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Wrestling Rasputins

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2024 12:00 am

Wrestling Rasputins

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 18, 2024 12:00 am

In this episode, we explore the incredible story of a first-century encounter that reveals the power of the Holy Spirit and the boldness required to stand against spiritual opposition. Starting with the dramatic history of Rasputin, a demonically empowered holy man whose influence led to the downfall of the Russian monarchy, we draw parallels to a biblical account from the book of Acts. We delve into the mission of Paul and Barnabas, who confronted Elymas, a magician with evil intentions, and how God intervened in a miraculous way to protect His mission and spread the gospel.

We will examine the leadership of the church at Antioch, a diverse and united community that became a model of missionary zeal and doctrinal courage. As we study Acts 13, we see how the Holy Spirit called and sent out Barnabas and Saul, leading to the dramatic confrontation with Elymas and the subsequent conversion of Sergius Paulus, a Roman proconsul.

This episode challenges us to open our eyes to the global harvest fields, strengthen our grip on biblical truth, and develop courageous hearts that expose the father of lies while worshipping the Father of truth. Join us as we uncover the timeless lessons from this powerful narrative and learn how to apply them to our lives and ministries today.

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Everything you do, you can do as unto the glory of God. Whatever your hand finds, you understand what it means when you realize that your life as a New Testament priest, which you all are before God, 1 Peter 2.9. Everything your hand does can be a liturgical act of worship. Whether you hammer a nail with that God-given ability, you do it as unto God. Whether you change a diaper, or wash dishes, or fix an automobile, or study for an exam, or examine a patient, those are liturgical acts of worship to God. As you go through the events of your day, everything you do can be done as an act of worship to God.

But there's another possible way to approach life. Instead of being sold out to God and completely devoted to Him, Satan wants to dilute your zeal. He wants you to live a half-hearted life. He wants you to desire popularity so that you'll present a more palatable version of the Gospel.

Satan wants the Gospel to be watered down just enough so that it loses its transforming power. You're going to learn his strategy today in Stephen's message called, Wrestling Rasputin's. I want to read some comments as we begin our discussion, comments that I have edited from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Before I read, if I were to ask you what was responsible for the downfall of a thousand-year-old Russian monarchy, what was behind ultimately as the primary cause the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and her children, what was the critical factor that allowed for the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Lenin? Unless you're a student of Russian history, you probably wouldn't think of the name of one demonically empowered man named Gregory Yefimovich.

Let me read. While Gregory was still in his teens, he gained a reputation for being able to predict the future as well as his immoral lifestyle. The local villagers gave him the nickname Rasputin, which means debauchery.

When he was 22, he made a spiritual pilgrimage to Mount Athos in Greece. There he came under the influence of a heretical religious sect known as the flagellants. They believed that sinning was necessary to salvation.

The more you sinned, the more secure your salvation. Just kind of a convenient religion, don't you think? Two years later, Rasputin reappeared in his Russian village as a mysterious holy man with strange eyes and a penchant for immorality as well as an unusual ability to cure the sick. He eventually wandered into the capital city of St. Petersburg where society was in the midst of delving into mysticism in the occult. They warmly received this unkempt peasant holy man with his strange eyes and unusual healing talents. Eventually, Rasputin gained an audience with the imperial families, our Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, and they were struggling with the incurable condition of their son who suffered from hemophilia. When Rasputin demonstrated an ability to ease the boy's suffering mystically, he was welcomed into the family circle as a close and trusted friend. Alexandra came to revere him as a holy man sent by God to save her son and her husband's throne. Under the spell of Rasputin's influence as chief advisor, capable men were exiled and corrupt men put in their place. Even after Alexandra was confronted by disturbed officials with Rasputin's scandals in and out of court, she refused to believe any of it.

He was a holy man with power to help her son, and she persuaded her husband to believe so. Finally, as a result of Rasputin's control over the palace, the war effort abroad failed. At home, the people had already begun to plan their revolution against this failing czar. A group of cabinet members and royalty also were conspiring to assassinate Rasputin. On the night of December 30th, by the way, just 80 years ago, Rasputin was invited to what he thought was a royal party. Instead, he was given poisoned wine.

When he didn't immediately die as they thought, one frantic guest then shot him. Rasputin was able to run out into the courtyard where he was shot again and then thrown into the nearby river where he finally died by drowning. If the damage to Russian society at large had already been done. Three months later, Czar Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne. Not satisfied with that, members of the revolution brutally murdered Czar Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children.

What was the chief cause behind it all? A holy man with evil ambitions. One historian wrote these words, if there had been no Rasputin, there would never have been a Lenin. No Lenin, and there would never have been the propagation of atheistic communism throughout the empire, former empire of the Soviet Union. Rasputin is not the last in a long line of holy men to influence political leaders. Even today, holy men whisper into the ears of Yeltsin to sign legislation, which he may have signed in the last 48 hours that I'm not aware of. Legislation that will disallow any religious organization on Russian soil that has been established in the last 15 years.

Convenient, huh? The Russian Orthodox Church is the enemy of the gospel, and those holy men will add to this man's doom if he listens to them. Rasputin is certainly not the first in a long line of men who influenced by their pseudo spirituality, political men. In fact, I want to look today with you at the very first missionary journey of the apostle Paul in Acts chapter 13, and we're going to discover that there is a holy man with great influential power that will attempt to stand in the apostle s way. And in one of those rare displays of immediate judgment, God will turn the tables and this holy man will be exiled in disgrace and the political leader will come to faith in Jesus Christ. I want you to turn there and let's look at the drama of this rather incredible encounter together.

Let's pick up where we left off in our last study. Acts chapter 13 verse 1. Now there were at Antioch in the church that was there prophets and teachers Barnabas and Simeon, who was also called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Menaion, who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch, and Saul.

I'll stop for a moment here. Before we look at the missionary challenge, I want us to look at this missionary church. There are two offices functioning here in this effective ekklesia, or local body, the office of prophet, which will remain until the foundational era of the New Testament is over with, as Ephesians 4 tells us that the establishment of the church is upon the apostles and the prophets. Already in place there are teachers who are establishing its formation and building that superstructure. They're the funnel, as it were, of teaching for the body. And they're at work here. They're expounding, they're explaining, they're directing, they're helping decide.

There are at least five men among the leadership. We're given their names here. Now we already are aware of Barnabas.

We've looked closely at this man of great grace and humility. Saul finishes the list in your text. He will be in this passage for the first time called Paul or Paulus. That's his Roman surname. His Jewish name, Saul, will be dropped as he continues to forge into Gentile missionary endeavors.

Well, in between those two men that we've already been introduced to are three other men. Very quickly, one of them is Simeon who was also called Niger. This construction of the original indicates that Simeon was elsewhere pronounced Simon was from Cyrene.

This is a city along the North African coast. Simeon evidently was a North African black believer who had risen to leadership in this incredibly effective church. Many believe that this is the same Simeon that carried the cross beam of Christ to Gaugatha. Mark's gospel tells us that that Simeon had two sons. One of the men's names was Rufus that Paul will mention later in the book of Romans as being a man whose mother was his mother.

In other words, she took care of him. Many expositors and commentators believe that whenever Paul came to Antioch, he stayed in the home of this wonderful black family. The next name mentioned is Lucius of Cyrene. Perhaps he, being from the same place, was a long-time friend of Simeon. Perhaps he came to faith in Christ because of Simeon's testimony.

We don't know for sure. Finally, the name Menean appears on the list. And then this interesting phrase, you notice, who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch. This is a reference of the Herod or Herod Antipas who was guilty of beheading John the Baptist. Also the same Herod before whom Jesus Christ stood while on trial and he mocked Christ personally and then sent him back to Pilate. Menean, it says, was reared with this Herod.

The original word, syntrophos, illustrates a relationship that could be translated as foster brother. It was a term given to young boys the same age as royal princes who were brought up in the same setting, the same court. They learned the same studies. They heard the same lectures. They mastered the same sciences. They quoted the same poetry. These two boys, Menean and Herod, were school buddies. They laughed together. They played together.

They studied together. And yet, as they grew up, Menean will become a believer in Jesus Christ and Herod will be one who scoffs at Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, Herod's foster brother, if you can believe it, will become a minister of the gospel, a leader in the church in Antioch.

Herod will become a murderer of a gospel messenger. Well, just very briefly, we looked at these names. Look at the leadership of this church. We have a Jew from Cyprus, a black man from North Africa, a Gentile, an aristocrat, and a converted rabbi.

Sounds like an interesting group of people, doesn't it? What an incredible church this was, too, as it would literally show, even within its leadership team, a microcosm of what God was going to do worldwide in saving those from every tongue, tribe, and nation. An incredible story of his grace. Verse 2, that while they were ministering, that's a key word, by the way, you ought to underline.

We'll come back to it in a second. While they were ministering to the Lord in fasting, the Holy Spirit said, set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. The word ministering is often translated in the New Testament with the word worship. It's the original word leitourgeo, which gives us our English transliterated word liturgy. It's used in the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Old Testament, over and over again of the priests going about their work, their liturgy, their service in the temple. And the things that they did, the movements they made, were all prescribed. They were acts of, as it were, liturgy, acts of glorifying their awesome God.

In the New Testament, that word is in several different occasions used rather interestingly. In this particular passage, it's used in reference to believers praying. Their praying was ministry to God. Their praying was an act of liturgy, of worship to God.

It was an act of service. Interesting when you think about the fact that we usually pray before we go and serve the Lord and ask that he'll bless our service. Have you ever thought about the fact that praying is serving? Too often we think about praying before we minister for the Lord, that he'll make the ministry effective. Have we ever stopped to think that praying is the ministry unto the Lord?

By the time you get to Philippians chapter three, as I trace this word leitourgeo to the New Testament, in verse three, Paul uses it in a categorical sense to talk about the life of the believer living in the Spirit, bringing glory to God by his liturgy, his service, his ministry, his life. Everything you do, you can do as unto the glory of God. Whatever your hand finds, you understand what it means when you realize that your life as a New Testament priest, which you all are before God, 1 Peter 2.9. Everything your hand does can be a liturgical act of worship. Whether you hammer a nail with that God-given ability, you do it as a patient of God. Whether you change a diaper or wash dishes or fix an automobile or study for an exam or examine a patient, those are liturgical acts of worship to God. But an elevation of life occurs when you understand God is involved and wants to be intricately involved in everything you do.

There's no such thing as mundane. The life controlled by the Spirit of God is a life of worship. Now I want you to notice the rather incredible response of the collective worship in verse 3. And by the way, all we're supposed to do today is collectively do what we've been doing all week, opening the Word, glorifying God, singing to him, meditating upon him, praying to him.

We've been doing that all week supposedly. In fact, if we do it all week, we can really have worship in here for an hour. We don't have one hour of liturgy in our lives a week. We have a life of liturgy. It's not one brief space of worship.

It is a life of worship that enhances our collective worship. Well, look at what happens when they collect together. Then when they'd fasted and prayed, laid their hands on them, Barnabas and Saul, they sent them away in the missionary service. Wait a second here.

Did you read that right? They sent them away. Can you imagine a church that must have been in tune with the Holy Spirit is releasing their best leadership? Barnabas and Saul have been teaching the body for over a year. They are now sending them away with one move. They sent away nearly half of their pastoral staff.

Now, don't get any ideas. What you have here is for the first time a local church that has led to see the need of the world and a willingness to accompany that site where they send those from within their body to fulfill the need. Any church that wants to stand alongside the church at Antioch better get ready to invest some of their finest members and leaders.

Are you ready to invest yourself? Well, they were here. They sent their best. I wish we had more information, but I can imagine the emotion behind that sending as Paul and Barnabas took off. So, verse four, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John Mark as their helper, a young man.

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. The last phrase is sort of inserted there as it were a commentary to let you know this Roman politician was not an intellectual infant. He wasn't just carried along with whatever the latest fad happened to be. He was a very brilliant or bright man. He was simply caught up in the spirit of his day. Wealthy families in the Roman Empire often employed their own private wizards to supposedly foretell the future and predict which way they should turn and go.

We have the same thing happening in the highest political offices of our own country. Romans put great stock in powers of divination and so a charlatan like a Bar-Jesus who was an apostate Jew, a very smooth, knowledgeable man, aware of the Old Testament scriptures, was able to have great power as he sort of practiced the combination of pseudo-spirituality and pseudo-science slash mysticism. Here at the side of this prominent Pauli family that Roman history tells us were influential for more than two generations, was a first century Rasputin. This text tells us that he was a magician that is a diviner. He foretold the future.

Elemis means enlightened one. This apostate Jew had evidently rejected the Old Testament scriptures because the Old Testament scriptures forbade divination, any kind of sorcery, any kind of future tellers, astrological insights. He evidently was powerful because he had become, as it were, the personal advisor to Sergius Paulus.

And he now stands in the way. Notice the middle part of verse seven. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

Sergius knows he's still empty. He wants to know the truth. But Elemis, the magician, for thus his name is translated literally enlightened one, was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Seeking is a tense that indicates he continually sought. He did everything he possibly could to try to divert Sergius's attention away from Paul and Barnabas over to some other trick he was pulling out of his bag. He was doing everything possible to keep his master, his benefactor free from the gospel. He knew his livelihood depended on Saul or Paul and Barnabas failing at converting his boss.

So he was doing every trick he could. Verse nine. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him and said, you who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

How's that for tact and tolerance? Reminded me of the Lord who dressed down the holy men of his day, pseudo spiritual men that claim to know the will of God, known as the Pharisees. And he looked at them and he said, you are a brood of vipers. You are venomous snakes. Anyone who gets near enough to you to be bitten by you will die. You are whitewashed sepulchers.

That is your gravestones covered over with a fresh coat of white paint. But inside you are filled with dead men's bones. The church in my estimation today needs a shot in the arm of this kind of courage. We are living in a church age, and I'm not talking about the world, I'm talking about within evangelicalism, where doctrinal compromise has become a virtue and truth has become offensive. Don't divide, don't bring up controversial doctrine. Don't offend. In our own camp, in our own evangelical community, dialogue and pseudo fellowship with false systems of doctrine have replaced the bold exposure of error and doctrinal lies.

Just don't offend, don't divide. Well, I'm going to save further discussion on this entire point until we reach chapter 16 of Acts, and I plan to offend as many people as possible with the truth. Paul, with this one statement, reveals three things. He exposes the motive, the man, and the ministry of Elamis.

Paul says to the man in verse 10, you Elamis are in fact full of deceit and fraud. The term deceit can be translated bait. It's a word that was used by the fishermen of the first century Greeks. They would bait a hook, as it were.

They would do whatever they could to snare an animal. They could do something that made something else look good where that something else was in fact a trap. Elamis, you're baiting Sergius Paulus with good things, with religious sounding jargon, but it's a trap. He'll be doomed if he falls within that trap forever.

Fraud can be translated here false pretenses. In other words, you have an outward religious appearance, but you have evil ambitions. You have an agenda. That's why you're close to this political leader. He's lining your pocket and you're lying all you can. You're baiting him all you can. You're deceiving him all you can to maintain your own political position of power. Saul then exposes who the man really is.

Not only the motive, but the man. You who are full of deceit and fraud, you son of the devil. Now, Paul is probably surrounded by dignitaries and guests in this home and other sorcerers probably. He's making a pun on his name. In fact, if you look back at verse six, you'll discover that Paul is referring to Elamis' given name. You notice in that verse, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus. Bar-Jesus or Bar means son of Jesus or Yeshua means savior.

His name he had taken, as it were, meant son of the savior. He says to all of this crowd and to Bar-Jesus, you are not the son of the savior. You are the son of the devil. You are not the friend of righteousness, he goes on to say. You are the enemy of righteousness.

In fact, you are the enemy of God. And I can imagine in that household that the entire audience just sort of gasped. I can also see Elamis' eyes narrowing with hatred at this man who had exposed him.

Paul hadn't finished yet. He now exposes the true ministry of Elamis. Last part of verse 10, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? That indicates that he was taking Old Testament scripture and twisting it, convoluted it, manipulating it to say whatever he wanted it to say.

It's what the isms of the world today continue to do. They must take something from this book to give themselves credibility, but then they torture this text, they twist it, they convoluted, they manipulate it to believe or have people believe whatever they want them to believe and follow. That's exactly what Elamis was doing. He was making crooked what God had made straight. It was clear, but when Elamis got finished with it, you are entrapped and snared. Now, verse 11, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, Paul says, and you will be blind and will not see the sun for a time.

That is your physical activity will reflect your inner state. You're blind inwardly, you will be blind outwardly. And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. The implication here is that nobody wanted to lead him by the hand. So he stumbles about trying to find someone to hold him by the hand and help him, but nobody wanted to.

Why? He's exposed as an evil, deceitful, fraudulent, ambitious man who had been in the process of deceiving Sergius' entire household. And now he's blind. The word of the God of Paul is more powerful than the word of the gods of Elamis.

And everyone, you could almost see them backing away from this man who has just been stricken blind. An amazing, immediate judgment of God. And we never read, by the way, in the New Testament scriptures of Elamis again. Verse 12, then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

Now don't miss this. Sergius was impressed by the miracle, no doubt, but he was amazed by the teaching of the Lord. And he believed, the Bible tells us. That word means to have faith, to be persuaded, to rely upon, to trust entirely.

Have you ever done that? Has that transaction taken place in your own life when you left your trust in yourself, your church, your baptism, your works, your intellect, your degrees, whatever it may be, and you threw yourself entirely in trust upon the savior alone? That's what Sergius did. And he was saved.

And the spell of Rasputin was broken this time. History records that Sergius Paulus will raise children and grandchildren who fear God through Christ, and they will occupy some of the highest offices in the land for the next two generations within this fading Roman empire. The question that is leveled at us as we study a passage like this is, will we be like the church at Antioch? Will we be like Paul and Barnabas? Well, if we will, we need three things.

I want to give them to you real quickly here. Number one, we need open eyes, looking toward the harvest fields of the world. We need to have eyes for the world, and this church did, and they sent the first missionaries recorded in New Testament church history.

We need to send our own. Second of all, we need strong hands, firmly gripping biblical truths. We need to know the word.

If we're going to encounter and be able to confront the Rasputins of our day, and they fill the television and the publications of our so-called Christian community, how do you handle them? You must know the word. Well, go back to verse 12, and I want you to notice, in fact, circle a key word. Sergius was amazed at the teaching, the teaching, the teaching of the Lord. The word teaching comes from the Greek word Didache. It means an established and formulated body of truth or doctrine. It is the body of truth revealed through the prophets, through Christ, the apostles, ultimately in this completed canon of scripture. And we are, according to the apostle Peter, to be the ground and pillar of the Didache, the truth, the doctrine. And we are to teach it communicated to the body and to faithful men who will teach others also. We do more than meet. We are here to learn the word, to grip it with strength, which can equip us into every good work.

I don't think we're doing a very good job, by the way, of teaching the Didache. We need to do more. Finally, we need courageous hearts to expose the father of lies and worship the father of truth. May we be like this church, willing to give, submissively following our great God, embracing the needs of the world, gripping the scriptures with courageous hearts.

May it be for us as well. All those characteristics are critical for the church today, and this has been a good reminder from God's word. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. We're in a series from our Vintage Wisdom Archives through the Book of Acts. Now, we have a companion study guide that goes along with this series. The series is entitled, Acts Volume Two, the Gospel Spreads. This study guide incorporates Stephen's teaching manuscript, along with questions to make you dig deeper into God's word. It's appropriate for both individual and group study, and it's available at our website, which is During this series, you can get it at a deeply discounted rate. We can also help you get this resource over the phone if you call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. It's 866-482-4253. I hope we hear from you. Join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-18 01:11:09 / 2024-06-18 01:22:02 / 11

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