Jesus vs _______
In Acts 18:23-19:41 we get to watch Paul plant a church in the great city of Ephesus. One of the major themes of this passage is that Jesus is absolutely unique. Jesus is infinitely better than sincere religion, stubborn unbelief, Satanic lies and the things of this world.Jesus is what every human heart needs and longs for – they just don’t know it yet.
This morning we continue our study through the book of Acts, tracing the spread of the Jesus-movement from Jerusalem to Rome – to Seattle today. One question we’ve continually returned to during our study is, “What is true Christianity?” In a world with many counterfeits and much confusion, there couldn’t be a more important question. This morning we get a firsthand look at the absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ. There is no one like him, whether Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius or others. He stands alone. He is like no other. He is incomparable. Today, in Acts 18:23-19:41, we get to watch Paul plant a church in the great city of Ephesus. Keep in mind these are real people, real cities and real churches. We will see that Jesus stands above sincere religion, stubborn unbelief, satanic opposition, and empty materialism. This is here to increase our confidence in Jesus Christ and his gospel of Grace. His purpose here is to make us a radically hope-filled, humble, courageous, Jesus-centered people. Let’s see what he has in store for us this morning.
Jesus vs Sincere Religion. 18:24-19:7
vs24-26 Apollos is mentioned 10x’s in the NT. This is our first introduction to him. He became a great ministry partner of the Apostle Paul, as evidenced by 1Cor3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Now if Paul was a George Constanza-type, then Apollos was a Brad Pitt-with-a-Bible-type. He was, we are told, #1 Eloquent #2 Competent #3 Instructed #4 Fervent #5 Accurate. But, amidst all of that, he was not a Christian. He knew about John, he knew Jesus was coming, he knew his Bible, he was passionate and sincer, but he was not saved.
There are many people today that are just like Apollos. They know about Jesus, know their Bibles, are very moral and sincere, but they are not born again, saved. They are simply sincerely religious. Religion is man reaching up to God (rules, pillars, path, hoops). Christianity is God coming down to man.
Religion “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” Christianity says “I’m accepted in Christ, therefore I obey.” The essence of religion is that man saves man. The essence of Christianity is God saving man. Where does your faith and confidence rest? Is it in a past experience or list of behavior? Or is it in a living, vital relationship with Christ right now? The gospel of Jesus is a call to be broken-hearted over our sin (specific) and embrace Jesus by faith alone for forgiveness – every day!
In 19:1-7 Paul runs into a group of disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus. They are much like Apollos. Paul gets to the heart of the matter by asking, “Do you have the Spirit?” Why would he ask that. Because to be missing the Spirit is to be missing a relationship with Jesus. They say that they’ve never even heard there was a Holy Spirit. Don’t miss this!Their partial knowledge, like Apollos, is not enough for a genuine Christian experience. Everyone who gives life to Christ, gets Spirit. Otherwise, not born again, not saved.
1Cor12:13 “by one spirit we are all baptized into one body”
Eph1:14 “guarantee of our inheritance”
Rom 8:9 “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
The Spirit changes us; our desires, joys, hopes. Some things he changes immediately and some he works out over time.
2Cor5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…old has passed away; behold the new has come.“”uc” />
The Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit sent on mission into hard hearts to breathe in love for Jesus and others. There are numerous evidences of the Spirit’s presence = Love for Jesus + a changing life + a hunger for God’s Word + a desire for worship + love for church. If you don’t see these things in your life you don’t have Spirit, just religion. You might know a lot about Jesus, but do you know Jesus? Follow him? Given your life to him? It doesn’t matter how sincere/devout, altar call, volunteered Young Life, memorized Bible, or religious family, etc. If you have not turned from your sin, embraced Jesus by faith you are just a religious person. If you leave this place and die, you will go into a Christ-less eternity unprepared to meet God.
It is possible to be deceived into thinking converted while you remain spiritually dead. Modern day, Western, evangelicalism has done a lot to promote “easy believer-ism” among many who want the benefits of Jesus – but not Jesus. This has resulted in many unconverted “converts” that end up undermining the gospel, reflecting poorly on Jesus, and confuse the watching world. It is biblical to examine yourself > “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” 2Cor13:5 My prayer, and I hope our prayer, is that God would protect us from being a religious place of religious people. May Jesus makes us repentant, not religious. The essence of Chrisitianty is that we repent of our sin + trust in Jesus + experience the presence of Holy Spirit + and be baptized as an external expression of new internal realities.
Jesus vs Stubborn Unbelief. 19:8-10
As is his usual strategy, Paul god to the synagogue and is described by Luke as “bold”, “reasoning” and “persuading”. Following Jesus is not checking your brain at the door. The culture describe such “persuasion” as just arrogant, but the reality is that we’re all being persuaded to something. The question is: What? The response? Stubborn unbelief. Some of you were like this. “The last thing I would do is become XN” Some of you still are like this. You have to know that this is nothing unique to you.
The Bible tells us our main problem is not that we do things that are wrong. Rather, we are rebels against God. We sin and do wrong things because we are in rebellion. The issue is not just that we do things that are wrong, rather we are wrong at the very center of our being. “How can I be a rebel? I never think about God.” That’s proves my point. Sin is not just a sickness. Sin is symptomatic of our rebellion. We sin because we’re rebels. Only when see you’re a stubborn unbelieving rebel are you ready to receive salvation. At that moment, you go from being a stubborn rebel to a loved, forgiven child of God. Christian growth is then the process of the Spirit continuing to root out our rebellion as we daily repent and embrace Jesus.
Jesus vs Satanic Opposition. 19:11-20
Spirituality is very popular in our city. But, we have to be careful to distinguish between good and evil spirituality. Biblically, our three main enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil (often play off of one another).
Flesh: Our flesh is that part of us that is not yet surrendered God.
World: Corporate product of people living out of flesh: injustice, crime, greed, corruption, selfishness
Devil: Satan was originally was an angel who decided he wanted to be God. Eze 28. Satan (36x’s), Devil (34x’s), Evil One (10x’s), Adversary, Belial (worthlessness), Angel of Light, Accuser of the Saints, Father of Lies, Serpent, Dragon. He is also powerful. (1 Peter 5:8 “prowls around like a roaring lion”) His goal is to steal, kill and destroy life, singleness, marriage, family, joy and all the good things we find in Christ.
Q: Can a XN be demon possessed? Not biblical. Q: Can a XN be demonized, tempted, oppressed? Yes. Rom 6 says that if you are tempted and you give in to the temptation, you are a slave to the one you obey. Christians can be controlled in that sense. But, Christians cannot be controlled against their will. The only ground Satan has is what you give him.
Eph 4:27 “don’t give Satan a foothold”
2Tim2:26 “correct those who are in error…so that they may escape the snare of the devil”
“Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1Jn4:4 What does this mean? It means that in Christ we have ability to take ground back. It all comes down to who you know, not what you know. The Sons of Sceva were trying to turn Jesus name into a magic formula – a second hand usage. But, Jesus’ name only works on a first hand personal commitment and knowledge. Spiritual warfare is a question of where you are going to place your faith, ultimate trust and hope?
Q: Common demonic strongholds? These are areas of our life that we may let Satan take a foothold. They choke out life, joy, vitality of relationship w/ Jesus. That is Satan’s whole point.
- Worldly entertainment. Entertainment is not wrong, but if feeding my flesh and cultivating sinful practices, it can be a stronghold. This is stuff that just doesn’t feed your spirit, but pleases your flesh. What is that for you?
- Disobedience. This is just a stubborn refusal to do what God says. Thi sis a major satanic stronghold. There is no repentance, no brokenness. When is the last time you genuinely repented? .
- Sexual Immorality. Junk drawer. Fornication. Adultery. Porn. Friends w/ benefits. Satanic stronghold.
- Unforgiveness. Intentionally choosing not to forgive. Even if you’ve been horribly sinned against, the only way out is through forgiveness. “See to it…no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” He12:15
- Finances. It is not wrong to have things, but it is wrong when things have you. Many Christians are in bondage to finances. “Gain it honestly. Steward is wisely. Give it generously.” – James MacDonald.
- Fear. Bondage to fear. Going to happen? Meet anyone? Kids? Job? Anxiety. Depression. Pills. Fear is not from God. “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, self-control” 2Ti1:7
Evidences that God is at work 19:17-20
Jesus vs Empty Materialism. 19:21-41
Demetrius pulls together a union meeting to attempt to prevent Paul (and the gospel) from ruining their trade. The Diana cult was probably the most lucrative business in city and they were likely thinking about the previous book burning and not wanting that to happen to their carefully constructed shrines. What’s going on here? Greedy, empty, materialism. “Eat, drink, for tomorrow we die.” Materialism is the belief that only stuff is what matters.
Here’s the thing. The things of the world don’t ultimately satisfy. No new job, more money, new home, new phone will make things better inside of you. It’s just stuff. Paper. Plastic. Metal. Ultimately its not about stuff, but how stuff makes us feel (e.g. Important. Comfort. Power.) Q: Have you ever wanted something + got it + gets old? We need a constant stream of stuff, but the steady stream never satisfies. Apart from Jesus, that will be your life; striving, but never ultimately satisfied.
You were created by God to find your ultimate satisfaction in God which is why nothing else works long term. What we all need is the forgiveness and love of God freely offered to us by faith in Jesus Christ – every day. To be near God and for God to be near us is the whole purpose of the human life. Repent: broken-hearted turning to Jesus for forgiveness and life. Complete surrender to complete savior. Repentance is not only once, but daily. Must be a daily conversion of the heart. (unbelief, pride, lust)
An unrepentant heart is a self-satisfied, proud, cold heart that opposes God. Where there is unrepentance there can be no relationship. Ja 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble…” God is not indifferent. He opposes and gives grace. We choose. Which will you choose? Jesus is infinitely better than religion + hard-heartedness + Satanic lies + things of this world. Jesus is absolutely unique. He’s what every human heart needs and longs for – just don’t know it yet.
Jesus is the only one that if you get him he will never fail you; but if you fail him he will forgive you. Fly to Jesus today, right now, for forgiveness, life, joy. May Jesus be extolled and sin divulged and the word of the Lord increase in us and this city.
“As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state [is the same as before]..And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.”
– Uncle Screwtape to Wormwood (CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters)