I would like to continue our series on the book of Acts. We’re in Acts, chapter 16, the first 15 verses.
If you come from a divided home, is there any hope for you? Of course there is. Is there a demonstration of that? Absolutely, in the book of Acts, 16th chapter. This is where we’re going to pick up, and Timothy came from a divided home. Timothy had some challenges. Like so many men, Timothy's dad was not a Christian. Now I don't know why some men stay away from church. His mother, fortunately, was a Christian. Well she was a believer, but his father did not believe. And why don't more men stand up for God and be counted? We need men today who will stand up and do what is right.
But this did not stop this youngster called Timothy, who is called a disciple of Christ. And who called him a disciple of Christ? As you read down through, you can scroll down through, you probably have your Bible open, you will see that he is called a disciple of Christ by his peers. They recognized the gift of God in this young man. And our youth, if they are rightly trained, they will be successful in God's cause.
His mother's name was Eunice. His grandmother's name was Lois, and these two ladies teamed up, a dynamic duo of mother and grandmother, and helped Timothy to become one of the greats of Christian history. And they were zealous Christians. Young Timotheus, which is the Greek name, sat at the feet of these two godly women, and they taught this young boy the Scriptures, and they taught him about Jesus and daily he learned, and nothing can take the place of a determined woman. They were determined that this young man would be a Christian, and these two were intent on bringing Timothy up to be a fine follower of Jesus Christ.
And the new religion called Christianity only had four missionaries. And of course, as we learned last week, the two teams split up, so two of them went off in one way and two the other way, and Paul and Silas did not hesitate at all to invite this youngster Timothy to join their team, and now they would have three instead of two.
And kids can preach very well. When we were in Tanzania, Africa, there were all kinds of kids willing to be involved. The young people from over here at the University. Young people involved for Jesus. It's not mandatory, I think, that young people would preach but it sure is wonderful. And the leaders in Lystra had been busy developing good workers. It's not mandatory, you know, that the headquarters in Jerusalem examine each of the young workers. Maybe that's why the church grew so fast.
But there was a problem with Timothy. Timothy was neither a Jew nor a Gentile. He was nothing. A nobody. Now according to the rabbinical talmud, the child of a Jewish mother was a Jew. But the boy had not been circumcised, therefore he was a bad Jew. He was looked down upon by his people. They saw potential in him but he was not doing right. So how could a bad Jew be a good Christian? And they discussed this and wrangled this over in their minds and finally Paul determined that the young boy should go through this surgery and Timothy submitted to the painful process, and it was performed by Paul. Did you know that Paul was a surgeon? Paul says, “I'm all things to all people.”
There were many, many roadblocks that they encountered. If you read Acts 16, beginning with verse six, it says, “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in the province of Asia.” The Holy Spirit kept saying, “Don't preach here,” and they would pass city after city and think, “Well, we need to go in and start preaching the gospel here.” The Spirit of Jesus prevented them from doing that and so they passed every town. They just kept heading west. They wanted to go north into Asia, because there were some major cities there that needed evangelizing, but they couldn't do it. The Holy Spirit prevented them from doing it, and so they kept walking.
This was between 49 and 51 A. D. and every opportunity to turn north, there was a roadblock put up by the Holy Spirit. So the three men just kept walking, not knowing where they were going. I know that if they had had wives, the wife would've said, “Please stop at the gas station for directions.”
You know, you don't have to know where you're going, in life, as long as you know the Person who does know where you ought to go. All you need to know is Jesus. Because He knows where you're going and if you know Him and if you follow Him, He will lead you to where you should be. May God grant us the wisdom to detect the difference between God's roadblocks and the Devil’s obstructions as we go along on the path of life.
Well, they walked hundreds of miles. They probably walked between five and six hundred miles. Never could go into Asia. Just meandering down, facing the setting sun, going west, not knowing where they were going. All they found were closed doors, but sometimes the only way to discover God's will is by trial and error. Sometimes you just don't know it any other way.
Timothy and Silas probably wondered what was going on and probably Paul did too. He was the leader. They were prepared for great evangelistic meetings. They were prepared for hundreds of conversions to Christianity. They were prepared for crowds and hecklings and beatings and imprisonment, but all they got was walking. Walked and walked. Nothing except trudging along. Every city they passed Paul kept on walking.
The Holy Spirit was blocking them. There is a verse in the book of Psalms. Psalm 37 and verse 23, which says, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” And I think also the stops of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. So we need to listen to God and often God is directing us in excruciatingly hard ways and ours is not to know every step, but simply to trust in the step Giver. The One who gives us power.
Have you ever had doors slammed in your life? Have you had the opportunity to buy a house, but your other house won't sell. The job that you want never materializes. The doors are shut and you wonder, “What is going on?” Eventually that promotion dries up and you're in the same situation you had before and you wonder, “What is the matter?” Just keep moving where the doors are open. Find out where God is moving and go in that direction.
Well, finally, they receive communication from God. And here in Acts, chapter 16 in verse nine, “During the night, Paul had a vision.” I thought dreams were at night and visions in the daytime, but here he had a vision in the night and he saw a man in Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And that vision was a watershed. In fact, this was one of the most important events in Christianity, because now the Gospel of Jesus Christ would go to Macedonia and what was Macedonia. Europe. It would go to Europe. Not Palestine. Europe eventually became the headquarters of Christianity. If they had gone north, Russia would have been the headquarters of Christianity. If they would've gone east, China or India or Mongolia would've been the headquarters of Christianity. But they went west. God led them west, to the front door of Europe.
Macedonia was the mission field that they were called to. And you know, we are called to go, because sinners will not come to us. We must go to sinners. We are commanded to go into what? Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and you will never find a command for the lost to come and seek the church. The church must go and seek the lost. It's that way around.
Now something interesting happens. We have how many missionaries here? There's three. Paul and Silas and Timothy and in verse ten there’s four. Look at verse 10. This is interesting. “After Paul had seen a vision we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Do you see the fourth one in that verse. Do you see it goes from telling a story about a group of people to telling a story about ‘we’. “We did this.” “Called us.” There's a fourth person. The writer of the book of Acts enters the scene. And who wrote the book of Acts? Luke. Dr. Luke arrives in verse 10 because now it’s ‘we’. It’s ‘us’. And probably Luke paid the fare and financed the trip as they sailed to Macedonia, because these poor missionaries didn't have any money.
So the four of them immediately left, and if you look at verse 11 carefully, you notice something interesting. It says here, in verse 11, “They sailed” how? “They sailed straight.”
Have you ever gotten on a boat. A sailboat. Do you sail straight? You zigzag, don't you? My wife and I were up at Camp Au Sable on Lake Shellenbarger and we got on a catamaran. First time I'd ever been on a sailboat and we got that thing just skimming across the waves, but you had to go like that in order to get where you wanted to go. And they sailed how? They sailed straight. That's interesting. This eliminated the jibbing or tacking. The wind was blowing the exact compass course that God wanted them to go. That says something.
And how long did it take them to get there? One day. One day. After you study your Bible and you compare Scripture with Scripture and here a little and there a little, you look at Acts 20, verse six. On Paul's third missionary journey they sailed that same course, and it took them five days to go that same distance. That same exact route. Probably on the same boat. We don't know.
They arrived in one day. Obviously God wanted these four men to be on time for their celestial appointment with Lydia. Who was Lydia? Well, we'll find that out. They were on their second missionary journey and God orchestrated the weather so that they would get there on time before the Sabbath day. Paul and his three workers arrived in town, in Philippi, and archaeologists have discovered that on the gate on the arch entering the city of Philippi there was an inscription, and the inscription prohibited the introduction into Philippi of any foreign or unapproved religion, and they probably stood there and said, “This is going to be a hard place to evangelize. Not easy.” But the vision said come to Macedonia and help us, so they entered in and they expected to see who? Who did they expect to see? The man in the vision. This man from Macedonia. They looked for him. Paul had seen the vision. Here's this man. Come to Macedonia and help us, and so they went there and they probably expected the man would have a crowd of friends and they would all be waiting to be preached to, and they would all be baptized. However, after futile searching they couldn't even find one synagogue. They didn't find any believers.
Now according to Jewish regulations you had to have 10 Jewish men, a minimum of 10, before you could form a synagogue. And they couldn't even find one man.
So notice what they did find. Acts 16, verse 13. “On Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river where we expected to find a place of prayer.” And what did they find at the place of prayer? They did find a place of prayer and who was there praying? A bunch of men? No. No men at all. A bunch of women were praying. This little prayer group of praying women. Now, don't ever belittle a praying woman. Why did Paul receive this vision? Because those ladies were praying. Paul's arrival, his vision, was an answer to their prayers. He was on a commission answering their request. That's interesting. And the name of this group of women who were praying, I think we could call them the Lydians.
Now remember, Paul, before he was a Christian, was in what group of Jews? He was a Pharisee, and every Pharisee; every morning, when a good Pharisee would wake up, he would thank God for three things. You know what they were? When he woke up he thanked God, number one, that he was not a woman. “Lord. I thank You I am not a woman.” Number two. He thanked God that he was not a slave. “Lord I'm so thankful I am not a slave.” And number three, he would thank God that he was not a Gentile. “Praise You, I am not a Gentile.”
And guess who the three first converts in Europe were. Number one was a woman. Lydia. [cell phone ringing] Lydia's cell phone went off, and she answered the call and she was baptized. Acts 16, verse 15. The second convert was a slave. This was the fortune teller. We’ll study about that next week. I don't have that sermon written yet, but I'm going to work on it. The third convert was a Gentile. The jailer. The first three.
Who was this Lydia? Lydia, we know about her. The Bible says she was a seller of purple. I notice some of our people arrive at church in purple. Wearing purple. I see several purple dresses and purple outfits. Purple ties and shirts. The Romans loved purple. Purple was a royal color. The color of royalty. Wealthy clients would stop by Lydia's purple shop. Now I don't know if she sold the purple dye or if she sold the purple cloth or maybe she sold both. I don't really know. But this businesswoman was an entrepreneur. Lydia was nothing to be sneezed at. She was a very successful businesswoman there in that city.
Now she was not a Jew. We know that because no seller of purple could be a Jew. You can't sell purple and be a Jew. Why not? Well the Jewish leaders look down their nose at this business because it was disgraceful to sell purple because purple dye originated from shellfish. And shellfish do not have fins and they do not have scales, and the Bible forbids the touching of the carcass of an unclean animal, and so she would have been looked down upon by Jews.
Now Herakles noticed one day, about 25 hundred years ago, he noticed his dog's mouth was purple. And he thought, “What is causing my dog's mouth to turn purple?” So he followed the dog. The dog went down to the seashore. The dog was digging up and eating some of these mollusks along the shore. Different shellfish. And eventually he discovered that the purple dye which was dyeing his dog's mouth came from the mucus of the hypobranchial gland of various species of marine mollusks that were growing along the seashore. And do you know that in order to get that purple color it takes 12 thousand shellfish and these little glands to extract that much [1.5 grams] purple dye. 12 thousand of them. The land of Phoenicia, in fact, means the “land of purple” because it was the center of the ancient purple dye industry. My sweet wife helped me to make this up so that we could have some. This is not thousands of dollars worth of dye, by the way.
Lydia was a seller of purple. That's what she was. Very extremely expensive purple. In fact, Emporer Aurelian refused to let his wife buy the purpura-dyed silk garment because it cost its weight in gold. That's how expensive this stuff was. And the Roman Emperor wore all purple, indicating that they were very rich. They were very, very wealthy.
And so Lydia was affluent. Lydia was rich. Very rich. A seller of purple.
This businesswoman took time away from her busy schedule. She was running a prosperous business there. She took time to go down by the river on God's holy Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, and pray with like believers.
Now you think about that. She was busy. She was running a business. She shut the business down on the seventh day. She went out and prayed. She could've used this one day off to go to the beach or catch up with her work or sleep, but she did not do that.
And notice something. If she had skipped that one day, if she had skipped that one day, that one Sabbath, she would not have met these four missionaries. She would not have been the first convert to Christianity, in all likelihood. Very interesting.
You know, God brought Paul and Lydia together. At that particular day, that particular Sabbath, at that particular place, by that particular river. Hebrews, chapter 10 and verse 25 says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” We need to attend church and worship with like believers. Modern people must prioritize corporate worship. Lydia was baptized right there by that river. No co-incidence that there was a river there on that Sabbath. And you never know what impact one Sabbath will have on your life. So don’t skip church. Make it a priority. Every day just simply pray, “Lord, I will go today where You want me to go. I will be what You want me to be. I will do what You want me to do today.” And that needs to be your prayer ever Sabbath day, as well.
God opened the door of Europe, and next God opened the door of Lydia's heart. She was the first convert. My very first convert was Jean Kenyon. She lives over in North Carolina. She's very faithful still to this day and a good close friend from Bangor, Michigan, and I'm sure that Lydia was a lifelong supporter of Christianity for Jesus. In my 44 year ministry the majority of my attending members have been women. And I think that's true with most pastors. I appreciate the good supply of men that we have in this church. We have a nice balance. I think that is a thermometer of church spirituality.
Well the next door that God opened was the door to Lydia's house. You can read this here in Acts 16, verse 15. “And when she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us into her home.” Her whole household was baptized. She was the door, and you may be the door yourself, to your household becoming Christians. You might be that instrument which brings your whole household in for the Lord. Your kids. Your servants. Whoever the household represented. They were baptized along with Lydia.
And the next door that God opened was the door to Lydia's house. Lydia's house was opened to the missionaries. Hospitality. You know, hospitality happens when you open up your door to others. And Third John, verse eight says we ought therefore to show hospitality. She opened her doors to the missionaries and she also opened her purse. That's the next thing that was opened. She undoubtedly underwrote much of the spread of Christianity there in that place. Her place, her purse, and her purple were used as effective tools for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And a warm and growing church was established right there in Philippi. And what do we call that church? There is a book of the Bible named after that church. He wrote a letter to them. Philippians. That's where the book of Philippians comes from and some time later Paul was there, again. At the crown jewel of the churches.
You know, we need to go out. We need to evangelize. Philippi never would've been Christian without these missionaries and you need to go. You need to go into the world and you need to evangelize the world. There are people out there that are lost. They are losing their lives.
There was a German man who lived in Nazi Germany and he told this experience, and I'm going to read his words. He said, “I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust, and I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves, because what could anybody do to stop it. There was a railroad track that ran behind our small church and every morning when we were at church we could hear the whistle in the distance and then we could hear the wheels coming over the tracks and we became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by and we realized that it was carrying Jews, like cattle, in the cars. And week after week the whistle would blow and we dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels, because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews as they were riding in the cattle cars enroute to their death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train would come by our church. And when we heard the whistle blow we started a song service and we began singing hymns and by the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard screams we sang more loudly and soon we could hear them no more. Years passed, and nobody talks about it anymore, but occasionally I still hear that train whistle in my sleep and God forgive me, forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, and yet did nothing.” Isn't that amazing?
Friends, I want to tell you that your neighbors have a destiny worse than those Jews in those cattle cars. They are going to lose their eternal life. And we need to go out and we need to preach the gospel. We need to preach the gospel to the world. The whole world is on board this death train. We need to enter the mission field out there and do something for Jesus Christ. You're going to meet Lydia someday. And when you meet Lydia, she will not be wearing a purple robe. She will be wearing a white robe, made white, not from her earnings, but from the precious blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Are you covered with that free robe today? Are you a Christian today? I appeal to you today, be a faithful Christian. Be baptized like Lydia was. Get involved in spreading the message out there in the mission field.
Let's sing our closing hymn, Seeking The Lost. And I urge you to go out and seek the lost while you can and before it's too late for them.
Dear father in heaven. We thank You for these pictures on the screen of what it must have looked like. But even more than that, we pray that each of us will be faithful and when we get to heaven, we will see Lydia and give her a hug and be with those saints of old forever. Keep us faithful, and as we enter into the mission field of our community, may we show our neighbors, our relatives, and all of our acquaintances Jesus Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #91, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones Scripture: Acts 16:9,10 Hymn of Response: #373, Seeking the Lost
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 7/30/09