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Acts 20:17-38

Live with Purpose

  • Jean Marais
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • July 09, 2023

Spurgeon, said, “Is there a habit, a practice that is in your life that defiles the soul? If Christ loves you, and you trust Him, you will make short work of it. Have done with it, and done with it forever.” Choose to live a life that matters. The quantity of your life is up to God, but the quality of your life is yours to choose.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Live with Purpose
Acts 20:17-38
July 9, 2023

As we continue our study through the book of Acts, Paul is now on his third missionary journey. Here in these verses, he gives a final message to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Paul is intending to go to Jerusalem and afterward, he hopes to go to Rome. But in this farewell message to these leaders, we get an insight into his heart; the motive for all that he does.

Paul’s life becomes an example for us of living life with meaning and purpose. To summarize it all he quotes from the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

But he’s talking about his life. In other words, Paul was generous with how he spent his life. At one point he wrote, “I am being poured out as a drink offering.”

Have you ever met a cheapskate? There are different types of cheapskates, of course. There is the frugal person who is simply trying to be cautious and not wasteful. I would like to think I’m in that category. I’m not being cheap, I’m trying to be a good steward of God’s resources.

But then there is the cheapskate, the miser, they are cheap because they don’t want any of their money to go to anyone else, everything they have is for themselves. They don’t leave tips when they eat out, they take re-gifting to an art form, they are an Ebenezer Scrooge if there ever was one.

Here’s my point, some people are cheapskates when it comes to their lives; their number one priority is themselves. The idea of blessing others around them would never occur to them. But Paul is pouring out his life as a drink offering. He is generous with his life. What a beautiful picture of keeping nothing back. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” he said.

God gave you a life so that you would spend it for His glory. It’s about living on purpose; God’s purpose.

That’s what this message from Paul is about. He wants them to be careful how they spend their lives telling them that there is a great inheritance in God. In other words, it’s just like the words of Jesus, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” So, live with intent. Live with a focus.

There’s a blessing that comes from spending your life well, pouring out your life as a drink offering to the Lord, blessing those that are around you.

Someone said, “The quantity of your life is up to God, but the quality of your life is yours to choose.”

Wise is the person who knows this while they are young. Some young people say, “I’ll think about these things when I’m really old – like when I’m 40.” But these are also truths that will save you much heartache later if you take hold of these things when you are young.

Not only that, but it will set up your life focused on the right things which will bring fulfillment.

Last week we studied the section where revival broke out in Ephesus. To the point that many who practiced magic brought their books of incantations and magic charms and began burning them in the sight of all, 50,000 pieces of silver in value.

They were choosing to follow the way of God and got rid of those things that would make the soul sick. Spurgeon, said, “Is there a habit, a practice that is in your life that defiles the soul? If Christ loves you, and you trust Him, you will make short work of it. Have done with it, and done with it forever.” Choose to live a life that matters. The quantity of your life is up to God, but the quality of your life is yours to choose.

I. Finish the Race Set before You

  • They understood the analogy of running a race. They didn’t have the NFL or the NBA, they had the games so they understood the analogy.
  • Paul wanted to finish the course set before him, to run with endurance, to finish strong. It’s a great analogy for living your life.
  • But it’s about how you live, how you run that matters. That’s what Paul wanted to show them.

A. Run with humility… and confidence

  • This is how Paul runs. This is how we should run. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less.
  • Selfish self-centeredness leaves a person empty; it lacks significance of meaning and has no lasting value. Humility is considering those around you as more important than yourself.

Illus – If you’ve ever met a spoiled, self-centered child, you know that it’s impossible for them to be happy.

  • Humility is one of the greatest strengths of character because it allows you to receive wisdom, seek God’s face and be blessed.

2 Chronicles 7:14, “and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

  • This is such an important quality that you can be sure that God knows how to keep us humble.
  • There was hardly a time when Paul did not have troubles. In addition, Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-9, To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might lead me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

  • Fortunately, there are times when God allows us to be humbled and we can laugh about it later.

Illus – Sometimes we speak differently which brings some laughs…

  • Humility, however, doesn’t mean we should have a worm mentality. We can live humbly with confidence. But our confidence is not a self-confidence. It is a God-confidence.

Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

  • Our confidence is found in who we are in Christ, which is all about who Christ is. I am just a conduit of what He does as I surrender to Him.

B. Don’t let anything cut in on you

  • (Verse 22) Paul said, “I am bound in spirit, on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there…”
  • What a great example. There is no on again – off again – on again – with Paul!! He is focused.

James 1:6-8, But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

  • The picture is of a runner who is running well, but then someone cuts in on him.

Galatians 5:7, You are running well; who cut in on you? Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

  • Life is filled with troubles and someone may cut in on you and you may even fall, but the question is what will you do next? You get up and keep running.

Proverbs 24:16, For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

Hebrews 12:1-2, …let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

  • The enemy’s plan is to trip you up. He can try in various different ways. One might be struggling with sin, but it can also be circumstances.
  • Like a runner looking at his competitors. Shifting your focus. Looking left and right. Comparing yourself to others. Focus back on the self. Self-doubt, self-ishness, self-confidence, self-help. All the ‘self’ things which take focus away from Christ and His purpose.
  • He might also try to trip you up with circumstances.

Illus. – Many people have stopped running the race because of circumstances. Some situations that have befallen them, a tragedy that has occurred, or setbacks in their lives. I am not belittling difficult times. It might be horrendous, and you might have every reason to feel the way you feel. No one will blame you when seeing your situation, …but if you decide to sit down and stay down the battle is lost. The enemy has won.

  • All of these are encumbrances, or burdens trying to weigh you down.

Illus – Not laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which entangles is like trying to run with scuba gear on or running through a field of blackberry vines.

1 Peter 5:6-9, Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

  • Others have made it. You will too. There is a cloud of witnesses urging you on.

C. Don’t look back

  • Paul is looking forward. “I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,” Paul said. From there he intends to go to Rome. Always pressing forward, never looking back.

Philippians 3:13-14, One thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • Some people look back to the world with a longing for the ‘good old days.’ The problem is that when people look back, they often use rose-colored glasses.
  • This is what happened to Israel those 40 years in the desert. How many times did they look back to when they were slaves in Egypt and somehow made it look like those were the ‘good old days.’

Illus – A great illustration of this is Lot’s wife. God warned that he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and they had to get out and not look back. She looked back and became a pillar of salt. Her heart was longing for that which she was supposed to leave behind and the image that we get up this is that it trapped her in her past for eternity.

II. Finish Strong

  • Paul tells them that they will never see his face again and they began to weep aloud embracing and kissing Paul because of those words.
  • That’s why these words have such urgency, such importance. He gives an insight in finishing strong and then tells them to be on the alert. Many difficulties are before them and they need to finish strong as well.

A. Hold nothing dear, but God alone

  • In order to finish strong, Paul is going to lay it all down. He doesn’t even consider his life as dear to himself. (Verse 24)

Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

B. Don’t hold back

  • Twice in these verses Paul said that he did not shrink back, he did not hold back from what God told him to do. He is laying it all down.
  • Paul uses the illustration of a runner who lets up, and starts coasting, he’s no longer running to win.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith;

  • Paul did not hold back from declaring the whole counsel of God. He cared about them. He cared about their faith. He wanted them to be victorious and to finish strong and he knew they needed the word of God, the full counsel of God’s word to do it.
  • This is one of those powerful verses that help us understand why it’s so important to teach through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
  • Many people like this verse or that one, and don’t like certain others. Their lives will eventually show that there is some counsel of God lacking in their lives.

John 8:31-32, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free… if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

  • This is why Paul did not hold back. He’s like a watchman on the wall. He’s done what God asked him to do. “I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I did not hold back from declaring God’s word.”
  • A watchman on the wall has the responsibility of watching over the horizon and letting people know what’s out there. If an army is approaching, he better say something.

Ezekiel 3:17, “Son of Man, I have pointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.”

  • The truth is that there really is a hell, there really is a day fixed in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and there really is an answer. God has sent His Son with an invitation from the Father that we might have eternal life.
  • This is why Paul was generous in giving his life for the good of others; he knew it would make an eternal difference.
  • We read that, after Paul stopped speaking, he started praying and everyone came around him, weeping, embracing him full of sorrow knowing that they would not see them again.
  • What an amazing show of affection. It shows the mighty impact he had on their lives. His ‘pouring himself out’ was not for nothing. It had a tremendous effect in changing and impacting their lives. He was loved by those he poured his life into.
  • This bring us to a place of introspection. Whose lives do you touch? Who will miss you? Do people thank God for you after you have been in their lives interacting with them?
  • This is the real legacy we leave behind. Paul was not rich in material things, but he was a very rich in the things not seen.
  • God is calling us to live on purpose spending our lives for that which is worth it and making an impact in the lives around us.

Acts 20:17-38    NASB

17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them,

“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for 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. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.


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