FINAL CONCERNS – FEARLESS FAITHFULNESS (Ephesians 6:19-24) What are you living for?

That is the question this morning. What drives your existence? What are you about? Every last one of us has some one grand passion. The question is, is it worth it? Does it have value beyond this life? Is it meaningful in light of eternity? One young man scored tickets to the Super Bowl one year – though he was seated on the very last row. As the game got going, he noticed an empty seat beside an elderly gentleman ten rows up on the 50-year-line. Taking a chance he made his way down and asked if the seat was taken. The man replied, “No. You can have it. I used to bring my wife to every Super Bowl, but since she passed away, I’ve gone alone.” The young man asked, “Well, why didn’t you invite a friend?” The old man replied, “I can’t. They’re all at the funeral.” He had his passion, but it was kind of sad, wasn’t it? I prefer the passion that drove Paul – one that I hope will set our own hearts on fire. In the last verses of this great letter, he bares his heart. It’s not purposeful. He’s just signing off. But it gives us an unguarded glimpse of his grand passion. Let’s look at his concerns for himself and for others as an example to follow. I. Concerns for Himself A. That He be Faithful Verses 19-20, “and [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Here’s the unexpected from Paul again. What would we ask in your 5th year of imprisonment, chained to a guard 24-7? What would we ask? I‘d as prayer for physical well-being – for relief from the pain of the raw flesh created by the shackles. I would ask prayer for relief for my old scar-ridden back. I ask prayer for release so I could continue my travels and missionary activities. But not Paul. His request -- is that he be faithful. That’s his passion. That he not mess up. That he represent the King correctly despite circumstances. All his physical impairment and dreams for future ministry were subordinate to the passion of his heart – that he be faithful! Paul refused
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to let circumstances dictate emotions or dash his hopes. He would have none of it. He is the ultimate example of faithfulness over circumstances. And his attitude is perfectly captured in his self-depiction -- I am an ambassador in chains. An ambassador has political clout, right? When you deal with the ambassador, you deal with the power who sent him. Some of you may have driven down Embassy Row in Washington DC. The ornate buildings reek of power. Ambassadors are VIPs. They have diplomatic immunity. Yet here is Paul – the greatest ambassador in history, residing in the grandest political center in the world at that time or any time, representing the King of kings – in chains! It is incongruous! An ambassador in chains is a paradox. In chains, dreams crushed, body torn – yet still an ambassador! And his prayer? That he be faithful. A good ambassasdor. He is about to appear before Caesar – Nero – to plead his case. But he’s not a helpless prisoner dependent on the courts mercy! No way. That’s how the world sees him. He rejects that view. He sees himself for what he really is, as heaven sees him, as an ambassador for Christ – in chains, yes, but no less an ambassador. And his only concern is to represent his master well. Paul knew what his life was about. Do we? Is it worth it? How could Paul do this? Turn back to 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus.” Prisoner of Christ Jesus? Come on, Paul. You are in shackles to Caesar, imprisoned on trumped up charges. You are the prisoner of the state. Really? Not from Paul’s perspective. That is the world’s view. The world’s view always lacks eternal perspective. Paul saw beyond the shadows. Paul saw reality. He was serving a glorious lifetime sentence to Christ. Caesar was a momentary inconvenience. Sitting in jail in Rome? “No,” says Paul in 2:6 because God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Tho physically in jail in Rome; in reality Paul was seated in heavenly places in Christ. He was the prisoner of Christ; he resided in Christ was the ambassador for Christ. And he longed to be faithful. He had something worth living or dying for. So, what passion drives us? Is something that will be over when this life is over? Or is it tied to eternity? See, Paul got it that as a believer, he no longer belonged to this world at all. He says in Phil 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Does our passion match our standing? Or is our purpose in life some hobby or retirement plan or other temporal and unworthy passion for a child of God?
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Do you know that it is not just Paul who was an ambassador for Christ? Turn to II Cor 5 – starting in verse 17: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (Beloved, that’s heaven’s perspective on our reason for living!) 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we (not just pastors, or apostles or professionals – we, we all, we all believers. We) are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Who are ambassadors of reconciliation? All believers. All ambassadors! Paul was an ambassador in chains. We are ambassadors in farming, or real estate, or as laborers, or businessmen or housewives, or salespeople or retirees. We’re all ambassadors. But -- what kind? Paul longed to be faithful. It was the passion of his heart. It drove him. Does it drive us? We are not citizens here in this world anymore. We are citizens of heaven from which we serve as ambassadors. If our ultimate passions are here, they are misplaced. If our ultimate passions are of this world, it is very possible that we are a Christian in name only. So, what is our passion? Tony Dungy coached a Super Bowl winning team. Most people would say you can’t do that unless that is your driving passion. Tony begs to differ. He says, “All along, my focus had been on doing things the way I thought was right – walking where I felt the Lord was guiding. Sure, I absolutely wanted to reach the Super Bowl, but I always tried to keep that goal in its proper place in my life. With the Lord beside me, I felt certain that whatever was supposed to happen was going to happen. He didn’t call me to be successful in the world’s eyes; He called me to be faithful.” Tony knows that as great as the Super Bowl is, it won’t mean a thing to him in 100 years, but how he lives his life will. How he serves his ambassadorship will matter. He wants to be faithful. Circumstances, even prison, are merely the opportunity God gives us to be faithful. They are immaterial to eternal realities. That’s how Paul saw it and that is what drove him. To be faithful. B. That he be Fitting
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I love Paul’s heart. He wanted to be faithful, but also fitting; he wanted his words to resonate, to compel, to persuade. Look at verse 19 again. He didn’t ask for prayer for pain or release or physical comfort or a miraculous intervention. Look at what he asked, “and [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” Words? “What do you mean you want words, Paul? You have words. You’ve written the most eloquent statement of the gospel in all of literature than Ephesians 2. Why words? Because Paul longed to present the gospel graciously, persuasively. Paul wants to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. “Mystery” means not known in OT times, but now made clear in Christ. Chapters 2 & 3 showed the mystery of the gospel is that it is universally inclusive. It’s not for Israel only. It’s for everyone. Paul knew he needed wisdom to show the death and resurrection of Christ is for everyone? His audience was diverse. For now, it was mostly his guards. Think of that – chained to Paul for 8 hours a day! They didn’t have a chance, did they? But not because it was Paul. But because Paul would not keep quiet about his faith, and God – God changed hearts through His Word. Paul never saved anyone. But God used his faithfulness, just like he can use ours, to change hearts. Remember what Paul wrote the Philippians from this same imprisonment? Let’s turn – Phil 1:12 ff. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard (those were the guys who were chained to Paul night and day) and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul need words for his audience of guards. But he also was about to have an audience with Caesar – whole different level! And Paul wanted to have fitting words there too. Amazingly – not to get himself free. That would have been my concern. But Paul was the prisoner of Christ, not Nero! So his burden was to show Christ in all His glory – not just leader of some small hated Jewish sect – but as Savior of the world – not as a religion, but as the solution to the universal problem of sin. Paul’s message was that God had revealed Himself in the historical person of Jesus who had recently lived and died in Palestine. His death was for the sins of mankind, and He been raised from the dead in proof of His claims. He now offered salvation to all – Jews and Romans alike. Old and young alike. Rich and poor alike. Slave and emperors alike. Whatever the audience, Paul longed for that message to be fitting – clear and compelling. He wanted words like Jesus -4

dripping with grace and truth! Representing Christ compellingly as the answer to mankind’s greatest problems – sin and death. Chuck McIllhenny was pastor of a Presbyterian Church in San Francisco for many years. He wrote a book published in 2000 called When the Wicked Seize a City which recounted severe threats to his life for his stand on homosexuality. His home was firebombed while he, his wife and 3 daughters slept inside, his church vandalized so often that the windows finally had to be boarded. Callers threatened to sodomize his daughters. He said that "straight society in San Francisco is without power and without influence, living on the fringes of that society." Despite such treatment he continuesd to counsel homosexuals and to visit in the hospital those dying of AIDS. In the early 1990’s he became aware that a homosexual issue was going to be considered in a council meeting and decided he had to go. The council was about to vote when he asked if he could speak. When he was asked, “What would you like to say?" he replied, "Well, I would like to say nothing for myself, but I would like to quote three individuals that I have respected for years." And he read to them from Moses in Leviticus, from a Psalm of David, and from Paul in Romans 1. He did not sermonize; he didn’t complain of his own treatment or itemize his commendable efforts. He just read quietly and sat down. One of the council members said, "Wait. Before you sit down, who are those people -- Moses and David and Paul?" And someone said, "You are reading from the Bible, aren’t you?" "Yes," he said, "I am." And one of the council members then said, "I vote no," and another and another. And it did not pass. Grace and truth do not always carry the day – but sometimes they do. Don’t we want fitting, gracious words? C. That he be Fearless Paul’s final concern for himself is astounding. Check out the last phrase of verse 20: “that I may declare it [the gospel] boldly, as I ought to speak.” That I may declare the gospel boldly. Are you kidding me? Paul is asking prayer for boldness?! Yes! Does that give heart to anyone else here – or is it just me that has trouble with this at times? Pray for me to be bold! Man, that is amazing. You know why Paul was so bold? He prayed for it, and he was not ashamed to ask others to pray for boldness for him. When was the last time we prayed for boldness for ourselves or anyone else? We just don’t ask.

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Paul was tempted to keep quiet about Christ just like we are – only for much greater reason. He didn’t just get mocked; he got beaten. But, he wanted to be bold. Do we want to be bold? Do we even want to share Christ at all? Jesus had a comment on that. Turn to Matt 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” And if Jesus denies you before the Father, that’s it. No hope. Beloved, we are on holy and serious and challenging ground here. Do we name the name of Christ, or do we implicitly deny him by our silence and compromise? Do you know who Jesus addressed here? The crowds at large? No. All his followers? No. This was addressed to the 12 apostles. Jesus was dead serious. You deny me – I’ll deny you. We need to pray for boldness. There is a wonderful account in Acts 4 where Peter and John healed a man at the temple, were arrested and boldly proclaimed that they did it in the name of Jesus because there is no other name among heaven by which we must be saved. Eventually, the rulers warned them not to do that anymore and let them go for fear of the crowds. Peter and John then went back to the other believers and prayed for – you guessed it – more boldness with the result in verse 31, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Don’t we want that kind of boldness? Then we must pray! Conclusion -- So, what is our passion? What do we live for? Is it worth it? I used to volunteer as a docent at the Nixon Presidential Library close to where we lived in Yorba Linda. I led many tours. One of the items that I always pointed out in the Vietnam section was a little, handmade American flag hanging in a display case. It was made by Captain John Dramesi who was imprisoned in North Vietnam from 1967 to 1973. From first to the last, Dramesi resisted in every way possible. He determined to “do it right” – set the pattern of resistance from the first while he had the stamina and mental reserves to make it stick. One of the ways he resisted was by fashioning a little American flag out of spare bits of prisoner clothing or underwear. He would bring it out at night so he and his companions could pledge allegiance to it. Eventually, he was found out and brutally tortured. But once back in his cell, he made another flag and continued the resistance. Dramesi was part of the POW release at the end of the war in January 1973. He was one of 1,000 POWS who were guests at the White House for the
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largest group ever gathered there in May, 1973. The highlight of the evening? When all the celebrities, guests and John’s fellow POWS stood and pledged allegiance – to the little flag that John had made in his cell. Now, although it is not nearly so obvious, each of us is making daily decisions about how we will fight the spiritual warfare that we are in. Are we flying the ambassador’s flag – or do we simply seek whatever pleasure and ease we can find in this life, living a life of compromise. Might we find in the end that although we have faithfully attended church and lived a good life, we never gave our life to Him and He will say to us, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Dramesi could never have imagined when he fashioned that flag the circumstances where it would ultimately be used. Neither can we imagine how God will multiply our meager efforts to His glory. But we can be sure, it will all be worth it. May God challenge and help us, like Paul, to be faithful, fitting and fearless in our stance for Him. Let’s pray.

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