“About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning The Way” (Acts 19:23)
I love that statement in the book of Acts. I wrote a few words about it back in 2013 here, just after returning from a trip to Turkey and a visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. The book of Acts offers a beautiful narrative of how the Spirit-empowered followers of The Way turned the known world upside down. And this caused no little disturbance. That’s what the gospel does. It invades our lives in a disruptive way. But this disruption is necessary. The gospel necessarily confronts the sin in our life, leading us to repentance so that we can experience new life in the Lord who is the Way.
As we studied this portion of the Acts story this past Sunday, I was captivated by how this disturbance played out in the city of Ephesus, but specifically in the life of a silversmith named Demetrius. The Way was disrupting his livelihood. The proclaimed cosmic rule of King Jesus threatened to turn the Ephesian people’s hearts away from the cultural goddess named Artemis, and that could cause them to no longer be compelled to purchase the statues of her likeness made by his hands. The Way was harming his bottom line, and in reaction to this movement that had swept over the city, he makes quite a transparent proclamation.
After gathering workmen of similar trades together, to whom the worship of Artemis “brought no little business,” he declared to them his fear: “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship” (Acts 19:25-27, emphasis mine).
So we see that the Way and the disturbance it brought threatened both livelihood and the cultural prominence that individuals enjoyed–and feared losing. Demetrius and the other craftsman stood at a crossroads created by the arrival of the Way. They could turn from their idols and trust in Jesus as the Way, or they could war against him and cling to what their wayward hearts trusted and jealously guarded. Either way their lives were certainly disrupted.
I have been pondering that initial statement by Demetrius in light of Sunday’s sermon. I have been considering how the Way not only disturbs us initially in bringing us to Christ at first, but how it should continue to disturb us as we continue to seek for and create new idols to love, worship, and trust. Consider some examples that come to mind for how Demetrius’ statement can translate into heart postures in our own culture and lives:
You know that from this political party we have our hope.
You know that from this *child’s sport or activity* we hope for his/her secure future.
You know that from this business deal we have our financial peace.
You know that from this relationship I have my completeness.
You know that from this pursuit I have my happiness.
You know that from my performance I have my identity.
You know that from my partaking I have my endurance, or coping.
You know that from this lavish lifestyle we have our acceptance.
The Way threatens what we can come to hold dearly. But Jesus makes clear that he is the only Way. He also makes clear that we may only follow him in the Way on his terms. We must trust in him alone. This is what makes it the Way, and not a way that we can adapt or help to define.
When anything other than Jesus becomes our hope (or our wealth, security, sufficiency, completeness, joy, safety, etc…), whatever we have replaced him with has become an idol. And when we place anything on that throne, we will defend it. We will justify it. We will protect it. We will cease to allow the gospel to confront it. We will hang a Do Not Disturb sign on it. As Gerald said on Sunday, “Our idols will always make demands of us.”
A vital aspect of following Jesus on the Way is to intentionally welcome gospel scrutiny to disturb every area of our lives continuously. This is why we must abide in Christ daily in order to continue in the Way. When we fail to allow for this disturbance we can be easily deceived. We may even add enough religious elements to other ways our wayward hearts really want to go and believe that we are moving in the right direction. But we must desire gospel clarity more than our own way.
Since Sunday’s sermon, my life has been disturbed. And I praise God for the disturbance! What about you? How might you be prone to reshape Demetrius’ statement in your own life? Could your life stand some disturbance by being once again invaded by the Way?