But Who are You (to Namedrop)?

“The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?”

 (Acts 19:15, CSB)

Namedropping is embarrassing. We’ve all witnessed it and cut our eyes, forcing a fake smile, hoping the namedropper doesn’t notice. It’s meant to impress, but when it’s obvious, all it does is fill the room with awkwardness. It’s even worse when the person doesn’t know the individual. This reminds me of the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-20.

In the passage’s opening, we see Paul being used mightily by the Spirit of God. Handkerchiefs and aprons touched by Paul were healing the sick and bringing deliverance to the oppressed. When God cast devils out by what would be today’s Kleenex or kitchen towel, heads turned, and people took notice. People started trying to copycat Paul’s ministry, but they didn’t know Jesus. The Bible states, “Now some of the itinerant Jewish exorcist also attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches’” (19:13). The men were dropping the name of Jesus without knowing Him. I can imagine the evil spirit, like us, cringed when they heard them drop a name without really knowing the person. But the demons would have none of it. They acknowledge Jesus and Paul but attacked the wannabe exorcists leaving them naked.

For Paul, speaking the name of Jesus wasn’t the abracadabra of a parlor trick. It was the declaration of his faith in the finished work of Christ. The sons of Sceva didn’t understand this. John Chrysostom, one of the Early Church Fathers, commented on this passage, saying, “The exorcists said simply, ‘Jesus,’ when they should have said, ‘the Savior of the world, He who rose again.” It was Paul’s faith and understanding of who Jesus was, that unlocked the power of God. Unlike the sons of Sceva, Paul had trusted and surrendered his life to the Lordship of Christ and Jesus worked through him.

Unfortunately, there are many people who know the name Jesus, but do not know Jesus. This is especially true in gospel-saturated areas like the Bible Belt. Almost everyone has heard of the name of Jesus with a church on every corner, but they’ve never come to saving faith in Christ. To experience the power of God in our lives, we must be connected to God through genuine faith in Jesus Christ like Paul. Anything else will leave us lacking, like it did the namedropping seven sons of Sceva.

Win the World—Start Next Door

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Almost 8 billion people inhabit this blue marble called Earth and every individual needs to hear the gospel. That’s a staggering thought. But there are more statistics to consider. Out of that 8 billion, over 150,000 people die every day. A quick calculation determines that’s over 6,000 souls that slip into eternity every hour, with many never hearing the gospel. If this doesn’t serve as a wake-up call, then I cannot think of anything that will arouse you!

With all these people, how are we to “win the world” for Christ? Thankfully, Christ didn’t leave us to our own devices in fulfilling the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20). He promises empowerment from on high in Acts 1:8. However, this verse not only gives the promise of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power but also gives a practical paradigm, too.

Notice the progression from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, then to the remotest part of the earth. The Apostles began their gospel witness where they were in Jerusalem. The key to winning the world for Christ is starting in your neighborhood. If you aspire to be a foreign missionary, don’t panic. The Apostles didn’t stay in Jerusalem, but they were faithful to present the gospel where they were located. Who knows, God may call you to serve on distant shores, but regardless of if you ever receive that call, be faithful to serve Him in your current city or context. There are people that need Jesus everywhere. Be the salt and light (Mt 5:13-16) and start next door.

A Simple Choice – It’s Ninety or Nothing!

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 (Matthew 6:33)

Red pill or blue pill? As a pastor, husband, and father of two growing kids, I often wish decisions only came with two options, like in The Matrix movie. Life is so much more complex. If you don’t believe me, ride with my family on Sunday after church to see how complicated it is for us to choose a restaurant! I admit I overthink things occasionally. When I’m presented with too many options, I can become paralyzed with indecision. That’s not a good quality to possess. I can’t be the only one, right? Right?

Since I know my tendency to over-analyze, I’ve tried to simplify my decision-making process. In short, it’s ninety or nothing. If I’m presented with a choice, and I’m not at least 90% sure I should give it my attention, then I move to another option.

What about all the “good things” you’ll miss? There are things this approach will certainly eliminate, but it clears the way for “God things.” We’re not called to do everything that is presented to us, but we are called to do many things. We must discern the difference.

How can we know the difference? In Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus presented a list of good things to seek, like drink, food, and clothing. No one denies the importance of these things. They’re essential. But they’re not eternal. Jesus commands us to “seek first” the eternal things of God. Seeking God’s kingdom first is a simple choice that you can be 100% confident in because it’s always right. If you use seeking the kingdom of God as a filter, you will limit your choices and make better decisions. Remember, it’s ninety or nothing!