Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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A Sure Walk Into Darkness

Acts 20

The time: January, 1988. The place: Highway 62 between Eagle Point Oregon, and Trail Christian Fellowship. We were driving our 1987 Plymouth Voyager to a counseling appointment, providing pre-marital counseling to a young couple who were about to be married.

When we set out the roads were damp, but it had been raining. A few miles up the freeway we noticed a few snowflakes falling. I slowed the car to about 35 miles an hour. Then, just over a small rise I took my foot off the accelerator and the van began to spin. We spun around what seemed like forever, then BANG - a loud sound - the lights came on in the van and we stopped.

When we got out we realized that we had become the latest victims of what was called "The Arctic Express." A huge very cold air mass that suddenly and without warning swept down across the state, turning damp roads into ice rinks in a matter of seconds. Along with our car, 4 others had wrecked in a matter of minutes in the same place. The bang we heard was our van hitting another car that had fallen into a ditch.

It was a traumatic incident, one we will never forget - but one totally and completely unexpected. There was no way to prepare for this kind of trial, this type of disaster. We simply had to deal with the consequences after the fact.

It's one thing to react to something that's just happened - it's quite another to see trouble coming and know there is no way to avoid it. Let me ask you this: if God were to tell you ten years ago everything that was going to happen in your life for the next decade - how would you feel? Would you run screaming from the room in sheer terror? If you've experienced real hard times in your past, you just might panic.

Well, in a way, that is exactly what faces the Apostle Paul in Acts Chapter 20. In his missionary journeys Paul has faced lots of problems - opposition, imprisonment, stoning - you get the picture. We can't be sure, but if seems as if he just handled these things as they came along. Now, however, he knows the future - and it doesn't look bright.

It causes Paul to do some reflection - on ministry, life, and friendship - reflection that we can use when we face the certainty of troubled waters ahead.

Vs 1 - 6

Travel details - Luke joins Paul once again, as does Timothy.

Vs 7 - 12

Earliest reference to Christians gathering together on Sunday as their day of worship.

Eutychus - they met on the third floor, and used smoky lamps for light. It is supposed that Paul preached for six hours - and during that time the lamps and their smoke could have been the cause of Eutychus falling asleep and falling out the window. Commentators seem to agree that Paul performed a miracle in bringing this young man back to life. It happened in a similar manner as in 2Kings 4:33 when Elisha stretched himself out on the Shunammite's son and brought him back to life.

What significance is there to this account? Possibly none. Maybe it just happened - and things often do, as the result of natural causes. But God entered in when needed and came to the rescue. Often times we try to attribute some cosmic purpose to things happening when they are simply the result of circumstances.

But be sure that even when there is no purpose, no fault, no hidden meaning in the cause of an event, God can still come in and right wrongs, heal wounds, and make things right.

Vs 13 - 16

Paul is in a hurry to reach Jerusalem - we find out later exactly why.

Vs 17 - 35

Paul's present manner of ministry:

o Humility
o Tears (sorrow over sin? Identity with hardship?)
o Boldness to preach what was needed even if to his own hurt (the whole word of God)
o Singular in purpose (everyone must repent and turn to God)
o Selfless (didn't depend on anyone supplying his needs)
o A living example that we must help the weak

Paul's wish for the church

Keep watch (proseck'o)

4 Elements:
1- Pay attention (be aware of what's happening)
2- Be cautious (sift the evidence with a wary eye)
3- Apply oneself (take action where needed, don't hold back)
4- Adhere (stay the course even in the face of attack)

Over yourselves
Don't let your own life go off course as you focus on ministry.
Over the flock
Literally like a flock of sheep - not the organization, but the people.

As an overseer
This is where we get the idea of Bishop. It comes from two Greek words that mean "to watch or peer about", and "over or above". The idea is someone that looks out for the body - for it's tending and protection. The idea is not to control, or to force, or to have a position of prominence - it is a job, a responsibility. We have this charge over Living Waters - but you have a similar job in your home, or with your peer group - you are a leader somewhere in your Christian world.

Be shepherds (poy-mane) synonymous with "feed"
Of the church that Christ bought with His blood
We must always remember that it is His church, bought with a great price - and we are only caretakers of His flock. It is the same with family, or whatever group you are a leader in - you are entrusted to care and feed them for the Master - not to rule over them or have them serve you.

Paul's warning for the flock

Outside attacks are coming
Savage wolves - not just wolves but grievous wolves.
The enemy means business and he means to harm the church by marshalling whatever forces he can. It's not if attacks come, but when. So we must be on guard.

Sheep at risk
The wolves of the enemy don't just growl, they bite. As shepherds we must watch out for those who will try to harm members of the body - by attack or by deceit. This is not a drill, this is not a game.

Inside attacks are coming
Truth distorted - this is why we must study and know the Word
Lives drawn away
Remember, this is from INSIDE the church. WE must resist faction and division among believers so as not to give rise to the attack from within.

Paul's exhortation for us all

Be on guard

1) Keep awake
Don't be lulled into a sense of false security. Be aware of your surroundings and of those things happening around you. Often a spiritual attack might come disguised as something else.

2) Rehearse
Remember how the enemy worked - rehearse your response so that when the tough time comes you are ready and not paralyzed by fear.


Conclusion

Paul's future of trouble

o Pain at parting (I'll never see you again)
o Reflection and clearing (I'm not guilty)
o Compelled to move forward, even to hardship (22) "bound"
Didn't bind himself or did someone else tell him
o His life is not important
o Completing God's task is important

When faced with certain trouble.

o Anticipating pain doesn't reduce the feeling, but if it drives you to your knees it will increase your spiritual strength. (Paul wrote his greatest letters from prison)

o Looking towards trouble gives you a good perspective on your life and following God's will (Paul doesn't need to worry that people will die and go to hell because he preached the "whole" will of God to them)


o Looking towards trouble also makes you reflect on your own character - to "come clean" with God. And to assess what's really been important to you. Suddenly having that new car doesn't hold the same luster as it once did. Things like family, your spouse, learning about the character of God through His Word - take on a whole new meaning and importance.

o (Paul was compelled to go the Jerusalem) Be convinced in the Spirit that this is your road. Don't just face something because it is before you. Sometimes we go through unnecessary trouble because we think everything is from God.

o (Paul didn't know what lay ahead, only prison and hardship). Often we get only partial pictures - If we knew exactly what we were to face we'd prepare for that and that only - instead of relying on God to help us meet any possibility.

o (Paul did not consider his life dear, or worth anything) Life is worthless outside of living it for the Lord - even if that means going through trials.

Jesus said: "I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but through Me." That way leads to Calvary before it leads to heaven - the facing of our sins, then the forgiveness and the joy when we accept Him as Lord.

o Focus on the goal, not the trial
Phil 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What's the goal, what is God trying to do in the situation? Create His character in you? Bring people into His kingdom? Tear down strongholds of the enemy? Bring about His long-term will even if it seems like defeat in the near term?

The prize is out there, waiting for each of us, even if it takes walking that sure journey into darkness to get it - it's worth the pain.

Hebrews 12:2 "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

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