God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. – Acts 19:11-20
In magic, the power is in the words. If you know the right words to say then the power will happen. These fellows were working the magic formula. I only makes sense that if you take A) guy with an evil spirit + B) the same words Paul used to cast out a demon with success = C) a powerful miracle being worked out by their command.
Only, it didn’t go the way they had planned because there is more to words than just repeating something someone else has said. Words come from somewhere and the place they come from has everything to do with the power they hold. What they didn’t realize was that there was another variable in the equation and it was Jesus Christ. This was not just about using his name as a leverage point for personal fame and power. Casting out demons in the name of Jesus requires someone who is actually concerned about personally living under the authority of Jesus themselves.
If all we do in preaching is repeat someone else’s stories we run the danger of using that as a crutch that might just prevent personal spiritual development and fullness…the recognition that God isn’t just working in other people’s stories so that our sermons become an endless stream of often repeated anecdotes from the experiences of other people…it becomes personal and deep and rich and real.
How often do we have the same sort of magical thinking when it comes to faith…that if we say the right words or do worship just so that God will have to bless us or that we will make a great name for ourselves or that the worldly standards of success will be satisfied.
It just doesn’t work that way. Avoid the temptation. Humble yourself under the name of Jesus and let him do what he needs to do however he needs to do it!