Journal Acts 20 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: (Paul speaking to the elders at Ephesus) “…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you in public and from house to house—testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem—constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
(skipping to verse 27) “…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock (in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers) to care for the church of God (which he obtained with his own blood).
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert…” (Acts 20:20-31a)
Observation: Every so often, the Holy Spirit switches text from speaking to the church at large/in general, to speaking to church leadership (official and unofficial), and finally speaking to individuals (like Timothy and Titus, for example).
However, like the Holy Spirit through Paul indicates, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16)
So, I probably should pay attention even when the subject matter audience may not concern me directly…
Application: In this Acts 20 reference, Paul refers to a main thing:”… repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
After the Holy Spirit stuff in just about all the 19 previous chapters that has been highlighted, I might think/assume that the “main” message was about Jesus’ baptism and the Holy Spirit.
The text indicates that Paul was not unaware of the Spirit’s hands-on activity in a disciple’s life, the main message begins with the Gospel: Repentance, Grace, and the Cross.
I introduce and remind myself that the Cross is where the function of Redemption begins: “…(which he obtained with his own blood).”
Back on track: I still see the function of the Holy Spirit gifting (prophecy) in the testimony of Paul’s warnings from every city: “…except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.”
In the light of this, Paul admonishes and warns the leadership of Ephesus to be aware of “…fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them…”. Note that these “wolves” will arise from among the local church—discernment will need to be at a high sensitivity.
A thought: Are the elders Paul is now speaking warnings to in Chapter 20 the same guys he asked what baptism they were baptized about in Chapter 19? Doesn’t say, but it makes me wonder…
So, what do I concentrate on? What do I do? I remind myself of the basics (a classic, recommended for every Christian’s library, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald Whitney—), things like:
- Review of the Gospel as it applies personally (read slowly Lam 3)
- Daily (or consistent) Bible intake (Daily Bible Readings)
- Worship (there are good bands like Indelible Grace who adapt old hymns to new arrangements to explore)
- Journaling (duh!)
- Perseverance in disciplines: Make a plan for Christian growth; take the Fruit of the Spirit and work on one or two fruits at a time, then add another and another, etc. is a suggestion.
I can’t look in the Mirror and say that I nail any of these well. I am not sure these are in any order of importance except maybe for the top three. I see “fellowship” or “fostering biblical friendships” isn’t listed here and I would think these would be up there even before “evangelism.” So perhaps there is room for contemplation here…
Prayer: Lord God, you are so good. Please help me from wandering in my writing and stay on target. However, if you would, use me in any way you would so my writing would forever indicate that my only boast is You.
Ricky Two Shoes