good quote

" In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by ...bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people." ~ A.W. Tozer

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Joyful Life: Study on Philippians

Acts 16: 6-40
   "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord has called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which restored thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days, But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers. And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard 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 every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying Let those men go. And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed."

Chapter 1: A Vision and a Visit
Believers should cooperate with God as He intervenes in their lives.

  Some years ago a publisher released a book titled The Chance World. The book describes a world in which everything happens by chance. One day the sun rises; another day it doesn't. When the sun does rise, it appears at an unexpected time. The book also describes the moon as appearing at unexpected times. Sometimes the moon appears in the morning instead of the sun. Some children are portrayed in the book as having one head, while others are portrayed as having twelve heads. One child's head rests on his shoulders. Equally bizarre are the book's descriptions of daily occurrences in human life. A child jumps up one day and come down again, but the next day he jumps, he doesn't come down. A man rises from his chair one day, but another day, when he sits down, he and his chair crash through the floor and land in a basement.

  Fortunately, or our world doesn't operate that way. Things don't happen by chance, do they? Do you just happen to meet someone? Do you just happen to hear about a job opportunity? Do you just happen to find about a good deal? Do things just happen? No! Things don't just happen. Our lives are not a sequence of chance happenings. We believe that God intervenes in our lives. Theologians call this phenomenon the immanence of God. He is present and active in His creation. He intervenes in our lives.We should recognize this fact and cooperate with Him as He seeks to accomplish His will.

God's Intervention in Paul's Life

  On his second missionary journey and accompanied by Silas and Timothy, Paul wanted to journey east and preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), but the Holy Spirit forbade this. He also kept Paul, Silas and Timothy from entering Bithynia (verse 7). So the three men kept traveling west until they came to Troas (verse 8). At Troas, Paul received a vision, in which a man from Macedonia appeared to him. "Come over into Macedonia, and help us," the man earnestly pled (verse 9).
   This vision was not an unplanned event, a happenstance. It came as a divine intervention into the lives of Paul and his missionary companions. Twice God had prevented them from going east. Now He was directing them west, across the sea to Macedonia. He had interrupted their travel plans, and now interjecting His plan.
   How did the missionaries respond to this interruption? They concluded that God had in fact called them to preach he gospel to the Macedonians (verse 10). they then cooperated with Him by sailing immediately to Macedonia. After landing at Neapolis, they went inland to Philippi, a leading city in Macedonia (verses 11 & 12). There, they began to preach the gospel (verse 13).
  Although it is wise to plan ahead, we must do so with a sensitivity to God's will, knowing that God may intervene and interrupt our plans at any moment. Do we contest His intervention or cooperate with Him? Paul's example teaches us to cooperate with God when He changes our plans. But why? Because God has a reason for changing our plans. We see that in Paul's experience in Philippi.

The Conversion of Lydia
  God directed Paul and his coworkers to Philippi because a woman named Lydia lived there and needed to hear about Christ. She and other women had gathered for prayer by a river outside Philippi (verse 13). When Paul met her, he shared the gospel with her. She listened receptively, because the Lord had opened her heart (verse 14). God moved in her reason, emotions and intellect in such a way that she responded in faith to the gospel.
   Lydia became a believer because God had intervened in her life to save her. But first, He had intervened in Paul's life to direct him to Philippi and specifically to Lydia. We may not understand immediately why God intervenes in our lives, but we can be certain that He does so for good reasons. Such interventions may lead to our serving as instruments in His hands for directing others to Him. So we need to be alert to His interruptions and cooperate with Him as He directs us.

The Confrontation with the Slave Girl
  If everything always turns out as well as the conversion of Lydia, it would be easy for us to cooperate with God when He intervenes in our lives and changes our plans. The problem is that everything doesn't always turn out that way for us. It didn't for Paul either. Although Lydia responded positively to Paul's preaching, others responded negatively.
  After Paul preached to Lydia and the other women, he met a slave girl who was possessed with a spirit of divination (verse 16). Most likely, she predicted the future, and like a ventriloquist, spoke with a different voice. Her occultic activities directed a steady flow of cash to her masters' pockets. But God would soon hang a "Closed for Business" sign over her life.
  The slave girl followed Paul and his coworkers. As she dogged their steps, she screamed, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation" (verse 17). This scenario repeated itself day after day after day. Finally, having put up long enough with the slave girl's antics and knowing that the unbelieving Gentiles might relate her statements to their own gods and their own salvation, in the name of Jesus Christ Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her (verse 18). Overwhelmed by the authority of Jesus' name, the evil spirit departed from the girl.
  Although this exorcism was for the slave girl's good, it was bad for her masters' business. Because she was no longer able to predict the future, their source of income dried up. As suddenly as their revenue supply had fizzled, their tempers flared. They seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the marketplace to appear there before the magistrates (verses 19, 20).
   The slave masters accursed Paul and Silas of two things. They alleged first that the missionaries "do exceedingly trouble our city" (verse 20), and secondly that the missionaries "teach costumes, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe" (verse 21). The second charge probably confused the missionaries' evangelism with the act of converting Romans to Judaism. These charges were extremely serious, because the Romans insisted on peace and order in their colonies and strongly disapproved of Jewish proselytism.
  The charges were a smoke screen. The slave masters weren't concerned for Roman law and order; they simply wanted revenge. They had lost a lucrative business, and they would not be satisfied until Paul and Silas paid a heavy penalty for their "crime."
  We can only conjecture the kind of animosity preachers today might face if their preaching resulted in the closure of casinos, crack houses and prostitution rings. The Devil doesn't accept defeat graciously!
   The slave masters won their case in a kangaroo court. The people "rose up together against" Paul and Silas (verse 22); that is, they joined in an attack against them. The magistrates responded to the mob action by commanding their enforcement officers to beat Paul and Silas and then cast them into prison (verse 23).
  So far, no good from a human perspective had come form the exorcism. God had intervened, but now two of His servants were in prison. Their feet were held fast in wooden blocks (verse 24), and the pain was excruciating!
  Men of weak faith might reason that cooperating with God doesn't pay. After all, Paul and Silas had cooperated with Him when he changed their plans and led them to Philippi. That cooperation landed them in a heap of trouble. They were doing God's will, and look where they were. Was ther no justice?
   Have you ever attempted to do God's will and ended up in "trouble"? How did you feel? How did you respond?

The Conversion of the Jailer
   Paul and Silas were men of faith. They didn't blame God for their circumstances. Quite the opposite. They kept praying and praising God in song (verse 25). This was the first prison gospel concert in history! and verse 25 states that "the prisoners heard them."
  Because the word "heard" (verse 25) means to listen with interest, we know the prisoners didn't object to the singing, even though it was a midnight concert.
  What a testimony! Paul and Silas were doing God's will and ended up in prison. Nevertheless, they were praying and praising God. Would you do the same thing in a similar situation? Do you do the same thing in tough situations?
  An amazing thing happened in the Philippian jail. Actually, it didn't just happen; God caused it to happen. A sudden earthquake jolted the prison (verse 26). The doors of the prison flew open, and the prisoners' chains fell off.
  Alarmed and dismayed because he thought that all the prisoners had escaped, the jailer prepared to kill himself (verse 27). He knew the prisoners were his responsibility; and if they had escaped, he most likely would be executed.
  However, before the jailer had time to commit suicide, Paul intervened. "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here," he shouted (verse 28).
  The jailer's interest shifted dramatically from suicide to salvation. Instead of wanting to destroy his life, he wanted to save it- eternally. Trembling, he fell at the missionaries' feet and asked: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (verse 30).
  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved and thy house" (verse 31), Paul and Silas replied.
  The word "Believe" implies urgency and denotes the orientation of one's mind and heart toward Jesus Christ. It does not mean to give mere assent to some propositions about Him. Therefore, by instructing the jailer to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they admonished him to trust Jesus Christ to save him.
  The jailer and his family, too, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and then were baptized (verses 33, 34). Their conversion to Christ had resulted from Paul and Silas' incarceration. Paul and Silas were in prison because Paul had cast a demon out of a slave girl. Paul was able to cast the spirit out of the girl because he and his coworkers were in Philippi. They were in Philippi because God had intervened in their lives, changed their plans and directed them to Philippi. Interesting sequence! Did all of this just happen? Of course not. God had intervened in the missionaries' lives, and they had obeyed Him. He worked in their lives, and they cooperated with Him.
  But the story of the missionaries' visit to Philippi didn't end with the conversation with the jailer and his family members. Paul and Silas were still in prison.

The Confrontation with the Magistrates
   For some reason the magistrates decided to release Paul and Silas from prison. So they sent word to the jailer to let them go (verses 35, 36). However, this release didn't go smoothly. Paul and Silas had been condemned and beaten without trial (verse 37a). To make matters worse, they were Roman citizens. Roman citizens were exempt from beatings and guaranteed a fair trial. So Paul refused to leave the prison unless the magistrates came in person and escorted them out of the prison (verse 37b).
   When Paul's demands reached the magistrates, they feared (verse 38)-- and rightly so; they had wrongly beaten Roman citizens. Timidly they went to the prison, escorted Paul and Silas from the prison and urged them to leave Philippi (verse 39). The missionaries complied with the request, but first they went to Lydia's home, where they met with the believers and encouraged them (verse 40).
  God's work at Philippi had begun with Paul's brief missionary visit that produced a few converts. God had intervened in Paul's life to place him where He wanted him. Also, He had intervened in several lives in Philippi by saving them. These interventions were not trouble-free for Paul and his coworkers, but they were productive. In time, the infant church at Philippi became a thriving church of "saints in  Christ Jesus... with the bishops and deacons" (Philippians 1:1). God's interventions are always well timed and purposeful. Things do not just happen.
  Some years ago, a man's wife and he were out shopping for a house. Eventually they found a house they liked. It was small, but because they had only two children, they thought it was adequate. They made an offer; the sellers accepted it; and they anticipated their moving into the house. However, the bank told us the appraisal value fell below the selling price. Consequently the deal to buy the house collapsed. Today they have five children. They live in a nice neighborhood in a house that accommodates their family. The house they had tried to buy earlier would not have met their needs.
  Chance or intervention? I believe God intervened. He changed their plans. He had a reason for putting them where He did. They needed to cooperate with Him to accomplish His purpose for directing them as He did. As God intervenes in your life and changes your plans, I encourage you to cooperate with Him to accomplish His purposes.

Other chapters ahead as I study through Philippians...

No comments:

Post a Comment