Tuesday, April 5, 2011

They Wanted Jesus' Gifts, But They Didn't Want Jesus

The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, were traveling exorcists. They went around attempting to cast out demons. In Acts 19:11 we read the story of their incredibly bad idea. Their travels had taken them to Ephesus, where Paul the apostle was building the Ephesian church. God was doing some amazing miracles through Paul and the church was growing. So the sons of Sceva took it upon themselves to use the name of Jesus in an attempt to cast out a demon.

The whole thing blew up in their face. The demon said that he knew Jesus and recognized Paul, but asked them, "Who are you?" Then the demon-possessed man jumped on them and beat their pants off (literally). They ran away in shame after what Matt Chandler calls an "epic, bloody, naked beatdown" (Chandler's clip is here).

The demon recognized that the sons of Sceva had no authority. They had no faith in Jesus; they had not received the gospel; they had not been sent by Jesus (as was Paul and the church). They did not want to bow their knees to Jesus as Lord; they did not want to answer his call to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him (Luke 9:23); they only wanted his power. They did not see Jesus' name as a name to love, but as a name to use as a magical formula to get what they wanted. They were attempting to control Jesus - manipulate Jesus like a genie - so that their will would be done!

Do we do this today?
Adherents of the prosperity gospel (word of faith, 'name it claim it') follow this error, calling people to come to Jesus for what they can get. People are taught that they can use Jesus' name, or principles of faith in Jesus, to keep their wallets full and their children healthy. Just like the sons of Sceva's really bad idea, the focus is usually not on Jesus, but on what Jesus can give. In this system the treasure is not Jesus, but health, wealth, fill in the blank. "You like money? Come to Jesus and he'll make you rich. Speak money into that billfold..." Mark Driscoll says this theology basically makes Jesus an idol-giver (his article is here). People are willing to come to Jesus, as long as he gives them their idol; what they really love.

Maybe you are not into the health and wealth gospel. But does this type of thinking slip into our lives? Are there times when our affections move from Christ to his blessings? God's blessings are truly wonderful. But Christ himself is the Treasure! He is the prize:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26, ESV
If God removed all the blessings, would you still love him?

God will not allow his name to be misused. God is not ready to bow his knee to us and live for our glory; to make our wildest dreams come true. He does not exist for us; we exist for him. And he calls us to surrender our plans for his plan; our mission for his mission; our kingdom for his... our glory for his glory! He calls us to leave all and follow him.

Those who do will find that Christ is better, more satisfying, than any of his gifts.
Jesus is the Treasure!

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