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Not All Publicity is Good Publicity

No tolerance for the demonic. Acts 16.16-18

The Gospel to Europe (4)

Pray Psalm 12.1, 2.
Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

Sing Psalm 12.1, 2.
(Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Help, Lord! The godly cease to be! They who believe in Christ are few.
Falsely the wicked confidently flatter, deceive, and mock Your truth.

Read Acts 16.1-18; meditate on verses 16-18.

Preparation

1. What was this girl doing?

2. What did Paul do?

Meditation
Back in the 1970s, when TV evangelists were as ubiquitous as reality shows are today, Malcolm Muggeridge, the esteemed British journalist and late convert to Christ, wrote a book entitled, Christ and the Media. In it he argued that, had TV existed in the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day, and had Jesus been offered a weekly one-hour, prime-time slot to do whatever He wanted, to be shown throughout the Roman world, Jesus would have declined. TV, Muggeridge explained, is associated with what is not real. TV is a medium for entertainment and advertising, not for representing truth.

Most people understood in Paul’s day that all forms of divination and fortune-telling were either bogus or demon-inspired. Some may have believed them, but mostly they were fun, crowd-pleasing, and maybe a little mysterious, but ultimately folly. Yet this little girl was proclaiming the truth! What could be the harm in that? Didn’t this represent a great opportunity?

Paul would have nothing to do with it. The Gospel is true, pure, and holy, not some gimmick to be hawked or paraded huckster-like or in merely pragmatic, culture-friendly ways. So he delivered the little girl from her demon (Greek: python) and preserved the integrity of the Gospel. He was only doing what Jesus had done. Whenever demons tried to speak in His presence, He typically would tell them to “Shut up and get out!”

Well done, Paul! Well, sort of. The problem Paul created was not of a religious sort. It was pure economics. The men who owned this poor child were making money off her hand-over-fist. Paul’s refusal to go along with the show put an end to that.

The Gospel is the truth of God, and those who live and proclaim it must be ready to guard and defend it against every adversary or cheap imitation. Paul had to confront this situation openly and boldly so that his work of preaching would not be compromised. We must be prepared to do the same.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Demons are not always fire-breathing dragons or disastrously obvious creatures. They can be subtle, dabbling in the truth, and in seemingly harmless vessels.

Not unlike this “slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination.” (Acts 16.16) Her skill set, straight from the father of lies, was the ability to tell fortunes. The Old Testament dealt harshly with this: “You shall not permit a sorceress to live” (Ex. 22.18). And Paul lists it in his writings as ungodly behavior: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5.19-21).

Even in Paul’s annoyance he was doing a work of mercy, as he was ridding her of behavior that would keep her from experiencing life in the Kingdom.

As we look at the works of the flesh that Paul lists, are there any items that we find lurking in our own lives? We might not be fortune-tellers, but do we ever experience outbursts of wrath? How about envy?

Do we need a purging of our own hearts, like the girl in our reading today?

Happily, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and He helps us contend with the principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual hosts of wickedness that we daily war against (Eph. 6.12).

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness…”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
(Ps. 51.1, 2, 7, 10)

When we confess the sin (1 Jn. 1.9) that so easily ensnares us (Heb. 12.1),  we will experience the same relief that the fortune-teller did: it will come out of us this very hour! (Acts 16.18)

For reflection

1. In Ephesians 5.15-17, Paul indicates there is no middle ground between serving the Lord and serving evil. How can you make sure you’re always using your time for Jesus and His Kingdom?

2. Why is it important that we declare the Gospel out of holy and loving lives?

3. What believers will you encourage to live boldly for the Lord today? How?

Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel… Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 16.16-24

Pray Psalm 12.5-7.
Pray that God will deliver His Church from all gimmicks and merely human devices or means, and cause us to rely on God alone, and on living and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Sing Psalm 12.5-7.
(Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Rise up, O Lord, and rescue all Your precious children sore distressed.
Save those who faithfully on You call; grant them deliv’rance, peace, and rest.

Your words are pure and proven true, like silver seven times refined;
You will preserve Your Word ever new, and keep the heart to You inclined.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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