A Clash of Kingdoms


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 13:4-12

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Paul and Barnabas set out with John Mark on their first missionary journey after being sent out from the Church in Antioch. They head to Cyprus, where thousands turn to follow Jesus and they end up in a discussion about the Gospel with the Roman governor of the island. However, there is a Rasputin-like figure lurking in the proconsul’s court who opposes the message of Paul, resulting in a clash between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

You could turn to Acts 13, and we'll be in verse 4 in just a minute. Our focus has shifted from the church in Jerusalem to the church in Antioch, which is in present-day Turkey and is called Antakya today, from the gospel moving among the Jews to the gospel moving among the gentiles, from the ministry of the Apostles who were of the 12 to the ministry of the Apostle Paul. In our previous study, we learned Paul and Barnabas were elders in the church at Antioch, where God had been saving thousands of people. They had stepped up to help teach and disciple all these new converts and had been doing so faithfully for just over a year when God spoke to the elders and told them to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to preach the gospel across the Roman world. That's where we pick up our study today in Acts 13, verse 4. We read, so being sent out by the Holy Spirit. Would you underline that phrase, sent out by the Holy Spirit? I mentioned this last week. The church in Antioch didn't send out Paul and Barnabas. The Holy Spirit did.

The church's job was simply to release, bless, and pray for them as they obeyed the word of the Lord and partner with them however the Lord led them to. It says they went down to Seleucia. Let's throw the map up on the screen so we can see where these guys went. The map is of the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. You can see Jerusalem in Israel in the bottom right corner and Antioch in the top right corner, which is, as I said earlier, in present-day Turkey. Now, Antioch was about 16 miles, 26 kilometers from the Coast down the Orontes River. At the mouth of the Orontes was the port of Seleucia. Paul and Barnabas would have sailed down the Orontes in a riverboat, wouldn't have taken them very long, and then switched to a seafaring vessel at Seleucia. Then we read, And from there they sailed to Cyprus. Cyprus is the island on our map to the southwest of Antioch. It's about 60 miles from Seleucia, about half a day's journey by boat, depending on the winds. It's the third largest island in the Mediterranean at around 95 miles long and 60 miles wide.

It was familiar territory to Barnabas as it was his home. There was a large Jewish population there, and some of the believers who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem had already shared the gospel in Cyprus as they had in Antioch. And so, for these reasons, and because of its proximity to Antioch, the island was an ideal starting point for the missionary work of Paul and Barnabas. Then we read in verse 5, arriving in that is the chief port on Cyprus, you can see it there on the Eastern Coast, they proclaimed the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues. Even though Paul was being sent by the Holy Spirit to primarily minister to the gentiles, he would continue as his general practice to always first present the gospel to the Jews wherever he went. In Paul's mind, Jesus was a Jewish messiah who came to Israel first. So, the gospel, likewise, had to be presented to the Jews first. Paul summed up this belief in Romans 1 16, where he wrote, I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew and also to the Greek or to the Gentile.

When Paul would arrive in a new city or a new town, he would generally head first to the local synagogues where he could share the gospel with the Jewish community and their leaders. Then we read they also had John as their assistant. You'll recall from last week's study, this is not John the Apostle, but John Mark, whose mother owned the house that was likely used for the last supper, the prayer meeting in the upper room on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and the home base of the Jerusalem Church after they were kicked out of the temple and the synagogues. John Mark had felt led by the Lord to join Paul and Barnabas when they returned to Antioch from Jerusalem. Colossians 410 tells us that John Mark was actually Barnabas's cousin. Verse 6, When they had traveled the whole island as far as Paphos. Let's put the map up just one more time. You can see Paphos is on the opposite Coast, the West Coast. They went all across the whole island, reaching the end of their journey at the capital city of Cyprus, Paphos. It was a city rife with pagan religious prostitution because it was the center of Aphrodite worship in the Greek world or Venus to the Romans.

It says that when they came to Paphos, they came across a Sorcerer, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. Now, "bar" is the Aramaic word for son. His name means "son of Jesus," but not the Jesus that we worship, not Jesus of Nazareth. Remember that at that time, Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, was an extremely common name. Even though Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the son of God, there were still thousands of other Jesuses all over the place among the Hebrew population of the Roman world. This guy's name just means son of Jesus, meaning his dad's name was Jesus. Sergius Paulus was the civil governor of the whole island of Cyprus. While this Bar-Jesus guy was ethnically Jewish, he was clearly religiously apostate. He had abandoned his Jewish religious beliefs entirely. We know that because he was a sorcerer. Sorcery is given the death penalty under the law of God in the Hebrew Torah. Additionally, Bar-Jesus was buddies with the Roman proconsul, something a religiously devout Jew would not have been at the time. In all likelihood, Bar-Jesus was a master of sleight-of-hand illusions, who was also steeped in the occult.

It's possible he was able to perform some real magic by occultic power. 'By demonic power. He was probably a highly charismatic individual and had clearly ingratiated himself to the island's highest office by presenting himself as someone who had insights into the supernatural realm. The best way to think of him is that he was almost like a Rasputin-type figure and held that sway over Sergius Paulus. Continuing in verse 7, This man - Sergius Paulus - summoned Barnabas and Sol and wanted to hear the Word of God. We're told the proconsul was an intelligent man. He was a learned man. He was interested in philosophy, ideas, knowledge, truth, and religion. When he heard that Sol and Barnabas were on his island preaching a message that was supposedly from God and was causing thousands to turn to follow Jesus, he was curious and had to know more. He called the two of them for a private audience and conversation. Verse 8, But Elymas the Sorcerer, that is the meaning of his name. If you're not tracking, Elymas is Bar-Jesus, they're one and the same person. Elymas is apparently something akin to his stage name, so to speak. So, Bar-Jesus / Elymas the Sorcerer opposed them and tried to turn the Pro Council away from the faith.

Elymas recognized that if Sirius Paulus became a follower of Jesus, he would lose his influence over the ruler of Cyprus. For those who know the Lord themselves have no need of mystical counselors to navigate the spiritual world on their behalf. He did all he could to talk down Paul and Barnabas and the gospel they were preaching in an attempt to steer Sergius Paulus away from the truth. Verse 9, But Paul also called Paul. This is the first time in Scripture that Paul is referred to as Paul. It's not a name change per se. Rather, Paul is his Hebrew name, while Paul is his Roman name. Paul started going by his Roman name in all likelihood because he was now traveling the Roman gentile world. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, underlined, filled with the Holy Spirit. I had you underline that because God put this in his word to make it clear that in this moment, Paul is ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit. He only had the ability to minister as the situation required because he was full of the Holy Spirit. As we talked about last week, all ministry flows out of our relationship with God.

This phrase tells us that what Paul does next was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God led Paul to do this, and the Spirit of God gave Paul insight into what was really happening in the room in that moment in the spiritual realm and in the heart of Elymas. Paul stared straight at Elymas and said, You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. You son of the devil, an enemy of all that is right. There are a lot of Christians today who, if they heard Paul speaking like this, would be quick to condemn him as unloving and not showing the love of Jesus. I can see the tweets already. Where's the grace, Paul? Unbelievable. Just watch this video clip of Paul going all legalistic on Elymas. People who love Jesus never speak this harshly. Here's what you need to understand. There is no grace for those who stop people from coming to Jesus. They are doing the devil's work. They are ministering on behalf of Satan. Jesus pointed to a child and used them as a metaphor for new or baby Christians, people trying to take their first step toward God.

T his is what Jesus said. Jesus said, Who are you? Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away, it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses, for offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes. A person who tries to prevent another from finding Jesus is directly opposing God. Their only hope is to repent, turn from their sins, and seek the forgiveness of Jesus because they should be terrified by their current standing before God and terrified of the judgment that awaits them in eternity. That is the reality of the situation. That's why Paul says to Elymas, you son of the devil and you enemy of all that is right, you are a minister of Satan right now. Then Paul says this, underline this sentence in your Bibles, won't you ever stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord? Paul uses imagery that conveys the essence of what the word perverting means as a verb. It means to take something that God has designed and ordained and twist it into something that rejects God's design and thereby rejects God.

If you haven't noticed, Satan is finding great success in our culture in his work of perverting God's good designs. That's the ministry of Satan. One of his ministries is what are the good things that God has designed? How can I twist it and how can I distort it? There's not a war on conservative values happening in our culture. The war is against God. The war is against God's design for people. That's what the war is against. This perverting is the demonic influence that is behind our culture's rising hatred of God's design for marriage, God's design for family, God's design for gender, God's design for sexual behavior and identity, God's design for work, God's design for community, God's design for governmental authority, and on and on and on I could go. The common thread is not a political ideology. The common thread is that this is a war inspired by Satan against the things of God. That's what's going on. The spirit behind it all comes from Satan's desires to pervert God's good designs wherever he can. In this instance, Elymas was conspiring to pervert the simple path in front of Sergius Paulus that led to Jesus by making it appear complicated and difficult.

Perhaps Elymas was whispering things like, What will all your upper-class friends think when word gets around that you bow your knee to a Jewish messiah? This could cost you your job. What do you think Rome is going to think when they hear you're worshiping the Jesus they crucified? What are they going to think in Rome when they found out you serve Jesus ahead of Caesar? This Ministry of Satan shows up in people who don't even realize they're serving as ministers of Satan. When there's a friend or someone they know, a family member who wants to seek Jesus, but they come to them and say, Well, you're not going to get to be your true self if you follow Jesus. I heard there's lots of hypocrites in the church. I hear they're super judgy. It's the ministry of Satan putting obstacles in front of people who want to come to Jesus. Jesus said, It'd be better if you had a millstone tied around your neck and you were thrown into the ocean than for you to fall into the hands of God. Having done that, your only hope is to repent and seek the forgiveness of God because those who do such things are on a collision course with God.

Paul's not done with Ely Maas, and he continues addressing him. Now look, if that last phrase wasn't terrifying enough, just think for a second and try to understand how terrifying this phrase is. Now look, the Lord's hand is against you. The Lord's hand is against you. How sobering is that? It's absolutely true. The Lord's hand is against anyone who tries to prevent or dissuade someone from coming to Jesus. The Lord's hand is against anyone who seeks to pervert his good design and straight paths. You are going to be blind and will not see the sun for a time. Immediately, a mist and darkness fell on him and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Let your mind go there. Can you imagine how shocking this must have been for those who are present? As Elymas screams out because his world is suddenly enveloped by darkness and the audience in the room are left speechless. Like Moses and the magicians of Pharaoh's court, God displays his overwhelming power by making a mockery of the occultic power of Satan. Elymas was considered a powerful man, a master of the dark arts who possessed supernatural abilities.

And yet with a word, with a word, Paul takes away his sight, leaving no confusion as to who the greater God was. The Bible teaches there are two types of revelation given by God to humanity. Theologians call these two types of revelation general revelation and special revelation. General revelation refers to a revelation of God that is given to everyone. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul explains that everyone is given revelation through creation, the world around us. Everyone is given revelation through our inherent moral conscience. Everyone can experience creation around us. God has given everyone the ability to recognize that creation must have a creator. The Bible says we all, the Bible says everybody knows that our world is not an accident or the result of some cosmic coincidence. The Bible says we know that. To believe otherwise, we must consciously make the decision to reject what we know deep down to be true. Additionally, God has put a basic moral conscience in us. We inherently know that murder is wrong, that theft is wrong. We have a basic moral conscience that preaches to our souls that we are morally accountable for our actions. A gain, to deny this, we must consciously deny what we know deep down to be true.

People do deny both forms of general revelation. They do reject them so that they can justify in their minds living in a way their soul tells them is morally wrong. Jesus explained this to Nicodemus when he said, This is the judgment. The light has come into the world. P eople love darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light. The purpose of general revelation is to lead us to special revelation. What is special revelation? Well, it refers to revelations of God that are not given automatically to every person. Generally speaking, God gives special revelation to those who seek Him in response to the general revelation they have received. The Bible is a special revelation of God. But I suggest to you that the ink and paper and leather and cardboard that make up your Bible are not what make it a special revelation of God. The Bible is a special revelation of God when it is read by someone seeking God. A person who's not seeking God can pick up a Bible and experience nothing more than words on paper.

But when a person reads the Bible because they're seeking truth, they're looking for God, it comes alive as the word of God, a special revelation of God. More importantly, Jesus himself is a special revelation of God. When he came to the earth as a man, he was a special revelation of God. He said, If you know me, you will also know my father. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. Lord, said Philip, show us the father, and that's enough for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father? Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you, I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the father is in me. Special revelation can also include miraculous and supernatural appearances by Jesus while awake in visions or asleep in dreams, God speaking through an audible or inaudible voice and other means.

But I'll say it again, I'm going to ask you to write it down too. The purpose of general revelation is to spur us to seek God and find Him through special revelation. The purpose of general revelation is to spur us to seek God and find Him through special revelation. In Romans 1, Paul also explains that those who eagerly reject general revelation because they want their sin more than they want the truth, will eventually have that general revelation taken from them. God will remove their internal moral conscience and their ability to perceive obvious truth in things like creation. We see Jesus do a form of this to the pharisees when he switches to speaking in parables. We see a form of the same thing take place with Elymas. He loses his literal revelation, his sight as a terrifying metaphor of what is at stake in the unseen realm. That Elymas' blindness was temporary, was a grace from God. It was an opportunity to repent and respond to the truth that he had received. We can only hope that he did. This is a powerful reminder that all of us must regularly examine ourselves with the question, what am I doing with the revelation I have already received?

This question is especially important for a congregation like ours which values the Scripture so highly. We treasure the knowledge of God. We find life in the pages of His Word, and yet that passion can easily go astray and we can become intoxicated with the accumulation of knowledge rather than worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, being, as our brother James wrote, doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. That's a sobering verse. James says, Be careful that you don't confuse knowledge of God for faith in God. The demons know a whole lot about God. God gives further revelation to those who act on the revelation they've already received. Our goal is not to accumulate knowledge. Our goal is to know God, obey Jesus, and be made more like Him. That's why we love and study the scriptures. What am I doing with the revelation I have already received? Am I a doer of the Word or a hearer only? Or how about this one? A doer when it seems doable, and a hearer when I'm not really crazy about what he's asking me to do. Which one am I? Like Moses and the magicians of Pharaoh's court, God displays his overwhelming power over Satan.

It says in Verse 12, When he, Sirius Paulus, saw what happened, the Proconsul believed he became a Christian. The governor of Cyprus became a Christian. Then I love this, because he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Underline that word, teaching. The proconsul becomes a follower of Jesus because all who sincerely seek the truth will find it. God will make sure of it. I love that despite the miraculous and instantaneous blindness inflict upon Elymas, Sergius Paulus believes because he is astonished not at the miracle, but at the teaching of the Lord. Genuine seekers who desire truth are astonished at the message of the gospel and recognize it for what it is, the greatest miracle that has ever occurred in the history of our universe. Sergius Paulus, the Pro Council of Cyprus, repents, converts, and becomes a follower of Jesus. The one who hated the truth, Elymas, is plunged into darkness. The one who loved the truth, Sergius Paulus, is called out of darkness and into the marvelous light of the Kingdom of God. Paul, I'll just say this, I was talking to B. J. Before, just incredible what the Lord did. When you understand this was the first missionary journey.

The first missionary journey, how did it go? Well, thousands of people were saved all across the island of Cyprus, and then the cherry on top, the governor became a Christian, too. That's the first missionary trip like that's going on. That's a pretty good start. God was doing amazing things. Paul did not enter an intellectual debate with Elon Musk. He didn't pull out his extensive knowledge of apologetics and philosophy. That's because the issue was not intellectual. This was not the battle that was taking place. This was a spiritual battle for the soul of Sergius Paulus. Paul would later counsel the Ephesians that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil spiritual forces in the heavens. Far too many Christians live like materialists far too much of the time. That is to say far too many Christians live as though the spiritual world does not exist. In a conflict or a trial, there may be physical, intellectual, emotional, biological, psychiatric, or psychological issues, or others that I'm neglecting to mention. But there may also be spiritual issues. Those spiritual issues may be part of the cause or the sole cause of the issue.

With Elymas and the battle for the soul of Sergius Paulus, the issue was solely spiritual. Elymas was an agent of Satan at that moment seeking to keep the Proconsul from the truth. A good argument was not what was needed. Neither was a gentle word of correction. Neither was just showing love to Elymas. What was needed was the power of God. The logical question, of course, is, well, how do we discern what the root cause of an issue is? How do we do that? How do we know when it's a spiritual issue? Verse 9 gave us the answer. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. That's how he was able to discern that the issue was spiritual in nature. The Holy Spirit revealed it to him. Paul was able to hear the voice of the Spirit because he was full of the Spirit. Write this down. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be able to discern when an issue is spiritual in nature. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will be able to discern when an issue is spiritual in nature. This is a continuation of the issue I sought to highlight in the text of our previous study.

We cannot fulfill the ministry that God has given us and called us to apart from his Spirit. Paul could not be the missionary he was called to be apart from being full of the Holy Spirit. How are we supposed to discern if an issue is spiritual when we encounter conflict or trials in our marriage, our parenting, our relationships, our work, our finances, or our health? We can't because we don't know. We don't know. We can't see into the spiritual realm and discern what's going on. The only way for us to get that information is to have it revealed to us by one who can see into the spiritual realm because he is both there and here with us. I'm speaking, of course, of the Holy Spirit. B. J. Mentioned that classic line recently spoken by Keyser Soze in the movie, "The Usual Suspects": "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist." Satan pulls off this deception through philosophical naturalism, materialism, the belief that all that exists is the observable natural universe. There is no spiritual reality. There are no spiritual dimensions. This belief system was propelled into the zeitgeist by Charles Darwin's scientifically bankrupt theory of evolution, and it has been a spectacular success for Satan.

The existential angst, the deep longing for meaning that stirs in the hearts of men and was placed there by God to drive him to pursue the truth and find it, is now dismissed as a psychological condition that must be suppressed with the aid of psychotropic medication. Do you understand that when a person looks at our world and perceives reality clearly with a sober mind, it is reasonable that he be driven to depression? Because that is reality. It is reasonable when a person looks at the pain and suffering and seeming meaninglessness and arbitrary nature of life and concludes this is all meaningless. Because apart from God, it is. The person who is overcome by that type of sadness and angst and depression is being prepared and softened by the Holy Spirit for the glorious good news of the gospel. But instead, instead, we tell them to take some medication. You don't need Jesus, you just need this drug. It'll help you feel better. It will synthesize contentment for your soul. I despair over how often we, and I include myself in this, speak and act like materialists when through the Holy Spirit, we are offered insight from God himself.

Paul taught this to the Corinthians, writing, The person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God's Spirit because it's foolishness to him. He's not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone for who has known the Lord's mind that he may instruct him. But we have the mind of Christ. If we will be filled with the Holy Spirit, the scriptures tell us we will have the mind of Christ. He will guide our thoughts. He will speak to us. He will lead us. He will give us discernment. He will give us insight we cannot naturally possess. He will give us the power we need to fulfill the ministry that he has given us. If it's not obvious, let me say it clearly, spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. If part of an issue, conflict, or trial is spiritual in nature, no materialistic or naturalistic approach will be able to sufficiently address it. It won't. The situation involving Paul, Elymas and Sergius Paulus gives us insights into some aspects of what we call spiritual warfare. I always tell this, I grew up Pentecostal.

Pentecostals have some very interesting beliefs about such things. But you knew you grew up Pentecostal when they didn't tell ghost stories when you were a kid. They told demon stories. They didn't tell stories about serial killers. They told stories like I heard at camp last year, there was this one kid who was demon-possessed, and he just started crawling around on the ground like a snake in the middle of the night. Someone woke up and saw him. Those are the stories you grew up with if you grew up Pentecostal. Nobody ever actually knew someone that that happened to. But everyone knew someone who knew someone who definitely had a cousin who went to a camp where it happened. Unbreakable chain of authenticity. But there's a man who needs the truth, Sergius Paulus. However, there is a force working against him to actively conceal that truth because that force wants to maintain its power and influence over Sergius Paulus. That force works through Elymas. Lastly, there is a transcendent, greater power seeking to share the truth with Sergius Paulus and set him free from the dark power and influence of Elymas. That power is working through Paul.

This scenario plays itself out over and over again in the lives of those around us and indeed in our own lives. The forces of darkness seek to conceal the truth from us by offering us an alternative reality, an alternative path, an alternative belief system, an alternative perspective. What if you looked at it like this? An alternative perspective to God's perspective. This alternate path is always offered to us in a way that happens to perfectly tailor to and accommodate our preferences and our weaknesses. It's always extra tasty. The reason the forces of darkness seek to conceal the truth from us is that if we follow their alternative path, we will be granting them power and influence over us. If you've never placed your faith in Jesus, the goal is to keep you from turning your life over to him with whispered words like, Think of everything you'll have to give up if you follow Jesus. Think of all the things you won't be able to do anymore. You don't want to lose that freedom, do you? Of course, the tragic irony is that we're not free. We're a slave to those things. We're like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings who refuses to let go of the ring even as it destroys him day by day.

We see this in romantic relationships in our society. Our culture runs to embrace sexual liberation in all its forms, ignoring the fact that the results are already in. We are the loneliest, most depressed generation that has ever lived, conceding that in general, we have no idea how to have meaningful, long-term romantic relationships. But I'm free. Are you? Are we? Not by any measurable metric, not by any observable evidence. We're just slaves to our most base desires, and we've allowed them to rob us of God's good, fulfilling, and satisfying design for romantic relationships. If you've placed your faith in Jesus, the kingdom of darkness hasn't given up on you. No, while Satan can never reclaim ownership of you because you belong to Jesus, his kingdom will still seek to oppress you, to imprison you and render you ineffective for the Kingdom of Jesus. He will still seek to take control of your mind and your thoughts, knowing that if he can do that, they will inevitably bleed out into your actions. Over and over again, we find ourselves in the role of Sergius Paulus to varying degrees. Because over and over again, our adversary seeks to conceal the truth from us in order to gain power and influence over us.

Then in a moment, the Kingdom of God breaks through. The light of the truth pierces our darkness and suddenly we see clearly. If you're a Christian, you've had this happen to you so many times. You've gotten caught up in a sin and there's just a moment where you see it clearly and you understand that you've been deceived, you've been put in bondage. I wish that was where the process ended with Jesus breaking in. But it's not. Because that moment when the light of truth pierces the darkness that has enshrouded our minds, that moment does not set us free in and of itself. The purpose of that moment, the reason Jesus does that, and what that moment gives us is a choice. Jesus turns the lights on so that we can make a choice. God will never overwhelm our free will. If you want your sin, he will let you have it. He lifts our blindness to give us the choice, the option to run to the truth and be set free. Sergius Paulus grabbed hold of the light of truth when it was presented to him, and he was set free. When Jesus comes to you, when Jesus comes to me and he removes the blindfold and we suddenly see that we've been deceived, we've been enslaved, we've been controlled by the lies of the enemy, how do we grab hold of the light and the truth and find freedom?

The answer is that we repent. We repent. Repentance includes two things. Number one, repentance includes acknowledging that we were willfully following our own desires instead of God. Yes, we were deceived, but we were deceived because we wanted to be. We were willingly deceived. T hat's what sin is. Repentance means we don't blame anybody else. We don't blame circumstances. No, I sinned because I wanted to, and I chose to. This is me. This is my sin. Then secondly, repentance includes no longer following our desires, but instead turning to follow Jesus as Lord. If you've never followed Jesus, you need to repent. If you're a Jesus follower, but you've stopped following him in any area of your life, you need to repent. That means putting the old life to death. It means waking up every day and saying, My goal today is to follow Jesus. My goal is to obey Jesus. It means that if we recognize anything in our lives that runs contrary to how Jesus has asked us to live, we seek to change it as soon as possible. Repentance is not about perfection. It is, though, about intention. Who is your master? Jesus or your desires?

Whose opinion is authoritative in your life? Jesus's or your own? Do you remember what happened when Peter preached in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2? We read, When they, the crowd, heard this, Peter's gospel message, they were pierced to the heart. The light broke through and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Brothers, what should we do? How do we grab hold of this? Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promises for you and for your children and for all who are far off as many as the Lord our God will call. With many other words, he testified and strongly urge them, saying, Be saved from this corrupt generation. The crowd said, We see it, Peter. We see the light. We can taste the freedom. What do we need to do? What did Peter say? He said, Repent. Grab hold of the truth with both hands and repent. Follow Jesus. I would be remiss if I did not share with you two serious words of warning regarding these issues.

First, do not take the revelation of God lightly. It is no small thing that the God of heaven and earth would care so much about you as an individual that he would break through the darkness in your life to invite you as an individual to come into the light and life that is found only in him. That's not a small thing. Neither is it a small thing that in order to offer you that freedom, he had to suffer and die in your place so that your sins could be forgiven. Do not think that the offer will always be there. Do not think that God owes you an infinite number of invitations to be set free. He owes you nothing. He owes you nothing. We should not think that God will allow us to reject him an infinite number of times and treat his blood with utter contempt. He won't. If we reject his invitation over and over and over again, we will eventually find ourselves permanently in darkness. Jesus talked about this in his parable of the talent in Matthew 25, speaking of those who respond to the revelation of God they are given and those who don't.

Jesus said, To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. The one who responds to the revelation of God's truth will be given more, but the one who does not will eventually lose even the general revelation he had. Their ability to perceive God, even in nature and in their own conscience, will be taken from them. If you can perceive God calling you to truth, calling you to repent, it is no small thing. Do not take it for granted. Remember what Paul said to Elymas in verse 11, You are going to be blind and will not see the sun for a time. Immediately, a mist and darkness fell on him. God was gracious to Elymas and gave him another chance. But if we continually, knowingly reject Jesus and the truth, we will go spiritually blind and a darkness will come upon us that will never leave. If you can hear God's voice today, you must respond today. Second warning. Mark 12, 15 tells us that when Jesus himself preached the gospel, his message was repent and believe the good news.

Repent and believe. It is possible to repent and not believe. It is possible to see the truth and yet respond to only part of the truth. Let me explain what this looks like. It's the person who says, Oh, the light has come into my life and I can see now that I was being enslaved by those wrong beliefs. I see how they are destructive. I understand that I need to stop doing those things and I will work toward that goal. I will work on becoming a healthier person. T hat's the response. We do this because we want to be set free from the things that are enslaving and oppressing us, but we also want to maintain control and authority over our lives. We still want to rule as God over our lives. The only right response to Jesus, piercing the darkness in your life with the light of the truth, is to repent and believe. When Jesus said, believe, he meant, Follow me as Lord. That's what he meant. That means we get off the throne and we ask Jesus to get on it. He becomes our master. His opinion becomes the only opinion that matters.

It's not the deciding vote in our lives. It's the only vote in our lives. Here's the warning. In Mark 12, Jesus describes what happens when he sets a person free so that they can have the choice to follow him, but they refuse to welcome him into their lives as king. They say, This is great. I can see it clearly. I can stop my bad habits, but I don't want Jesus to be my Lord. This is what Jesus said happens in that scenario. When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn't find any. Then it says, I'll go back to my house that I came from. Returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits, more evil than itself. They enter and they settle down there. As a result, that person's last condition is worse than the first. That's how it will also be with this evil generation. God's power comes into a person's life lifting their blindness so they can have the choice to follow Jesus's Lord. That person says, I'm so grateful I can now see what was holding me in bondage.

I'll clean myself up, but I'm going to run my own life. I don't need Jesus as king. Jesus says, Listen, the same dark forces that were oppressing you are just going to come back to your neat and tidy life, and they're going to come back even stronger. The same power that came into our lives to give us the choice to be set free is the same power we need to remain free. We don't need a one-time fix. If you hear anything today, please hear this. We don't need a one-time fix. We need regime change in our lives. We need regime change. We need Jesus to reign as king in our lives because he is the only one strong enough to keep the kingdom of darkness at bay. If we try to run the show without Jesus, we will end up worse than we were previously. As he demonstrated when he was on the earth and through Paul, God's power is unmatched. In Matthew 12, we read this, Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and unable to speak was brought to Jesus. He healed him so that the man could both speak and see.

The crowds were astounded and said, Could this be the son of David? Could this be the Messiah? When the Pharaoh heard this, they said, This man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. Beelzebul is just another name for Satan. They're like, Oh, he's using the power of Satan to drive out demons. That's what he's doing because Satan rules demons. That's what's going on. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he's divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? If I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason, they will be your judges. If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. How can someone enter a strong man's house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. This is what Jesus is saying. He's saying, I have the power to come into anyone's life, bind up whatever is oppressing them and clean house and do whatever I want.

Nothing can stop me. Nothing can resist me. Jesus can do that for you. Whatever is oppressing you, he can do that for you in your life. But you don't just need a temporary respite from oppression. You don't just need a break. You need regime change. You need the good King Jesus Christ ruling in and over your life. If you want that, then Jesus will do it for you. If you want that, he has you here in this place today so that your darkness can be pierced by the light of the truth and so that you can find the freedom that comes from following Jesus. That's why he has you here. It's no small thing. With that, I'm going to pray for us. I'll ask the worship team to come up. Would you bow your head and close your eyes? Jesus, we just thank you so much for your word and we thank you, first of all, for your power that you are greater, you are stronger, you are more awesome than anything. You have no rival. You are completely unmatched. You're unparalleled. There's no one like you. You can come into any life at any moment.

If we'll say, Jesus, I want you to reign as king, you will, and you will set us free. Father, I pray for anyone right now who has never been set free by you, who has never experienced the peace from having you on the throne in their life. Jesus, I pray that you would pierce their darkness right now with the light of the truth, overwhelm them with the reality of your presence. Lift the blindfold, reveal yourself to them and call them to you. If that's you, I just want to encourage you to say, yes, Jesus, I want you as King to reign in my life. I f you want that, I want to ask that you would just head back during the worship time. Go tell the prayer partners who are going to be back there, come tell me or BJ after the service. We're not going to embarrass you. We just want to talk with you some more about what Jesus has done for you and about how you can know him in a deeper way. Then I also want to pray for those of us who do know the Lord, who do belong to him.

I want to invite you to invite the Holy Spirit to examine your life, to examine every corner of your soul. This is our prayer is, Holy Spirit, would you reveal to us any area of our lives where we have been deceived, any blind spots where we are not believing the truth, any area of our life where we've taken back the throne? Because we want you to rule us, King, over all of it, Jesus. So speak to us, Holy Spirit. We're open. We want to belong completely and entirely to the Lord. So do that in us, Holy Spirit. A gain, I just feel impressed just to tell you, it does not matter what the issue is. Jesus is greater. Jesus is greater. Jesus is greater. Lord, we love you and we thank you for setting us free. Every one of us has a reason to sing, a reason to praise, a reason to adore you, a reason to worship you, a reason to love you because we were dead and you brought us to life. We were in chains and you set us free and we love you for it. We love you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus.

In your name amen.

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