Lift Jesus Higher

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Acts 19:17

It’s not often that you read about Jesus being held in high honor among non-Believers. That honor lasts as long as governing officials don’t find out about it. People obviously saw a power greater than the power of evil.

It’s happening all over the world even as I write this. We may not see it in the West, but it’s happening. It goes something like this.

  1. Something miraculous happens.
  2. Word gets out.
  3. People flock to see what’s happening.
  4. People then ask questions.
  5. Believers explain what’s happening.
  6. Government officials find out about it.
  7. Believers may now be in prison for embarrassing the officials.
  8. What comes next is crucial: the onlookers (mostly Unbelievers) question why the government would beat and throw such people in prison.
  9. The onlookers are not satisfied until they find out the truth.

The countries may vary and some of the details change a bit, but it’s a cycle that few in the West have ever heard about or witnessed firsthand.

We still have the opportunity to “lift Jesus higher” wherever we are.

  • how we drive
  • how we treat wait staff
  • how we complain (or don’t)
  • how we treat strangers

These are not earth-shattering or miraculous activities. Anything you can do to get people asking you, “I want what you have; how do I get it?” is worth the time and effort to do.

With Urgency

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.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 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. Acts 19:13-16

People (well-meaning Christians) often get the impression that evil spirits are weak and powerless. Granted, compared to the power of Christ those spirits are weak and powerless but without Christ’s power, they are not to be trifled with. This is a perfect example of what they can do.

This is also a vivid reminder of why Believers should never dabble into ouija boards, tarot cards, seances, black magic, and fortune-telling. When a Believer begins testing the waters of that kind of darkness, he is asking for serious trouble. It’s a curiosity that is never satisfied, and often ends in deep pain and torment. The devil is never satisfied with just a little bit of a person’s soul.

Perhaps you or someone you know has started to dabble in these extra-biblical practices. Do whatever it takes to get them out. Pray hard that they will return to the Light. The power of Christ is mightier than any of these powers.

With Blessings Come Responsibilities

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 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. Acts 19:11-12

With so much blessing also came responsibility and opportunities to become prideful.

What does pride look like in this kind of situation? Well, we see it all over the television airwaves, that some evangelist has some supernatural power that everyone else wants. Then he sends the offering plate around after it’s been “proven” that he has that ability. Pride. Conceit. Being adored and followed by the masses because you’re such a “servant” of God.

Of course we know that in some of Paul’s other teaching, the Lord put a “thorn in his flesh” to keep him from becoming proud (2 Corinthians 12). He also made Paul earn his own living so he wouldn’t be a burden on others.

Just remember that with great blessing comes great responsibility. This not only applies to His supernatural giftings, but to everyday blessings as well.

Opening That Stubborn Pickle Jar

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 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. Acts 19:8-10

It’s well known that Paul faced opposition wherever he went. For many people, such opposition would be discouraging. You pour out your heart, and people are still unconvinced of the truth. There’s no way around that.

Missionaries in foreign lands, and especially in “closed” countries face this type of opposition regularly. Often they have to remain low key in order to stay in the country. When they begin to see a harvest of converts, both missionaries and Believers must remain “under the radar” so they do not attract the attention of government officials.

These missionaries face discouragement daily. They don’t see the fruit of their labors but it’s like opening a spaghetti or pickle jar. You twist and twist, but the manufacturers made sure it was very tight. You work at it, run hot water over it, tap it with something but still nothing. It won’t budge. Then you hand it someone else to help you with it. What happens? They open it on the first try.

Missionary work in closed countries is like that. No fruit despite countless hours of ministry and work. Still nothing. That family leaves the field, and another takes their place. Then the harvest begins.

Continue to pray for workers from around the world to be raised up to go to the unreached peoples of the world. Pray also that those serving in the difficult fields will find encouragement daily as they live their lives for Christ.

What Power!

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 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.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

7 There were about twelve men in all. Acts 19:1-7

One of the teaching Paul had to address multiple times was that of the Holy Spirit. Many disciples knew about John’s teaching of repentance, but the Holy Spirit was a new concept to them.

Many today regard the Holy Spirit as “just” the third person of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They do not realize the power that Christians have when the Holy Spirit enters their life. Even well-meaning Christians don’t enjoy the gifts and benefits the Holy Spirit freely gives:

  • Power to live a holy and sanctified life
  • Daily encouragement
  • Daily strength
  • Boldness and courage

Thousands of very books have been written about the Holy Spirit in the world and in the life of the Believer. The Holy Spirit lives in each person who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What Christians “do” with that free gift is entirely up to them.

If we only realized every morning that Almighty God is living inside us, that would revolutionize our thoughts, words, and actions.

Train Up Apollos in the Way He Should Go

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. Acts 18:24-28

Apollos seemed to be a great student of the law and of Jesus. He had most of the Gospel right, and Priscilla and Aquila gave him the rest.

Then armed with the full Gospel of God, he was unstoppable.

All of these great men and women of the faith were exceptional at a few things. Then the Holy Spirit used their skills, talents, passions, and desires to achieve His purposes.

The Holy Spirit still uses us and whatever talents and passions we bring to the table.

Never forget that despite the obstacles and barriers you now face, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

Ask Him to use your giftings more, and He will.

The Tedious Task of Discipleship

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Acts 18:23

Sometimes the “boring” part of the ministry is settling down and getting into the trenches with the people who need it the most. Everyone sees the evangelist and the throngs who come to hear him speak, but those who are tasked and gifted with discipling, those masses often get overlooked and neglected. But God sees them, and they’re just as valuable as those more vocal.

  • He sees the second grade Sunday School teacher week after week when there’s no real “fruit” to her labors.
  • He sees the kitchen workers who work tirelessly during the semi-annual pot luck.
  • He sees the local businessman who takes time from work each summer to lend a hand at Vacation Bible School.

All are disciples who strengthen others but who also need strength.

If you know any of the above workers, be sure to write them a note to let them know how much you appreciate their dedication.

Reaping the Harvest

19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. Acts 18:19-22

Those in the synagogues wanted Paul to spend more time with them. Why? Probably because he spoke with authority about a man who had changed his life. They were as Jesus said while He was still on earth, “sheep without a shepherd.” They needed guidance and instruction. Some of them were Believers; many were seekers. It’s a nice problem to have if you’re an itinerant evangelist.

The Holy Spirit was moving, not just where Paul was, but throughout the region. People were praying; seeds were being planted (and had been planted long long ago), and Paul was just helping to bring in the harvest.

Times are different. The Gospel is still the same. The fields are still “white unto harvest,” as Jesus said (John 4:35), but the reaping is limited.

These are confusing times. Still, many people are seeking God. They act that out in different ways, but they still seek Him.

Lord, we know these people exist, so we ask that you would lead us to the people who are hungry for you. Give us words during those times.

Amen.

Vows

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. Acts 18:18

Why is Paul’s haircut a detail in the Book of Acts? Because he took a vow.

Why are vows important? It seems obvious but vows are promises made. Presumably it was a vow to God.

Proverbs in the Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament tell us about the importance of keeping vows. More precisely those verses warn us about being careful to know what we’re vowing before making a vow (Proverbs 20:25, Ecclesiastes 5:4, Matthew 5:34-47). It’s certainly a sound practice in life.

The practical application to this is simple: be extra careful about making promises to the Lord.