Gospel Impact On Cities - CLICK HERE TO READ
Read Acts 19:1-20. The gospel makes its greatest impact in cities. Among the New Testament cities, Corinth was a commercial centre and Athens was great for learning and philosophy. Ephesus was the political capital of Roman Asia but also the main religious and demonic capital of the Greco-Roman world. Diana (also known as Artemis) was a fertility and mother goddess. Diana had a statue with many breasts and a massive temple which was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, serving as headquarters for magic. One of the main businesses in the city was making idols/demonic fetishes people used at home. The city of Ephesus was full of occult practices, sorcerers (sangomas), muti, and magic spells which people sold - known as the Ephesian letters.
Ephesus became Paul's third base church after Antioch and Corinth and he was there almost three years preaching the whole counsel of God, and eventually the whole of Asia heard the word of God (v10). Ephesus becomes a key centre to reach the nations for God. In Acts 19 Paul starts with a group of 12 disciples, then moves to the Jewish synagogue, then to a Gentile lecture hall dealing with the sangomas, then to the marketplace. How:
- God comes down.
- The truth goes out.
- Paul gives leadership.
- Disciples are raised.
1. God came down
The power of God breaks out in an extraordinary way to pull down and discredit the powers and principalities and idols that have blinded the people of the city. The gospel begin to invade Diana's territory and we see this clash of kingdoms as the light of the gospel and the power of God uproot and dislodge the demonic strongholds in the city:
- In the Synagogue - religious arena.
- In people's personal lives - personal arena.
- In the marketplace - commercial world
- Among the masses - public arena.
Paul tackles these demons by:
- preaching the gospel
- planting Churches
- moving in healing and miracles
NOT by focusing on demons. Paul settles the baptism of the Spirit as a first priority in the life of these 12 disciples. They were saved but need power. He asks “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” (He would not have asked this if Christians always receive the Spirit when they believe.)
2. The truth goes out - Christ is preached and people are saved.
2.1 Paul is committed to the truth and preaches the whole counsel of God for three months in the synagogue and two years at the Hall of Tyrannus.
2.2 He was not a traditionalist and did not let their synagogue traditions change his message.
2.3 The whole province of Asia was intensely evangelised and taught.
3. Paul took leadership.
1 Cor 16:13 ‘Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong'.
Here we have one of the clearest examples of formalised leadership and church planting training in the New Testament. Paul stood up and did what he was gifted and graced to do in the city, he laid a foundation as an apostle and master builder.
3.1 he found disciples, spoke to them, baptised them, laid hands on them.
3.2 he persevered
3.3 he withdrew
3.4 he organized the Hall of Tyrannus
3.5 he taught on-time and consistently, he sweated in the workplace, he worked hard and supported himself.
4. Paul raised disciples.
He didn't just lay foundations. Discipleship is first and foremost about following Jesus and being accountable to God. A Christ follower. Jesus is Lord, not only my Saviour.
Discipleship is about obeying all that Jesus taught us in Matthew 28:18-20 and building three key relationships:
- first with God (follow him),
- then with nonbelievers (fish),
- finally with God's people (Fellowship).
Unfortunately preaching alone is not enough because many people's lives are so fragmented that they don't know how or where to apply biblical teaching in areas of: Obedience, mission and evangelism, fathering, relationships, sex, money, power, work, parenting, leadership, making decisions, taking responsibility, how to treat women, etc. Let's look at the unusual way that discipleship happened at Ephesus.
Notice there was a power encounter with the sons of Sceva, wandering Jewish magic practitioners (v13-17). Their efforts to cast out a demon backfire and they get beaten up by the demon; everyone hears about this and realises the power of the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is not magic - we have to be in a right relationship with God Mat 7:22.
So what is magic and why do people use it? Magic (such as muti and sangoma activities) gives you power and control over people and events in your life. The power of magic, spells and muti is demonic and also lies in its secrecy and if you share it with others, you lose its power.
Our Worldview & Biblical Worldview
Our worldview explains things, helps us to evaluate things, and justify our thinking. It is formed from when we are born, from our culture and context, our parents, teachers, authority figures, church, views of God, life experiences, our position in society, our idols, demonic influences, modern or postmodern approach etc. We form ideas about life, what is real or not real, true or false, our beliefs and values, our self-identity, meaning and purpose in life and we make choices and set goals based on this grid of reality using these inner lenses. And we also in turn influence our culture and context.
In the West sickness is cured by medicine. In Africa ancestors and spirits can also cause sickness and disaster. So if I am really sick I go to the hospital and the sangoma. And in my village the chief is the head of the tribe and the sangoma is the priest who mediates between the living and the dead and will tell me what sacrifice to make to appease the ancestors.
But in Christ all that has changed! I am now in Christ first. In God's family first. My ancestors are listed in Hebrews 11 and I need a biblical worldview first. The worldview at Ephesus is very close to an African worldview of the spirit world influencing this world. Western worldview is spiritual but also very materialistic and rationalistic (seeing is believing).
Becoming a Christian means I take off my pagan, cultural, demonic thinking and I put Christ on. The gospel confronts the basic ideologies of this world and being a Christ follower means I put Jesus first in every area of my life. Howard Marshall: 'Christians are not fully converted or perfected in an instant, and pagan ways of thinking can persist alongside genuine Christian experience, the history of the church in Corinth shows that Christians took some time to be persuaded that sexual immorality and Idol worship were ultimately incompatible with Christian faith. Sooner or later there must come a point when believers realise the need to confess the sinfulness of their practices, and if it is possible to go further and remove the cause of the temptation, so much the better'.
Avoid getting secularized and compromised by the surrounding culture:
- Be aware of your worldview.
- Allow the gospel to renew your mind
- Ask God to give you a supernatural biblical worldview of life.
God was shaking the believers in Acts 19 free from some bad cultural and demonic ways of thinking. There was a crisis in the town with this event and they had to make some choices. A spiritual battle to break free from the old. Eph 6:10 - 20.
Notice in Acts 19:18-20 that they were already believers, but after this crisis encounter they opened up and confess their secrets and then the word of God spread rapidly.
In Ephesus these people radically broke away not only from sin, but from anything that was associated with past sin. They destroyed the idols. They revealed the secret and closed the door/window on their past. They opened up to God and closed the door on the devil.
Jesus uses the analogy about Satan and demons about a house. Mark Driscoll builds on that: “So let’s look at your life and your body like a house, you live in it. Now what happens to your house if you leave all the windows open, all the doors open and you invite all the wrong people over? They move in, they trash the place, they do horrible things, they torment you, they destroy your house. Christians, not possessed by Satan, but through unrepentant habitual sin, stupidity and spirituality, can open the doors and windows and allow people and things into your life that you need to repent of, kick out with the authority of Jesus, lock the door, shut the windows, be filled with the Holy Spirit and keep your house clean.”
Extract from Craig Botha’s City Taking Tool Kit preaching notes. 23 September 2012. Download the sermon.