Monday, December 5, 2016, 9:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When in the Stillness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 19:23-41 (ESV).
Man-made gods (vv. 23-27)
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is 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, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
There are many man-made gods in our world today – money, reputation, acceptance, houses, property, possessions, talent, intellect, entertainment, TV, careers, appearance, time, social status, public figures, preachers, politicians, actors, sports figures, musicians, Santa Claus, etc. They are called “gods” when we give our time, attention, priority, hearts, passion and commitment to them at the sacrifice of our time with God and our heart relationship with him, as well as at the cost of time we could have spent caring for others and showing them the love of Jesus Christ.
People hang on to these “gods” because in them they find some sense of pleasure, fulfillment, and satisfaction, although it is temporary and fleeting. These idols (gods) are self-gratifying and are inward focused, rather than God-glorifying and outward focused towards ministry to others. They are driven by human flesh, appeal to the flesh, and bring enjoyment to the flesh. These things (gods) are not all wrong, in and of themselves. They only become gods (idols) in our lives when they take the place of God in our hearts, or the place of family, and we end up giving our worship to them rather than to God and to what priorities he has defined for our lives.
Many Christians are being led astray from their pure devotion to Christ to follow after the idols of human making. So, as followers of Jesus Christ, and as ministers of his gospel, it is our responsibility to address the issue of idolatry, first in our own lives, and then within the body of Christ, his church. Yet, when we talk about idolatry, those who don’t want to give up their idols may chastise us, mock us, reject us and persecute us in retaliation, or in hopes that we will back down and we will leave them alone in their sin. Also, those who make some type of gain (financially or not) from people’s addictions to these idols may want to silence us so that we don’t convince their “customers” to forsake their idols and to follow the one true God.
Into the Theatre (vv. 28-34)
When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 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. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
I know this passage of scripture is talking about a physical structure when it refers to “theatre,” but I feel the Lord impressing it on my heart to look at this subject of idolatry, and in reference to going into the theatre, in a slightly different way. The word “theatre” also means “drama, acting, performing,” etc. If you have known anyone with a sin addiction, and if you have tried speaking with that person about his or her addiction, in an effort to help that person be delivered so that they can walk in freedom and victory over sin, you may have also encountered that individual taking their case into the theatre, i.e. they may put on a performance (act) to try to convince you that they are really ok, or to try to shame you out of talking with them about their sin addiction, and they may do this in front of others.
They will go to any lengths to hold on to their “god,” even if it means destroying your reputation in the process, because their god has such a stronghold on their lives to the point to where they will sacrifice everything else – God, family, home, etc. – so that they can keep their idol. And, that often times involves going “into the theatre,” i.e. into a performance for the benefit of others to convince them that they are the ones being persecuted; that they are the victims, instead of the other way around. And, thus, they will gather supporters to them who will join them in persecuting you.
Reality Check (vv. 35-41)
And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Though I am going at this with a slightly different bent than is presented here, what calmed the people was a reality check, according to their reality, that is. And, when people who have sin addictions go into the theatre, i.e. into a performance (act), to try to convince themselves and others of their innocence and of their “persecutor’s” guilt, what they need, and what their supporters need is a reality check, only not according to what they believe is their reality, but according to what God knows is their reality.
Sometimes they will calm down and stop the performance, and they will admit the reality of their situation, but if they are not willing to let the addiction go, they will recycle addiction and performance over and over again. Other times they will keep the performance going, and will balk at a reality check, and they will seize the opportunity to attack the one who is trying to help them, and sometimes this will be in front of others in order to gain sympathy for themselves and to try to make their confronter look bad, partially as a way to punish the one who cares about them, and partly to try to shame their confronter/helper into backing down and giving up.
But, if they would respond positively to a reality check, and would admit their wrong, and would honestly and sincerely seek help and healing and deliverance from their addiction, they could find true freedom. Part of that reality check, though, involves absolving the ones, who are truly trying to help them to freedom, from accusation of wrongdoing, and admitting their own culpability for their own sin addiction. And, it involves facing the reality of their own sin addiction and being willing to let go of it and do what needs to be done to get free, i.e. they need to obey Jesus and his Word and submit to him as their only Lord and Savior, and let him transform their lives.
When in The Stillness / An Original Work / September 26, 2011
When in the stillness of this moment,
Speak to me, Lord, I humbly pray.
Be my desire, set me on fire,
Teach me to love always.
Help me to walk in fellowship with You,
Listening to You; sit at Your feet.
Whisper Your words to me,
Oh, how gently, guiding me in Your truth.
While we are waiting for Your blessing,
Lord, in our hearts be King today.
Help us to live for you ev’ry moment,
List’ning to what You say.
May we not stray from your word within us,
Help us obey You, Lord, in all things,
Walking each moment, Lord, in Your presence,
Our offerings to You bring.
Help us to love You, Lord, our master;
Be an example of Your love,
Helping the hurting, lift up the fallen,
Showing them Your great love.
Teach them to love You, follow You always,
Bearing their cross and turning from sin;
Walking in daily fellowship with You,
Making You Lord and King.