Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/16/16 Sermon - Secrecy

“Secrecy”

Acts 19:8-20 

Last week we read how Paul had made it to Ephesus and had helped disciples find the Holy Spirit. Today we see Paul again making a stir in the synagogue, arguing and persuading the Jewish leaders and attendees about the Kingdom of God. But his persuasion only goes so far. Like before,  after a few months some of the Jewish leaders became obstinate and took it upon themselves to publicly slander the Way.

Paul decided he had had enough, so he and his disciples left the synagogue and took up their daily discussions in the lecture hall of a Gentile teacher named Tyrannus.

An ancient writing says that Paul held his meeting at the school of Tyrannus from eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon. This would have been the time Tyrannus would have been having his afternoon rest from work, and the lecture hall would have been available for Paul to rent. This would have also been Paul’s time to rest from his work, of tentmaking, that he did in order to support himself.

Instead of rest, he and his disciples spent time discussing and growing in the Lord. We read that Paul kept this schedule up for two years and that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul personally reached everyone in the region, but he certainly equipped Christians to do the work of the ministry. Paul wrote how this was to be done in his letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians 4:11-12New International Version (NIV)

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

I read that verse, in the context of what we just read had occurred in Acts, “that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. And I began thinking of the province of Lincoln County, Maine. What’s to say the same thing couldn’t occur right here, right now. I believe it already is and would like to encourage you in why I think so.

Paul wrote in Ephesians, how it was that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord, and it wasn’t because he was such a great teacher. Which gives me some relief, that it doesn’t have to be about me being the one that makes it happen. No, Paul wrote, that it was Christ himself that gave gifts to all of those disciples who were meeting with Paul in the afternoon to discuss God and His Word. Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ, namely His Church, may be built up.

Now remember, we read that Paul had been meeting for two years, so it took some time.

I’d like to encourage you with a conversation I had yesterday with the owner of Pine Tree Yarns, on Maine St.

DBC may be small, but we are alive and well. Let’s keep sharing the love of God with our neighbors.

Back to the books of Acts, Luke also wrote that God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. The garments that Paul had worn and had touched were being taken to the sick and they were allowing the sick to be healed or the delivered from demonic possession.

This type of healing and deliverance may have been unusual but it wasn’t the first time we have heard about a piece of clothing or something from someone else, healing someone. In Acts 5:15, we read about the shadow of Peter and in Matthew 14:36 we read about the hem of Jesus’ garment healing others. The point of contact with these items by a person and their faith provided healing.

It is important to notice that Luke tells us that God was the one who worked the miracles, not Paul. I can imagine this type of healing began by someone accidently taking a handkerchief from Paul and using it in a superstitious manner and was healed. Ephesus was like many of the other cities in Asia at this time that had many superstitions as part of the daily lives for those living there. They had become part of the very fabric of life.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that some took their superstitions and placed them in the realm of Paul and his healings.

Today, if we were to go to Bulgaria, we would find pieces of fabric loosely rolled up in newspapers and placed at the pulpits of Christian churches. The pastor would pray over these and they would be taken home to the sick.

Now before you dismiss this superstitious activity to only other cultures. You may be interested in hearing about the results of a survey by Crowdsourcing website Ranker.com who polled 18,000 people on the superstitions they believe in and found that, as a whole, people are still very superstitious. Here are the top 10 most widely believed superstitions, in America today, per the survey:

1. Knocking on wood
2. Wishing on a star
3. Breaking a mirror
4. Four-leaf clover
5. Bad news comes in threes
6. Don’t open an umbrella inside
7. Lucky penny
8. Beginner’s luck
9. Saying “bless you” when someone sneezes
10. Wishing on a wishbone

 

Superstitions have been and always will be a part of human existence.

It is important to note that these were “unusual” miracles, and therefore we should not expect them to be something God will use continually throughout history. This does demonstrate that God in His mercy will come to us in our crude superstitions. He will use whatever it takes sometimes to get our attention. This doesn’t mean He is pleased with them, but He is willing to overlook them to demonstrate His love.

In addition to superstitious beliefs, Luke also tells us about those sorcerers who wanted to get in on a good thing and decided that if others could drive out demons in the name of the Lord Jesus they could too.

We read how the seven sons of Sceva, who was a Jewish high priest, were easily overpowered one time when they attempted to overcome a certain evil spirit.

Notice what these Jewish exorcists would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”

They did not say, “In the name of Jesus Christ.”

On this particular day, when the Seven sons of Sceva, notice there had to be seven of them, Isn’t 7 a lucky number?

Anyway, the seven of them were using this statement to get an evil spirit to leave a man and the evil spirit answered back with,

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”

Let’s examine who knows whom in these statements.

First, we have the Seven sons, who claim to command this evil spirit to come out, “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches”. These men do not know Jesus, they only know that Paul knows Jesus.

We then find out that the evil spirit knows Jesus, he doesn’t know Paul, but he has heard of him.

The result of claiming Jesus when they didn’t know what they were claiming was being beaten and having to escape by running out of the house naked and bleeding.

How does that fit in to Christian lives today?

Unfortunately there are many people, many of them churchgoers, who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of these people would say  “Yes”, if you asked if they were a Christian. Yet where you to seek clarification their answers may be like those of Sceva’s sons.

They were sons of a high priest, wasn’t that close enough? They knew about the power of Jesus, or at least they had heard or maybe even seen Paul demonstrate power in that name.

How difficult could it be?

This is where most people get it wrong.

Being a Christian isn’t knowing about someone or something, it is being in a personal relationship with someone, namely, Jesus. 

You cannot achieve this relationship through your parents or spouse. It has to be a one or one, conversation, personal connection between you and God, alone…. Period. Once one has this relationship, then they have the “right” to use the name of Jesus. In this story, the sons of Sceva did not have that right, because they had no personal relationship with Jesus.

The fear of this episode did not only affect the seven sons, Luke writes that when people heard about this event, both Jews and Greeks in Ephesus were seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was revered. This episode caused some who believed in Jesus and were practicing sorcery to confess openly of their wrongdoing. They brought together, their scrolls, or books that contained formulas for sorcery,  that were full of magic charms, amulets, and incantations and were valuable and burned them, publicly.  

The calculated amount they were worth in today’s income would have been more than $1million. Everyone who witnessed this confession would have been aware of the value and of the intensity of the action. It was a dramatic event. Such that, Luke wrote that the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

We have just read how Ephesus was a stronghold of Satan.

It was that way because those who lived there allowed compromise to exceed their faith.

Did you catch the fact that those that openly confessed what they had done and publicly burned over a million dollars worth of sorcery items where “many of those who believed”.

They weren’t demon possessed non-church going individuals. They were believers who secretly had items that belonged to Satan, that they had allowed into their homes. It was the horrific event of seven men who didn’t even know Jesus, getting beaten and having to run away naked, that opened their eyes to their own scary participation in evil practices.

They came forth and renounced their objects that were associated with the demonic. It was thought, that the power that these items contained was there because they were kept in secrecy. As soon as they were no longer secret, the power was gone.

The need for secrecy should be a clear sign of darkness.

The power of evil remains powerful, when we keep it a secret, or when only a few “trusted” others are in the know.

Today’s story should be cause for thought and fear. Not the, “Oh, I’m scared!” kind of fear, but the fear of letting someone you love down by secretly participating in activities they would not approve. I am clearly speaking to those of us who have Jesus as our Savior.

Are there items, such as books, tapes, charms, games or whatever else you may have that are connected with evil spirits?

The best test to decide if it is something to get rid of is to ask yourself, is this something Jesus and I can do together, or do I enjoy this secretly?

If secrecy is a part of the item, it is time to destroy it and pray for power to keep away from it for good. Maybe there is a habit or practice that you have gotten into that separates you from your relationship with God.

Trust in God and He will help you keep away from it.

The power that evil uses is secrecy. The Christians in Luke’s story today, publicly needed to burn their items. Notice Luke didn’t say they secretly burned them. That would have only resulted in a temporary separation from them. But by publicly demonstrating their desire to be separated from the things they knew were keeping them from having a powerful relationship with Christ, they were sharing their need for accountability and support from the other Christians around them. It’s not enough to stop doing things that are keeping you from experiencing everything God wants to give you, because the temptation to return to it is strong. But when you have brought it into the light and released its secrecy power, you open yourself to the love and support of others around you. That is how various support groups work.

By lifting each other up to love and good works we allow the Spirit to move freely among us and we gain power over the things that bring us down.

Let’s take time right now to pray for the things we may have in secrecy to be brought to the light and destroyed. The end result will be worth it. Just like in Ephesus, the Word of the Lord will grow mightily and prevail.

Let’s pray.