Last week we talked about Lydia. She represents many of us. She has a successful career, is financially stable and worshiped God. She was found by a riverbank praying with other women. In Acts 16 we see that she listened to Paul and Silas talk about Jesus. As she listened to truth, God opened her heart and she accepted His truth. Her response led to her being baptized. Baptism is simply an outward act that reveals that a change has taken place within. Christ has entered a soul.
These truths have not changed. We could easily place Lydia in 2019. She had a career as a merchant, a businesswoman, which aided her financially. She had a household and she belonged to a church which she was an active member. On the outside she looked Christian. Yet, in verse 14, God had to open her heart. This makes me ponder why. Does it you?
Let’s continue on in Acts 16. Again, we can easily place these events into our timeframe of 2019. If you read verses 16-22, our world has not changed. It’s disheartening to think that in the United States there are slave girls. Sex-trafficking is very real. There are people making a huge profit from horrible vileness. Abuse and the taking of innocent life have run amok in our society. It is hard to imagine that in the wealthiest country in the world, the value has life has dwindled to nothing.
Pay attention to verses 16-17. It is good to realize a few truths. One, demon-possession is very real; even today. There is a spiritual world where Jesus and God’s army of angels are battling for our souls with Satan and his demons. It is all around us and has been active since the beginning of time. And two, despite the slave girl being controlled by a demon, she understood who God was. You see, Satan and his demons know who Jesus is and they tremble in fear! James 2:19 says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this and they tremble in terror.” Look up verses like Mark 1:23-25, Luke 4:41 and Luke 8:27-31 to learn more. Along with the demon knowing who Jesus is, the girl also had a knowing in her heart. Jeremiah 24:7 says, “I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.”
We each have within us a yearning for God. We are made to worship Him. But because of sin and self-will, we follow the world in our self-confidence. We see how division, hatred and chaos occur. As you continue to read in Acts 16, you see how worldly ways have a high disregard for God. This is still true today and it will continue until Jesus returns to make things right.
Let’s focus on Paul and Silas. They were on their journey to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with whomever will listen and receive. Despite the brutal attacks and unlawful treatment of being thrown into prison, notice how they respond. They prayed and sang hymns to God! What!?! Who would respond to such ill-treatment with prayer and singing? I would have whined, groaned and told God, “I’m done!”
But Paul never lost sight of God in His life. What kind of crazy love can change a heart to be so focused that even unfair treatment can’t deter? Don’t we all face unfair treatment of some kind? Don’t we all get beat up by something or someone that causes us to hide behind masks or walls? I’m sorry to say but my first response is to look inward. Paul kept his sight upward. I focus on my flesh. Paul focused on God.
As children of God, we have a responsibility to follow after Jesus and His ways. Because of Paul and Silas responding the way they did in a cold and dirty barrack with open wounds, God heard them as well as the other prisoners and God set them all free! They could have responded like I probably would have and ran out of that dump and got as far away as possible but read verses 26-28. Here, we see God’s crazy love. When we accept and follow His ways, we experience freedom not only for ourselves but we help others along to have freedom too! We journey together.
When we are free to live out His crazy love, people who have a heart like Lydia’s will ask the question like the jailer did, “what must I do to be saved?” We each must come to this point and ask. Paul leads the jailer into discovering God’s love. In verses 31-34, Paul lays out how to be saved. We first have to believe in Jesus. Then God’s Word will come alive within you as you listen, just like Lydia. Once truth enters into your heart, you change and become compassionate towards others. Before Christ, the jailer let Paul suffer with his wounds. Afterwards, he tended to him and washed them.
Like Lydia, the jailer and his family were baptized. They were making an outward statement of their lives being changed and renewed. Along with caring for Paul’s wounds, the jailer invited him into his home and fed him. This all led to great rejoicing all because of One Man who chose to go all the way. Let’s live like Lydia and the jailer.
Let’s allow this Christmas to propel us into 2020 with new hearts that are alive in Christ! Let’s live in a way where Satan and his demons have to dread every morning, “Oh great, he/she is up. Ugh.” Let’s be about our Father’s business and see what He will do! Let’s expect earthquakes and shaken foundations so people can become free! Hallelujah!