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As Todd walks us through the beginning of Acts 28, there are multiple lessons about kindness and leadership that we can learn from Paul by how he handled being shipwrecked on the island of Malta. It’s been said that kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Have you ever responded to the extraordinary kindness of Christ?
Acts 2018 and Beyond
From Acts 28 to Ad 2018: This Is No Fable
Sailing in the Storm
The Evidence of a Relationship
The True Story of Paul Can Be True of You: Passion, Providence and Peace
Calm in the Midst of Crisis
A Platform Built of the Past and Problems
Courage That Comes From Love
Good morning, Watermark. We are not just going to say hello to Dallas and Fort Worth and our friends in Plano who are watching online, but today is the first day our friends who are going to begin to gather and minister and be on mission in Frisco are gathering. It's pretty exciting. They're meeting at 4:00 on the Plano Campus for the next several months before they'll eventually move up into the Frisco area.
We have about 600 folks who are a part of Watermark, members in community who live in the Frisco area who said, "We think we could love and care for our friends more in Frisco if we began to gather and minister to them throughout the week there and invite them to come just a few minutes as opposed to 45," which is basically the drive to one of those other campuses. So way to go.
I love the attitude of this body, when people come to us and say, "We believe God could use us more effectively if we did this. We know why we're here, and we're not asking for you to make us more comfortable by having us drive 15 minutes as opposed to 40 minutes. We're asking you to make us more effective and useful and fruitful in what we do." This is a perfect segue to where we are in the book of Acts.
There is a tendency when we read the Bible to read it like Homer's Iliad or, more likely, Aesop's fables or Grimm's fairy tales, like some American mythology, like we're a bunch of miners who need a story like John Henry that we know isn't true, but this mythological figure who could wield his hammer and move through more stone and rock to get to the treasure so we're motivated to do more ourselves. We know there's no John Henry, but we talk about him. We're lumberjacks, and we need a Paul Bunyan story to motivate us.
Sometimes it's easy to look at Scripture and think Paul is a Paul Bunyan and think other faithful men in history are just legendary tales that aren't true. Let me tell you what we're wrapping up in the next two weeks. We're studying the Acts of the Apostles, or the acts of the Holy Spirit through those he sent forth. The word apostle literally means one sent forth. Specifically, individuals who have seen the risen Lord that Jesus himself commissioned.
He said, "On your understanding of who I am, on your being enabled by and yielded to the Holy Spirit… That's going to be the foundation. You're going to record the historical events I participated in and accomplished, specifically and most importantly my crucifixion and resurrection and everything that led up to that, in order to tell people my coming and providing for them was God's effort to reconcile fallen humanity from his loving person before he brings full and complete judgment."
The rescue mission is complete with Jesus. Now what he wants us to do is to continue to be heralds of the provision that was made until God decides to roll up all that is wrong with the fallen, sinful, broken, satanic, unkingdom-of-God-like world we live in. The Scripture says, "God is not slow, as some count slowness, but he's patient toward you, wishing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance."
He basically said, "I'm going to leave you here, but not as orphans. I will be with you. I'll never leave you or forsake you, and you will be useful and fruitful to me. As you yield to me, you take up your cross, you put yourself under my authority, you deny yourself, and you follow me, I will send you forth." I've never seen Jesus physically, but the Bible has enlightened the eyes of my heart.
The Scripture, the Spirit of God has shown me who Jesus is through my own personal study of the historical, empirical evidence of the resurrection events and other observations and studies I've made. I see that the preponderance of evidence suggests that this Jesus was a historical figure, and the works attributed to him and the words he attested to and have been written about him would more than seem to suggest he is exactly who he says he is.
I have put my hope in him, and now I have seen by the eyes of faith the resurrected Lord. And guess what. I wouldn't call myself an apostle, but I would tell you I am sent forth. There's a rather famous church-planting organization right now that's called Acts 29. If you look in your Bible, which I hope you will in a moment, you're going to find out there is no Acts 29. It ends at Acts 28. But no, it doesn't.
Here's the thing. The work of the Holy Spirit continues through his church, and there are more chapters to be written. What we're trying to do at this pastors' conference this morning… If you're here as a guest, you need to know we are here to equip the saints, to declare to you the excellencies of our God that you might come to him and join us in the only mission that matters. This is Acts 2018. We're writing new stories.
The reason we hand you a Watermark News when you walk in is because I want you to know we serve a risen King who isn't dead. The visible image of the invisible God was Jesus Christ, and the visible image of the risen Jesus is his church. Many of you, like me, had not seen Jesus represented well on earth. I haven't seen people be his ambassadors. I haven't seen people be ministers of reconciliation.
I haven't seen the kindness of God, often, through his church the way I've seen it through Jesus in the Scripture. Because of that, I rejected God. I discounted Jesus. But then I ran into genuine Christ followers, and it changed my life. I was listening to my buddy J.J. Barto, who's a member of our church. We were together at a Young Life event on Friday. We were just having some fun telling people about that ministry and encouraging people to support it.
J.J. talked about when he was a 15-year-old kid, and somebody who was a volunteer with Young Life started to love on him and encourage him and invite him and host him to be around a place where Jesus was rightly followed, pursued, and spoken of, and he said, "When I came to understand who these people were who were changed by God and that they loved me by the power and enabling of God, it changed my everything forever." Isn't that amazing?
I'm going to tell you something. If your everything hasn't been changed forever you have not met Jesus the way you're supposed to meet Jesus. What you're about to see is there is a historical figure whose name is Paul, and he's not some legend. He doesn't have a blue ox. This is a man who just saw Jesus, understood who Jesus was, and yielded to the Spirit of God, which we have when we are reconciled to God by grace through faith. We now see the Holy Spirit is good.
We don't quench it and grieve him. We go, "I want more of you," and God in his kindness works through broken, infallible men to do amazing things. So when you walk in here, we hand you a Watermark News. There is a story there of a Gerasene demoniac whose life has been radically changed; a person who was living among the dead, a terror to himself and to others, who is now clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. That happened in Acts 2018. That's who we are. We are people on a mission. We are sent forth.
I have a friend who has started to hang out here with us. He has been a believer for many years, but he said, "Todd, I've been in a country-club church for a long time." That's what he called it, not me. He said, "It wasn't until I got under (what he called) 'convictional preaching'… When you called me to act, to respond, not just to attend and take notes and hear stories about men who used to do great things for God but to be a man who is left here and live on mission…"
He said, "Todd, I'm a bold person, I'm not afraid, but I don't share my faith. I haven't shared my faith in I don't know how long." He sent me a text this last week, and I said back, "This is the favorite text of the year." He said, "I have gotten in the game. I have been on mission." He talked about stories. This leader in business, who was a good man, who wrote big checks to send people other places but who himself did not act like a sent person, and because of that, he wasn't the church God intended him to be. Church isn't a thing you go to; it's a people you are.
We gather together as his people to remind ourselves of things that are true, and we are here to be equipped and sent forth so others can know our King and their everything can be changed forever. Amen? So I love that some folks have begun to gather in Frisco. Acts 28 is history. So is Acts 2018. Jesus is still busy. When you study the Bible, sometimes you can overcomplicate it. I'm just going to show you what I did when I read Acts 28.
I stop, I listen, I make observations, and I expect it to change me. Let me just remind you of what's going on. This is the subtext, the context of what has been happening. If you walked back through Acts, you would know that Paul, who was a Pharisee who was persecuting people who said the Jesus that the Jews, in consort with Rome, who all the world rejected as God's agent of grace… The world crucified him, mocked him, and hated him.
Paul hated anybody who said that was the Jewish Messiah, because they believed the Messiah was going to not be crucified by Rome but take Rome to task and break the yoke of Rome's oppression over all of Israel. When Jesus wasn't going to break them from the tyrant that was Caesar, Israel rejected him. Jesus said, "You have a bigger problem than Caesar. You have something else reigning in your heart called sin, and that's your problem."
What we have is Paul, who meets Jesus, whose life is changed. He runs back to Jerusalem to tell his buddies in Jerusalem. "Let me just tell you, man. I had it all wrong." God tells him in Acts 22 in one of Paul's testimonies… He basically says, "Hey, Paul, make haste. Get out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me."
He says, "I'm going to use you. I have Peter. I have James. I have John. I have others right here in Jerusalem, but you, a citizen of Rome from Tarsus up there in Asia Minor… I'm going to use you to take the gospel where it has not yet been, because I want the whole world to know my King has come." What we have is the first missionary journey, the second missionary journey, the third missionary journey, and Paul is sweeping back through.
Guess where he wants to go one more time. He wants to go back to Jerusalem, and he wants to tell his brothers one more time about how kind and good God is. People meet him along the way. In Acts 21 we find out there were some folks there who were begging him… Men and women who were filled with the Spirit said, "Paul, don't go to Jerusalem. It's not going to go well for you." Paul said, "I have to go."
There was a prophet, Agabus, who said, "Bro, if you go there you're going to be put in chains." Sure enough, he got there, and there was all kinds of trouble. There was a riot, and they wanted to kill Paul. A Roman leader found out Paul was a Roman, so he had to have a fair trial. He pulled him out, and there was all kinds of scuttlebutt going on.
Acts 23:11 (this is key) says, "But on the night immediately following [all this craziness] , the Lord stood at his side and said, 'Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.'" Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. Here's why Paul wanted to go to Rome: it was the beginning of going even farther to the west. Paul wanted to take the gospel where it had never been preached.
Anybody who knows Jesus should want to share with other people the kindness of God. Can I just tell you guys something? People are evangelists. Everybody is an evangelist about stuff. I had a bunch of friends say, "Wagner, man, you've got to go see the movie A Quiet Place. It's amazing. It's not a gory, scary movie. It shows family. They love each other. They pray. There are Christian themes. The dad lays down his life for his kids. It has all kinds of gospel overtones."
I told my wife last night, "Let's go see this movie." It was awful. But people evangelized me. I was gone. I was all in. Gospel themes? Tension? It was awful. It made me want to go see The Greatest Showman again, and that was awful. You may not like me as a movie critic, but my point is people are not afraid to share something with somebody who doesn't have what they have.
If you know God and have been reconciled to him in the provision of Christ, you ought to be like, "I can't wait to take the gospel where it has never gone before." This is who this guy is, and it's for you to not be motivated by him but to understand that God is motivated by love, and when you come to understand his love, part of the evidence you really have understood it is that you can't help but share it.
Are you sharing your faith? Because if you're not sharing your faith, you need to tune in, and I think you need to be converted this morning. Just flat up. If you're not a part of Acts 29 through Acts 2018, it's probably because you're not acting like a member of the church, and the only reason I can suppose that you don't act like a member of the church is you're not truly a part of the church. You're just part of this cultural phenomena that is country-club Christianity. May it never be!
So we are sent forth. Let's learn something. Acts 28. "When they had been brought safely through…" See last week's message. They had been brought safely through a storm. There were all kinds of great troubles. We know Paul was at sea. I'm going to come back and talk about this more in just a moment. They were shipwrecked. They were without sunlight for days. They didn't eat. Everybody thought they were going to die. Paul was on a grain ship with 200-plus other men.
Acts 28 is picking it up after this storm at sea and certain death they were delivered from. Paul throughout it was filled with peace. Question: Why was Paul filled with peace? Paul was filled with peace because of the Word of God. Remember what I told you? Years earlier, before he was jerked up to Caesarea to go sit before the proconsul, first Felix, then Festus, and then King Agrippa, he was told by an angel of the Lord, "Hey, Paul, don't worry. You're going to Rome."
Based on the testimony of the word of God, Paul was sure there was going to be a journey to Rome. So when that ship is being tossed and turned and flipped in the middle of the sea… God didn't tell him he'd be shipwrecked. God didn't tell him he'd be held prisoner in Caesarea for two-plus years. God didn't tell him he was going to be bitten by a viper, like we're about to see. He just said, "You're going to Rome." That became Paul's peace.
Can I just say this to you right here? I want to insert this. You have been told you're going home, but God has not told you it will be health, wealth, and prosperity until you get there. Anybody who's telling you that on the way to Rome, on the way home, you're going to have nothing but health, wealth, and prosperity is not teaching you the Bible. They are lying to you.
They are selling you something, and they're going to set you up for disappointment with God and the life before you. All I know is that you're going home. You might go home with ALS. You might go home with betrayal and treachery. You might go home being misunderstood by the world, but you're going home, so you can sing in the storm. We're going to find out why we have to do that.
"When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island [we were washed up on] was called Malta." Malta means honey or sweet place, a place of refuge. How many of y'all saw the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ? I'm an evangelist for that movie. Go see that movie. It's an excellent movie. Interestingly enough, it was shot on the island of Malta.
Who knew? Two thousand years after Paul got washed up there in a shipwreck… I'm sure an angel of the Lord didn't tell him, "Hey, there's going to be this thing a little bit later called film and cinema. In 2017 they're going to shoot this movie, and it's going to be in theaters in 2018, because God is going to have tarried. He's not going to have come back yet.
It's going to be a movie about you and when you're persecuted a couple of years from now in Rome by Nero and all the church is scared and trying to figure out what to do. We're going to make a movie about your life, Paul, modeling peace in the midst of the storm, and we're going to shoot it right here on Malta. But we're not there yet, Paul. You still have work to do." It was all there. God knew all that.
So they come up to this sweet place. Verse 2 says, "The natives…" How many of your Bibles have a word other than native? What is it? It's barbarian, isn't it? A lot of Bibles have the word barbarian there. Now what's a barbarian? A barbarian is anybody who speaks in a way the elitist Greeks didn't understand. The name barbarian is itself an onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is a word we get from the sound of the thing it's trying to communicate about it.
Buzz is an onomatopoeia. Swoosh and groan are onomatopoeias. It's made up of two Greek words, one which means to name and the other to make…to make a name. The sound makes the name of the thing. Barbarian is an onomatopoeia, because the Greeks, when they would listen to folks who didn't speak Greek, if they spoke Phoenician, if they spoke English, it would sound to them like, "Bar-bar-bar-bar," so they called them "Bar-barbarians." I'm not kidding you. That's literally where it comes from.
I'm just going to make an observation here. What they really were were just natives. We've talked a little bit about ethnicities here. I'm not a big fan of using the term race because there's only one race. Every single one of us comes from the exact same mother and father. There's one God, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We all come from Adam and Eve. There's one race. There are a lot of different ethnicities, and there are a lot of different natives to different places.
When you're native to a certain place… We know why they start to speak different languages, but how many times do you meet people who don't speak your language, and because they don't speak your language you think they are uncivilized, they are unintelligent? You meet somebody from Wakanda, and because they don't speak English you have no idea they have a more advanced civilization than yours...if you're into Marvel comics.
T'Challa is straight-up smart, but you don't know that because he can't speak English, so you treat him like a slave and a barbarian, an uncivilized person. I say this because even here at Watermark… Our friends who work for the security firm we have, some are from Iraq, some are from Iran, some are from Afghanistan, and when I talk to these individuals, their English is not very good.
They learn my name. They go, "Hi, Mr. Todd. Hello. Nice to see you." They learn things initially and at first that make it sound like, "That guy is not very smart. He doesn't know how to do much more than say hello." Just like me when I go to Mexico. It's como estas or adios or buenas tardes, or whatever. I have a few. It's like, "That poor brother ain't got no sense," when I'm down in Mexico.
If I have to go to the bathroom I'm like… That's all I have, unless I can remember some things from Mariano's and go, "¿El baño de caballeros?" They're like, "Wow, buddy. Put a sentence together, but over there." Let me just tell you. I come and talk to some of these guys. They were pharmacists in their land. They were training to be surgeons. They were lawyers where they were from. Just because they don't know the language…
Many times our government won't even let them work, and they're giving you a Big Gulp. You think they're barbarians. No, they're not. They are people made in the glorious image of God. Don't be an elitist Greek, that because they don't speak the language of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates they're not as good and valuable as you. They're a "Bar-bar-bar-bar."
So this is what was happening. "The natives [these barbarians] showed us extraordinary kindness…" What have I done so far? I've not gotten very far, and you don't need to. Here's the problem. This is the way you read your Bible sometimes. You kind of go, "Okay, Acts 28." This is not an amulet. It's not a good luck charm.
You don't read it in some flippant, devotional way, like, "Okay, I did that. I took my Flintstones vitamin, and now I'm moving on. I'm going to eat Cheetos all day and act like it didn't make a difference, or it did because I ate the Flintstones vitamin." No. This is a book you are supposed to be careful to do according to all that is written in it. Then your life will have meaning, and then you'll prosper, because you'll be investing in the only thing that matters.
When you read your Bible, stop and make observations. "What's a barbarian? Do I treat certain people like barbarians just because they don't speak my language? What a foolish thing to do." You're going to find out these guys showed extraordinary kindness. Let me just tell you something about God. God himself is marked by kindness. These people were unregenerate. They did not know the risen King.
When Jesus sent out his disciples, do you remember what he told them to go look for? In unregenerate Israel, when Jesus was there, people had a ritualistic faith, a dead religion. Folks who were Jewish in name only. They were not following God. They didn't fear God. They didn't love justice or do good. Jesus sent his disciples out throughout all of Israel, and what did he tell them? "Go and look for a house of peace. Just go look for somebody who has some semblance of hospitality who will take you in and be kind to you."
Guess what's going to happen when you are kind to others. This is the truth. I know there was a Roman centurion on that boat. I know there were 200 of them, but these people hadn't eaten hardly for two weeks. They were whipped by the storm. They were washed up on a land where they were the minority ethnic group, where they had no money, no arms. They could have been easily killed and eaten by the cannibals on Malta. They could have been taken into slavery.
They could have been immediately executed and have taken everything that washed up on shore that belonged to them. But no, the Maltese said, "We're going to be kind." They showed extraordinary kindness to them. And guess what happened when they showed kindness. They met the kindness of God. Because they were people of peace, God brought peace to them. That's not really why he did it. God is kind to wicked and ungrateful men, but here's the thing. Had they just declared war against someone they didn't know, they wouldn't have received.
What are you missing because you're not kind to people? I mean extraordinarily kind to maybe people who don't serve you well. The Bible says in Hebrews 13, "Let the love of the brethren always be there." In verse 2 it says, "Don't neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it." These guys had no idea that washing up on their shore was an angel of God.
The word angel literally means… It's the same word inside evangelist. A eu-angel. Eu is the word for well. Aggelos is the word for messenger. A good messenger is somebody who brings you good news. Do you know what the gospel means? It means good news. They're going to show kindness to people, because something was going on in Malta that that was just what they were going to do. This sweet place. They were going to be kind, and washed up on their shore now was somebody who was going to show them extraordinary kindness.
I just stopped right here. I go, "You know what? I've been around some people who don't know the Lord, and I go, 'That person is kinder than I am.'" Have you ever seen that? One of my best friends in the world is a racial Jew. He's brilliant. He was trained as a microbiologist. The guy knows more about everything than I do. He knows seven or eight languages. One day I was with him in southern Israel, and I went over to Jordan for a while and came back. I go, "Hey man, what did you do today?" and he goes, "Oh, I bought this book."
It was a 500-page book on geological rock formations in the southern Israeli mountains. I just go, "What is wrong with you?" I go, "How long is it going to take you to read that?" He goes, "I read it." I was gone for six hours. I'm not kidding. The brother is brilliant, and he is kind. The way he loves people… I've been over there. I've taken my friends over there, and everybody who meets him goes, "That is the kindest person I've ever met." He doesn't have a relationship with Jesus, and it convicts me continually.
My life verse for a long time has been 1 Peter 3:15, which says, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." In other words, become more like Jesus. But I kind of blow through that part, and I also blow through the last part of my life verse. The part I've always kind of focused on is the middle, which says, "Always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you."
I love to learn. I love to have a reasonable faith. I love to help people understand you don't need to commit intellectual suicide to follow Jesus. But that whole verse is bracketed by this: "Hey, become more like Jesus. And when you give an answer…" This is the very end of 1 Peter 3:15. "…do it with gentleness and respect."
Not like, "What do you mean you don't think there was a resurrection? Have you done your homework? What do you mean the Bible is just like every other book that claims…? Have you ever studied the Bible and understand where it came from? Have you ever held it up against the Qur'an? What are you talking about? Have you ever studied Hindu origins?" That's not the way you go about it.
I'll tell you what my other life verse is. It's Proverbs 3:3-4. "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." Because, Todd, when you do that, then you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. I just want to go, "Lord, I need to pay more attention to this element. Am I marked by extraordinary kindness?"
This is the greatest thing. It's a quote that is wrongly attributed to Mark Twain. "Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and [the actions] the blind can see." Kindness is the key that unlocks many doors. How about this one? "Kindness has converted more men than zeal, eloquence, or knowledge." That's all true. My problem is not that I haven't prayed enough for kindness.
By the way, I would never recommend you pray for kindness. I don't recommend people pray for self-discipline. I don't recommend that you pray for patience. You shouldn't. What you should do is what John the Baptist said. "I must decrease, and you must increase. As you increase, as I take up my cross, deny myself, and follow you, as I am a vessel for your Spirit, as I do all things according to your Spirit, which mightily works in me, I will bear the fruit of the Spirit."
What is the fruit? In other words, all of these things are there. When the Spirit of God is present, then love is present, joy is present, peace is present, kindness is present, goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control are all present. You can be sure when you're not being kind, in that moment you are not exhibiting, not following Jesus. If there is anybody who ought to be marked by extraordinary kindness it is followers of Jesus Christ.
I'm preaching to myself here. I'm stuck on verse 2 because I can't get past "extraordinary kindness." But let's learn, because there's more to learn here. "…for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they [the Maltese] kindled a fire and received us all." I'll just say it again. I want to be a person who builds fires for cold and hurting people that they can gather around and be comforted with.
"But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another…""What are we doing, man? We are clearly building a fire and offering refuge to a guy the gods want to kill. There are a lot of shipwrecks, but when people are saved by some miraculous event and get washed up on here, ain't nobody right away gets bit by a poisonous snake."
By the way, have you ever heard the phrase, "That guy is snakebitten"? So many phrases in our society come from the Bible. This is the origin of that phrase. In other words, "No matter what you do, bro, you're going to always find trouble." They go, "That brother is snakebitten." In other words, "The gods are after him. He's going to be judged." They say, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live."
I just stopped here and said, "Okay, let me see what I can learn from here?" There's a bunch I can learn from this little section. First of all, it says in verse 5, "However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him…" Now they go, "Wait a minute. This isn't a murderer; this is a god." Everything flipped in a moment.
I've been bitten by a viper. This is a video of me in India. This is one of the dumbest things I've ever done. I was at a snake-charming village, and this brother was charming a snake, and I took this cobra. Yeah, that thing should have just bitten my stupid face. That was not one of my finer moments. Looking back on that, I am in some rural village in India hours away from any kind of civilization, and some brother is there playing his pungi…
Through a translator he said, "Anybody want the snake?" I go, "I'll take the snake." The next thing you know there's a cobra around me, and my daughter is going, "Dad, you're freaking me out, but look over here for a picture." And I snapped. What happens when you snap? Yeah, it kind of breaks whatever was supposed to make this snake overwhelmed with its senses. Anyway, they got that snake off me pretty quickly after I did that, and luckily I didn't lose half my face.
But I have been bitten by a viper. Not that one. I was in Columbus, Texas. I was speaking at a camp. It was evening, and I heard a big commotion over by a tree. A bunch of kids go, "Snake! Snake! Snake!" Some woman goes, "Get away from it. Get away from it. It's fine. It's just a little snake. Let it alone. People always want to kill snakes." I walked over and saw right away it was a copperhead. I took a stick and jammed it into its head and said, "Get away. This is a poisonous snake."
This lady freaked out. She goes, "My daddy is a herpetologist. Get away! Don't hurt that snake. People like you kill good animals. What are you doing? That's not a bad snake." I go, "Ma'am, that is a copperhead. You can tell by the shape of its head. You can tell by the hourglass design." I was talking to her, and that stupid snake was there in some soft soil, and I felt it bear itself down. It swung around and Bam! It hit my hand.
I took that stick and ran it through its head. Then I picked it up and I go, "And the other way you're going to know that's a copperhead is in about 10 minutes my arm is going to look like Popeye's. Your daddy is a lousy herpetologist." I go to a hospital in La Grange, Texas. I may as well have been in northern India. I brought the snake with me. I go, "This is my problem." They go, "Get that out of our hospital immediately!"
They said, "Brother, here's the bad news. We're out of antivenin. The whole world is switching over now from a horse-based serum to a synthetic, so no one has it." I go, "What did you do with the last guy who was snake bit around here?" They go, "We got him to Austin by CareFlite."I'm like, "Oh man." By the grace of God, like Paul… In about six hours my left arm swelled up… I took my ring off right away.
My hand swelled up to the extent they brought a surgeon in. They were going to have to cut it to let all the swelling out, but the swelling went all the way up to about right here, and then my body, by the grace of God, just pushed it back. It took about a week, but a week later I could finally touch my hand, finger to thumb, and then eventually it slowly came back. Why do I tell you that? Because that was just maybe the size of my body or he didn't get to inject all the venom he wanted to, whatever it might have been. I pushed it back.
But Paul miraculously took that little snake and shook it off into the fire. I didn't know. I was an idiot. I thought I might lose my hand. I might have some hack surgeon in La Grange, Texas, come in to aspirate my hand and cut a nerve, and now even if the snake venom doesn't get me I'm going to lose the use of my left hand. I didn't know. God didn't promise me I wasn't going to lose my left hand. He didn't promise me I wasn't going to have some tragedy because I got bit by a copperhead. Paul just shook it off. Why? Because he knew he was going to Rome.
Later, when he wrote to the Romans in Romans, chapter 16, he said, "For my God one day will stomp Satan underneath your feet like a snake." He was writing to the Romans to tell them, "Don't you worry about Nero. Nero is going to threaten you and tell you he can destroy you. He can't destroy you." He, in effect, quotes Jesus in Matthew, chapter 10, where Jesus said, "I'm going to send you like sheep out among wolves." They're like, "Man, that's a bad thing. Can't we choose another mascot? Why are you making us the sheep?"
Jesus says, "But let me just tell you something. You don't need to worry about wolves that try to destroy your body, because you need to worry about me who destroys the body and sends the soul to hell." Paul told the Romans, "Don't you worry about Nero." Go see the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ and watch Paul model saying, "Nero might behead me," and he does just a few years after this. He said, "But death has lost its sting. Sin does not have a victory. I'm going home. The Enemy's plan to separate me from you has been crushed. I've shaken it off."
So don't be surprised on your way to Rome that there are stormy seas and vipers. God told you, "In this world there will be trouble. So why are you surprised at the fiery ordeal among you? Why are you surprised you get cancer? Why are you surprised that people betray you? Why are you surprised the world acts like it doesn't know God? That's why you're here. Because you do know God, and I love them, so I'm going to let you complete what is lacking in Christ's sufferings."
It doesn't mean you have to do any atoning work for the world. The atoning work has been done. We have been set free. We have a living hope. You get to go tell people to move into the quiet place where there is peace. That's all you do. It's free. That's why you're here. You're not here to go to a country-club church. You are here to be a church filled with conviction that you know what the world needs to hear.
Paul was called a murderer, and then he was called a god. We don't respond to the world's idea of us, and you should not respond to the world's idea of you, but you should be God's ideal in the world you reside in. So I'm reading this and going, "Man, wouldn't it be a bummer to be Paul?" Paul is confusingly ridiculed. You're going to have things said of you that aren't true as you serve Jesus along the way.
Let me give you again this application. We don't respond to the world's idea of us but God's ideal of us in the world we reside in. That's what you should be. You go, "I'm going to be God's man." The world always misjudges. It's filled with superstitions. John Wooden said, "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one." Don't men do that all the time?
My buddy Lecrae says, "If you live for people's acceptance, you'll die from their rejection." Jesus says, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way." Don't think for a second that some of the largest churches in this country are the most successful churches.
The Bible says that in latter times people will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires who just say, "Hey, come, and let me tell you that you can have your best life now. No storms. No snakes. We're just going to speak into existence positive things. We just want you to come here. Just show up. Give me enough money to keep the lights on. Don't get arrested and embarrass me in the newspapers this week, and I'll tell you you're doing everything God wants you to do." That is a country-club (see also an apostate) Christianity.
You are Acts 2018. You are sent forth. You are evangelists on mission. Every one of us, a kingdom of priests. If you attend services and don't tend to God's business, you are not following Jesus. Spurgeon said this 150 years ago. This isn't just a unique problem today. Spurgeon said, "A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats."' That's what's going on in America today. I see a bunch of clowns entertaining goats. May it not happen here.
When we read this book, we stop, and we don't blow through it like we did what we were supposed to do by reading Acts 28. No, we repent and go, "Am I doing what I should do?" Let me show you something else about Paul. In verse 3, here's Paul. He had just saved this entire group of people, basically, from death. He had saved the prisoners from certain death. He had converted the man who was charged with taking care of him, Julius. He had won the favor of all of those folks.
They knew this was no just prisoner going to talk to Caesar. There was a prophet among them. But what does a prophet do? Does he sit by the fire now and say, "Hey, man. That fire is getting a little thin. Why don't you go get some wood?" No. What Paul does is he steps up, and it says right there the reason Paul got snakebit is he could not be a guy who didn't serve. I stopped and asked myself, "Am I that guy? Am I the guy who goes up and gets wood or am I the guy sitting by the fire hoping somebody else serves me?"
I'm just going to make a note again. Great leaders who do great things are not immune from trouble. I will just make another note to myself as I'm reading this. Great men are great servants. What made Paul such a great leader is he was constantly serving. He was like Jesus, who was a king but didn't come to be served but to serve and give himself as a ransom for many. He took up the towel. He washed his disciples' feet.
He says, "That's what you want to do. Do you want to be like me? Then don't sit by the fire and tell somebody to throw another log on. Get up and go collect wood." "But there are snakes out there in the wood." That's fine. If you die, you're going home. You are not here to be extraordinarily comforted; you are here to be extraordinarily kind.
Can I just take a second here and help my friends who are Millennials? I watch my Millennial friends, and they struggle a lot with work, because they all want the perfect job. They want the job that isn't going to be a J-O-B. They want the job that's going to put them on a fast track to making a lot of money or maybe to do something that's going to change the world. Let me just give you a little insight from Paul. Paul was a minister of the gospel; he wasn't a Millennial. He wasn't a celebrity pastor; he was a servant.
Watch this. I just made some notes. I just stopped. This is what you always want to do. Do you know what your dream job should be? It should be a job where you can add value. What job in the world is there where you can't add value? Paul is sitting there. He wasn't even employed yet, and he got up and said, "I'm going to make this place better. That fire could use some tending." So he got up and added value. When you add value, people start to go, "Hey, who's that brother who makes this fire work? I want to give that guy more responsibility."
I just wrote this down. "Great men don't just sit by warm fires built and kept by others. They build and stoke the fires that provide light and warmth for those suffering from the storms of this world." Your dream job should be to be exceedingly valuable and practical in everything you do. You own it. You own your situation. You add value. You take initiative. You look for opportunities to serve and provide for others. Your goal should be to gain trust in every meeting.
That's your dream job: to be excellent in every situation you're in. And guess what happens when you are excellent in every situation you're in even though you're not in your dream job. People go, "You're the dream employee. Let's give you more opportunity." Quit looking for the dream job, Millennials. Add value. Take initiative. Care for others. Do your job and do somebody else's job.
It wasn't Paul's job to build a fire, but he did it. Just like Joseph. Was Joseph's dream job to be beat up by his brothers, sold as a slave, and clean bathrooms in Egypt? But what did Joseph do? He made those the finest bathrooms in Egypt, and somebody took note. Because they took note, they go, "Hey, bro. We're going to give you responsibility now over the whole household." Was his dream job to be falsely accused as a rapist and thrown in jail? No.
So what did he do? He became the best prisoner in that jail cell, and he used the gifts he had to bless everybody around him. Eventually, Pharaoh saw his Joseph. So quit looking for your dream job and be the dream employee. Be the kind of person Paul was, who wasn't looking to have this perfect job, that everybody talks about how great you were. Be great, and great men are servants. Acts 28. "Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island…" There was a Roman who was assigned there called Publius.
"…who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed."
Now we're going to move on. Here's the map. Let me show you where we're at right there in Malta. Next week, when we pick this up, you're going to see they go up to Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Three Inns, and then he's going to make his way to Rome, but we're stopping right here this week all in Malta and we're saying, "Look at all the stinkin' application in Malta." Let me just make an observation here. What did Paul do?
Paul heard that Publius, who was there greeting them and part of leading the Maltese… He just said, "My dad is sick." What does it say? Notice the order here in verse 8. Paul was an apostle, had been used by God to do amazing things. He had raised people from the dead, but it says, "Paul went to see him, and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him." I think there's something for us right here.
I believe God today can do whatever he wants to do, but Paul, who himself was used by God to bring the ministry of healing to others, knew that every time somebody was sick around Paul he was not going to heal them. See also himself as the primary example. Three times Paul asked for God to remove from him this thorn in the flesh, and God didn't. You would think a minister of healing could heal at least himself. Paul knew he couldn't.
There were other times Paul was around sick people, just like Jesus. He didn't heal everybody. Watch what Paul did. He goes, "Here's a sick guy. Lord, what do you want me to do? How can I honor you in this community?" What Jesus often does is he uses authenticating works in order to verify that the words spoken are, in fact, words of God. Paul prayed. I love this quote. "You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."
I think what Paul did is he prayed and said, "Lord, what do you want me to do with the father of Publius?" and I think he said, "I want you to go in there and heal him." Paul knew he was going to be able to heal that brother. He went in, prayed over him, and healed him. When that happened, they went, "This guy isn't just weaving some tale. This is the guy who shook the serpent off. This is the guy who saved people from the sea."
Everybody is talking about, "This guy knows what's happening, and now he's telling us he knows what happened. He knows God entered into this world, and he just prayed to see this sick father of mine be healed." It says many more people were brought to him, and there were many others who were cured. Let me just tell you something. You have the same ability as Paul. When someone comes to me and they're sick, I'll go, "I don't know."
If God tells me after I pray that he wants to heal you, I believe he can heal you. There's not anything God can't do. It's just not his pattern to always do that. It wasn't his pattern when Jesus was here. It wasn't his pattern with Paul. If God tells me to pronounce healing over you, I'll do it, but I'd better make sure I'm right. Here's what you can do. You can go to Alex Lesko and say, "What do you have, bro? You struggle with what? You're infatuated with yourself. You're in bondage to pornography. You're suicidal. You hate yourself."
You can go to my friend Matthew Lopez. "Matthew, you mean the world you have served in trying to find acceptance as a Division I athlete, as a lawyer, as an MBA, as an entrepreneur, and still you're filled with rage and destructive tendencies. You've been to a psychiatrist to stop the fighting you're in the middle of, and they say, 'We can't help you. You are labeled by the world a psychopath.'"
I can go up to my friend Matthew Lopez, like a member of this church did, and say, "Hey, Matthew, Jesus can heal you. I know psychotherapists can't help psychopaths, but the one who made your soul can bring healing to your soul." That's what psychotherapy it is. It literally means soul healing. Guess what. Men can't heal souls, but Jesus can. There's not a single person you're going to meet this week who isn't soul sick that you have not been given the authority of God to bring healing to them.
So pray about that. Ask yourself, if you're around Publius' dad who is sick and dying, if you could heal him, would you heal him? Let me tell you something. Every single person you meet is sick and dying. They are moving toward judgment, and you have the ability to heal them, to bring them into relationship with the loving God who has died on the cross for their sins.
When you have Matthew Lopezes who are psychopaths who were brought to Jesus and now in their right mind and Alex Leskos who were psychopaths and now are restored in their marriage and walking, guess what the world does. They go, "Who are you people? What's happening over there?" Answer: Jesus is doing what he said he would do, which is bringing peace to people. Are you doing that? Woe to you if you're not. Let's go, church.
Father, I pray you would get us in the game and that we'd be marked by the extraordinary kindness that always marks people who have much and are around people who don't have other things. So, Lord, I pray that we would be sent forth. We sang at the beginning of this message about our living hope.
Because we have seen with the eyes of faith our living Lord, I pray we'd go out and be on mission and we wouldn't look for folks to serve us, we wouldn't try and build a warmer fire to sit by, but we'd get up and collect wood and build fires that the cold and wet and shipwrecked of this world could come to, and we could meet them and tell them around that campfire about the stories of Jesus and who he is and what he has done and invite them to the healing you intend.
O Lord, if you want to use us to pray physical healing into somebody, let us do it, but, Father, we know you want to heal the wound of sin, and we know you can for all who come to you. So help us to be men and women who are on mission. If there is somebody here today who is soul sick and has not yet met the assurance we have, that we are going home and are going to stand before a holy God and the viper of the destruction of the flesh and the way of this world and the Enemy's lies in our hearts will have no effect on us…
If they are not sure that they are at peace with you, I pray they would come and be healed, and if we have been healed I pray we'd go and tell folks in the mountain and over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ has come. Help us to be a church that lives with conviction and doesn't love comfort. In Christ's name, amen.
Come if you need to know Jesus. Go if you do. Be faithful. Have a great week of worship. We'll see ya.