Aug 11 2019 Acts 16 as a Preface to Philippians - When People are Receptive to God
11th August 2019
I am going to start a series on Philippians –
BibleProject – Philippians
I’m going to look at Acts 16 – where Philippians actually starts:
Acts 16:11 11 We put out to sea from Troas and sailed a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. We stayed in this city for some days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there.
The city of Philippi had a small population of Jewish folks living there – compared to other cities in the Roman Empire. Rome had a large population – but Philippi was so small that they didn’t even have a synagogue, which typically took 10 families to create.
Paul went down to the river – he had a strategy, looking for those who are the most receptive to the gospel message – first the Jews – it was their story – he had a natural relationship – the things he would talk about – The Messiah – they would GET – they would be receptive.
At the river – there are only women there. This is a unique situation – and it shows that God works in unique ways. What we need to think about – where do we find people, in our lives, who are receptive to the gospel? How do we do that? How does it happen in our world?
Paul didn’t just go beating on people – eventually he would preach to the masses – but in every case, he went to those who would have spiritual interest. We need to think – where might people be interested or receptive to the gospel message. Let me tell you…
Where people are going through difficult circumstances – maybe someone who has lost a job or is in financial straits – or is going through divorce or some other family struggle – Sometimes people in those situations are open to answers from God – to begin a searching process.
When people around us – we can’t come up to them and say, you are going through this because God wants you to! No – don’t do that! But look for opportunities to serve and help.
Cindy works in a place with a lot of stress and frustration – and difficulty – and Cindy gets in and ministers in that situation.
God wants our eyes to be open to those in need around us. Don’t think – they are getting what they deserve! Or – Glad it’s not happening to me!
People are more receptive to God during big events in their lives – getting married – having children….
It could be when someone becomes an empty-nester. There can be this JOY part – but there is also this other part – and they both go hand-in-hand.
Someone goes to college.
Leaving home for the first time. College ministries can play such an important role.
My son, John, was an RA – and he had to TEACH – GIVE CLASSES – on how to do laundry – to the freshmen – they had no clue!
3rd – in times of social, political, and economic turmoil – people can be more receptive to the faith – when things are up in the air – maybe like today! As Christians, sometimes we think – oh, the world is so bad! Therefore, no one would be interested! Actually – the opposite is true!
There have been 3 great revivals in American history. One you have never heard of –
The first was the Great Awakening – 1720-1740 – the famous preacher – Jonathan Edwards – they had to read his sermons back in grade school – they don’t do that anymore. Apparently – he just read them blandly from the pulpit and they changed the world.
The Second Great Awakening – the early 1800s – this one was huge – and dramatically influenced the country.
Mid-60s to Late- 1970s – And you think, no…. Remember the statistics I showed a few weeks ago? In the late 50’s/early 60s – there were a lot of people going to church – it was at its peak. But after that – there was this earthquake of change – hippies and the sexual revolution and marijuana and rock and roll – and while all that was happening – quietly – behind all that – was this revival.
In 1962, people were leaving the traditional churches – and there were these gospel-people churches starting – and those resulted in the mega-churches today – Christian music – it started then… The Christian home-schooling movement – and this growth of college ministry – and reaching international students –
The upstart smallest churches of the 60s are some of the largest church associations in the world.
In general, it looks like things went down – but when it comes to gospel work – things were picking up.
Three things Christians tend to do during upheaval – Christians tend to isolate themselves. There were Christian communes that popped up. Another tendency is to conform or accommodate secular culture. You can accommodate the left, right, or middle – and all of it is bad – it is all about the world – not the culture of the kingdom of God. But what God is doing… And the third – and right answer – to have a Kingdom engagement with the world. Like leaven in a loaf, Jesus said – it fills everything. And that is the opportunity we are in today – we are like the leaven – and we can fill the entire world!
Back to Acts 16:14
14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, "If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house." And she persuaded us.
It says she is a god-fearing woman – it means she was a gentile who was worshiping the God of the Jews – so this was the first convert in Philippi – a woman, who was a Gentile – who had a business – who had servants and employees – and God works in unexpected ways – and we should be thinking the same – what unexpected places and people does God want to work with?
After this story – the story goes on – and there is this servant girl – and this demon enables her to have power – and her master was making money off of her – and Paul cast out the demon and the master had him arrested – we’ll pick up there.
23 After they had beaten them severely, they threw them into prison and commanded the jailer to guard them securely. 24 Receiving such orders, he threw them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Immediately all the doors flew open, and the bonds of all the prisoners came loose.
27 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison standing open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, because he assumed the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out loudly, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" 29 Calling for lights, the jailer rushed in and fell down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Here is a guy who has a majorly difficult situation in his life – and he is completely open to the gospel!
31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him, along with all those who were in his house. 33 At that hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized right away. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set food before them, and he rejoiced greatly that he had come to believe in God, together with his entire household.
We see, throughout Acts – entire households coming to Jesus – that would include their servants – people coming to the Lord through already developed spheres of relationships.
Typically, that is how people come to the Lord – through developed relationships.
Some of you know my story – I was the first of my family to come to Jesus – when I was 18 at The Ohio State University. My family was a little bit Catholic, but mostly nothing – and after I came to Christ, I went home and blasted them that they were going to hell – that is not the way to do it.
A few years later – my dad was drilling me – how to get me out of the thing I was in – and my mom said she didn’t have all those questions – what do I need to do?
A few years after that – he was drilling me again – and mom told me later – I think he has come to Christ!
I had been praying for three things – that Dad would start reading the Bibles that are left in hotels…
“I started picking up those bibles in hotels, reading them to find out what he was dealing with”
…that he would get Christian friends who could speak truth into his life…
“Then a friend from work started talking to me”
…and that the empty house across the street would be filled with people who go to a particular church…
“The people who moved into the house across the street brought me to this church”
And since then, Dad has led most of our family to Christ.
We think we need to do something really amazing. No. All you need to do is to reach the ones God puts in your life. Are you loving them? Ministering to them? Sharing with them?