I (Paul) did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ …. 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 …. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God …. 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. Acts 20:20-21, 24, 27, 32
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:9-14
Today’s thoughts from today’s verse:
In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul refers to the “course” of his life. We all have a “course” of life and where that “course” is taking us makes all the difference. When we became a Christian, we became a disciple of Christ. Disciples follow their master. Our Master is Jesus Christ and the “course” of our lives should be all about following him. Paul speaks about finishing his “course” and we can tell from what is included in the passage that he intends to “finish” well as a follower of Christ.
Paul gives us several things that will help us “finish” well. Paul says that he received a ministry from the Lord Jesus. This is how it is with all disciples. Jesus gives a ministry to every one of his followers that shapes the “course” of their lives. That ministry is to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. Someone who testifies is someone who has firsthand experience with that which they are testifying. We testify about our firsthand experience with Christ through the gospel of grace which he has bestowed upon us. We do this with all that we are, all that we do, and all that
we say. We call this our testimony and when we talk to others about our testimony we are testifying.
Paul starts today’s passage with a statement about himself that needs to be true of us if we are going to finish the “course” of our lives well as ones who truly give themselves to the ministry of testifying of the gospel of the grace of God. He says, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself.” Paul does not consider anything more “dear,” not even his life, than finishing the course and ministry given to him by Christ. To what do we hold “dear” that interferes with our finishing well? The Pharisee in our Luke 18 story certainly could not say, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself.” He has a testimony, but it is all about himself as we see from his prayer, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” We may not be as blatant about things as the Pharisee but we are like him. How easily we forget why we need a Savior. Remember, we are all just as sinful in God’s eyes. The difference is that some people manifest it (in our eyes) more readily than others.
Another way to look at this is like this: somewhere buried in my soul is the notion that I deserved (to some degree however small) to be saved while some others (scum) don’t. Somehow, we escaped the syndrome of the Pharisees (they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt) enough to receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ but not enough to rid us of self-righteousness and to make us lovers of people (all people) like Christ. To rid ourselves of this inconsistency we need to meditate long and hard on what it means to need a Savior at the beginning and along the way. We need to live life as ones who always need a Savior (my salvation was totally undeserved and unearned and it is Christ and Christ alone who can produce righteousness in me). This and this alone is our testimony. Slipping into a self-righteous Christian lifestyle somewhere along the way happens readily and when it does our hearts become hardened and our testimony becomes all about us.
Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:
Lord, help me to grasp how strong and deep your abhorrence is for the “self-righteous religious path of the Pharisees” to which I am so prone. I confess that far too often I find joy from feeling alright about myself because I think I have accomplished so-called righteous living. Deliver me from self-righteousness. Show me how to absolutely depend on your indwelling presence and fill me up with your love and compassion. I am not the Apostle Paul and you have not called me to bring the gospel to the whole world. I do see, though, that you have called me to bring the gospel
to my world. Thank you for saving me, thank you for living in me, thank you for changing me, and thank you for overseeing my life. Thank you that I really do have a testimony that is based on grace and grace alone. Show me how and when to testify to others. Help me share the testimony of my relationship with you. I really do want to finish well. Amen!