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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Way of Christlike Disturbance

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 


We are still in Ephesus, an important centre for early Christianity from the AD 50's. From AD 52–54, the apostle Paul lived there, working with the congregation and apparently organizing missionary activity into the rest of Asia. Initially, Paul attended the Jewish synagogue in Ephesus, but after three months he became frustrated with the stubbornness or hardness of heart of some of the Jews, and moved his base to the school of Tyrannus. We have seen how Paul introduced about twelve men to the 'baptism with the Holy Spirit' who had previously only experienced the baptism of John the
Baptist, and now we see him embroiled in a dispute with some artisans whose livelihood depended on selling statuettes of Artemis (Diana in Latin) in the Temple of Artemis. Now, the temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, people came from far and wide to view it and to worship there. Their purchase of silver shrines and images produced a lucrative business for the craftsmen.

I marvel and covet the influence that the preaching of the gospel is having in Ephesus once they embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit ... they become a transforming presence and God's kingdom comes and God's will is done, on earth, in Ephesus, as it is in Heaven. And that, surely, is what we long for in Norwich ... God's kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth, in Norwich, beginning in us. Last time we looked at their confrontation with the demonic powers and principalities that had a grip on Ephesus, and I encouraged us to consider what the principalities and powers are that influence or even have a grip on Norwich today. In today's reading we find the preaching of the gospel having an impact on the economy of the city. The market for little statues of Diana/Artemis is dwindling, and this is a major source of income for the city craftsmen and their union representative, Demetrius, manages to get the city quite worked up, somewhat humorously recorded in these words: The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. Obviously a real mob mentality taking over, which Paul wants to address, but the disciples would not let him. Quite possibly, with the anointing of the Spirit has come the gift of discernment and they realise Paul, who is afraid of no one, needs to be kept from this danger. The city clerk, similar to our magistrate, restores order and I'm intrigued by something he says: You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. They have said nothing bad about Artemis/Diana, whose presence dominated the city. They haven't gone about saying leave her and follow Jesus. Our ministry is not primarily to point out error ... our ministry is primarily, to live the way, the truth and the life as revealed in Jesus. That is very attractive in us, as it was in Jesus. People, especially outcasts and sinners, were attracted to Jesus ... they wanted to be with Jesus. The people of Norwich, of Hellesdon, should want to be with us ... should be attracted to us ... should want to be where we are ... why aren't they? ... where are they? 

I can't answer those questions yet, but I can answer why the pagans of Ephesus were attracted to Christianity ... it was because they were attracted to the Christians ... and why were they attracted to the Christians? I find my answer in the first line of our reading: About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.

For some reason, the early church, were called The Way, or Followers of the Way. (Acts 16:17; 18:25–26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; and 2Pe 2:2) and of course Jesus called Himself “the way” didn't He? (Jn 14:6). One day I'll perhaps preach a series on Jesus' "I am" statements: I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the true vine; and when I do I'll recommend making it very personal: I am Cedric's good shepherd; I am (insert your name) bread of life; I am Cedric's way, truth and life. Cedric no longer has a way of his own, a truth of his own, a life of his own. No ... he lives and moves and has his being ...in Me!!! You know those words from Acts 17:28 don't you?For in him we live and move and have our being. 

Do we ... do you? 

The early believers were called followers of the Way. What does it mean to be a follower of the way?

Being a follower of the way is not a path to travel, but rather a pattern to follow, an example, if you will. In order to follow the way we have to be like the way, imitate the way. We need to pay careful attention to the life of the way and let people see that in us. The early Christians were not called Christians because they were pious folk who lived morally superior lives with a condescending attitude toward their fellow man. They were called Christians (Christ-like ones) because they imitated their leader, Christ, even though they'd never met Him in the flesh. But by the power of the Holy Spirit in them (which is why Paul stressed it so much) they lived lives of compassion, love, humility, patience and virtue ... and I think that made them attractive. People wanted what they had, which was so clearly manifested in their lives. In words Paul would write later, they put on Christ, clothed themselves with Christ (Rom 13:14) ... better than anything from the fashion magazines of the world ... and, attractive to the world. This is what we are offered in Christ, friends. Imagine never having to worry about your wardrobe again ... and to know that people will say: "I want that."

Many times today, we as Christians say we are followers of “this way.” However, we lack the compassion of Christ. We don’t take on the humility of Christ. We lack the love of Christ to our fellow man. By the time I was born in SA in 1960, SA was describing itself as a Christian nation ... I think because there were lots of churches and they all had lots of people in them. By the time I went to school in 1966 the government had put in the an education policy called Christian National Education ... I think because prayer and Bible reading was compulsory during the first half hour of every school day. All this ... but ours was a nation that did not follow the Way

Being a follower of the way is a lifestyle of love and compassion spurned on by the love and compassion shown to us by our Savior. We can live lives of compassion and love only once we dig deeply into the life of Christ and set His truths as our benchmark. Some of you already know this is something I am very passionate about, hence my Sermon on the Mount publication. Read the words of the Beatitudes and see the ones who truly live the blessed lives. It’s not the one who is the most theologically correct or ardent defender of the faith. No, it is the simple person who shows the love and humility of Christ and hungers to be more like Him. That makes us so attractive ... I believe it is what made the followers of the Way attractive to the Ephesians ... remember they did not point out the faults of their townsfolk and present themselves as something better.


When the average nonbeliever sees a person who claims to be a Christian, they expect to be exposed to someone who will point out all their faults, but instead we would do much better to follow the way and show them the truth in our love, concern, humility and compassion. Then and only then will they be able to understand what following Christ is all about, then and only then will they want what we have.

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.

Let’s disturb Hellesdon.


With Paul, and with all the giants who have gone before us in the faith, I invite you to walk with me as I walk with Jesus ( 1 Corinthians 11:11 Corinthians 4:16Philippians 3:17Philippians 4:91 Thessalonians 1:62 Thessalonians 3:9 )  and as we walk with Jesus, let's disturb Hellesdon and Norwich with the Way of the love and humility of Christ and let's show them the truth in our love, concern, humility and compassion.


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