Skipping ahead in the book of Acts to chapter 20, we see that the gospel has infiltrated one of the big business cities in the ancient near east–Ephesus.  Paul had planted a church there that boomed with gospel fruitfulness.  Paul stayed for years, building up the Ephesian church.  In Acts 20, we see how Paul leaves the Ephesian church.  This is of particular importance to this youth group and to me, Jordan, and Alex right now.  Paul goes about this endeavor in a very noteworthy way that I hope to imitate.

First, Paul convinces the Ephesians that he is leaving out of obedience and not desertion.  Though the church would have loved to have had an apostle hang out for a long, long time, building up and teaching in their church.  Who wouldn’t want Paul in their church?  However, Paul considers the gospel of higher value than building a flawless ministry.  The Ephesians had heard the gospel and many have embraced it.  It was time to bring the gospel elsewhere. 

Paul then issues a warning, “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”  When healthy doctrinal teaching leaves a church, and there are leaders who are not valuing the gospel above their ministry, those feelings of desertion birth bitterness which births spiteful and twisted teaching, which is the bullhorn of Satan.  We see that some years later, Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to correct and rebuke false teachers.  And in Revelation, Jesus warns the Ephesian church to “repent…If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand”. 

Thirdly, Paul blesses the Ephesian elders, ““And now, I commend you to God and to the word of grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

That is, though now you may be concerned about your church and your leaders, know this—God holds you, his word builds you up and you will inherit the reward of eternal life.  It was never me or Alex or Jordan.  It was God, it is God, and it will always be God who takes care of you, his word that instructs you, and his grace that sanctifies you.  You have godly leaders to look to who understand this: Sonja, Deanne, Heather, and Lydia.  Pray for more godly leaders to come, specifically men.  God gives leaders a gift to his church.  Churches do not function without biblically qualified leaders who submit to Jesus.  So pray for leaders.  It may be some of you whom God raises up to lead in different roles.  All of you are capable. 

Here is my plea: Support the advance of the gospel message.  Do not allow bitterness or a sense of desertion to creep into your heart.  Be alert, stop unbiblical truths from finding any place in your youth group.  And be blessed, trust God, be built up by his word, be sanctified by his grace.

Now, if you remember one thing from all of the Wednesdays that I have spoken you will understand the singlemost prominent truth of the entire Bible.  Some of the most renowned biblical scholars do not understand this:  IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS.  Everything, all things, anything contributes to Jesus’ glory.  It is not about us, it is about Jesus.  I don’t care what situation you tell me about to try and contradict this point–it is all about Jesus.  There is nothing that does not concern Jesus’ glory:  “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

We love all of you.