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Summary: The Devil has put many things in our lives that distract us from hearing the word of God.

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June 28, 2015

Church Planting

Runnin’ with the Devil

Acts 13:4-12

Opening words: At the very heart of this morning’s scripture lesson is a very complex topic, the Devil. Did you know, in the Bible, the Devil is called by 42 different names? Those names are interchangeable. In this message I will use two of those names, the Devil and Satan. What are your thoughts on him? Do you believe the Devil is a little red creature with a tail and pitch fork? Do you believe the Devil is just the embodiment of mankind’s dark side? Do you believe the Devil is physical in nature? Do you believe the Devil is a spirit? Do you believe the Devil is the primary source of our world’s problems? Do you believe the primary source of our world’s problems are human selfishness and ignorance? Do I have to go on? There seems to be as many opinions about the Devil are there are people. This is the most important question. Do you believe God will win in the end? Regardless of your understanding, this message will speak to you. Let me call this message Runnin’ with the Devil.

This is sermon number twenty-six in my sermon series called Church Planting. During the summer months, I have been preaching through the Book of Acts. This is no small task, because Acts has so much to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is vital to our future success. Human effort and determination are not enough to revive the church. It is the Holy Spirit who created the church originally, and it must be the Holy Spirit who revives the church again. With this understanding, let us look at our scripture lesson for today, Acts 13:4-12.

Acts 13:4-12 4 The two of them (Barnabas and Saul), sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. 6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

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I love this story; I have used it in the past. History tells us Franklin Roosevelt hated the long receiving lines during his time in the White House. He often complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. As each person passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. He heard the President say, “I murdered my grandmother this morning” and responded, "I'm sure she had it coming." That story reminds us that listening does not come naturally. Listening is a true art, especially when you are listening to God. If that makes you think, say, “Amen!” Let us look at this morning’s scripture lesson together.

We are in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. The first three verses of this chapter explain the rest of the book. According to those verses, it all began in the church at Antioch. The teachers and prophets had assembled, when the Holy Spirit began to move. There were seven people present and each one had gotten the same message. They were to set Barnabas and Paul apart to begin their lives’ purpose. They were created to win the world for Jesus.

According to today’s reading, Barnabas and Paul began their lives’ purpose on the island of Cyprus. They are accompanied by Barnabas’s cousin John, who would later wrote the second Gospel, Mark. Their method of teaching was straightforward. They walked into a local synagogue and proclaimed the word of God. People responded to their message in every congregation. In one of those congregations they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus. “Bar” is Aramaic for “son of”; “Jesus” is derived from the Greek word for “Joshua.” In verse 8, Bar-Jesus is called “Elymas”, which is the Greek word for sorcerer or magician. Bar-Jesus was the assistant to the proconsul, or governor, of the entire island. The proconsul’s name was Sergius Paulus, who is remembered as a gifted man. He sent his assistant, Bar-Jesus, to Barnabas and Paul for one reason. Like many, he too wanted to hear the word of God. The story would have gone unrecorded except for one thing: the sorcerer Bar-Jesus (or Elymas) tried to turn the governor away from the faith. In the end, a show-down occurs between the sorcerer and God. Bar-Jesus is no match for the Almighty and finds himself temporarily blinded. The whole event becomes a great witness for God. No one present can question his powers.

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