God ‘s Empire Builder ‘s
Evangel Tabernacle | On 30, Jul 2014
by: Pas. Carlos Barcelona Jr.
2 Corinthians 11: 21a- 30 “Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Galatians 2: 20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Had Saul met only a preacher and heard only a sermon on the road to Damascus, he might never have been heard again. But he met Christ. Sermons and preachers can be avoided-and they often are – but Christ can never be avoided. Right there that day, Saul’s philosophy of life was met with the Life Himself.
We have heard of powerful men like Alexander the great who conquered the world. We have heard of people who subdued the minds of others through their eloquence and wisdom like Aristotle and Confucius. In the Bible we have read of men like Moses who performed great signs and wonders before Pharaoh. We read about Joshua who led the conquest of Canaan, of Caleb who conquered the mountains, of Gideon who defeated the Midianites, of Samson who lifted the gate of a city by his bare hands and destroyed the Philistines. These people wrought great things. But what about Paul?
A little background of Paul:
Paul means “small.” He was born about the same time as our Lord. His circumcision name was Saul. He was a native of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in the southeast of Asia Minor. Tarsus was the seat of a famous university, higher in reputation even than the universities of Athens and Alexandria. Here Saul was born, and here he spent his youth, enjoying the best education his native city could afford. His father was of the straightest sect of the Jews, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and unmixed Jewish blood. Regarding his education and career, perhaps the most natural career for the youth to follow was that of a merchant. “But it was decided that… he should go to college and become a rabbi, that is, a minister, a teacher, and a lawyer all in one.”
According to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from goats’ hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in Tarsus.
His preliminary education having been completed, Saul was sent, when about thirteen years of age probably, to the great Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel, and here he spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures . During these years of diligent study he lived “in all good conscience,” unstained by the vices of that great city.
After the period his student-life expired, he probably left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with some synagogue for some years. But was found back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord. Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion, and the rise of the new sect of the “Nazarenes.”
Acts 9: 1- 7 “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
Paul was a fire-eating religious zealot but he met the fire-baptizing Lord; and as a result, when he was changed, civilization took a turn for the better. Though in his own sight he was a rigid, law-keeping, blameless Pharisee, Paul soon began to declare himself to be the chief of sinners in the sight of God, thus becoming an empire builder of God.
Like Paul how can we become God’s empire builders?
I. BY EXPERIENCE RATHER THAN EXPERIMENT
Experiment means trial or special observation, made to confirm or disprove something. It is testing something out, trying something to see what happens.
Experience is the knowledge you get because you have done something or tried something out. It is knowing something because you have done it.
A man with an experience of God is never at the mercy of a man with an argument, because an experience of God that costs something is worth something and does something.
We just had a revival and no one can argue with our wonderful experience but since it was costly and significant, something must be done about it, something must be done with it, something must be done for it and something should happen because of it.
Paul’s encounter with Christ was not an experiment, it was an experience. His encounter with Christ that day may have been terrorizing yet it was transforming. He had a blinding vision of the Lord “above the brightness of the sun” and therefore since that day Paul became blind to all earthly honour. His collision (encounter) with the Lord suddenly shattered his dream of intellectual kingship and changed his earthly prospects.
He experienced God’s striking and God’s stripping. After being stricken with blindness in the road to Damascus, Paul stepped down further to another ordeal with God- the stripping in the Arabian desert. There in the desert, his lips were sealed and nothing was heard about him for a time so that he could not boast about his standard and his status. It was a moment of silence on his part so that God will be all in all. E.g. stripping of Moses in Horeb.
I believe in encountering God and I believe in revival and hopefully all of us who have been revived, didn’t just have an experiment of what an encounter is but have an experience that will change our earthly prospects. (“inward look”, outward look and “upward look”). For a man who had encountered/experienced God is changed in his observation, perception and conversation.
II. BY IDENTIFICATION OVER SUBSTITUTION
Paul accepted his Lord not only in substitution but also in identification. “Crucified with Christ” and “Christ lives in me”. Gal. 2: 20
Substitution means “a putting in place of another.”
Identification means “a feeling that you understand someone else and know how they feel or a feeling that you are closely connected to a person.
How do we identify with Christ?
1. BY LIVING AN EXEMPLARY LIFE.
Philippians 4: 9 “ Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
E.g. our Trip with Pastor Lily’s friends.
We made a trip with Pastor Lily’s friends 2 weeks ago. But prior to it Pastor Lily’s friends sent her an email with a list of places they wanted to visit. Some of the places were Oro Verde and Balay nga Kawayan in Guimaras, Bucari in Leon, Bearland and SEAFDEC in Tigbauan, Bantayan Tower in Guimbal, Hablon weaving in Miag-ao and Garin Farm in San Joaquin. We noticed that many of the places we went to have guideposts indicating how many kilometres away is that place, some has guidepost telling us to turn this way and that way. Pastor Toh Nee and Pastor Lily had been going around Iloilo and we know they can follow directions, but they still brought us with them. Why? Because they know that guideposts can direct them but guides can bring them.
Many of those who are serving God and churches are like guideposts. We point to all kinds of direction for people to track and locate. We tell them to do this and don’t do that, walk right, stop and go, but Paul’s life is an example of a guide not a guidepost. A guide does not only know how to point direction but also moves along that direction. That’s why we have what we call tour guides not tour guideposts. Our lives must be an example for people to follow and it means making the first step ahead or making steps together.
2. BY LIVING AN EXCEPTIONAL LIFE.
Paul was exceptional in his suffering, which was often by the choice of others, but was also exceptional in prayer, which was by his choice.
Nobody chooses to suffer. Even in fasting if given the choice you will eat. It is always other people who make us suffer. They persecute, criticise, beat and hurt us. But it is our choice to pray.
If we were strong in prayer, we would be more suited to suffer. Prayer develops bone as well as groan, sinew as well as saintliness, fortitude as well as fire.
We can’t expect big results from our small praying, for the law of prayer is the law of harvest: sow sparingly in prayer, reap sparingly; sow bountifully in prayer, reap bountifully. The trouble is we are trying to get from our efforts what we never put into them. There can be no output without an input.
So the Christian life becomes exceptional only when by other people’s choice we have persecution and with our choice we kneel down and pray.
3. BY LIVING AN EXPANDING LIFE
Many of us are happy to get the scraps that are left over from another man’s effort. What the bible teaches about the Syro-Phoenician woman who came to Jesus asking for crumbs or left over is different from what it teaches through Paul to us today. For the woman, it talks about salvation by grace through faith, but for Paul it talks about showing your faith by your work.
Paul built upon no man’s foundation. 1 Corinthians 3: 10 “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.”
He did not spend wearying hours in speculating and planning. He did not hide-away in some spiritual laboratory dissecting truth or labelling theological capsules. He did not write “The Life of Christ”; He demonstrated the life of Christ.
Romans 1: 14 “ I am obligated (debtor)both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” For him, it were better that he should be “the prisoner of the Lord” for a few years than that his fellow men should be the devils’ prisoners in hell forever.
Every believer should be committed to a complete and costly consecration: “Henceforth let no man trouble me” (Gal. 6: 17). Paul was sold out to God. Every beat of his heart, every thought of his mind, every step of his feet and every longing of his soul- all were for Christ and the salvation of men. Though his revival party let him down, “all men forsook me”, he dropped into the “everlasting arms” and went on. Sometimes he almost starved yet when the table was full, he fasted. He wished everyone blessing, yet could wish himself accursed.
We can have an expanding life when like Paul we demonstrate the life of Christ… His devotion, humility, passion, suffering and love. Our lives should be branded with this identity. It is not just a bodily identification by outward imitation, but also a spiritual identification by inward crucifixion.
God is looking for people who are willing to become His empire builders. How to become God’s Empire Builder?
1. Experience God rather than experiment.
2. Identify with God not just substitute.
– by living an exemplary life
– by living an exceptional life
– by living an expanding life.