You could say that today’s sermon is the prequel of the Philippians series. “Philippians Begins”
It is interesting to see these events converging. The Study of Philippians, They started at a River. Next week we are worshiping at the river.
Twenty years after Jesus ascended into the Heavenly realm, the Apostle Paul was called by God to go on a mission. Sail to foreign lands and preach the good news of Jesus. Jesus is still calling us to preach the gospel in foreign lands.
Mike just talked about our journey to Mexico the last 8 days. When I preached in the different churches, the message was simple. God is perfect, we are far from perfect. Instead of spending the rest of your life trying to earn God’s approval, I have good news for you. While you are in the midst of your sin and rebellion, Christ loved you so much that he lived the perfect life for you. He took your place of punishment and shame. He died in your place. Receive the Good news today! One of the pastors (that’s right, PASTOR), came to me weeping after the service and said, “Thank you so much. I have been working so hard and falling short of the expectations of others. Others put so much pressure on me. I almost feel like a prostitute in my position. I always feel guilty like I have not done enough and need to earn my identity.” I leaned in and touched her shoulder and said I have good news!
Your identity comes from Jesus and he completely accepts you. Stand tall, thank God for his salvation and acceptance, and then give him your allegiance.
This was the message Paul was on a mission to send to the continent of Europe. He saw a vision from God to go to Europe. This was a first! Until this trip, there is no record of the message of Jesus going west of Asia.
There was a Who’s Who of NT Bible characters on this journey. Paul, Timothy, and Luke were among them. They landed on the southern shores of Greece and went about 8 miles inland to the town of Philippi and stayed there a few days.
Philippi was very much a Roman population. Latin is spoken by the higher officials, and an air of Roman superiority pervades the place. The local religion was a mixture of the worship of the old Thracian gods and goddesses, the Greek Athena, and the Roman gods of Jupiter, Mars, and of course the emperor Caesar.
The guys were hanging around town for a few days and then wanted to meet up with some people interested in the things of God. Whenever they wanted to start a church they would look for people of peace. People that would listen to the message.
As you go about your day, do you look for people of peace. Several times throughout scripture, the concept of People of Peace shows up. Jesus tells the disciples to go throughout the town and look for those that will accept them and the message. If people don’t, then don’t force it. No need to get bitter, sad or mad. Dust off your sandals and keep walking.
I encourage you to pray that God will reveal and make clear the People of Peace throughout your day.
These are farmer moments (sowing seed, tending the soil, or harvest time). Pray for it and expect it.
Paul and the guys wanted to find some Jews, but very few Jews lived there. Consider that about this time, in a.d. 49, Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome because they had been blamed for creating a religious disturbance. We surmise that the Roman colony of Philippi had followed Claudius’s example and banished the Jews.
In fact, there was no Jewish Synagogue (a synagogue could not be started with fewer than ten male heads of households to form the congregation). In cities where no Jewish synagogue existed, believers gathered under the sky and near water so other Christians knew where to find them.
So it says in:
Acts 16:13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.
This verse is loaded with details.
This WOMAN (not a man) is a successful business woman that deals in some of the most expensive goods of that region. She bought and sold purple. We think that is no big deal. Because purple at hobby lobby is right by red, orange, bubble gum, magenta, etc. However, in that day, color was much more complicated. The purple dye applied to fine linen was obtained from the secretion of shellfish that live in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. It took approximately eight thousand molluscs to produce one gram of purple dye. This made purple cloth was extremely expensive.
Purple garments were worn by emperors and by private citizens as a status symbol. Therefore, we can deduce that Lydia was loaded. She rolled up to the river that day in her Mercedes Benz! She had her Prada handbag! Lydia was not suffering financially.
In Philippi, she faithfully worshiped on the Sabbath at the river with some other women. When Paul taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, she listened attentively to his words.
Acts 16:15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
From this point the Philippian church began! With some women down by the river! We have every indication that the church began to meet at her home. Because of what we read in the book of Philippians (ch4) We have reason to believe that Lydia became a major contributor not only to the ongoing work in Philippi, but to the missionary activity of Paul.
This is not the end of the story. There are 2 other major events that happened in this church’s infancy. Over the next few days, Paul and the guys hung out with Lydia and the new church members. They would continue to go down to the river to pray and worship publically. Every time they would head to the river, a young woman slave girl would run alongside them and pester them. What is interesting is that she was telling the truth, but none the less, Paul finally had enough.
18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
This brought peace to the immediate situation but difficulty in the long run. Her masters were very upset that she no longer would bring them money with her spiritual gift (from the devil). He began to falsely accuse them and eventually had them arrested. They were stripped naked in the public square and beaten with rods! Then they were placed in an underground jail, bound hand and foot.
This was only a couple of days after the first river experience. Very early on in the church of Philippi.
How do you respond to being stripped naked and public, beaten bloody with rods and thrown in jail??
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!
We make a DECISION to worship. Everyday no matter the circumstances, we can worship or not. I will worship.
A WAY smaller example of this. I was put to the test a couple of weeks ago when I started having back spasms and pain down my right arm. Numbness in my fingers.
I decided that my back pain was going to worship God. So, I intentionally started doing things that would make my back hurt while I was singing and dancing before God. I started talking to my back. If you are going to keep me up all night, then you are going to worship God with me all morning!
When the prisoners were set free, the Roman Jailer freaked out! He was responsible for the jail and he had failed at his job. This would mean certain death for him.
Paul and the guys immediately reassured the Jailer that they didn’t leave. He was safe. He wasn’t going to get in trouble.
HOWEVER, the jailer’s response is amazing. Even though, he is safe in his job, the supernatural experience compels him to ask Paul, “What must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.
What a great story of the Philippian church beginning. We know from the book of Philippians that this local body of believers continued to flourish long after Paul and the superstar apostles journeyed on to the next church plant!
We believe that PromiseLand San Marcos is a body of believers that are pursuing the same God as Lydia. We are on the same mission as Paul. We are going to experience the same power of conversion.
Join me this week to pray for our time at the River next weekend and every following weekend. May we find people of peace. Hearts ready for the good news of Jesus.
As we go on our ordinary way, may we be not weary in well doing. Continue with passion and unity.
Let’s expect for the power of Jesus Christ to confirm his Gospel. This means signs, wonders, and miracles follow them who believe. Let’s worship God in the midnight jail cell, but let’s also expect him to deliver us from all evil. Let’s expect the supernatural to show up in our everyday lives!
Let’s pray. Some of you are far from God. Today is the day that God is calling you to join him. He is ready for you to accept his love and forgiveness.
It is a simple process but sometimes difficult to do. Letting Go. Jesus offers you a new life today. Let’s let go of our way and jump all in to the ways of Jesus.
He sent you here today to hear the good news of salvation! Repent!