Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Discrediting Manmade Gods

Today's Reading:
Joshua 19:1-20:9
Acts 19:13-41
Psalm 67:1-7
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Focus Verses: Acts 19:23-27
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

Luke gives an account of Paul's efforts to take the message of Jesus to the people of Ephesus. There he encounters a wide variety of opportunities and opposition. In the short span of chapter nineteen we  see him in the synagogue (religious Jews), in the lecture hall (academics and philosophers), confronting those who practiced sorcery (superstitious), opposed by those who were followers of Artemis (pagan worship), and by those who profited from the followers of Artemis (commercialism). The message of Jesus was dangerous, according to Demetrius the silversmith, because it would subvert their world.

Response and Action:
Demetrius worded his opposition as a defense of the goddess Artemis, but it seems pretty clear that his greatest concern was the lost profits he would suffer if Artemis worship were to stop. I need to remember that opposition to the message of Jesus might be worded in one way, but actually be rooted in something altogether different.

The message of Jesus is dangerous. To accept the truth of Christ may indeed require the loss of profits, the change of career (Demetrius), the burning of a book (sorcery), the risk of seeming less than intellectual (lecture hall), and the rejection of long-held traditions (synagogue).

Almighty God, help me to recognize the false and selfish "reasons" I may be using to justify half-hearted discipleship. And as I share the message of Jesus with those around me, help me to remember that it may not sound like good news—in fact, it may sound dangerous and threatening as it challenges lifestyles, beliefs, and practices. Help me to respond to the real reasons people oppose the message of Jesus, not necessarily the spoken reasons. In all conversations, give me grace and charity. Give me the humility and integrity to be honest about the ways Jesus challenges and threatens me as well. Amen.

Spiritual Formation Verses: Matthew 16:24-25
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Six Dangerous Questions to Transform Your View of the World
by Paul Borthwick

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