The following is the manuscript of the sermon I preached Sunday night at Lebanon Road. Following our service, we recognized our five graduating seniors at a special ceremony. I hope you gain from this lesson as I did in preparing it.
Tonight, following our services, it will be a joy to honor our graduating seniors. This is always a special time, and I hope you are planning on remaining following our services to help give them a heart-felt “congratulations” for their accomplishments thus far in life. Our five seniors have distinguished themselves in great ways, and we know they will continue to do so for many years to come.
As parents and adults who care so much for these young people, though, we have apprehension. It is hard to let them go, even slowly. As these next few weeks come and go, these young people are probably going to feel like every adult in their life is trying to crunch countless “final lessons” into their minds.
So, I’m going to start that trend! I want to share a lesson for us all, but that I wrote with our graduates specifically in mind.
It comes from a text of the Bible that you might find odd for a lesson like this.
In Acts 19, Paul is in the city of Ephesus. Verses 11-12 sum up Paul’s work in glowing terms: “And God 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.” Paul’s work was so widespread and so effective, that some other folks decided they wanted to have the same level of renown and fame as did Paul. Verse 13: “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.’” Now, there is some humor in that. These were “itinerant” exorcists. If they were so effective, why did they have to move around? Also, the word “exorcist” is a Greek word that includes the idea of an oath. In other words, they were frauds who said some fancy language and claimed they had removed a demon. Now they see Paul actually doing so, so they decide that Paul has really figured out the secret word, and that secret word is Jesus! That’s why their little speech is so specific: “Just in case we aren’t clear, demon, we are saying the same ‘Jesus’ that Paul is saying.”
Now we are introduced to some of these, and they are called the “seven sons of Sceva.” By the way, if you have a translation that calls him a “high priest” that is not accurate. There was never a high priest named Sceva. He was one of the chief priests, but not the high priest. These seven sons were trying to perform this magic trick and prove they could remove a demon. Then, in one of the most hilarious scenes in all of Scripture, the demon speaks through the person who is possessed. His words ring across the years: “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Can you imagine the embarrassment of these men? They make this speech in which they think they have the secret magic word, and instead, they get one of the great disses in all of Scripture!
Verse 16 goes on to tell us that the demons caused the man to attack them and they had to flee and were wounded. Now, you look at that and you think, “What kind of life lesson for our seniors could you possibly get from that text?” Usually, this text is only used in discussions of the occult, black magic, and other similar topics.
But I want to make one simple application for our seniors, and all of us. Here it is: Live in Such a Way that Hell Knows Your Name.” That’s the application! We need to live in such a way that hell knows who we are. How does that become practical? Briefly tonight, as we encourage our seniors, let’s notice 4 ways we can make sure that happens.
I. Be Fervent in Prayers to the Sovereign
Satan hates it when you pray! Hell can’t stand it when you are fervent and consistent in prayer. For quite some time, there was a PR war going on about prayer in public school. One of the more humorous statements by those who thought prayer should be allowed was, “As long as there are tests, there WILL BE prayer in school!” While that is a funny slogan, it is also a strong reminder to our students. It’s not just at testing time. You need to be in prayer often.
Prayer, at its simplest level, is simply a conversation with God. At a time in life when there are many changes and many new experiences—as well as many temptations—that conversation needs to be strong and ongoing. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus made a statement to some of His apostles. While the statement was for them, it is a principle that we need to remember each day. He stated, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). If you will pray that simple prayer with great thought, fervency, and consistency, hell will know your name.
II. Be Faithful in Perusal of the Scripture
Paul directed Timothy to “Study to show yourselves approved unto God,” and to “handle correctly the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). As you enter a time of transition, it is imperative that you take time to study the word of God. There will be many temptations to put other things first, as your life will be increasingly busy and filled with distractions, but as you face this business, you need to hear what God has to say! Remember what the psalmist wrote? “Be STILL and know that I am God” (46:10). As you go through this time in your life, it will be harder to remain still. Your life will be bustling from one thing to another. But, if you will take moments to be still and spend time alone with God in the Scriptures, you’ll remain close to Him.
Satan can’t stand it when you remember that! And he for sure can’t stand it when you are faithful in your study of the Scriptures. He would like nothing more than to use this busy time of transition to cause you to never open your Bible. But you want to live so that hell knows your name! If you want to live that way, you need to spend time hearing from God through His Word. You need to use the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” You need to allow the Bible to be lamp to your feet and the light to your path.
Satan has the power to know with whom you are communicating. The ultimate way to get Satan’s attention is to be in constant communication with the Lord, through speaking to God in prayer and through hearing from God in the study of the Bible.
III. Be Fighting the Pursuit of the Slanderer
Now, if hell knows your name, you are on the radar, and Satan—the slanderer, your enemy—will be trying to tempt you. Fight that pursuit. There is a great promise given in Scripture that is far too often overlooked, but it is couched in a command, too. James wrote (4:7): “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We must resist the devil, but we must also have something to go TO. We must submit to God, as well.
Remember that Jesus, at the end of His time being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, told Satan to “be gone.” Luke 4:13 then tells us that the devil “departed from Him until a more opportune time.” Yes, he left, but Satan would look for another chance to tempt the Lord. The same is true of us. If we resist the devil, he will flee from us, but he will know our name. In fact, he knows us well. He will be looking for a chance to tempt us again. But, if you resist and resist and resist, it will become easier each time. Eventually, Satan will know your name all too well, because you are truly submitting to God and you are truly against the forces of hell.
IV. Be Following the Pattern of the Savior
Jesus is the one who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He is the One who taught and did (Acts 1:1). As we sometimes sing, “He the great example is, and pattern for me.” We must learn to follow His example—His pattern.
And think of what we have already spoken of: He is our example in fervent prayer. He prayed all night. He prayed until there were drops as of blood coming from His brow. He prayed before and after miracles. He was constant in conversation with the Father. He is our example in knowing the Bible. When a scroll—not a book with an index or table of contents—was handed to Him, He went directly to the passage He desired to share (Luke 4:17). He used the OT Scriptures constantly to prove who He was and what the people were to be doing. He is our example in defeating Satan. He used Scripture to answer each temptation found in Matthew 4, and never gave any of the temptations a second thought.
As you face hardship, temptation, loneliness, anger, sadness, joy, and hurt, remember Jesus. Follow His perfect example.
You may think that we adults are silly. We treat this moment with great emotion and seriousness. But we also know that you are filled with emotions and moods—or will be in the coming months—that are strong and serious.
We want you to succeed in this life. We want you to be the best at whatever it is you choose to make your chosen field of work. But, more than that, we want you to succeed in God’s eyes. We want you to be the best CHRISTIAN doctor, CHRISTIAN teacher, CHRISTIAN homemaker, CHRISTIAN engineer, CHRISTIAN coach, CHRISTIAN preacher…or whatever.
As you face this new phase in life, always remember that you have a congregation standing behind you 100% and cheering you on. But, we will fail you at times. We are human, and we will make mistakes.
- But, as you move along through life, if you will be
- Fervent in prayer to the Sovereign,
- Faithful in perusal of the Scriptures,
- Fighting the pursuit of the Slanderer, and
- Following the pattern of the Savior, THEN
- You will never be alone, and you will be ready to face whatever comes your way. God is with you. Christ is with you. The Holy Spirit is with you. You have their Word. You have their ear. What more do you need? Just to remain faithful.