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Tearing Down the Temples of Hell

Acts 19:8-27

 

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Paul stayed in Ephesus for 3 full years…not his normal pattern.  There was much work to be done there, and w/ a pop. of 300,000 people, it was the capital of the Roman province of Asia.

 

1.     Paul’s opportunity

I Cor. 16:8-9

    But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. [9] For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

 

That door is a door of opportunity…he had a tremendous chance that he couldn’t pass up.  And we have such an opportunity here in our city. 

 

Ephesus was a city of great wickedness, and the people had morals like animals.  It was a place of spiritual darkness, and Paul brought them the glorious light of the gospel.

        Paul saw this place of darkness as a place of opportunity, because he had the opposite philosophy of many of us here today…

…Christians today don’t want to be in a dark place…they look for the nearest exit, wanting only to be in the well lit areas.  “There’s so many lost people where I work…I’ve got to get out of there!” 

        Did it ever occur to you that’s why God put you there…because it’s a dark place?  The Bible says that you are the light of the world…what better place to put a light than in a dark room.

        If light bulbs could talk:  “put me anyplace but in a dark room”.  I would say to that light bulb, “then what value are you?  What purpose can you serve?”

 

Now, we shouldn’t want to go to places that will drag us down, or seek out places where we will be tempted, but God doesn’t want us to be hermits, either…we are to be IN the world, just not OF it.  And God has placed us right at the door…a door of opportunity.  Question is:  will we walk thru it?

 

The darker the room, the more our light will be seen.  Your light doesn’t stand out here in this auditorium, filled with other lights…but at your workplace, just walk thru that door and you can be a heavenly beam that all eyes will focus on, seeing the light in your eyes and wanting to step into that light themselves!

 

Paul wanted to stay until Pentecost.  Why?  Because at that time…around May…was the Artemesian Games.  And the whole Roman Empire would be coming to town.  He saw it as an opportunity.  Now I don’t like crowds too much, but I should!

 

Ill.—Ron Reilly’s Daytona Beach witnessing project.  They go to a dark place and their light shines and they see hundreds saved each spring break!

 

v. 10        Look at what happened in just 2 years time.  Every single person heard the Word.  Not all got saved, but all had the opportunity…because Paul saw a door of opportunity and walked thru it!

 

2.     Paul’s opposition

Remember the verse we just looked at?

I Cor. 16: 9

    For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.  [obstacles/opposition]

 

This was a wicked city…so would it surprise you if I said it was a very religious city?  It shouldn’t…for religion is one of the main tools in the devil’s shed!

 

Paul had to deal with at least 3 kinds of religion in that region:

·       Inadequate religion

v. 8          Paul always took the gospel to the Jews first.  For 3 months in their synagogue he showed them that their religion was inadequate.  Their OT teachings had a purpose…to point them to their coming Messiah…but he had come, Jesus Christ, and they had missed Him…they had rejected Him…they had killed Him!

 

Their religion was just an empty shell…a hull w/ no kernel of reality inside.  Don’t ask people if they’ve found religion, ask them if they’ve found Jesus!

 

And all over our city people are steeped in religion that’s inadequate.  On the outside they may dress fancy and look proper, but inside are dead men’s bones and the meat of the gospel has never grown there.  They are social clubs and promote being good people and basically, they are making the world a better place to go to hell from!  That’s inadequate!

 

Paul said, don’t be satisfied with empty ritual when you can have a vital, thriving relationship w/ the Son of God, Jesus Christ!

        Some got saved, most did not, and after 3 months they kicked him out of the synagogue.

v. 9          Paul now moved his base of operations from the synagogue to the schoolroom.  This was a well-known school and evidently they rented it in the off hours.

 

So, he first dealt with inadequate religion…

 

·       Imitation religion

v. 11-12           This was not the norm and not intended for us to try to duplicate today.  Throughout the book of Acts God did special miracles at special times to validate the truth.

 

Paul was a tentmaker in a hot climate.  His clothes would be sweaty.  He would wipe his brow w/ handkerchiefs.  And they noticed that if the sick or possessed came into contact w/ such they would be healed.

 

Listen now:  I believe God was rebuking the pagan religion of that day.  These pagans were well known for their emphasis on clean, white garments.  They used them in their rituals…and all had to be prim and proper, and sparkling white.  I believe God was saying, your dead religion can’t accomplish anything, and your pristine white garments are powerless, but I can do miracles using old sweat rags!

 

What a great God we serve.  These were temples of hell, thriving in that city, and the tentacles of demonic religion reached into every home.  So, God gave this sign thru these special miracles.

 

Here’s the imitation…

v. 13

v. 15        They were imitators, but not the real thing themselves.

        And these were not the last people to try to imitate Paul.  Just turn on today’s Christian television…and for a price you can get a nice prayer cloth, or bottle of miracle spring water prayed over by the guy on the screen.

 

“put your hand on the TV and feel the power!”

[makes me want to put my fist thru the tv and really feel it!]

 

Christians, let me remind you that when you got saved, God did not eradicate your brain!  He wants you to continue to use it!

 

v. 15-16           Pretend Christians beware!  Haphazard, carnal believers should not expect to get away with trying to ACT like they are right with God.  You need to be the real thing to accomplish real things.  Satan is not afraid of me or you, or anyone but God, so we must be filled with the Spirit…is He in you?

 

If this attempted exorcism had succeeded, it would have belittled the name of Christ…but it rather magnified His name!

 

v. 17        you can fool all the people some of the time

                you can fool some people all the time

                but you can’t fool all the people all the time!

People know the real thing when they see it.

 

v. 18-19           Some of the ones who had truly been saved hadn’t yet made the clean break with the world that God wants His children to make.  Apparently, some of them still had their Ouija boards, tarot cards, and their Harry Potter books!  [if you let your kids read that stuff you’ve got rooms for rent!]

 

These new believers saw this demon attack on the counterfeit Christians and they got under conviction and began to deal w/ the sin they were holding onto in their lives.

 

When Jesus is magnified, sin gets dealt with.  Isaiah saw Christ in His glory and said, woe is me, I’m unclean.

 

New believers:  God wants to change you.  He wants you to give up some of the old things for Him, and make sure and replace them with some new things.  There was a book burning in Acts 19, and I’ve hosted a couple of bonfires myself thru the years where tapes and CD’s, books and other items were thrown in…things of value, too!

        When they added up what it was all worth, it was 50k pieces of silver, which is equal to 1 year’s wages for 150 men!

 

Some of you may need to go home and pour something out, throw something out, flush something down!  Some of you may need to get your home in order, get a handle on some things, or get married.  Don’t look at the cost…it’s called sacrifice…telling God He’s worthy of it, and recognizing that HE paid the real price for you!

 

Something else now:  it’s interesting that the demons of hell knew Paul.  Do they know you?  Are they threatened by your witness?  I’d like to think that the forces of evil and Satan himself know the name Grace Baptist Church, and pay attention to what we’re doing here, or at least visit our website!  Seriously, do they know you, or are you any threat at all?

 

Paul had to deal w/ inadequate religion, imitation religion…

 

·       Idolatrous religion

Ephesus had a magnificent temple to Diana.

v. 26-28, 34-35       Who is this Diana?  She was the goddess of fertility in the Greek culture.  Sex was the center of their worship.  This was the biggest religion, and her temple was one of the 7 wonders of that world…yes, sex sells!  But it was a pagan cult…idolatry of the worst kind.  Hundreds of priestesses were available for a price.  It was prostitution in the name of worship!  This may have been a temple, but it was a temple of hell.

 

That brings us to our final point…we’ve seen Paul’s opportunity and opposition, now…

 

3.     Paul’s overcoming

v. 23-26           Paul’s teaching in the school of Tyrannus…what we would call a storefront church.  And down the street you’ve got this great temple of Diana, which took 220 years to be built, with 100 huge columns stretching up to the sky!

 

Imagine you’re walking down the street in Ephesus and I told you, “see that little Baptist church over there…a guy named Paul is the Pastor.  Well, he’s gonna be responsible for bringing to naught the religion of Diana.”  You’d say, you’re crazy, that’ll never happen.”

        But that’s just what God did thru Paul.

 

Paul got them saved and they didn’t need Diana anymore.  And a guy named Demetrius and his cohorts had been making a fortune off of selling statues of Diana, but sales were dropping fast!  They weren’t worried about losing their religion, but their money!

 

Joke:  letter from a father to his daughter’s ex-fiancé:

“Dear Tony, I have been unable to sleep since I broke off your engagement to my daughter.  Will you forgive and forget?  I was much too sensitive about your Mohawk, tattoos, and pierced nose.  I now realize that motorcycles aren’t that dangerous, and I really shouldn’t have reacted the way I did to the fact that you have no job.  I’m sure that there are many very nice people who also live under a bridge in the park.  Sure, she’s only 18, and she could go to Harvard on a full ride scholarship, but she wants to marry you!  But you can’t learn everything about life just from books.  I sometimes forget how backward I can be.  I was wrong, I was a fool…but I have come to my senses, and you can have my full blessing to marry my daughter.  Sincerely, your future father-in-law.  P.S.:  Congratulations on winning this week’s lottery!”

 

This world revolves around the almighty dollar.  What would you sell your convictions for?

 

Ill.—recent survey asked people what they’d do for 10 million dollars:

25% of men said they’d leave wife and family.  [you’re thinking, “I’d do it for a lot less!”]

23% of women said they’d be a prostitute for 1 week.

3% said they would put their children up for adoption!

 

Paul here is putting the devil out of business.  He didn’t organize a march or a demonstration, or just merely preach about it to the church…no, he got busy winning lost souls and they stopped going to those places!

 

History records that shortly after Paul’s departure from Ephesus the temple of Diana burned down.  And it was never rebuilt, due to lack of interested followers!  But the church of Jesus Christ lives on!  The power of the gospel will tear down the temples of hell…even in our area.

 

We hope to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but do you know a better way of preventing abortion?  By winning young ladies to the Lord! 

 

Last century alcohol was prohibited for a time, but much more effective a solution is seeing alcoholics come to know Jesus as their Savior! 

 

We have a major drug problem in our town, but here’s a solution, win users to Jesus, and watch them win others.

 

There’s an open door…will you walk thru it?  We have many opportunities…and sure, there are many obstacles, but we can be over comers in Jesus’ name, and tear down the temples of hell!

 

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