Breaking Down Strongholds

by | Jul 23, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor David Ball

Scripture: Acts 19:11-41

Where do you go when you are afraid? What do you trust will save you and protect you when your life is threatened? Strongholds are the places that we trust with our lives when we are afraid for our lives. They are the places we look to for protection and salvation. God has declared that He alone is our stronghold and mighty fortress and that anything or anyone else we turn to for our salvation is a false idol. Our God is in the business of breaking down false strongholds in our lives and leading us to the stronghold of His Gospel. Come listen and examine the false strongholds in your life so that you might turn to the only righteous King who can give you what your heart desires most.


The holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke Glory To You Lord Christ Jesus said fear not little flock for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom sell your possessions and give to the needy provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail where no Thief approaches and no moth destroys or where your treasure is there will your heart be also this is the gospel of the Lord praise to you Lord Christ

Heavenly father thank you for these ancient words holy spirit will you come now will you lead us to the throne of grace and we might find help we might find Mercy and this our time of need in Jesus we pray all this in your mighty name amen you may be seated

John do you have a safe place in your home you know like if uh you’ve talked about it with your family or at least you yourself have figured out that if the uh if the tornado comes through this is where you’re going uh you have one of those it’s uh usually you know what you consider at least be the strongest place in the house my uh my grandmother uh when uh back in I guess it would have been the 50s and 60s uh they had a house in Atlantic Beach and there was a there was one closet uh that was kind of in in the middle of the house and uh and This Old House was built with huge huge uh Timber I mean it was it was it was a solid house still is it’s actually still there they haven’t one of the ones they haven’t torn down yet um but uh there was this one closet that was kind of in the center of the house it was a big walk-in closet and she just the first sign of a storm she was in the closet with the door closed and she stayed there until it was gone um you know do you have one of those a place of a stronghold a place that’ll uh that’ll keep you safe A place that you trust uh that uh that if the storm comes and the and the winds knock everything else down that you’ll be okay in that in that space I was we were sometimes uh the kids and Gracie and I have fun watching the the show Shark Tank you’ve ever seen that one you know where they bring uh these uh these guys people who are starting companies they bring their ideas before the the Sharks and the uh the Sharks hear their idea and then they either decide to buy it or partner with them on it or not I remember one of the ideas was somebody created um underneath your bed like a metal frame uh that if at any sign of danger whether it was a storm coming or have you a robber or something you press a button and the thing raises up and this full metal Contraption you just crawl in with enough Provisions to get you by in a light and stuff you know it’s a real a real stronghold I don’t know if it works but it was a it was a good idea somebody somebody bought it uh I’m not sure exactly who that was but your strongholds are are places that we uh of means of safety there there are things they’re places that that we trust that we trust Will Keep Us secure a fortress or figuratively a fortified place that will defend us you know in the scriptures David uh when he was running from Saul he ran from one stronghold to another uh in order to preserve his life right to find shelter so that Saul couldn’t kill him he went from one stronghold to another

but you know strongholds aren’t just fortresses or the places that uh that we feel like we can the physical places that we can go and hide from be safe from a storm there’s lots of other spiritual strongholds in our lives that that aren’t good things that we we look to and we trust for our safety in our life and our uh for our uh for our well-being our position our status maybe there are retirement accounts maybe there are the Investments that we made maybe it’s just your house is what’s your stronghold there’s a lot and it’s not just physical places either it can be your position in life your place in society or among your friends right that that’s your stronghold that’s the thing that you trust most with your life or maybe it’s your status or or your sense of security or good health or or good looks I I feel that one you know yeah put put way too much trust in my good looks uh too often

but the idea is where is it when you’re under threat in any kind of way or you’re afraid for any reason you feel fear gripping you where do you go and hide what do you lean on where do you look for protection where do you go for that protection or that safety or or freedom from the threat that that you’re facing for your well-being strongholds are the places that we trust the places that we trust most but strongholds are only as strong as the material from which they’re constructed right well in our reading from acts this morning in Ephesus Paul’s still uh and Ephesus we see a battle taking place between two strongholds just two examples of strongholds that exist in this world and in our lives first we see it through the the sons of skiva and then also with Demetrius and uh and and his uh the silversmiths we see the gospel coming against two strongholds and in the end the gospel prevails but I want to look at each of these for for just a few few minutes together I’m not I can’t go through all of it it’s a it’s long uh but beginning in the in the 11th verse we’re told God was doing an extra it was doing extraordinary Miracles by the hands of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them this is incredible right this is a this is amazing uh in fact it is meant to be it’s what we’re told here that it was extraordinary right which means this isn’t the norm uh this isn’t a normal way of things happening it’s special it’s not typical even for the Miracles we’ve heard this is this is extraordinary this is something extra and it has everything to do with what’s happening in Ephesus itself I told you a few weeks ago that in the ancient world these largest cities were all kind of known for something uh they all had their their distinct you know Alexandria was known as a uh as a great place of learning um you know philosophers came if you were a philosopher and you wanted to study uh then you went to Athens right if you wanted to be in politics and you wanted to play that power game you went to you went to Rome all these places had these different Corinth member we talked about was the center of Commerce and wealth it was kind of like the New York City uh where all the bankers were it was full of because of that it was full of corruption in different ways because of its wealth well Ephesus was known for its religious Center like people came from all around because of this uh because of all of its temples especially to to Artemis it was known also uh to have uh the what’s known as the Ephesian letters that have been found and the Ephesian letters were uh were written charms and amulets and talismans so it was this was full of this area this idea of magic and sorcery and uh it was just a spiritual reality that existed in Ephesus and so for God to do something like even just take the items uh that had touched Paul right this is the idea here is that these were the items when Paul was working because Paul in Ephesus uh he worked he was a tent maker and so he would work uh in the mornings uh until 11 and then In the Heat of the day from 11 to 4 uh is when everyone took a big siesta you know I kind of like that idea right you took us especially right now it is siestas at that time of day is a good idea uh but the whole city would take a siesta and I didn’t use the word Siesta but they’d take a break during the heat of the day and so Paul would work and he’d sweat making tents and they’d take these these sweaty you know rags and they’d send them out and God was using those to to heal people because God was waging battle against the sorcery and The Magicians and all the stuff that was going on the spiritual battle that was taking place uh in Ephesus by the way for for Paul what he did he didn’t take the siesta during that time is when he went into uh he went into the lecture hall because the the main lecture there with lecture in the he’d take his Siesta from 11 to 4. Paul would go in from 11 to 4 and that’s where he would proclaim the gospel but he didn’t just do it talking at people it was a place where he’d lecture but he’d also take questions they would it was where they engaged in the gospel he did that every day he was in Ephesus for three years it’s why we’re told that everyone in that area heard the gospel because during the Siesta they’d come and they’d list they hear about this this new religion this man talked about and they’d come and they’d sit and they’d listen they’d ask questions they’d engage

it was an incredible way you know it just as an aside because it doesn’t have to do with the the main point of the strongholds but uh you know far too often this was it was three years you know I think we get so frustrated in our own idea of evangelism that it’s not happening fast enough that we’re not you know that people aren’t responding we want to just shout at people um you know we want to you know God bless the the folks standing on the corners and with a megaphone for the folks that are driving by I get it uh there’s something to that but what we see here we see here is that Paul’s engaging over a long period of time of all of those hours spent he’s investing and investing and investing and over time there’s there’s fruit that comes from that there’s fruit that comes from that but God’s doing extraordinary Miracle this you know unfortunately this has been abused and the church you know I can probably name uh numerous uh televangelists that will say you know and I will send to you if you if you’ll mail in the check or give me the credit card I will send you this handkerchief that I blew my nose with this morning and you will be healed you know it’s been it’s been abused we’re told here though that God first of all God can do what he wants right he can use anything to heal anyone at any time but it’s always for the proclamation of the Gospel uh and and God’s using it as in this battle against the the magical ideations of these people of Ephesus but this wasn’t Magic

this was a sign of Jesus’s own Ministry remember when the woman came to Jesus and just he’s in the crowd and she just reached out and touched and he and she was healed he felt the the power come out from him and he stopped you know this Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ as uh as his man is doing his ministry this is a proclamation of the Gospel here but then These Guys these sons of skiva right they uh they they decide oh I want to get in on this I want to get in on this action and so what are we told they do some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of Jesus the Lord Jesus those who had evil spirit saying I adjourn you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims seven sons of a Jewish high priest named skiva were doing this but the evil spirit answered them Jesus I know Paul I recognize but who are you and the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them mastered all of them and overpowered them so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded and this became known to all the residents of Ephesus both Jews and Greeks and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled so you know this is interesting here so what was it I think it’s easy just to say well you know they didn’t really mean it you know if they’d really mean it but but remember Jesus did say uh in mark 9. Mark chapter 9 Jesus I think it was John I may be wrong let me remember um in 9 verse 38

John said to Jesus teacher we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because he was not following us but Jesus said do not stop him for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me for the one who is not against us is for us for truly I say to you whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward so what’s going on here then right Jesus wasn’t worried about those doing it in his name there uh but here there’s an issue well I think the issue has to do with what we’re told they said uh they were invoking the name of Jesus not because they believed in Jesus they’re evoking him just as another idea of the magical charm among many of This Book of magical charms that did different things that the people of Ephesus were all evoking right it says uh it said Gee well before that um that some it said that uh

than some of the itinerant Jews Exorcist undertook to invoke the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits saying I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims so they weren’t even claiming to know Jesus or to know anything about them they’re just using this as some sort of uh magical trick right uh they’re just trying to invoke the name and obviously it backfires but the Lord ultimately uses it he uses it uh as a way of putting the fear into people and seeing what using Magic In This Way really does that it opens you up to evil spirits and to the power of demons and the fear actually led many did you see what happened they actually brought their their their charms and their books their really Scrolls right these Scrolls these Ephesian letters uh and these things were incredibly valuable they were incredibly expensive but they burned them and many of them were coming to know Christ God is reigning Victorious over this spiritual stronghold

it was happening in Ephesus it was raining Victorious these men weren’t clothed in the righteousness of Christ

Jesus has power over every spiritual stronghold but then we have another stronghold that we see just after that uh this one’s a little bit a little bit different but again it’s a victory for Jesus because this battle isn’t again is it the spiritual battle over these Idols these false gods this is a battle against economic powers that’s really what Demetrius was up to right uh Demetrius didn’t care about the validity of the of the Goddess the Artemis uh he didn’t care about that what he cared about was the bottom line that’s what he wanted and Paul must think about this think about how successful Paul must have been in this ministry day after day and proclaiming the gospel and proclaiming that uh that man made gods are no Gods at all think of the difference it must have been making to make Demetrius get worried about his own well-being his own bottom line his own pockets

see Demetrius though is smart Demetrius didn’t make this issue about money at all did he that was what he really cared about that’s what got his attention but that’s not what he drew people’s attention to what he did was uh he told that their trade was going to lose its good name our trade’s gonna lose its good name if we allow this this Christianity to keep on going he also argued that their Temple was going to lose its Prestige and all of the world so again position status these are the things that that Demetrius is is is uh is evoking here and then their goddess Artemis is going to lose her good name her reputation that’s what he invokes and it worked it worked although his real vested interest was completely cloaked right he was uh it was cloaked in patriotic Zeal and religious zeal that’s what he used to cloak really what this was all about and that was just money he didn’t care about any of those things but what we see here even in this is that the gospel Jesus Reigns Victorious even in this yes the riot gets incited people start chanting right uh they start chanting even the Jews try to step in and you know defend themselves because probably what they were going to do in that moment was say hey we’re not with them that’s not us don’t leave us alone just go go after them but they don’t even they won’t listen to it they just keep they just keep chanting greatest Artemis of the Ephesians but then in Comes This Clerk acquired the crown and said men of Ephesus who is there who does not know that the city of Ephesians is Temple Keeper of the great Artemis and of the sacred stone that fell from the skies he’s saying what are y’all doing everyone knows our place here and our importance there’s there’s no reason for this this issue uh seeing then that these things cannot be denied you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash for you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor Blasphemous of our goddess so here he actually defends Christianity he defends Paul and wear their head they’re validated what he’s saying is that these aren’t different than the Jews they’re not different than anyone’s they’re valid here uh and we recognize this they’re they’re not a problem but if therefore Demetrius and the Craftsman with them have a complaint against anyone the cords are open and there are pro councils let them bring charges against one another what he’s saying here to Demetrius into these guys is hey if you’ve really got a case we actually have law that you can use and and file a complaint and we’ll go through the legal system the right way but we know that’s not really what Demetrius was interested in right he just he just wanted to get the get them out of there and get his uh get his economic bottom line back in back in action but if you seek anything further the clerk said it shall be set on the regular assembly for we really are and this is now to the crowds we now really are in danger of being charged with rioting today since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion and when he had said these things he dismissed the assembly so he totally de-escalated everything and validated the gospel wins God wins over this other this other stronghold this economic stronghold

Prince anything we trust in anything that we look to for our protection for our status for our security and our comfort for the sons of skiva it was the magic right invoking whatever they could just to try to get the job done maintain their position and their power and their their status in the community for Demetrius it was to do whatever he could do in order to ensure and to safeguard his own bottom line his own again his position and his status but anything that we look to or we trust in for our protection for our status for our security for our comfort you know what those are they’re false strongholds their false strongholds

and God has a lot to say through His prophets about these false strongholds and how he feels about them through the prophet Hosea Hosea 8 14. this is what God declares through his Prophet for Israel has forgotten his maker and built palaces and Judah has multiplied fortified cities so I will send a fire upon his cities and it shall devour her strongholds how does God feel about his people looking to other places and trusting them for their well-being and their safety and their prosperity

not kindly does it does he

Amos 6-8

God declared the Lord God has sworn by himself declares the Lord the god of hosts I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it can you hear the Judgment but here it’s not just a stronghold a literal uh stronghold of trusting and the the things of our make our hands that we the things that we make by our own hands here it’s the the stronghold of our own Pride

The Pride they were trusting in themselves and God detest that and God declares he will judge it and there will be judgment but then

the prophet Zechariah chapter nine

listen to what God does declare even after his judgment over these false strongholds that his people are seeking Rejoice greatly o Daughter of Zion Shadow loud o daughter of Jerusalem behold your king is coming to you righteous and having salvation is he humble and mounted on a donkey a donkey on a cult the foal of a donkey and then in verse verse 12 he says return to your stronghold o prisoners of Hope today I declare that I will restore to you double what’s God telling them is their true Source there’s true stronghold it’s him I’m your only stronghold it’s me the Lord declares that’s the promise of God that he will send a king to save us to redeem us who is righteous and will bring Salvation in his wings friends that’s the gospel God is sin is one and only son into this world to save us by grace alone through Christ’s finished work on our behalf it’s only in him that we actually have freedom and joy and peace and forgiveness and Hope

the strongholds strongholds are only as strong as the materials that they’re made out of

what are your strongholds made of

Proverbs 21 verse 22 says a wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they Trust

if we were to really examine our own lives our own hearts what are the strongholds in our lives the false strongholds what are the things of the people that we’re looking to for our protection and our safety and our well-being and our freedom and when those things get threatened we become we get full of fear and anger anxiety we lash out because we know ultimately those things are just made with human hands they can’t ultimately protect us they cannot ultimately save us where are your strongholds

this morning God is calling you to run from them and run into the Arms of Jesus into the strength of the Gospel

final and finished work of Jesus Christ for you put your faith in him and trust him alone a stronghold not made with human hands one that we can truly trust with our lives amen




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