Summary: No team goes into a game without a plan. And God has one too, for ministering His Word to a lost world.
Passage: Acts 19:1-22
Intro: At the upper levels of sports, no team goes into any game without a game plan.
1. football, baseball, basketball, the team studies its opponent and devises a plan based on the strengths and weaknesses of their own team and the other.
PP) Muhammed Ali did this in a boxing match against George Foreman, using a technique he called “rope a dope” (Pictures available on the web)
2. God has a plan to take the gospel to the world, and that plan has principles.
3. we have developed many ways to evangelize, but we can’t must not change God’s principles if we want to be effective.
4. Paul was in Ephesus for a couple of years, planted a mighty church there.
5. but what characterizes the game plan that God called him to act on?
6. remember, the principles don’t change!
7. these are as applicable to us as a church and as individuals today as they were then.
I. It is a Game Plan That is Focused on God’s Truth.
1. the church in general and Paul in particular had many opportunities to toy with the truth in Acts.
2. keep the requirements of the Jewish Law, and here, be more “inclusive” with those had a partial truth.
3. vv1-7 are a source of some debate.
4. Paul had traveled to Ephesus, at the time a great and thriving seaport.
5. today, the ruins sit 7 miles back from the sea, the harbor completely silted from excess runoff.
PP ruins, close and long range.
6. when he got there, ran into these 12 “disciples”…very thin info.
7. believers? Like Apollos?
8. certainly they had believed in as much as God had revealed to them, with was not much.
9. “John’s baptism, for repentance, preparation, but no knowledge of the Holy Spirit.
10. they had “believed” (v2), but no experience of the Holy Spirit.
11. Paul could have just let them be, but there was more truth to be known
12. connected the dots from John’s words to the person and work of Christ, and the application of that work through public confession of faith and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, which they did.
13. in our day, there are some “reduced fat” faiths around.
14. works righteousness, forgiveness without transformation, the Christian life by rules rather than the Spirit.
15. brothers and sisters, don’t be satisfied with a faith that turns away from God’s whole truth!
16. and don’t be afraid of the Holy Spirit!
II. It is a Game Plan that is Agile
1. agility is the ability to change with the situation
2. and we have seen this over and over
3. once again, Paul went to the synagogue, but this group had invited him.
PP Acts 18:20
4. spoke for 3 months, opposition arose and he left
5. lecture hall of “tyrant”, where he spoke during “siesta” after making tents in the morning.
6. this plan had great effectiveness, because Ephesus was a place where people came to trade.
7. instead of walking and preaching, Paul stayed and taught, and God brought people to him.
8. we focus on Paul, but those who he had evangelized were doing their own evangelism.
PP Romans 1:7-8
9. God started with Paul, focused broadened, strengthened, increased.
10. and Paul’s strategy changed with it.
Il) Henry Blackaby in his book “Experiencing God” tells about “finding out where God is working and joining Him.”
11. we can’t do this is we keep running the same play even if it doesn’t work.
Il) apparently Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
12. we have to be willing to change tactics without changing the message, without sacrificing God’s principles.
13. but one of His principles is agility.
14. so we look at see where God is blessing
15. but we make sure it is God’s blessing and not just “success”, because…
III. It is a Game Plan that Displays Spiritual Power
1. v11, Paul was greatly used of God, in ways that perhaps make us uncomfortable.
2. Ephesus was a city immersed in magic, in spells and incantations.
3. and there is no doubt that the miracles surrounding Paul were creating a stir.
4. 7 sons of Sceva Inc., probably a money making venture.
5. decided to capitalize on this new “magic formula” that Paul was using.
6. very unsuccessful, because they were seeking to engage spiritual forces in the power of the flesh.
Il) see this today, people teaching that if you “claim” certain things, they will happen.
7. clearly these guys used the names of Jesus and Paul, but the spirits they were addressing were angered and attacked these defenseless men who foolishly used spiritual weapons in the realm of the flesh and were defeated in that very flesh.