The apostle Paul is good example to us today because his life, in many ways it can resemble the life of many of us.
He was a deeply religious person that thought he was doing God’s will.
Then he actually met Jesus. His life was immediately turned upside down. Everything he thought was right, he found out was wrong. But even in the middle of his turn around (and the years afterward) he held to the fact that God’s word was absolutely true.
We all know Paul’s background…
Of the tribe of Benjamin. A Pharisee of the Pharisees. Having sat under the greatest Jewish Rabbi of his time.
Paul’s pedigree was impeccable. And yet, he later stated that it all meant nothing and was no different than “dung”.
The difference between Paul and many today is that many today never come to the realization that all their achievements and talents and skills mean absolutely nothing to God and should mean nothing to the very ones people try to impress.
I have been around some of the best known “big names”. You quickly find out that what they hold to be important is not what God holds important. I’ve seen how they react when the server brings their food and it’s made wrong. I’ve seen how they treat people that they think can’t help them.
Then there are the “CEO Apostles”. These are the ones that, for one reason or another, have been entangled in the “business of religion”. Everything they talk about is somehow connected back to money. You don’t hear them talk about advancing the Kingdom (unless it’s their own), you don’t hear them talk about growing up the people of God into the image of Christ.
To a large degree, we have lost sight of Paul’s big goal of living our lives as an example of how to die to this world and live for eternity.
The great apostle Paul said that he did not deserve to be an apostle. His reason was that he had persecuted the church.
But then he said something that shows how he submitted himself to God’s will even against his own reckoning of himself.
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 he said, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
Then he said, “And His grace to me did not turn out in vain, but I labored to the point of exhaustion more abundantly than all of them (the original apostles of Jesus); however, not I myself, but the grace of God which labored with me.”
Later, he said that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The great apostle Paul, the apostle of the gospel of grace shows us that grace is not something that just removes the guilt of sin, as many would have us believe. Grace empowers us to live godly lives, righteous lives. Lives that are characterized by labor for the Kingdom even to the point of exhaustion, always knowing that it is the grace of God that strengthens us to do the works of Christ. Therefore it is not by our own strength so we have no room to boast.
When we look at the apostle Paul’s life we see a life that was purposely lived by Paul as a life to be used as an example.
There were often things he did not want to do, but he did them because the “church” needed an example to follow.
Paul was an apostle (An ambassador, sent on a specific mission with a specific message), he was called and appointed by God. This is proven by the characteristics of Paul’s life and ministry (which were one and the same).
When Paul gave his “credentials” it was a list of hardships he suffered to further the Kingdom and the message he was given to share to everyone, everywhere.
He did not mention what he had accumulated “by his faith”. He did not “buy” his apostleship by joining an organization and paying a fee. He paid in blood, sweat and tears.
He was unaccepted by others (especially by the false apostles of the time), of which many are still around.
Paul’s concern was for the gospel and the churches he was in relationship with.
When I turn on “Christian” television today, most of what I hear are simply infomercials trying to sell people a relationship with God, which has as its purpose the result of the person getting everything they want in life. It’s as if the “American dream” has somehow become the essence of the gospel. That’s if God is even mentioned in the program. More often than not it is simply a self-help infomercial geared to get you to buy something or just donate so your relationships with others can be fixed or so you can be “fixed”. Practically everything you hear on Christian television is geared to fix your “self”, or your life.
Jesus did not come to “fix” you, he came to show you how to die so that He could give you a true life. A life worth living.
The life most often preached concerns getting “more” so you will be fulfilled. The world already has that “gospel” which is not a gospel. People come to the church because the world’s gospel has left them unfulfilled. Then they come in only hear the same thing preached from pulpits.
And we wonder why we don’t see the things we read in the book of Acts.
Show me men whose hearts resemble the hearts of the men (and women) in the Book of Acts and I will show you the “acts” of Acts.
You cannot come in any other way.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, And He was saying to all, “Assuming that anyone desires to come after me as a follower of mine, let him disregard his own interests, and let him, at once and once for all, pick up his cross (his death) day after day, and let him take the exact same road with me that I take as a habit of life.
For whosever desires to save his soul-life, shall ruin it. But whosoever will declare a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake, this one shall save it. For how is a man profited, having acquired the whole world (with all its things and accolades) but having ruined or forfeited himself (in the process).
Feb. 28, 2018
Port Alfred, South Africa