This week JP walks us through Acts chapter 19. He shows us how the church in Ephesus—arguably the most influential church in all of church history—has “good guys” (the committed, cured, and converted) and “bad guys” (the calloused, counterfeit, and critical). He reminds us that if we leave our first love, like Ephesus did, we are in danger of becoming a graveyard.
Notes From the First Ever Pastor’s Conference
The Relevance of the Word and the Danger of Being Indifferent To It
How Christians Win or Lose
Marriage on Mission
How are we doing, Watermark? Go ahead and turn to Acts 19 if you brought your Bible, and we will dive in. I want to start by asking you a question. Have you ever played the telephone game? You whisper something in someone's ear, then they whisper in somebody else's ear, and it evolves. You start with "I love Jesus," and they kind of whisper. It goes from person to person, and it ends up "Elbow Cheez-Its" or something like that. You know what I'm talking about?
We played a new game this week as we were sitting at the dinner table, wrapped up with dinner. It was like a new spin on it. Maybe you've played this one as well. Here's what you do. You write down a word, and then you pass that to the person, and they have to draw it in 30 seconds, and then the next person has to write down what they drew, and then the next person has to draw what they wrote down, and so forth. You should end up with a picture that was the original word, but you usually don't.
This was one of the descriptions. What is that? You're as confused as I was. It's supposed to be love, but I guessed kissing. I think that's a fair guess, personally. We'll go another one. What is that? Okay, you're better than me, because I guessed castle, but it was indeed church. That is true. How about this one? I heard "cemetery." We guessed grave. This one was Watermark. So we twisted it up a little bit. We started with Watermark. We ended up with grave. It was always fun to go back and see what the original one was and how it evolved over time.
I start there because what you're going to see today is the birth of arguably the most influential, most powerful, most foundational church that has ever existed in the history of history. It's the church of Ephesus. This was the people group that Paul wrote the letter Ephesians, now in our Bibles, to. Timothy was the senior pastor there later on, so 1 and 2 Timothy, the Pastoral Epistles, were written to this church. John was an elder there, so 1, 2, and 3 John were written to this church.
There is more about this church than any other church in the entire Scriptures. You have Acts 18 before it's born, the birth of it in Acts 19, and then Acts 20 goes on to talk about this church. Three chapters in Acts. That's not all, because Revelation talks about this church. In fact, it talks about some of what we're going to see here.
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance." You're going to see their deeds, their hard work, and their perseverance. "I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people…" You're going to see that today. "…that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not…" You're going to see that today. "…and have found them false." You're going to see that.
"You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name…" You're going to see that. "…and have not grown weary." Praise God. "Yet…" Oh. It's like, "You look nice in that dress, but…" "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first."
Today you get to see the things they did at first. Let me tell you something. If we stop doing the things we did at first, this place will be a graveyard. Go to Ephesus today, western Turkey. The gospel is largely irrelevant or not present. The Protestant movement is largely nonexistent. It will happen here if you forsake your first love.
What's going to happen in this chapter is you're going to see two teams, the good guys and the bad guys. Don't email me. I know words fail me. We're just going to call them the good guys and the bad guys, and it's going to go back and forth the way he writes this. We're going to cover so much today, but you're going to see good guys and bad guys, good guys and bad guys, good guys and bad guys, and then essentially who wins.
In this chapter, when we're watching the birth of the church, you'd better believe the church is winning. But do you know how much later that was written? Fifty years later. "You've forsaken your first love." In this chapter, we're going to see the committed, the calloused, the cured, the counterfeit, the converted, and the critical. You see the two teams: the committed, the cured, the converted, and then over here you see the calloused, the counterfeit, and the critical. As Paul experiences this place, it just goes back and forth.
To set this up, we have speaking in tongues today, we have prophecy today, healings today, an exorcism today, a great awakening today, and we're going to end with a riot. It is going to be extremely ADD, so grab a pen and stay with me as much as you can. Ephesus was like New York City. It was a harbor city. It was on a trade route. One of the largest, most influential cities of this time. Four major highways intersected in this city.
There at the top of the Aegean Sea, it is the entryway to the modern world as we know it. Inside Ephesus was this giant temple, the temple of Artemis. That's the Greek name. You may hear the temple of Diana. That's the Roman name. Same temple. It's this huge place. People come from all over the area to worship the goddess of Artemis, maybe because they wanted to get pregnant or something. It was a gross, satanic worship. Prostitutional worship is happening there, right there in the middle of the city. It's what it's known for.
Think New York City and what you might go there to see, the Statue of Liberty or something. Ephesus is a tourist destination, and we get to see the church being born here. Are you ready? Chapter 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?'"
He stumbles upon some disciples, followers, and there's something not right there. Something encourages him to ask this question. "Do you have the Holy Spirit?" They say, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." It probably translates, "We didn't know the Holy Spirit has come."
"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 [about Jesus] , 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."
Let's remember a few things as we read this. First, Acts is this transitional book. This is the third time we've seen this Pentecostal-like movement, if you will. Acts 2, Pentecost, and then in Acts 10 with Cornelius you see again they spoke in tongues and prophesied, and then here in Acts 19 they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There is an authentication of God's work happening in this transitional time.
Now I have heard preachers say that, and I've been as lost as Easter eggs, so let me try to explain. Upon the veil being torn, Christ dying for our sins, rising from the dead, not everybody who was faithfully following God and God's promises knew about it all at once. In this one singular time in the first century of the church, you have people who are faithfully pursuing God, holding on to the promise of the Messiah, but not yet realizing that Messiah has come.
It's the only time in the world this happened. So now the Holy Spirit is manifesting itself in these incredible ways like this. God is recognizing his people. In the same way that he scattered them at the tower of Babel and they spoke in different languages, he's bringing them together now, and they speak a language. This word tongues (glossa) always means one of two things: the thing in your mouth or a language. They began to speak a language.
We know that tongues was a sign of judgment to the Jews that the gospel had now gone to the Gentiles. (That's going to be relevant in just a moment.) These men here had some truth. They knew about Jesus, but they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Today, we receive the Holy Spirit upon trusting in Christ's death and resurrection. Some will use this as a proof text for second baptism. It is not. You receive the Holy Spirit upon believing upon Jesus' death and resurrection.
These men who were following God in faith believed in the ministry of Jesus but did not fully understand what Christ had done for them, and upon trusting in that they received the Holy Spirit. One commentary said they were nominal believers at best or simply disciples of John at worst.
To me, it doesn't matter so much what they did believe before meeting Paul, because after meeting Paul and being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ these guys got after it. They became his first 12 recruits, moving into the city where this amazing church is born, and they start doing ministry. The curious became the committed. The seekers became fully devoted. That's what you see here.
1._ The committed._ That's the first member of the teams we're talking about. They knew about God but didn't have the complete picture. This happens here all the time. I spend a lot of my time with The Porch ministry, the young adult ministry here. Do you know what goes on there? There are guys who come into that ministry who are just moving through the ministry asking for girls' phone numbers like they're sixth graders at the mall, and there are girls there who dress completely inappropriately. They dress like prostitutes.
Do you know why that's awesome? Because some of them are prostitutes, and they're in church. Isn't that awesome? They're hearing the Word of God. They came in, and they're hearing the gospel being preached. It's amazing. Some of you are like, "Hold on. That's amazing?" Yes! It's amazing when sinners come into the church. Yes, it's amazing.
What's going to happen is the Holy Spirit is going to intervene with their lives, they're going to come to know Christ, he's going to start making them over, and they're going to be pastors or missionaries. That's what happens. From pervert to pastor. I know that track well. So don't be frustrated at immaturity. Be patient and intentional.
I can remember becoming a Christian, and I can remember reading this book with new eyes. "Whoa! I think we're supposed to go everywhere and tell everybody about Jesus. It seems like I'm supposed to exchange my life and the American dream for something greater in Christ." I remember this guy. He was a mature believer.
He patted me on the head and said, "Oh, that's cute. We have a new Christian over here. That's cute. Go change the world. Can't just go everywhere and tell everybody about Jesus. That's cute." I wanted to rip his arm off and beat him with it, because I was a new believer. I barely had the Holy Spirit. I hope I never get like that. Don't lose sight of your first love.
If you're young in the faith here… I just talked about tongues and a sign to the Jews and disciples of John the Baptist, and some of you were as lost as Easter eggs. That's okay. Just don't stay there. We have some great resources for you. We have Real Truth. Real Quick. on tongues, Real Truth. Real Quick. on how people of the Old Testament got saved.
We have Equipping classes. We have Great Questions on Monday night. You come in here and you can ask anything. Equipped Disciple. We have all of these ministries. You can just come in, and they're safe places to learn and to grow. It's okay if you're there, but don't stay there. Grow in the faith. Become fully committed. So these are his first 12 recruits here in Ephesus.
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." The Way are just Christians, the first church. "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."
As far as a church plant goes, this brother is getting after it. The first thing he does is he goes into the synagogue. There are no churches there. Keep in mind there are no buildings with crosses on them. That doesn't exist yet, so he goes to the synagogue. Why? Because he's a good Jew. What do I mean by a "good Jew"?
He's a Jew who believed in God, believed in the coming of the Messiah, believed that the Messiah came, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. He's just a complete Jew, so he's going to Jews and completing the story. But some of them became obstinate and began to reject and malign the Way.
So he says, "Okay, I have to find somewhere else to preach," so he goes to Tyrannus' school. It's just like when Watermark started meeting in the Freshman Center at Lake Highlands. He goes and rents out this school building. It was probably closed in the middle of the day because it was hot. That's when people would sleep. He would go there in the middle of the day and begin to preach the gospel. So much so that everyone in the area heard the gospel.
Sidenote here. This is interesting. Can you think of someone else who came into a city, chose 12 men, preached to the Jews, was rejected, and then went to the tyrants? That's the gospel here in a little section. The second group, those who became obstinate and rejected and maligned the Way, the bad guys…
2._ The calloused. The Jews rejected the gospel, so he doesn't continue to cast his pearls before swine. He moves on to another crowd and preaches for two years so that everyone in the area has heard the Word of the Lord. You continue to see the gospel in this text push through opposition. This is what you need to know: _as you move toward full devotion you can expect foolish opposition. That's a guarantee. That is going to happen in your life. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; he has overcome the world."
Have you ever shared the gospel with someone who is completely hard-hearted? They are just not listening to you. I hope everyone's head here is nodding, "Yes, that has happened," because if you've shared the gospel at all that has happened. I remember on Twitter this one guy was like, "Hey, I'd love to meet up," and I met with him. He was a self-proclaimed atheist. He was just proselytizing his atheist worldview and wasn't listening. He was very kind but wasn't listening. Not interested in Jesus at all. He was fully convinced in his heart.
I met with him again. Fully convinced in his heart. Didn't want to hear about Christ. Just wanted to tell me about New Atheism. I met with him a third time. I'd tweet something, and he'd make fun of it, mock Jesus, mock Christianity. "Hey, I'd love to get together with you again." "No thanks, buddy. I'm done. If you'd like to hear about Christ I'm all in. I'd love to make time, but I think you want to talk a lot, and I have to go on to people who are receptive. I have to move on."
Verse 11: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul…" I love that it says extraordinary miracles. It's a weird qualifier, adjective. Extraordinary miracles, as opposed to ordinary miracles, which are called "normacles." We've said that before. "…so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them."
Paul's sweat rags are going around, and people are being cured, and their evil spirits are leaving them. It's incredible. Again, there's this authentication happening here in Acts. It has happened throughout the Scriptures. You had Moses and Joshua with the law. God did what to authenticate the message? Miracles. You have Elijah and Elisha, the prophets. God did what to authenticate their message? Miracles. You have Jesus and the Twelve who are going out sharing the gospel of grace, and God did what to authenticate their message? Miracles.
Here is Paul, and I think Luke is doing something really interesting as he writes this. He's showing parallels between Jesus' ministry, Peter's ministry, and Paul's ministry. Remember the bleeding woman who reached out and touched Jesus' cloak and was healed? Jesus said, "Who touched me?" and she's like, "I did," and she was healed. Then you had in Acts 5 that they were bringing their sick in the streets, and Peter's shadow would fall on them, and God healed them.
Then here, even the handkerchiefs of Paul are going out, and God, working even through people's potential misunderstanding, is still doing an incredible work. Why did this happen? This happened so that they would see it and believe it. This happened, friends, so you would read it and believe it.
It's just history being documented, that we can see what was going on here, a work of God, and say, "Oh, now I'm starting to understand how Jesus became so famous so fast, how this carpenter no one ever heard of in this really small town became the single most polarizing character in the history of the world. There were some amazing things happening."
3._ The cured_. How many of you, by show of hands, came into this place with incredible struggles and have experienced an incredible healing, be it from an addiction or a marriage in trouble, something that ruled your life? Has anybody's life been changed like that here? Praise God. About half of you just raised your hand. That's incredible. Someone told me this week, "Hey, I don't feel like you guys do a great job of sharing stories of life change. We used to do a better job."
I was like, "Okay, well, I'm listening to that, because I want to make sure we're sharing stories." Every week, there's a story in the Watermark News. I'll just read the front of this one. "I once believed the lie that my identity was rooted in my past, singleness, weight, past rapes, inability to overcome temptation, and the destruction of my own body. Through Christ, I learned that my identity is rooted in who he says I am." Praise God.
Amazing healings, amazing things happen. The things Jesus said, "Works even greater than these" we witness. We have to be careful not to become bored with them. There's a party. The angels and saints are celebrating. I think we can become calloused. "Oh yeah. Somebody else trusted Christ." Amazing stories of life change all around us.
I want you to take note here how completely effortless these healings are. A lot of times today you see this big séance and ceremony. "Come in, and let's make this right." Or if it's an exorcism… Maybe you've seen a movie. Hollywood has kind of influenced you. All of these in the Scriptures are effortless. "In the name of Jesus, come out." Done. There are no candles. There are no magical potions. There are no healing waters or aromatherapy or anything. It's just this effortless act.
On a sidenote, I received a healing handkerchief in the mail once. True story. It was a green piece of cloth. It was from a ministry. It was a gift from someone. It said, "Hey, I want you to receive this." I'm like, "Okay." It said, "You can activate this healing handkerchief by giving a generous donation to our ministry." I was out on that. You're right to laugh, because it's silly. Verse 13:
"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, '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. One day the evil spirit answered them…" Oops. "…'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."
There's a Jewish man. He claims to be a chief priest. Probably not. We don't have any evidence in history to support that. He had seven sons. His seven sons are itinerant exorcists. This is a thing in this day. You go around and cast out demons for money. You probably wear a bunch of garb, like a costume and a robe. It doesn't happen much here. You go to Haiti, this happens. There are witch doctors who set up shop, you give them some money, and they'll get rid of your demons.
That's what these guys are doing, and they're using the name of Jesus, but they don't know Jesus or have a relationship with Jesus. They desired God's power but didn't desire God himself. This goes poorly for them. This is one of those things… When I get up there with God I'm going to be like, "Hey, can we watch that replay? Can you roll the tape back on that one? I'd love to just see what that looked like."
They go in, and they're like, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches about, I command you to come out," and the guy is like, "Ha-ha! I know Jesus. I'm a fallen angel. I've worshiped Jesus in eternity past. Jesus I know. Paul? Paul's getting after it. We know Paul. Who are you?" That's when you have to change your underwear. That's a bad moment. Nobody is asking who won the fight, because they ended up naked. If you go into a fight and end up with no clothes on, you lost. Every time.
4._ The counterfeit_. I've seen this over the past 11 years here every so often. You turn on the TV and you're going to see this. Christianity has some bad representation. You need to know that. There are people who say, "Hey, we're Christians. Yeah, in the name of Jesus," and you're like, "Man, we have a PR issue we have to deal with." There's a guy who came through here. He was wearing a top hat. True story.
He was a healer. My buddy Blake and I met with him. Blake Holmes is over Equipping. We sat down, because we were catching word. People were going around like, "Hey, there's something funny going on over here." As pastors, shepherds of the flock, you move toward that situation. We sit down with the young man, and he finds out in the conversation, as we're caring for him and trying to understand his story and where he's at with Christ…
He finds out Blake's son at the time had leukemia, and he says, "Oh man. I got you. I'll whip up this tea. Just have your son drink this tea. He'll be good tomorrow." I thought I was going to have to physically restrain Blake Holmes, as his son is going through chemo. I get it. The guy has just been led astray. He was careless with his words, but a part of our job as shepherding the flock is to move toward this and understand it.
There are aspects of it that are completely and totally counterfeit. It is in no way to doubt… This is important, because I believe in a powerful, almighty, Sovereign God who can do anything, and he doesn't need tea or top hats. In Matthew 7 Jesus says, maybe the most alarming verse in the Bible…
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
"You seven sons of Sceva, I don't know you. Don't you mention my name. You don't know me. We don't know each other. We're not friends. You have not trusted in my provision." Not everyone who does work in the name of Jesus is known by Jesus. See also those who send healing handkerchiefs for profit. Verse 17: "When this [beating] 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." Praise God. That's so awesome. Paul is getting after it.
"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. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." As people start to observe this radical life change, the gospel, like this train, moves on this track of the stories of life change of people giving up what they loved because they found a greater love.
5._ The converted_. These were people whose lives had been changed. They held the name of Jesus in high honor. I love that in 2017 we're still doing this. "What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus Christ my King…" "Worthy is your name. All praise and all honor to your name. We hold your name in high honor, for there is no other name on earth and under heaven by which men can be saved."
Not only did they hold his name in high honor, but it says they came and confessed, and we still practice this. We carry this tradition forward. Not in the way that I grew up, where I would go into a room with a man and in private tell my sins to him, but in a James 5:16 kind of way. They would confess their sins to each other and experience healing, for the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.
If you're here and you've been converted, this should be a normal part of your life. If you want to kill the pride in your life, you show up weekly and say, "Hey, this is how I have not loved my wife. This is how I've failed as a dad this week. This is where I've missed it in my walk." There's only one reason you can't: P-R-I-D-E. I've heard every excuse under the sun as to why someone might not do that, and I've never heard one I couldn't put under that title, file in that folder.
They repented. Not just confessed, but they turned from their sin. Confession is saying it, verbally acknowledging it. Repentance is turning from it. "How do you know they turned from it?" Because they destroyed it. That which was causing them to sin they destroyed. Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." They said, "These scrolls are causing us to sin. These are our temptation. We will throw them away."
What's causing you to sin that you need to destroy before the sun sets today? Is it a computer, a phone, a smartphone, a relationship? Is it football? Is it work? Is it boundaries? They said, "Burn them." What were they worth? Fifty thousand drachmas, 50,000 days' wages. Today $5 million. They destroyed something with a value of $5 million. Done. Why? They found something greater in Jesus.
Let me ask you a real question. What were those scrolls worth? Some of you are like, "Well, you just told us." They're worth nothing. If it doesn't have value in eternity, what's it worth? That's a part of conversion. You begin to see the world through God's economy. You have new eyes, and you start to see, "Oh, this which I thought was really valuable is not valuable, and this which I thought was not valuable is really valuable."
It's no secret that I have run with the wrong crowds throughout my life in different seasons, and in one particular season in high school I ran with some guys who stole. They would steal things. They would put them in their coat or in their bag and whatnot and walk out of the store. I couldn't bring myself to do that, not because I was righteous but because I was a coward. The one thing I would do, which is still very much stealing, is I would switch price tags.
I'd take the price tag of something not worth very much and put it on something of great value, and then I would ring it up and leave with it. Stealing. (I've made that right since then, in case you're wondering.) You're switching price tags. You take the price tag of something that doesn't have much value and put it on something of great value and leave with it. Listen. The Enemy has done this since the beginning of time. He's doing it to you right now, switching price tags.
He's saying, "Hey, I'm going to put them in the world, and I'm going to convince them that the stuff that rust and moth destroys is of great worth, and things like time with the Lord in the morning… I'm going to convince them ain't nobody got time for that, that they're too busy for that, that life is too crazy. And the Holy Word of God? I'm just going to convince them they don't have time for that. I'm going to switch price tags." Don't fall for that.
"The word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." In verses 21 and 22 we begin to see how. Paul goes to Jerusalem. He commits to going to Rome. He sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, and he hangs out a little longer in Ephesus, and we see this amazing story that we'll wrap up with.
"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." There's a big disturbance in the city about Christians. People just start huddling up. "Do you see what they're doing over there at Watermark? That's not okay." "A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis…" Remember Artemis, the temple in Ephesus? "…brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there."
So this guy would sit back. He'd make these little silver idols. He would send them to street vendors who would sell them on the streets. Think about you're at Battery Park, and there are all of these guys selling little Statues of Liberty, and there's one guy who makes all of those Statues of Liberty. That's Demetrius.
"He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: 'You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia.'"
Admitting to Paul's success, the gospel's success. "He [Paul] says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all." He even knows Paul's message, which is a good message, because people shouldn't be able to make gods. It should be the opposite. Gods make people; people don't make gods, but Demetrius evidently disagrees.
"There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.""Guys, we have to huddle up and protect our goddess, because she cannot defend herself." What happens is they start to stir up this mob, this commotion. They grab Paul's boys and pull them into the theater.
Paul wants to go in, but everybody is like, "Paul, if you go in there, they're going to rip you to shreds. You cannot go in there, bro. Stay out here." It says in verse 32, "The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there." They just start saying, "Great is the goddess Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" For two hours they scream this, and everyone is stirred up into a frenzy.
Finally, the city clerk comes up and tries to calm them down. He says, "You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.""What have they done wrong?" Sounds familiar. "Hey, I'm not going to persecute them. I wash my hands of this man. I'll hand him off to you." "Hey, Demetrius, if you have an issue, go to the courts. Work it out in the courts. The courts are open." That's what he says.
This needs to happen in your life. When somebody wants to pull you into the principal's office, the only thing they'd better be able to say is, "They talk about Jesus a lot."
"What else do they do?"
"They love people and care and help, but they talk about Jesus a lot."
"Okay, what else?"
"You know, just that." They could bring nothing else against them.
6._ The critical. It was going to be the _confused opposition, but I kept the critical. These people are confused. Why? Because all of our critics are confused. Every person who opposes the gospel is confused. Why? Because it's the greatest news the world has ever seen.
"Hey, there's a God. He's crazy about you. He has a kingdom. He has invited you in. It's very expensive to get there, but he has paid your way."
"You can't just tell me that."
"No, no. You don't understand. He's inviting you there. It's his kingdom. It's really costly to get there. It cost him his Son, but he did it for you. Would you like to go?"
"Pshh! You're so hateful."
"No, I'm not. No, I'm trying to tell you God has invited you to a party. It's the best party ever. It lasts forever, and you can go."
They're just confused. Why would someone reject this? Because they have a greater love. That's the only reason anyone rejects the gospel: they love something more than God. Here you see the contrast of the previous section, the converts who tore up $5 million worth of things, and Demetrius, who's saying, "What about our little shrines? What are we going to do?"
Monica and I were celebrating our anniversary, and we got on a plane. We were faithful, you'll be happy to know. I don't say this boastfully, but we had a lot of opportunities to share our faith on this trip, and God was faithful. People were responding. We got on that plane after talking to about eight different groups of people about Jesus, and I say that to say I was done. Now I needed to work.
I'm going to get on this plane. I've given myself complete and total permission to get on my laptop and totally check out, because I have to work. The person who's sitting beside Monica has to go sit somewhere else, so she changed seats with a lady who wasn't even supposed to be on that plane but had missed her flight because of a night of partying. I'm like, "Great. Monica can share the gospel with her. I'm good. I'm over here."
She wants to talk. She starts talking. She says she talks to dead people. She's a medium. I'm like, "God, why are you doing this to me?" She's a tarot card reader. She begins to tell her story. She doesn't like Christians. Her mom is a Christian. Christianity has some bad representatives. Her mother was one of them. Told her that she's going to hell. That's all she said, according to her.
We're talking. All right, fine. You got it. I'll do it. "Do you have a faith? Do you believe in a higher power?" We're talking about it, and she becomes angry because she's confused. "You just want me to go to church. That's right. Right? You just want me to go to church."
"No, it's not that I want you to go to church."
"Okay, fine. You want me to go home and read the Bible. I'll do it. Whatever. Okay. You sat next to me. I'll go home and read the Bible."
"I'm not really trying to get you just to go home and read the Bible."
"What do you want me to do, then?"
"I want you to be sure that Jesus is who you said he was: just a man. Just be sure of that."
"What? I don't understand."
"Just be sure that that one who time reset on 2,017 years ago on his birthday, the one who did all these works that have been documented in history, the single most polarizing character in the history of history, the one that millions gather now in his name… Just be sure he's just a man. Just be sure of that."
"I, I, I don't…I don't get what you're saying."
"I'm saying that God loves you."
"Fine. God loves me. Why would I worship God? Tell me that. Why would I worship God?"
"You told me you had a son, right?"
"Yeah, I love my son."
"What's his name?"
"Let's say I need a new heart. I have some heart issues. I need a new heart. Let's say Greg was a perfect match, and you came to me and told me that I could have Greg's heart."
"I would never say…"
"I know you wouldn't, but just humor me for a minute. You came to me and said, 'Hey, you can have my…'"
"No, I love Greg. I can't even entertain that thought. That's crazy."
"Just hang in there with me for a minute. Let's just say they put Greg, your son, on the operating table, and they take a saw to his sternum. They cut him open and pull out that organ, which means life for me, that I get to live. They get it out, and he's dead. You say, 'Here, you can have my son's heart,' and I say, 'Eh, you know what? I think I'm good. Go ahead and keep this heart. I'll stick with my broken heart.'"
"I wouldn't do…"
"I know you wouldn't, but let's just say."
"That's crazy! Who would give up their son? I just met you. Who would give up their son for someone they barely… I just wouldn't do that. That would be crazy."
"There, my friend, you see the love of God. Why would you worship? If I responded with anything but a life of gratitude to the notion that you saved me it would be crazy."
It's a good reminder, I'm confident, as you sit there. You reflect on the thing that's spinning through your mind. It's simply the gospel, that Christ gave his life for you, God gave his Son for you. You have to remember that every single day or else you just start going through the motions. If you start going through the motions, this place becomes a graveyard. It becomes a cemetery. It doesn't get passed to the next generation.
There are two groups of people here. We saw two groups of people today. We saw the committed, the cured, and the converted. I hope you're in that column. Then there is also this other group. We have the calloused, the counterfeit, and the critical. What I want you to know is it's really easy to go from column A to column B. It's really easy to drift… If you forsake your first love, which this church ends up doing… Go see it today. It's in ruins.
The most powerful, foundational, effective church of all time had forsaken its first love. You can go from the committed to the calloused. You can go from the cured to the counterfeit. You can go from the converted to the critical. All of a sudden, you start pointing out gaps instead of standing in them. You start crossing your arms like, "I get church. I get Christianity. I've been here for a while." You remember your first love.
Today, the first 100 members of Watermark who have been here and have never left but have just stayed here since the very beginning are gathered in Washington, DC, and what they're doing this morning is praying. They pulled out the prayer guide from 1999, the very first thing they prayed when they gathered the first time they gathered.
I went back and looked at the documents, and it was amazing how much it just said, "Pray, pray, pray. Hey, remember, when we gather together we pray. Hey, don't forget to pray for the thing we're going to gather to pray for next. Just pray. Pray, pray, pray." Today, 2017, we sit now in a place of 3,600 people with another campus in Fort Worth and a campus in Plano and midweek ministry happening and a lot of people being saved.
We are moving on the prayers of those who gathered in 1999, and we must not lose sight of the love for Jesus that this church was born out of or we will die with you. If everyone here loved Christ like you love Christ, would this be a healthy place? If everyone here shared their faith in the same way you share your faith, would this be a powerful movement of evangelism?
If everyone here shared their resources like you share your resources, would this be a generous church? If everyone here prayed like you pray, would this be an incredible revival of prayer? We have to go back to the things we did at first. Let me pray that we would.
God, would you help us? We need your help now after reading this chapter and this section in Revelation, that in just 50 years this powerful church lost its way. Father, may it not happen to us. We're asking you by the power of your Holy Spirit that's living and active with us, God, would you please stir in our hearts deep affections for you, as we lift the name of Jesus and hold it in high honor, God?
As we worship you, as we reflect on your sovereign nature and your mighty hand and incredible works, Lord, would you remind us of our first love and help us to do the things that we did in the beginning when we were on fire? God, light a fire in our hearts. Would you do that? In the name of Jesus, amen.