Do Not Shrink


“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
(Acts 20:25 NASB)
“Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
(Acts 20:26 NASB)
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
(Acts 20:27 NASB)



Paul was saying his farewell to the people of Ephesus. He had come to love these people who had become his congregation. They were now followers of Jesus Christ because of his zeal and desire for them to know about the kingdom. So intent was he that he was able to say that he was innocent of the blood of all men. In other words, he had been so faithful in preaching the word to everyone that he was not guilty for those who did not respond. He had provided them with an opportunity because he didn't shrink from declaring the whole purpose of God.



What was the whole purpose of God? It goes back to Paul's understanding of the kingdom. God's purpose is for his children to be full-fledged members of the kingdom. The kingdom is a place where God's transformed people live out their lives while still here on this earth, not living as people of this earth, but as people of the kingdom. And Paul was not ashamed to preach this whole purpose!

Sometimes I wonder whether we find it convenient these days to shrink from preaching the whole purpose of God, for God doesn't call us simply to a life of being "saved." Instead, he calls us to a radically transformed life with kingdom citizenship. The demands of this life are much greater than what most people would want to accept. I believe that for the most part people want a simple Christianity -- one that makes them feel good on Sundays -- and a devotional life that is about as short as the drive through the Starbuck's drive-up window line. Then we think that we are good to go -- but we are not. And if in any way, shape or form we have been advocating this type of Christianity -- or rather, kingdom life, then we are shrinking. Paul didn't mince words and he didn't always make people happy but he challenged people to understand God's whole purpose and his whole purpose was radically different from anything they had experienced. His message reached to the heart of peoples' daily lives and evidently had such an impact on the citizenry of Ephesus that it changed the local economy. Now, that's transformation.

I am challenged by Paul's statement that he is "innocent of the blood of all men." I believe that means that daily Paul didn't shrink from his calling. Everywhere he went he shared about Jesus Christ and no one would be able to blame Paul for not giving them an opportunity to enter the kingdom. Now that really sets me back and I wonder how many times I have shrunk from an opportunity. How many people have I sat next to an individual on an airplane and they would never know that I'm a Christ follower? Sometimes I envy the Catholics because they wear this garb that lets the world know that they are priests or nuns or monks -- but the world knows. Somehow we protestants travel incognito. The other day a priest was on the flight and I noticed he spent the whole time reading his Bible. I believe that his posturing simply became an invitation for anyone to speak to him about spiritual matters. Do I do that? Or do I blend in with the world to the point that I shrink from my responsibility? When I travel I preach from and read from the ipad -- but that hides even more the fact that I'm reading the word!

I don't want to shrink from what God would desire for me to do in the kingdom. I don't want to allow people around me to be lost simply because I've never shown them the way. I want to preach the full purpose of the kingdom and I want to be a part of a kingdom community that embraces the challenge to live life radically in the fullness of the spirit. There can no longer be business as usual. Paul gave everything he had to the people in Ephesus while he served there. May I pour out myself in service to where God has placed me today, tomorrow and in the days to come. I will not shrink!



Lord, may your Holy Spirit empower me not to shrink from your calling. Amen.


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