Summary: A Christian will take specific steps toward the translation of their commitment into action
PROPOSITION: A Christian will take specific steps toward the translation of their commitment into action.
OBJECTIVE: To identify these steps in the individual believer.
This past Thursday was the day recognized on the Christian church calendar as Ascension Day. From the earliest days of the Christian church, 40 days following the Resurrection of the Lord was the day of His ascension into heaven. Next Sunday, 50 days since Resurrection Day, is Pentecost; the fulfilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and demonstrated in the individual lives of the believers.
The scripture reading today tells of events within 5-10 years after Pentecost. Paul and Silas are on a Missionary journey in Philippi. Here they are beaten within a breath of their physical lives. And here is a very telling series of incidents that cause the believer to give good question to the ‘so what’ factor of their Christian life.
There is in today’s reading magic, exorcism, beating and imprisonment. There are the characters of a frenzied mob, a mad woman, and a worried gaoler. However, I believe this episode in the life of Paul and Silas contains another story for us as we approach Pentecost. I believe there is a message in the scripture this morning that calls into question the sincerity of the believer. The messages of the past month focused on a question of ‘so what?’ as in so what are you doing with the empty tomb. I bring this morning the final ‘so what’ message as it relates to ‘so what are you doing in you commitment to action?’
Throughout the post-resurrection time, I preached on your obedience to God rather than men. I preached on the long-suffering patience of God. I preached on the opportunity for miracles in the lives of the believer. Jeff preached on Peter and Cornealius, asking the question “so who here at CRBC is Peter?”
Next week is Pentecost. For our Christian journey, this is the end of the Easter season and the beginning of Christian growth and development. So today, I ask again, “So what?” So what action have you taken in your life with the empty tomb and the now ascended Jesus?
Listen as I read today’s expanded scripture. I will read of three people. It appears as if these people have nothing in common. The first is Lydia, 16:13-15.
Lydia, a Greek drawn to the Jewish community, was a successful businesswoman. As we read the life and ministry of the Great Apostle, we realize that there have always been important roles and positions for women in the Christian church. Lydia certainly sets that example. We are confident in our belief that she was very influential in the formation and ministry of the first Christian church in Philippi.
The second is an unnamed woman, 16-18. Most likely, she was mentally ill. We know for certain that she was a slave of some unscrupulous men. During Paul’s stay in Philippi, she was a nuisance to him until his patience finally ran thin.
In annoyance, he turned to the woman and rebuked the evil spirit. Immediately the girl was healed. Also immediately, the men for whom she earned money were angry. They cared not one whit about her well being – spiritual or physical. They were only concerned that their money-maker was gone. Of this woman, we hear no more. However, we can safely assume that she became an active member in the Christian church at Philippi and probably worked closely with the gentlewoman, Lydia.
The third person is a Roman gaoler, 27-34. Neither Jew nor Greek, he is a worried and frightened man. Following the ‘trial’ of the missionaries, the authorities threatened the gaoler with his life should he lose the prisoners. That evening, during the prayers and songs sung from deep in the dungeons, the ground shook and the jail doors opened. For the gaoler, this was a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ of the highest caliber. This man faced death.
The missionaries led the Roman gaoler and his family to a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. I am sure the testimony of the former slave girl had strong influence in this spiritual event. We don’t know any more about him. However, I feel safe in my belief that he was active in the Christian church at Philippi or at his home of record, Rome.
Three people; three unique experiences. Yet the spiritual experience of these three are not at all different from the spiritual experience of believers in the 21st century Christian church.
We are all sinners. Some are highly educated, some not. Some are prominent citizens in the community, some are not. Some are sojourners passing through, some have been home for a long time. Even so, all are sinners. All have come short of the glory of God.