Text: Acts 20:13-37
“Cape Diem,” seize the day! Make it count! What does it look like to make your life count? We each are given a limited number of days to live, how shall we use them? It’s been said that we ought not to count our days, but rather to make our days count! Today is a day you will never have again, so make it count.
Throughout history a leaders last words were often thought important. Some weren't.
“This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!” Karl Marx
“I'm bored with it all. -- Winston S. Churchill
“Now comes the mystery! (last words)” ― Henry Ward Beeche
“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” ― Steve Jobs
“That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” ― Lou Costello
Money can't buy life." -- Bob Marley
Our scripture today is from Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus as recorded in Acts 20:13-37. In this passage Paul recounts and defends his manner of ministry. He recounts how he spent his time there (indeed his life since conversion) in service to Christ by preaching the gospel of repentance to Greeks and Jews. Now as he prepares to depart, he expresses his deepest concern: “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.” What’s more he prefaces this remark by saying, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself.”
To the church in Philippi he wrote, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Paul understood the meaning of life is to have a life well lived.
So, let’s consider a few questions this morning.
Is all life equally valuable?
Our initial response will likely be, “of course.” However, we must consider that life is not limited to humanity. Is plant life or animal life equally valuable? In my research there is a term called “moral expansion” that describes how far our sense of moral responsibility extends to other living things. The article (https://theconversation.com/how-do-we-weigh-the-moral-value-of-human-lives-against-animal-ones-60698) suggests that civilized humanity is moving toward a more expansive view of morality, to include our moral responsibility for animals and plants. From a biblical position our greatest moral responsibility is toward God, and then our fellow man, and then to the stewardship of creation. The article is intriguing in asking, “how many chimpanzees lives would be worth one human life?”
In an increasingly “morally expansionist” culture, it is important for Christians to hold onto the unique value of every human being as created in the image of God. To a secondary extent, Christians must also understand our moral responsibility to the appropriate stewardship of all creation.
Is all human life equally valuable?
From the biblical worldview the answer is clearly, “yes.” All persons are created in the image of God and are therefore equally valuable in the sight of God.
However, our society today often views people from a utilitarian viewpoint.If a person cannot or contribute to society, they may be considered a drain on society, and therefore of less value. (How many Christians hold welfare recipients in disdain as we wait behind them in the line at Walmart. We judge them with absolutely no understanding or knowledge of their economic condition, mental or physical challenges, or their spiritual life and depth. Shame on us!) Certainly, if a person detracts from civilized society (i.e.: terrorists, career criminals) their lives are often equated with less value to society.
Christians must avoid anything that would dilute the absolute value of every human life. Failure to do so opens the door to excusing abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and to the widespread indifference to economic inequalities, injustice, and poverty. The silence of the church on these issues betrays the hypocrisy of our proclamations that all men are created equal, and in the image of God.
Is your life valuable?
Clearly as we have already established, the answer is “Yes!” There are several biblical reasons.
You are unique. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14) God knew you when you were knit together in your mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5)
You were specially created by God. God had a purpose for you before you were even born. (Romans 9:10-12) In the story of Esther, Mordecai says to her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) God had pre-planned her rise to influence so that she would be able to save her people. Likewise, Ananias was told concerning Paul, ““Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15) Other examples we can find include, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, Pharaoh, and even Judas Iscariot.
You have a divine purpose for which you were created by God. You have something to offer. You are a part of God’s plan.
Finally, to answer the question, “Is your life valuable?” God thinks you “are to die for.” That is, He sees in you someone of such value that He was willing to put His own Son to death to secure your life, to restore the possibility of relationship with Him.
Are some things worth more than life?
Another way to ask this is to ask, “Are there some things worth dying for?” For the Christian, the answer is “Yes.”
This weekend in our country we recognize those who have fallen in the service of our country, and in the defense of freedom. Most citizens of the United States value their individual freedoms greatly. These freedoms were enshrined in our Constitution in the Bill of Rights. As a country formed through a struggle for self-government and self-determination we hold to the principle that the best forms of government are those which permit people to govern themselves. The United States has repeatedly over the past two centuries defended freedom and fought against global tyrants that would impose their will on others through force and subjugation. As a country this is a cause that we have staunchly defended with arms and the laying down of many lives. To die for the freedom of others, is to make your life count.
Jesus is our greatest example of laying His life down for our sake. Jesus trusted the Father’s plan, and willingly gave His life to secure our freedom from the penalty of sin. Are there things worth dying for? Yes, Jesus answers. You were worth dying for.
Then there is the example of Paul and many of the other apostles and disciples of Jesus day. They willingly laid down their lives for the determined purpose to spread the gospel to the world. Christians are still called today to lay down their life, crucify their flesh, take up their cross, and die to self. Again, our key verse this morning is Acts 20:24. “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.”
What should I live for?
This final question for today is the point of decision for each of us. What is our reason for living?
The prevailing sentiment of the humanism that pervades our society today, is that we live for ourselves. We rebel against any authority which would restrict our freedoms, including parents, law officers, institutions, churches, government, and the very laws that undergird our society. Our society is willfully abdicating our freedoms in a vain effort to become more tolerant and less offensive to others. The growing sentiment today is that I have the right to take away your freedoms if they offend me. I have the right to ignore the law if I consider it unjust, unfair, or out of touch with the current culture. It has led to so-called Christians flaunting the law by smoking pot, permitting and even encouraging underage drinking, and becoming increasingly accepting of rampant immorality. There is no expectation of chastity, fidelity, faithfulness, and personal sacrifice. Sadly, Christians in the States have become consumers of spiritual lies, such as: God wants you to be rich. God wants you to be successful. God wants you to be happy by the accumulation of things.
What should we live for? We should so live to receive the greatest rewards that God offers. We should live to hear the applause of heaven, to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” To those who overcome, they shall receive a crown. (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4)
The Bible repeatedly tells of the rewards of righteousness.
2 Samuel 22:21 "The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me."
2 Chronicles 15:7 "But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”
Psalm 58:10 "Surely there is a [a]reward for the righteous; Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”
Proverbs 11:18 "The wicked earns deceptive wages, But, he who sows righteousness gets a true reward."
Proverbs 13:13 "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded."
Proverbs 22:4 "The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life."
Matthew 5:11-12 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great;"
Matthew 6:6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
Matthew 10:41-42 "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Luke 6:35 "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."
Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."
Revelation 11:18 "And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done."
Live for God’s reward! It is so worth it! Whatever you gain here you will leave behind. That’s why Paul wrote, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
What is our best life? It is the life of following the example of Christ Jesus. It is the life of obedience to God. It is the life of being directed by His Word. It is the life of dying to self, and living to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard.
We all make some impression in this life,
some for good, some not.
MAKE YOUR LIFE COUNT FOR ETERNITY!