Faith that Turns the World Upside Down
By Rebecca Greenwood
Jesus preached and modeled, “Love your enemies.” His actions revealed a soft spot for Roman centurions, tax collectors, and those used in imperial oppression. The one-time Jesus did engage in direct action it was in clearing out the temple so that it could be restored as a place of worship. Yet, Jesus was crucified by the state. I think we all would agree that clearly there was something revolutionary about Jesus, the Savior of the world.
We see something similar in the book of Acts. As the apostles and early followers of Jesus went from city to city they did not lead marches or hold protests against the Roman oppression, but yet riots broke out, witchcraft books were burned, economies were greatly impacted, souls were saved. There was something that was obviously revolutionary about this new Jesus movement that was spreading throughout the earth!
In Acts 16, Luke tells the story about Paul, Silas and their companions having an encounter with a slave girl possessed by a demonic spirit, who “earned a great deal of money or good fortune for her owners by fortune-telling.” Because of her supernatural insight which was being empowered by the witchcraft/divination spirit, the girl knew who Paul was. So, she followed them around shouting, “these men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” We know the story, after several days, Paul gets fed up and commands that spirit to come out of her! (Acts 16: 18)
Let’s look at what happens next.
“When her masters saw that the hope of their profits was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace to the rulers. And they brought them to the magistrates, saying, “These men, being Jews, greatly trouble our city and teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.
The crowd rose up together against them. And the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them. They threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely.” (Acts 16:19-23)
I could go into an in depth teaching here, but for the sake of the article, lets suffice it to say that this power confrontation against the demonic stronghold a principality of the region in that slave girl carried great economic impact in the marketplace. Demonic possession was associated with economic operations and corruption. This shows us that evil spirits can influence the market. But, when the kingdom of God took authority the bottom line of the spreadsheet was greatly affected. And salvation began to break out. Following the anointed time of worship in the jail cell led by Paul and Silas, a violent earthquake shook the region. Everyone’s chains and shackles came loose and all were freed. When the jailer awoke he was going to kill himself. Paul shouted, “Do not harm yourself! We are still here.” The jailer rushed in and fell to their feet and exclaimed, “Sirs what must I do to be saved!” And he and his entire household received salvation that night. The very structure that was responsible for the persecution is now bowing and wanting to receive salvation in the kingdom more powerful than the demonic structure that had gripped Philippi!
Magic was big business in Ephesus. Spells, charms, amulets, totems, statues to Artemis and other demon gods and scrolls were used for just about everything. From blessing a business venture, to the healing of diseases, magic was called upon to provide the remedy. But as the kingdom of God began to make an inroad into Ephesus, the magic business took a heavy blow!
The story that is told in Acts 19. Some Jewish exorcists, seeing the power displayed by Paul, were invoking the name of Jesus in casting out demons. One day, the seven Sons of Sceva and a Jewish High Priest were attempting to cast out a demon by invoking the name of Paul and Jesus. But that spirit exclaimed, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?” They then got jumped by that demonized man and were severely beaten. No one wants a seven sons of Sceva experience in deliverance ministry or spiritual warfare assignments.
Word about this botched deliverance session gets around town. And also the power of Jesus over demons is becoming a clear reality. The results? Many Ephesians convert to Christianity and in doing so make a huge bonfire to burn all of their magic stuff!
“Many who practiced magic brought their books together and burned them before everyone. They calculated their value, which equaled fifty thousand drachmas. So, the word of the Lord powerfully grew and spread.” (Acts 19:19-20)
Friends, this is 50,000 of silver coins going up in flames! Modern day historians say this would be approximately the equivalent of over $7 million dollars. This was a million dollar bonfire. And markets tend to notice this much money being torched. Sure enough, they did. They markets got spooked and anxious. And predictably, this spilled over into acts of violence.
“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 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 gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 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.”
When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together.” (Acts 19: 23-29)
Again, a very interesting mixture. Paul’s authority over demons and principalities, prompted a multi-million-dollar disruption in the magic trade, which in turn threatens the principality of Artemis which in turn greatly affects the idol market.
Spiritual Allegiance to King Jesus
You see, when people gave their spiritual allegiance to Jesus, they began to pull out of and break away from the spiritual and economic structures of the Roman and Ephesian cultures. The converts began to opt out of huge portions of the economic and spiritual practices. And in Ephesus, when this occurred the cry was not these businessmen were losing their profits. They cried out on behalf of the principality they worshipped that until that time had empowered and endowed them with a demonically supernatural ability to obtain wealth.
Paul and the early church were subversive because they challenged and undercut the very foundation of the spiritual idolatry and worship of a principality that was driving this culture. These practices and demonic entities actually legitimized the economic and political way of life of Ephesus. And when you start cutting away at the root or the foundation the whole structure and building begins to falter. The early church, the Ekklesia, struck a blow to the demonic spiritual foundation of the region and it began to shake. When Jesus Christ is proclaimed as “Lord over all” it empowers a revolution of a Jesus movement and societal transformation.
Idols in our Lives
Lets bring it to a personal level. Every day, you and I are surrounded by a multitude of institutions and organizations that compete for our attention, loyalty, service, worship and time. Maybe we don’t struggle with the bigger idols mentioned above, but we do with lesser idols on a daily and consistent basis. It could be your place of work, a hobby, or any other institution you are committed to. Sometimes this can even be religious structures and denominations. It can be a relationship, structure or belief that demands our loyalty and draws us away from the kingdom of God. Anything or anyone who commands our loyalty and/or worship over our commitment to our Lord and His kingdom purposes; and we in turn give loyalty and/or worship to that activity or person, it then becomes an Idol in our lives. I believe there is a connection between worship and love. If there is worship to an object then there is an ability to love and allegiance is therefore, given to it.
Allow me to give an example. I am born and raised in America. Praise God! I am a true and dedicated Dallas Cowboys fan. Woohoo! I am a life coach for a health plan called Take Shape for Life. I am an author. Ministry leader. Core faculty of Wagner Leadership Institute. An ordained minister under the Assemblies of God and co-founder and leader of a non-denominational prayer network and gathering of believers. These are all influences and powers in my life. And all of these every day pull on me in a very consistent manner. And moment by moment any of these can pull on me in a way that can cause my allegiance to sway more to these privileged activities than to the Lord Himself and the kingdom of God. And an unhealthy allegiance to these activities will then in turn affect my ability to love the very people I am called to influence and lead.
Allow me to explain further. When our country suffers attack by other nations and those who practice ungodly beliefs such as Islam, it can become difficult to love certain people. When the referee calls unfair penalties against the Cowboys, it might be hard to love. ?When teachers or professors treat one of my daughters unjustly, the ability to love is greatly challenged. When people who believe differently than I do attack me on social media without knowing me, it can be a challenge to love. When other Christians believe doctrine that is greatly different from my point of view, it can be hard to love people. When my favored political candidate does not win, it can be a challenge to love.
In closing what is this final point I am conveying? When we embrace/welcome Jesus and declare Him as the Lord of our lives, the Lord who says, “love your enemies,” then the idols in our lives get challenged and our word gets turned upside down. Just as He can turn our lives upside down. Sold out believers who walk in obedience can see the world begin to be turned upside down and great breakthrough and strides made for the kingdom of God. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. My prayer is, “Lord, continue to turn my world upside down and transform me and just as you have done this in me, do it in the lives of those we are called to influence and the cities and nations you have called us to.”