The full measure of devotion

“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:17-21, 24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The full measure of devotion

It is Memorial Day, and pause and remember the sacrifices of those who have defended our country in time of war and strife. On September 11, 2012, Navy Seal and CIA contractor, Glen Doherty stood atop the roof of a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, desperately calling for support as the compound was in danger of being overrun. Joined by Tyrone Woods, another former Seal, Deherty was hit by mortar fire and killed.

In that crazy moment they demonstrated the full measure of devotion. Sadly, those in power at the time turned their backs on them, as no help came.

On this holiday, I can’t help but think of my Savior Jesus Christ, who took on the sins of the world, went to the cross and died to pay for all. He was buried and rose from the grave. He brought the Good News of God to His creation, and it rejected Him. He came anyway. And He is coming again.

This morning I had the chance to read one of my favorite chapters in the whole bible, Acts chapter 20. Here we see Paul addressing the elders from Ephesus. He is giving them his last instruction as he was soon going to Jerusalem, facing potential danger, entering the unknown.

By this time, Paul had endured much and would endure more, climaxing in his beheading at the order of Nero. Even though seers had warned him, he went anyway. Paul was a spiritual bada**!

When I consider the message of Ephesians 20, I feel like he is speaking through time to the elders of today, and being one myself in a local church, I can’t help but be mindful. We are seeing all that he warned of, as wolves have entered the church, not sparing the flock.

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:28-29‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Like Paul, we must be deliberate and relentless in making sure that the truth of God’s word is being presented to those we oversee. In these increasingly perilous times, we must be ever vigilent as so many false teachers are flooding the airwaves, and putting out great, emotional music that is so alluring. They may not be in our churches physically, but they are invading the minds.

“Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:30-31‬ NKJV

Those who are teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, or ministers in any role, are on the front lines. It is easy to look at the church work as no comparison to the work of a soldier in war, but I can tell you that much blood is being spilled around the world. Many pastors, elders, and lay ministers are being murdered as those in power strike at the head, hoping to kill the body and stop the spread of the Gospel.

Proclaiming the Gospel is a revolutionary act, as it directly challenges the power structure. Nero understood this and made every effort to destroy those who worship Jesus and not him. Hitler understood as he desired to prove God a liar by trying to exterminate the Jews, only to be defeated by a thrice holy God who used Hitler’s evil to raise Israel from the dead.

We have a lineage bathed in blood, as many of those who have gone before us, have given all for the preservation and advancement of the faith. In the near future, many will have that opportunity to pay the full price, give that full measure of devotion. Let us be like Paul, let us be like Glen, let us be like Jesus.

Paul delivered his final message. His last words were some of the most poignant in all the bible, as one can sense the sadness and the power of the moment.

“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:33-38‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Paul was faithful to his ministry to the end. He did not yield, he did not hide, he fulfilled all that Lord had for him. I hope that I will be able to do that. Near the end he was able to give Timothy his last bit of encouragement, his death bed confession as J. Vernon McGee put it.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭4:6-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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