God wants to dominate your life with His purpose. God wants to dominate your home with His purpose. God wants to dominate your city with His purpose. God wants to dominate your region with His purpose. God wants to dominate your nation with His purpose. God wants to dominate your generation with His purpose so that here and now God can dominate the earth with His purpose.
Jesus died to redeem all and restore all to His Father’s purposes. There is power in the Cross to redeem and restore all!
Acts 19:20 – “In this way, the Lord’s Word increased with spiritual power until it dominated.”
The word translated “in this way” is as important as any word in this phrase. There is a way, a strategic sequence of spiritual changes, that produces this amazing alteration of spiritual atmosphere in Ephesus. The word is common in Greek, it is often translated “so, thus, in this way,” or “in this manner.” It signifies that previous action resulted in this present condition. When we look at what occurred leading up to this characterization in verse 20, we see a series of confrontations and contrasts.
Follow the Strategy to Get the Result
The strategy of God leads to fullness. Fullness leads to fulfillment. Along the way, you must confront the obstacles to fullness and fulfillment. If you stop, you fail. Each step of your spiritual leadership requires a confrontation and victory, for the overcomer receives the reward promised, not the survivor.
There are four glaring contradictions and confrontations in this process in Ephesus that Paul walks through as a sent leader. From the beginning of the process to this prevailing spiritual condition, Paul’s leadership is confrontational. His leadership is strategic. Paul makes bold decisions.
We are going to embrace these principles and apply them to our region in 2012. We are going to receive and declare the word of the Lord for our region with authority. We are going to confront the obstacles of hell and the limitations of religion. We are going to step into the battle with false claims on this territory. We are going to see unusual miracles at the hands of sent leaders. We are going to experienced a broader-cast of His word of power. We are going to step up, step through, step over, and step upon depending upon the appropriate posture we must take to fulfill our assignment.
The Word of the Lord
The word of the Lord mentioned here is not the Gospel per se, not the Bible as we know it, or the Torah. I mean, it isn’t a distribution of tracts or printed Scripture, great as these are. It is not a graphe word. It isn’t that the whole New Testament was wallpapered on the walls of every city although such a display would wonderful. I’m not diminishing the Bible or tracts or any communication of God’s Holy Word. I merely clarifying that this verse isn’t talking about the New Testament since the New Testament wasn’t written as yet.
The word of the Lord for this region is the declared purpose of God for Ephesus and Asia Minor. It is the now word of God that declares His purpose for this region in the same way there is a word of the Lord for Florida and every other definable territory on earth.
Ephesus was a city of about 250,000, the second largest in the Roman empire of the time. Asia Minor was an important portion of this empire. This area would experience such transformation that it would become the center of Christianity for 200 years following the sequence of events that begin with Paul’s arrival and apostolic ministry.
Many other words had been declared over this territory, but now the word of the Lord is being declared by sent messengers that is heard by the people of that region in a period of three years. This is how the ecclesia functions, releasing the authority of the kingdom of God. The word is the claims of God’s purpose for that city and region, a claim that will be so established that when Apostle John sees Jesus speaking to the ecclesia about 40 years or so later, Jesus speaks to the ecclesia in severn cities of Asia Minor. The region becomes the center of the kingdom of God because what happens in Ephesus!
What would you give, do, live, and be to see this happen in Florida? What would you make priority in your life to see this assignment fulfilled? What would you be willing or have the strength of will to do that the purpose of God for this city and region would be declared to all and this purpose increase until it dominates the region through spiritual power?
The four contrasts and confrontations:
Paul came through the mountains of what is now Turkey and found a group of John’s disciples. He immediately contrasted the baptism of John and the baptism of the Spirit and confronted the difference between preparation for kingdom leadership and life in the Spirit.
This does nothing to diminish water baptism or repentance! It reveals that this without the baptism Jesus gives is so incomplete that taking a region is not possible. As long as these twelve leaders were without the baptism of Holy Spirit fire, they were incapable of changing the atmosphere, functioning in kingdom, or establishing the kingdom of God in their city and region.
Paul always followed a pattern of “to the Jew first and then the non-Jew.” Those resistant to God’s purpose quickly rejected Paul’s sent-to-speak message. We must not be surprised that good people, with the Bible and understanding of Christ’s assignment, reject God’s purpose for a city or region. God wants everybody but He never starts with everyone. Paul left the resistant and gave himself to the receptive. We must move with the movers.
The kind of unity we need isn’t going to come from mental, philosophical, and religious doctrine agreement. The kind of unity we need comes from people sold-out, consecrated, and ready to die for God’s purposes. This unites us immediately, spirit-with-spirit, by the Spirit of God. Then, we can get down to the business of changing the atmosphere and establishing kingdom through the called together assembly.
Once the momentum of kingdom was rolling, a strong contrast between God’s authority and power and appearances of spiritual power were seen. What was operating in Sceva’s sons quickly contrasted with the authority of Paul’s kingdom assignment. It was the reality of what was happening in the spirit that was revealed: Paul was the claims of hell on individuals and the region with such authority that whole infrastructure of darkness was challenged and upset!
Then, a radicalization of revolutionary behaviors began to affect the culture, economy, arts, and infrasture of Ephesus. The born-again babies began to grow up and dismantle the claim of hell. They renounced and broke the hold of their corrupted spiritual culture off their lives. This complete obedience, consecration and cleansing of Christian leaders resulted in a direct confrontation with hell’s authority in the city.
Each of these confrontations results in measurable spiritual consequence: the power and gifts of spiritual baptism with Paul’s extraordinary miracles on display, three years of leadership development resulting in the word of the Lord being preached to a whole region in that period of time, the Name of Jesus being feared with awe, and this declaration in verse twenty.
So, let’s go for it! I want my city and region to be impacted and transformed in the same way Paul and his trained leaders saw Ephesus and Asia Minor impacted and transformed. And, why not? The same Holy Spirit operates in us with the same resurrection power. The same authority of our assignment functions in us as it did in Paul and his trained leaders. The same scenario of purpose exists in Jacksonville and North Florida as it did in Ephesus and Asia Minor.
Look At It Another Way
If we abandon the idea that transformation is God’s goal, we can move back through these glaring contrasts and confrontations to see another result.
If we fail to cleanse Christians from the influences of the culture and spiritual atmosphere in which they live so that the spirit of the world isn’t the influencing and controlling dynamic of their lifestyles, we will not see the Word of the Lord purpose dominate our region. When the ecclesia, whose assignment is to confront and change culture, welcomes the influence and control of the environment through appeasement and compromise, the dominance of God’s purpose cannot be established because it no longer has power and authority to establish kingdom.
When the power of God isn’t apparent in the ecclesia, the power and authority of the Cross over disease and demons, individual and personal transformation does not occur, and the Name of the Lord Jesus does not create awe or even garner respect. His Name is spoke with a sneer or worse is simply listed among the other names as if He is one of many enlightened men of history. It is His power and authority that confirm His uniqueness. A powerless ecclesia diminishes the Name of Jesus.
When there is not clear line drawn between those who receive the assignment to transform and those who waste everybody’s time with arguments over doctrinal idolatries, when we fail to separate ourselves in a way that focuses our greatest energies upon the development of kingdom leaders, we will end up isolated from the purpose of God. The world around us will be content for us to remain in a subculture as long as we do nothing that affects the dominance of the spirit of the world. The culture will say, “Stay over there in your church houses and talk all you want about your irrelevant belief systems. Do not invade the culture and you will be fine. We aren’t listening.”
No miracles will happen in this scenario because God isn’t interested in miracles that confirm our doctrinal idolatries. Miracles do not confirm us, they confirm His purpose and our assignment to establish His kingdom. Paul wasn’t arguing about doctrines, he was convincing them of the kingdom. When Christians do not want to establish kingdom in favor of expanding their doctrinal distinctives, we can expect no miracles, let alone extraordinary miracles. In fact, we will just give up on the idea of miracles, signs, and wonders because they are not needed to confirm our historic positions and agreed up fundamentals. We will define discipling as getting people to agree with us, not training and transforming them to take over the world.
If we accept the baptism of John, which is preparation for power, as a the norm. We will reject the operations of the gifts of the Spirit. We will deny spiritual gifts like the gift of spiritual language and the gift of prophecy. We will deny the full ministry of Jesus that includes apostles and prophets as foundation of the function of the ecclesia. We will have a great, lengthy treatment of this doctrine available, with no Scripture or logic to back it up, but we will remain a system of refrigerator magnet slogans and bumper sticker witness, the accumulation of believers, instead of a governing, transformational force in the world.