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Christianity Enters Ephesus, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 21, 2024 9:00 am

Christianity Enters Ephesus, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 21, 2024 9:00 am

As Pastor J.D. continues our series called, Mystery and Clarity, he’s teaching from Acts 18 to 20 to help us understand the historical context for Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Welcome back to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of Pastor J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. Today on the program, we are continuing a new study that we began yesterday in the Book of Ephesians called Mystery and Clarity. In this introductory sermon, Pastor J.D. is giving us some important historical context on the city of Ephesus. And through the backstory of this ancient city, we are discovering the amazing things we can accomplish when we follow God's leading. We're actually turning to the Book of Acts chapters 18 to 20 to get started, so don't get confused. And remember, if you missed the beginning of this message yesterday, you can catch up online at jdgreer.com. Let's join Pastor J.D.

for part two of a message he titled, Christianity Enters Ephesus. When you tell somebody their God is not real, things get ugly, right? Let me give you a few examples. A lot of people in this area worship knowledge and science. I hear scientists making pronouncements about the world, and science is great, but what I hear is the extreme confidence that scientists have in themselves and their intelligence and their morality and their ability to figure it all out. Listen, science is a gift from God, and we need to use it to the fullest extent. But the Bible would say that science is not something to trust your whole soul to because scientists are fallible human beings and can be wrong. Cutting edge technology, perfect health, those things are great, but they can't answer our deepest questions like who we are and where we're going and what the point of it all is and why we can't find happiness. Now when I say stuff like that, people in this area often say back to me, well, he's just anti-intellectual.

No, I'm just saying that Jesus is a more sure basis of knowledge about God and eternity and that he is able to save us in ways that science cannot. Here's one, many people trust money. When I tell people they shouldn't trust money and that they should trust God instead and that one of the ways that God tells us to show that we trust him is to tithe and to give some of our money away, people roll their eyes and they're like, he's talking about money again, as if my main concern was the offering of this church. You say, I don't like it when he talks about money. No, you don't like it because I'm attacking your idol. That's what you don't like. I am concerned about your soul, not your wallet. Some of you live for money, it's your security and your joy and that's why you're so stingy with it.

You get my drift? Reach against idols and Jesus as the only savior and people get violent. They always have and they always will, but that is our sacred mission. Number two, God demonstrates his power over false gods by doing extraordinary things through us. See in verse 11, how it describes Paul's ministry as doing extraordinary things. Specifically it's talking about Paul's powers to heal and cast out demons.

People were wiping their hankies on them and it was making their headaches go away. But there are three things throughout the book of Acts that are presented about the first Christians that were extraordinary. I'm just going to give you all three real quick because you're going to see all of them in the book of Ephesians. The first one is that one right there, extraordinary miracles.

There were to be evidences of the supernatural in our lives that were just not explainable in any other way. When Paul summarizes his message to the Ephesians in chapter 20, he says to them, I proclaim to you the kingdom of God. One of the central features of Paul's message was that one day God would bring a kingdom where there was perfect peace and healing. And a lot of times what God does in Acts is he demonstrates that kingdom that we are preaching by healing someone supernaturally.

Acts calls those signs and wonders, a sign that points to or demonstrates the message. And I think that sometimes we at this church have gotten so into preaching the message of forgiveness that we have neglected preaching about the kingdom. God is not just forgiving us, he wants to restore us.

Now we ourselves can't build that kingdom here. Only Jesus can do that when he comes back. But part of our ministry like Paul's can be to give signs of the kingdom. Extraordinary miracles and supernatural healings through our prayers is a sign of the power of Jesus and the kingdom that he is able to bring. Extraordinary miracles. We were also to be people of extraordinary generosity. The early church gave generously and shared with each other and ministered to the poor and they did it to such an extent that it was amazing.

Then there was, thirdly, extraordinary joy where we possess a joy that baffles the world. And this is seen most clearly, catch this, in suffering. Everywhere he goes, Paul says, sufferings await me like he experienced here in Ephesus. Now can't you hear the Ephesians asking, why? If this is God's message, why is his main messenger suffering? Why are we being persecuted and fed to the lions? Aren't we supposed to be victorious? Aren't we supposed to show prosperity of the kingdom?

Aren't we supposed to have our lives demonstrate how peaceful and wonderful the kingdom of God is? Listen, did you know that there is not a single, single place in Acts where God heals the sickness of a believer? He raises a few from the dead, which is kind of cool, but he never heals a believer of sickness. It's always people on the outside who get healed. I'm not saying that we shouldn't ask for healing for ourselves because the book of James in the Bible clearly tells us that we should. I'm just saying that Acts doesn't record any healings of believers in the church. Why? Why doesn't God automatically heal all the church of their diseases?

Here's why. Because having joy in suffering is how God puts his glory on display. You see, anybody can be happy when things are going well. That's ordinary joy. It's when you are joyful when everything is not going well that your joy becomes extraordinary.

Sometimes I'll flip to the channels late at night as my wife and I are preparing to go to bed and I'll come across one of those TV preachers and my wife will be like, don't do it. It's going to get you so fired up you're not going to be able to go to sleep. But I can.

It's like a train wreck. You've got to watch it. And she's exactly right. You know, these guys come on and they'll be like, God wants to make you rich. He does. And he wants to prosper you and that will bring him glory. God does prosper us sometimes. And when he does, we give him glory for it. That really damages some people who love God like Paul but still suffer.

Paul described himself by saying, I walk around the earth with a sentence of death on myself. And it misses one of the main points of the book of Acts is trying to teach and that is that God's glory is often demonstrated in us when in the midst of suffering we have a deep abiding joy that the pain cannot take away. When we're so wrapped up in the glory of God that even pain can't rob us of our inexpressible joy. That is a joy that the world does not understand. That is a joy that is extraordinary. You see that?

When life squeezes you, it is then that you have a chance to show that you have a joy that is greater than anything else life can give and that death cannot take away. Extraordinary miracles, extraordinary generosity, extraordinary joy, these are the three ways that God validates the gospel in Acts. And can I say to you candidly, that that's what the problem is with some of us. It's not that you're bad Christians. You're just so ordinary.

It's not, I don't mean ordinary in terms of talent, I mean in these terms. You're a good Christian but you don't see exciting answers to prayer. You're a decently cheerful person when things are going well, but when things aren't going well you complain and whine like everybody else.

Paul got flogged and left thanking God for the chance to know and serve him. That's extraordinary. You give a little, but your generosity is not extraordinary. It doesn't inspire me. What inspires me is when you start living with a passion that consumes you, when you joyfully share your stuff and give your money away to the work of God. Empower, generosity, and joy, many of us are just ordinary. That's not God's intention for you. We were to be extraordinary, empower, generosity, and joy.

Here's number three. Wherever the people of God go, they change the entire climate of the city. Here in Ephesus the move of God was so significant that even the business community noticed. Now this is where I begin to really dream. What does it look like for an awakening to happen here that gets the attention of the business community, the universities, the city council?

We have so much more to do. There are five groups God has placed on my heart here in our cities, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill. The homeless, prisoners, high school dropouts, orphans and foster kids, and unwed mothers.

I don't know exactly what we're supposed to do with them yet, but I want to do something so extraordinary that the city says that Summit Church, they are everywhere in Raleigh, Durham. Every time we find a need, we find them meeting that need and ministering to them and putting the gospel on display. I want you to notice that Paul disrupted the economic order. That was not his intent. He was just preaching the gospel. You need to understand that any time the gospel is preached, it does disrupt a lot of the political and economic orders. If we preach the gospel rightly, that is what will happen here.

I want you to hear me. That is not our intent. We're just trying to show people that Jesus is the savior, that he is the Lord.

When this stuff happens, it will happen to us like it happened to Paul. We just say, hey, it's not our point. Point's not economic or political. The point is Jesus. The point is Jesus. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. If you want to know more about this ministry, visit us online at jdgreer.com. Our website is full of free resources meant to help you grow in your walk with Jesus. So once again, I say thank you to all who have partnered with us.

It's an honor to be able to be a source of encouragement for you each day. Did you know that these Summit Life broadcasts are only one of the ways that you can keep up with Pastor JD's ministry? You can follow Pastor JD on social media. He's pretty active there. Why not get some biblical insight as you scroll? Just search for Pastor JD Greer on Facebook, at Pastor JD Greer on Instagram and at JD Greer on X.

He's also on YouTube where you can subscribe to his channel at j.d.greer. Follow along on all your favorite social media platforms and stay up to date with this ministry while filling up your timeline with encouragement from God's Word. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Acts chapter 20.

Let's go there. Acts chapter 20 verse 22, Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders and he's saying goodbye to them for good. This is his last kind of farewell speech to the Ephesian elders. Later he'll write back the book of Ephesians to them, but this is the last time he talks to them one-on-one. Acts chapter 22, now behold, I'm going to Jerusalem constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. This is a great little vignette there because in the next chapter, this prophet in the early church named Agabus comes to Paul and he does this big elaborate ceremony where he takes out a sheet and a rope and ties himself up, right, and he says this is what the Holy Spirit says will happen to you if you go to Jerusalem and Paul's like, that's exactly what he's been telling me.

And Paul does it anyway. All right, so Paul knows it. He knows what's about to happen, verse 24, but I do not, he says, love this, do not account my life of any value, nor is precious to myself. If only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel, the grace of God, and now behold, I know that none of you, among whom I've gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will see my face again.

For I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you because I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Verse 28, pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to care for the church of God which he obtained with his own blood because I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them, therefore be alerts. Real quick, look, Paul's aware that the demons he encountered and threw out in chapter 19 are gonna try to re-enter the church. And if Satan can't terrorize the church with demon possession, he's gonna mess him up with twisted doctrine. You see, when Satan fails on one front, he tries another. If he can't make a pastor fall to temptation, he'll sow disunity in the church. If he can't destroy you, high school student, with temptation, he'll do it with discouragement. If he can't do it with discouragement, he'll puff you up with pride. Listen, Paul was aware of the spiritual forces at work all around the Ephesians, so he tells them, be alert.

You've got an enemy that's always scheming to destroy you. Paul was aware of the powers of the spiritual world at work in the city of Ephesus, and I'm afraid that many of us are not aware of the spiritual forces at work around the summit church and the campus of Duke and Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central and all around this city. Verse 31, therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish everyone with tears, and now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Here's number four. Paul looked at his mission to the city as a matter of intensely personal obligation. So must we. You see that phrase in verse 26, free from the blood? Paul looked at his delivering the word of God to the Ephesians as a matter of blood.

If he did not do it, he would be guilty of their blood. Now I can tell you without hesitation that this is how I feel about you and the city of Raleigh-Durham. You see, there's always a temptation for me to water down the message, to stay away from controversial things, to tell you what you want to hear. But I must deliver the word of God to you, regardless of whether or not I want to preach it or you want to hear it. And what I need you to do is pray for me that I will preach the word of God fearlessly to you.

Yes, I read the letters and the emails and the comments on my blog, but I'm telling you by God's grace, they're not going to change a thing. Because at the end of the day, I'm just a deliverer of the message and not its writer. And I answer only to God and not to anybody else. Plus, I want to tell you everything that God says in love, because I know your life depends on it. I look at my obligation to you as a matter of blood.

And for you, one of the most important things that you can do in your life is figure out whose blood God has made you responsible for. Maybe it's your suitemates. Maybe it's the office where you work. Maybe it's the people of a certain profession. Maybe it's your own children.

Whoever that is for you, figure it out and make it a matter of your blood. Pray over them. Find ways to show Christ's love to them.

Reach out to them. So who is it? Who is it that you sense Jesus' heart for? Over whom specifically do you hurt over their lostness?

Whose name has God put on your heart? Listen, it won't be everybody. It'll be a specific group. I had a friend in college who felt like he was called to the world, the whole world. I was like, where are you going to serve after you graduate the world? I'm like, what part of it?

All of it. I'm like, okay, Jesus, you know, it can't be the world. Maybe it's an unreached people group. Maybe it's a person that God has placed on your heart. Recently I read the biography of John Patton, missionary, probably 100 or so years ago, felt like God had put a set of islands in the Pacific on his heart.

Now that sounds like a pretty good gig, doesn't it? The problem is that at this point in history, A, nobody spoke their language, ever, except for them, and B, they were all cannibals. And every foreigner who had gone to them before had been turned into beef jerky. But God had told him to go and so he went. You ever think about what you would do if you seriously were given the assignment of having to reach an island of people and you didn't speak their language and they were all cannibals? I mean, what do you do first?

You get there and you put up a sign, you know, Sunday school, this week, nine o'clock, bring a friend. No, I mean, you can't do it that way. He ministered there for over 35 years and he lost so much. His biography said that all he really loved in the world was his wife and she died in childbirth with his child. He had to sleep on their graves for four nights to make sure the islanders did not dig them up and eat them. Later after a chief had come to Christ, the chief asked him, he said, when you first got here, we planned to kill you many nights. Who was that army who guarded your house each night?

Evidently, a team of angels had surrounded them and protected them. When he left that island 35 years later, John Patton said he didn't know a single native who had not professed faith in Jesus. Before he went, somebody had asked him why he was doing it since he'd probably be eaten by cannibals.

And his statement was great. He said, eaten by cannibals, that makes no difference to me. Eventually, all of us will die and be eaten by worms. Eaten by worms, eaten by cannibals, makes no difference, we all end up at the same place. He said, I, however, am driven by the thought that the people on those islands are perishing without even a chance of knowing God's love and mercy.

And he knew that God had made him responsible for it. So who is it for you? Who are the Ephesians for you? Because if you don't know, you're not going to understand the book of Ephesians.

It's not going to apply to you like it should because this is written to people on mission. Number five, doctrine matters. Doctrine matters. Paul tells them that there will be people who will always try to dilute and twist the doctrine. See verse 29, fierce wolves will come speaking twisted things and that they got to pay attention to the truth Paul is teaching them.

It was a matter, Paul said, of life and death. Your life, he said, depends on believing the right stuff about God. Now real quick, this is pretty different from how people in our culture look at truth and doctrine. Our culture's approach to doctrine was summarized by Thomas Jefferson 200 some years ago in a letter he wrote to some woman where he said, what you believe about God does not matter at all because it is deeds, not creeds, that count.

What Paul is saying is exactly the opposite of Thomas Jefferson. He says that the most important thing about you is what you believe about God. That ultimately doctrine determines everything in your life. So the book of Ephesians is a deep doctrinal book because knowing the truth about Christianity matters. In fact, the way the book of Ephesians is set up is pretty interesting. The first three chapters of Ephesians are pretty deep doctrine. And I don't mean light stuff, deep stuff like predestination, the nature of sin and judgment, all that kind of stuff. Salvation, regeneration, all kinds of stuff, big words in the first three chapters. The last three chapters, four through six, are some of the most intensely practical chapters in all the Bible where he just starts to say, this is what this means for your marriage, what it means for relationships, et cetera, et cetera.

And in between chapters three and four is one word that opens chapter four, therefore. In other words, how you live four through six is going to be determined by your understanding the doctrine of these first three chapters. So learn the doctrine. Study it. Now before I close, I don't want you to miss the biggest point of all here.

Watch. This whole story in Acts 18 and 19 ought to make you ask one huge question. What is this mission Paul is on? Who is this Jesus who can heal, who moves his people to extraordinary acts of kindness, who gives them a baffling joy in the midst of pain? Who is this Jesus who is master of the spirit realm that the demons fear just a mention of his name? Who is this Jesus who is so much greater than all the gods worshiped in the world so that Paul has to tell people about him even if it means he'll lose his life doing it? What is this message that is so important that Paul considers giving it a matter of life and death?

You see, the Bible we study is not a set of obscure religious discussions or tips about how to live. We are talking about Jesus, the master creator and Lord of the universe who is so majestic that the world simply must know about him and that your life is hopelessly incomplete until you do. Who is so powerful that our rebellion against him is the worst possible thing we could have done but whose offer of salvation is the greatest news we could have hoped for.

The mission is that we stand in rebellion to God but God in his mercy has sent Jesus to die for our sins, to give us forgiveness and healing and restoration and he is the only way. What you ought to see from all this is that the sacrifices of Paul, the miracles of Acts, the message of Ephesians all point us to the greatness and the glory of Jesus. Do you know this Jesus?

Do you know Jesus? This question is at the core of all we do here at Summit Life. If you have questions, let me encourage you to visit us online and learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Go to JDGrier.com. These daily broadcasts are available because generous friends like you have stepped up and helped us cover the cost and we are so grateful. When you give today, we'll show our thanks by sending you a copy of Pastor Tim Keller's seven-part study through the book of Galatians called Gospel Matters. It'll take you through the book of Galatians which we just finished working through here on Summit Life with Pastor JD and it features application questions and prayer prompts. Ask for Pastor Tim's Galatian study when you give a one-time gift to this ministry or when you become a monthly gospel partner today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or give online at JDGrier.com. That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R.com and if you don't receive our e-newsletter yet, be sure to stop by the website to sign up. You'll get ministry updates, sneak peeks of our new resources, and Pastor JD's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox.

Sign up today at JDGrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to join us next week as we discover the lengths God went to to adopt us as His own. We'll see you next time right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries. J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-21 10:06:44 / 2024-06-21 10:17:05 / 10

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