Home   Complete Index    2009-2010 Sermons   2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

 

Email

 

565  Sermons Available

  Satan Seeks to Close Doors of Opportunity

Acts 17:1-9

Jim Davis

A man was shoveling snow from his driveway when two boys carrying snow shovels approached him.

"Shovel your snow, Mister?" one of them asked. "Only two dollars!"

Puzzled, the man replied, "Can't you see that I'm doing it myself?"

"Sure, "said the enterprising lad; "that's why we asked. We get most of our business from people who are half through and feel like quitting!"

The easiest time to feel like quitting is when our world is turned upside down. In Acts chapters 16 & 17 God has been opening doors of opportunity for the spread of the gospel into Asia Minor. However, the disciples have met opposition every step they have taken. In Philippi they were thrown in jail and in Thessalonica it doesn't seem to get much better.

Acts 17:1-10
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. (NIV)

Just because God opens doors of opportunity for us--it doesn't guarantee there will be no resistance and no problems as we seek to take advantage of the opportunities God provides. In fact, when God opens a door for you, you can count on opposition from Satan.

Satan Is Ever Present

God has never opened a door that Satan has not sought to close. Paul saw the opposition in Thessalonica as a result of the work of Satan. He expresses this in his first epistle to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18
But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you-- certainly I, Paul, did, again and again-- but Satan stopped us. (NIV)

Wherever the gospel is preached the natural order of things is turned upside down. Since Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-2), God’s power turns Satan’s world on its head. Luke writes, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." The King James Version indicates the trouble caused by preaching the gospel turned the world upside down.

The gospel disturbs our world and sometimes it disturbs Christians. Initially, the gospel is disturbing. The gospel reveals God’s desire to enter our lives for the purpose of reordering our lives.

Matthew 10:34-39
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (NIV)

The gospel is a two-edged sword, which cuts both ways. Jesus came to bring peace to the world, but it also divided his family.

John 7:3-8
Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come." (NIV)

We know that Jesus had at least five brothers and sisters, but only his mother was standing at the foot of the cross. There at the cross Jesus committed the care of his mother to John, which indicates that his work had divided his own family.

However, the gospel also brings peace.

John 14:26-27
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)

We may feel like quitting when we discover peace isn't the absence of conflict. Jesus doesn't promise us a trouble free life. Quite the opposite is true. He promises us that we will have trouble, but he promises us peace in spite of trouble. Jesus promises us that the gospel will disturb our world.

Satan Seeks to Rob Us of Our Opportunities

Satan's presence was real throughout the New Testament. Satan's presence makes it essential that we keep our focus on our opportunities instead of his resistance to our opportunities. If we fail to focus on God's opportunities for us, Satan's resistance may convince us that the opportunities aren't all that great. We may even think Satan's resistance is a sign that we have gone in the wrong direction no matter how clear God's call may be.

Satan is ever present to rob us of our opportunities for personal growth and church growth. He attacks us through attitudes such as jealous rage as we see here in Acts 17. Jealousy is nothing more than seeking attention for self. Satan was present with Jesus and his disciples. When Mary anointed Jesus with perfume Satan was present.

John 12:4-8
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." (NIV)

When Jesus forewarned his disciples about his crucifixion Satan was there.

Matthew 16:21-23
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (NIV)

Satan was present at the last Passover meal that Jesus ate with his disciples.

John 13:27-28
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. (NIV)

It is amazing how Jesus and his disciples kept focused. They were able to look beyond their troubles and take advantage of the opportunities. They didn't focus on Judas' borrowing money from the treasury--they let Judas hang himself. Jesus looked beyond Peter's denial and saw how Satan was trying to destroy God plan's through Peter. Jesus told Peter that Satan desired to sift him like wheat, but he also told him that he was praying for him. Peter could certainly rest assured that Jesus' prayer would be heard and answered. Jesus was trying to keep Peter focused on God; so Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom.

From the outset Peter understood that Satan would resist him throughout his life. This is not only true of Peter, but it is also true in our lives. It will always be true in every life that seeks God.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV)

When we focus on our opportunities we will discover success. If you only focus on the opposition you will become discouraged. The first century disciples spent their energies taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by God. Satan wants to engage us in a futile carnal battle. The first century disciples didn't spend their time fighting Satan. No matter how focused our lives there will always be resistance from Satan. In spite of our success, Satan will always be present. If you spend all your time fighting your circumstances you won't be able to take advantage of the opportunities.

 Paul was able to focus on God’s power and what God was calling him to do in Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2
You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (NIV)

The Gospel Troubles Our World

Do you remember standing on your head as a child? It was easy to lose your sense of direction while standing on your head. Well, Satan already has the world standing on its head and for the most part the world doesn’t know which end is up. When God enters our world he desires to show us how to stand on our feet. It is hard to stand on your feet after standing on your head so long because blood rushes away from our brain. The world was already standing on its head when the first century disciples were preaching the gospel. The gospel just revealed the reality of it all. When they heard the gospel they became disoriented.

God delights in overturning the orderly progression of our lives. Jesus turned the religious world on its head. He told the Pharisees and the Sadducees that the harlots would enter the kingdom ahead of them. He knocked the religious world for a loop by saying the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Jesus relocated them to the bottom of the barrel. This turned the religious hierarchy on its head.

Luke writes, "But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil."

The world is standing on its head because it is convinced that it can be religious and ungodly at the same time. Satan's tactics seek to get us to believe that we can be religious without a demonstration of God's power in our lives. There are many belonging to churches today that have opted to remain standing on their heads. They refuse God's power to salvage their lives from immorality.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (NIV)
 

The world is busy trying to change the message of the gospel. Paul's enemies politicized the message of the gospel when Paul and his companions preached in Thessalonica. The world was made to believe that the message was politically incorrect. They said they were preaching to over throw Rome. Today many churches are sensationalizing the message of the gospel and mass media is politicizing the message. As a result the message seems superficial to a world standing on its head. It is becoming politically incorrect to preach against immorality in every form.

I received this message sometime ago from someone who had visited our web site.

"I am taking a Class at Campbell University called Christian Ethics, we were recently given a test with the following true or false question on it.

"'The Bible has plenty of references against the practice of homosexuality.'

"I answered TRUE, and was marked incorrect. I am looking for other views and answers to this question in order to support a rebuttal that I am submitting. Any assistance that you can provide me will be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,

P. J. B."

One biblical is reference plenty too me. Of course, the world thinks one isn't enough. It makes us want to ask, "What part of no don't you understand?"

To discover the power of the message we must live to please God. To discover the power of God, the gospel message must work in our lives.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3
Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (NIV)

God’s word is at work in our lives when we allow it to turn us from our idols for the purpose of leading holy lives. When our lives are full of wrongdoing it can only mean that we have refused to allow God's power to enter our lives. God comes to eradicate our wrongdoing.

To reject the gospel's approach to life leaves us rejecting God.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Strategies for Survival

The gospel message is the only thing that can keep us focused in a topsy-turvy world.

Acts 17:1-5
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. (NIV)

It is often troublesome when the gospel enters our lives to displace the evil. When the disciples entered into Thessalonica they spent three weeks focusing on the gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It was troubling for all those listening. Those who believed had to give up the Jewish synagogue as a place of worship. Those who refused to believe became enraged.

The trouble with having our world turned upside down is that our natural survival instinct kicks in. We may begin to look at our circumstances and wonder how we can survive them. When we start worrying about survival, we take our eyes off of God. If we feel that we have to survive the circumstances we will never be free. When we feel like we have to survive it leaves us caught between resurrection and death.

Too many of us want the resurrection, but we don't want to experience the crucifixion. You don't have to survive by this world's standards. In fact, you can't survive by living according to this world's standards. Paul not only preached the resurrection -- he had experienced the crucifixion. Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ." (Galatians 2:20)

Our desire to just survive hinders the blessings and power of God. The only way to survive is to rely on God's power rather than our survival instincts.

Satan's efforts in Thessalonica did not thwart God's powerful plan to save. You must read farther than Acts 17. Initially when you read the first nine verses of Acts 17, you may think they were unsuccessful in their efforts to preach the gospel in Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)

Looking past your problems and focusing on God's message for you allows you to discover the joy the message of the Spirit brings. Paul writes, "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit."

When we discover the joy of the message the world takes note. Paul writes, "And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."

When we surrender in joyful obedience we experience spiritual growth. Striving to live faithful lives brings God's word to life and activates God's power in our lives. The Thessalonians were experiencing spiritual growth because their obedience activated God’s power in their lives.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 1:11
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (NIV)

Conclusion:

Some are running from God because they are afraid God's precepts won't work in their lives. They are unwilling for God to turn their world upside down. Their fear leaves them living in a topsy-turvy world. They don't think that God knows what is best for them.

Some are growing tired of living for God because of Satan's resistance.

Paul urges us to keep focused and be faithful.

You may think Satan is winning, but he isn't.

 

Home   Complete Index    2009 Sermons 2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

Email