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Who Lives Like This?

October 20, 2011

“In the end…you’ve got to do what’s best for you.”  I’ve been given that piece of advice countless times in my life.  You’ve probably been told the same thing, and maybe you’ve been the one who has given that advice to someone.  Now, if you’ve known me for a long time, don’t sit there worrying if you’ve told me that…I’m not judging…in fact, I’ve said it to people before.  We’re a “do what’s best for you” culture.  Comfort is held in the highest regard and any challenge to that comfort is considered to be an adversary…and listen, this seems completely contrary to everything I read of the life of Paul as recorded in Acts.

 If you will, and I pray that you will, take just a moment and read through Acts 21:1-36.

 In this passage, Paul is headed to Jerusalem.  Everybody in his life is advising him to stay away from there…all his boys are telling him not to go…it’s not stopping him.  In verse 4 we see that, “Through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.”  By the time he gets to Caesarea, a prophet name Agabus shows up and does a little dramatic interpretation of what’s going to happen to him if he continues this course.  He ties himself up with Paul’s belt and says, “This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”  And at that point, Paul’s companions on this journey have heard enough.  They don’t like the sound of it one bit so again, they start pressuring him not to go.  Paul’s not having it…he basically tells them to dry their eyes and wipe their noses…he’s going to Jerusalem.

 It’s at this point that some people start to think that Paul might have some pride issues.  Like maybe he’s just got a thick skull and nobody can get through to him…maybe he’s been hit in the noggin with one too many stones.  Biblical scholars, much more learned than I am, are even divided on what’s going on here.  Because it does seem that what we have here is a man bound and determined to get himself into trouble.  That’s if we take this passage completely out of its context, which, quite honestly, is the last thing we should do.

 If you look back before this chapter, you can see why Paul was so determined to get to Jerusalem.  Besides the fact that he had been raising a mercy gift from the Gentile churches to be given to the poor of the Church in Jerusalem, in verse 20:22 we hear Paul saying, “I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit.”  The same Spirit that is calling him to go doesn’t cloud his perception of reality either, because Paul continues by saying, “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.” 

 Now, if you continue reading in chapter 21, you’ll see that Paul not only makes it to Jerusalem, but he also submits himself to the authority of the church elders there, purifies himself according to their tradition, and accepts his arrest without altercation.  What we see here is a man who is so remarkably faithful to the calling of God that he really isn’t interested in what’s best for him at all.  What we have is boldness for Christ, magnified by his humility in following the moving of the Spirit.  He’s literally too faithful for his own good…if by good, we mean comfort in this life.  You can’t help but wonder what Paul would say to those of us who are so terrified to live for the Christ that we profess.  Actually, he gave us a beautiful example, by living out his own words when he said, “I do not account my life as any value nor as precious to myself, if only (and don’t miss this) 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.”  Oh, that we would think less of ourselves…and more of our Savior.

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