Today we are starting a new series called “Live to Give.” Our goal with this series is to look at six texts of Scripture, one each week, focusing on how we are to give everything we are to the Lord. It seems more and more common today to think that the Christian life is marked by giving a portion of who we are to God.
We can so easily compartmentalize. This is the sports part of my life. This is the work part of my life. My spiritual life is over here in this nice little compartment. But everywhere in Scripture, we see a very different picture for what it means to be a Christian. And so, our goal is to be challenged by God’s Word, and these six passages over the next six weeks—to give everywhere we are to the Lord.
We’ll be in Acts chapter 20 today. The text we’re looking at reveals some of the things that the Apostle Paul considered most important. He’s calls and asks the Ephesian elders to come to him for one last address. This is one last speech before he goes into Jerusalem, most likely never to see them again. Or at least that’s what he thought.
Paul is encouraging his own people, those in Ephesus who were a part of the church he founded and where he spent 3 years pouring out his life. So, this is, as far as he knows, the very last thing he’s going to tell them. And because these are the very last things, I imagine that we can learn something of Paul’s priorities, and what it looked like for him to give every part of Himself to God. Look with me at Acts 20, starting in verse 17.
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 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, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[c] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 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. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
This is a pretty remarkable passage because it basically sums up a lot of what Paul talks about in his New Testament letters. From this passage, we see that Paul had a clear idea of what it meant to give God everything. In ministry as a pastor, and just as a follower of Christ! So, the question we’re asking: what does it mean to give God your everything?
- Live as an authentic example of Christ (17-21).
Paul is establishing himself here as an example to follow. Even more than that, men had most likely come into the church at Ephesus to try and discount what Paul was teaching. Paul had many opponents who tried to add requirements for being considered a follower of Christ, like following the law of Moses. So, these people were doing anything they could to discount Paul, including attacking his character. Some likely said that Paul’s only saying all of this to make money, or he had some other sort of agenda. So, Paul wants to clear the air. Before he gives them his last instructions before leaving them, he wants to make sure they know that he’s saying all of this from a pure heart.
“You yourselves know how I lived among you since the very beginning.” You know I have had one purpose since the beginning, that of serving Christ with humility and tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” I have no other agenda. I have no desire for money. With tears I have served Christ, in the good, the bad, the difficult.
He had real, intellectual and emotional responses to what was happening in the midst of the Ephesian church, because these were his people. He poured out his life into the church at Ephesus for three years. Verse 20, I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,” Paul did not just teach truth to the masses, in front of large groups of people, and then go off and teach or live something completely different around individual people or individual families. In public, and in private, or with small groups and with individuals, he taught and lived the same truth. He was an authentic example oof a follower of Christ.
Paul’s purpose in saying all of this, again, is to make sure they know where he’s coming from. That he’s the real deal. He’s not a poser, not someone with an agenda besides just serving Christ. But we can look at this, what he said about himself, and learn something quite profound. What does it mean to give God your everything? It means that we live in such a way that he can point to our lives as proof of who we follow.
To use the old adage, we do not talk the talk without walking the walk. We genuinely treasure Christ above all else, and that is seen in how we live our lives. Paul goes on after establishing his character and his authority, and moves into what his future holds, where we see another answer to our question. Let me read verses 22-24 again:
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 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.
2. Serve Christ no matter what (22-24).
In these verses, Paul reveals that he doesn’t know exactly what will happen to him in Jerusalem. He only knows, because the Holy Spirit had testified to him, that imprisonment and afflictions await him. But he’s still going! He knows what is coming, but he’s still going. I mean, I didn’t want to venture out of the office on Thursday because of the rain. Right? I didn’t want to get wet. I get scared off pretty quick at times.
What Paul was going to face in Jerusalem was imprisonment, flogging, and potentially execution. Jerusalem is where the Jews, who hated him, were centrally located. And yet with all of this, he was still going. Why was he so willing to suffer? Because he was resolved to serve Christ no matter what came. Verse. 24: 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.”
What a profound statement. “I don’t consider my life as precious.” Basically, I don’t care about my life! He didn’t care about his life, except that he would complete the ministry that God had called him to, the ministry of testifying to the Gospel. Paul wanted to serve Christ no matter what! This verse has become my life-verse because I want to be able to one day say this truthfully about myself- that I care so much about serving Christ and being faithful to Christ my Substitute and King, that my physical life doesn’t really even matter.
Most people, including myself, would do just about anything to avoid physical pain. If you’ve ever broken a bone, you know, in that moment, that you just want the pain to subside. How is it that Paul was so willing to suffer? Not that he was looking to suffer, wanting to suffer. But if it came, or even if he knew it was coming, he was willing to suffer. Why? Because he had his eyes set on one thing: testifying to the Gospel! He had been so radically saved by the mercy of God in Christ, that he could not help but share it with others, no matter the consequences!
Can you imagine if we were so unashamed of the Gospel that we weren’t worried so much about rocking relationships, or hurting our reputations, or being dismissed as outcasts? Can you imagine, like Paul, even being willing to die for the ministry that God has called us to? Can you imagine what impact we would have here in DFW no one in here was too embarrassed to share the Gospel openly? I know that takes time and you won’t overnight have the boldness that Paul had, but are you pursuing this? Is it your desire to serve Christ, no matter what?! No matter the consequences?!
There’s a wild example of this in John Paton. I bet the Whiteds know about John Paton. Paton was a missionary to an unreached cannibalistic people group in 1856. And someone objected to Paton wanting to reach these cannibals, so he warned Paton. He said, “If you do this, you will be eaten by cannibals!” To that, Paton responded, and please don’t miss this: “Your own body is soon to be laid in the grave, there you will be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring The Lord Jesus, it will make nodifference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; Because in that great day my resurrected body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” Can you believe that? Hey, our bodies are all going to be eaten by worms, what’s adding to that the possibility of being eaten by other people?! Isn’t that a remarkable attitude to have?! I mean, we make excuses like, “I might feel a bit awkward if I share…” My excuses sound so vain and stupid compared to, “Ahh, I might be eaten by cannibals.”
Listen: sometimes we hear these extreme examples and assume, well, I won’t ever have the opportunity to do those things…don’t think like that. Think in this way: If John Paton can risk being eaten to reach a cannibalistic tribe, if Paul can risk his life and even go into Jerusalem knowing he’s probably going to die, if even Jesus himself can die on the cross for the glory of God and for my salvation— can I not make sacrifices? Can I not take risks? Can I be not willing even to suffer for the name of Christ? Here’s the ultimate question, church: Is He not worthy? Yes, He is. That’s why I implore you as believers in Christ: serve him no matter the consequences. Serve him in the good times and in the bad. Serve him no matter what because he loves you no matter what. In Christ, you are his child. Serve Him; He is worthy.
The third answer to our question, “What does it mean to give God your everything?” comes from verses 25-27. Let me read those again:
25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
3. Embrace and declare all of God’s Word (20, 25-27)
We see earlier in verses 20-21, that Paul “did not shrink from declaring to them anything that was profitable, and teaching them in public and from house to house”. So, what is it that’s profitable? Well, all of God’s Word is profitable, because it reveals truth. But specifically, verse 21, he didn’t shrink from proclaiming repentance from sin and faith in Christ. What is repentance and faith? It’s what we do to be saved, at least from our perspectives. Ultimately, repentance and faith are gifts from God. But he’s summing up what he was always willing to proclaim, and also what he was always willing to live by.
We must embrace and declare all of God’s Word. I cannot tell you how common it is to treat the Bible as a buffet. You go down the line and you pick and choose what you like best. The things you don’t like, or you prefer to skip out on—just leave it there. Ignore it. No big deal.
The Bible is not a buffet line. God has not provided suggestions for what we might believe to be true and how we might live our lives. God’s Word is the Truth. And we embrace it not just because it our duty, but because we trust the One who spoke these words, amen? We embrace all of God’s Word, even the parts we struggle with, because we know that our God is good. We know that He is working out all things for our good. We know that, ultimately, all things are for His glory.
We embrace all biblical truth. And we don’t shy away from sharing biblical truth. No matter how controversial or unpopular or untrendy—we have no right to be ashamed of our God. We have no right, but also it makes no sense to be ashamed of our God. This is the God who made you and saved you. We all know it’s a childish thing for children and teenagers to be ashamed or embarrassed by their parents. If we’re honest, sometimes they have good reason.
But our Heavenly Father is a perfect, holy, loving, merciful, just, and immutable Heavenly Father. We embrace what He says, and we willingly, unashamedly, share it with others. We see in verses 26 and 27 that Paul took this seriously. “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.”
There’s an indirect reference here to Ezekiel 33. You don’t have to turn there, but you may want to make note of it. Listen closely. I’m going to read the first six verses of Ezekiel 33, because I want us to see the seriousness of what Paul is saying.
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
Suddenly Paul being innocent of the blood of all becomes very weighty and serious. This wasn’t Paul being melodramatic, it was Paul living within reality. We are called to be faithful in sounding the horn, in presenting the Gospel. And yes, it is as serious as having on your hands the blood of those whom you do not warn. This doesn’t mean you’re no longer redeemed, but it does mean there is some type of consequence for not sounding the horn. This also doesn’t mean you should live your life in a state of constant paranoia wondering if you missed one person that you could have shared with. But it does mean that we should be committed to the ministry that God has called us to. We should be committed watchmen and have a healthy view of the seriousness of not giving God your everything.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, as I’m sure some of you may do this. But it’s really easy to never open God’s Word except to those few passages that we love. There’s nothing wrong with this to some degree. I love Philippians, I love Romans, I know I have read those more than any other book in Scripture. But did you know that we need all of God’s Word.
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 make it clear: in order for you to be a complete man or woman of God, you need all of God’s Word. I need all of this. It’s all true. It’s all relevant. It’s all God-breathed. You know, you can get inspirational messages anywhere: turn on the T.V. A lot of churches are good at being inspirational. But our job is not inspiration or motivation, our job is TRUTH. I don’t want you to remember something that I made up today. But I want you to remember truth. I want you to know that God has spoken. Then embrace it and share it.
The way we live as authentic examples, the way we serve Christ no matter what, the way we embrace and share the whole counsel of God— is by abiding in God and in his word. By living and dwelling HERE. By being exposed to who God really is.
Have you given God your everything? Or is there some part of you you’re keeping for yourself. Our God is worthy of it all. And there is no greater joy than in giving it all to Him.