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#carmelprays – Acts 19:11-20

Opening Song: Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)

Read Scripture: Acts 19:11-20

Have you ever come across someone saying this “Why are your prayers not answered? Why is God not showing you any miracles? Is it because you have not invoked God’s name enough, or you have not used the authority of God in the right way?”.

In today’s text, Paul’s third missionary tour included a visit to Ephesus, sharing the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles of Asia.

Ephesus was known for its sophisticated luxury, excessive occult practices and extravagant worship of pagan gods. This large city might have intimidated most visitors, but not Paul. 

The verse goes like this…”In Ephesus, God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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. But some Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had the evil spirits. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Among those who did this were seven sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, a Jewish chief priest. The evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The man who had the evil spirit in him leaped on them, and overpowered them. He attacked them such that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (v11-16).

Notice the verse above…Paul was used by God as you observe in the verse that begins with “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul”, so that even simple objects like handkerchiefs and aprons were used by God through Paul to demonstrate His power, revealing His glory to the Ephesians. Let’s move on to another group of people, the seven sons of the Jewish chief priest. Notice here, the verse puts it that “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you…”, they invoked God’s name through Paul, not that they believed in God, hence they were not used by God. And the result was the evil spirit called their bluff (“Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”) and overpowered those people by giving them a beating they would never forget.

Paul was a genuine believer in Christ. He had a direct relationship with Christ, he knew God and God knew him. The people whom Paul ministered to could see the authentic relationship between Paul and God.  On the contrary, the Jewish exorcists (eg. the seven sons) did not have a direct relationship with God. They simply invoked God’s name thinking that by using His name, this would achieve the same outcome as Paul. As a result, even the evil spirit recognized that those people did not have an authentic relationship with God, they were imposters, hence the evil spirit mocked them.

This happened in the days of Ephesus. However, in our society today, don’t we also have many of these imposters? Aside from posing as someone who knows Christ but does not have a personal relationship with God, as believers, we can also trivialise God and trivialise sin.

How do we trivialise sin? Nowadays, we often say, no one is perfect and everyone has good within them, so then it is not really sin. I did my best, but just missed the mark! Our society has failed to understand the seriousness of sin. Infants are murdered and sexual immorality is an accepted alternative lifestyle and sinful mankind can give a list of many good reasons why these ought to be acceptable without ever giving thought to the fact that they are provoking their Creator. So how are we like the “seven sons” who appear to know God, yet do not understand God’s ways and His heart?

How do we trivialise God? Often, we have reduced God into someone very convenient, someone who can be adjusted to any situation, someone who can be used to cover us for anything we do. We justify, we make God’s “Yes” and “No” become debatable, not absolutes. We treat God at our convenience, when we have “nothing better to do”, then we think about God. We use His name in vain and simply invoke His name to defend ourselves when we run out of excuses. We attempt to use God when we manipulate the Scriptures according to what “works”. How are we like the “seven sons” who appear to know God, yet treat God’s salvation and His grace so cheaply?

Let us pause, and think deep : 

  1. How are we like Paul who has an authentic relationship with God so that others too can recognize and benefit God’s presence through us?  
  2. How are we like the “seven sons” who appear to know God, but others can tell the authenticity and call it bluff? How effective is our witness for Christ to others?
  3. How do we use our Spiritual gift (if any) to glorify God by pointing others to Christ, instead of self? How have we been focusing on the gift instead of the Giver?
  4. How much have we trivialized God and sin? What are we going to do about it?

Pray in Response

Dear Lord Jesus, open my spiritual eyes to examine if there is anything in my life that has pulled my focus away from You. Is someone or something else on the throne of my heart, taking Your rightful place? Please help me to spot the imposters and forgive me if I have been one too, because they need You as much as I do. Help me to revere You in my thought life, speech life and behaviours, allowing You to refine me through Your love and use me according to Your will for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Response Song: O Great God

By Liang Wee Yee

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