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Living in the Shadow of Knowledge

In the 1947 movie, “It Happened On Fifth Avenue”, Victor Moore stars as Aloyisius T. McKeever, (sounds like a name from the book of Acts, doesn’t it?) a hobo, who finds winter lodging by waiting for millionaire families to lock up mansions and migrate south for the winter.

The hobo moves into a mansion and soon begins taking in homeless WWII veterans, the first played by Alan Hale Jr., you may remember as “The Skipper” on Gilligan’s Island. Eventually the millionaire’s daughter comes home, and the hobo mistakes her for an impoverished runaway from an abusive father, so he offers to take her in. She goes along with the masquerade and falls in love with one of the displaced war vets living in her father’s home. There are now nine people living in the shelter of the Fifth Avenue mansion, and the daughter gets her father to meet the “squatters” incognito, in hope that he’ll take to the man she likes. Things get pretty funny when the hobo agrees to be generous enough to take in the real owner of the mansion as a benevolent tenant.

In 1947, Americans for the first time since the Great Depression had an optimistic approach to life. This movie is a funny look at the people and the feeling of renewal and hope that was in the air in the immediate post-World War II era. I think this movie also parallels the story in the book of Acts, as an example of someone trying to do the right thing, living as though he knows someone he does not.

The book of Acts is a record of the early church and it is filled with some of my favorite stories. There are several lessons the church today can learn from this story in Acts. I want to focus on the one lesson in my mind that is the most important. Living a life in the light of a real relationship with Jesus Christ, not in the shadow of the knowledge of Christ.

Ephesus was a city filled with people practicing magic and witchcraft. It was a city full of wayward, well meaning priest, living in the shadow of a knowledge of Christ, but not in the light of a relationship with Christ. Traveling Jewish exorcists were common in the ancient world, and many would invoke the names of a false god or an accepted god of the region when they performed magic or cast spells. Here we see a family of vagabond Jews composed of Sceva, a priest, and his seven sons, who had been watching Paul, do miracles. Listening to the name of Jesus, which Paul used to command evil spirits to come out of people, they attempted to use the same name as a sort of magical charm. The knowledge of Jesus did not help them because the evil spirit knew there was no relationship to stand on.

The contrast of ministry through the light of a real relationship with Christ, and the shadow of the knowledge of Christ, is seen here. Paul was in that region for two years serving God while he was tent making. The tent maker would wear a handkerchief around his head for a sweatband and an apron, which also would get very sweat soaked. God was working through Paul in such a way that his sweat soaked handkerchiefs and aprons would bring healing and drive out demons when they touched people. God wanted to make it clear to this deceived region; they needed to have a relationship with Christ, not just knowledge.

Acts 19:11-12
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

The city was in an uproar over the power of God as opposed to the power of sorcery and many people were being saved. They brought stacks of very expensive scrolls they owned that taught them how to cast spells and perform magic and they burned them publicly. If you have ungodly literature of any kind in your home, you should destroy it also. (Don’t start a fire downtown, you will be arrested.) Regardless of what you paid for it, it may be costing you more than you think. After I came into a real relationship with Christ, I destroyed my Mormon literature and the freedom I experienced took my spiritual walk to the next level. (That’s another lesson for latter.)

Many of the people in that day were well meaning people who thought they were doing things for God. Others were in it for the money, yet still many had two reasons for being upset with the light of a relationship with Christ. In any case, they were each and all, well deceived.

Acts 19:23-27
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know 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 man-made gods 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.”

Most of the psychics and witches I have talked to, believe the power they get is a gift from God. It is not. The power comes from elsewhere. God’s word is very clear about such things.

Acts 16:16-18
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her

Acts 8:9-13
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Movies like “The Wizard of Oz” show the power of a good witch and the power of a bad witch, but there is no such contrast in scripture. The deception of good without God will take people where they do not want to go. It is because the knowledge of Christ is not enough, there needs to be a true relationship with Christ. Most people I share Christ with think as I used to. They think to get into heaven, you have to be a good and decent person. Compared to what? Are you good and decent because of the knowledge of Christ, or are you trying to be good and decent because you want to have a true relationship with Christ?

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Living in the shadow of the knowledge of Jesus Christ does not pertain only to salvation. Many Christian people live in that shadow in certain parts of life. Deception does not reserve itself for those without a relationship to Jesus. Don’t just take time to read Gods word and pray. Do you believe what you read, or is it just knowledge? If you believe it, then you should try living in the light of your relationship with Jesus and not be satisfied with the comfort and deception of the shadow of knowledge. If you are not consistently in the word of truth, you should know, ignorance is not a safe alternative either.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Knowledge without a relationship will disappoint you in the end. It is empty and unfulfilling because something is missing. How about you? Are you living like the hobo in that movie, pretending everything is fine because you have some knowledge? At the end of the movie as the hobo walks down the sidewalk away from the mansion, the millionaire says to his wife, “Next year when he comes back, he will come in through the front door.” Have you been living as an unauthorized party in Gods house? Use the front door that is provided for those with a relationship. You are the one who opens that door, not Jesus.

Revelation 3:19-22
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Which one of the characters in the Bible verses above are you most like? All the characters living strictly in the knowledge of Christ, are not reaping the benefits of those living in the light of a true relationship with Christ. Do you live like God is able to change your life, or have you deceived yourself through religion? That can all change right now, it is up to you. Open the door of your heart, Jesus is always there.

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Are You Desperate?

Psalm 142:6

Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Have you ever felt like you were in a desperate situation? Maybe you are feeling a little desperate even now. Desperation moves deeper than discouragement and can skew your thinking. Asking if you are desperate may be like asking most people reading this if they are hungry. We do not necessarily understand the word hungry, since there are levels of being hungry. When you keep returning to the refrigerator hoping something new will appear to satisfy your appetite, it is not yet hungry. When you did not eat all day because of your schedule, it is not yet hungry. Being hungry, is more like the pictures you would see on a “feed the children” commercial. You know the ones with the skin and bones children, with flies on their face. That may be a true example of hungry. When God looks at us in our churches, does he see pews full of nicely dressed people with smiles? No, when God looks at us in our churches, I think He sees something that looks more like the “feed the children” ads. That is because God sees us spiritually. He sees us for what we really are and not as we appear. A people starving for God’s word, yet not realizing what it is to be hungry.

Your desperation may drive you in the opposite direction from the answer. It might be though, that if you look at your desperate situation from God’s perspective, it would draw you into a hunger for His word and His fellowship. That is entirely your choice. While David was hiding from Saul and the thousands of hand selected, finest soldiers in all of Israel, he cried out to God.

Psalm 142:5-7

I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

The word prison he used here, is a metaphor for trouble and distress. Are you in a prison right now? When you are in such a prison, it is hard to remember that God is your portion (inheritance). 

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Your prison may seem desperate, but there is always another perspective to see it from. God had a greater call for David than hiding in a cave to survive. God has a greater call and purpose for you than surviving your current crisis.

When you are desperate it is not uncommon to feel alone, as though even your God has abandoned you. It is God’s desire for us all to be united with Christ, but we must be willing to relinquish our entire self unto Him.

When we think of sin, we may think of it like hunger or desperation. We may set it aside into degrees of severity. God does not look upon it that way. Our pride of being able to accomplish anything, including walk out of our prison, without His help is just as much a sin. Our unwillingness to release all that we think we own and hold affections for unto Him, is just as much sinning. Not being willing to serve where He has ordained, no matter how meager it may seem, is just as much a sin.

One of my favorite stories about desperation brings my own desperation into a new perspective for me.

2 Kings 6:24-31

Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, “Help me, my lord the king!” The king replied, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?” Then he asked her, “What’s the matter?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.” When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and there, underneath, he had sackcloth on his body. He said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!”

What a story of desperate people that has lost hope and the sense of direction. Have you ever been desperate enough to eat a donkey’s head, (and pay a great price for it) or to eat a child? No, you have not! Perhaps we do not really understand what desperate is.  Even the King himself could not help the people who came to him. Essentially, his response to the woman was if your God cannot help you, what could I do? The king did not consider the nation had turned its back on God under his own leadership, but placed the blame on the prophet of God.

As you cry out to God, do not think He cannot, or is not willing to hear you. Perhaps the despair you feel is a call to draw near to Him. When God sees you, perhaps He is looking at you like a child in the feed the children ad. Maybe He is calling you near through your circumstances, that you may be well fed, and that He may be glorified. Is there this thing in your life right now, that if God does not take control, you will fail? Give Him control of everything. Your government cannot deliver you and you cannot rescue yourself. It is God alone with the power to open the doors to your prison. Relinquish all to Him today, for His grace is sufficient for your desperation.

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