When I first started reading the Bible for myself as a teenager, I often found myself wondering why, given the miracles that Jesus and the Apostles perform, people continued to follow their old religions and deny the truth that was right in front of their faces. Surely if preachers today were walking around healing the sick and raising the dead, everyone would have to admit that God exists and that Jesus was Lord, right?
Acts 19 answers that question with a hard “no” by allowing us a glimpse into the people who rejected the gospel even though the evidence was right in front of their eyes.
First up, we have the “sons of Sceva” - a group of exorcists/magicians. When they saw the signs that Paul performed, they saw an opportunity to make a profit! They started using the names of Jesus and Paul in an effort to better command spirits, and suffered the embarrassing consequences. They couldn’t deny the power of the Gospel, but they entirely missed the point of it because their minds were so consumed by their own ambition and greed.
Next we have Demetrius the Silversmith. His motives are even more clear than those of the Scevans. Behind the thin veneer of piety to Artemis, what he really wanted was to maintain his position in society and the comfortable lifestyle that it brought him. He didn’t care what god was real, provided he could keep his livelihood intact.
In both of these stories, we see individuals so corrupted by their own ambition and greed that they could no longer see the truth. Or, maybe more accurately, they no longer cared about the truth. They were incapable of worshiping God, because they were too busy worshiping themselves.
No doubt, we can all think of examples of people like this in our lives, in politics or in the media. But if we are honest, we should acknowledge that we are all in danger doing the same. Many of us are stuck in our ways and in our beliefs, unwilling to listen to anything new for fear that it requires us to change. Many of us, if we heard the call of God to leave our comfortable lives, would be tempted to put in our headphones and hope that He goes away.
As Christians, we are commanded to “seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness” and not let the things of this world become obstacles to our devotion to our Lord. Let us pray this morning that we can live up to this challenge today.