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Why Loud and Proud Won’t Get It Done

 

PRAYER OF CONSECRATION

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 19:32–41 

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

CONSIDER THIS

Now that I am a local church pastor I’m back in the habit of going to high school football games. It has caused me to remember the football games of my youth. Somewhere along the way in all those games, the crowds in the opposing stands would engage in what was called a “Spirit Battle.” You know the drill. A group of the home team fans begin shouting in unison, “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?” Then the visitors’ side of the field gleefully takes their turn, doing their best to shout even louder from their bleachers, “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?”

By now, it has everyone’s attention on the home side. In order to win this battle that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the game on the field, the home team fans shout louder, “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?” Then the visitor’s side takes another turn. Next, the whole thing devolves when the home side pushes the “We’ve got more! More! More!” button, and, before you know it, everyone in the whole place is shouting it and from there, it devolves further into the dreaded wave, or worse!

I’ve often wondered what the players on the field thought about this practice. After all, the fans aren’t exactly cheering for the players. They are cheering for themselves. 

Something of this kind of thing is happening in today’s text. 

There’s usually an inverse relationship between the volume of the crowd and the power or truth of whatever it is they are getting loud about. Volume, or force, doesn’t tend to make the truth get louder or more powerful. More often than not, it calls the truth of the truth into question. 

The city clerk had it right as he spoke to the frenzied Ephesian chamber of commerce when he said: Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash.

This is what faith looks like. They had good faith. The problem was, they had a bad god. 

It reminds me of Elijah’s famed encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel. As the prophets got louder and louder and their antics grew more and more redonkulous, Elijah opted not to enter into a spirit battle, but rather to simply and boldly call on the name of the Lord. Okay, he did taunt them a bit before he did that. Watch his approach:

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36–37)

More often than not, a simple prayer offered in quiet yet demonstrative faith will carry the day. Look what happened on Mt. Carmel:

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:38–39)

Bottom line: Our spirit battles bring nothing to the truth of the gospel. Friends, as followers of Jesus in an increasingly hostile culture, we don’t have spirit. We don’t need spirit. We have the Holy Spirit. He is his own witness. And we have truth. And, yes, truth is his own witness. The truth of the gospel, who is Jesus Messiah, inspires quiet confidence and bold reserve. The gospel is a power in and of itself. It’s the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. We need never be ashamed of it, nor do we need to put on a spirit show.

THE PRAYER 

Father, what we need is transformation. We need the kind of formation that comes not from our efforts and energy but from the Spirit of God and in the name of Jesus. So we pray:

Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.

Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.

THE JOURNAL PROMPTS

Have you ever recognized that the gospel is the truth whether someone believes it or not? How does that impact your faith and your approach to other people?

THE HYMN

Today we will sing “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (hymn 101) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Beyond Loud and Proud

    I have discovered that a powerful way to move beyond my proud human spirit and loud self-effort, into trust in and surrender to the Holy Spirit, is to pray in tongues every time I feel discouraged, tempted, or tormented. Because of that I pray in tongues many times each day.

    This is what frequently speaking in tongues does in and through me:
    * It confronts and humbles my pride as I regularly use such a simple and humble gift by surrendering control of what I am saying to Jesus and speaking out words that I don’t understand.
    * It causes me to intimately and intensely experience the awareness of the risen Lord Jesus living inside of and freely flowing through me.
    * It aligns and tunes my heart and will to the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    * It moves me beyond mere mental concepts of Christ into actual and active surrender to and direct interaction with His inner presence.
    * It edifies me by encouraging, strengthening and empowering me.
    * It gives me supernatural strength to resist the world’s negativity, temptation, discouragement, doubt, fear, loneliness, worry, anger, deception, and other carnal brainwashing.
    * It opens me up to more of God’s inner power to resist sin, hear and obey Jesus, and be a more effective witness for Him.
    * It trains me to flow with and appreciate the “least” of the gifts of the Spirit (tongues) so that I can grow into and experience other gifts of the Spirit operating in and through me.
    * It helps me to cultivate, overflow with, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

    One of the main purposes of the spiritual gift of tongues is to build up, strengthen, and empower individual Christ-followers. “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” (1 Corinthians 14:4 NKJ) If we don’t first receive the gift of the oxygen of God’s Spirit to edify us, how can we help others to receive that gift of personal edification? Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, but they also must be received and used by believers. They don’t take over and control people. They work with our free will. The Bible says, “You have not because you ask not.” Jesus said, “Ask (in Greek ‘keep on asking’) and you shall receive.”

    Here are two more things that the Bible says about tongues. “I would you all speak in tongues . . .” and “Do all speak in tongues?” (With an implied no.) I believe every Spirit-filled Christian can speak in tongues, but many don’t. Tongues (though the least of the spiritual gifts) is a beautiful gift that can help any Christian experience the risen Jesus in more powerful and intimate ways by releasing the Spirit’s inner rivers of living water through your voice.

    Also, in Acts 2, the Bible says, “They began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.” They did the speaking and moved their own vocal cords, but the words came from the Spirit. As they spoke in various languages that they didn’t know (tongues), bystanders heard their own language. In a crowd of people speaking many different languages which one will you recognize? Your own language is the one that will stand out to you.

  2. From my perspective, today’s lesson is a reminder that apart from Christ Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) No amount of human self-will, intestinal fortitude, or persuasive rhetoric can effectively bring about a successful conversion in a nonbeliever. Like Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “ My speech and and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) I am but an instrument in God’s hands.

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