We look to Jesus Christ as our ultimate example. We can also consider the example of Paul and his conversion as we think about our on life of overcoming and transformation.
[Mark Welch] Steve May is a minister and an author. He decided to buy a banjo while on a trip to Brazil. Now, let me quote from his story. He says, "My limited knowledge of Portuguese makes shopping a challenge. I also have a limited knowledge of the Brazilian banjo knowing only that it is much smaller than its American counterpart and has fewer strings, not much on which to base a purchasing decision. Nevertheless, I went looking. There are plenty of music stores in downtown Rio de Janeiro, but unfortunately, the salesmen knew as little about the instrument as I did. Most didn't even know how to tune it, let alone play it. They just pointed at one on the shelf and told me the price. I made a stab at playing one but it was an awful noise. 'Must not be a very good banjo,' I reasoned.”
“I visited three or four shops. With each stop, I found myself a little less inclined to buy. And then I found the right place. This salesman knew a little English, and more importantly, he knew the banjo. He grabbed one off the shelf, the same make I'd seen earlier, and he began to make the little instrument sing. He showed me how to tune it. He showed me a few chords, and he had a good instructional book to get me started. The longer he played, the more I began to believe that I too could play the banjo. I shelled out the money.”
“My point is that banjo did not sell itself. What's more, a banjo poorly demonstrated is even more difficult to sell. The truth is as much as I wanted a banjo, I would have gone home empty-handed that afternoon if I hadn't found someone who could get me started in the right direction. When others see you living out your faith, they glimpse the difference that Christianity can make in a person's life and they long to experience that difference for themselves." So I end the quote now from Steve May.
Now, brethren, in the Church, we talk a lot about our example, we talk a lot about the example of others and rightly so. The person's example can have a tremendous impact on others. The salesman of the banjo knew what he was doing. He was confident and he was sold on the product himself, he knew the banjo. And he played it beautifully. And, of course, that made all the difference to Steve May.
Of course, we know that Jesus Christ's example is our number one example to emulate and to follow. He was and He's perfect and sinless. Even though He was tempted as we are, He never sinned. And one's example just doesn't get any better than that. I have deep respect, I know you do as well, for our Savior Jesus Christ. But besides Christ's example, I've always been fascinated by the example of the apostle Paul.
I'd like you to consider Paul's example and do likewise, in fact, that's the title of my sermon today, "Paul: Consider His Example and Do Likewise." Now, getting back to the banjo for a moment. To me, the banjo represents God's way of life. One can live it skillfully or not so much. One can play it skillfully or not so much. The salesman came to know the banjo, and he came to play it skillfully. He came to live it.
So let's talk about Paul and his example and how well did he live God's way of life. What kind of example did he set for you and for me? Can we learn anything from studying the apostle Paul's life? By what principles did he live his life? So, again, we're going to consider Paul's example, and ask yourself also what type of example will you set at this year's Feast of Tabernacles? Will you be a true light to all those around you or not so much? How well have you learned to play the banjo? How well will you play it going forward?
So as we consider Paul's example, first, let me just quote from a little article about… it was about what is a good leader. And the question was asked by the Army War College in a study of highly-regarded major generals in Iraq. This was back during the time of Desert Storm. Subordinates rated the officers anonymously. The responses in order of importance were, “Number one, he keeps cool under pressure. Again, this is about leadership. He keeps cool under pressure. Number two, he clearly explains missions, standards, and priorities. Number three, he sees the big picture. He provides context and perspective. Number four, he makes tough, sound decisions in a timely manner.”
One of the study's authors, General Walter Ulmer, retired, said, "One thing we found is that it's still easier to teach technical skills than it is to teach people how to gain trust and how to build teams." Ulmer noted that many key behaviors are learned by example. So, good leaders tend to produce more good leaders.
I believe Paul was a very good leader. And I believe that you and I can be good leaders as well. If we follow the example of Paul as well as Christ, Christ being the number one example, we will be better leaders as well. Paul is a good leader. Today, I'd like to share with you seven reasons why I believe Paul was such a good leader.
Number one, Paul was zealous. He was very, very zealous. Paul gave up a life of prestige of wealth and of fame in the Jewish faith for one of humiliation, poverty, and persecution for the most part. He was a bright star in Judaism. Let's go to Acts 7 for a moment and consider this zealous young man, the apostle Paul, certainly no apostle but on his way to becoming, no doubt, a well-respected rabbi at the time.
Acts 7:58 Acts 7:58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
American King James Version×, this is breaking into the account of Stephen who was being stoned. "And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. So they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.'" Saul was there, he heard that he saw that example of this man Stephen. But did that change him at the moment?
Look at verse 1 of chapter 8. "Now Saul was consenting to his death.” He was consenting to Stephen's death. He wasn't that impressed with Stephen at that point. "At that time the great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." So here we see that Saul was a zealous young man, he was consenting to Stephen's death. And he, notice verse 3 it says, "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women committing them to prison." So, yes, he was very zealous but so wrongly zealous to begin with.
But we see that things will change with Saul, who became known as Paul, as we go to Acts 9:1 Acts 9:1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
American King James Version×, "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and he asked letters from him to go to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found anyone who were of the Way," anyone who believed in the banjo, could play the banjo, you might say, the way, the special Way. If you found anyone such as that, whether men or women, he was no respecter of persons here, "whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." And, of course, he was intent on having them put to death.
But we know what happens next. We know that Paul or Saul is struck down on the road to Damascus. He saw a great light. He was struck down, he was blinded on the road to Damascus. Jesus Christ was intimately calling this man now, this Christ who he was persecuting was now making Himself known. Again, you have to know how to play the banjo. Paul was coming to know this Jesus Christ. He was becoming to know the way of life that God has called all of us to.
Saul was certainly a changed man after this trip to Damascus. Let's read a little bit of it. "So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?' Then the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'" Again, he was struck down, he was blinded at this point. "The men who had journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, he neither ate nor drank.” So he was fasting. A smart man, wise man, a good time to fast, struck down blinded, wondering what was going on. "What's going to happen to me? Who is this Jesus after all? Who is He?" So he begins to fast, for three days he fasted.
"So there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' So the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.'" He was fasting, he was praying, he was seeking God. "'And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.' Then Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.' But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear my name before Gentiles, before kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.’"
“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, that he received his sight at once; and he arose and he was baptized." No time wasted here, he was baptized, he received the Spirit of God, hands were laid upon him by Ananias. "And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus."
You know, it's very interesting that this man Saul, you know, he wasn't resisting. Of course, if you were struck down in the same manner, perhaps you wouldn't resist either. Now we're not struck down, in the same manner, today, but brother, I hope we're struck down. I hope we see the magnitude of our calling. I hope we realize that we too are chosen vessels, maybe not to the same degree and magnitude as Saul, the apostle Paul. But nevertheless, we've been handpicked. We've been chosen by God. We've been selected as firstfruits. Call it this time now is our day of salvation. We must not minimize our calling. Now we should not think so highly of ourselves either, but we should not minimize our calling.
You know, in a sense, we've all been struck down on the road to Damascus if we'd been converted. If we made that commitment, if we changed our lives, you know, I was struck down. I was headed a different direction but God had something else in mind. God was calling me. God is calling you. How will you respond to the call? How do you see your calling?
So in Galatians 1 it says, Paul says about how exceedingly zealous he was. Let's go to Galatians 1. Galatians 1:13 Galatians 1:13For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
American King James Version×, "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and I tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation," he was certainly up and coming, "being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and I returned again to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem." It's believed that he was actually taught by Christ Himself. That Christ was actively teaching, and instructing, and working with Paul.
So, he was exceedingly zealous. We see that I hope we can realize that. And that zeal did not change when God called him. He was zealous before, he continued to be very zealous afterward. So the first principle that we should all try to emulate in regard to Paul's example is let's be zealous. Let's be wholehearted. Let's be committed. Let's be convicted. Secondly, Paul showed his willingness to change. Now he showed a willingness to change, to surrender, and to commit fully. To change, to surrender, and to commit fully. To change, to surrender, to commit fully, that's an amazing characteristic. Someone who could surrender and commit as fully as Paul did, and we'll see that as we go on and consider his example. Again, we already talked about how Saul was baptized after repenting. After accepting Christ as the Savior he wasted no time.
In Acts 26, let's consider what Paul was like near the end of his life. Acts 26 to start reading in verse 15. So Paul is recounting his conversion here. He's talking about being struck down on the road to Damascus. Verse 15, "So I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.'"
Mr. Phelps talked about the power of Satan and how we do need to fast to draw nearer to God, something don't happen except through prayer and fasting. “'From the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, and throughout all the reason of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God and do works befitting repentance.'"
This is what Paul brought to the Gentiles, he brought to the Israelites, to the many cities that he visited his missionary journeys. "'For these reasons, the Jew seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people, and to the Gentiles." So he's recounting, again, his faithfulness, his conversion.
If we go to Romans 12, we see some instructions from Paul. And he set this same example for all of us. He wants us to become living sacrifices which when you study the life of Paul, that's exactly what he was. He was a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×. Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×. He says, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
Again, Christ died for us, it's reasonable that we should commit our lives fully to Him, that's reasonable. That's not asking too much. That's very reasonable. That He has every right to ask that of His disciples. We are to be His disciples. It's our reasonable service. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." This is our calling to strive, to know God's will, His perfect will in all things. We should “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” that we might know Him more fully.
So Paul says we ought to be a living sacrifice. Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×. Again, what does Paul say about his life? Galatians 2, how fully did he commit himself to Christ, to his Savior. Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, this is an example that he set for you and for me. Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, he says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live." I believe Paul believed this to the utmost of his being. "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." He says, "I do not set aside the grace of God." You know, Paul was one who talked about grace and helps us to understand fully that we are saved by grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
American King James Version×says that "We are saved by grace, but we're also called to be God's workmanship." You know people who bear good fruit were called to produce the fruit of God's Holy Spirit, to set an example for one another. Christ lives in us. You know, I hope you understand that Christ lives in you just the same as He lived in Paul. Christ lives His life in you. Now, a lot of it has to do with how willing you are to yield to Christ to allow Him to live more fully within you.
He says, "If righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." We're not saved by the law. Of course, Paul did talk about how the law is holy, and just, and good. He gives us the proper balance. You know, the law is holy, and just, and good and we're to live by the law. But we're not saved by the law, because we all fall short. We're like Paul, we're not perfect. Jesus Christ was perfect. He was the only one who could die for us, the only one who could be that sacrifice. In many ways, we're more like Paul. You know, Paul was not conceived to the Holy Spirit. You know, Paul actually persecuted the church of God. Paul was a murderer. He felt very badly about that, didn't he? What he had done had made a huge difference in his life when he came to realize that he had actually murdered people, thinking he was doing God a service.
But he didn't allow that to keep him from serving God. The guilt did not overwhelm him. He fought through the guilt. He fought through all that to be the kind of example we need to have. A good banjo player commits fully to playing the banjo. A really good one, the best, they commit fully. They spend the time, they work on it. They learn to play it. Paul understood the opposition that he would encounter because he was the opposition for a time. He understood that fully. He knew it was not going to be easy. But he was committed, he was convicted. So he shows a willingness to change, to surrender, and to commit fully. And this is the kind of example that we should set, willing to change when we need to change, fully committing, fully surrendering to this calling, to this way of life.
Let's talk about a third principle. Paul kept his mind and focus on his mission in life. Paul kept his mind and focus on his mission in life. Okay, what was his mission in life? What was Paul's mission? Was it not to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? That was his goal, that was his commission. He kept his mind and focus on his mission in life. In Acts 9, we read that he immediately began to preach Christ. I'm not sure we read that.
Let's go to Acts 9:20 Acts 9:20And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
American King James Version×. He struck down, he repents, he's baptized, he receives the Holy Spirit of God. According to Acts 9:20 Acts 9:20And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
American King James Version×, immediately this is, again in verse 19 it says, "He received food, He was strengthened. Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus." Verse 20, "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, 'Is this not he who destroyed those who called in this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priest?' But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ." So that was his mission, that was his goal to reveal Jesus Christ, who He is, and the good news about Jesus Christ as our Savior, and also the coming kingdom of God.
In Acts 17, let's go there for a moment. Acts 17, again, as we consider Paul's example, Acts 17:1 Acts 17:1Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
American King James Version×, "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went into them, and for three Sabbaths, he reasoned with them from the Scriptures." He knew his Bible very well. He knew the Scriptures, and he taught from the Scriptures, “explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus who might preach to you He is the Messiah, He is the Christ. He is the anointed one.' And some of them were persuaded and a great multitude of devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas." He was making a difference in people's lives. He was always preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever he went. It was his custom to preach the gospel in the synagogues. He did this every Sabbath wherever he was.
Acts 17:17 Acts 17:17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
American King James Version×, "Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews,” he's now at Athens, "he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there." So it was his custom to preach on the Sabbath in the synagogues, but he also went to the marketplace on a daily basis, and he taught Christ there. It was his calling. You know, I believe we're all called to represent Jesus Christ. We're all called to be ambassadors for Christ. Not that we all have to go preach in the same manner that Paul did, I'm not saying that. But I am saying in our own little world, whatever it is, you know, whatever is your calling, do what you can to show that Jesus Christ is your Savior. Never allow anyone to question that or wonder about it. Make sure that at least you're doing that, that Jesus Christ is your Savior.
And again, I'm not saying preach to people, I'm just saying by your example, by, you know, the example that you set. You know, if people have questions, Mr. Rowland gave a good sermon about answering, if people have questions, being able to give an answer and what that means. We all need to be able to do that, we have to know the Scriptures in order to do that. We have to study them. We have to become disciples of the Bible, we have to become students of the Bible. We have to know it, we have to be able to turn people to the Word of God.
Whenever an opening comes up, that would be appropriate where they might be receptive, now we need to know, we want to help them. We don't want to turn them away, so we have to use balance and wisdom. But you never know when God might be working with you, and how He might be working with you. So you have to believe that you are an instrument, that you are a vessel in God's hands
In Acts 28 we see that Paul continues to preach in prison and under house arrest. Nothing was going to stop Paul from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was fully committed. He was fully surrendered. This is what his life is all about, Acts 28:23 Acts 28:23And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
American King James Version×, "So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging to whom he explained and solemnly testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening." You know, not just a little bit, from morning until evening. You know, he was, again, very committed, very convicted.
You know, I think today it's more difficult in many ways. We have so many distractions today. So many things that can take time away from really the most important things, and it's very easy to let those things be excuses for not fully committing and fully surrendering. Now, there are just so many distractions, you know, the media tries to distract every moment of your day. You know, your work, you know, there are so many distractions. So we have to be careful that we are doing the best we can do, you know, again, following this example of Paul.
Again, there's balance. I know that God has not called us to be Pauls. You know, we're not called to that same level, to that same degree. And yet, we are called of God and we are to be vessels in His hands. Let's notice Romans 1, again, the attitude that Paul had. Romans 1:15 Romans 1:15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
American King James Version×, “So, as much as in me," Paul says, “So, as much as in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."
We should never be ashamed that we are Christians, that we follow Christ, that He is our Savior, that we believe in Him, that we put our faith and trust in Him. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" And by faith, the just shall live by their faithfulness. It's also saying, By their faithfulness, the just shall live by the example that they set. That's how they shall live. Paul is not ashamed to preach the gospel.
In Romans 15, it says that Paul fully preached the gospel. Let's look at Romans 15:18 Romans 15:18For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not worked by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
American King James Version×, Here it says, "For I will not dare to speak of any of these things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and in deed, to make the Gentiles obedient— in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." He fully preached the gospel, he was wholehearted completely.
He was a very good banjo player. Now he could play the banjo. He could make it sing. He set the kind of example that we all should strive to set as well. He fully preached the gospel. If your goal is to be the greatest banjo player in the world, then you have to focus on that goal, right? If you want to be the best or one of the best, you have to really focus on that goal. You must not allow anything to deter you.
Paul understood his mission and his calling in life, and he was committed to it. So how actively, again, do we see our calling? How actively are we living it or how passive are we? It's easy to be passive, isn't it? It's very easy to be passive. That's the easy road, to be passive. To sit back, you know, to let other people do things, to let other people serve. That's the passive way. That wasn't Paul's way. Paul was totally engaged, fully engaged. I would encourage all of us to become more engaged, not be so passive. Be more active, put pride on yourself.
Again, Paul was always preaching the gospel. He kept his mind and focus on his mission. So what is your focus? What is your mission in life? We should think about our priorities, what really are the most important priorities? What is truly our mission in life? Okay, let's go on to the fourth principle. Paul was courageous and bold. He was persistent, courageous, bold, and persistent. He would not allow threats of persecution and death to deter him from fulfilling his role as an ambassador for Christ. He was courageous, bold, and persistent. That's the example that he set for us.
In Acts 9:27-29 Acts 9:27-29  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
American King James Version×, going back to Acts 9, I think we read this already. It says the Paul preached boldly in Damascus. He preached boldly in Damascus. In Acts 13, let's go to Acts 13:14 Acts 13:14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
American King James Version×. Let's again see his example Acts 13:14 Acts 13:14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
American King James Version×, I'm sorry, verse 44, Acts 13:44 Acts 13:44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
American King James Version×, "On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God." So he's in Antioch here, and he preached on the Sabbath. “And then the next Sabbath,” not on Sunday, but the next Sabbath, they all came together. "Almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting, and blaspheming, they opposed the things that were spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first,'" to the Jews first in the synagogues, "but since you rejected and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life," pretty bold, I would say. That's pretty bold. "'You judge yourself unworthy of everlasting life.'"
“So we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.' Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad." Of course, they were glad. Salvation was being opened to the Gentiles, and they glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life." Again, God calls people. Not all the Gentiles were being appointed to eternal life, only those God was calling, those who were appointed. You have been appointed to eternal life at this time. This is your day of salvation. This is your time to humble yourselves, to yield yourselves to God to live a life exemplary of a student and a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is your time, it's my time. We're not going to get another time. This is our time.
There's a reason you're here today on this Sabbath day to hear the Word of God. You know, we're here to yield ourselves and to humbly follow God's lead as Mr. Clore sang about, you know, we follow God as He leads us. So Paul grew very bold in Antioch. Verse 48, "Now when the Gentiles heard this, again, they glorified God… and the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, they raised a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." There will always be opposition. I think there will be much greater opposition to what we believe in the future.
You know, I think we have a time right now. A peaceful, a quiet time to draw near to God, to get ourselves right with God. Because bad times are coming on the earth. Difficult times are coming upon God's people. Upon the Church of God, there will be great persecution. I don't know when it's going to start hitting. I don't know how soon that's going to happen. But I do believe now is our time to prepare. Now is our time to get ready for what's going to be happening in the future. So the better we learn to focus ourselves on our true mission in life, the better off we're going to be, no matter what happens, no matter what happens.
So Paul grew bold in Antioch. In Acts 14:19 Acts 14:19And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
American King James Version×, let's read this. "Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul." Oh, that's persecution, isn't it? Have you been stoned before? I haven't been stoned. I don't know what persecution is. Paul was stoned. They stoned him just as they stoned Stephen. Stephen didn't get up and walk away from it. You know, God allowed Stephen to die at that point. He wasn't done with Paul. He wasn't done with him.
"They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead." Perhaps he was dead. You know, it's very likely he was dead. They thought he was dead. They're not that stupid, are they? They knew how to check pulses back in the old days. He was likely dead. He was sure beat up, you know, he's not going to get up and walk away unless God intervenes.
"However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and he went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe." The next day. You know, they stoned him, they probably broke bones, he was likely dead. He was resurrected. He walked away. Even if he wasn't dead, surely they did a good job of stoning him. Now, they wouldn't be that lax. They hated Paul. They wanted him dead. In fact, they wanted him so dead that a group of them pledged themselves to killing him. And they said they wouldn't eat until the job was done. Remember that? That's persecution.
Acts 23:11 Acts 23:11And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as you have testified of me in Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome.
American King James Version×, "But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, 'Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you've testified of Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.' And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink," so they're going to fast fully, very righteous people, "will neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy." This was a true conspiracy. This was a conspiracy theory that you can actually believe. This actually happened.
"They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, 'We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow,'" so they make plans to trap him but God spares him. He's led out in a basket over the wall, he escapes. God's protecting him. He's not done with him.
So they wanted him so dead that they committed themselves to no eating, no drinking until the job was done. I wondered if they all died. Have you ever wondered that, did they all die because they starved to death? Something tells me they probably broke that commitment, because Paul lived a good while longer, and they would have all died otherwise. The Bible doesn't tell you but we can only speculate.
All right, so again, we see that Paul is very bold, he's courageous, he's getting beaten, he's getting stoned, he's probably dead, he gets back up again. So does he go cower somewhere become passive say "I can't do this anymore?"
2 Corinthians 11, instead, he speaks out against false apostles and people who oppose the truth. He sets an example for us that we must also be bold and courageous. 2 Corinthians 11:13 2 Corinthians 11:13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
American King James Version×he says, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ." We have a lot of that today. "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." Now, there are many false teachers and they teach of a false Christ. They teach of a Christ that did away with the Sabbath day, for example, that did away with the law. Now that's not the Christ to the Bible.
The one who became Christ sanctified the Sabbath day, He rested. On the Sabbath day, He sanctified and He kept the Sabbath. He showed us that we should keep the Sabbath. And He also kept it when He was here on the earth. He was Lord of the Sabbath. It was His custom. Luke 4, I think, verse 6 or 16, it was His custom to keep the Sabbath. And yet, people hate the Sabbath. You know, they hate those who keep the Sabbath. They say we're legalists.
Well, thou shall not murder that's a law. You know, they don't have a big problem with that. But when it comes to the Sabbath, it's a different matter. Now that's because the Sabbath is a sign between God and His people, those God is calling now. It is a sign and God has to reveal that to you. You know, God has to call a person to understand the significance of the Sabbath day. So let's make no mistake in understanding this. God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments.
You know, Satan has his ministers and they're deceitful. They deceive themselves. They don't know any better. They might be fine people in many ways. You know, they may set a wonderful example in many, many ways. So I don't look down upon them for it were not for God's calling, I would be doing the same sort of thing perhaps. No, it's not that we're so great, it's that God is great and He has chosen us, for whatever reasons He has. But, you know, I love the people of the world. You know, I've got brothers and sisters in the world. I love them. Now, we have many friends in the world, we love them. It's not that we look down upon them.
So the point I'm making now is that Paul speaks up. He speaks of false apostles. Verse 23, if we go to verse 23, there were those who were opposing Paul, of course, and he says, "Are they ministers of Christ?— I speak as a fool— I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles."
Everybody was against Paul, the vast majority of everyone. "In perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and in toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." Paul was a minister, Jesus Christ taking care of the sheep, of the people of God, of the brethren. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concerned my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I'm not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; and I was brought down in a basket through a window in the wall, I escaped from their hands." He's just showing that God does deliver him through all of this. God was there to deliver him through all of these trials and tribulations.
He was bold and he was courageous. I'm not going to take the time, but we know he even withstood Peter. When Peter was setting a bad example, he withstood Peter to his face, another of the apostles. You know, we have to have the courage and the faith to do what's right no matter what. Paul had that courage, he had that faith. So he was bold and courageous, an example that we can follow.
Number five, Paul was a man of great faith. He was a man of great faith. I don't have the time to go through the many examples in the Bible that show he was a man of great faith. In Acts 14:9 Acts 14:9The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
American King James Version×, it tells of how he was instrumental in healing a cripple. A crippled person was healed because God used this man. He had faith in God. He believed that God was the power behind him. You know, he didn't have the power, it was the Holy Spirit. It was God working in him, so he heals a cripple. In Acts 16, he cast out a demon. In Acts 18, again, he talks about being beaten, stoned and left for dead, and yet he got up and walked away. He was a man of faith.
In Acts 19, it talks about how God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs, anointed cloth, we call them today, were sent to the sick and they became well. There was great power in Paul's ministry. We know he healed Eutyches, you know, he was long in preaching. And Eutyches fell, and he was dead. And Paul healed him, brought him to life. Acts 28 on the island of Malta, bitten by a snake, by a serpent, shakes it off, could not hurt him.
Let's go to 2 Corinthians 4 and read a bit here. 2 Corinthians 4:7 2 Corinthians 4:7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
American King James Version×. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels," we are all earthen vessels, "at the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Speaking of Spirit of God that dwells in us. "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet we're not crushed; we’re perplexed, but we are not in despair; we're persecuted, but not forsaken; we're struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have that same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed and therefore I spoke,' we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and we'll present us with you." Speaking of the brethren there, we all in this together when Christ returns we'll all be raised or we'll all be changed in a moment, in twinkling of an eye. "For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread to the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God." Now God is going to be glorified at the return of Christ when many sons and daughters will be raised to spirit, to members of the God family, to live eternally with God. So he was a man of great faith. He did not give up easily.
Number six, he was a humble man, very humble. They started to worship Paul and Barnabas if you remember in Lystra. They tried to worship Paul and Barnabas, but they showed their humility. They said, "Look, we're men like you, you know, we have the same passions. You know, we're not gods." They thought they were gods because they had power to heal. But they weren't gods, and they admitted that. They were humble about it.
There's, again, many things I could go to showing that Paul was a humble person. After his conversion, his life was all about humility. It was all about surrendering. He felt very badly that he had persecuted the Church of God. You know, read about Paul's example. He was a great man of humility. He didn't put himself on a pedestal. He admitted his carnality. What about Roman 7? To me, that's one of the most encouraging aspects of the Bible. Because it shows that Paul was weak as you and I are weak. “O wretched man I am! Who is going to deliver me from this body of death? This physical body of death?” We're all carnal. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” It's not subject to God's laws, it can't be. So we have to learn to walk in the Spirit.
And Paul talks a lot about walking in the Spirit. He talks a whole lot about giving up the flesh and walking in the Spirit of God. He didn't put himself on a pedestal. He admitted his carnality. That has encouraged me so much because I see my carnality, I see my weakness. I see the flesh, too often I walk in the flesh. But I want to walk in the Spirit. I have a desire to walk in the Spirit. Paul was humble.
Number seven, Paul was a man of vision. He was a man of vision. Paul saw clearly that there was a reward, a crown for those who had remained faithful. Let's go to 1 Corinthians 9. Again, let's consider what he wrote here. 1 Corinthians 9:24 1 Corinthians 9:24Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.
American King James Version×, "Do you not know that those who run in a race, they all run but one receives the prize?" There is one big winner of the Boston Marathon. You know he is one that gets the glory, the winner does. "Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for in an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and I bring it into subjection." In other words, I learn to walk in the Spirit rather than walking in the flesh. “Lest, when I preach to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Now Paul wasn't easy on himself, was he? He wasn't easy on himself. He said he was a wretched person that he needed to repent of many things. He said, "I thank God through Jesus Christ. Who is going to save me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord, that's who's going to save me." He looked to God and to Christ, but he disciplined his body, bringing it into subjection because he understood he had a role to play as well. We all have a role to play. We have to do the best we know how. We have to give it our best shot. We have to try to do our very best. I don't think any of us do our best, but we should try. We should try to do our best.
And then finally in Philippians 3. Philippians 3:13 Philippians 3:13Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
American King James Version×what does he say in conclusion? Well, let's notice verse 17, "Brethren, join in following my example." That's what Paul says. He did strive to set a good example and he wants us to follow him. We're to follow him as he follows Christ, right? He tells us that as well, "Follow me as I follow Christ." "Brethren, join in following my example and note those who so walk." Look around you, you know, we are the so walk, all of us. Brethren called of God we are to walk in the same manner as Paul walked.
"Note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." You know, there are those who rose up against Paul, who are not faithful, brethren, we've seen that happen as well. "Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
Okay. You know what, I read the wrong part but that's exactly what I needed to read. That's exactly what I needed to read. But let's go back to verse 13. He says, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as our mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind."
Let us put on the mind of Christ, that's what Paul taught. Let us put on the mind of Christ. Let us bring every thought into captivity, and to the obedience of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us all press forward as we go to keep these Holy Days. Let's remember our calling. Let's remember what these days picture, what they mean. When we're fasting, let's consider how weak we truly are, how much we need Christ to live in us, how much we need to be strengthened by God.
So let's take to heart the words of the apostle Paul that seek first God and His Kingdom. And although our physical bodies grow older each day, let us renew the inner man and the inner woman daily. Let's keep our eyes on God's eternal Kingdom. Let's consider Paul's example of zeal. He was a zealous person. Let's consider his example of surrender, of courage, of faith, of humility, and of great vision of so many qualities. Let's press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Well, I wish you all a very wonderful Feast of Tabernacles as well as Day of Atonement. Prior to that, you know, it's a fast day, but it's a spiritual day of feasting, the Day of Atonement. I really appreciate the Day of Atonement. And it helps get us ready to go have a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles. So, may you all have a great Feast of Tabernacles. My wife and I are headed down to Mexico, so perhaps we'll see some of you there.