Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Belonging to God
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 27:21-26
There’s a huge difference between humility and insecurity. They may look the same on the surface, but they serve two different masters. One is driven by the fear that it is unworthy of being loved and tries desperately to earn approval. The other is able to wrap a towel around its waist and kneel down to wash feet because it is so confident that it is loved and approved. And I don’t think we have it within ourselves to change from one to the other, as if someone who’s insecure could become confident by convincing themselves that they are important. Such confidence is a gift that must be given to us by someone else. It’s not a prize we can achieve on our own. We become confident when someone we trust, someone who knows us better than we know ourselves, someone with a greater perspective than we have, sees our true place in life and tells us who we really are.

To some degree parents play this role in a person’s life, which means a child that was raised in a family in turmoil or by a dysfunctional parent can grow up with an empty place inside. The message that they are loved and valued was never imparted, and that person might be left to go through life trying to find someone who will give them that gift; or they try to fill that need for themselves; or they just pretend they don’t care.

But even if someone had good parents, the longer we live the more we discover our own weaknesses and the negative impulses in our flesh that lurk just beneath the surface. So, even if we didn’t start out insecure, a history of mistakes can erode any sense of security we once had. Then how can a person find peace… inside? Where do we turn to find that someone who will give us the gift of love and acceptance? Let’s let a man who found the answer tell us.

The prisoner in the storm
• DBS (Sun-Tues)

Paul is a prisoner being transported to Rome to have his case reviewed by the emperor. He has no status, no particular value to anyone on that ship. And it appears they’re all going to die anyway. For the past 10 to 12 days the ship has been shaken until its seams are coming loose. It’s leaking badly and riding lower and lower in the water. People are seasick and frightened, and many have already concluded that it is only a matter of time before they drown (v20). Then into that moment stepped Paul. He stood up in their midst, filled with a remarkable peace, and boldly declared that they weren’t going to die in that storm. He said every person on board would be saved and that he was absolutely sure because an angel told him God had heard his prayers. Now everyone on that ship would have been religious in some form or another. Who knows how many gods were being prayed to in those stormy waters. Luke says even the sailors prayed (v29). But Paul had a different God than they did, and his relationship with his God was also very different. Most of the other passengers would have been begging or bargaining or offering sacrifices to appease the anger of their gods, hoping they would spare their lives. Paul doesn’t go into a long explanation about God. Undoubtedly, everyone could see he was a Jew, and knowing Paul, he probably hadn’t been silent about Jesus Christ. Yet, standing there among those huddled passengers, when he needed to tell them the name of the God to whom he had prayed and who had promised to rescue them, he described Him this way: “…the God to whom I belong, and whom I also serve…” (v23).

To speak of God this way, in front of all these people, is remarkably tender and transparent. We might have expected him to announce something like this, “I speak on behalf of the God who made heaven and earth… ,” but he didn’t. Why? I think it was because he had just come from the “prayer closet,” from being with the One who found him on the road to Damascus, the One who assigned him to be an apostle without even asking if he would do it, from being with the God who had loved him even when he deserved to be struck dead. No, Paul didn’t have a God; God had a Paul, so that’s how he introduced Him.

There’s something so strong, and yet so tender, in the word “belong.” It speaks of permanence, of unshakable relationship. In the English language the word means: to be connected to something or someone; or to be the property of an owner; or to be related to a person or family by birth; or to be a member of the same group. For Paul to say he belonged to God included all these definitions. As we read through his letters we discover he chose to think of himself as God’s “slave,” bought out of the devil’s grip by the blood of Christ. He deeply believed God was his heavenly Father, and that he was a “son,” an heir of God and co-heir with Christ. He thought of himself as a warrior in God’s army, a farmer in God’s field, an athlete running in God’s race. This “belonging” produced in him a deep confidence. He knew what God thought about him, and was sure God loved him, and that inner confidence released him to be truly humble, and to serve God for the right reasons. He served, not to gain acceptance, but because he was already accepted.

The Father’s gift (Mt 16:13-17)
On one occasion Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” In other words, “What do others think about Me?” And His disciples answered that people had widely different opinions. Then, He turned to them and asked, “But who do you say that I am?” And you’ll recall Peter gave a right answer. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and then Jesus told him that no human had revealed that truth to him, nor had Peter discovered it for himself. It was given to him as a gift by God.

When we read through the gospels we encounter several occasions where God the Father spoke directly to Jesus telling Him that He was His Son. When He was baptized in the Jordan River, an audible voice said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17). On the Mount of Transfiguration, as He stood in front of Peter, James and John shining like the sun, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice spoke out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him” (Mt 17:5). By this, and in many other ways, Jesus was confident in who He was. Yet He was amazingly humble and a servant like no other but obviously not because He was insecure. He didn’t do good things to try to earn the Father’s favor, He did them because He already had it. Listen:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (Jn 13:3-5).

Notice: Jesus was so confident in who He was/is that He felt no need to defend His position, no need to have others honor Him. He was truly free to take the role of a servant. Apparently, confidence, real confidence, the kind that comes as a gift from God when He tells us who we are, releases true humility and selfless service.

Wrong ways
There are many wrong ways to try to build our self-confidence. Here are a few:
• Self-talk: “Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better… .” We keep telling ourselves and others positive things about ourselves hoping someday we’ll believe it.
• Seeking approval from others: “If I could get her/him to love me, approve me, then I would find that peace I’ve been looking for.”
• Competitive achievement: “I find my value by being better than you.”
• Building memorials: “This will cause people to remember me.”

The right way
To discover the right way, I’d like to turn Jesus’ questions at Caesarea Philippi around. Picture Him asking you this: “Who do people say you are?” My guess is you’d have to answer: “They all say different things.” Then, picture Him turning to you and asking you this question: “But who do I say you are?” And our answer will reveal whether or not we have received the Father’s gift because “flesh and blood” can’t answer that question either. Like Jesus, we need to hear the Father say, “This is My beloved child in whom I am well-pleased.” Only then will our heart truly believe we belong.

It was because Paul “belonged” to God that he could be “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2Co 4:8-9). It was because Paul “belonged” to God that he could face death peacefully and allow himself to be “poured out as a drink offering” (2Ti 4:6). He was confident that the moment he stepped past the veil of death there was “laid up for [him] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, [would] award [him] on that day…” (2Ti 4:8). He served so well, because he was so confident that he belonged to God.

1) If you were to point to the moment in your life when you knew for certain God loved you, when was that? Please tell us how you heard.
2) What’s the difference between being humble and insecure? 

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