Live Life to the Fullest

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If you got a Bible this morning, open to Acts chapter 20. And if I think about it, I’ll mention as we get there, Acts chapter 20 is where we’re going to be this morning and we’re ending a brand. Well, it was a brand new series. We’re ending a new series, a newer series. It was only five weeks called Facts Frequently Asked Questions, where we gave everyone the opportunity to ask any question they desired. We would give an answer. We have a few more questions left to answer. This is the last one we’re going to do in a sermon, so the rest of those will be posted on Facebook. If your question hasn’t been answered, you can look at our church Facebook page for the link to find those answers to those questions. The question that we’re going to answer this morning is simply this an easy it’s an easy answer, but difficult to live. And here’s the question how can I live life to the fullest? And how do I live to make life count? Sort of the same thing that we’ve had asked there. But when we think about the life that God has given us, how do we maximize that life to to live according to the way that God desires or even even to begin to live the way that God desires for us? What does that look like for a believer? Easy answer. Difficult to do. In fact, Jesus gave it to us very simplistically in the book of Matthew in chapter I don’t have control.

Chapter ten and verse 39 it says, whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it easy. Statement for Jesus to make when asked the question, how can I live life for the fullest? And how do I make life count? Christ? And the response from Jesus is just a sentence whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it easy to understand, but hard to live. What does that look life like in the life of a believer? When I think about people in Scripture that have lived life to the fullest for God as God has designed them to live, one of the first people that comes to my mind is the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was one who traveled from or went from an a spiritual journey, in a sense, from the legalism of his Jewish religion to relationship with God on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians. It’s estimated that in his life he planted at least somewhere around 20 churches. Throughout the ministry that Paul conducted, he went on four missionary journeys. Three of those journeys are recorded in the book of Acts and all that Paul had accomplished for the Lord. One of the churches that Paul established on his missionary journeys was was the Church of Ephesus. In fact, it says in Acts chapter 19 and verse nine, he took the disciples.

This is talking about Paul. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyranus. This is in the city of Ephesus, where they’re doing this lecture. This went on for two years. Paul spent a large majority of his church planting efforts in the city of Ephesus. In fact, in chapter 20 and verse 31, Paul says that he spent three years here pleading with the believers in pursuit of their relationship with Christ. He says in even to the point of tears, Paul did this. And so when Paul, when we talk about someone who lives his life fullest for the Lord, the Apostle Paul is a wonderful example. But if you were to ask me what church model this well, in the New Testament, I would. I would point to the church that took place in the city of Ephesus. Paul planted this church in Ephesus among believers there. And as this church began to grow, the Bible tells us, if you read the second half of Acts chapter 19 and verse ten, it says so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. So for two years they conducted this ministry in the school of Tyranus as Paul saw people come to know Jesus. That church then spread from Ephesus all over the region of Asia. Now I’ll give you a grant that Asia then isn’t as big as Asia today.

In fact, it doesn’t compare. But it’s a large region in which the gospel went forth from this church. When we think about people living life to the fullest and making life count, the greatest examples that I find in Scripture I see happening in the life of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament and in the church of Ephesus in the New Testament. So we asked the question, how do we live life to the fullest? We see that a few people in these instances did this. In the church of Ephesus and the Apostle Paul, Jesus makes a statement whoever will lose his life for my sake will gain it all. Wonderful illustrations and points for us to draw from Scripture. But but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts, it doesn’t give much detail on how that looks. The wonderful blessing for us is Acts chapter 20 does. It’s in Acts chapter 20 that Paul is concluding his third missionary journey. He’s on his way back to Jerusalem. He finished up in chapter 19 visiting some cities in the chapter. 20. And in chapter 20 and verse 24, we’re actually going to pick up in verse 18, Paul. Paul begins to go to an area of Macedonia to visit the Ephesian elders or the Ephesian leaders. On his way back to Jerusalem, he decides that he he doesn’t want to go back up to Ephesus because it’s going to take too much time for that journey.

But he wants to see the leadership of that church one more time, and so he asks them to come down and visit him before he heads to Jerusalem. And when he asks them to visit him, as they come down and begin to engage in a conversation together, reflecting on what God has done in them and through them, Paul in this story, begins to draw conclusions in his life of how he lived life to the fullest. And so it’s in Acts chapter 20 that we begin the story together. In verse 18, Paul says this when they arrive talking about the church, he said to them, you know how I live the whole time I was with you from the first day I came into the province of Asia. And Paul, beginning in verse 18, sets up the statement of, you know how I lived. Let’s let’s just rehash it one more time just to reflect of the goodness of God and what he was doing in us and through us as we were surrendering our life to him, living life to the fullest. And I’ll tell you this morning, I’m going to draw some principles from this portion of Scripture. If in your own time you would like to go back over this passage of Scripture beginning in verse 18 and on, it’s a good place to look at the how the Apostle Paul lived his life throughout the rest of chapter 20, as he describes it, that that the church and and Paul were able to be used of the Lord to make such a tremendous impact that all of Asia hears the gospel.

The first thing that Paul says to us in this passage is this, that we define our purpose through the one who gives life its purpose. Meaning, make a difference by seeking to live a life that outlives yourself the way that we make life count is to live for more than just today. We seek to live life in a way that outlives itself, and we find the purpose and significance of life that is lived outside of itself, through the one who holds life in his hand, the one who is eternal God, who created you. And for some of us, this may sound simplistic to start with, but it’s the initial point for every believer in this world to understand why they’re created. It all begins with your relationship with God. And when you read in Scripture, Jesus is not only called Savior, but he’s also called Lord. Meaning there comes a place in your life where in saving you, you get the relationship with Christ. And in calling him Lord, you continue to experience that relationship in Christ. It’s not based on what you do. It’s based on what he’s done and you coming to him. And so Paul says this in verse 24, however, I considered 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. Paul’s life, contrary to walking with Jesus, was one of religion in Judaism. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found in my relationship with God the place that my relationship with God really got healthy is when I gave up me. I came to a place in my walk with the Lord, where I realized living life for me wasn’t a place of joy. It wasn’t a place of happiness. It was a place of purposeless, really purposeless living. And one day I just wake up and I begin to realize, you know, I have to be creative for so much more than this, more than just self made pleasure that temporarily satisfies my life, but is simply fleeting in itself. It’s like chasing a ghost and never find that contentment in who I am and what I’m doing. There’s got to be a greater purpose than this. Paul got to the place in his life where he recognized the same thing. To live a life that makes a difference. You’ve got to live a life that outlives yourself, in the place that’s discovered as the one who created life itself, the one who is eternal. And that is God. I considered my life worth nothing to me. The things that I had valued, the importance that I placed on myself, the the way that I thought life should go.

I gave up on that, and I let God define it for me. And finally he said, then, my only aim is to finish the race that God has called me to in this world. You know, when you think about people in this world that make a difference, the people in the world that make a difference are not people that know a lot of things, in fact. And don’t waste your life. John Piper’s book, he said this they happened to to know but a few things. They are great, and they are willing to live for them and die for them. Meaning, the people that make a difference aren’t people that know a lot of things. They’re people that happen to know a few things that are great. And in knowing those few things, they’re willing to live and to die for them. People that make a difference. He went on to say, are not people that have mastered many things, but have been mastered by few things that are great meaning when you talk about following Christ in this world. The reason I say it’s easy is because Jesus made it simplistic and understanding for us. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. He’s come to give you relationship with him. In him you find purpose in him. He is life. In him. He gives the way. It’s easy to understand.

Christ laid it out plainly, but it’s difficult for us to live as people, our desires to be mastered or be master many things. But those who accomplish things in this world are mastered by few things that are great to live life to the fullest. It’s required of us as people to allow life to be defined through the one who created life in its purpose. And Paul discovers that the second thing that Paul stands for in living life to the fullest is this he says, for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. In some translations it says this I did not shrink from declaring to you the entire truth. Paul is willing to take a stand for truth. Not only is he allow his life to be mastered by something that’s great, but he shares the greatness of that God in this world. He doesn’t shrink away. You think of the church of Ephesus and Paul traveling to preach the gospel to them. If if in those moments he had opportunity to boldly proclaim, yet he refused where, where Ephesus would be. Or even think about the Apostle Paul on his road to Damascus, if he continued to deny Christ, rather than turn his heart to the Lord, where would the world be? Or would Paul be a boldness for the truth? I think in our lives we face two opportunities where it is an obstacle that could continue to be an obstacle for us.

First, is present within our own relationship before God, Jesus’s truth could be presented to us and coming to understand him and walk with him to let go of religion and joy, freedom in Jesus and enjoy our relationship with him forever. Rather than forsaking all other things to come to Christ, we choose to embrace those things and reject Jesus. Finally, the Apostle Paul came to a place in his life where he abstained from those things that kept him from Christ and embraced Christ alone. And in walking with Jesus, he began to see the importance of that relationship. And those God called him out from Tarsus to begin to share that message into the world. When Paul shared the message of Christ, it’s important to recognize that he isn’t responsible for the content of the message, but what he was responsible for was to deliver it. We as a people are faced every day with the opportunity, having coming to know Christ, to stand in a place where we could shrink back from the opportunity of sharing the truth of what Christ has done in our lives and desires to do in the lives of other people. If we shrink from declaring the whole gospel because it’s uncomfortable, we are implicitly telling the world, we don’t care that you’re dying without Jesus. Paul gives two examples of how he continued to share that truth. One of them is in Acts 20 and verse 19.

It says this I served the Lord with great humility and with tears in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. And Paul is honest. He says, I knew I was going to get attacked for this, but God’s truth was far more important what the world is going to do to me. And we’ve said even last week that what God created us for in this world isn’t an easy life. God didn’t create you to live in an easy life. God created you to live in a holy life apart from him, to stand for his truth. Now the Bible tells us in walking the holiness of God we have joy through Christ and relationship to him. But life isn’t about easiness. It’s about walking with Jesus in all things. And Paul says in this passage that with great humility and with tears, he saw the importance of sharing the truth, that just as he had been set free, so he might find that others would be set free for Christ. We talk about this word humility. It’s an interesting phrase in Scripture. This word of humility that Paul exercised in this passage of Scripture is one that is degrading. In fact, outside of the New Testament, this word for humility was was used as a derogatory term to refer to people. It’s saying to us as believers that God, in the midst of our weakness, makes his glory known. If we would allow ourselves to be weak for the sake of his world and his good name.

In humility. We serve. Whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it easy. To say. Difficult to live. As Christians, I think sometimes we get in a place in our lives where we can fool ourselves into the lingo of Christianity without realizing we’re not living it. And we know all the words. I mean, if I if I say to you Matthew 28, 19 and 20, do you know what that passage says? Or if you don’t, if I begin to quote it, go into the world and preach the what? Gospel baptizing in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. We can recite it with our lips, but deny it by our life. Paul saying that these aren’t just words that I lived in my life, they are an attitude I carried in my actions that I understood the importance of the life of the believer. That however this world wants to define me, it does not matter. What matters is how Jesus defines me, how Jesus sees me. Someone asked me once, what, what, what do you do in this world when, when you know people are going to be opposed by what you say? Even in church on Sunday, and you stand behind a pulpit and you’re about to share something that might be countercultural to our society today, what do you say when you know people’s ears may not listen to it? Well? One, one I would say this I don’t want to intentionally and purposely offend anyone or unnecessarily excuse me, I don’t want to unnecessarily offend anyone.

But more important than that, I want to be faithful to Jesus. The Bible says, let your tongue be seasoned with grace as salt, to speak the truth in love. And sometimes as believers, I think we get so irritated because we know what the truth is. And so in order to help the world see that we we bash them with our tongue rather than serve them with it. The truth is offensive enough without me adding an offense on top of it, because we like to live as our own gods rather than making God who he is, which is Lord. And my own heart does that. And if you come to me just lashing with a tongue my willingness to surrender to Jesus, and that it won’t be as great as if you just simply come as a servant in humility, wanting to serve. Because you know what that says. I have your best interest in mind, and I love you so much that even sharing this, this is painful for me because I know it creates tension between us. But more than anything, I want to please Jesus. Paul shares the truth. And in so doing, point number three is this he directed people towards Jesus and not towards himself.

You know, the beauty of Christ’s word is this that in Isaiah 5511 it says his word will not return void. And so it’s with humility that we serve even in derogatory terms. We recognize that God takes the weak things of this world, that we don’t need position in this world because our position rests in Christ and our future is glorious in him. So say whatever you want about me. I love Jesus and I’m secure in the King, and His word does not return void. One of my favorite stories about Martin Luther King Junior when he was leading leading the the sit ins and the protests throughout the streets. And in Birmingham, Alabama, he he made this the popular thought that when people would protest during the civil rights movements in the streets of Birmingham and have the sit ins, they would be carted off to jail and and the kids, it says the kids during that time saw that as, as a heroic act, so much so that when you would walk the streets of Birmingham, if you were an African American young man, it was it was not uncommon to hear the conversation of, when were you in jail this week? And and what time were you in jail and how long were you there, and when were you let out? And they would sell it. They would say this to one another in words of triumph, of what they knew was taking place through their actions.

The world was unfolding and things were changing before our eyes. History being led through through the movement of Martin Luther King Jr. In their humility of serving, they see a world that’s being transformed, or at least an American society addressing the issues that were important. And it seems for us. With an attitude of humility. We address the world through the issues that are important. In one, persecution takes place. We. We don’t pout as woe is me, but we stand and wonder and joy of the opportunity of serving Christ. What a place that would be for us to brag with one another, to know how God is moving in us and through us, to proclaim his goodness as we’re serving this world. Maybe Paul’s thoughts in this passage would simply say this I don’t want to leave people with an example to admire, but rather a savior to trust in. Giving us the opportunity at the end of the day and all the things that we labor for and conduct our lives in, and just to simply pause and say, at the end of the day and at the end of my life, will this matter? The things that I fight for and the things that I consider important. By the end of the day, will anyone care? Paul continues to go in the store and he says this. I’m going to go back to the previous verse. He he finished strong in order to make a life count, to live it to the fullest.

It’s important for us to make an impact by finishing strong, he says. 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. The truth is, to live life to the fullest becomes difficult for us in our lives because we walk with a divided heart rather than a pure heart. I want to be faithful to Jesus, but I want her. I want to stand with Jesus, but I really need their approval. I want what Jesus says. But I would also rather do that. God has different seasons in our lives that he calls us to and faithfulness to finish strong. Meaning, if the Lord has led you to college, finish strong. If if God has led you into motherhood, finish strong in raising your kids. If God has called you to be a husband and father, live in his will and finish strong. As you find yourself reaching retirement age, don’t check out in your 50s and retire early. I should say this that when we talk about retirement, we we may retire from work physically. But you never retire from serving the Lord spiritually. In fact, the Bible tells us Wisdom’s beauty, right? The more you get, the longer you live life walking with the Lord, the wiser you become.

In fact, Paul. Paul encouraged the early churches and the older gentleman. He told them to speak to the younger gentlemen to teach the younger gentlemen. The same is true with with the older women in the church, to offer wisdom in the lives of younger people for this world. John Piper wrote in his book Don’t Waste Your Life. He recorded a story of of an older couple who robbed the church of seeing the beauty of their wisdom being served, and he he he made this comment within his book. Let me read this paragraph to you. He says, I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who took early retirement from their jobs in the northeast five years ago, when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler playing softball and collecting seashells. And John Piper said, at first when I read it, I thought it might be a joke, a spoof of the American Dream, but it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream. Come to the end of your life, your one and only precious, God given life, and let the greatest work of your life before you give an account to your creator. Be this playing softball and collecting seashells. Picture them before Christ at the Judgment Day.

Look, Lord, see my seashells? And this is a tragedy and people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest. Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life. Now realize God put seashells on this earth and seashells reflect his glory. And when you go to the beach, if you want to collect seashells, collect seashells. But the point of it is what? Do you live your life for pleasure and ease? Or Jesus and His glory? There’s a man by the name of Pastor Saeed who’s been in prison for a few years in Iraq, and I know it’s been all over Facebook, people praying for his release from Iraq. His family is still back here in the States. And now there’s a growing concern for his life because ISIS is taking over control of Iraq and Syria. And they’re writing death threats about him saying the next, next American they take out is going to be Pastor Saeed. And so we look forward to him losing his life on television again, as some of the other people have done. And you think about the loss of his life in comparison to collecting seashells. Pastor said if he loses his life, we pray for his release. But if he loses his life, for us, it’s a tragedy for us. I think God would would be sorrowful over the actions of man on the earth.

But in the end, as he looks to his creator, if he were to lose his life and stand before God, Jesus would just say, how glorious! Here’s a man that understands why he’s created. We define life one way, but Jesus sees the beauty of a life another. Living life to the fullest is easy. Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. But it’s hard because it wrestles at the core of who I am. Rather than calling Jesus Lord, I am Lord. And rather in humility, serving my king, I’m king. Paul leaves with this last thought. He says, and everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work, we must help the weak. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus Himself. He said, it is more blessed to give than receive. Meaning it’s about giving, not taking. When you leave this world, leave it better then than it was when you arrived in this world. God has called you to be the light of this world and the salt of the earth, and to be fruitful and to multiply, to be a blessing and not a curse in your relationships and your marriage and your career and your retirement. The glory of God being made known in everything you do. Matter of fact, that’s why we’re at two services this morning. God, whatever it takes to reach people, provide more, more seats that your message could be heard. And the joy of who you are could be experienced.

God, we lay our lives down for you. Paul says that we work to help the weak. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. And I’ve got to admit, that type of life is impossible without one thing, without the power of Christ resting in you. Paul was able to spend himself for the sake of others, because there was one relationship in which he would always take more than he could give, and that was his relationship to Christ. Jesus had given up far more for Paul than he could ever take from him, and we can never repay Jesus for what he has done, but to simply enjoy him, not to be mastered of of many things, but to be mastered by one thing that matters, because it is greater than anything in this world. And so Paul even told the church in Ephesus in verse 32, now I commit you church 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 any silver or gold or clothing. Listen, Paul says, I lay down everything that you think is important. Here’s here’s how you grow. I can give so much to this world because of what Jesus is giving in me. I commit to God and to his word of grace. Allow Christ to fill me up. It’s his goodness that sustains me anyway.

It’s his hope that keeps me looking to a glorious future. It keeps me unconcerned with the systems of the world and how it measures me, and running the rat race and keeping up with the Joneses. I just look to Jesus and simply asked, Lord, what is pleasing to you? Verse 32, he shares the secret with the church of Ephesus, which really isn’t a secret. It’s written throughout Scripture. It’s all about your relationship with God. You’re not earning his favor. He’s extending his grace to you to invite you in, that he may strengthen you for what he’s called you to in this world. Because it may not be an easy life, but it’s a life that God has called you for his glory. In Acts chapter 20 and verse 36, I love the end of this portion of Scripture because it says to me as a church, when we live with a priority of of desiring to make the most of the life God has given us, when we do that together, when we get in the trenches together, God does a beautiful thing. You think in your life places where you’ve really served, if you’ve ever been on a sports team, you’ve gone through the hell week of football and you’ve gone through that season. You’ve done combat together in the trenches. It builds this unity. Or if you’ve ever fought in combat, you you have this special connection with other people who have, especially if you fought with them, that when you come back, a guy that’s never served in the military like me, when two people in the military come into a room, they have a connection that I just don’t have.

They’re brothers in arms. If you get in the trenches with someone like that, the connectedness comes. And that is a is a beautiful thing. And when God does that through a church, what a beautiful thing. It takes place. And it says in Acts 20 verse 36, the last time Paul’s going to see the church of Ephesus, when Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them, and he prayed, and they all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. And what grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. Serving the Lord. God calls us many places. But what a joy it is when we do it in unity for his glory and goodness. When together we desire what he desires for this world. When together, a church desires what God desires for their city and for their area. I think when I get to an end of a passage like this, my mind begins to dream of possibilities. I think just a little band of believers in Ephesus saw an entire city turned around. A major city at this time turned around for Christ, but not just the city, a whole region of Asia for Christ.

And Paul shares the story. How? That’s to look at the value of Jesus and make life count. Whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it. And then I think about us and what God’s doing in us and through us, in the joy of that. And along the way, the temptation might be to just close our doors and hunker in and just appreciate what we’ve done in our little bubble, or to stop and say, forget that it’s still Jesus and His glory. And I want to promote his name, and I want to share that glory, and I want to be faithful with what God has called me to do in humility. I desire to serve him, to live a life that matters. To give an answer to this question is a challenge because it’s it’s easy, but it’s easy to hear but difficult to live. It isn’t you that will make the difference is what you’re gripped with that will lead you and empower you to make difference. Many times we don’t want our lives to make a difference. All we want is for people to like us and to have it easy. So those who want to make a difference. Comes a point that we need to put down seashells, to seek to live a life that outlives itself by connecting your life to the one who is eternal and follow him. Whoever loses his life will gain it.