hour rotating shifts, and I have to tell you, there are a bunch of Roman centurions who are part of the praetorian guard who are now your brothers." Even when you are chained (note to myself) to circumstances you wouldn't choose, remember the gospel is not chained.
I'll tell you what else Paul did. Paul was always thinking spiritually. He's writing to the Ephesians, trying to figure out how to wrap up this thing. He goes, "You guys are going to be at war, because there's going to be peril, sin, compromise, and persecutions." He goes, "Do you know what you need to do? You need to put on a helmet of salvation. You need to wear a breastplate of righteousness." When men go to war, they have something to protect their head.
"What's going to protect your head is that God loves you and he's good, and if you go anywhere else you're leaving your hope. You want to live righteously. That's what makes you bold. You want to stand firm and shod your feet in the gospel. That's what makes you not back down. You want to have a belt of truth on. You want to lift up the shield of faith. You want the sword of the Spirit." Do you see where Paul got that? He's a spiritually minded guy, so he's just using what's right there with him in order to encourage other people.
He's writing these letters. It says, "After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, 'Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers…'" Paul is going to call the Jews together. Look at the amazing love of Paul. The Jews have done nothing but try to kill him. The Jews are the reason he got sent to Rome and was chained, and yet he went to them, because he loves them.
He said in Romans, chapter 9, "I'm telling the truth. I'm not lying. My conscience testifies with me that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief." Why? "Because I wish I could go to hell. I wish I could be accursed, separated from God. I wish I could give my life so my Jewish brothers could all be redeemed." Wow. Now God didn't let Paul do that, but he let his Son become accursed so the Jews and you and I could be redeemed.
Paul showed that right to the bitter end. He preached to them, and he basically said this. Let me tell you what Paul did, just to summarize. The reason he went to the Jews first is because he loved them. They were his brothers. If you aren't zealous for those you know most to share the gospel with them, then you don't know the gospel. Paul loved his brethren, and he went to them. He also sat with them. He said, "Let me explain to you."
Paul was an expert in the law, so he showed them the prophecy of the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ. He showed them the purpose of the law is fulfilled in Christ. He showed them the pattern of temple sacrifice, that you need a priest who will go before you to the Holy Place of God and an unblemished lamb that will be sacrificed for your sins was fulfilled in Christ. He's our High Priest who is going into the Holy Place, and he himself is the sacrifice. It's fulfilled in Christ.
He showed them the problem of man's unredeemed situation is answered in Christ. He showed them the propitiation and satisfaction of God's wrath is fulfilled in Christ. He showed them the promises of God's covenant to the Jews, to David, to Moses are fulfilled in Christ. He just reasons with them and preaches Christ, because that's the pattern and the proclamation of the church. He just shows them it's all about Jesus.
Paul takes what is now our New Testament… There's an old preacher's mnemonic that says, "The new is in the old concealed, and the old is in the new revealed," which basically means all the Old Testament… It's the mysteries no one really understands. Where are these mysteries God is talking about explained? The New Testament. The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed. That's what Paul did. He showed them that Jesus is the Messiah.
Verse 24: "Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe." When you preach, there should be one of two responses that you're okay with, and there ought to be a third one you despise. All through the pattern of Acts…Acts 14, 17, 18, 19, and now Acts 28…you're going to find the exact same thing. Some believed, and some violently responded against it. What God does not like is what happens at Laodicea. "You were neither hot nor cold, but because you were lukewarm I spit you out of my mouth."
Let me just say this to you. When you hear the gospel, you have to be in one of two camps. You either have to go, "Hey, this is going to change my everything forever" or "I disagree, and it offends me that you tell me I need a Savior" or "That's foolishness." God says those are two acceptable responses to the gospel.
Do you know what's not acceptable? Just, "Oh, that's kind of cool. I think I'll start attending a place that sings about that and largely not have my life changed." That's called a said faith. That's not a saving faith. You never found people who were like, "Eh, maybe. I'll start calling myself a Christian, but I'm not going to really change anything." God says that's a bad response to the gospel. It is why I want this to be a very uncomfortable place to irregular believers.
This is a safe place to come and ask questions. We're not going to love you more if you agree with us. This is a great place to come if you're a radical follower of Jesus Christ. We want to be gracious to you. We're all going to grow at different levels. We're going to seek to bring you about to completion in Christ. If you're a nonbeliever, we're going to love you and just say, "Hey, sit here and go 'I don't agree, I don't believe, but I'm going to listen.'"
But if you're here and you go, "Oh, I'm a believer, but I'm not in community. I don't use my gifts. I don't share the gospel. I'm really not all about it. It's not going to change my everything or maybe anything forever," then I hope you're miserable here, because you're going to be miserable if you don't live in right response to the gospel. At least those who reject it know what they're rejecting.
Too many people are around Watermark and are not regular attenders; they're irregular believers. I want to love you enough to go, "That isn't a good place to be." Where you must be is on mission. Where you must be is fully responding to the grace of God and asking for others to strengthen your heart and teach you to make your life about songs for God. This is a big deal. This is our moment in history. We got here because of history. We are his story working out today. Let me show you where you came from. Let me remind you why it matters. Watch this.
Male: It started in darkness. When all hope seemed lost and many had deserted their Savior, when everyone had lost faith in his promises, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, God made man, wakes from the dead. Fifty days later, the Holy Spirit spreads among the disciples. Common men and leaders alike unite behind our risen King. The church, the hope of the world, is awake.
Believers face threats and persecution on every front, but Christ's conversion of one man from Saul to Paul, from menace to missionary, emboldens others to defy the Roman world, not with sword but with their love of Christ and one another. Among the greatest threats to the flame of the early church is a fire that destroys Rome in AD 70. Nero blames Christians who are tortured and put to death en masse.
The fury of persecution continues for the next 300 years, yet Christ's bride thrives, defending its creed against heresies and caring for the sick and dying during plagues that ravished the Roman Empire. The cloud of persecution lifts from AD 300 to 451, and the church's focus shifts from survival to doctrine. In 325, the Nicene Creed declares the truths we believe in. One God, Creator of all things. One Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light.
The gospel moves everywhere from Scotland to China and Germany to Russia, but the light once in jeopardy from external forces is now threatened from within. Infighting and theological risk persists for the next 400 years. Despite the turmoil, monasteries and religious institutions are established. Christ's message prevails.
Believing that all Christians should have access to God's Word, John Wycliffe begins work on the first handwritten Bible in English. The manuscripts face bitter opposition, but the spread of God's Word only accelerates. In the mid-1400s, the printing press is invented by Johannes Gutenberg. The very first book ever published is the Bible.
A century later, Martin Luther nails Ninety-five Theses of contention to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Under the threat of excommunication and death, Martin Luther refuses to recant the ideas he championed…the priesthood of the saints, that the Bible is our central religious authority, and salvation by faith in Christ alone. This set the Protestant Reformation in motion. The gospel then moves through both Central and South America.
In North America, the Puritans arrive, and churches move throughout the 13 colonies, but as in Europe, corruption threatens the heart of the American church. In 1730, the words of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards confront a complacent church, ushering the Great Awakening in pulpits throughout America. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the modern missions movement takes hold and the gospel spreads west into American territories.
As the dawn of the twentieth century breaks, D.L. Moody and others set the goal of the evangelization of the world in this generation. Wycliffe Bible Translators labor to bring the Bible to every language group in the world. Later, a young evangelist, Billy Graham, proclaims the gospel to hundreds of thousands of people over an eight-week period. He goes on to share the hope of Christ with 215 million people worldwide.
In the heart of the American South, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. confronts segregation and discrimination against African-Americans, inspiring God's people to spark change in our shameful history of racism. Today we see these revivals, reforms, and resurgences of the faith in the larger context of history, dots on a timeline leading to this very moment. But pause to consider the men behind these moments.
Did Martin Luther know the reform the Ninety-five Theses would ultimately bring? Did Moody, Gutenberg, and Wycliffe see the generations who reaped the benefit of their toil? No. These men who responded faithfully to God's call never knew how God would use their legacy. They couldn't know that hundreds of years later God would use their obedience to make history and inspire a new generation of leaders.
So I ask you…What are you making of this moment? What are you doing to shape the world around you for Christ? Isn't that why we got into the madness of ministry in the first place? Yet somewhere along the line, as the forces of darkness threaten the light, we became discouraged.
[End of video]
It's why we have to step up and face the controversies and compromises of our day. We have to, like Paul in Acts 28:30, continue to proclaim the kingdom of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ resurrected from the grave. This is our moment when we must remind ourselves that we are the people of God. This is our moment when we must say, "I have decided I'm going to continue the Scriptures and the work of God that the purposes and the proclamation in the midst of the perils of the church will continue." It is our day to say, "We have decided."
Just like Paul was so glad he didn't turn back, that he poured himself out as a drink offering, that he was willing to let the perils of this world not in any way restrict him, so was Nicholas Winton. There's a reason I told you that story. You don't know who Nicholas Winton is, but God does. The Scripture says in Hebrews 6:10, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints."
God doesn't forget anybody who does what he does. Every now and then on this earth we get a little glimpse of that. Let me show you something. Fifty years after 1938, in 1988, Nicholas' wife, who had no idea what her husband did, was up in her attic digging around, and she found the ledger of all of these children he had saved. She didn't know what it meant, but she took it to a friend, who happened to be a journalist and a World War II historian, who started to look and go, "This is a ledger of Jewish children who were saved from Czechoslovakia."
They began to look, and they found 669 children. They tried to locate these children, and they found 80 of them. Then a little bit later under a ruse, they took the now 80-year-old Nicholas Winton and asked him to come on a television show called That's Life. Watch this.
Female: Back here is the list of all the children. This is Vera Diamant, not Vera Gissing. We did find her name on his list. Vera Gissing is with us here tonight. Hello, Vera. I should tell you that you are actually sitting next to Nicholas Winton.
Vera Gissing: And it was just so wonderful, so terribly, terribly touching.
Female: Is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to Nicholas Winton? If so, could you stand up, please?
[End of video]
They found about 80 of the kids and brought them. He had no idea, hadn't seen them. Those 669 kids turned into 6,000 descendants, poet laureates, members of parliament, chief rabbis in synagogues in Israel, leaders amongst the generations. I really believe, church, there's going to be a day when God, who is not so unkind as to forget your work in having ministered to and in still ministering to the saints…
That you and I are going to be in heaven and he's going to say, "Todd, hang on a second. Hey, hey, friend, come here. I want to show you something. Do you remember when you did what you should do because you didn't just have some said faith but you had a saving faith? Come here. Hey, if somebody's life was affected by the power of my Spirit working through, would you please stand up?" Can you imagine anything else worth living for? That people weren't just spared from a temporary sword but people were spared from eternal separation from God because you were on mission. That's where we are. Let's go, church.
If you're here and you've never come to understand the love of God for you, I pray we could be his means of grace today, that you would come with us and we could explain to you the kingdom of God and the wonders of our Lord Jesus. Would you trust in him as we have? We're going to love you whether you do or whether you don't, but you're going to love life a whole lot more when you see the God who wants to bless you and then shows you the ancient paths of blessing to walk in. You'll never regret it, church, if you're faithful. Have a great week of worship.