Life Changes. We touch on three testimonies of people whose lives were radically changed by their encounters with Christianity. Today, we focus on the one who had to battle here demons literally! Acts chapter 16 verses 16 to 34.
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Music: Achaidh Cheide - Celtic by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Introduction: Today- the emphasis is on political answers- change structures- is hugely important…mid-term elections are such a time to thnk over these issues. I hope you really look into what candidates believe rather than just voting for whom you always vote. But anyone who has been there a while will know that you also need to change people as well as structures if a culture is going to transform. Philippi- the city- Roman colony, important trade road, rich history, now about to be turned upside down by the arrival of Christianity! People can change…
The Significance of the individual: Three lives transformed by Christ.
- All very different- higher, under, and working-class…jailer.
- And touched by God’s word in different ways- heard in Bible study, declared in an exorcism, given in counsel in a crisis v.32.
- Three settings: a time of worship by a river, a public conflict, and suffering in a prison.
Result- established the church x3 foundation stones, plus Lydia’s house and a whole family of the jailer and; “Although Luke does not explicitly refer to either her conversion or her baptism, the fact that her deliverance took place between the conversions of Lydia and the jailer leads readers to infer that she too became a member of the Philippian church.”
Resistance: But you will all have noticed that when things start moving in a good way in life, there is often whiplash! Often from friends and family. Don’t be surprised by it, be prepared for it- focus on it this morning. The stories are held together by the central one which focuses upon the opposition provoked by the success with Lydia. Today’s focus.
Vulnerability: A slave girl= implies very young. Young girls exploited then and now- human trafficking and other abuses. Soft target. Battered by the evil of men and demons. The worst of both worlds. She had no life, she would be like an addict, with a life ran for her by a pimp. She was at the bottom of society, the underclass, there to be exploited by those who wanted to make money.
The Power is Real: Python- Delphic Oracles – tell the future…snake girl. Dangerous box to open though! So we warn people off the occult because it’s often real, and it’s always tempting- know the future, the money, the power. Much occult is about money, but don’t mistake the reality that is there. For the real stuff is really dangerous. But even then, remember their power of foresight is limited…didn’t see Paul’s response coming! Ask people involved- where does the power come from? Does it lead you closer to a purer lifestyle like Jesus of Naz or further? Does it let you sleep or bring disturbances to your mind?
Then point out that you have something better than tarot cards or gazing at the stars, that the one who made the stars is your father! And just as an earthly father doesn’t share every headache with a household with the kids, so God often shelters us from the future and like those scenes in a movie- something scary or violent a child is caught up in – adult pulls them in close- look at me. But as we saw last week sometimes revealing the future is also a way of directing our steps onto the right path towards the future.
A common form of Opposition: Why did she make all the noise? Because it was an attempt to disrupt the preaching of the Gospel. Remember that is more than just sharing a message, but a dynamic encounter between people and the Risen Jesus Christ. And there are human and spiritual forces that always seek to interrupt that meeting. It can be directly, through the noise, shouting drawing attention to herself, Distraction- Cf young girl in Resolis, Phone calls, Rolling babies and sausages! heading for a Bible study or church on Sunday- something comes up, a call, a change in plans, something breaks down- be prepared. Someone doesn’t want you there!
Or it can be surreptitious- if Paul did anything about it the consequences in that society, as they turned out to be, were difficult: he got jailed! But Paul became disturbed/dismayed= grieved for what he saw happening to her. Yet this may be the reason he delayed the exorcism, you have to pick your battles, and his priority was introducing many other people to Jesus.
The Enlightenment 300 years ago- got rid of the spiritual all in the name of reason. But it’s the very reality of the occult in other cultures that when it comes into confrontation with Christianity helps people see the reality of Jesus Christ. In many non-Western societies as in Africa or Asia or S. America- occult power is so real. They would laugh at all the unbelief in such power, for it’s a daily reality. But so with the Gospel - Christ himself demonstrates his power over all the dark forces holding people in captivity. And when people see that- the conclusion is easy to grasp- there is a greater power than our gods, or our spirits or our ancestors at work. For as I Peter 4 says, You are saved…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
There will be times in your own life when your darkest temptations just won’t leave you and your thoughts are constantly going down dark paths, you need to remember you may be dealing with more than your own weakness. There are powers that will exploit such moments and seek to destroy you. Then you need to remember that Christ’s Spirit is in you, you have authority over those dark powers.
If you believe this and still can’t break free? Then you need help, because you won’t access the power and authority of Christ by yourself, but that’s where the love and support of other believers can walk with you through that, for others can exercise Christ’s authority with cleaner hands and deeper faith. There is nothing that ensnares us that Jesus can’t break.
Conclusion So fix your eyes on the power of Christ x3 v.14 opened a heart, he commands spirits out, he draws people through life-threating crises into peace. And he is still doing the same. Do you need to know his power in some specific area of your life? Then believe that is possible. Ask for help or offer help because Christ changes people.
 Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 265.