Acts 16: What must I do?
On this continuation of the Acts Series, Dylan takes us through Acts 16. With a focus on the incredible story of Paul and Silas's miraculously escape from prison, this sermon explores many of the lessons and challenges involved in making life decisions as a Christian and the importance of being guided by God.
Good morning Church. For those of you who are regular attenders here you'll know that in our morning Services we've been going through a series in Acts and I just want to invite you now if you've got your Bibles with you to turn to Acts 16. that's what we're going to be looking this morning but I want to say right from the beginning that as I Was preparing the sermon this week as I was looking through acts it became very evident very quickly that I could have prepared two three four five very distinct sermons from the content of this one chapter and so to save you from a four five six hour sermon of hearing my voice I've decided that this morning we're going to focus in on verses 25 to 34. but as always we can't just jump into this out of context passage we need to have some understanding of what's been happening what's going on if you remember last week if you weren't here go watch the sermon but last week we saw that Paul and Barnabas they they were having disagreements so they went to the council in Jerusalem and got that sorted and so acts 16 it opens up with Paul and Silas departing from both Barnabas and Jerusalem and we know through his character in Scripture that Paul wasn't an indecisive man right he had plans he had goals he had Ambitions he knew what he wanted to do he knew what he was sent to do he just wanted to go and preach the gospel but not only that he wanted to go in his travels through the cities to tell the churches of what these council's decision was and so we read early on in Acts 16 Verses 4 that as they went on their way through the cities they delivered for the the observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem so that the churches were strengthened in faith and they increased in number daily this is what they were doing they were just going out they were living out their faith see Paul and Silas they had received what any Christian sitting in this room this morning had received they'd received the gospel they knew that Jesus Christ died for their sins and so they wanted to go and share that good news and as I said Paul was an ambitious man he had goals he had plans for his life and so we're told that the desire of his heart was go as to go as far as Asia right he wanted to head off to Asia and preach the good news to the people who hadn't heard it there and we get this peculiar verse in verse 6 that says that they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia now we don't know exactly what that looked like whether it was physical or whether it was a prompting in their hearts but we know that the Holy Spirit stopped them from going to Asia Paul's had this big overarching plan and the Holy Spirit said no but Paul didn't ask up he didn't get defensive he just goes that's okay I'm going to keep moving to where I can and so he ends up in mizia and while he's there he's preaching he's he's living out his faith is Silas and the group they they at this stage had come across Timothy he joined them and while he's in busy he goes man it would be really good to go to business I want to go and preach the gospel there and yet again we're told that the spirit of Jesus did not allow them and we start to go well what's going on here right Paul's got these good plans he's got these good Ambitions he's got these good dreams and God just keeps closing doors in front of him but Paul doesn't get discouraged he goes well I can't go there the holy spirit said no I'm gonna go to trois and in verse 9 we're told that while he and the great Ranch House a vision appeared to Paul in the night and a man of Macedonia was standing there urging him and saying come over to Macedonia and help us and when Paul had seen the vision immediately we sought to go to Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them and so what do they do they've had doors shut they they were originally heading out for Asia God said no they're heading out over here God said no but then God says hey go to Macedonia and they say yes Lord they had instantly to Macedonia and they end up in a town a city called Philippi which was a leading City in Macedonia and what do they do when they get there well they're living out their faith right first and foremost they are Christians who have received the gospel they know that they have salvation through Jesus Christ as saying Jesus Christ who told them to go and share this good news and so they're in Philippi we see the conversion story of a woman called Lydia can I encourage you this week make an effort to read through Acts 16. because there is some really powerful stuff that we're not going to get a chance to cover this morning see the conversion of Lydia is that this group on the Sabbath day they were going to pray right they were living out their faith they were going to pray and they were rejoicing because God was good he had saved them from their sins through Jesus and so they're talking and we're told that as they're talking one who heard what they were saying was a woman named Lydia and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul see they weren't just living out their faith they were declaring their faith because it was Central to their identity they couldn't separate the practice and the preaching because why did they go to pray because God was good and we want to spend a relationship with God we want to be able to pray to God because there was a time when we were separated by sin and it's in this context that we then get the peculiar verses of 16 onwards right these conversion story Olivia's happened Paul Silas the group they're still living out their faith they're still preaching the gospel and as they were going to the place of prayer verse 16 we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and bought her own as much gain by fortune telling she followed Paul and US crying out these men as Servants of the most high God who Proclaim to you the way of salvation doesn't seem bad right and this she kept doing for many days Paul having become greatly annoyed turned and said to the spirit I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her and it came out that very hour what's going on there there's this Spirit of divination there's this slave girl who's possessed by it she's able to fortune tell her Masters love it because through the fortune telling they're able to get great wealth right and what she's saying was more or less true right these people they they she found Paul and Silas in the group she goes these people they're they're servants are the most high God they're preaching to you the way of Salvation And yet we're told that it was constant it kept going for days and days and days and Paul became annoyed with it it was clearly hindering the work that they were trying to do it was hindering their preaching and their living out of faith and so he rebukes it he says come out in the name of Jesus Christ and obviously as we continue reading the owners weren't happy right there goes their source of wealth there goes this slave girl who could bring in money through fortune telling and it's all Paul's fault and so they dragged Paul and Silas into the city because they they look Jewish they are Jewish they don't look like Roman citizens even though they were they drag them in and they lay false accusations they say these men are Jews they're disrupting our city they Advocate Customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice and the crowd they join in and it gets to the point where the magistrates they tear their clothes off and they beat them and throw them in prison they beat them they mistreat them and here's Paul and Silas in prison and it's in this context that we read the focus of what we're looking at this morning verse 25 says about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them and suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's Bonds were unfastened when the jail awoken saw that the prison doors were open he drew his sword and was about to kill himself supposing that the prisoners had escaped but Paul cried out with a loud voice do not harm yourself the we are all here and the Jailer called for lights and rushed in and trembling with fear he fell down at Paul and Silas then he brought them out and said sirs what must I do to be saved and they said believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved you and your household and they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house and he took them the same hour of night and washed their wounds and he was baptized at once he and all his family then they brought them up into his house and set food before them and he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God we know the Lord blesses the reading of his word would you join me in prayer heavenly father as we come now to read your word as we Endeavor to understand it Lord I just pray that you would be preparing our hearts to hear the message that you have to tell each and every one of us this morning Lord God would you prepare us not only to hear but to respond to you we pray in the name of Jesus Christ amen so that's a lot to unpack right but let's let's break it down what's happening how'd we get here his Paul and Silas right Christians living breathing declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and they they have Ambitions they have plans they want to go to Asia they want to declare the good news that Jesus has died for their sins and is risen and yet rather than be in Asia doing this work they find themselves beaten mistreated and sat in the middle of prison and it's at this point I want to draw some draw some parallels right because as Christians our lives are fairly similar to Paul's life here and I know you might be sitting there going Dylan I've never sat beaten and mistreated in a prison I've never even had Ambitions to go to Asia maybe not but let me ask do you have Ambitions and dreams and plans for your life do do you plan out the way in which you want to go and as Christians in your life have there been times where God has clearly shut doors and opened others I can tell you from my life if you had told me four years ago that I would be standing here preaching this message I would have laughed at you and said you're dreaming I'm going to be on planes traveling around the world doing Sound and Lighting for festivals and yet here I am God closes doors and opens others and as we're going to see as we unpack this God leads Paul and Silas to be exactly where they needed to be and so we pull apart we look at Paul and Silas why is it that so much is happening in the book of Acts why is it that people are being added to the church daily why is it that these numbers increasing it's because we can look through here and see that Paul and Silas were authentic right they had received the good news of the Gospel they knew very truly that despite their Rebellion against God despite their sin despite their separation from God that God had sent his son to die on a cross for their sins that they might receive salvation that they might have relationship with God their creator they knew that right but they didn't just know it in their heads they knew it in their hearts they lived it they breathed it and because it was core to their identity first and foremost they were people who had received salvation it influenced everything else that they did we can read through acts and go man the gospel was always on the lips of these people and of course it was it's always on their lips because it's part of their identity it influenced everything if you're a hardcore football fan probably at morning tea you're going to talk about the game that happened over the weekend right because that's part of your identity and for these guys they were first and foremost Christians they were first and foremost people who had received the grace of Jesus and so they lived and breathed it it impacted what they did what they spoke what they thought and they were excited about that because the gospel is exciting the gospel is literally we were dead in sin and now we are alive in Christ that was something that they celebrated that was something that they rejoiced in we sung this morning this is my story this is my song we had excitement we rejoiced in that and this is what we can capture in Paul and Silas they were rejoicing in the fact that they were saved and it begs the question for us do we still rejoice in the gospel like we should is the gospel Central to our Identity or have we dampened its significance do we only celebrate this Joy do we only Rejoice on a Sunday as our gospel message become an optional byproduct of a religion called Christianity or is it central to Who We Are and we see the fruit of what happens when it is Central we see that despite their circumstances here's poor and Silas severely beaten severely mistreated in jail and what are they doing Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening how can anyone be praying and seeing hymns to God when they have wounds which are Weeping when their legs are chained the reality is that because they identified as those who were saved because that was their reality the circumstances didn't matter see their circumstances said you abound you are wounded you are in jail but their reality said yeah we've got eternal life with God because of Christ's sacrifice and so it's out of that reality not the circumstance that they're able to be singing and praying to God and something fascinating happens the prisoners were listening see we can sometimes go well I've never been called to go to Asia or I've never been called to even walk through as many cities as Paul is here and yet we all have so many different communities that we go and live in right from here we're gathered as a community of of church people right and yet when we go on Monday dare I say it most of us are going to go to work and is that not a whole nother community of people and what about when we go into the shopping centers is that not another community of people and we see Paul and Silas everywhere they went they lived out their faith but church I think that sometimes we can get into the Trap of going if I come to church on Sunday and I Proclaim my faith that's good and then Monday through to Saturday I'll just live it out and then I'll Proclaim it again on Sunday but they go hand in hand we see this work out because as this was all happening suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the doors of the cells flung open the bounds were released and I don't know about Tubidy for I was in a terrible circumstance like Paul and size I dare say that I would have been like thank you Jesus I am out of here I'm running out and I'm praising Jesus because I'm no longer stuck in that circumstance but Paul and Silas had the gospel message as the core of their identity they didn't just live it out that they preached it and it it has to be the prompting of the holy spirit that they stayed put because the Jailer wakes up he's freaking out because in that day if the Jailer was responsible for the prisoners and the prisoners escaped the Jailer got the punishment that was set for the prisoners and so he sees that all this has happened he sees that in any rational circumstance all the prisoners would have disappeared they would have run for their lives and so he draws his sword to kill himself and it's in this situation that Paul yells out he says do not harm yourself for we are all here and the Jailer would have been in disbelief he calls for lights and when he sees it is true he falls down before Paul and Silas right he had seen their faith lived out he had seen they were praising Jesus in the middle of these terrible circumstances their gospel reality outdid their circumstances and he comes to the point that if you're a Christian here this morning each and every one of us will have come to he says what must I do to be saved see the gospel the hope that we have in God is desirable right that's the only reason that we're sitting here as Christians some of us there's something that we know that we're missing out on when we see it the gospel is desirable and so he comes to the point he says what must I do to be saved you're here in the middle of your circumstances you are praising God God did this amazing work and you didn't even run what must I do to be saved and I love the response because if they had the mentality of I know it's not Sunday we'll we'll declare our faith on Sunday but it's Monday through to Saturday so I'm just going to live out Christian faith I'm just going to live out what I'm doing they would have said ah come come to church there's this dude who knows about the gospel will he'll tell you and it's lost but that's not what happens see the works and the preaching go hand in hand the Declaration of what's going on if it's a part of your identity comes naturally and so when posed the question what must I do to be saved Paul and Silas respond they say believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved you and your household clearly prompted by the Holy Spirit here that salvation is not just going to come to him but to the whole household and they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house and he took them that same hour of night and washed their wounds and he was baptized at once he and all his family then he brought them up into his house and set food before them and he rejoiced with his entire household that he had believed in God if you're a Christian here this morning let me ask you when you made that decision when you came to that moment when you realized that you were symbol that you had separated yourself from God when you came to that realization that Jesus died for your sins so that you could have eternal life so that you could have relationship with him was there not excitement was there not rejoicing was there not thankfulness we see it so played out in the Jailer here he rejoiced with his whole family that he had believed in God and we see we've seen through Paul and Silas they didn't lose that rejoicing they didn't lose that excitement because it wasn't then an optional thing that happened on Sunday it was who they were they were no longer people destined to death they were people who had been saved who had been redeemed through the blood of Christ this same Christ who told them hey this isn't just for you I die for everyone go and tell people about it the gospel by its very nature changes our actions and if we choose not to put it aside if we truly accept it if we truly make it a part of our core identity it influences our speech our actions our thoughts we can't just go to work on Monday and do good things but not tell people why we do good things we can't go to work on Monday still struggling with that trial or that thing but hopeful and praying and confident that God has got it without the explanation we can't do that without people noticing we've sung this morning so much about the rejoicing we have in our salvation and my encouragement is just as we would have when the jail Jailer did when that first moment of conversion happened when we were excited about the gospel when it transformed everything about us let's not lose that just like Paul and Silas let's make that a core part of our identity so that regardless of where we go regardless of the circumstances our reality is that Jesus Christ died for us and we have the hope of eternal life with God our creator see in our lives God is going to open and close doors and sometimes it's not going to seem fair sometimes when our Ambitions are higher than God's Ambitions it's not going to seem fair but God opens and closes doors to lead us where he wants us to be if Paul and Silas had been in Asia maybe more desirable but God sent them to be in a prison in Philippi God opens and closes doors to lead us where he wants us to be and I just want to ask each of us this morning I want to ask each of us if you're not a Christian here this morning if you're still trying to figure out what this is all about can I encourage you to ask yourself that question what must I do to be saved do I want to be saved is this important to me and if you're partnering that question can I encourage you to come talk to me one of the partial team any Christian that you know ask them questions and if you're sitting here a bit like me during the week gone I've been a Christian for a long time right can I encourage each of us to ask that same question what must I do reflect on the fact that we are saved reflect on how God has redeemed us how God has extended Grace To Us in the midst of Our Lives how God has worked in us to get us to the place where we are now and you can't do that without getting excited you can't do that without rejoicing and thanking God and if you're still struggling can I encourage you to read through the gospel to read the account of Jesus and what he did to very really know that God so loved the world that despite our sins he sent his one and only son to die for you and for me that we may have eternal life with him he didn't send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it through him and church My Hope Is that as we reflect on this reality as as we remember the goodness of God as we remember the work that he has done is doing and will do in our lives that our Christianity our Declaration of the Gospel it can't just be for a Sunday but it will become core to our identity and it will change the way we think the way we speak the way we act not only on Sunday but Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday as well would you join me in prayer heavenly father I thank you that we have good news to rejoicing father God I thank you that you have made a way Lord that you died in our place for our sin so that we might have relationship and eternal life with you father God forgive us for the times when it's so easy to downplay the hope that we have when it's so easy not to tell people about who you are and what you've done and for the times when we find it so easy just not to live the reality that you've placed within us [Music] and Lord I just pray that each of us go this week that you would lead us and guide us by your Holy Spirit Lord that you would remind us of the work that you've done in our lives Lord that we might be encouraged by that Lord that we might make that Central to who we are Lord that we might not only live it but Proclaim it as well we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.