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The Light Shines On Idols Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
October 17, 2022 1:00 am

The Light Shines On Idols Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 17, 2022 1:00 am

The Gospel is controversial, impacting even culture and business. The early church at Ephesus stood against worshiping the goddess Artemis, which affected the city’s silversmith business. In this message, we assess how the Ephesian church was founded and developed. What happens if idolatry destroys a church’s first love? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Ephesus had silversmiths who sold shrines to the goddess Artemis. When Paul came with the Gospel, business dropped like a rock, and soon Paul found himself in a riot. Today, the Gospel impacts culture and trade, and things get real hot, real fast. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, the Ephesian crowd was upset because their income was threatened by Paul's preaching.

Does the same conflict exist today? It really does, Dave, perhaps in a different way, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ always runs contrary to popular culture. But you know, I want to go back to your intro and talk about idolatry. If I were to ask all those who are listening today, what are the American idols?

I wonder how you'd answer. You know, I think we're living in a culture where we have idolized the self, the triumph of the self. And that's what has led us into a great deal of difficulty. And of course, as part of that, you have the triumph of sexuality in our culture, which in many respects is seen as the highest good. That is idolatry. And in the book of Ezekiel, we read that they have set up idols in their hearts.

And I need to say very quickly that idols always break the heart of their worshippers. These are the kinds of things I emphasize in my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. And for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you this contact info again. For now, let us listen to God's word and the impact of the gospel on culture. Today I'm going to preach an unusual message in the sense that it's going to cover an awful lot of territory. And we don't have a lot of time to cover territory, but we're going to do it.

And it will be like flying over in a jet plane and watching the terrain below. What I decided to do is to finally give you a message devoted to the question of what it is that we saw as we visited the seven churches of Asia Minor, which are referred to in the book of Revelation, Jesus dictating a letter to John written to the seven churches. We visited all of them. And last time I mentioned some things, and I'll be repeating a few of those things.

It's not because I'm losing it. It's because as we get to the end of the message, I just want to kind of lay it all out on the table. But first of all, to get into it, I want to talk about the Acts chapter 19, where you have the story of the beginning of the church of Ephesus. Ephesus, Acts chapter 19, is today a big city. And to give you an idea, one of the things that we learned was how far the Apostle Paul had to travel.

It was truly remarkable. For example, we were on a ship and we were going from Philippi to Ephesus. And it took an entire night, another entire 24-hour day, and we got there the next day, going about 15 miles an hour, one of the directors of the ship told me. So the Apostle Paul really had much travel in his agenda, but he comes to Ephesus. And today, the ancient city of Ephesus is primarily ruins, ruins of temples, ruins of shops. The city is one that is very, very interesting, and you have to walk maybe even a mile, a mile worth of ruins. Well, what we're going to talk about today is how the church was founded, what Jesus had to say to the church, and then we're going to say some other things, and then we'll get into the lessons.

That's the agenda for the next 30 minutes or so. First of all, the way in which the church was founded. Very briefly, we notice in Acts chapter 19 that there are four different responses to the gospel. Four different responses to the gospel. It says in verse 8, he entered into the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the way, that was an expression for the Christian faith.

They called it the way. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Paul withdrew from them and took the disciples and reasoned daily in the hall of Tyrannus.

We don't know where that hall is today, but this continued for two years. And because of the people who received Christ and they told others, the Bible says all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. But one response is to reject the gospel.

And you'll notice it says some became hardened and stubborn. And Paul says because of that, he says, we went out and we went and we lectured at this lecture hall rather than in the synagogue. Some believed and some didn't. The rejection of the gospel. Let me give you a second example of how the gospel was received.

It was misunderstood, a misunderstanding of the gospel. Verse 11 says God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick and their diseases left them. Evil spirits came out of them.

There are some faith healers today who sell you various, the water, holy water or water that they have prayed over. I do not think at all that that's what was going on here. But notice it says then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcist undertook to invoke the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits saying, I adjure you by the name of Jesus whom Paul proclaims. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, Jesus, I know and Paul I know.

But who are you? And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them, overpowered them so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Wow, what a story. Here were some exorcists and Satan might have cooperated in their exorcisms, separate story. That's maybe why it is Jesus said many will say to me in that day, we cast out demons in the name of Jesus and I'll tell them I never knew you. It may well be because of the cooperation of Satan in giving the illusion of true exorcisms. These were syncretists and they were willing to use any name, any technique.

Marvelous interesting story. What they thought was, oh, the name Jesus works for Paul. Hey, we'll use the name Jesus too, as if it was a magical charm. They didn't understand that it is not possible to exercise the authority of Jesus unless you are under the authority of Jesus.

There's no magical word or incantation that is going to do it. Now you see in the history of the Christian church that this has been an error. You think, for example, during the days when the mass was in Latin, you ask the people, what is he saying?

The answer is it didn't matter because it was the act itself. I was in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul five years ago, speaking to one of the guides, who always prayed in Arabic. I said, do you understand Arabic? He said, no, not at all. He said, but all of our prayers are in Arabic. I said, do you know what you're saying? No, he said, I don't. But he said, I don't have to because it's in the act of saying it itself that it has value. And then he referred to the Latin mass in the established church. So there's always that danger of impersonalizing the gospel by saying, give me the formula, give me the words, and that's all I need.

Well, this proved that it didn't work, did it? I mean, what an amazing story. The demons said Paul I know and Jesus I know, but who in the world are you? Now, let me ask you a question, dear saint. Is your name known among the evil hosts that Satan controls? Does he say, yes, I know the name of that sister because of the way in which she prays and the way in which she can stand against Satan? Is your name known in the spirit world because of how you stand against it? So we have the gospel rejected, the gospel misinterpreted, and no wonder the Bible says after that fear came upon everybody and the name of the Lord was honored.

I guess so. Once this story got out, people began to give Jesus a second look for sure. Now, let me give you a third response. A third response is to practice the gospel. You'll notice it says that the people in verse 18, many of those who are now believers came confessing divulging their practices. 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 to come to 50,000 pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and to prevail.

It tells you a couple of things, all of the silver that this would be worth. Actually, when it says books, the Greek word is a little bit ambiguous there. I think you could almost translate paraphernalia. Maybe it was some books or manuscripts in those days. It was probably also involved some of their shrines, some of the things that they used in their occult practices. And they did the best things. They had a bonfire and they burned them.

There are some people who come back from the mission field, missionaries who bring artifacts with them that were used in heathen worship. Bad idea. Best to get rid of them. If you can't burn them, throw them in the garbage. Some of you ought to take things that you have in your homes and burn them in the garbage. There is music that should be burned in the garbage, no question about it.

Just yesterday, somebody was telling me about some kinds of heavy metal music that is just filled with aggression, Satanism, all kinds of things. And I say to the young people, particularly, you're listening to this kind of stuff. The best thing to do is to burn them, throw them away, take an axe or give the axe to somebody who's used one before, might be a good idea, and smash them to bits. And take the pornography out of your garage and burn it too. I mention that because that's where one man told me he kept his. So whatever it is that causes you to fall back into the same sin, get rid of it.

Just get rid of it. See, the reason we make provision for the flesh, don't make provision for the flesh. When it comes to sin, take care of it.

Somewhere I read that if you're going to jump across a chasm, it is much better to do it in one long jump than in two short ones. And when you get rid of sin, do it upright. All right, now we have those responses. Let's go now to another response, and that was they were enraged because of it. There was a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis. This is verse 23. And he brought no little business to the craftsman. These he gathered together with workmen.

And basically, I'll give you a summary of his speech. He says, we're losing money. People who are coming to Christ aren't buying these little shrines anymore. And because of the money, Paul is saying that the gods made with hands are not gods. That's the last part of verse 26.

Doesn't that amuse you? Well, yeah, I would think so. I would think that if you made it with your hands, it's probably not a god. But anyway, there are people today who have idols in their homes. They would not call them idols, but they are idols. They bow before them.

They may kiss them. And there is a danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, whom she and all the world worship. Now, this was actually the great temple of Artemis or Diana. And it was famous. Now, there were all kinds of other small ones, but this is the one that was central. And by the way, whole tour groups would come to worship there. That's another reason why you see they were making so much money off of these idols is because of all the tourists that came to look and to pray.

And this was one of the seven wonders of the world, the wonderful great temple. And so what he's really saying is it's calling into question this. This is so interesting. First of all, he begins by talking about the fact that they are losing money. Then it gets to a matter of worship and the whole bit.

Now, look at what happens next. It says, when they were heard this, they were enraged and were crying out, great is Artemis of the Ephesians. So the city was filled with confusion and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, et cetera. And today, when you are there in the city of Ephesus, the ancient ruins, there you can see the theater. And this is where that happened. Now, it is true that the theater that you see is one that has been reconstructed.

It was rebuilt. But here's the theater. When you take these tours, you are just, again, amazed at the Bible, how that the Bible deals with real events, real situations.

The whole thing is real. And here you see the theater into which it is that they came. Now, there's a verse here. I have to tell you that Darrell Worley, who used to be on staff, I shouldn't tell this about him, but he used to say that this was one of his favorite verses.

He said that with a smile on his face. I always say it sounds like an independent Baptist annual meeting. You'll notice it says in verse 32, now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion and most of them did not know why they had come together. There are some church meetings like that. But all of this is happening here in the theater, in the theater at Ephesus.

And you have this rebellion. All right. Now, later on, the Apostle Paul, and you'll have to read the whole chapter to find out what Paul did. We don't have time.

We're going today on a jet plane. Now, years later, the Apostle Paul, sometime later, he writes the book of Ephesus, the book of Ephesians, and he writes a letter to this church, one of the most beautiful, deep letters in all the New Testament. He prays for them twice in that letter, and once he prays that they might know the length and the depth and the height of the love of God.

All right. Now, we fast forward 30 years. All Bibles, out of their places now, because you are listening. Revelation chapter 2.

We're talking about, say, 30 years later now, Revelation chapter 2. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil, your patient endurance, how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, but found them to be false. I know that you are enduring patiently, bearing up for my namesake, and you have not grown weary, but I have this against you.

You've abandoned the love you had at first. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at the beginning. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Well, as we noticed in the last message, there is no lampstand in Ephesus. Oh, there may be, in the modern city, there may be believers, but there's no place where you can say, oh, here's a church. Islam has snuffed out the church in these seven different areas. Not that there was a church building as such. When Jesus was writing this, it was probably a house church.

But the question still is this, what do we have to learn? And in order to help us, I want to refer one more time to Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is the church of holy wisdom in Istanbul. Remember, it was dedicated in the year 537 by Justinian, an emperor. I'd love to tell you today why an emperor got involved doing this, but we don't have time.

But you'll know that it was by an emperor. And one of the reasons I wanted to be there, and I was there five years ago and then recently, is because the architecture of Moody Church is patterned after Hagia Sophia. When you go inside the church, you can see some of these parallels.

And at least if not being patterned, that's too strong a statement. It was inspired by Hagia Sophia. Our architecture is a combination of Byzantine architecture, Byzantine and also Romanesque.

It's really both. And so I wanted to be there and God in his grace has given me the opportunity to be there twice. Now it becomes a symbol for all that I'm talking about. Christian church from 537 to 1453, the fall of Constantinople, it is turned into a mosque for 500 years and since the 1920s has been a museum. All of the major churches of Constantinople, as it was called back then, it's Istanbul today, all of the major churches have been turned into mosques. So at that background, what I would like to do now is to give you the nine lessons, nine lessons that I believe. First of all, let me say as I begin these lessons that the church is really important to Jesus. I told you nine lessons.

I had 11 this week. One of the first was the importance of the church to Jesus. It is he who walks among the golden candlesticks. He observes our worship. He goes up and down the aisle. He watched today what we gave in our offering. He watched whether or not we were singing or whether or not we're just standing there wondering when the song was going to be over. Jesus says the church is number one and he walks amid the candlesticks and he walks at Moody Church and no matter where you are listening to this today, he walks down the aisle of your church too and notices everything that is done.

Wow. Very quickly, the lessons. Number one, the continuation of any church, the continuation of any congregation can never be taken for granted. The existence of any congregation, the continuation of it can't be taken for granted. There were churches there and they are not there now. I understand here in America there was a church that became a restaurant serving fried chicken and it was known in the area people came and the question was how did you end up selling fried chicken? Well, the answer is in order to supplement the budget, we began to sell fried chicken and we got better at selling fried chicken than we did selling the gospel. So today the church sells fried chicken. Usually when a church closes, it is because of the church's neglect of a lot of different things. Yes, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer and it is usually because the church has neglected the gospel and its implications.

Let me ask you this question. Should we interpret the Bible through the lens of culture as many people are doing today or should we critique the culture through the lens of scripture? That's a key question as I've written my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture and I discuss various issues even such as racism, diversity, equity, inclusion. How do we as Christians understand that from a biblical standpoint and what is happening racially?

Are we being divided or are we being united? For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. You go to or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, give you time to get a pencil because this is very critical. I believe that this book speaks to the controlling realities of the culture and the response of the church to this collapsing culture.

Go to and as you might guess rtwoffer is all one word or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. Wherever the gospel has gone, light has burst forth into the culture but sometimes that light is extinguished. Next time on Running to Win, more on why so many ancient churches vanished. Join us for the lessons we can learn from the seven churches of Revelation located in what is now Turkey.

It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor's book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, will be sent as our gift to you when you give a gift of any amount to support Running to Win. Just call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. Online, go to

That's Or write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-03 16:21:34 / 2022-12-03 16:30:31 / 9

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