Tag Archives: Election

The birth of a church, the miracle that still happens today

“So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 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.” (Acts 16:11–18 ESV)

Paul and Silas witnessed the birth of a new church in Acts 16.  It was quite the whirlwind as they arrived in the Roman colony of Macedonia.  They walked in to Philippi and ended up talking with an affluent woman from Thyatira, Lydia, who was a worshiper of God.  This was a commonly used phrase to describe Gentiles who believed in the God of the Hebrews, but had not converted to Judaism (see Cornelius in Acts 10:2).  But something happened to Lydia that is often read right over at the end of verse 14 –  “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”  It was not by Paul’s persuasive powers or his wisdom – it was by the supernatural work of God, by whom all are drawn to Him.  And we know that no one comes to God unless God draws him (John 6:44, 6:65).  If you are a Christian today, it is because God drew you to Himself, regenerated your heart and gave you faith to believe.  Don’t gloss over that – allow it to sink in.

The excitement continues as Paul & Silas are heading to Lydia’s house to stay for a few days when a demon possessed slave girl, who earned a lot of money for her owners by fortune telling (Acts 16:16), began following them saying, “these men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.””  Paul finally gets annoyed with her and casts the demon out of her in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:18) – what a power do you walk in when you get annoyed and cast out a demon?  Paul was probably annoyed because he did not want the gospel message to be identified with a demon possessed girl who told fortunes.  The girl’s owners became angry because their source of income was now gone so they call on the city officials, complaining that Paul & Silas were causing a commotion.  A miscarriage of justice occurred when the magistrates gave orders to have them beat with rods and thrown in to jail (Acts 16:22-24, 2 Corinthians 11:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:2).  This was just a prelude to the real action, though.  While they were in jail, they began singing and praying and a great earthquake shook the foundations of the jail and all of the doors burst open.  The jailer was shocked and attempts to take his own life, but Paul stops him.  The jailer then asks what he must do to be saved.  He believes and is baptized.

What an exciting way to see a church come in to being!  Fights, earthquakes, doors bursting open!  It is easy for us to read this and be unmoved by all of the miraculous things that are going on because most have never experienced these types of miracles.  But, the most miraculous thing that happens in this text, still happens today:  God opens the hearts of rebellious creatures to believe the gospel.  Why would a perfect, holy, all powerful Creator make peace with creatures who want nothing more than to take His throne?  Why would He draw such people to Himself?  Why would He justify them?  Why would He adopt them into His family?  Why would He do this for you and me?  For your joy and His glory.  The real miracle in this text – and one that still happens today is that God has called you, justified you, adopted you into His family and will one day glorify you.  Allow this truth to move you!

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Our identity, faith & obedience; God’s credentials, goals & sovereignty (Isaiah 48)

Their identity came from being called by God.  They professed faith in God.  However, their practice was nominal, lukewarm, marginalized.“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.” (Isaiah 48:1 ESV)

God’s ultimate goal is the zealous pursuit of His own glory – above a beyond ours.  He did not punish His children as they should have been in order to protect His glory – not because of them, but because of Him!  Let us not be glory thieves, for it is frightening to be at cross purposes with the Creator.  “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11 ESV)

God’s credentials:  I made you and everything else; I am unequaled and unchallenged.  “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.” (Isaiah 48:12–13 ESV)

God has determined to use Cyrus to deliver His people.  God has spoken and called him as a tool of His deliverance.  God will bring him forth and prosper him in order to accomplish His purposes – This is an idol worshiping pagan.  God is in absolute control – even of godless kings!  “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:14–16 ESV)

Things would have gone differently had the people listened to and obeyed God.  He would have protected them and prospered them, but they couldn’t obey.  We don’t do much better, do we?  “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.”” (Isaiah 48:17–19 ESV)

But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1–10 ESV)

The bible clearly tells us that we are dead.  The idea of being terminally ill has become a popular one, but it is not biblical.  When we realize that we had no contribution in our salvation, we become overwhelmed with gratitude and awe that God would call some one like us out of darkness and in to light.  When we understand that God’s radical, unconditional grace, one way love then we are moved to worship.  All of the acceptance and approval that we all long for we now have in Christ, it frees us to stop pretending, remove our mask and walk freely.  “THANKS BE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.”  At the point at which we recognize our deep need (oh wretched man that I am) is the point at which the gospel becomes real and impact-full.

A Liberating Truth

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” (John 8:47 ESV)

“but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” (John 10:26 ESV)

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”” (John 18:37 ESV)

“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6 ESV)

These passages highlight a liberating truth. That truth is that God is the One that works in the hearts of men so that they can hear His words. The pressure to convert or convince is not ours to carry; carrying this pressure serves as poor motivation to labor faithfully, joyfully & dependently.  We should work tirelessly, study faithfully and prepare diligently, but only those who are of God hear God’s words. What a relief! It doesn’t depend “on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16 ESV). Now, let’s go labor with all of our might because God just might allow us to play a part in His cosmic plan – not because He needs us, but because it glorifies Him to use such an incapable people as us and brings us profound joy in the process!

God Saves

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:28–33 ESV)

Listen to God Saves by Matt Chandler: