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Todd re-visits the middle of Acts 16 from last time and then finishes the chapter as we continue our journey through the book of Acts. He shows us how history is not Christian or secular—just history. Todd discusses how money makes a horrible god, how demons have better theology than we might realize, and how we must be ready to give a defense for the hope and faith that is in us.
How to Be Provoked Well. Paul and Us Among the Athenians
How to Love a World Filled With Rompers
Do You Believe in the Myth or Follow the Man
The Hopeless, the Hospitable, and the Hostile
Stuck on Mission
The First Church Council and the Matter of First Importance
Hello, friends! How are we doing in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano? It is great to be with you. Those online who are watching, it is awesome to be together. We are looking at the history of the church and the grace of God advancing through Europe and how God, anchored in history, is revealing his story so that you can be effective at anchoring your story in the history that God finds you.
You're going to see today what God has done God still does. You need to know the story of God's power, goodness, and deliverance if you're going to be faithful in the midst of your story in this moment in history. We are gathered not just to know the story but to have that story deeply transform us. James 1:22 says, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."
We don't want to be deluded that we know Christ because we know the story. There are all kinds of stories out there. The Greek word for story is myth (muthos). So when we talk about Greek story and Hindu story and Islamic story and Buddhist story and atheistic story, they're all stories that are out there. Let me tell you why America is in the condition it's in. Because there are many people who believe in the Jesus myth and don't act on the Jesus story.
In other words, most of you who are here today don't believe in the atheistic myth. Or maybe you do because you've been influenced by an increasingly intellectual barrage, if you will (they call themselves "intellectual elite"), who have told you if you really have a sincere, complicated, intellectual mind you'll understand what Darwin introduced 150 years ago, even though that theory, which is what it was (never science), has never been supported by science. Ever.
Whereas, if you've been following along with scientific progression, the argument for what is called intelligent design continues to make ground. By the way, the science that has never supported the theory of evolutionistic ideas and Darwin? Not there. The science that is increasingly supporting intelligent design, which is consistent with the biblical narrative? Increasing. It always comes around.
Here's the deal. Make sure that as I walk you through Scripture today you don't just become more familiar with the story. We're not looking to produce smarter sinners here. The idea is that you would be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you might prove what the will of God is, that which is the good life, the acceptable life to the human condition, the life that is perfect to the human state that would lead to blessing.
What you need to understand is that societies have always lived inside of a story. One of the arguments for the existence of God is that everywhere you look men are trying to figure out why they're here and where they're going. Ecclesiastes says that God set eternity in the hearts of men. It is not an argument against God that all men make up a God myth; it's an argument for. We all know we didn't just come here as a result of time plus nothing plus chance.
The question is…What's the story you're going to live in? Now watch this: live in. Where will you live? What will you do? Men say what they think, but they do what they believe. We are called not to agree with the story Paul is going to tell to Philippi or that I'm going to tell to Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. We are called to live in it and to lean not on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge him. We are to be filled with the Spirit of truth, to let the Word of God richly dwell within us.
When men are filled with something less than truth, they are filled with darkness or error. They're guided by something less than the divine. Ephesians 5:18-21 is a seminal passage to where we're going today. It says, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" Paul is just making an observation. When you drink wine and become incapacitated by it or influenced by it, you don't become a better man, a better husband, a better wife, a better driver. You become worse. It dissipates you.
"…but be filled with the Spirit…" That word filled can be confusing, because we always think that things that are empty need to be filled, which is true. That's one way to use the word. "My gas tank is empty and needs to be filled with gas." Another way the word filled is used is in the context of control. When you're driving down I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth and somebody gets upset with you and the way you're driving and they give you the international sign of unhappiness, you go, "That guy is filled with rage."
You don't think he's a mad scientist who leaned over and drank some bottle called "rage" and now, because of that, he is acting out of rage. What you're saying is he's being controlled by the human emotion of anger. We use that phrase filled with when we talk about people are filled with lust. They're controlled by lust. They didn't drink a bottle of lust. They're just being controlled by the lusts of their flesh. They're being controlled by the spirit of alcohol. That's why they're called spirit shops.
Paul says, "Don't do that. Be filled with…" Now what does the word mean? Be controlled by, continually, the Spirit of truth, which you now understand because you have been won over to the glory and goodness of God by the story of the redemptive work of Jesus. You don't just know the story; you are being continually controlled by it. It is why it is error to go and get worked up into a lather and to think that you leak.
"I've lost some of the Spirit this week. I have to go to church and get all ramped up. I have to get filled up again." No. You need to make a moment anytime you find yourself being directed by the lusts of your flesh, the course of this world, the lies of the Enemy, to go, "No, I'm not going to be controlled by those things. I'm going to be controlled by the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit." All synonymous.
When you become a Christian, Christ is in you. What does that mean? Parents, I say you should not teach your kids to trust Christ by asking Jesus into your heart. It confuses kids. A little three-inch Jesus… Do they swallow him and does he just live there? I don't want to beat you up too badly on this, but the right language is "You need to trust in Christ. You need to believe in the way of God." The word believe means trust or have faith in.
It means to depend upon in the way that a belayer straps into a rope and belays in and says, "I am putting my full confidence and faith in that as I go against the gravity of this world, this will sustain me." What you do when you become a follower of Christ is the same thing. You belay in. You don't just stand on the cliff and go, "I believe that rope could help me" and step off it without the rope. That knows the story and the truth of how you belay in, but you're not belayed in. You're going to die like everybody else if you just know something intellectually.
The Bible word believe means to put your trust in, to strap into and have it influence and affect your life. The reason America is jacked up is because a lot of people will be in churches today and go, "I don't believe in the Hindu myth. I don't believe in the Greek myth. I don't believe in the atheistic myth. I don't believe in the Qur'anic myth. I believe in the Jesus myth," and they treat it like that. It has no relevance to their life.
That's why you find a lot of people who live with what's called a spiritual/secular divide. They have an idea about what they say they believe in the spiritual realm, but it doesn't affect their day-to-day living. No. May it never be. Everything about Jesus should affect everything you do. When you're not informed by the Jesus story and you're not in Christ, you are in trouble. When you are not in Christ, you are in the darkness and you are being controlled by something less than beauty, good, perfection, and that which will lead to human flourishing.
I'm going to show you how this all relates to Acts 16. When you ask Jesus into your heart, what you're doing is saying, "I trust in you," and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. What does that mean? Well, it really means you dwell in the Holy Spirit at that moment. In the same way the English word filled can mean something empty needs something poured in it or it could mean being controlled by, and that's what it means in Ephesians 5:18…
"All of you." It's a command. It's imperative. "All of you." It's plural. It's perfect, which means let it happen continually. It's passive, which means let it happen to all of you continually. It's present, which means right now and forevermore. It doesn't stop. It's an imperative, plural, perfect, passive verb. It's an action you're supposed to continually let happen to you all the time. Be controlled by the Spirit of Christ that you know is good, who gave his life for you and now lives inside of you.
What lives inside of you? Truth. I no longer am a son of disobedience, a child of wrath, a slave to my flesh, a slave to the lies of the Enemy or the ways of this world. I am set free. Why? Because I now see things I formally did not see, so I can now walk in a way I formerly did not walk. What do you see? God's Word is good and it is true.
So I don't have to listen anymore to myth. I listen to truth, the Jesus story, anchored in history, transforming Philippi and Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth and the terroristic Paul and a Roman centurion who imprisoned him and Lydia who was given to materialism and you if you trust the story. Church, don't fall in love with the story and not fall in love with Jesus. Don't know the story intellectually and not belay in.
What does it mean the Spirit is in you? The moment you trust Christ, it doesn't mean some angel fires a blow dart and hits you and some perfectly formed, 6'5", 230 pounds fills up my body at that moment. That's not what happens. What it means is I am living underneath what was already true. God is sovereign over all creation. Creation acts like God is not sovereign. It rejects the story of God and creates God in his own image and stories that make sense to man.
They reject the Creator for the creation. We worship creation or we make God in our image. He is impetuous. He's moody. He's asleep. He needs to be appeased by works, the same things men do. He's indifferent to sin, just like some men are. We create God in our own image. We dumb him down to make him not so great that we can't work our way into his presence. But when you accept the God of the Scripture, you see he is holy and perfect. In your sin you're nothing like him. Unless he does something about your state, you could never be reconciled to him.
When you see that God isn't just to be feared like scared of, that he might damn you, but he is to be feared like "I don't want to miss any of his blessing because he's beautiful and good…so good that a sinner like me, who rejected him, he has rescued through the crucifixion of his Son, who's the visible image of the invisible God, that God declared with power that he is who he says he is by resurrecting him, and I want to walk with him and know him and have him inform every aspect of my being," what you're doing is living in grace and truth.
In isn't a geographical statement as much as it is a relationship to something. If I tell you I'm in my car, that's a geographical statement. That's one way to use the English word. If I tell you that I'm in trouble, you guys don't think I'm in a… If you've seen some of my cars, when I'm in them I'm in trouble, but we don't think when somebody says, "I'm in trouble" or "I'm in love" that they step into a place called "Trouble" or "Love."
We know what we mean. I'm being controlled by (unfortunately, we think love is an emotion) this emotion toward this person or I'm being controlled by this external circumstance, which is troubling me. In other words, it's a relationship to some reality. When the Holy Spirit is in me, what that means is now what's operating inside of me is not a spirit of rebellion but a spirit of humility before the revelation of God.
To talk about the "whereness" of God is a category mistake. It's like saying, "What does blue taste like?" You don't do it. God is omnipresent. He is everywhere, but what we don't mean by that is that God is in every location. What we mean is the sovereign power, glory, goodness of God is in control in every single place, even places where there is abuse and darkness and demonic activity going on.
God in his permissive will is letting trouble work its way out so we get sick and tired of being sick and tired and go, "Is there a better way?" and God goes, "Yes. There's the way of truth and life found through my Son. Come to me." Why does this matter? It matters because you're not pantheists. When you kill a cockroach, you don't believe God was in the cockroach and you killed him. You believe that cockroach exists under the sovereignty of God.
God has given you dominion over the earth, and you have determined that you don't want cockroaches in your crib. So when you squish him, no matter what PETA or the Hindus say, you're not killing God. You're getting rid of a dadgum cockroach and you're exercising appropriate dominion. It is why when we deal with demonic activity we don't cast it out; we bring truth in. In other words, the way I deal with sin and demonic lies…
Let me say it to you this way. Second Corinthians 10: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses…taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…" Remember Romans 12:2? "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…"
When you become a Christian, you step out of being demonically influenced. Every single person on earth is demonically possessed until they give themselves to Christ and are part of his possession, the redeemed on earth. How do you get rid of the demon? Invite in the strong man. Trust in the stronger one whose way is truth and life.
Why does all this matter? You're about to see in Acts 16. The error and confusion of what it means to be filled and what it means to have the Spirit of Christ in you… Paul says, "If the Spirit of Christ is in you, walk with him. Walk in the light, not in darkness." People who don't know God and don't believe God is good do whatever they think is right. They go a way that seems right to man, but in the end it's the way of death.
Are you ready for a little Greek myth? I'm going to tell you why it matters. The Greek myth is that we make the gods in our own image, so they're highly sexual and highly impetuous and a little unpredictable, but the Greeks are trying to explain how we got here, so they have Zeus and Zeus' wife Hera. Because Zeus is like us… If you were a god and could do whatever you wanted to do and not just live on Mount Olympus, you'd probably have a few consorts, try and get away with it on the sly.
See also Leto. Leto was one of Zeus' ladies. Zeus got Leto pregnant. This is just a story you need to know. It has application to Acts 16. If you remember your Greek mythology, this is what they tell you. Zeus got Leto pregnant. Hera heard about it. Hera wasn't really happy about it, so she went and got the Python, which existed in Delphi, which was guarding, if you will, the whole Gaea, which is Mother Earth.
There's an omphalos there. What's an omphalos? It's the Greek word for navel. There was a place in Delphi that was a stone that was over a fault line where a bunch of odorous gases used to come up, and they believed it went down to Mother Earth. The entrance to Mother Earth was guarded by this Python. Hera turned the Python loose to chase Leto, because she doesn't want Leto to settle down, because that's when she would have her twins.
She was mad that Leto was pregnant with her husband's kids, so she wanted Leto to never have enough peace to have the babies. Zeus had compassion on Leto, so he turned her into a quail. I guess they saw snakes chasing quails, as they do. So the Python chased the quail around until the quail finally found some rest and gave birth to twins. Who? Apollo and Artemis. Apollo, after four days, was a very strong young man. He had a silver bow and golden arrows, and he heard about what this Python had done to his mama, so he went and shot and killed the Python.
She died and fell through the fault line there in the omphalos in Delphi and went down to Mother Earth, and that explains (because they always need a story to explain why we're here) why there are odorous gases coming up in Delphi. Scientists have gone back and looked, and there are odorous gases that come up. Sometimes they think it's ethylene. Ethylene is a neurotoxin. Why do I tell you this? Hang in there. Or if not a neurotoxin, possibly some diminished carbon monoxide and methane combination.
Now what happens if you bring ethylene, a neurotoxin? You hallucinate. What happens if you breathe a limited amount of carbon monoxide with methane? It makes you a little bit wheezy, eventually nauseous, and you look a little crazy and maybe will die if you get too much of it. Well, because Apollo had done this in Delphi, they built a temple over where he had killed the snake Python. Because they built a temple there, there needed to be priestesses there.
The priestesses were girls who lived there, and they were called pythia because they lived in the temple where the toxic fumes came up from Mother Earth, which is where the dead Python was, which in the Greek story explained why it was there. When you were there and were underneath ethylene or this mix of diminished carbon monoxide and methane, you became delirious, and eventually you became an addict, and eventually you became mad.
Now in the ancient world, they believed mad people were special, and they had great respect for them. It's where we get the term mad respect. (I'm kidding. That's not true.) They had respect for mad people, because they believed the gods had stolen their mind to make a place for the gods to speak. So these crazy, drug-induced women would come out and stammer and say some things, and men abused them.
Probably no doubt sexually, but also they said, "You're going to be my little pythia, and you're going to give a bunch of information that I will interpret for a price. I will haul you around, and if you want to hear the priestess speak…" By the way, generals would go there to determine how to go to war. Farmers would go there to determine when to plant crops. People would go there to try and figure out when they should marry or what they should do. They would go and pay a price to have a priestess hear from the Pytho and tell them what they believed.
By the way, let me show you something crazy. If you ever go around the third-world countries and you're around a witch doctor, you're going to see a very glassed-over look. If you ever go to Hindu land, if you go to India… I've been there, and I've watched these Hindu holy men. They all have this glassed-over look, because a lot of them participate in what has always been the origin of Hinduism. In fact, if you go look at the Hebrew veda,which means knowledge in Sanskrit, the Vedas… It's the Hindu holy books.
There is a line in the Hindu holy books that talks about how soma has allowed us to basically move into this other realm. It was a psychedelic, either cannabis or mushrooms, that Hindu holy men would take, and they would envision all this Hindu mythology. Depending on what you smoked or what psychedelic you had, you wrote some other story about their Zeus. There are all kinds of names, three major gods in Hinduism, just like there are multiple gods in Greece. It's just crazy. It's psychedelic-induced craziness, but it was ruling the people of Greece and Rome.
They were under these pagan ideas. They were having men exploit weak women who were getting neurotoxins and looked scary, and they go, "Wow! The gods are speaking through them, and I can interpret for a price." Into that world, here comes Paul with another story. Paul says, "It's not nonsensical like the story of Apollo and Hera and Leto and Zeus. This happened. You can go test it. This is not a bunch of guys on soma, whacked out, who think they've CLEPed out of mortality into hearing from the gods in their psychedelic state."
Isn't it amazing how America just can't wait to hear from a holy man who looks a little glazed over or a witch doctor who looks a little possessed? He is possessed, but not by beauty and truth. Into Philippi, here's somebody possessed possessing the truth of God. In America, we don't see people possessed so much by the Hindu holy men, and we don't listen to people so much with psychedelic drugs and whatnot, although in the 60s we certainly did.
What came out of that was this idea that "God is not there. You can't trust him. There's something more beautiful, more insightful. Hey, express your sexuality any way you want. There is no objective standard. There is no common law. There is no Word we can anchor our lives by, so we make up all our words. All things permissible are all things desirable, and all things desirable should be all things welcome, and all things welcome should be all things celebrated."
If you come and say, "No, no; there is truth that should be followed," the world will not like you. I just described America 2017, and I just described Philippi sometime in the first century. What you're going to see is the power of God was sufficient then, and I'm here to tell you the power of God is sufficient now, but not if you just have some broad narrative that that's your myth. You have to strap in, belay in, and believe it.
Watch this. Acts 16. We follow Paul. There's a girl behind them saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." Why did I tell you the pythia story? Because Delphi is 350 miles from Philippi, and just like a little bit earlier in Acts 16 we heard about Lydia, who had come from Thyatira, which is far from there…
They sold purple dye, which came from shellfish. It was very hard to extract, so rather than having to travel all the way to Thyatira… There's a port city, Neapolis, not far from Philippi that was going to be a great hub of business, so Lydia starts a new business there in Philippi and says, "You don't need to go to Thyatira to get purple. I have it right here." She comes to Christ.
Here come some entrepreneurs from the worship of Apollo who bring this slave girl down. "You don't have to go to Delphi to hear an oracle. We have her right here." This girl has probably been sexually abused, probably abandoned, definitely sold as a slave, probably given some psychedelics, and she looked crazy and maybe was. She was not being influenced by truth. She was being influenced by years of abuse and neglect.
Do you guys remember in Mark 5 or Matthew 8 where Jesus comes across a man who was living among the dead, a terror to himself and others, exposed, cutting himself, not a blessing to the community but a horror? That's the picture of all of us. Then Jesus casts out the demon. What was the demon? There were 6,000 of them. "What is your name?" "My name is Legion." That's 6,000.
Can I tell you something? Before I knew Christ, I don't know how many thoughts that were blasphemous to God indwelled in me. "God is not good. His Word is not true. I don't want to follow him. I'm smarter than my parents. I'm smarter than everybody. It's good to exploit people to get what I want. I'm going to be rich so I can be comfortable." I had thousands of demons inside of me. Not little angelic creatures that took up residence in me. No. I was living in relationship to lies about God.
When you live under a bunch of lies about God, you're going to get increasingly dangerous to yourself and to others. What Jesus did in a miraculous way is he delivered that guy from all of those errors and those demons. He said, "What's your name?" and that demon said, "I'm Legion." He said, "Why have you come?" Watch what demons do. This is a major application. The demon said, "We know who you are, Son of the Most High God. Have you come to judge us before our time?"
When demons speak in the presence of God, they never lie. In fact, from demons you can get amazing theology, soteriology, hamartiology (the study of sin), eschatology. They know that Jesus is God in the flesh. They know that men need salvation. They know God is going to judge them finally at the end times. They know men are sinners. They have good Christology. They know exactly who he is. Demons know the Jesus story because they live in it, but they don't trust in it. That is demonic. It is demonic to know the story and not respond. Don't make that error.
Right here in Acts 16, this little pythia, this girl who I am sure is abused, a little mad, and strung out on drugs, being exploited by men, is following Paul, because like madmen do… I've been out in the streets, and I meet some people who are mad, crazy, beside themselves because of drug abuse and years in the street and years of abuse in their family of origin. Who knows what it is?
They'll ask me for things, and they'll be kind at first, and then when I try to really help them and get them to places that can begin to detox them and really give them responsibility and start to work through some of their mental illness and get them back… If I don't give them what they want, they become abusive, and sometimes they follow me around. I've been around mad people who have said, "Here comes a Christian! Watch the Christian! Here comes a Christian! Mr. Christian is not going to help me. Is he going to help you?"
I've had people follow me like that in the same way that this little girl had heard Paul declare that he was a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. In her state… People do this. They repeat. They go, "Oh, here they are!" Listen to what she says. "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." Good missiology, good theology, good view of sovereignty and omnipotence, good view of soteriology, sin, personal responsibility, and salvation, but she's not changed by it.
What Paul does in a moment in a way that we don't fully understand… He just says, "I'm going to bring clarity to you," and God, I think, supernaturally delivers her from those years of abuse and bitterness and psychedelics and drug addiction and gives her clarity and chases it out of her. There is a sobriety that comes to her by the grace of God. Note: whenever Jesus casts out demons or does healing ministry, it is always delivering from situation; it is never a deliverance to salvation. Ever.
In fact, Jesus warns against having a demon go out of you and not having your house dwelt with a knowledge of God, a need for grace and mercy. Sometimes we chase away the demon of alcoholism and the demon of lust and pornography and fill it with piety and a works-based system and almost a pharisaical "I'm now better than these other people who still do those things," but we're not indwelt by dependence on Christ and trust in the cross.
We are in danger, because now our house looks pretty, but inside are seven demons more wicked than the ones that were there, because the ones that used to be there showed everybody "That is a needy person," but now piety and religious church attendance are there. If what's there is not a personal understanding and belaying into the truth of God, we're in trouble. You'll be possessed now with dead religion. You'd better have an abiding relationship with Christ and walk with Christ.
This gal is brought to sobriety. There is no evidence that she ever came to faith. It's an argument from silence. I have to believe she was a founding member of the church, because when she was delivered from those oppressive men and had clarity of thinking and saw that Paul did that, I'll bet she wanted to know more about Paul's God. People who see the power of God typically want to know more about it, but not always. Make sure in hearing me declare the power of God you respond to it.
Paul gets rid of the demon. By the way, I want to throw this in. Evil is monolithic, and what I mean by that is there are three enemies of our souls: the flesh, which is part of the fallen sons of Adam, which craves its own way and believes it doesn't need God; the spirit of the age, the course of this world, which rebels against God and doesn't believe it needs God (it's the society of fallen humanity); and thirdly, the spiritual realm, demons or the angels who lie about the Father and who have some form and influence on this life.
The way you fight them is not with power and not a casting out. We are to be in the world that is rebellious against God, still in our flesh, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. What we cast out is error. What we invite in is truth. People love deliverance ministries because they don't have to work on sanctification, spiritual disciplines, and humbly walking with God to be transformed.
They can just go, and Billy Jack can put a hand on their face, and then they're walking out of here and they're all great on some emotional spiritual high, filled now with the goodness of God. That works great for about a week, and then they lust again, drink again, get angry again, and they go, "I thought I got rid of that demon." No. You continue to take captive your thoughts.
In this world, you will constantly be pulled to rebel against God, will constantly, in your flesh, long for things that are an offense to God, and you make yourself subject to him. Because you know God is good, you live in relationship with him. See the spiritual life? That's why we gather to encourage each other day after day so we won't be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It's a sanctification process.
This little girl who is delivered supernaturally from situational evil has to make a moral decision, because Jesus himself never delivered anybody to heaven by casting out a demon. All that did was said, "I'm going to bring clarity to you. Now what are you going to do with it?" Until you are possessed by the Holy Spirit, you are possessed with a demon, just like I was. Your demon may not be 6,000. It might just be one. "I don't need God; I'm a good person." That's a demon.
I say it's a demon. It's subject to demonic thought. "God is not God. You can do just fine. You can be God enough." That's demonic lie. "God's Word isn't true. You can just believe in it generally, but you don't need to walk according to it." That's not what the Scripture says. That's a demon. How do you get rid of it? Humbling yourself before truth, not going to some deliverance ministry. Be delivered by the renewing of your mind.
Verse 19. These guys saw that their hope of profit was gone. This is a theme throughout the book of Acts. This is so important. These guys loved money more than they loved God. It is a problem in Dallas. This is really applicable. Paul has young Timothy. He found him in Acts 16:1-4. Paul always knew the next generation was important, so from the beginning he built into the next generation. Timothy is coming along with him.
Paul is going to remind Timothy in his last letter to young Timothy, his disciple, some of the things they learned together. Can I show you something about the book of Acts? The book of Acts has as one of its themes that money can keep you away from God. Acts, chapter 5: Ananias and Sapphira. "I love God. God can have everything (except this piece I'm not going to tell you about. I'm going to keep that for me.)" Judgment came to that person.
Acts, chapter 8: "I see the power of God. I want to use it and exploit it for my own personal advancement. I'll pay you if you give me things that impress people." Simon the magician. Judgment came to Simon the magician because he thought he could buy that which would glorify him. Acts, chapter 16: the owners of the slave girl. "We don't care if God just delivered this little girl from bondage. We care that we were exploiting that little girl for our own profit." Judgment came to them.
Acts 19: Demetrius in Ephesus. Paul comes and preaches, "There is a God greater than one of the twins of Leto." Artemis is there in Ephesus, and she is exalted. He's a silversmith, and he makes little silver shrines and sells them. Paul comes and preaches the gospel. People aren't going to buy those shrines anymore. He says, "We have to get rid of Paul." He incites a riot and chases Paul out of Ephesus because he loves money more than God. Demetrius is judged.
Let me tell you something. Money can get in the way of God. That's why Jesus said what he said in Matthew 6. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Application. Remember last week we talked about this? Did anybody do anything differently with money this week?
Did anybody, like Lydia, move the resources of their industry toward the mission of God? We told you there are things we can't do here because there's not provision. We don't obligate you with debt. We ask you to grow in your understanding that we're all indebted to God and anything we can do to further the spreading of the truth of Jesus we're all in on. We see God at work here. We're investing here. If you don't see God at work here, find a place he is and invest in it.
How did you do this week? Did you have a demonic thought that "All I need to do is know the story of Lydia" or did you live like Lydia did in response? You can't love God and money. If you see your God with a chance to be exalted and he has given you resources, move it. These guys didn't. Watch what happens. Let me read to you what Paul said to young Timothy. This is important. At the end of Paul's life, he's writing to Timothy. Watch him double click on this that Timothy observed and saw.
"Timothy, I want to remind you if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." That's 1 Timothy 6:8. Verse 9: "Timothy, I'm warning you, those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." "Do you remember Demetrius in Ephesus? Do you remember the owners of the slave kids when we were together in Philippi? Don't be like them."
"For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…" Money is a tool. It can be used for good or bad. It is a test. Do you love it or do you love God? It is a testimony. It's why, by the way, in the book of Acts there's one guy in Acts 20:33, when he is in Ephesus, who says, "You know I'm of God because I didn't covet any of your gold or your silver or your clothes. I just loved you more than my chance to profit off of you." That's Paul.
"I'm not like Simon. I'm not like the slave owners. I'm not like Demetrius. I'm not like Ananias and Sapphira. I'm not like the false apostles." It's a test. It's a testimony. It's a tool. "You flee that love of money, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness." This last week, what did you pursue more? Money or godliness, love, righteousness, and gentleness? How much time did you spend developing those things?
If you're in Christ being controlled by his Spirit, that's where you go. Here's what's interesting. Even Christians who are sealed in the Spirit and can't lose their relationship with Christ… Sometimes we grieve the Spirit and quench the Spirit, the Spirit we know is good and beautiful and true. We grieve him, because even though we now know God is good and beautiful and true and this world is fading away and that Jesus is going to be declared with power and return again, like it says in 1 Timothy 6, we go back and act like this world is all there is.
When we do that we grieve the Spirit, because those of us who are supposed to be ministers to the world covet people's gold, silver, and clothes. It breaks his heart, because we're supposed to be bringing grace to Philippi, not throwing in on the profit-making venture.
So he tells us… This is Paul to Timothy wrapping it up. Watch these last words of verse 18. "Instruct [those who are rich in this world] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…" Just like Lydia was. "…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." You see? He's building into Timothy. He's reminding him of truth, and we need it, because we want to live in it, because we know it's beautiful and good and it's going to come to bear.
First Timothy 6 again: "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Jesus, who lived not in some myth that Homer wrote but who lived and gave the good confession before Pontius Pilate that you guys all know…" He was the procurator in Jerusalem for Rome. "…that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of Jesus, who will come back at the proper time."
So be faithful right now in your Philippi or your Ephesus or your Dallas, Plano, or Fort Worth. Here's how you're faithful. When you live in a way the world doesn't like, the world isn't going to like the way you live. So these guys came up with Paul in verse 20. They brought them to the chief magistrate and said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion. They're Jews, and not only are they Jews but they're messianic Jews. They have customs which it's not lawful…"
Judaism could exist within Rome. They let it live peacefully as long as they didn't rebel against Caesar, but now Paul is coming saying, "There is a more high God than Caesar and a more high God than Apollo." This guy is preaching contrary, and that's a system that's illegal. We, being Romans, aren't going to put up with that. So there was a riot.
Verse 22: "The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods." Note: mobs are easier to stir up to riot than men are to stir up to repent. It's easy to get a crowd going crazy. When you're a chief magistrate, you're not supposed to let crowds dictate how you rule. The Bible says the first to plead their case seems just.
No matter how many of them there are, no matter how much they're chanting, holding placards and signs, you have to hear the other case. You have to make a righteous rule. They didn't do that, and it's going to be a source of shame to them in just a moment, because they're going to find out they beat a guy with rods that it was against the law to beat with rods, because they didn't let him speak. He was a Roman citizen. You couldn't beat a Roman citizen that way without a trial, but they beat him. They bloodied his back. They took off his robes.
"When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks." One of the things you're going to see throughout the Bible is what Jesus did he is still doing. Just like Jesus was the presence of God that had the authority to bring clarity to people, Paul has the authority to bring clarity to people and to cast out demons and give them a chance to respond to truth.
Does this sound familiar? There's a man whose appendages are fastened to an object. It says his feet were in stocks. Probably if your feet were in stocks, it's not like the old Puritan stocks with wood. It was shackles that were tied to a rock and often hands and you'd be strapped like this. Can you think of somebody else strapped like this with a bloodied back, surrounded by criminals, with a Roman centurion before him who's about to see the way he suffers and go, "Surely that man is who he says he was, the servant of God"? You bet. That's about to happen right now one more time. What God did he's still doing.
Look at what happens. "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God…" This is what you do, because this is a very applicable message to us. We live in a world that isn't going to like the way we disrupt their business. The way the world does business today… The highest idea is that you can be what you want to be, do what you want to do, and like I said, if it's desirable we're going to make it permissible. If it's permissible we're going to celebrate it, and anybody who won't celebrate what we desire is going contrary to us and must be beaten and silenced. Sound familiar?
Let me bring it even more to your attention. This week, there was a young gal… She's an accomplished scholar. I don't mean to say that pejoratively at all. Her name is Amy Barrett. She's a distinguished professor at University of Notre Dame in the law school, and she was nominated by the current administration to be a circuit judge. When you're nominated to be a circuit judge, you're put before a senate judiciary committee.
A member of the senate judiciary committee, Dianne Feinstein, said to this person who was about to be a judge, "We don't think we want you to be a judge. We don't want you to judge us, because we've read your stuff. You're pro-life. You're pro-traditional marriage." She said these words: "The dogma lives loudly within you." What's dogma? Dogma is a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith in morals that are formerly stated and authoritatively proclaimed by the called-out people of Jesus Christ.
Dianne Feinstein basically said, "When I read your speeches, I come to the conclusion that the dogma lives loudly within you, that you care about truth that you call good and beautiful, and that's of concern to me and others when it comes to big issues that a large number of us have fought for years in this country to establish. So we don't want you." It's really interesting. Article VI of our Constitution, if our senator would have known that, says there should be no religious test for service in public.
That didn't mean you shouldn't be religious in public. It just meant it didn't matter if you were a Congregationalist or a Baptist or a Presbyterian; we couldn't keep you out. By the way, the term separation of church and state is not in your Constitution. It was written by Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists who lived in Connecticut, which was a Congregationalist state. They were concerned that they couldn't run for office because they weren't Congregationalist like the ruling party was.
Jefferson said, "We're not going to let them tell you you can't serve because you're a Baptist. There is a separation between church and state." See Article VI of the Constitution. It was never to keep church out of government; it was to keep government out of church, because when you remove church out of government you get Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein. You get pro-abortion, pro-nontraditional marriage.
By the way, nontraditional marriage became a problem not with the homosexual community but with the church when we started to endorse serial monogamy, where we showed up at church and said, "I'm going to love you as Christ loves the church. I'm going to be with you until death do us part," and then we have irreconcilable differences and just go and show up at the altar again and make the same promise to somebody else.
Thirty years before the homosexual community tried to redefine marriage, the church bought into that lie by endorsing no-fault divorce. When the church says it believes in a myth and doesn't live in it, you see the society go where we go now until we have people saying, "We don't like the dogma." I pray that the dogma lives loudly inside of me, and I pray it lives loudly inside of you. When you do, you're going to get beaten and isolated and put in shackles and called names, and they're going to say, "You're messing up the way we do business." Are you ready?
This text has application. What did Paul do when that happened? Get bitter? Did he say, "God, I tried to go to Asia. See? I told you to go to Asia. No, you got me to Europe, and now I get to Europe and I'm proclaiming the gospel and leading people to Christ, and then these guys cause a riot. Now I'm beaten. My back is bloodied. Do you see my bloodied back? Now here I am in prison, and not just prison but the inner part of prison. I'm shackled, and they're probably going to kill me. What are you doing, God?" Is that what he did? No. He does what great men do.
Go back to Ephesians 5:18. "Don't be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit." Now watch verse 19. People who are filled with the Spirit speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They know truth. They sing and make melody with their heart to the Lord. They give thanks in all things. "Lord, I don't know what you're up to. I don't know why we're in shackles, but I know you're God."
They sang hymns. What did you sing? They sang the psalms. They might have sung, in fact, Psalm 42:8-11, which says, "God gives me a song at night." Psalm 42:8-11 talks about how God is good and sovereign. They were probably sitting there saying, "Lord, we don't know what you're doing, but we know you're going to work it out."
Later, when he wrote to the Philippians, he said, "Hey, you guys want to kill me? That's great. For me to live, I'm going to live like Christ. For me to die is gain. I'm going to go to be with him. It's better for me that I die, but it's better for you that I remain, because I'm here to tell you that your myth about Apollo is a myth." Your myth about Hinduism and the Qur'an and atheism is a myth. The Darwin myth is a myth. There's a truth.
There's an intelligent designer whose name is Jehovah. He has a Son named Jesus. He loves you and died for you. "Beat me again. Kill me if you will, but while I'm here I will serve my King." What did Paul do? There's a guy who just beat him and locked him up, and all of a sudden God decides to deliver Paul. He doesn't always deliver you. Sometimes you die right there, but this time there was an earthquake, because God decided he wasn't done with Paul.
Verse 26: "…there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened." Does that sound like when men can't get out God does something so that you are set free? It's a picture of the gospel. Paul had nothing to do with it. Just praise God. He'll set you free. See him for who he is. He'll set you free.
"When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!'" What would you have done? "Hey, I'm free. Here's this chain." Boom! To the side of the head. "Serve my God."
Is that what you would have done? "Who else wants some of this?" You have a built-in weapon right there chained to you. No. He said, "Hey, bro, we haven't gone anywhere. By the way, neither has anybody else around me who heard me singing, because they saw the power of my God. They heard the testimony of my God."
I'm going to tell you this story really quickly. This week I was with a couple of guys. We got away for a couple of days. We went to an amazing place. It was a total guy place. It was like 99 percent guys. We played golf, and in the evening we're having dinner. We're sitting at this dinner table, and just like Paul, who it says when he was in prison the prisoners were listening to him… We didn't know it, but we're at this table having a conversation…
So while we're just having guy conversation, talking about who had a great nine iron, who did this, and what do you shoot, and what do you think is going to happen with Zeke, and all that other stuff, we just go, "Hey, we're going to be together for about a two-hour meal. Let's redeem it." In the midst of our conversation, before the night is over, every single one of us wants to go around…
"I want to hear what spiritual discipline in the last three months has been the most useful to you as you've been conformed to the image of Christ. Then let's also talk about the current state of your marriage. Rank it 1 to 10. What's the one thing you could do that would make your marriage, whether it's a 6 to a 7 or a 7 and take it to an 8 or a 9 and let's take it to a 10?" So we laughed as guys. We're having a big time, having fun, and our little waitress, Pamela, was sitting there serving us.
Our conversation went on throughout the evening. You know how waitresses are back at your table every now and then. Well, Pamela started bussing our table after a while, and she wouldn't take stuff back to the kitchen. She'd just take it to the table next to us and kind of sit there and put it down and come back and listen. We're just singing praises to God. We're speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, spurring each other on to love and good deeds.
Eventually I go, "Hey, Pamela. Are you listening to us?" She goes, "Yes." She goes, "I don't hear very many men here who talk like this. In fact, I've never heard men talk like this." I said, "Well, Pamela, let me ask you a question. Do you have a faith?" She goes, "Yeah." I go, "So what's your faith?" She goes, "I'm a Christian." I go, "Are you really? Tell me about it. Are you connected with a body?"
"No. I don't go to church."
"Okay. Well, what spiritual discipline…? You heard us talking about that. Do you know what a spiritual discipline is? Do you read your Bible?" She goes, "Oh, I love to read my Bible." I go, "Well, great. What are you reading right now?" She goes, "Well, I haven't read my Bible in two to three months."
"Okay. Well, tell me where you're going to go home tonight."
"Well, I'm going to go back home to Richard, the guy I'm living with. Would you guys please pray for Richard?"
I go, "Sweet Pamela, we'd love to pray for Richard, but one of the things Richard needs to see is that there's a God we're serving, that you care more about his desires than Richard's desires. Richard wants you to act a certain way. Why would he serve a girl who says she knows a God who she'll totally put subject to Richard's whims and desires? Any God who's second fiddle to Richard Richard shouldn't worship. You're right now saying that what Richard wants and what you want is more important than what God wants. Do you really know the goodness of God?"
It was an amazing conversation with sweet Pamela, helping her really understand. She just knew the story like it was a myth, but she hadn't belayed in. Do you want to know the greatness and sovereignty of God? The next night, we have reservations at another place. Guess who our waiter was? Richard. I'll finish the story some other time. I swear to you. Unbelievable.
Paul is singing praises. Only people who know the sovereignty and goodness of God know that in cancer, in being abandoned by a spouse, in sickness, in sorrow, God is still in control, and you love him. You don't know what he's going to do, but you love him and you love the one who was abusive to you. This guy is scared to death, and Paul said, "Don't harm yourself! We are here."
"And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'" "What kind of people don't abuse me when I come to do them harm?" Answer: People who love their enemies. People who are like God who has enemies and demonstrates his love to them in that while they're still sinners Christ died for them.
It is such a privilege to have my friend Virginia here. You don't know Virginia's story, but Virginia lived in communist Romania in the 70s and 80s. She was an attorney. She came to faith and defended Christians who were being persecuted by Ceausescu to the point that they were so sick and tired of her, after beating her and torturing her and putting her in house arrest, they finally sent an assassin to her. Her family had suffered and she had suffered. People told her to be quiet, and an assassin came.
She's 4'11". This 6'10" assassin comes in with a gun and says, "We told you to shut up. You're not going to shut up. We're going to kill you." She sat there petrified and thought, "What should I do?" She said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Before you kill me, you need to know what I know. Do you know why you and I are here right now? Do you know what your purpose is? Do you know what I know, that when you kill me I'm going to go to glory and you're still going to be here and you're going to wait to meet the God you're going to send me home to?"
She loved this man who was part of the secret police that tortured her and her family and was there to kill her, and a few minutes later she led him to Christ. Go get the book Saving My Assassin. Love you, Virginia. I'm so grateful for your modern-day "Paulness" right there in Philippi. Here's the question…Are you ready to love people in your modern-day Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano when they're abusive to you?
Here's how you know you're changed. You know you're changed when you believe in the Lord and you say… Not when you take the myth and abandon the Apollo myth, but when you believe in the Lord Jesus you'll be saved, and that's what he did. How do we know this guy believed? Because it changed him.
He took them home and washed their wounds, and he was baptized. He declared publicly, "I am following Jesus. I don't care about political power and all that Rome can offer me." Just like Lydia said, "I don't care about Thyatira and all the world comfort it can give me. I am all about Jesus." It changed him. He was all in.
Labor Day this year. On Monday we got a text. John Elmore who leads re:generation… He wasn't up here yet. He was coming. Some of his leaders got here first. This little graffiti was shown right there on our doorstep. There were several spots. This was one of them. It was written right out here in Dallas. "Dear Dallas tribe, you're racist, sexist, transphobic, biphobic."
The guy called John and said, "John, look what I just saw here. What should I do?" John said, "Hey, that's all right. When we get there we'll have some of the staff who are around clean that up." The guy goes, "No, I want to clean it right now. I don't want anybody else to see this." So John said, "Well, go over there to the security team that's there already, and they'll let you into the closet, and if you want to clean it you can."
Watch this. This is what's amazing. The guy who did it, my friend who's a leader there at re:generation, along with one of our security guys who works here, both black, One of them is same-sex attracted, both men redeemed, who love Jesus and know this is not a racist, biphobic, transphobic, homophobic place.
They got down and prayed for the person who put that graffiti there, and they cleaned it before any staff got here. They sent us a note saying, "It's all done. It's taken care of." The next day, we celebrated that on Tuesday as a staff. We thanked God for them and what they did, and we sent one of them a text. He responded back Psalm 84:10: "I would rather be a servant on the doorstep of the house of my master than live a thousand days in the house and the tent of the wicked."
He said, "That's my graffiti." He goes, "I'd have put that down there. Before Jesus, I'd have put Paul in chains. I'd have tried to kill Virginia. I'd have tried to say you guys are racist, biphobic, transphobic, homophobic. I just didn't know the truth. I was living under a myth that if I do what I want to do and feel how I want to feel I'm going to be free. Praise God he delivered me." He was changed, and he cleans up the mess, and he's a blessing to the world and is leading others out of darkness. That's what it looks like to be saved.
Church, don't miss this chapter and not apply it. You go. Like Paul, find a Timothy and make disciples. Like Paul, be on mission wherever God sends you. Like Lydia, use your profit for the glory of God. Like Paul, sing praises in the midst of the midnight of misunderstanding. Like Paul, love your enemies. Like the jailer, when you are saved clean up the mess. Wash the wounds. Make amends. Get baptized. Live for the King. Are you ready?
Father, help us to not be hearers who delude ourselves but prove ourselves to be doers of the Word. Help us to love our country by being stewards of the mystery of God and servants of the Most High. We know they don't like the way we're disrupting their business and enterprise, but we pray that we would love them, pray for them, and not persist in doing good, for in due time we know we'll reap if we don't grow weary.
Would you forgive us that we have been more about maybe our profit this last week than pursuing godliness, righteousness, gentleness, love, and peace? Let us not make that mistake this week. Let us put to work what you have given us as your stewards to further your kingdom. Let us be your men and women to the glory of God. Thank you for Burton. Thank you for Kensey. Thank you for Virginia. Thank you for Paul. Thank you for faithful saints. Thank you for the jailer who came in here today and did not know that they could be saved if they believe in the name of the Lord Jesus.
If there's somebody out there who has been doing the work of lies, may they come to the truth today. Would you just have them say, "Father, I want to believe in Jesus who is the demonstration of your love for sinners like me. I want to step out of being in bondage to my flesh, the course of this world, and the lies of the Enemy, and I want to be in sovereign connection and relationship with you. Fill me. Control me by the knowledge of your beauty, goodness, and truth." Help that young Timothy who just prayed to grow here, Lord. Make us faithful Pauls for them and for the city that awaits. In Jesus' name, amen.
Let's go, church. Have a great week of worship.