October 20, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
I’m going to test your eighties music knowledge base. Some of you may not get this reference, and for those of you who don’t, I apologize. In the late 1980’s, there was a band that came on the scene and exploded with success. Their name was Milli Vanilli. They sang the song Girl, You know It’s True, and it just took off. It was amazing! They sold six million copies of that record and won a Grammy.
Things were going great until November of 1990 when they were on the stage performing their hit song in front of thousands of people. When they get to the main line of the song, it repeats, repeats, and repeats. While it’s repeating, one of them just runs off of the stage. And that was the moment when everybody realized they were fakes.
Their real names were Rob and Fab. They were recruited as actors and models and did not sing a single one of their songs. They were lip-syncing all of them and made millions. They were just performers, and needless to say, their careers nose-dived when everyone realized they were just imposters and fakes. They were stripped of their Grammy, and sadly, their story ended when one of them had a drug overdose.
But why do I even tell you that story? It’s partly because I think eighties music needs to be remembered (some of it needs to be for gotten), but also, the idea of somebody posing as a fake or an impostor actually is the idea that comes up in our text today in Acts 19:18-20.
I. Intentional Disciple Making
We’re not going to see a lip-syncing, imposter musician. We’re actually going to see some prophets trying to pass themselves off as something they are not. But, before we get to that part, we need to understand the idea of intentional disciple making, beginning in verse 8, and let me make some observations from what I’ve learned from studying this passage. Perhaps the Lord wants to teach you some of the same lessons.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Now, if you’ve been with us on this journey through Acts, we previously made note of the fact that Paul was finally allowed to come to Ephesus. He had wanted to go to this area known as Asia, and two years prior, the Spirit told him, “No.” Now he’s given permission to come. He finds himself in Ephesus, and Paul truly is a pioneer in the Spirit, taking the Gospel to an unreached group of people.
Ephesus was known for its idolatry and its pagan culture. It was an evil, dark city, and Paul had the courage to take the Gospel there to this unreached people group. It reminds me, if we want to take this idea into a modern context, there is a map of the world that commonly in today’s Christian culture, is known as the 10/40 window. It’s a stretch of northern Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Approximately 5.1 billion people comprising 8,717 distinct people groups live in this area of the world. The reason we call it the 10/40 window is partly because of its longitude and latitude lines. But the concerning part of this is, of that population, 5,989 of those people groups are considered unreached. They make up over three billion people, and many of them have not heard about Jesus. There is an opportunity for us to go or to send missionaries to go and make sure they hear about Jesus.
There are unreached people around our world, but there are also unreached people in our city. I’ve told you stories before, but we need to be reminded that there are people, especially a generation of students, children growing up in Columbus, Georgia, who have not heard the name of Jesus, and we have the responsibility to go.
A. Consistent boldness
So, some observations that I want to pass on to you from this to help us be more intentional in our disciple making is what we learn from Paul in verse 8. One is a consistent boldness. Notice the consistency that we read of in verse eight of how he went into the synagogues for three months.
This wasn’t just a shotgun blast to throw some seed and see if it lands. He went over and over again for three months, proclaiming the truth of God and who He is. When we’re trying to be everyday missionaries who carry hope to the world, we need to understand that it requires consistent boldness over time and that consistency is beneficial.
I would say, if we just want to get really practical in today’s life, I think there’s an advantage to frequently going to the same gas station or to the same grocery store. If you follow a pattern, you run into the same people, and you can over time, begin to look for opportunities to have Gospel conversations and to broadcast the hope of the world through that consistency. Sometimes it’s consistency with your neighbor and the way you show love and are kind to him or her, looking for those opportunities to bring God up in conversation. You need consistency over time and that boldness to proclaim the Gospel.
B. Expect opposition
But in doing so, Paul recognized the same thing you and I should be prepared for. In verse nine, it shows that we should expect some opposition. Rejection will come, and we should expect it. Paul sees it here. In verse 9, we read, “But when some became stubborn…” This is the idea of their hearts growing more and more hard. Going all the way back in the Old Testament, think of the example of Pharaoh.
When Moses went and said, “Let my people go,” continually Pharaoh’s heart became more and more hardened with the truth. Here we see these people who are stubborn, hardening their hearts, and continuing in their unbelief. They heard the truth, and they chose to continue in their current path.
A commentator worded it this way: “The hardening of their minds against the reception of the truth was just as voluntary an action as one who shuts his eyes that he may not see the light.” Some of you may hear the message of the truth and reject it.
You say, “I hear the truth. I understand that’s important. But, I’m going to voluntarily choose to reject it and continue in my current path.” And the heart grows more and more hard. Just because you choose to close your eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It’s like when a bill comes in the mail and you don’t open it. You sit it on the counter because you don’t want to open it. You realize what’s going to be inside of it, and you play this trick with your mind (don’t act like you haven’t done this). I’m not going to open it because as long as I don’t see it, I don’t have to deal with it.
But, my choice to not look at it does not remove the fact that there is a payday that’s due. So, when I choose to harden my heart for the truth, it doesn’t remove the reality that there is a payday. Eternity has weight and consequences. So, if I hear the truth and choose to continue in my way, it’s as if I’m intentionally closing my eyes to the light. The word here used in verse nine is stubbornness.
C. Daily process
In verse ten, we see a daily process. Paul experiences rejection; this was not new to him. Antagonism was something he was accustomed to. So here, we see Paul as he faces opposition, rising to the challenge and turning it into a daily process. He takes those who believed and had chosen to follow Jesus, and he pulls them to the side.
We see in the text that he meets with them daily in that Hall of Tyrannus. This was likely a lecture hall named after a philosopher in this area, and what I want us to see is the daily process of intentional disciple making, taking those who do believe, and daily for two years, he invests in them. What intentionality! That’s amazing! He spends that time with them so that they understand who God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and how He wants to work in their lives, bless them, provide for them, grow them, and mature them.
I can’t help but ask myself (and I’ll pass this question on to you), who in your life are you intentionally and daily discipling? Moms and Dads, the number one answer for you had better be your kids. Every day, bringing up the name of Jesus, every day opening God’s Word, every day praying together. I’m intentionally discipling my children every day. Parents, that is your number one discipleship priority.
Grandparents, I know you want to sugar them up, butter them up, and send them on their way, but you have a responsibility to disciple those grandchildren. Talk to them about Jesus. Talk to them about God’s Word. Allow the experiences of your life and faith to be transferred to them by investing in that daily discipleship of intentionality.
Notice Paul’s length of time. This was not just a one-time conversation. He had two years of daily, intentional investment. Beyond family, maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s a neighbor. Maybe it’s a cousin or a family member or a friend you are intentionally investing time in. Intentionality means this doesn’t happen by accident; it is on purpose that I’m talking about Jesus.
It’s got to involve teaching someone not just to understand who God is, but what holy living looks like. It’s not just understanding the authority of God’s Word, but understanding how to study God’s Word, not just understanding why it’s important to pray, but how to pray and walking someone through that intentional discipleship process.
II. Imitation Faith
Here at Calvary, we use the tactical word, sending. This is the idea that you are being discipled and then sent to reproduce yourself in others. And that takes time. It’s a slow, patient process. In our first few Scripture verses, we see this intentional discipleship from Paul, and then we come to the Milli Vanilli moment where we see an imitation of faith. Let’s read verses 11-16.
11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Wow, what a story! Okay, an imitation faith. To understand that something is fake, I must have experienced what is real. When I’ve experienced what is real, I can compare and know what is an imitation.
When Hillary and I first got married and she knew I was going into ministry, we knew we would never be really well off. But, we made an important house rule very early on that there are three things we are never going to skimp on: shoes, toilet paper, and cheese.
Do you know why? It’s because those three things are really important in life. “Why cheese?” you say. Have you had fake cheese? When you have tasted the real deal and compare it to the imitations, you are like, “Oh, this is not good.” Who wants fake cheese? I can recognize that something is not right, because I can compare it to the real thing. That’s the idea.
So now, when we look at this text, we see that even the demons can understand the difference between what is real and what is fake. Let’s walk through these verses and make a couple of observations.
A. Signs and Wonders
Before we get to the fake part, we’ve got to deal with verses 11 and 12 when Paul is being used by God to perform miraculous signs and wonders. It’s amazing! Did you read in the text how stuff that had just touched his skin was being taken to others and miracles were happening? This is unbelievable!
Jesus told his disciples in Mark 16:17, “In my name, you will drive out demons.”They were given this authority in the name of Jesus to do things that appeared to be miraculous. God’s providence did this so that He might help those who had never heard His name, who had never been exposed to the Gospel and had never read Scripture to be able to understand who He was.
Can God still work in extraordinary miracles today? Yes. The answer is yes, He can. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change. Therefore you, oh children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Is God capable of performing signs and wonders? Yes, He is.
However, we have to be careful. Let me let me explain the positive and then the warning sign. I have heard stories and have even seen with my own eyes in India, where there are people who have not heard the Gospel. They have not been exposed to the truth of the Gospel, and the Lord will use signs and wonders to grab their attention because they are unreached people. He will grab their attention, and they’ll see God work in a miraculous way, which opens their eyes to walk toward truth.
So yes, it happens. If you go to India today, there are Acts-kind-of things happening there, because God still works that way. But, for you and me, we’ve heard the truth. We’ve got the Scripture. So, the warning is that you and I should be very guarded and careful that we don’t have some dependency on a sign or wonder, needing God to work miracles.
I’ve got it. I know it. I can read it and understand it. So, it’s dangerous to ask for signs and wonders. In fact, Paul, even warns of this in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23. Paul said, “Jews demand signs. Greeks seek wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, the power of God.” Romans 1:16 says, “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The Word of the cross is the power to God.”
Jesus warned in Matthew 12 that an evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign. So, can God work signs and wonders? Sure, because He doesn’t change. Does He still do it, and do we see it commonly in these unreached people? Yes. But, for you and me, we need to understand that we don’t need to seek that. It’s not something we should search out because the power of God, Christ crucified, and the reality of Scripture is here for me to see. Do you see the difference?
I hope you understand that, and unfortunately we live in a monopolizing world where so many church leaders have abused this over time and leveraged it just to simply make some money. But here, we see the same thing happening. So there are some extortioners, some entrepreneurs, or some traveling itinerant Jewish prophets, and they see what Paul is doing.
Maybe in their minds, they are thinking, I can make a quick buck here, and they began to exercise a substitute faith. These strolling Jewish exorcists that we see in verse 13, were just going out to make money (I’ll put it that way). The sons of Sceva were likely some of that same group a few verses earlier who had hardened their hearts and rejected the truth.
Instead, they were looking for a way that they could make a quick buck, and they began to step out into spiritual warfare on the faith of someone else. We see where it gets them.
B. Substitute Faith
Here’s what you need to understand. You cannot fight a spiritual battle on your own strength, because if you mess with fire, you will get burned, and you cannot live on borrowed faith. You cannot live on the faith of someone else. You can’t borrow the confidence, the courage, and the boldness of your mama’s, your grandmother’s, or your wife’s faith. You have to have faith in the risen Lord. You can’t borrow this.
The power of the resurrection needs to be real in your life. Have you confessed to the Lord? We see this idea in the story played out in Matthew 25:1-12. It’s the story of the 10 virgins. Remember how the story goes? There were 10 virgins, and at midnight, they all had their lamps. They were waiting on the bridegroom to come. For five of them, their oil started to run low, and they looked to the other five who had plenty, saying, “Could we borrow some of your faith? Could we borrow some of your oil?”
They said, “No, I can’t give you mine, because I’ve got to be ready for the bridegroom. And so the five of them leave to go get some reserve oil. In their absence, the bridegroom comes, and the five are left behind. Our faith must be our own through Jesus Christ, and it cannot be borrowed. This is such an important lesson.
You can’t live on borrowed faith
If you are a child or student, you can’t live on your mom and dad’s faith. It’s got to be your own. Maybe you are a husband, and you come to church because your wife drags you. You can’t borrow her faith, either. It’s your faith that you must rely on, faith in the risen savior.
III. Increased Faith
As people observe what happens here, there is an interesting response as this imitation faith becomes an increased faith in others. Let’s read verses 17-20.
17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
When God moves and works, other people notice. The Word began to spread, and fear began to fall in people. I’m sure the Word began to spread of the three months that Paul spent proclaiming the truth. I’m sure the Word began to spread of the two years of him intentionally discipling. Certainly the Word spread of the Sons of Sceva and how this imitation faith backfired on them.
But here in their response, they don’t run; they fall to their knees. They don’t hide; they confess and turn to Christ. It’s amazing that we see that they counted the magic arts books, and they were worth 50,000 pieces of silver. As best we can understand with ancient currency translated into ours, most people compare this to be approximately the value of 5.5 million dollars worth of magic arts books. This is unbelievable!
Here’s what we need to understand: Here in this text, we see an outward expression of true inward repentance. These people were responding from fear of the Lord and that moved them to an action of repentance to say, “Hey, this part of what I’ve been living off of and putting my trust in, I can’t trust that anymore. I need to separate myself from it.”
That’s a statement and action of true repentance. What I need you to understand today is that true repentance sometimes will cost us things that are temporary in exchange for what is eternal. See, all of these magicians or connivers, who burned their stuff are now people who have that testimony. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Those of you who interact with people and somebody has told their faith story, you might have heard something like, “I was a drug dealer, and I killed 14 people. And then I was on my way to shoot somebody else when there was a bright light, and then…” You know these crazy stories that some people have where we are wowed and mesmerized by this dramatic life change and it’s true-life things that happen. Sometimes we say that those people have that testimony of dramatic change, and that’s something to celebrate.
But, don’t devalue it if you don’t have that testimony. If you don’t have that testimony, it doesn’t mean your faith is any less valuable. It’s still part of your story. But here in the text, we see a dramatic change.
This is that testimony, this dramatic life change that comes from true repentance. But we must notice that their true repentance was moved by the majesty of God and not by self-imposed guilt or guilt imposed by someone else. They were overwhelmed with the presence of the Lord. They were overcome with fear of the Lord, and they began to move.
It reminds me…I have a confession. I grew up in a (I’m going to be careful how I say this because I may have friends and family who will watch this on YouTube later) we’ll call it an independent, legalistic, fundamentalist church. That’s soft enough, but true. There were very strict and rigid rules that I grew up with. So, my Milli Vanilli tapes, along with Bobby Brown and Paula Abdul, were hiding under my bed.
I’d go to a service, and some preacher would come to chapel and preach this guilt gospel. And so, I would go burn my tapes (and some of you are stuck on the fact that I said tapes). Yes, it was the eighties. I would burn my tapes.
But, because that wasn’t true repentance and it was imposed from someone else, the next week I would go back to Turtles, which was our record store in Atlanta, and I would re-buy Milli Vanilli, Paul Abdul, and Bobby Brown tapes and hide them back under my bed, because I wasn’t really changing. I was just responding to an emotion that someone else imposed on me.
True repentance is moved and motivated by the majesty of God. In verse 17, it was the fear of the Lord that moved them to change. So, I should work to please God and not people, because the bottom line is this: Genuine confession results when we fear God more than when we fear man.
Genuine confession results when we fear God more than man
So, what begins to happen? These people are responding to what God told them to do (not what a man told them to do). They are being moved and motivated by fear and understanding the majesty of God. In verse 20, they mightily grew in the Word of God. People were responding to Truth. People were responding to Scripture. People were responding to the Spirit of God, and others took notice.
The world is watching to see the sincerity of your faith. Now, I do not have a fire pit set out front for when you leave, to throw your phones in the fire. That’s not what we’re doing. I’m not trying to move you toward some extreme movement. I’m just simply trying to help us understand that we must listen and respond to what the Lord is calling us to do and confess to Him. True repentance, true confession is a response to the Spirit of God and not a man.
- I confess that God has opened my eyes to see my need to follow Him.
- I repent of sin habits that are infecting my relationship with God and others.
- I commit to build disciple-making relationships for the long haul.
- Acts 19:8-10 describes disciple making as a long-term commitment. What should this look like in your life, and whom are you investing in daily to see them mature in Christ?
- Matthew 25:1-12 tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins waiting on their wedding processional. Read that parable and discuss its implications on borrowed faith. Why is it easier to try and live off of borrowed faith?
- You’ve heard it said that “confession is good for the soul”. In Acts 19:20, we read of the impact on the advance of the Gospel when people believed and confessed their sin. What does biblical confession look like, and how does it impact the church?