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Sunday, January 29, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Ministry in Macedonia"

“Ministry in Macedonia”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
January 29, 2012
Acts 16:16-17:15

We are with the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey.

No longer is it Paul and Barnabas. It is now Paul and Silas as well as Timothy and, I think, Dr. Luke. And they are in where now?

Macedonia. “Ministry in Macedonia.”

In last week’s passage, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia (in what we now call Europe) calling to him in Troas, “Come over here and help us!”

So, Paul and his missionary team packed up and sailed across the Aegean Sea and landed in Macedonia.

And they quickly got to the place called Philippi where they went looking for a synagogue. They didn’t find a synagogue but they found some women seeking God. And one of them, a single businesswoman named Lydia became a believer in Jesus Christ!

The Bible says, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to” the gospel.

And Paul and his team took up residence at Lydia’s place. It became the base of their ministry in Philippi.  We know that he established a church there–we know because we have this little book in our Bible called Philippians. Read it this afternoon and see what Paul taught that little church.

But ministry in Macedonia was not an easy thing.

It wasn’t long before they faced major trials. Everywhere Paul goes there are major trials. Trials are the theme of Paul’s ministry!

Everywhere he goes, spreading the gospel, it isn’t health and wealth and prosperity, comfort and ease.

It is riots, prison, and crises.

Here in Philippi they get in trouble with the law for the first time.

Up till now, it’s just been mob violence. But now the law gets involved. And politics.

Because they are affecting commerce.

Acts 16:16.

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days.”  Stop there for a second.

Now, I know you know this story because Henoc preached it so well just a few weeks ago. But let’s think about it some more.

Think about this girl.  Think about what it must have been like to be her.

A girl in the ancient world.
A slave girl in the ancient world. She didn’t own anything, including herself.
Everything she made she made for her owners.

What a wretched word, “owners.”

And not only was she a slave girl but she had an evil spirit by which she predicted the future.

Her life was probably miserable in every way.

I can’t imagine.

And when Paul and Silas came to town, she began to follow them around.

And everywhere they went, she would yell, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

Why did she do that?

I don’t get the sense that she was trying to help Paul.

If so, this was help of a kind he didn’t need!

You don’t need the spirit-bound-slave girl to do your heralding if you belong to Jesus. It doesn’t help.

I get the sense that her tone was mocking. “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”  Kind of a Bellatrix Lestrange kind of deranged wickedness, if you know what I mean.

And this behavior really gets on Paul’s nerves. V.18

“Finally Paul became so troubled [The NASB says that he was “annoyed.” That’s enough!.] that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.”

Can you imagine?

What this must have meant for this young lady.

The Bible doesn’t say much more. I hope that she became a follower of Christ and was set free from her owners. The Bible doesn’t tell us.

But we know that she was set free of that spirit.

Unfortunately, this got Paul into a mess of trouble. V.19

“When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, ‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’”

Notice how they cleverly bring politics and law into the matter when the real issue is money.

Money is, so often, the issue, isn’t it?

‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’”

And, yes, they are upsetting our trade, as well.

But now they’ve drug in the authorities. What’s going to happen?

Notice that Paul and Silas are not given a chance to defend themselves. They are accused and then judged!  V.22

“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

Stripped and beaten.

Flogged and fastened in stocks in the inner cell of a stinking Roman prison.

That’s what they get for freeing the slave girl of her demon.

And they respond as any of us would by complaining, arguing, crying, whining, calling their lawyers, making threats, and promising retribution.

Actually, no. They pray and sing in their prison at midnight. V.25

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

I’m going to make three points of application today, and here’s the first one.

#1. SING IN YOUR PRISON.

Two weeks ago, Pastor Henoc talked about this prison as our trials.

The difficult things that we go through in life.

Health trouble.
Relational difficulties.
Job problems.
Finances.

When things are not going your way.

Sing in your prison.

How could they do that?

I was sick this week.

Heather was sick this week.

It is not fun to be sick.

Especially if it’s not that bad. It was just a head cold. But it wiped us out and took us off of our feet.

The passage that came to my mind about this singing in your prison was 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.”

It doesn’t say, “Gave thanks for all circumstances,” though there is probably a way to do that, as well.

But it says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances.”

There is always something to sing about!

No matter how painful the trial.
No matter how bad the flogging.
No matter how bad the prison.

There is always something to sing about in your prison.

Amen?

How could they do that?

They knew something.

They didn’t know how this story was going to turn out.
They didn’t know about the earthquake, I don’t think.

But they did know how the story of their lives was going to turn out.

They did know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They did know about His teachings, His life, His death, and His resurrection!

They knew what He had promised.

And they believed it. They knew that the prison was temporary.

Even if they spent the rest of their first lives there.

They knew that this too shall pass.

Sing in your prison.

I loved how Pastor Henoc pointed out in verse 25 that the other prisoners were listening to them.

I’ll be they were, and no wonder!

“Why are you like that?
How can you sing in a place like this?
What do you know that I don’t know?”

People are watching us when we go through trials.

And how we respond will either draw them to the Savior or repel them away.

Sing in your prison.

The Lord heard their songs, and he brought an earthquake.

This is another one of those divine jailbreaks from the book of Acts.

The most powerful one.  V.26

“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.”

Can you imagine?

“The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.”

He might as well kill himself because he’s going to lose his life for losing his prisoners.

“But Paul shouted, ‘Don't harm yourself! We are all here!’ The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.”

Do you see him trembling in your mind’s eye?

Not just how can you sing like that?
But why don’t you run away?

And why did all of these other prisoners stay here when the doors are open?

Why is God being so good to me?

And there he is kneeling before Paul and Silas and his body is shaking, trembling, and he asks the most important question. V.30

“He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”

I need what you have.

The slave girl said that you were telling the way to be saved.

I believe that now. What is it?

Is it become a Jew and be circumcised?  I’m willing.

Is it take on a new philosophy? I’m ready.

What is it that you know that I don’t?

What must I do to be saved?

“They replied (v.31), ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.’”

2. BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

It’s that simple. It’s that profound.

Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He paid the debt you owed but could not pay. He paid it all.

And now He offers His forgiveness, His righteousness, and Himself to you at no cost.

Just believe.

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

That faith will change your life.

But you come as you are.

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

I say that to all of you here, as well. The only way that you could ever sing in your prison with any truth to it is if you believe and belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the word of the Lord to you today. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

And that’s exactly what happened to this Philippian jailor and his household. V.32

“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family.”

I love how he washed them, and then they washed him!

Baptized every one. They believed and were baptized, apparently that very night!

Have you believed and then been baptized?

We’ve seen that again and again throughout Acts. The order is belief then baptism. Belief then baptism.

Baptism is the outward sign of inner faith.

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.  And tell the world with your baptism.

Now, what happens next is interesting.  Verse 35.

“When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: ‘Release those men.’ The jailer told Paul, ‘The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.’”

Apparently the authorities felt that a flogging and night in the pokey would be enough to stop these fellows from their rabblerousing.

They didn’t know about the earthquake, and they didn’t know what they really had on their hands. V.37

“But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’”

That’s interesting!  How come Paul didn’t resort to his rights as a Roman citizen yesterday?

I think it’s because not all Christians had those rights.

He didn’t use his Roman rights to get out of Christian persecution.

But now, he uses his Roman rights to protect other Christians. Do you see that?

What these guys have done is illegal, and they’re going to think twice before doing something like that again. V.38

“The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.”

We’re going to see things like this again and again in the book of Acts. Paul sometimes stands on his rights when he thinks that this will serve other Christians.

But other times he doesn’t stand on his rights if it doesn’t seem like it will further the Christian cause.

One of the things that Luke is trying to do, I think, in this book is show that Christianity, while making people nervous, is actually not a political threat.

I think that’s part of what’s going on in the next chapter.

Paul and Silas and Timothy (it appears leaving behind Luke) move on. V.1

“When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.”

Here’s a map.  Leaving Phillipi, passing through without establishing a church in Amphipolis and Apollonia. Landing in the capital city of Thessalonica.

Paul always goes to the Jew first. V.2

“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.”

He takes the Old Testament, and he shows them how the Messiah was not just to be a great conqueror, but also a great sufferer.

Probably using Isaiah 53, right?

And then he says, “This Jesus I am proclaiming ot you is the Messiah.”  V.4

“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.”

And we can read about that church and what they went through by reading our epistles of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. V.5

“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.’”

Apparently, Jason is a believer who is housing them like Lydia did back in Philippi.

And he’s now in trouble because of being associated with Paul.

And notice how political they are again.

This time it’s the Jews. They have found some low-lifes and gotten them to riot out of jealousy and then claimed that Paul is fomenting a rebellion.

Is that right?

What about this accusation?  “They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”

Are they saying that?

Yes, but.

Yes, but his kingdom is not of this world.

Yes, there is another king and He does demand our first allegiance.

But, they are not planning a revolt. V.8

“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.”

It kind of seems like the bond they posted went with an agreement that Paul and Silas would leave town.

The city was too hot at the time and they had to get out of Dodge. V.10

“On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.” Again. Same game plan.

Open the Bible show the who the Messiah was to be. Proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.  V.11

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

#3. EXAMINE THE SCRIPTURES.

Every day!

These Bereans didn’t just take Paul’s word for it. They were excited about the possibilities, but they were going to check them out.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians [noble!], for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

I want you to do this for me.

Don’t just believe what I say. Check up on me.

Keep your finger on the text.

If they had to do it for Paul, then how much more should you do it here.

Don’t just say, “Pastor Matt says...”

I want you to be able to say, “The Bible says....”  “God says...”

That’s where the power is.

You know I believe that there has never been a better time to be the pastor of Lanse Free Church.

That’s what I’m going to say in my vision report at the meeting in just a few minutes.

There has never been a better time (in the last 120 years!) to be the pastor of Lanse Free Church.

God is up to so much among us. There is life and vitality and blessing in this church family.

And we’ll keep it if we keep examining the Scriptures daily and doing what they say.

But if we stray away from this word, then watch out. There will be trouble coming.

Let’s stay in the word in 2012.

Examine the Scriptures daily.

And believe and live out what we see there.  V.12

“Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. [But the trouble followed them here, as well.] When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.”

And that’s where we’ll leave them this week.

Next week, Lord-willing, we’ll pick up Paul’s ministry out of Macedonia and now in Greece itself.

In the ancient city of wisdom–Athens.

What is your key application point this morning for your life?

Maybe it’s this last one?

To examine the Scriptures.

Are you in the word?

Are you reading it, studying it, memorizing it? Internalizing it?

Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words came and I ate them. They were my joy and my heart’s delight for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty!”

We’re going to go in and eat a great meal in a second.

But we should be feasting every day on the Word of God.

Maybe your key application is the second one.

Believe in the Lord Jesus.

You are invited today to join His people by putting your faith and trust in what He did on the Cross on your behalf.

What must I do to be saved?

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

What a blessed assurance that Jesus will be yours by faith alone in Christ alone!

Trust in the Savior today.

Maybe your key application is the first one.

Sing in your Prison.

Whatever you are going through, and it may be horrendous.

There is always something to give thanks for in all circumstances.

And that thing is bigger than all of your troubles.

And it’s worth singing about!

"Perfect submission–all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest."

Even if we are flogged and in prison and unjustly accused.

And suffering.  I in my Savior am happy and blest.

Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

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