In 2020, a survey was conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University with horrifying results.
They saw that although 65 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christians, only one-third of these same adults believe they will go to heaven solely because of confessing their sins and embracing Jesus as their Savior.
Wow, friends. Just wow. When I read that, it stopped me in my tracks.
I have been going through the book of Acts in a study by She Reads Truth. Today’s reading was all about chapter 19, which touches on opposition in Ephesus.
If you aren’t familiar with the chapter, I would strongly encourage you to read at least verses 11 through 17. This section of the chapter brings to light exactly what the aforementioned survey revealed: that most Christians really don’t have faith that Jesus actually saves.
If you don’t have a Bible close, here are the verses I’m talking about:
“God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that even facecloths or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. Now some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists also attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were doing this. The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high esteem.”Acts 19:11-17 (CSB)
Wow. Just… wow. Doesn’t that verse send chills down your spine? The Jewish exorcists saw the power that Jesus’ name had when Paul used it, and they wanted to capitalize on it. They wanted to use it for their own agendas instead of believing in Jesus’ power to save.
Friends, how often are we tempted to live like this? I know I do. And if I’m being honest, it happens quite often. It’s a daily battle for me to grab hold of God’s promises instead of my own plans. I just want the day to go my way and everything will turn out alright. Right?
The more I read Acts chapter 19, the more I mourned for our world. What happened to the power of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives? What happened to us tangibly seeing the Holy Spirit work, and us being able to truly feel His presence?
I’ve been convicted of following my own lifestyle choices instead of asking God what He wants to do with my life. After all, this life is a gift, is it not? So why have we forgotten to ask the One who gave us this life as a gift, what we should be doing with it? Isn’t He the one who created and designed it to work in the first place?
One analogy that helps me bring my wandering mind back home is the idea of trying to fix a piece of land equipment. My husband and I live on three acres of woods in the middle of the country, so needless to say, we have a lot of machinery! We own two tractors (with another one potentially on the way!), a John Deere Gator, full-size bed truck, a full-scale log splitter, countless chainsaws, blowers, and all sorts of things.
So what happens when something stops working? If we have the user manual handy, we reference it. If not, we go to the manufacturer’s website and search for help; we know that the best advice is by the brand that made it to begin with. Not every piece of advice, even from so-called experts, is going to work the same way as advice from the group that made it.
Let’s take another approach: when your car is making funky noises, or a weird light turns on, what did people used to do before mechanic shops were so readily available? We would look at the owner’s manual. It would tell us all the different details of our car, what fuel to put in it, and how to make it work; and where did this manual come from? Straight from the car manufacturer – the one who designed, created, and built it to last. We wouldn’t use a manual for a Ford car to try to fix a Chevrolet, now would we? It wouldn’t make any sense!
Here’s my point – we have completely forgotten, as a generation and as the family of God – that the Lord is the one who created this life we are living. He is the one who has His hands in every little detail; even the ones we don’t pay attention to! He is the one that numbers the hairs on our head, and gives us food on our table.
We work hard, but we lose sight of who we are working for. We experience wonderful and miraculous blessings, but we tend to forget where they come from. It isn’t from our efforts, even though it may seem like it (I know I feel this way all the time!).
Getting back to the point – we have become blind to the power of Jesus’ name, His provision, and how strongly His Word seeps into our lives. These Jewish exorcists were focused on their jobs and driving demons out instead of believing in Jesus, and then out of reverence for Him and in their faith, they act in His Holy Spirit to rescue others from demonic forces.
The demon in the possessed man literally asked those Jewish leaders who they were. They knew Jesus, and they had heard of Paul, but they had no idea who these people were. They literally called them out as fakes.
When was the last time you took the time to really think about where you stand in your faith? When was the last time you confessed the path you’ve been going down may not be exactly what God wants for you, or that your heart’s posture is slightly skewed?
This week, take some time to rededicate your walk with Jesus. Ask for prayer from friends and family that support you, and start going to a small group at your church if you haven’t already. Investing in community and your church can help you reorient your life to where God is really calling you, even if you can’t quite see it yet.
If you are feeling the tug on your heart to follow Jesus and you haven’t done that yet, or you aren’t sure if you really have, you can talk to Jesus very simply. Jesus specifically addresses the false teaching that coming to God has to be this complicated, hard thing. No – He wants us to come to Him with an open heart, and that’s it. We don’t have to be perfect, have a perfect family, lifestyle, or anything else. He wants to meet you exactly where you’re at right now. When you’re ready, you can simply say these words:
Hey Jesus. Yeah, it’s me. I’ve been feeling this tug on my heart to talk to you, and I’m sorry I haven’t done that yet. My heart is broken, and I am in need of your saving grace. I confess that you really are the Lord and Messiah, and I really want you to come into my life and change me. Please Jesus, change my heart because I can’t do this without you anymore. Give me your Holy Spirit so I can walk with you and hear from you, and grow in a close relationship with you. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins, and raising from the dead! You left my bad thoughts and mistakes in the grave, and I can’t thank you enough for that. Please be my salvation and my Savior right now, and forever.
If you prayed that prayer, seriously, reach out to me! Don’t ever think you are walking this alone. It’s not scary, and I won’t judge you! In fact, I am rejoicing with you this very second! The point of my writing is to bring more and more people to Jesus and to see His heart for all of us. This won’t make life any easier, but now you have the richness of your faith that no one can take away from you. You are eternally secured in heaven. Forever.