Your World Has a Flip Side 11/8/98

Acts 16:24-31
Page 1622 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST’S mandate to take the gospel to the world was taken seriously by the young emerging church. It must be today.

Acts 16: 11 is an epoch passage. It marks the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. Summarily, it chronicles the first venture with the gospel into Europe as we know it. There was no Europe or Asia then. The invasion of Europe wasn’t on Paul’s mind, but it was what the Lord had in mind. Thus, Europe became the springboard for the gospel to go into all the world.

Spiritually, their world, like ours, had been turned upside down. They confronted it with such zeal and practical wisdom that it was said of them, “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). Their reputation as revolutionaries preceded them.

You have a reputation as a Christian also. What is it? Are you considered a compromiser of the faith; a chameleon Christian; or a champion of the faith? Is consistency a virtue for which you are known?

We confront militant revolutionaries with ardor equal to that of our predecessors of the First Century. In Big Sur, California, is the Esarline Institute which is dedicated to New Age philosophy. In one of their publications, “Psychological Journal,” this statement appeared. “The revolution has begun. The world will be changed. How it will be changed is up to us.”

That is an inscription that might well appear above every church house door. We are to be missionaries to our topsy-turvy world. Humpty Dumpty couldn’t put his broken world back together again. With our resource of Jesus Christ we must begin the reconstruction of ours.

Our current passage of study reveals three aspects of the mission of Christ’s church.

Paul and his companion Silas were put in prison in Philippi for sharing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. That dingy little cell can be visited today. On the wall is a significant extraction from the writings of Paul.

Upon being falsely accused, improperly condemned, and cruelly imprisoned Paul and Silas didn’t throw a pity party. They didn’t question, “Why did this happen to us?” They didn’t act like the Holy Spirit had departed and forgotten them. Observe verse 25, “they were praying and singing hymns.” Suddenly it was choir practice time. They were “joyful in tribulation.” Suddenly the cursing quieted, the base oaths ceased, weeping and gnashing of teeth became silent.

Note what the other prisoners were doing, “the prisoners were listening to them.” Sure they were. Nobody acted like that under those circumstances.

Oh, by the way the reason they could respond with such confidence is indicated in that plaque on the cell wall today. It reads: “For me to live is Christ.” In effect they were saying we are Christ’s proxy in this cell. We are no less His proxy where ever we are.

Their message of conversion through Christ was so dramatic that members of an excited mob in Thessalonica spoke of them as turning the world “upside down.” That is conversion.

There is an automobile that helps our understanding of the word “conversion.” It is the convertible. With its top up or down it is two different cars. It changes. A life with Christ is changed — converted.

When appealing to a person to enjoy what is known as conversion we are offering them a gift which can’t be imagined. It is heaven. Perhaps if we could help persons grasp the inevitability of an after life and the contrast of the two states they would respond all the more immediately. In reality there is no way we can grasp the grandeur of heaven. We can only compare it with what we know and that limits our understanding. It is like two caterpillars crawling along having a conversation. Fluffy says to Crazy Legs, “I don’t feel well.” “What’s wrong?” asks Crazy Legs.

“I think it must be about time for me to spin my cocoon and crawl in and die and I don’t want to.” “Why not?” presses Crazy Legs, “you will be born again.”

“Yeah, but in the after life I won’t be able to eat green stuff.” “You won’t! What a downer.”

“True, but that’s not all. I won’t have but six legs.” “Six, legs? Bummer.”

“Right, and I won’t be able to crawl around I’ll have to fly.”

“Fly? That is a downer. I didn’t know the next life was so different.”

The next life, the after life, is much more superior to this life than the life of a butterfly is to a creepy crawling caterpillar. We just haven’t experienced it.

Paul had an unsettling reputation. In the city of Philippi it resulted in opposition as he sought their conversion to “spiritual butterflies.”

Philippi was a city in which Roman soldiers loyal to Caesar were stationed to colonize the area. It was a luxury assignment. It was totally Romanized. The citizens were given Roman citizenship. They became a part of Roman culture.

There were few Jews there and those who were there had to gather at the river to worship. There was evidently no synagogue.

A. Lydia, a wealthy business woman from Thyatira, and her household were the first saved. The work of the Holy Spirit in her conversion is described as “The Lord opened her heart” (Vs. 14). She immediately did two things.

-She was immediately baptized. Baptism doesn’t save us, Jesus does. He asked us to be baptized as an evidence of faith in Him. Thus, it is an act of obedience. Recently I baptized a young adult in a wheel chair (Kathy Dean). It took a great effort of her part to be baptized. For her it was really no effort because of her great faith and ambitious desire to comply with Christ’s command. How about you?

-Once the Lord opened the heart of Lydia she opened her house to the apostles and became a “base camp” for the gospel.

B. There was a slave girl who was an occult medium in the city. When a decadent society turns its back on God, it soon turns back to the gods of decadence, and Philippi had.

She followed Paul and his friends around saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Vs. 17). What a compliment!

A battle of gods is about to occur. The Greek text uses the word PUTHONA to describe the girl’s condition. This fortune-telling girl was actually demon-possessed. People with soothsaying gifts were given great honor. It was thought the spirit of a god had inhabited them. There was a superstition that the mythological Greek god Apollo was embodied in a snake at Delphi. This embodiment was called Pytho for python, a snake.

The masters of this slave girl had made of her a pitiful plaything for profit. They used her fortune telling to make money. She had a physical and spiritual need. She was twice a captive. She was the property of her slave master and possessed by a demon. Paul saw her as being in need of exorcism. He confronted her and said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (Vs. 18).

Her problems were over. Paul’s were just beginning (Vss. 19 – 40).

C. Paul and Silas were arrested, tried, beaten, and thrown into jail. They had upset the economy.

This would have been an ideal time to throw a pity party. It was a grand moment to complain about God letting them down. They found the good in the bad. They were in with Roman soldiers. That wasn’t their preoccupation. From their perspective the guards were bound to them. That meant they had a captive audience with which to share. These were members of the elite Roman legion, the Praetorian Guard. Thereafter they were reassigned to Rome. Unfolding now is the answer to a question. Later Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome giving his regards to “those in the household of Caesar.” How did converts get in the palace of the Emperor? They were won to Christ in that jail. Talk about a chain reaction!

In jail they conducted a prayer and praise service (Vs. 25) at midnight.

This impacted the entire jail. The Lord sent an earthquake and burst open the jail. The beautiful story of the jailer’s conversion follows (Vss. 27 – 34).

He questioned, “What must I do to be saved?” (Vs. 30).

Paul’s answer is simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Vs. 31).

Being saved not only involves being absolved of sin. It not only means having Christ righteousness credited to your account. Those are marvelous realities. It also involves Christ coming to dwell in you. He becomes spiritually embodied in the believer.

I like you have seen some strange things. I saw something recently that alerted me to a great spiritual principle. I saw a rabbit carrying an attaché case. He put it down as he passed a basketball goal and shot a three pointer. Upon going in a building I saw a marvel. It was cold in there but he played a piano. Strange as all that seems the wonder of it all is that the rabbit that did all that was dead.

He died and was made into a glove. As a glove a talented human hand entered him and the ability of that hand became the ability of that dead rabbit.

When we die spiritually Christ comes to live within us and His ability becomes our ability. Upon being saved he – – –

  1. Engaged in an act of mercy. He washed their stripes.
  2. Shared with his family.
  3. They were all baptized.

Paul and Silas were actually run out of town. However, they had been successful in beginning what became a burgeoning church. To conserve the faithful, he later wrote them the book of Philippians.

We each need to be involved in a “conservation program” of Bible study and Christian fellowship called the church. Therein, we need to close unthreatening companionship of Sunday School where God’s word is studied with friends who form our spiritual support system.

The gospel had resulted in a conservative revolution in the city. Paul hadn’t dealt with cultural and social issues. However, once the gospel was applied, these issues were successfully dealt with. He didn’t confuse the end and the means. The gospel resulted in a reordering of priorities. Layers of distorted thinking were peeled away and the good news applied to man’s emptiness.

Christ calls for a radical to-the-root change in lives. Such a change is called new life. It calls for repentance, faith, and obedience.

This same kind of conservative revolution has occurred several times throughout the history of the Christian church. A period known as the Reformation was one of the most dramatic. The Reformers saw that their church had been corrupted by indulgences, inquisition, and a quest for political power. They didn’t want to start a new church. They wanted to reform the existing one.

The church must establish a firm doctrinal stance for Biblical integrity and then energetically get on with answering the jailer’s question with the simple answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…”

It must be noted the answer is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…” not about Him. We begin by believing certain things about Him and them believe on Him.

In Scotland there is a term lippen. It expresses the condition of a person who is entirely unable to protect or support himself and commits his life, interest, and safe keeping to another.

It is even used of a person crossing a great chasm by walking on a log over the abyss. That person in that act is said to lippen the log. That is, the person is completely dependent upon the log for safe passage. When Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” he was saying lippen Him, commit your life, interest, and safe keeping to Him.