Paul shows us in Acts that people come to faith through a combination of reason and the supernatural.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Let me get right to it today. If you believe in God, how did you know He was actually real?
Like, whenever “Belief” happened for you, if it’s happened for you, how did it happen?
Was it that you finally just saw enough evidence to prove it was all real?
And when you could weigh books and books of facts against each other, you decided to believe in God?
Maybe, but I think for most of us, although we often wouldn’t describe it this way, there’s something a little bit more supernatural about the process
Maybe God did something spiritual/supernatural in your heart to make you believe.
Maybe He spoke to you…in your heart. In your mind.
Maybe he did something…in your life…to show you He was real.
I bring this up because this is an area where we oddly almost never connect the dots.
For almost every single one of us, our journey to faith was a combination of reason and the supernatural.
And YET, when we think of helping others come to faith, it hardly ever has anything to do with the supernatural.
It’s crazy, because it’s like we’re expecting people to meet Jesus in a way that almost none of us did.
We just assume that if we can say the right things, and muster enough of the arguments, that…well, they’ll be won over or something.
But it hardly works like that. It’s a combination.
MIRACLES IN A MAGIC ARTS TOWN
I want to look at a passage today in the Bible that shows us that people awakening to God often do so through a combination of reason and spiritual things
We are currently as a church, studying the Book of Acts. Which is the 5th book of the New Testament and the story of how Christianity got started after Jesus..
We’ve been following a guy named the Apostle Paul who has been journeying all over the world telling people that Jesus was God, died on the cross, and came to forgive people of their sins.
This week, Paul is in a city called Ephesus. Let’s join him there.
If you want to follow along, we will be on page 901
(Acts 19:8-22) – NIV
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (NOTE ABOUT SYNAGOGUE) 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 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. 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed, now came and openly confessed what they had done.19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. (EXPLAIN) 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. 21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
Ok, so there’s a lot there. One of the things that sticks out about Paul’s time in Ephesus compared to some of the other cities, is that there’s a lot of miraculous things going on.
People are getting healed by aprons (similar to the woman who just touched Jesus’ cloak), demon possessed people are beating people up, and people are burning their magic scrolls.
Much like when Christians used to have good old fashioned book burnings or CD burnings.
Today though, not as dramatic…when people feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and I’m gonna drag all my MP3’s to the Recycle Bin!
Reminds me of when I was a Youth Pastor and had a student tell me that they felt convicted to stop listening to all the old music they were listening to, so I asked, “What did you do w/ it?”
He replied, “I sold it to another kid”
So A LOT of miraculous things are accompanying Paul this time as He tells people about Jesus.
Why? What’s so different about Ephesus? Well, could be a couple of things, but one reason of note is the fact that Ephesus actually had a huge reputation as a center for the learning and practice of magical arts.
Kind of like a town like Salem, Massachusetts does today
And one of the things about God, in the Bible, and all throughout Church history is that He tends to reveal himself differently to different cultures.
Same truth, but different methods.
Sometimes He’ll communicate through a brilliant thinker. A C.S. Lewis type. Sometimes it’s a healer. Sometimes it’s through a dream to a leader of a tribal culture. It TOTALLY varies.
Same truth, different methods.
But as we look to Ephesus, this is a town that is deeply obsessed with the Supernatural, and God uses that obsession to reach them.
He overtly demonstrates his power over the power of evil.
And it works!
Verse 17 even says, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.
They even come and burn their magic scrolls.
Why? Because of the arguments of Paul in the lecture hall?
Kind of. That was part of it. But the other HALF was that they SAW the power of God.
It was evangelism, but POWER evangelism!
GOD USES MIRACLES
So, God uses miracles to reach people.
First of all, what’s a miracle?
We throw that word out all the time. Like, the Timberwolve’s season this year is a miracle…a gift from God.
Ricky Rubio, God’s miracle gift to MN
I mean, like, a real, legit miracle. What is that?
Most people just call a miracle a direct intervention from God.
But that’s actually not the best way to put it.
See God’s constantly in the world. The Bible tells us that He brings the rain, causes the grass to grow, and carries along all things by his word and power.
“Miracles are just acts of God in which God arouses people’s awe of Him and draws them to Him in a unique way.
So when we’re talking about God showing His power to people, we’re just asking that people SEE God in the process.
He’s always in the process
We’re just praying that people see Him. That they open his eyes to a unique movement. That He catches their EYE in a unique way.
To me, one of the interesting things about church history is how God reaches into new areas, and revives old ones.
Whenever you see Christianity flourishing in an area…
Whether it’s Africa for the first time or Revival in the U.S. during the 1700’s
You ALWAYS see a combination of Strong Bible Teaching (truth) AND the miraculous.
It’s not one of the other…it’s both.
For instance, listen to this account of revival in China from a few decades ago:
In one incredibly large labor camp, there was a demented woman who absolutely no one could seem to help, comfort, or cure.
However, this woman who EVERYONE knew, was placed in the same room with a Christian woman.
As a result of the Christian’s loving care and prayer, the woman was completely healed and given a sane mind
The whole camp caught wind of it, AND SAW the CHANGE, and realized that a living God had acted. No Doctor was able to help her before.
Revival started to sweep through the camp, but it started with that moment.
Christian leaders in China have been asked by Westerners why SO many millions of people have accepted Christ there.
Their response…it’s a combination of:
Faithful witness of Christians in the midst of suffering
The power of God in healing the sick
And the influence of Bible teaching (from missionaries at first, and now their own people)
When you read the Gospels (the stories of Jesus) in the Bible, he’s CONSTANTLY doing miracles. CONSTANTLY.
And yet, it seems like now…that’s not for us or something.
I sometimes wonder when American Christians will wake up and realize that we’re the weird ones.
The Christian church in China, in much of Africa, in South America, ALL the places in the world where Christianity is exploding…are STRONG proponents of God’s miracles…particularly through evangelism.
And then there’s us.
We’ll just argue people to the love of Christ or something
But listen, God wants to LOVE people. There are SO many people, even in this city, who have NO IDEA that Jesus came to die for them and forgive them because He loves them so much.
And we Need to tell them…but we also need to pray God does some crazy stuff to get their attention along the way.
We need some power evangelism.
We need God to get the attention of unbelievers and grab their hearts.
I believe the American church, and yes even the Evangelical church, needs to pray for the miracles of God more now than we have in probably 100’s of years in this country.
For a couple of reasons:
For one, we need miracles now, more than ever, because WE are becoming THAT land where people don’t know God.
And secondly, this is becoming a postmodern culture.
More and more young people have thrown out absolute truth, don’t care that much about logic and philosophy, and their decisions are solely governed by things like experience and feeling.
We can sit and cry about it, OR, we can out and reach people where they’re at!
Let’s pray that God gets their attention w/ an incredible experience of Him! And that’ll open them up to truth!
PEOPLE NEED TO SEE GOD…NOT JUST OUR ARGUMENTS
And listen, we talk about evangelism a lot at this church. It’s what our vision is all about.
And maybe God’s been putting some people on your heart. People in your life already that you are just DESPERATE for them to know the LOVE of God.
Maybe you’re even BRAND NEW to this whole church and God thing yourself, but God’s doing something in you, and you’d like to tell people about it…
But you always get stopped when you think about talking to them…or even just inviting them to church
What do you say? How could you convince them?
But it can’t just be about convincing people. First of all, that’s not our job.
That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
Our job is to just put it out there.
But even then, it’s not just about saying the right worlds. It’s about God showing up in that person’s life.
We need to do more than just talk, we need to PRAY people to Christ!
We need to have the FAITH to ask God to show Himself.
We need to have the HUMILITY to ask God to show Himself.
That we wouldn’t just rely on our own charm or our own great reasoning or brilliant debate skills or whatever.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people saw Him instead of us?
So……..your friend, your dad, your mom, your sibling, your co-worker…whoever it is…
Pray not just that God gives you boldness and words, but pray that God just completely shows UP in their life.
That He would speak to their heart
That He would, I don’t know, show up in a dream
That He would, heal someone, or them, and show His power
In my life…I was an 18 year old kid who was completely disinterested in God, but one night, I came home at 2am, and felt like I just HAD to read the Bible for the first time, and opened it up…
Thus beginning a 6 month journey towards becoming a Christian
Well, what is that?!?
That wasn’t a conversation someone had with me. It wasn’t an argument I was won over by.
It was probably just people praying for God to absolutely SHOW UP in my life, and HE DID!!
Let’s believe in the POWER of GOD in evangelism!
Let’s pray for God to just all-out INTERRUPT people’s lives!
THE LECTURE HALL
And we can pray…but we still have to do everything we can.
We pray, we move, we pray, we move.
They prayed for GREAT things to happen in Ephesus, and they did, but they still did everything possible to provide a place for people to hear the Gospel
Ephesus is a different sort of city for Paul to be in. There are actually already believers there for once. Priscilla and Aquila are there. There’s already a church there.
But that’s not good enough for Paul. What does that matter when still the vast majority of people are lost w/o Christ?
Not all that different than a city like Blaine.
When we started here 2 years ago, we found that there were 17 churches in Blaine.
Sounds great, but the attendance of those churches adds up to about 2,500 people. In a city of almost 60,000.
Not all that different from what Paul faced.
So what does Paul do after the Jews stubbornly reject him?
He rents the Lecture Hall in town.
I love it.
We know based on an early note in a Greek manuscript of the Bible that they think Paul rented the town hall every day from 11-4.
It’s hot in Ephesus. Especially in the summer.
So normal lecturers would have been there in the morning or at night, but the Hall would have been open during the midday hours cuz no one would want to be there cuz of the heat.
But Paul did. It was a facility where he could get in and preach the Gospel. And if He could get a space for people to come, He would.
Plus, that was the time of the day back then, when the people were home for their “siesta” if you will, home for their afternoon nap.
So the Christians invited them in to hear a life-changing message from Paul.
And I started thinking…it’s not all that different from what we’re doing.
We started a church…from scratch… No building. No land. But we came here, so we could reach people w/ the Gospel.
So…we’re renting a building. Just like Paul. On a time when no one else is using it.
Why? So we can provide a space, just like they did, for people to come and encounter the living truth of God!
And just like Paul tried to maximize the time when people were available, we want to do the same thing.
We want to create every opportunity for people to come hear the Gospel…that Jesus wants to forgive them.
So here’s what we feel God calling us to do.
It’s something we’ve spent a lot of time praying about and talking through.
We feel God is calling us to, on Easter Sunday, offer 3 services as a church.
9:00, 10:15, and 11:30.
But that’s just the beginning.
See, the Easter thing, in a way, is a practical decision.
Is it a risk? Sure it is. Is it going to require a lot from us? You bet. Will it require faith? Indeed.
However, if we have the same jump for Easter as we did last year, we’re don’t have enough chairs. Which is a problem.
But here’s the other part of it….
We just felt like God was telling us, that it’s not enough to just have one huge Sunday a year, and pat ourselves on the back for one Sunday out of 52, and then no one comes back the next week.
That’s not reaching people for Christ, that’s drawing a crowd for a day
And we want to reach people for Christ and change lives.
So here’s what we’re going to do:
In order to make it as easy as possible for people to come back the week after Easter, we’re going to run 3 services for the rest of April
So starting on April 8th (Easter Sunday, we’ll be at 3 services for 4 weeks)
So we can better integrate people into the life of the church and ultimately into knowing Jesus Christ
And, then on top of that, we’re going to pray for entire month of April for revival
We’re gonna pray for an “APRIL AWAKENING”
“That God would use that month, this church,to awaken THIS city to His power.
That He is real.
That Hell is real. That heaven is real.
That He really sent his Son for people. To forgive and love us.
But it’s still a choice we all have to make.
That God would just come down and awaken long dormant hearts to Jesus Christ.
That even your friend who seems so far from God, would all of sudden feel compelled to come hear about God with you.
That God would get the attention of your family…that He would MOVE.
I just believe SO strongly that He’s specifically calling us as a church to get ready for Him to use us to reach the lost all over this city
So, we’re gonna be like Paul…find time that people are available.
Provide even more space for people to come in and hear about God
You know….we could sit here every week, and just keep doing the same old thing, and hope that people would eventually wander in here on their own and find God
Then, we wouldn’t have to do anything.
But that’s not how I see God moving in the Bible.
That’s not how I see God moving through people like Paul in the Book of Acts.
God moves when His people pray, and when they move.
Pray and move.
God moves when His people go out…
Even to do something as simple as inviting someone to hear about God
Verse 10 tells us today that Pauls’ preaching in the lecture hall went on DAILY for 2 years, so that everybody in the whole province eventually heard about it!!
Which means 2 things.
1) People went out from there and started new churches in new areas
But 2) It also means EVERYONE invited more people than you can ever imagine to come hear about this Jesus guy.
And then, we see, that along with that, they’re praying and God is doing the miraculous to get the attention of the people.
And we want to be like that.
We want to boldly, through faith, provide a lot of space for a lot of people to come
And then we want to take a whole month to specifically pray that God would do the impossible.
Every week throughout April. An “April Awakening”
We want to stretch your faith in April.
And we’ll be getting more info out to you as the weeks get closer to April Awakening
How we will pray together as a church.
How we will fast together.
How we will help train you and teach you to talk to your friends.
But in the interim…I want to ask that everyday you pray with me in eager expectation for what God is going to do in less than 2 months from now.
And I ask you to join with us as we make incredibly bold strides to reach this community for Christ.
Listen, God is creating an absolute movement through Renovation Church in just these 2 short years…
And my challenge to you is not just to watch the movement, but to be a part of it.
This is going to require all of us.
If you’ve been here even for a month or two, and you’ve made up in your mind, this is my church, than my prayer is that every single person in that category is serving with us.
And it’s going to take every single person if we’re going to do 3 services in that month of April.
There are so many incredible ways you can be a part of the movement here
You can be on our prayer team, you can help set-up, you can teach our children about Jesus..some of them learning about Jesus for the first time, and you can help people feel welcome, serve them donuts, whatever!
Even if you do it just once a month, I’m so pumped for you just to be a PART of this movement.
BECAUSE… right now, as I speak, there are people sitting in this very room with you, and maybe you don’t know them personally yet, but their lives have been incredibly changed because they walked into this gym.
Some of you hear these stories every week when you volunteer with us.
Their story, where…6 months ago, a year ago…18 months ago…you name it… They were lost. Hurting. Broken.
But then someone said to them, “Hey, you should come check out this church w/ me at northpoint elementary.”
And they came. And they heard that God could forgive them. And they let Him in their lives. And then their spouse came. And they met Jesus. And their kids are here now…learning about a Jesus that they knew nothing about 6 months ago.
It’s why we do what we do.
But for every family like that, there are 200 more in this city that are still hurting.
But we’re not intimated by that. In fact, with our God, we are energized by it
God’s done it already, and guess what? He’s gonna do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again!!
And I’m just excited that YOU get to be a part of it with us!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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