Well, if you'd like to turn, if you've got a Bible to Acts chapter 20, we're going to have our reading now, and then we're gonna sing, and then after that song Trevor is gonna come and preach to us. So Acts chapter 20, and we're gonna be reading from verses 17 through to through to verse through to verse 38 at the end of the chapter. From my latest Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them, You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.
I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponent. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you, but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me. My only aim is to finish the race. And complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace. Now, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you, for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
Keep watch over yourselves. And all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will arise and distort truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard.
Remember that for 3 years, I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now, I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own need and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the week, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them the most was his statement that they would never see his face again, then they accompanied him. To the ship? Well, it is great to be with you.
Please turn back to that passage that Tom just read for us in Acts 20. As we do that, let's ask the Lord to speak to us. Father we come this morning, thank you that we have your word in our language in our tongue, but unless you come by your spirit and bring it to life in our hearts, it will remain ink upon the page. Please help us help me, help each of us as we come now to sit under your word and to hear what you would say to us this day. Again, we thank you for the children and the young people.
Have your hand upon them right now as they're hearing your word as well. Lord, for the glory of Christ, here are prayer we ask. Amen. Well, at passage, I don't know if you found that when it's read. It's actually a very poignant passage, isn't it?
It's not hard to imagine the scene of the apostle Paul gathering the elders together from Ephesus where he spent 3 years And to give them this farewell speech, as I say, it's full of poignancy, not least of all as we read at the end when he says they would never see his face again. So it's 1 of those scenes in the bible that is quite incredible really. There's many aspects of it. We could actually spend a lot of time just thinking about Paul's model of ministry amongst them, where he talks about his humility and how much we need to hear that. In these days where there's such controversy, even over Christian leadership, let alone leadership in the country.
1 of the surprising things is that we come across Paul citing the words of the Lord Jesus. And this is the only place in scripture that we find in we might think we'd find them in Matthew chapter 5, where we have the beatitudes. But here here in verse 35, we have what we might call the missing be attitude, where Paul cites the Lord Jesus as saying it is more blessed to give than to receive. And I guess in our country today amongst our friends, neighbors, colleagues, especially those who aren't Christians, where often the awareness of what Christianity is about what it really is, there remains this kind of thought that somehow it's about giving. And sometimes they'll even cite this.
Oh, it's more blessed to give than to receive. There is this kind of distant memory that this has something to do with Christianity. But I wanted to focus on it this morning, primarily coming to it as the people of God, remembering it was given first and foremost to a group of leaders, So it speaks very powerfully to us as leaders. And I don't just mean church leaders. Many of us find ourselves in situations of leadership within the church in different ways and so on.
But whether we're in that situation or not, it speaks to us because we live in a culture that's obsessed with self. You are very aware of that. I'm sure. But every day, we're bombarded with adverts. And it's all about self because you deserve it.
On a more serious side, we see society breaking up And essentially, it's about selfishness. A man gets out of a marriage after 20 years and says I'm doing this because I had to be free to be my own person. I deserve to be my own person regardless of the tragedy that he inflicts upon his wife and children if he has them. Our culture is just so taken up with itself. And we've we've seen that haven't we?
I mean, you see it in the thing even like the so called There's no shortage of petrol. It's a delivery problem, isn't there? But around us live at the age of space just at Chesington. We literally could hardly get out of our road for about 24 hours because there was an utter log jam. And was a bit panicking as well because genuinely, we would run out of petrol.
And today, we've got to get over to North London later on, think how am I gonna do this? But thinking, come on. This is this is not really a crisis, but the queues were enormous. It was gridlock. I came this morning, I thought I'm gonna be late here because it's gridlock again.
And that's just symptomatic I think of a kind of a me centeredness to our culture. And into that, as Christians, we must remember that we fool ourselves if we think that we're immune from it. We are not. Much of church life in generally, in evangelicalism. A lot of it is about me.
It's about pandering to the needs of a person. And here, the very antithesis of that is found in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is so counter cultural, and it's something that affect every single 1 of us, whoever we are, because to say, we fool ourselves if we think we're immune from this, we're not, are we? What my instinct to a petrol shortage to think about myself.
How am I gonna overcome this problem? The fact that there are trains that I can get on, well, yeah, but it'd be nice to go in the car, wouldn't it? You know, it's self. But here's Paul in Ephysis in Melita saying farewell to these Ephasis elders, and he cites this saying of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's more blessed to give than to receive.
I simply want to ask this morning, 3 things. Why is that? Why is it more blessed? Well, the first reason is is because what is what God is like. This is the heart of the nature of God.
God is the God who lives this beatitude. He's the giving God. At the core of his being, father son, holy spirit, in a way that we can't even begin to understand, lies an other person centeredness to that relationship that makes it the most beautiful thing in all the world. The son loves the father, the father loves the son. The spirit delights to do bidding of both father and son.
It's a deep deep mystery, but at the heart of the universe lies a God with this unremitting commitment to giving. What's the most famous verse in the bible? Please don't be hesitant. John 3 16, what does it say? God so loved, the world, what did he do?
He gave that he gave. He didn't give his second best. He gave of his very best. He gave himself. He gave his beloved son.
This is the nature of God. He is the giving God. And when Jesus comes, his whole life is 1 of giving. Because that's what God is like. And if you're a Christian here this morning, think what God has given you in Christ in the gospel.
He's given you light into your darkness. He's giving you forgiveness into your guilt. He's giving you peace. Where you're troubled. He's given sight where you were blind to the things of God.
He's given you life when you were spiritually dead. He goes on, giving and giving and giving, we could go on enumerating what he does. There's an old old course that said, he giveth and giveth, you can tell it's not 1 because it's ETH on the end. He giveth and giveth and giveth again. This is the nature of God.
He is fabulously generous. And at the cross, we see the ultimate nature of that giving. Here is Almighty God, who by very definition is all powerful, And how does he use that power? He uses it to lay down his life to rescue a new humanity for himself. Jesus himself says, I am the good shepherd I lay down my life for my sheep.
I give my life for my sheep. We've just sung about that and reminded ourselves of that. We can become familiar with these things, but praise God we never do. Because this is the nature of God that he should love me, that he should give his very best, his own son for me, that I might be part of his family. The greatest good ever done for mankind have been done in that 1 act on the cross.
And that's what Paul does here, isn't it? He reminds him in verse 28, these are Fusion elders. He charges them to be like Jesus. He says be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood. God did not send an angel.
He didn't devise another way of saving this, He came, he gave. He gave to the ultimate. Why is it more blessed to give them receive because it's the very nature of God, the god who lies at the heart of everything in the universe. That is what he's like. And Christian, you and I are never more like Christ, are we than when we are in those moments of giving, when we're looking to meet the needs of other people.
That's to be the hallmark of God's people. That we are givers, that we are generous. We often say, oh, what's your ambition? Well, it's to be more like Jesus. Yeah, but what does that look like?
Actually, it's very rooted in everyday decisions. Everyday other person centeredness. Which is not natural to us. And requires a supernatural act of God by his holy spirit coming into our lives, captivating us with Jesus. Beginning to transform our minds so that we think about other people in the way we think about ourselves.
This is the work of God in us. And the giving is the family likeness. Oh, doesn't he, doesn't she look like their mom, look like their dad. We often say that, don't they? Well, Christian, our father We had to look like our heavenly father, we're to show something of being possessed by him.
But to do that, as Paul points out here, we actually need a grip on grace. We talk much about grace, God's favor, God's kindness to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. But to be givers, to reflect God's character, we need a real grip upon that. And that's why he commits these elders in verse 32. He says, I commit you to God and the Word of His grace.
He's not committing them to something passive. The Word of God is powerful and active. It doesn't leave us as it finds us. The word of God is a word of grace. And that grace coming into our life doesn't leave us where it finds us.
It's to change us. It's to challenge us. Is to renew us, is to broaden our horizon after God's horizon, is to remove the rubble of that instinctive selfishness that lives so close to us in order to build something wonderful in our lives. You see, the word of God, the gospel has this power. It's like no other power in all the world.
That the Christian can bear something of the character of the God that they love and the savior that they serve. Why is it more blessed to give than receive? It's because what God himself is like. But there's a second reason here, The clue is in the word, blessed. Happy.
Secondly, it makes for the most blessed life. As human beings, we have an instinctive desire for happiness. That's not wrong. That's actually God given. It's how God made us.
He made us to be blessed. He made us to be happy. He himself is perfectly, unremittingly, absolutely happy. The Bible calls him the blessed God. He's designed us for joy, for contentment.
And throughout the bible, there's a great emphasis upon this aspect of wholeness and peace, Shalon, of contentment, that is to be the hallmark of the people of God. Sarma says, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him, who fears the Lord. Now here's the rub. Do we really believe that knowing God is the true source of blessedness is the best life now. And before we rush to say, oh, yeah, Trevor, of course we do.
Well, maybe just think for a moment. Because when I ask myself that question, I'd like to say yes, of course I know. But when I think a little bit, I've realized actually I'm not altogether certain about that. Because I look to other people. I looked to other things.
I looked to possessions. I looked to approval. I looked to achievement. As the source of the best life. And here's Paul, saying to these effusion elders, no, the blessed life is the life that's lived with God.
You see, when Jesus steps into our lives, he begins to turn on its head, that instinctive default position that we have to self, but because of the old nature, it's part of the old nature how we were before we became Christians. And God's work, piece by piece, brick by brick, step by step, And it takes a long time, and I know because I'm now 73, I've been a Christian for over 55 years, and I'm still working progress for the long way to go, especially in this area. But that's what God is about in our life. Because he has to teach us that this really is the blessed life. It is the blessed life.
As Tom prayed. He he prayed that though it may mean hardship and difficulty to become a Christian, we want those young people to trust Christ. We want that for our children, our grandchildren above everything else, don't we? Because it is the best life. And when Jesus steps into our life, he he begins to show us that he is indeed, that source.
What does Paul do verse 32? I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. You see, the gospel brings us into an inheritance. And I've been thinking about our wills. You know, you get to a certain age where you should do it when you're very young, of course, but the will Sadi, our children are quite interested in this as well, as you can imagine.
And we can get quite excited about an inheritance. Oh, how much they're gonna leave me? Can I have the house died? This sort of thing. But Paul said, look, That inheritance, as Peter put it, will actually spoil, it will fade, it will perish.
But the inheritance the Christian has is incorruptible. It cannot fade. It cannot spoil. It cannot be trashed. It can't be devalued.
It's a forever blessing and a forever blessedness. Because the inheritance that we're born into, that Paul is talking about here, this inheritance that belongs to the church to God's people among all those who are sanctified is none other than God himself. You see, we were made for God. We were created by him and for him. In our foolishness and our arrogance and pride, we naturally goes the wrong way.
We've gone away from him. He brings us back to himself. He starts us on that journey in this life, but the journey is going to end up in an inheritance that is so fabulous, the Bible can't even describe it. It says, word, eye has not seen nor ear heard the things the Lord has prepared for those who love him. Don't you ever think about this sometimes, that I do certainly as a good older, that if we can do what we can do now, privileged as we are, given the health and strength that often we're given, living at the time of history that we do.
And all the fabulous things that we can see around us, in spite of the fact that the world is a fallen and a messed up place, and a sad place, it's also a beautiful place. It's also a place where people are capable of great acts of kindness where there's great ingenuity and creativity and inventiveness. If we if mankind can do that now in a fallen state, what's it going to be like? When everything that spoils, everything that Mars, everything that ruins is eradicated forever, and we're given the liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God, to be the people, the men and women that God intends us to be. It's beyond our imagination, isn't it?
Beyond our imagination. But you know, that isn't the heart of the inheritance. What is the heart of the inheritance? Jesus tells us in John's gospel in John 14. The heart of the inheritance is Jesus, himself, That's where we're gonna be looking.
This is where if we've been set apart sanctified as Paul puts it. If we're on this journey, that's the destination, Christ himself. I love that old film. They made a remake of it recently a few years back. Far from the mad in crowd, really showing my age here now.
Alan Bates and Julie Christie, those of a certain age might remember this. It's a great Thomas Hardy story about this This this this farmer and he is besotted with bathsheba, the the the girl next door. She's beautiful. And his 1 aim in life is to win her hand and to marry her And as he puts it. It's a 1 day bathsheba, the anoy will sit down.
You will be there in will be here and we shall look into 1 another's eyes and it will be grand. And the whole film, I won't give any more away, but that's basically a story line. Storyline. Can he win her hand? It's all sorts of people come in the way of that.
But the point is, if you love somebody, that's all you ultimately want, isn't it? You just wanna be with them. I don't know about you. I'm I'm the worst person I think. I certainly in our family, homesickness.
I can get homesick just being away for a day in the Midlands. It's just ridiculous. It's pathetic. But there's something about being with the people that you love. Here's the destination of the Christian.
To see Christ, to be with him, to gaze upon him, to absorb something of his beauty and his majesty and his love and his immensity. That's that is it. Jesus put it himself like that, Denise John 14 verse 6. It's that you will be where I will be. It's the far from the Madding Crowd syndrome to be together with the 1 that you love.
And if we grasp something of that, and that's what Paul is praying here you see for these effusion elders, that if they grasp that, if their eyes upon that, that inheritance then they will understand that, yes, right now, in spite of the opposition, in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the bewilderment, in spite of the hardship that often comes This is the best life of all. I wouldn't exchange being a Christian for anything. Would you if you're a Christian? There's nothing like it in all the world. And to think to think that I've been brought into God's family.
I have to pinch myself at times because knowing what I'm like thinking that this grace should be shown to somebody like myself. Isn't it entry he praises for these infusion elders? They're already Christians. Be saying, I'm praying that you're gonna grow and deepen and broaden in your understanding. He often prays like that, doesn't he in ephesians, he prays like that for Church.
That God will open the eyes of our heart, understand the inheritance that we have in together with the saints, in Christ. It's all about him. It's all about being with him. That's the destiny. But right now is the best life because he is with us.
Need is with us. It's the happiest life of all. It's liberating to know. I don't have to chase after this, that, and the other will never satisfy me. Never delivered to me what I need or want.
But in Christ, I have it. And only when the grace takes a grip upon our life like that, which is why we need to remind ourselves of it every day Never become familiar with it, the wonder of it, the glory of it, the majesty of it. Only when that happens, do we begin to get a right perspective as yeah. I know it's a privileged person in all the world. God has loved me.
God has saved me. God has rescued me. God has promised me this inheritance that can never spoil, fate, or perish, and it's him. It's him. It's to be with him forever.
More blessed to give them receive. Why? Because it's what God is like. Why? Because it actually is the best life right now.
Even though it sometimes means hardship, even for many of our brethren in different parts of the world, it means persecution. Nevertheless, there's nothing better than being in Christ. But thirdly, It's more blessed to get them received because it's how the gospel travels on in the world. This is how the this is the train tracks if you like for the gospel. You see, Paul believed in the wealth of God's grace and the glory of the inheritance that was his, And he thought it was so immeasurable.
What does he say in verse 33, 34? That it liberated him to serve people. He said for 3 years, I've not coveted any 1 silver or gold or clothing. These hands of mine have supplied my own needs and those of my companion. There's a parallel passage that's in 1 sense, in 1 thessalonians too.
Where he talks about he was like a father and mother amongst these young Christians. It's quite an astonishing scene when you think about it. Here's a guy who by any any reckoning is amongst the some of the greatest people who've ever lived. He had this massive intellect. He should have been in a university up in Damascus or Jerusalem.
He should have been living the life of Riley, as we say. He could have had all that. He had the gifts for it. He was he was pretty unique in his generation, and yet God got hold of him. This rebel this persecutor of Christians and turned him inside out.
And what do we find? We find this Incredible scene where he he talks about, I didn't cover your silver and gold. In fact, I worked so not to be a burden to you. He could have asked them for support. He was entitled as the apostle to do that, but he wanted to model to them the effect of grace.
Because he wanted the gospel to travel into their lives, and he wanted the right model of the gospel to travel into their lives, which is 1 of humility and of giving and the other person centeredness. He goes on to say, doesn't he? In everything I did, I showed you, but this kind of hard work we must help the weak remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, it's more blessed to give them receive. That's how it works. You see, Paul didn't wanna get rich off of anybody.
Rather, he wanted This ordinary folk at ephesus at Cecil and Eicha, wherever he went. He wanted to make them rich in Christ. Can you think of a greater ambition than that? And that's can be each of our ambition if we're a Christian. To lay down our lives to make other people rich in Christ.
It's more blessed to give than to receive. It's not primarily about money, though it includes that. I left business about 35, maybe 40 years ago. It's interesting how people opened up, colleagues opened up when they know I was going. 1 of my good friends who was an absolute rogue.
He he he had he was he had 3 wives. He wasn't Muslim. He had 3 wives. And he kept them in different places. And I'd say an absolute rogue.
And he had a cousin who was a very bright guy, who'd been a barrister, but sadly had mental health problems and had been consigned to a care home. And Mac went to visit him 1 day, And after 10 minutes, he had no more to say to him. He said, I just got no more to say. So, he took out his wallet. Now, I'm talking 35, 40 years ago now, out his wallet and took out a hundred pound, possibly a thousand pound in today's money, wrapped it up, put it in his top pocket of his cousin.
And made to say goodbye. At that point, there was a as a care nurse nearby who came over took the money out of Max Cousins's pocket and gave it back to him. He said, he doesn't need your money He needs your time. Why don't you come here each week or each fortnight? Give him half an hour of your time.
You see, sometimes It's not about money, is it? Of course, we need to be generous with our money and it's a means of blessing others, but there's a thousand and 1 other ways, isn't there? Where we show grace. And through that grace, the gospel travels into our lives. Think of the people right now, If you're a Christian, think of the people who God used to bring you to Christ.
Okay? You got somebody in your mind, it may be more than 1 person. What was it about then that actually God particularly used I guarantee it wasn't necessarily their eloquence in teaching you the gospel. Oh, they love the gospel and they sought to tell you and sometimes they got it completely like a pig's ear. But what stuck with you is this?
They were kind towards you. They were generous towards you. I think of a guy, Ian Oliver. Sadly quite unwell at the moment now. But he, as a 16 17 year old, just starting work, he he would he say come on let's meet up and we meet up in a wimpy bar.
Forget about those bit like pre McDonald's really. A wimpy bar in Leicester Square every lunchtime. And he would always pay for it which I was quite pleased about being an impoverished young worker. And he would speak to me as a gospel. But what struck me most of all was his generosity.
He's generous with his time. Generous with his money but it was his time and his care of me and his genuine interest in me. Friends, those persons you've thought of, Is there something of that in them? I'm sure there was, isn't it? It's how the gospel travels in this world.
This is what Paul is saying here you see. Ambulate my example and say, because this is how the gospel travels on throughout the world. As a church, it might mean giving away some of our leaders, some of some of our folk. To help in something in another church. But all of us, it will mean taking the initiative at home, being the first 1.
Who's the first 1 to clear up from the meal? We're always leaving it to mom to do that. What about if you're on a team? Are you always there on time? You know, it's just a little thing, but it's a great thing.
To be on time because you're honoring your teammates. And you're saying, this is the most important thing I'm engaged with this week. French of mine, Philip Jensen, talked about once how he came to this country and he's to say he's not pro charismatic. It's probably a little bit of an understatement, but he once said to me, I think I've got the the gift, the gift of discernment. And I said, how's that feel?
He said, well, I can go into a church, he said, and I was in a church the other day. And at the end, there was this guy. He was stacking up chairs at the end. I said to the past, who's he? Oh, he said.
That that's that's Tom. He became a Christian 2 2 weeks ago. He said, get hold of him. He's got a grip on the gospel. He's got a grip on grace.
He just wanted to serve other people by doing something quite menial. That's how it works. You see. It's not in the grand gestures always. It's in the everyday acts of other persons putting yourself in the in the place of the other person's It's how the gospel travels.
And you never know. You never know in the workplace. How God will use that? It might not be in your time in that workplace, but down the road, in God's providence. I've heard it time and time again.
Oh, there was this Christian. God brought this Christian into my life just for 6 months. And he just showed She was just different, she was just kind, she was just generous, and it was the first steps of that person. Coming to Christ. It's how it works, you see.
These actions smaller they are, become the things that the Lord builds into our life. The decisions that we make, both big and small, that are dominated by the inheritance that we have. And the opportunity now to use whatever God has entrusted to us. For his glory. Have you ever thought what you you wanna hear when you get to heaven if you're a Christian?
What's the first words you wanna hear? It's surely this, isn't it? Welcome home, good and faithful servant. Face 4 is a very out of work, out of vogue work today is now. But in God's economy, it never goes, never goes out.
Faithfulness, faithfulness in our marriages, faithfulness in our friendships, faithfulness in our service, faithfulness in our work. In the ordinary because it's to the glory of God because we want to use that as an act of worship to say to God, this is how grateful I am. That you've rescued me. And I want you to use even my meagal offering Lord to advance the gospel into the life of others. More blessed to give them to receive.
It's what God is like. It is the best life. Is how the gospel travels on in the world. And if you're not a Christian yet, it's great that you're here this morning. I'm so pleased you're here As a VISTA, I've really no idea.
I can't tell by looking at who is and isn't a Christian. It's not written on your forehead. But maybe The very fact that you're here means that you're obviously interested in Christian things. I just wanna say this. You see, the gospel turns our thinking on its head.
It it it just does. Before we become a Christian, we think that becoming a Christian, we gotta earn God's favor. And the gospel says, you can't do that. There's nothing you can do to pay for the messed up things that you've done. I've come to do it.
I'm the God who gives. I'm giving you my son, I'm giving you grace. And if you get to that point, please God you will when you see that for yourself. And you simply cry out to God and say, Lord, please accept me. Please forgive me because of Jesus.
Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit. Please help me to live for you and you seek the help of other Christians. As you do that, remember that's only the start of the journey. Because it's more blessed to give them receive. And if that becomes your lifestyle, if that becomes the drumbeat of your life, if that becomes the way you think as you wake each morning.
It's truly the blessed life. Let's pray. Father, thank you for who you are. How can we ever do any justice? To your beauty, to your loveliness, to your grace, to your mercy, to your kindness, to your unchangeability.
And, lord we thank the in your mercy you've given Christ. And in your mercy, you go on giving the holy spirit to those who call upon you, and in your mercy, you walk with your people day by day even though we often mess it up. And Lord, we are reminded this morning. That it is more blessed to give them receive. Help us to live as you want us to live.
Give us the power of the Holy Spirit for without that, we can't. We can never do this, but help us to be those men and women who day by day in the ordinary things of life in our service of you, reflect back to you. Our gratitude at your grace and your mercy even to us. We ask it for our good and for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
Amen. We're gonna end Think about end anyway. So with a lovely song by Stuart Town in my heart is filled with thankfulness. To him who dwells within. Let's stand and sing that when the musicians are with us and then Tom will come.