Living Out Christ
Text: Acts 28: 1-11
Proposition: To live out Christ is to help people see Jesus in the same kind of way that Christ lived out the Father that people might know Him and His salvation.
Introduction: Last week we looked at the way God uses storms, ships and ship mates to bring us to a place of hope and safety. We called it Shipwreck Faith, a faith that doesn’t just believe in God, it believes God. That passage ended with the ship being torn to pieces and all on board clinging to planks of wood as they made it through the roar of crashing breakers to solid ground. Now here they were on an island called Malta, off the north coast of Africa, an island just 18 miles long and 12 miles wide. They would be here for the next three months and though much would happen during that time only two major events are recorded for us. It’s as though Luke the writer of Acts is being used by God to draw our attention to something that has a greater importance than anything else over their whole three month stay. What our eye is drawn to is the way that Paul lives out Christ. The phrase that is used today to describe that is called Incarnational Faith. To live out Christ is to help people see Jesus in the same kind of way that Christ lived out the Father that people might know Him and His plan of rescue for them in Christ. Look at Acts 28:1-11.
I. Incarnational Faith Responds to Circumstance and Struggle Remarkably.
Soaked to the bone from surviving the shipwreck they now gather on the shore in the early morning light, 276 survivors. But the rain and wind drives down on them and out of the nearby huts come these villagers. They make a beach bonfire to help warm them even as the rain continues to soak them. What Luke remembers seeing in that early morning light was the apostle Paul working alongside dozens of others trying to gather enough wood to keep the fire blazing, its warmth driving back the numbness. He saw Paul come with an arm load of branches gathered from the underbrush and as Paul throws them onto the fire something crazy, something unexpected happens. A snake hidden in the branches Paul was carrying suddenly strikes Paul, its bite digging into his arm to such an extent that it takes some time before Paul can break it free and throw it into the fire. The villagers recognized the kind of snake it was, they clearly saw it and knew what to expect from its bite. The villagers knew that there were prisoners on board that shipwreck and that Paul obviously was one of those prisoners.
Incarnational Faith or living out Christ is what Paul does. He experiences what the people around him experience as he seeks to meet the immediate needs of the moment. To be sure Paul didn’t start out looking for a snake to bite him, he looked for wood to bring warmth to others. What I’m saying is that God will use Incarnational faith to point out His people to the crowd. The purpose of pointing them out is that God intends to speak life and truth and hope through them. That’s exactly what Jesus did in His incarnation. God pointed out Jesus with signs and miracles. Then when they saw Jesus He revealed the life and truth and hope about who God the Father is and who He is as the Son of God. He is the One who would take the bite of sin, experiencing the wrath of the Father against sin. He would die and then be raised from the dead as proof that forgiveness of sin is right in front of them. That what the father did in pointing out Jesus. Look at how the Lord pointed out Paul, look at the villagers reaction to Paul being bit by the viper.
1. They concluded that there is a god who is inescapably sovereign.
2. They concluded that justice or judgment is part of that sovereignty.
3. They concluded that things don’t happen by chance.
4. They concluded that evil or sinful actions have consequence.
One moment they conclude that Paul is a criminal who is justifiably now experiencing the divine wrath of justice. Then when the viper bite which they knew to be fatal is suddenly not fatal, they conclude that Paul is divine because only God can over rule death. The implication is that Paul is innocent even though he experiences divine wrath and survives the divine wrath only because he is god. In a flash, in the time it takes for a snake to strike and the people to see it the core of the gospel is played out before their eyes. What is evident is that God uses Incarnational Faith to respond to circumstance and struggle in a remarkable way, a way that catches peoples attention and opens the door to the gospel. How you live out Christ is what God uses in you and through circumstance and struggle He points you out to the crowd that Jesus Christ would be seen.
II. Incarnational Faith Takes Practice In Order to Point to The Perfect.
Many times Paul tried to teach those around him how to have an Incarnational Faith. In Phillipians 4:9 Paul once wrote, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Practice, is that like a medical practice or a baseball practice? When someone has a medical practice it doesn’t mean they are trying out their skills to see if they are a doctor or not. It means they are putting their skills to a regular use as both a service and a business transaction. The baseball practice means that you show up with the idea of being in training, that you are rehearsing for a big game soon to happen. Practice has both of these connotations, a regular action that serves and yet always seeks to improve. If you practice Christ, if you live out Christ in this way, the God of peace will be with you. That’s what we see in Paul as he tries to live a practice and at the same time practices living out Christ.
Let’s talk for a minute about what can disrupt or even destroy that practice of Incarnational faith. It was certainly something that Paul had to wrestle with.
1. Fear can inhibit how you live out Christ. It inhibits because it gets in the way and usually it pushes me to the front so that is what people see. If I’m trying to live out Christ, fear replaces that by trying to live out success and it makes me the poster child for it. The only problem is… I’m not a success and it’s the exposing of that which fear capitalizes on. When Paul goes to stay at Publius’ house and then hears about his father being sick with dysentery I don’t doubt that fear whispered in Paul’s ear, ‘What happens if you fail to heal him?’ I think the only answer could be, ‘Of course I will fail to heal him, only Christ can heal him and that is what I’m going to practice, a faith before this man that incarnates the Lord who has saved me. It will be the Lord’s choice to raise him up or not, my choice is to practice what I’ve ‘learned and received and heard and seen’. What that means is that you will be called to be a disciple, to follow after someone who’s following hard after Christ.
2. Sacrifice can inhibit how you live out Christ. The great problem with sacrifice is that the people whom you sacrifice for may not be worth it. They might take advantage of you, they might ignore you or even resist you. I heard a pastor share about an inner city ministry that he and his church were doing and the caution that came from others was that this was a waste. They said were just being played for the free food and money they could get from the church. His response was memorable. He said, ‘No one can take advantage of you when you are willingly offering yourself to them.’ That’s what Christ did, wasn’t it? He willingly offered Himself, no one took His life. He gave it willingly for one reason… our Salvation! When I don’t get that sacrifice is all about me willingly offering myself then the feeling of being played will always be there and Christ will not be lived out.
3. Attitude can inhibit how you live out Christ. In Phillipians 2:12-15 Paul writes, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…”. Just before this quote Paul prefaces it by saying, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Attitude is what can clobber us if it’s us who we are incarnating. If we will seek to incarnate Christ, which is what ‘working out your salvation’ means, then it will cause your attitude to shift from self focused living to Christ focused living. Let grumbling and disputing be a thing of the past. In Acts 28:9 it says, “the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.”For three months Paul and Aristarchus and Luke labored on Malta as the people of the island began to bring their troubles, their sick and diseased to them for healing. The word ‘healed’ here is ‘therapeuo’, it means to serve, to restore to health.’ It’s the picture of a medical missionary practicing medicine in a self sacrificing way with an attitude that did not grumble. Faith is a Field Hospital!
As Jesus lived out the Father before us that we would know salvations plan so now let us live out Christ so that others would know the author of that salvation, Jesus.