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The story of the early church in Ephesus illustrates how the Gospel can transform a city, and how we can be part of a movement to do the same in Dallas today. We can each have a huge impact on those around us, but only if our own lives are first transformed by the truth contained in Scripture.
The "S" Word
Time of Your Life
Getting Lit Up
Walk in Love
Changed by Truth
Gifts in the Game
For the Love of God
The Mysteries of God
The Living Dead
Power Through Prayer
Chosen by God
A Movement of Truth
This is one of those nights where I hate to pull you out of worship. I was in the back, and you guys were singing, and we sang songs. There was a theme there. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but they just talked about lifting up the cross and letting your name be lifted higher and higher. You guys sang that, and some of you just sang that with all of you, which is really awesome! Some of you were even on your tip-toes just singing, "Lift your name higher."
Just hold on to that. I think we say some of those words sometimes, and we don't really fully grasp it. I know I do anyway. I don't fully grasp what I'm singing. "Lift your name higher." What does that really mean? That my life would lift up the cross, what does that look like? Just hold on to that for a minute. Compartmentalize that as we kind of move to the talk.
I think we're going to come back to that at some point, what that would look like, so I'll start tonight just telling you a little bit of a story from my past. I'm from a small town. If you've ran with us long, you know that. I'm from Cuero, Texas, a small town in Texas of 6,700 people in the middle of nowhere.
We kind of lived on 20 acres along the Guadalupe River. The property goes along the Guadalupe River. We had some cows and stuff. In 1998, I was in high school, and my dad walked in the house and just said, "Hey! Grab your stuff. We have 10 minutes to get out." In my mind, I couldn't even fathom. I was like, "What are you talking about? What do you mean we have 10 minutes to get out?" He said, "We have 10 minutes to get across the bridge."
There was a bridge you had to cross to get to our house. Again, I had never in my life not been able to go across that bridge, so I couldn't get my head around what he was saying. I grabbed some stuff, some things that were important to me, and without asking a lot of questions, I leave. In the midst of that commotion, he explains to me that the river is rising. It wasn't raining or anything, but it had been raining up north, so they had opened up a floodgate or a dam, and the river was coming up. It was going to maybe come over our house.
What happened in '98 was the Great Flood of '98. It was what they call a 500-year flood, and it literally wiped out my town. I left our house and, as I was driving, I just see the river widening and widening and start to grab cars and take cars with it. It was this incredible force. I just remember being overwhelmed with emotion that we may have lost everything. That was the last time I saw my house. For seven days we stayed somewhere else and then returned.
I don't know how familiar you are with floods. We've seen a lot of natural disasters lately, but what happens with a flood is the septic systems and the sewage systems flood when the water comes in, so the water turns to this black, nasty poison. The river just comes through raging, and it gets wider and wider and wider and floods the banks and then just begins to sweep out everything in its wake. It takes cars. It takes lives. It takes houses. It knocks houses down.
After seven days of being away, we returned. Things that were in our house were miles away from our house. Stuff has been moved (all appliances and couches and furniture), and everything is ruined. Literally, the walls of our house had to be torn out. It was all because of this wake of destruction that moved through there that wiped out our little city.
Then, what happened was another wake came through. Another really powerful force moved in, and I got to see it. In high school I don't know that my mind fully grasped what was happening, but all of these little churches in my little town came together, and all of my parents' friends and community came together, and they just started putting everything back together.
When I got to my house, there was already a crew of people there, literally. I hadn't been there for seven days. I get there, and there are already folks there, and they're unloading washers and dryers. The were taking sledgehammers and tearing out walls and pulling out insulation and painting and cleaning and wallpapering and carpeting and putting everything back together. They were leaving everything they touched in this beautiful wake, this beautiful thing in their wake.
As you think about that, you will be either this overwhelming force of destruction in this world or this overwhelming force of beautification in this world. You will be this force that destroys or this force that puts back together, and at some level in there, you're going to fall in that range. You have a force that puts things back together and a force that destroys, and somewhere in the middle you're going to fall. All of us…
I want to ask you this question up front. What do you want to do with your life? When you were little, I don't know if it was a nurse or a doctor or an attorney or a cowboy or a fireman or a police officer. You know, when you're little you have all of these big dreams. They're always tied with something good. You want to be Batman and save the day. You want to do something great and something grand.
Then, we just kind of get beat up with life. We go through school and education and everything, and it just begins to rob us of our dreams. Then, what happens is we become young adults, and we just hope to settle a little bit. We just hope, "Maybe I can get married and have two kids and a German Shepherd and live in the suburbs. That would be fine. Hopefully, I can make enough to pay the bills."
Maybe you have these crazy things like, "I want to be on American Idol," and you start to realize you're almost too old and that's probably not going to happen, or, "I want to play professional sports." Then, you see that dream come and go. You're like, "I want to be a millionaire before I'm 30." Those sorts of things like, "I want to save up for my 401(k)." Those are the goals that mark our lives.
Here's what I think and what I've observed in the lives of young adults. It seems we become obsessed with setting fads instead of joining movements. A fad is this thing that kind of flares up in culture and then fades. I've said it before. A fad is when the head cheerleader comes to school with an AF hat on, and all of a sudden, everybody is wearing Abercrombie and Fitch, or the head football player starts to wear some brand. Then, everybody does it and it kind of flares up. Everybody does it. Then, it's not cool anymore. Then, it goes away. Those are fads.
Fads shape a culture; movements change the world, and movements are real. They happen. We've seen them. They flare up in history, and they change the world. They change the destination of a culture. As we begin this series in the study of the book of Ephesians on how to change the world, I want to call each of you to be a part of the most powerful, unstoppable movement this world has ever seen.
I want to show you that, because I believe with all of my heart that's what this is. Really, the whole book of Ephesians outlines this movement and sets it up. Paul wrote the book because people were like, "What is this thing called the Way? What is everybody doing? It seems wherever this thing touches, it changes the place. You have to explain it to me."
Tonight, I want to tell you why we're doing this, why we're studying the book. I hope you will bring your Bibles. If you do not have a Bible, we have a Bible for you. If you have a Smartphone, download your Bible. I hope you will bring your Bibles, and I hope you will mark it up, that you will write in your Bible or you will bring a journal with you and write in there, because we're going to go verse by verse. Here's why.
As I think about my life and all of the lives of others, and I really, really mean what I'm about to tell you, people say, "How did you do this? How did you go from the bar scene and the club scene into the church and become a pastor? How do I stop? I keep going like a dog to his vomit having sex with my girlfriend, or I can't get rid of pornography, or I can't stop drinking, or I can't do this, or I can't do this, or I can't do this, or I'm materialistic, or I'm just in debt. How do you?"
I really thought about it. If you will just learn this book and live by it… People are like, "Well, I read the Bible. It doesn't make any sense to me." Okay. That means something. That's really significant (that statement). When you say, "I read the Bible, and it doesn't make sense," that's evidence of something we're going to talk about tonight.
The Bible is meant to be taught to you, so over this next several weeks I'm going to teach it to you verse by verse. The goal is that when you leave here you would know and understand the book so you can take it and you can sit down with someone (some junior high student or your Community Group or your neighbor) and teach it to them. You can just go back and follow your notes and teach it to them. You can teach what has been taught to you.
Tonight, we're going to talk about the powerful movement of truth. What is this powerful movement? Is it the gospel? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it the church? I think it's all of those things powered by grace, and that's really ambiguous, but we're going to explain it. I'm going to talk about how grace changes you, how grace changes everything around you, and how it even changes the place you live and the place you reside.
We're going to be studying over the next several weeks Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a city. Paul wrote them a letter. It's a circular letter. What that means is it was never meant to stay in Ephesus. He wrote it, and it was meant to circle around Asia Minor, so that it would go to these different places and people would read Paul's letter and be encouraged in their faith, that they would learn something.
Ephesus is on the west shore of Turkey. It was a port city. If you kind of think where Italy is, it's a little bit over. There is a map. It's the red dot to your right. Up and over you see Italy and Rome on the top left. That will give you a point of reference as to where Ephesus was. It had about 250,000 people. It's one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean area.
Think about the size of Arlington or a little bit smaller than Arlington, but it was different than Arlington, because in Ephesus there was this huge, enormous building. It was known for this building, and people came to worship there. Think about it. It wasn't all that much different than Arlington. It's much like Arlington.
So Jerry World right there in the middle of Ephesus. This is important what I'm telling you, because this building was the Temple of Artemis, and the Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Most people believe it was the greatest wonder of the ancient world. This was an archaeological great feat, if you will. An amazing, amazing feat. An amazing thing.
This is where people would go to worship the goddess Artemis. Artemis was a Greek goddess. Later, Rome adopted her and called her Diana. They just changed her name a little bit. Artemis was a fertility goddess. Theologians believe a meteor fell from the sky (this is weird) and the meteor looked like a woman with a bunch of boobs. It's a true story. I think we have a picture of the statue. That is a picture of the goddess they would go to worship.
She was the fertility goddess, so they built this magnificent, magnificent building in her name to go and worship her. Let me tell you about this building. Do I have a picture of that? It's 377 feet tall, so it's longer than a football field. It is 180 feet wide. It had 127 marble columns that were 60 feet tall. If you have heard of the Parthenon in Greece, it was four times larger than the Parthenon. It took 120 years to build it, and its ruins are still there today.
This is what Ephesus was known for. There's a picture of it. That's actually a model built to scale but much smaller than the real thing. This is what it looked like, but it so much bigger. It was just this amazing thing. It really is like Arlington, now that I think about it, because it's what that area was known for. It's where people in that area would come and go.
This whole area of Ephesus centered on this pagan religion, so there were a lot of crazy things going on. There were a lot of demonic forces in Ephesus and a lot of cult action. It was just a really oppressed, dark place that was very materialistic because it was a port city. Living in Dallas, we get that. There was a lot of commerce there.
Let's go. Ephesians 1, verse 1: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus…" Here's what I want you to do in your Bible. Put a star by the saints of Ephesus and write Acts 18, 19, and 20. Then, turn with me to Acts 18. The reason I want you to do that is because in Acts…
Acts is short for the Acts of the Apostles, so it's going to show… Acts really summarize some of the trips and the journeys of Paul and some of the other apostles. Specifically in these verses in 18, 19, and 20, we're going to see Paul visiting Ephesus for the first time. You're going to learn about this city from the book of Acts, so we're just going to read about his account. He visited there. He started the church there. Then, a couple of years later, he wrote this letter we're going to be studying.
In Acts 18, let's start in verse 24. "Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately…" Think about this. He teaches about Jesus accurately, but check this out. "…though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately."
You have this man who has some knowledge about Christ, and he teaches accurately based on the knowledge he has, but it's inadequate knowledge, so some apostles of Paul bring Apollos into their home and they begin to teach him the full gospel. What happens is Apollos only knows the baptism of John.
That's a baptism of repentance, so John came upon the scene and prepared a way for Jesus and said, "Repent and be baptized. You need to wash away your sins. You need to be clean. You need to repent. You need to turn from your wicked ways. Jesus came, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, died for your sins, rose from the dead, and now you have the full gospel. You can be saved by trusting in Christ's death and resurrection as a price paid for your sins."
That is the full gospel, but Apollos didn't have that information. He just knew some about Jesus, that Jesus was this shower of the Way. "When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah."
Apollos now is traveling. These guys sit down with him. They share the gospel with him, the whole gospel. He knows about Jesus, but now he knows everything about Jesus, and he just goes and starts telling people about that. He teaches in the synagogues, and he teaches to the Jews and proves to them that Jesus is the Christ, and people are getting saved.
You just see this movement begin to happen. The gospel is just going from place to place. We read that in passing and we don't think about the emotion and the changes and everything that is involved in those decisions, but literally, he hears the gospel and he goes and explains the gospel and people start learning because he's teaching. Acts 19, verse 1:
"While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?'
'John's baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all."
What happens is Paul comes to these men who are disciples who know about Christ, but they have incomplete information. Paul shares the full gospel with them and says, "Jesus died for your sins," and explains to them what really happened. Then, grace comes into their lives, and the Holy Spirit comes into their lives, and this movement continues.
This is really important, because so often people come up after The Porch and say, "I'm a believer. I'm a believer." I'm like, "How certain are you that you're going to go to heaven?" They're like, "An eight or a nine. Maybe 10." I say, "Why would God let you in?" They say, "Well, because I tried hard," or "Because I tried to live a good life," or "Because I tried to do the right thing," or "Because I want to be good."
Yeah, that's an incomplete gospel. Basically, you're right where these Jews were. That's what they believed. Paul said, "No. It's not because of your effort; it's because of what God did for you through Christ." It's called grace. They're saved, and the Holy Spirit comes into their lives. When you say you read this book but it doesn't make sense to you, that's what the Spirit does.
The Spirit of God makes known to men the things of God. The Holy Spirit begins to do that, so as you start to read it and you grow in the faith and you travel through sanctification and it starts to make sense, that's actually evidence of the Spirit of God working in your life. That's why it's so important to know this book, to pass it on to your children, and to live your life according to it. It would be the most important thing you could study.
1._ Truth transforms your life_. That's the gospel, the Word of God. The movement starts with the gospel. This unstoppable force and this unstoppable movement we're talking about begins with the saving knowledge that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead. That's the message you are to preach to others, that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead. He defeated death, and if you trust in his provision for your sins, you, too, will raise from the dead.
These people we've been talking about have an incomplete understanding of Jesus, so Paul and his disciples come in and teach full truth. This is my story. I was raised in the church. Catholic school for nine years. I owned a Bible (several Bibles). I tried to do ministry absent of the Holy Spirit in my life. Then, I'm in a bar and somebody invites me here. I come here. I hear the full gospel, this idea that Jesus Christ literally died for my sins. I trusted in it. The Holy Spirit comes into my life and begins to use me to touch the lives of others.
If you're here and you're a believer, this should be your story. That should be your story. There is a big uproar right now about Joseph Kony. Have you guys seen that? There was this YouTube video called Invisible Children. I know there is even a lot of aftermath with that with Jason Russell and whatnot, but here's the deal.
Joseph Kony… If you don't know who he is, he's the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa, and he's responsible for the death of tens of thousands of children. He has done terrible things like mutilating their faces and raising child armies, causing them to do unspeakable things. He's a wicked, wicked man. That video they made… In a matter of about a week, it has had over 83 million viewers. In fact, if you combine them, there are over 100 million viewers who have seen it in about a week. It's this powerful… One might call it a movement.
Here's what I would say. Joseph Kony… We can capture him. We can take him down. We can arrest him. We can punish him for the crimes he has done, and another one will raise up. The solution is Christ, that you would move into that area and teach the people the gospel, that Joseph Kony would come to a saving faith in Jesus, and that his life would be radically changed. Hopefully, that is what has happened to you, that your life has been radically changed. That's what John taught the other night on the resurrection, that the gospel results in change.
There is an outline of the book of Ephesians. The outline is sit, walk, and stand. Here's what I mean. Chapters 1, 2, and 3, talk about being seated in the heavenly realm. Chapter 4 talks about walking in a manner worthy of the calling and how you would walk in your faith. In chapter 6, you put on the armor and you take a stand against evil.
This is the model you are now a part of (learner, disciple, and soldier), that you would be on the outside looking in saying, "I want to learn about that God," and you would come in, and someone would sit down with you and teach you the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit would instruct your heart, and then you would go to war.
That's what is supposed to happen. If you're rolling your eyes right now and if you're thinking, "Who does that?" people do it. I can see it all of the time. You just don't do it. It happens all of the time. That you would come in, be interested in that God, sit down, learn about him, and have him instruct your heart. Then, you would go to war advancing the gospel that changed your life. Learner, disciple, and soldier.
There are two errors in the lives of young adults I see all of the time, and one is that we come to the faith and we just want to change the world. We have all of this courage. It's like, "No, no, no! You have to learn. That's great. I love that courage, but now sit still with God. Learn about God. Fall in love with him. Know who he is. Understand his Word so you can live according to it."
That's one error. It looks like this. This happens a lot in a strange way. People will come up. One time I was done talking, and a guy came up and said, "Hey! I want to start a ministry. God is really doing something in my heart, and I really want to start a ministry." He was there with his girlfriend.
I said, "Are you guys living together?" He was like, "Yeah." I'm like, "I think people are going to struggle with that as you're over this ministry and you have some real visible sin in your life. We're all sinners. I'm a sinner, too, but you're going to go and actively sin today. You know that's going to happen. It's premeditated."
"Well, yeah, but God is doing something." I'm like, "Here's the deal. Here's what I know that God wants for you. He wants you to sit down and learn his Word and live according to it." What happens with that conversion is we have all of this courage, but here's the other problem. The other problem is that you would grow in the faith and you would continue to be instructed. The Bible would instruct your heart, and then you just lose all of your courage, and you're like, "Let's go change the world."
"I don't know. I know a lot about God. I have all of the orthodoxy but none of the orthopraxy. I don't really know. How about I just sit and learn more about God?" We just become these crazy passive Christians. It doesn't make any sense to me, because it's really, really backwards. Why is it that we have all of this courage and excitement? We learn everything we can about God, and then we go and change the world for his name's sake. We just fight evil and just wreck shop for the kingdom.
I'm not asking you right now to get morally right. I'm not asking you to move out with your significant other or stop drinking or stop looking at porn or anything. All of those things would be really wise things to do, but that's not the ask of the message tonight. The ask is that you would commit to learning this book, that you would commit to diving in with us, that you would give it a great shot, and that you would come with a pen and a paper in hand and take notes that it would really be written in your life and written on your heart.
This is what happens to these guys. They believe in the gospel. God's Spirit comes on their lives, and they become a part of this movement. We always want to change the world, but we don't realize we have to start with us. It had to start with Apollos. Before all of those other people start changing, it had to start with Apollos. This is what the movement is. It's that the Holy Spirit begins to work through you.
This is what the Holy Spirit is going to do. The Holy Spirit is going to fix those things in your life that you haven't been able to fix yourself. What is your job? Yield to him. Surrender and say, "I can't; you can. I surrender to you." Then, what happens is everything around you begins to change.
2._ Truth transforms those around you. The gospel sends the Holy Spirit into your life. Then, fueled by the Holy Spirit, the movement moves forward. Verse 8: "Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way." What is the Way? The Way was the movement of Christ. It was just called _the Way. The Christian church was just called the Way at this time.
"So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul…" What was his strategy? Paul shows up, just begins preaching the Word of God, and loving on people, and God does some miracles to affirm his Word and his truth, and lives begin to change.
Because Paul is there… One man with 12 disciples. Because one man with 12 disciples was there, everyone in the area hears the Word of God. Who is hearing the Word of God right now because you are in their life? The Spirit just begins to transform people and change people, so Ephesus was a complete mess. They were worshiping false gods. There were demons everywhere. It's just a wreck, and God moving through this book (truth) is the solution. Paul is just teaching them truth.
Let me show you this about being overrun by evil spirits. Verse 13: "Some Jews who went around…" These are Jews, keep in mind, and not believers of Jesus. "Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say…" Listen! This is great! This is so fantastic!
"'In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this." These were Jews not by ethnicity but Jews by religion, so they were Jewish. They were followers of God. They actually had knowledge of Jesus, just not a saving faith in Christ. They knew who Jesus was. They had some information, but they hadn't trusted in him.
If you don't think this is relevant to you, this is a lot of your believing friends in Dallas, "Christians" who have some knowledge of Jesus. Maybe they've gone to church their entire lives like I did, but they have not placed their faith and trust in him, so they're trying to do work in his name, but that work is not working.
Watch this. This is great! "One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding." How fantastic is that!
These seven brothers show up coming up against this man with an evil spirit, and they're trying everything. "We hear Jesus has power. Come out in the name of Jesus, the one Paul talks about," and he's like, "I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?" Then, he goes, "You have seen him," and takes off their clothes and leaves them bleeding. It's a true story. How crazy is that?
These guys just run off naked because they're trying to do work in the name of Christ, but they don't know Christ. This is the danger with the social justice movement where we try to do things. We just try to fix people, and we try to fix places, and we try to fix poverty and hunger and thirst, but it's not attached to Christ. All we're doing is delaying greater misery. That's all we're doing. Jesus is the answer.
"When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas." **That's about $6 million today."In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power."**
This demon says, "I know who Jesus is." The Word breaks out into all of the place, and people being repenting and changing their lives, and they begin removing idols from their lives. This is what the gospel does. The gospel takes those idols in your life. What is an idol in your life? I don't know what an idol in your life is.
It might be drugs. It might be pornography. It might be spending. It might be a pet. It might be a friendship. It might be a relationship. It's that thing you're unwilling to give up. That's what it is. It's that thing you say, "If I lose that, I'll die," or "I can't go without that." It might be alcohol. It might be the club scene. I don't know what it is for you, but you have to know what it is for you.
These people hear the gospel and start getting rid of their idols, and the city is changing because people are changing. The Spirit is moving and wrecking shop, as I said, so that's what happens. This is why the gospel results in change. This is why, and this happens all of the time after The Porch, too, when I say, "Are you a believer?" you can't say, "Oh, yes. In the twelfth grade I trusted Jesus." That is not evidence of you being a believer.
I don't know why we always do that. When we ask, "Are you a Christian?" we always say, "Yes, when I was 13, I trusted Christ." Try this. "Yes, I'm a believer because I have trusted in the cross and I've lived according to that today. I've grown in his Word. I have been discipled. I study the Bible, and his Spirit is changing and conforming my life. I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see. That's evidence that I'm a believer."
It's not a moment we point back to, because if that moment is real, change occurs. When someone is looking for evidence that you're a believer, you point to the fruit in your life. You say, "This is how you know I'm a believer. I was this joker, and now I'm this other joker who just loves God but for grace."
Those folks there said, "We know Jesus," but the demons say, "You don't know Jesus, and now we're going to teach you a lesson." This is what we see here all of the time at The Porch, people coming out of bondage, people who never thought they'd heal from porn. They thought, "I'll just go the rest of my life looking at pornography." The Spirit of God changes them, and they become ministers to those who are looking at pornography.
People who never though they'd tell someone about their abortion or thought they'd just die with that secret come into the light, and God gives them a ministry around that, and they do ministry. I know that's important, because I know one in four of you girls here have made that decision, and God comes in and begins to set you free from the guilt and shame you feel from that through others telling their story.
People say, "I'll give up anything, but I just like alcohol. I like the way it tastes." I don't have any issue with you drinking alcohol, but the Bible speaks to you getting drunk. You say, "I'm not willing to stop that." Then, they do, and this ministry comes around them, and they just set people free from those things. That's the way the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
Verse 23: "About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there." Here's what's going to happen over the next couple of verses. The entire commerce of this city… They sell these shrines, these little silver Artemis statues. That's their business, and they're making a ton of money doing it.
Think about little Cowboys shops everywhere, places that sell jerseys and flags and pennants and big "Number One" fingers kinds of things. That's their business, and Paul is coming in with the Way, so what's happening in Ephesus right now is you have two religions. You have the Jewish religion, and you have the pagan religion with those who worship the Greek god Artemis which they're known for.
Then, in comes this little thing called the Way. It's not a very violent name. It's not very intimidating. It reminds me of my doctor's daughter's soccer team. They're called the Marshmallows. That's like the Way. It's not really intimidating, but it's going to clean house because God is on its side. It's just going to overpower the Jews and overpower the pagans. The Way is going to be this incredible force that overcomes this city of Ephesus.
What's happening now is all of these people who sell these little statues of Artemis are raising up saying, "This is bad for business!" This is what the verse says. Paul is saying, "There is only one true God and he's not a material God. He's a living God, a physical God," so, "We're selling these little material gods and that's not good for us," so this big riot breaks out in the temple.
That's what happens whenever you speak truth. If I have learned one thing doing ministry, people do not like you jacking with their idols, so when God comes in and starts to change people's hearts and say, "That's no longer good," what's going to happen is your friends will be like, "What? You're not going to go get drunk with us anymore? Now you're judging us, because you're holier than thou, huh? What's the big deal?"
People don't like you jacking with their idols. It's divisive. You have some people who are burning their sorcery scrolls to the sum of $6 million. Then, you have other people who are rioting because they see this powerful, unstoppable force called the Way, and it's changing their business.
When all you know is going out on the weekend, the news of God who has a bigger plan for you is really inconvenient. When all you know is a roller coaster relationship, the news that God has a bigger plan for you can be really inconvenient. When all you do is sell pagan idols, the news that there is a real and living God is really inconvenient.
Paul leaves Ephesus, and when he does he knows the condition he's leaving that city in to the elders. It's described in Acts 20. There are lots of tears. It says they wept and held each other and kissed goodbye. It's this really intimate relationship between these guys. He says, "You have to stand firm in the faith. Keep watch. People are going to come in and try to take it from you."
He says this in verse 32, "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Do not let this grace fall on you in vain. "Don't receive God's grace in vain." That's actually a verse from 2 Corinthians 6:1. I just think it's a great summary of that passage in Acts 20. Paul says, "Shepherd the flock well." You see his deep love for the church there, and you see he's leaving there with a full awareness of the problem, so he later writes them this letter in Ephesians to encourage them.
The whole book of Ephesians is about the ecclesia, the movement called the church. We see how the gospel comes in, changes lives, gives you the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit begins this movement. I tried to think of a really good illustration for this, and I came up with two, and they both fall short, but that's a disclaimer.
Think of a zombie movie with me. Every zombie movie is the same plot. A guy gets sick and becomes a zombie, so there's one of them. Then, he goes and bites someone else or whatever zombies do. Then, they're contaminated by the same disease. Then, they go around and bite others, and it just spreads.
What happens is this wake of destruction moves through the city. Then, there's always this scene where all of these guys are waiting. There are hundreds of them. They're waiting outside of some building. They're marching in unison, and they're just destroying things in their wake or their path.
The Christian movement is like the opposite of that. It's like God's grace comes into my life, gives me the Holy Spirit, and then I go and take the dead and make them alive. Then, they jump in line, and they go and take someone else, and they jump in line. Then, they jump in line. Then, they jump in line. Before you know it, there are about 1,500 to 1,700 of you gathered in a room on a Tuesday night saying, "I want to do something more with my life. I have maybe 30, 40, or 50 years left, and I want to do something bigger than me. I want to change this place."
It's like this. Here's the second one if that one didn't grab you. It's even less excellent than I remembered. Think multilevel marketing. I don't know if you guys know what that is (MLM or pyramid schemes or whatever you want to call them, like Avon, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, Scentsy, Herbal Life, Amway, Tupperware, MonaVie, AdvoCare).
What do they do? You buy their product, but now you don't just buy their product. You sell their product because you believe in their product so much. Then, you're going around inviting friends over saying, "Come look at my product." Then, they not only buy the product but they sell the product, too. You're just grabbing these people and creating this downline.
Christianity is like a really positive version of that. You will get to heaven, and there will be all of these people behind you. They're all there. They're your army, and they're going to be there because the Holy Spirit has touched your life. I'll end with this. What if I told you in Ephesus there was this 12-year-old girl who, because the city was so pagan, they took from her family? She's 12 years old. They take her from her family, and they make her dance naked for money. Then, they take her around the city and force her to have sex with men to provide for themselves.
Isn't that jacked up? Paul goes into the city, and he and his disciples want to fix that kind of stuff. This 12-year-old girl taken from her family and forced to dance naked for money… They want to fix things like that, but here's the problem. That wasn't Ephesus. That was Dallas. That was in the news here.
3.Truth transforms your city. When you learn it and you write it on your heart and you live by it and you teach it to others, it will transform your city. I promise it will happen, and I want you to challenge me so you can watch it happen. I hope your heart is skeptical. Let's do it together. We're going to change this place.
Let me just tell you some things about Dallas. If you can just imagine if the church was the church in Dallas, the movement that Paul… He just walks into this place of Ephesus, and he just begins preaching. "Guys, I don't know if you knew but Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, and he loved you so much that he died for you. You were on his mind. He goes into the grave. He comes back to life, and if you trust in that, you will be changed."
Somebody says, "I trust in that, Paul." Then, the Holy Spirit comes into their life, and they go somewhere else and say, "Hey, guys! Fred, who works with me in accounting, I don't know if you knew this, Fred, but did you know Jesus Christ loved you so much that he died for your sins? Your sins stayed in the grave with him, but he came back to life, and if you trust in that, you, too, will have eternal life. Fred, did you know that?"
"No, I didn't know that, but that's interesting. Can you show me that? Where do you believe that?"
"Well, the Bible. Fred, let me show you Ephesians 2:8 and 9; Romans 10:9; and the Roman Road (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23)."
"I didn't know that, but I think I believe that."
Another one alive! Fred goes somewhere else and tells somebody. This movement happens because people have the courage to live according to it and to speak it. "Well, my gift is not evangelism." No. They just believe in the Word of God, and the Spirit of God moves through them.
This is the city we live in. Do you guys love our city of Dallas? Do you love it? Okay. No. All right. This is why you don't love it. Sex trafficking. When the Super Bowl came to Dallas, it brought 10,000 prostitutes with it. The average age of those prostitutes was 13 years old. The average age… Half younger and half older.
There were 10,000 prostitutes who were, on the average, 13-year-old here in Dallas. The life expectancy of those prostitutes is seven years. Over 300,000 girls are lured into the US annually between the ages of 11 and 17. Dallas is one of the adult entertainment capitals of the world. It has a known prostitution problem.
Crime? Dallas has one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation. We have a safety rating of four out of 100. Our rating is four. Here's what that means. It means 96 percent of the cities in this nation are safer than Dallas, Texas. The number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents in Texas is 4.5. In the US, 4.0. In Dallas, 7.6. You are more likely to be murdered in Dallas than most cities. You are more likely to be raped in Dallas than most cities. There were 4,491 robberies. There were 4,027 assaults last year and 9,171 violent crimes. Crimes per square mile in Texas are 16. In the US, 39. In Dallas, 223.
Homeless? There are about 6,000 tonight in our area. Six thousand people will sleep on the street tonight in our area. Foster children? The number of children taken from their families and put into the government foster system is 3,014. That is in the Dallas area. Of families with children in Dallas, 45 percent live in asset poverty. That means they do not have enough money to cover standard living.
Abortions? There were 84,600 abortions in Texas last year. That's about 10 an hour. Texas is number three in the nation for abortions. Drugs? In Dallas, because we have access to one of the busiest airports in the world, we are centrally located, and have many major thoroughfares come through here, we have a high level of drug trafficking and dealing in drug use.
What are you going to do about it? You can leave here, and you can take on the murder problem. Maybe you take on the rape problem. Maybe you take on the homeless problem, the poverty problem, or the hunger problem. Maybe the crime in general, the robbery problem. We have a pollution problem. You could take that on. It's one of the stats I read.
There's one solution for all of those, and it's Christ. If people just come to know Christ, their lives change, and the only reason I can imagine we wouldn't pass that on is if our life hasn't been changed. I don't say that to make you feel guilty. I say that to make you reflect and to deal with God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, because you only have a little time left.
When the church is the church, it leaves this wake of beautification behind it. You don't have to go anywhere else. Every time we take somebody… We go to Haiti and Africa and Brazil every year. Every time we go there, the people tell me the same thing every single time. "It's so frustrating, JP, because we don't speak the language. No one understands us. We have to speak through an interpreter." Then, you come back here, and you understand their culture. The culture they live in… You're an expert in it.
We just celebrated Saint Patrick's Day. Did anybody get drunk on Lower Greenville? Don't raise your hand. I did not. I was just curious. I was not there. I'm serious. Saint Patrick's Day. He's like the patron saint of drinking, green, and pinching. I don't know. Here's what happened. I'm actually reading a book right now about the Irish saved civilization. Experts say Christianity should be dead. In the same way nobody is really worshiping Artemis right now… That religion is dead. It died. The Way pushed it out. It became extinct. Yay, Way!
Experts say, in the same way, that Christianity should be done with, it should be behind us. It should not have survived the Dark Ages. They say it did survive the Dark Ages for one reason. The island nation of Ireland preserved it. How did Ireland…? I don't know what you know about Ireland, but Ireland was a really, really, really violent nation. They were crazy known for all sorts of things like incest, sex with animals, and all kinds of crazy, wild stuff going on in Ireland.
Pirates captured Saint Patrick and took him there as a slave. He was a slave in Ireland. He has a dream that tells him to escape one night. He successfully escapes. He becomes a believer, and God breaks his heart for that nation so that he goes back into it and preaches the gospel. No one there knows the gospel, but Saint Patrick goes back there, preaches the gospel, and the place is saved. He actually preserved Christianity through the Dark Ages.
He writes, "And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son."
It goes on to say his years of being a slave in Ireland taught him enough about the culture so that when he went back there to do evangelism he was incredibly effective. If you are here and drugs are a part of your story, we need you, because drugs are a part of a lot of your stories, I've come to find. We need you to come and do ministry.
If you're here and abortion is a part of your story, we desperately need you, because, as I've come to find out, abortion is a part of a lot of your stories. We need you to come and do ministry to those. If you're here and drinking is a part of your story or crime is a part of your story or you've done time or whatever that is, we desperately need you to come and set your friends free from those addictions. You have to start with you, but we want you to step into something bigger than yourself so we can clean this place up.
It starts with you being instructed in this thing. That's why we're traveling through Ephesians. Saint Patrick wrote in his confessions, "He makes this promise in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world."
He prayed, "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me." He had that written on his breastplate.
Ephesians 1, verse 2: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The Greek there is an interpretation of the Hebrew word shalom. It is a state of being. It is what happened in the garden. Everything is working together as God intended. Before there is peace, there is grace.
Before there will be peace in Dallas, there will be grace in your life so that you would be motivated to bring peace into Dallas. What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to do with your life? I want you to travel with us for the next several weeks, and I want you to change this city with us. We're going to give you lots of opportunities to do that. We're going to attach opportunities to the message.
One is coming up. It's called Extravaganza in West Dallas with Mercy Street. You can find out more information about it at the Welcome Center. You can go be a father or a mother to a child who otherwise wouldn't have one. You can be a Christian influence to someone who otherwise wouldn't have a Christian influence. It's all around a good time. Let me pray.
God, we love you. Help us love you. God, we trust you. Help us trust you. We pray your Spirit would move into our lives by the power of the gospel and that you would transform us and bring us into this movement that would leave a wake of beautification behind us, that we would repair this place for the cause of Christ. Lord, take whatever days we have left either until you return or until we die and use us for your glory. Father, if you are with us, who could stand against us?
Guys, if you're on the outside looking in, you know you are. If you don't have a place that you assemble on Sunday, if you're not a part of a group of believers who want to change the world and want to do something with their lives bigger than themselves, you know. You're sitting there going, "Man! He's talking about me!"
I was talking about me. I certainly was. I stumbled into this place and sat in the back seat for a long time until the Spirit of God came into my life and changed me and made me want to give my life to something bigger than me. It doesn't mean going into vocational ministry. It really doesn't. It really, really doesn't. It means being on mission where you are.
If we can help you do that, there are a number of ways we want to do that. First is if you're here and we can pray for you or process something with you or you just realize, "I'm ready to take the next step in my faith. I'm ready to make sense of this Jesus deal. I'm ready to confess that thing I never thought I'd tell anyone." We're going to be in this room right over here. We'd love to hang out with you.
If you're here and you're like, "I just don't know any Christians, and I'm not a part of community and I really want to plug deeper into the body and I want to get connected," Open Community Group is going to be in this room right over here. We're trying to make this really, really easy on you.
The rest of us… You can hang out. We want this to be a place of fellowship and relationship building and fun. There's not a bar in Dallas right now…there's really not…where this many people are gathered. How awesome is that! Can we just praise God for that? I really believe we can change the world. I think we can start with this city, and I'm okay if you don't take my word for it. Just travel with us through this series. Grab some folks and let's start this journey together.
We covered verse 2. Verse 3 is next week. If you would, just exit this place quietly so if somebody wants to continue to worship or pray they can. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Feel free to talk out there, but exit this place quietly.