October 23, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 20:1-38

For anyone who thinks that the Bible is boring and serious at all times have never read Acts 20:9-10. This poor man named Eutychus falls asleep during Paul’s sermon. He happened to be sitting in the window and so when he falls asleep he falls three stories to the ground and dies. However, the story ends happily as Paul goes down and revives him. I don’t care what you have done in Church but I bet it has never been as embarrassing as falling out the window. The irony is that this man’s name means “lucky or fortunate.” So the passage could read, “Lucky” fell asleep during Paul’s long sermon and then fell out the window.” But he lived to tell about it. I have to say that every time I read this story I laugh out loud. However, this is not the part of the passage where I want to land.

My focus this morning is verses 17-38 which is Paul’s last journey to the church in Ephesus. This passage gives us a glimpse into Paul’s heart for the Church in Ephesus and mirrors for us his letter to the Ephesians. There are a few truths that Paul wanted to make sure that the Church in Ephesus did not forget and it is profitable for us as a church today.

  1. Paul always kept the gospel the number one thing! (vs.18-21, Ephesians 2:4-10). No matter what the cost or what obstacle he faced, Paul always proclaimed “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Because it was profitable (v.20). We must understand that the only thing of value to us in the gospel. Without a relationship with Christ our church attendance, our religion, our prayer time, our tithe, our lives mean nothing and we will all face Hell. We are saved by faith in Christ Jesus alone and that is our hope.
  2. Paul did not view this life as the main thing but he saw things with an eternal perspective (v.24). For Paul proclaiming the gospel and investing in others was the only thing of value. He thought this because it was the only thing that will have any eternal value. I would ask you to think about your life and ask yourself “what are the things that have eternal value?” This does not mean that you only walk around the streets praying and shouting Jesus is coming. What I am saying is, in the influence and the relationships that you have how are you investing in a way that leads people to Jesus. That means spending time with your kids and talking about God and how much he loves us. Spending time with friends and loving them in such a way that glorifies God in hopes of sharing Christ. The point is we have to first believe that the Gospel is most important and view life with an eternal perspective before it will flesh itself out in our day to day lives.
  3. Paul knows that it starts with belief in God’s word (v.28-32). Paul knew that the church at Ephesus would be faced with false teaching and “wolves” that would come in and try to destroy God’s church. So Paul exhorts them to be alert and to pay attention to God’s word because “it is able to build you up.” Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul echoes Acts 20 when he talks about putting on the full armor of God. However, we as believers only have one weapon and that is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Too many of us as believers do not use our weapon and as a result have been tossed about as if on a wave (James 1:6-7).

Let me ask you today, if you were called to war would you learn how to use a gun? Of course you would. So why get lazy when it comes to learning how to use our weapon, the Bible, which is God’s Word?

Posted by: Chad Wiles

October 22, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 19:21-41

The city of Ephesus was considered a guardian of the temple of Artemis (Acts. 19:35), also known as Diana.  Artemis was known as the goddess of animals, or the goddess of hunting.  She was also worshiped because the people considered her to be a fountain of blessings.  She was an idol that was worshiped passionately by most of the people in Ephesus, Egypt, Greece, and many other pagan cities and nations.

When Paul and his companions came into Ephesus and to teach about Christ, many believed and began to follow Jesus.  In order to follow Jesus, they turned from their idol worship.  Acts 19:23 says that because of this, a large disturbance occurred concerning “the Way” (the gospel).

In Acts 19:24-27, we meet a man named Demetrius.   He was a silversmith in Ephesus who made a living by crafting and selling silver shrines of Artemis.  His business took a big hit because people who had become followers of Jesus were not interested in buying shrines and crafts devoted to the worship of Artemis.  He was angry at Paul because he lost a lot of business because the people lost their desire to worship idols.

The large disturbance that Luke mentioned in verse 23 occurred because the gospel had come to Ephesus and people turned away from their idols.  That’s exactly what the gospel does in our lives.  As we surrender to Jesus, we lose our desire to worship idols in our lives.

It’s worthwhile for all of us to consider today if there are idols in our lives that the gospel is disturbing.  Is it the idol of sleep, relationships, self-image, video games, sports, money, pornography, etc?  When we encounter Christ, He causes no small disturbance in our lives until we confess and surrender those things to the Lord.  The gospel rocks our world! “No small disturbance” should occur in our lives when we encounter “the Way.”  If your life hasn’t been disturbed by the gospel, then you likely have not truly encountered Christ.

Thank the Lord today that He loves us just as we are and too much to leave us the way we are.

Posted by: Rich Duffield

October 20, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 19:1-20

What an amazing passage we have today. We see believers in Ephesus receiving the Holy Spirit, handkerchiefs healing people, and one demon-possessed man taking out 7 guys at one time. So what can we learn from such a crazy set of events? I think we see 3 big lessons here:

1. Time invested brings the greatest reward (The sowing and reaping principle)

Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus teaching, training and discipling the believers there. He raised up a church and help to set up leadership within it. So often we get discouraged when we meet with someone because we don’t see them growing or “getting it” as quickly as we like. Many times in the Bible evangelism and discipleship are compared to farming (John 4:35-38; 1 Corinthians 3:6; Mark 4:26-28) One of the key traits a farmer needs is patience. You plant a seed, water it, and care for it but you can never make it grow. It is only when it is given the proper care and time that it will grow. This same principle is true for most people in their spiritual lives. Some people grow quicker than others but most people need love, understanding, maybe an occasional rebuke but almost all people need time. The more time and energy you invest in a person’s life, generally equals a greater reward. This is not always the case but we have to allow for God to do what He will do. Our part is to plant the seed, water it and wait patiently for the growth.

2. Doing God’s work puts you on Satan’s list

When the 7 sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus and Paul, the demon responded that He knew Jesus AND Paul. Now we know how He knew Jesus, He is the son of God, but how did he know Paul? Paul was doing the Lord’s work. You see, when we are serving the Lord with a pure heart and right motives Satan looks to destroy us. (1 Peter 5:8) A good book to read about this is C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”. I won’t go into detail about it but it is an interesting viewpoint of this point.  The point here is that Paul’s service to Jesus made him a high priority enemy to the devil which, in turn, caused him to be known by this demon. So know that when you serve the Lord and when you are walking in step with the Spirit Satan will be close at hand to tempt you to lure your focus away from God.

3. Motive matters

The 7 sons of Sceva were doing a good work by casting out demons. The disciples all did this, in fact Jesus commissioned them to do it (Luke10). So why did this happen? The 7 men get beat up and ran off. It is all about the motive of the heart. These guys were clearly trying to make a name for themselves. They didn’t even really know Jesus (verse 13). We can do good things with the wrong motive and they become bad things. So always be sure to check your heart behind everything you do.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd

October 19, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 18:1-28

Keep on speaking…

Innocence.  It is usually defined as “having not done something.”  But here, it is the opposite.  Innocence here is defined as “having done something.”  Are you innocent?

Today’s “Walk-a-Way”

Paul is on the move.  And he is consistently “occupied with the Word” (v.5).  He is teaching it, reasoning with people by using it, testifying to people about It (Jesus).  And yet while he is testifying, he faces opposition.  Should we expect anything less?

Paul decides to leave Corinth because of this opposition.  He speaks boldly in verse 6 saying,

“Your blood be on your own heads!  I am innocent.” (ESV).

What is Paul saying here?  He is saying, “I am innocent of the judgment that you will receive by God.  I have faithfully preached the Word to you, and your disbelief is on your own heads, not mine.”

Paul is saying that their disbelief in the gospel of Jesus could in no way be attributed to his lack of faithfulness in telling them about Jesus.  He is innocent.

Let me ask you:  Are you innocent?  I know it is God who saves, and that people have to make the decision to follow Jesus.  But is there anyone in your life whose disbelief in the gospel of Jesus can be attributed to your lack of faithfulness in sharing the gospel?  Are you innocent of their blood?

The story goes on. . . As Paul is about leave, God speaks powerfully to him in a vision telling him to stay, saying,

“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you…”

God is telling Paul, “even though you are innocent of their blood, even though you have faithfully preached the gospel to them, and even though they are opposing it, I want you to keep on speaking.”

The reason why God says this is astounding.  The reason is because there are still more people who will believe in this place.  Verse 10 says,

“. . . for I have many in this city who are my people.”

So even though these people are opposing Paul and his message with great hostility and Paul is tempted to leave and give up preaching the gospel in this place, God tells him to keep on speaking, because there are still more who are His people, there are still more who will believe and be saved.

Have you given up with certain people in your life because you feel that you have done everything possible to lead them to Jesus?

Let me encourage you to keep on speaking.  Even though you may think you have done everything possible to faithfully preach the gospel to the people around you, even though it seems like they will never believe, even though they may be opposing you with great hostility, keep on speaking.  God has many more in this city who are His people.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione