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Who Are You?

Acts 19:11-16

 

”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 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 I know about Paul, 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.” (NIV)

 There is a sharp contrast in this passage of scripture between authentic and inauthentic ministry.  The first section shows the power of God manifested through the works of Paul, while the second half shows what happens when someone seeks notoriety, but are not operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.  As we contrast the two, I want to take them out of order and look at the second half of the scripture passage first.  Seven sons of a Jewish chief priest were attempting to cast out demons “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.”  The evil spirits replied, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ and then jumped on the brothers and gave them a good whipping.  The brothers left the house, humiliated and physically hurt, powerless against the evil spirits.  Before we go further, let me remind you that the scripture suggests that believers need not fear the dark side because God is greater than the forces of evil.  John wrote, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 KJV)  But these men didn’t have God’s power; they were imposters, wanting the notoriety that Paul had without the commitment. The evil spirits said to them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’

 Oakland Raiders fans will remember Kenny King, a running back that Al Davis acquired from the Houston Oilers in 1980.  They will especially remember his 80-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XV that helped the “Silver and Black” defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 and stood as a Super Bowl record for 16 years.  Though he didn’t have a Hall of Fame career, he certainly left his mark on the NFL. (http://www.raiders.com/history/whatever_king.jsp) Long before he played for the Raiders or for Oklahoma University, he played A-ball in Clarendon, Texas.  How do I know that?  He was a senior at Clarendon High School when I was a freshman 52 miles away in Silverton.

 Every Monday during football season, practice would begin with watching the film from the previous week’s game and a discussion of the team we would be playing on Friday night.  The week before the Clarendon game, Coach spent most of the team meeting talking about Kenny King, and for good reason, he was an outstanding player. But the talk didn’t end with the team meeting, all week long during drills, Our Coaches talked about King and what he wanted us to do to try to stop him.  It was as if the other 10 players wouldn’t take the field.  King got inside our heads.

 The game was such a blowout, that coach put in the freshman players to get some experience.  One of my good friends tried to tackle King after he’d broken out of the backfield by jumping on his back.  King carried him all the way to the end zone.  I didn’t even do that well against him.  On a couple of occasions he ran with the ball in my direction and I attempted to tackle him, but bounced off of him like a bb hitting a tank.  King dominated the field from end zone to end zone.  Perhaps that is why oilbowl.com lists him as one of the outstanding players to ever play Texas football.

 I am confident that when Clarendon’s coach ran down the Silverton Team lineup he didn’t mention Jimmy Wilson, a 110-pound freshman tackle playing for the Silverton Owls.  I was a nobody sitting on the bench, surrounded by other nobodies.  Our opponent didn’t even know I existed and I did nothing on the field that day that would have caught their eye the next week when they reviewed the film, unless they were looking for a good laugh.

The evil spirits replied, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Paul had distinguished himself in the way he’d lived and you’d better believe that the evil spirits knew who he was.

 Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years ministering among the people with great results. Dr. Luke noted the extent of Paul’s healing power in the opening verses of our text, Paul didn’t actually have to touch sick people to heal them, if someone took a handkerchief that he’d touched and took it to the sick, they would be healed.  This was not a power intrinsic in Paul, nor did he deserve any special notoriety because of it, verse 11 makes it clear that God was doing these miracles through Paul.  Paul enjoyed great healing powers here, but later would be unable to heal himself. Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 “For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, [7] especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. [8] Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. [9] But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. [10] So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (HCSB)  In Acts 19, the power of God flows through Paul to heal those who are sick, and in 2 Corinthians 12, the grace of God sustains Paul through his sickness.  Why didn’t God heal Paul?  Paul said it was so that he would not exalt himself. 

 Humility is the shadow cast from a great person. 1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “Likewise, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [6] Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, [7] casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.” (HCSB)  Humility is a necessary trait of greatness  On February 12, 2000 two great men died of cancer, Cowboys football coach Tom Landry and Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz  Writer Mike Lopresti said, "One spoke with his coaching and his dignity. The other with a comic strip that reached the underdog in us all. One will be remembered for his hat and his grace and his football team. The other for Lucy and Linus and Charlie Brown" (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
 

 Though both achieved fame and fortune for their work, both were surprised by their fame and appeal. "People will forget me quick," Landry said the day he was fired from the Cowboys by new owner Jerry Johnson.  "All I did was draw pictures," Schulz said upon receiving over 500 get well letters arrive in one day when fans heard of his illness. 

 God chooses to use humble people for his work, people who are not interested in receiving glory, but whose desire is to bring glory to God. 

 For Paul, fame wasn’t an end in itself, but an unwanted consequence of living a substantial Christian life, doing the work of God. His goal wasn’t notoriety, but faithful service.  In Philippians 1:21-26 he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, [26] so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” (ESV)

 Our text provides a stark contrast between a man who lived for Christ who never sought the spotlight and seven brothers who didn’t live for Christ but wanted His power. 
Jesus said "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)  Paul gave up his life, for Christ’s sake, and found it. 

Have you?  Have you surrendered your life to Him?  If not, you can today.

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