A Journey Thru Acts 42: Remaining True To The Lord Jesus (11:19-30)

QINGDAO, CHINA – AUGUST 28: (CHINA OUT) A child watches as high waves caused by typhoon Bolaven crash over the side of a road barrier on August 28, 2012 in Qingdao, China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Acts 11:19-30: 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution
that broke out when Stephen was killed
traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch,
spreading the word only among Jews. 

20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch
and began to speak to Greeks also,
telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
21 The Lord’s hand was with them,
and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done,
he was glad
and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith,
and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 One of them, named Agabus, 
stood up and through the Spirit
predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world.
(This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
29 The disciples, as each one was able,
decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.
30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Wow. What a passage! So much here…thank the LORD!

We’ll focus on verse 23: “Barnabus…encouraged them all
to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”

What does this mean?

Do We See This In The Rest Of The Bible?

Yes. At least 10x in the New Testament, God says we are to: “hold firm to the end”, “stand firm to the end,” “Persevere to the end”, “hold on to the end”, etc.

Matthew 10:22: The Lord Jesus said,
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Hebrews 3:6,14:
 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house.
And we are his house,
if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…
We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”

Colossians 1:23:
“…if you continue in your faith, established & firm,
and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. 

Does this mean we’re in charge of staying a Christian,
that it’s our strength alone that enables us to finish strong & remain true to the Lord Jesus,
that we can lose our salvation?

NEVER! That would mean we get ourselves to heaven—

thinking Jesus saved us at first but that it’s up to us to finish His job of salvation.
Thank the LORD that isnt true! God Himself will finish what He began.

We are to hold on to Him by faith, we are to finish strong,
but we are to do so in the utter confidence that He promises to never let go of His repentant people.

We walk the tightrope of faith with the sturdy net of His character & promises beneath us!

Philippians 1:3-6: 
I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Jude 1:24-25:
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy

25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:7-9: 
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift
as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
8 He will also keep you firm to the end
so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9God is faithful,
who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 10:28-29: 
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Oh what glorious Truth!

So how do we handle the Truth

that God promises to hold firmly to us AND
that God commands us to hold firmly to Him?

There are the two extremes we need to avoid:

  1. Either thinking it all depends on us—what an overwhelming burden to wake up each day and live as if our salvation depends on us! This destroys joy and fruit. This acts like it is our good deeds today that lead to our salvation tomorrow…
  2. Or thinking we have no role to play—we just sit back and do nothing and treat Jesus as fire insurance. This leads to a life where we never read the Bible, never pursue God, never strive for holiness, bear no fruit, act/think/believe/live like everyone else but feel comforted that we prayed a prayer or walked to the front at the end of a church service at some point in our past. This acts like our good deeds don’t matter at all; this ignores the fact that while the New Testament teaches that salvation is by grace alone thru faith alone in Christ alone, it also teaches that we must repent of our sin & receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior & King & then live out our salvation! The New Testament has hundreds of commands for Christians…

Regarding this second extreme, we detest this in athletes, don’t we?
They sign the big eight year fully-guaranteed contract,
and sometimes their stats on the field get worse & worse…
sometimes because they just aren’t trying as hard, they don’t have the hunger,
they’re satisfied and “set for life” with their new contract.
We don’t like this satisfied-laziness in professional athletes…

…but we seem to expect God to applaud & approve when we do this to Him,
when our Christianity is at our convenience for our comfort only.
We aren’t to work hard as Christians TO GET on the team or TO STAY on the team
but we are to work hard to thank Captain Jesus and Coach Father
because They chose us TO BE on the team by grace.

We love when the superstar athlete signs the big contract
and then seems to give even more effort for the team—we celebrate that!
How much more does it honor the LORD
when we treat His grace with the same gratitude & dedication!?

  1. Thankfully there is a 3rd option from God: He started & will finish our salvation, He gets all the credit/glory/fame, and we step into the role that He has prepared for us—our good deeds matter, but they don’t make us saved someday, they are the fruit that He has saved us today:

Philippians 2:12-13:
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—
not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you
to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Our good deeds don’t work up to salvation, but they do work out from salvation…huge difference.
Romans 1:4-6: “…Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we received grace and apostleship
to call all the Gentiles
to the obedience that comes from faith  for his name’s sake.
And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

Not the obedience that leads to faith, but the obedience that flows from faith! 

Isaiah 26:12:
Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us

Yes! The both/and, not either/or:
even when God blesses us to accomplish truly faithful actions,
it is the LORD Himself who has done those things through us!

Psalm 127:1:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

We build and watch, but the Lord ultimately does so through us,
or else our building and watching is futile, fruitless, and in vain…
both/and–we have an important role to play!

2 Corinthians 7:1:
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends,
let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit,
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

We who are in Christ already have the precious promises of God by grace & faith,

and since we have them, our faithfulness & obedience & holding firm to Christ
flows from the promises!

We purify ourselves—repent of & fleeing sin & chasing after holiness—

not to get the promises but because we have been given the promises!

Like getting a code for unlimited lives in a video game:
getting that code doesn’t mean you stop playing the game! How ridiculous!
But it also doesn’t mean we play the game on pins & needles,
wound up & stressed that if we lose a life then the game is over forever.

No, with the code you still play the game to win,
to defeat the bosses at the end of each level and to accomplish the mission/purpose of the game—
you are focused!

But you are conscious of the code and relying on it’s promise/achievement/gift
of all the lives you need to get to the end of the game victorious.

So What Exactly Does This Mean?

What Does It Look Like To Remain True To The Lord Jesus With All Our Hearts?

There are many different passages in the Bible to answer this, but lets dig into Matthew 24:9-14:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death,
and you will be hated by all nations because of me
[the Lord Jesus].
10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come”.

Here are some principles we learn regarding staying true to the Lord Jesus with all our hearts:

Verse 10: Not turning away from the faith
(e.g. not living like a “practical atheist” each day, living as if God is real because He is!).

  • Not watering down the faith because culture/society hates or disapproves of certain Bible teachings—no compromise!
  • Not denying the Lord Jesus if you are persecuted/mistreated/even killed (like Peter in the courtyard—hiding our faith in Christ Jesus, blending in with everyone else, etc.).
  • Just like people were excited about the 19th century tightrope walker the Great Blondin but no one would get in the wheelbarrow when he offered to safely take them across Niagara Falls, we learn to get in the wheelbarrow by faith each day no matter how dangerous, inconvenient and uncomfortable, trusting Christ Jesus Himself to get us to the other side!

Verse 10:
Not betraying & hating each other.

  • Yes, this can be literally turning in another Christian to the authorities to save ourselves
    (e.g. as some did in WW2 as Nazis hunted down Jewish people & others).
  • This can also simply be ignoring the needs of other Christians and being too busy taking care of ourselves to sacrificially serve & bless other Christians (like the priest & Levite who saw but walked by the man who was beaten/robbed).

Verse 11:
Not following false prophets & false teaching. Doctrine matters!

  • Don’t change Bible teachings to be “modern” or “relevant” or “with the times.”

1 Corinthians 15:2: By this gospel you are saved,
if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.
Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

-2 Thessalonians 2:15: So then, brothers and sisters,
stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you,
whether by word of mouth or by letter.

-Titus 1:9: He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught,
so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine
and refute those who oppose it.

Verse 12:
Not having a love that grows cold.

  • Not love as a feeling but as a choice—choosing to love
    the Lord Jesus, Christians, and non-Christians sacrificially no matter what you feel.

-John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” 

-John 14:23-25: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

This is beautifully summed up by 1 Timothy 4:16:
Watch your life and doctrine closely.
Persevere in them, because if you do,
you will save both yourself and your hearers.

My friends, don’t treat all this as some kind of list that you must check off each day,
living on eggshells when you sin & fall short in these ways.
Remember, you are to live out/work out your salvation,
but you are not to earn & begin & finish your salvation.

But repentance is a big part of remaining true to the Lord Jesus with all our heart
that’s why we see Him in His letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3
constantly telling them to repent of their sins & receive His forgiveness.
He gives those Christians encouragement and rebuke—
He does say to repent & admit & turn from our sinfulness
as He lovingly points out our sin thru the Holy Spirit.

Thus David wrote, “Search me and know my thoughts,
see if You find any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting..”

Praying that regularly is a HUGE part of remaining true to the Lord Jesus with all our hearts…
God is in the business of turning the concrete parking lots of our sinful hearts
into lush rainforests of spiritual fruit & maturity—
cry out to Him daily for this and He will!!!

Like in Ephesians 4:1: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then,
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

We have never been, are not, and will never be worthy of the grace & love of God,
we can never deserve to be made new, forgiven & adopted by Him.

And yet this verse says that we are to live as if we ARE worthy, as if we DO deserve the Lord Jesus…

We love it when an athlete, who has just signed a massive contract extension, practices & plays AS IF he were a rookie trying to make the team, we love to see the athlete give the same effort & dedication as if he could be cut from the team at any time.

That is what this verse in Acts is talking about, these are imperfect examples of what it means to remain true to the Lord Jesus with all our hearts: even though His grip will never let us go, hang on to Him with everything we have, even though ultimately we can rest in HIS faithfulness & dedication to us, let us live & be transformed to be more & more fully faithful & dedicated to Him. This honors Him. If we as sinful fans are glad to have a dedicated athlete on our team, how much more does it honor our perfect Savior to have a dedicated child in His family…

And this is exactly why repentance is so important, why it is so important for us to ask the LORD regularly to examine our hearts (beliefs, motives, desires, feelings, actions) & to clean us from the sin-residue that contaminates us: as we learn to live AS IF we are worthy of Jesus, we can start to think we actually ARE worthy of Him.

And so we need God to constantly keep us humble as we mature in Christ—like ju-jitsu that uses the weight/power/force of the other person against them, the devil wants to try to use our maturity in Christ to cause us to become arrogant, proud and self-satisfied, admiring ourselves in the mirror instead of the LORD our Master.

Closing Challenge

Hebrews 4:14: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

The Lord Jesus famously and powerfully said from the cross as He was about to die:

It is finished.

Humans being rightfully barred/banished from heaven and the direct presence of the Father—
that is finished for all who are called by Christ Jesus & receive Him as Savior & King by faith!

Humans trying to earn our way to heaven according to good deeds—
that is finished for all who surrender to Christ Jesus by faith alone!

But for Christians, it doesn’t mean that our purpose/mission on earth is finished.

We still have to play the football game, so to speak—there is still time left on the clock!

But there is certain victory—the score is infinity—1 in favor of the Lord Jesus Christ, & nothing we can do on earth as God’s children can cause Team Jesus to lose! Oh how encouraging that is as we get tackled & fumble & miss our assignments & get scared by the terrible chants of the spiritual forces that oppose us! Oh how encouraging it is not to run for our lives out of the stadium in fear but to run toward the end zone TO Him Who is our life—the way the Truth the life!

Let us walk the tightrope of faith
with confidence in the sturdy net of Christ beneath us!

Let us, by the grace of God, stay true to the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts,
true in what we believe (doctrine) and how we act (daily life)…

Medal of Honor receipient Lt. Rufus Geddie Herring: “Herring directe shattering barrages of 40mm and 20mm gunfire against hostile beaches, until struck down by the enemy’s savage counterfire, which blasted [his boat’s] guns and whipped her decks into sheets of flame…His unwavering fortitude, aggressive perseverance, and indomitable spirit against terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon Lt. Herring and uphold the hghest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

That is why we persevere to the end and remain true to the Lord Jesus with all our hearts—NOT to earn salvation and NOT to keep salvation—but to thank Him for earning salvation for us, to reflect on HIS greatness and show others how amazing Christ is that He can finish in us what He started in us, even people like us…

That is why the devil constantly tempts Christians to take it easy in the Christian life—the devil cannot steal our salvation but wants to steal some of God’s glory that He gets as we mature and finish well. Don’t let the devil diminish God’s glory by one watt—like Lt. Herring, may we have unwavering fortitude, aggressive perseverance and an indomitable spirit as we follow the Lord Jesus, taking up our cross and running the race He has marked out for us…

May we be able to say like Paul did before he was executed for his faith in Christ–2 Timothy 4:6-8:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering,
and the time for my departure is near.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—
and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”