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The Diversity of Our Salvation

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The Diversity of Our Salvation

Acts 16:11-40      October 22, 2000


Scripture Reading: 2Corinthians 6:1-10


          What does it take to get your attention?

Yesterday morning I was reading the paper on the couch after breakfast, wearing only my athletic shorts, when little Mikey, my grandson, came up to sit on my lap like he often does.

He wanted Grandpa to read him a story.

But I told him I wanted to read the paper.

He sat in my lap anyway but doesn't like to give up my total attention.

He stuck his little finger in my belly button and tried to gouge it out.

I said, "Mikey, that hurts. Don't do that."

Then he did it again and I yelled it, "Ouch! Don't do that!"

The third time was it.

I swatted him on the behind and his mother came to the rescue and prompted sort of an "I'm sorry" out of him.

Actually, I can still feel it.

Have you ever had your belly button inverted?

They punch it in when you are born and it's supposed to stay there.

Mikey got my attention, but I'm still not sure if I really got his.

          How about something more inspiring than my belly button?

          Let's talk world news.

          What does it take to get your attention for the truth of God?

          When you read, like I did, in the paper yesterday morning (yes, I did finally get to read the paper) headlines like, "Mysterious Fungus has California's Oaks in Peril," does it get your attention?

          It should, especially if you read the article.

          It talks about a sudden death disease that kills the magnificent oaks in northern California in less than a year.

          It first appeared just five years ago and is now spreading rapidly.

          There is great concern that it will spread into all oak trees across the country.

          There is no treatment and scientists cannot figure out how it spreads.

          They know the fungus is identified as phytophthora, but it is a kind that no one has ever seen before.

          Other strains of this fungus have appeared and are killing strawberries in Europe.

          It is related to the fungus that caused the Irish potato famine and to those that have recently killed thousands of cedars in the Pacific Northwest and eucalyptus trees in Australia.

          The first symptom of the disease is a reddish bleeding from the bark and by then it is too late.

          The report said that scientists are seeing an increase in exotic pests and fungi in forests and agricultural lands.

          Perhaps it comes from the fallout of increased globalization, but who knows?

          Perhaps it comes from other human activity like the unknown bacteria they discovered recently in a salt crystal mined from far underneath the earth's surface near Carlsbad, NM, that has remained dormant for what they say is 25 million years until it was brought back to life in the laboratory.

          Another example is a renewed outbreak of the deadly human ebola virus in Uganda, which was first discovered in the Congo.

          This virus has no cure and kills 90% of its victims.

          The symptoms are similar to the sudden oak death fungus in that the soft tissue is attacked and seems to dissolve, causing bleeding from all body orifices – even the pores of the skin.

          It is not on the same level of concern as AIDS, but that too came out of Africa and is now ballooning to gigantic proportions.

          After some success at defeating it in the U.S. it is now again on the increase.

          Strains of ebola have been discovered in numerous places – like in monkeys that have been imported into the U.S. from Africa.

          Perhaps it is from God to get our attention.

          In the outbreaks of both of these pestilences, the only link that can be made so far is that they seem tied to ecological disturbances.

          Indeed, for the discerning person, these are the "beginning of birth pains" that Jesus talked about in Matthew 24.

7  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

 8  All these are the beginning of birth pains.

          What does it take to get your attention?

          How about another article I read in the paper yesterday morning entitled, "Anti-Semitic Acts Grow around the World in Wake of Middle East Violence"?

          More than 200 anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) acts of violence have been reported in major world cities, including Chicago, since the outbreak of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

          Mark Weitzman, director of the Task Force Against Hate said, "We haven't felt this kind of violence for at least a decade, since the peace process started."

          Nearly half of the recent incidents have occurred in France, many quite serious.

          And these attacks have been largely ignored by government and political leaders as well as by the UN.

          Hate crimes against Jews are also much on the increase in Germany this summer after declining for about six years.

          They doubled in the month of August from previous months.

          Holocaust survivors are asking themselves, "Do we have to pack our bags and leave all over again?"

          Again I refer you to Jesus' words in Matthew 24.

9  "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

          And how about another article – this time about the fact that Jimmy Carter is parting ways with the Southern Baptist denomination of which he and his family have been a part of for generations.

          He has become unsettled because of the conservative stands that the Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed in recent times.

          Most notably he has struggled with what he says is the increasingly rigid creed of the nation's largest Protestant denomination because of decisions barring women pastors and declaring that wives should submit graciously to their husbands.

          He feels that these things violate the basic premises of his Christian faith and his personal feelings that the Bible says that all people are equal in the eyes of God, and that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church.

          Now this is not to say that we don't also believe that women are equal with men in the sight of God, but we also believe that God created mankind with the natural order of headship in the home and in the church.

          Carter wants to associate with Baptist groups who share such beliefs as separation of church and state, a free religious press, and with what he believes as the expression of equality for women.

          Indeed, many churches are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention because of the denomination's conservative positions on such things as marriage and homosexuality.

          But the president of the 15.8 million member denomination, Rev. James Merritt, defended the denomination's positions and said of Carter's departure, "With all due respect to the president, he is a theological moderate and we are not a theologically moderate convention."

          Merritt went on to say that his group isn't getting more conservative; American society is getting more liberal.

          Indeed, even Mike Trout, senior vice president and right hand man for James Dobson on Focus on the Family, has resigned from the organization for "personal reasons" that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a woman other than his wife.

          He said this emotional attachment was not a long-term thing and was not with another Focus on the Family employee and that it has ended.

          He and his wife Nancy of 31 years are facing the future together.

          He said that he is taking full responsibility for this spiritual cancer in his life and that his resignation is a matter of integrity in ministry.

          He said that he didn't work at Focus for 19 years for the paycheck or the environment but because he believed in what they were doing, and he violated it.

          When asked during an interview why he got involved with another woman, he said, "I wish I knew."

And another man in the organization who had come to Christ out of homosexuality recently was seen in a gay bar in Washington D.C.

          However, when he was confronted, he confessed, repented, and is still in the organization on probation to the credit of appropriate grace.

          I will refer you one more time to Matthew 24.

10  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,

 11  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

 12  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,

 (Matthew 24:7-12 NIVUS)

          Do these things get your attention?

          They get mine.

          It seems the whole world is getting poised and positioned regarding Israel, especially Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

          As Jesus said in Mark 13:35-37, "Therefore keep watch because you don't know when the owner of the house will come back --- What I say to you I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"


          The title of this morning's message, "The Diversity of Our Salvation," does not refer to the erroneous assumption of many today that there are many ways to God.

          On the contrary, there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Acts 4:12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

          The title refers instead to the many ways that God uses to bring people to the truth of their need for salvation.

          God deals with individuals and there are many ways that he uses to get the attention of those who are discerning enough to see his grace to them in Jesus Christ.

          People are in different positions and have inherently different levels of openness or resistance to grace.

          People rebel against that one way to God because they want to make their own way.

          That is part of our sin problem that made the death of Christ necessary.

          God is flexible, but not about the sacrifice of his son as payment for our sin.

          What does it take to get people's attention about the necessity of salvation?

          We can also ask what it takes to keep people's attention once they come to salvation.

          Those who fall away may need an even greater awakening.


          We left the second missionary team of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke last week just as they were leaving for Macedonia after receiving a vision that God wanted them to take the gospel to Europe and not further into Asia.

          This morning's message is about their evangelistic experiences in the first city they go to – Philippi.

          You will find it in Acts 16:11-40, if you will please turn there with me.

          The three examples that Luke provides for us about those who come to Christ are quite diverse and seemingly unconnected.

          But that is the point. No matter what we have going on with us, God is able.

Big Question:

          So what can we learn about the means of grace that God uses to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 11-15)

The first Gentile convert in Palestine was a black man.

The first Gentile convert in Europe was a woman.

God divinely leads both missionary and convert together.

This divine leading also set the stage for the provision of the rest of the missionary journey as Lydia provided (Php. 4:3,15,16).

And Lydia's home becomes the first European church.

Note that Lydia's whole household became saved just like the jailer's.

Both offered hospitality (proof of her conversion), but Lydia had to persuade them perhaps because she was a woman, or single, or Gentile.

          B.      Implication

          God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by opening their hearts.

          C.      Illustration

          Timothy's testimony in my colloquium group.

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 16-18)

The young slave girl may have been crying out her psychic knowledge not to harass Paul's ministry but to draw attention to herself and her own need the only way she knew how rather than to purposefully provoke him.

Perhaps, in a way from her helplessness, she was trying to predict the future that she wanted.

Or, while what she exclaimed was truth, it wasn't the whole message and probably distracted from it.

Or – God can even use Satan's tactics against him.

Perhaps it drew attention to the missionaries for awhile but eventually became troublesome.

Even truth, in mockery, can become a hindrance.

The manner of expression is important.

Speaking the truth in mockery makes it a lie by implication.

Perhaps the prediction of truth here was intended by the demon to gain superiority by displaying knowledge, similar to the confrontation Jesus had with certain demons.

But she was set free and presumably became a member of the new church in Philippi.

          B.      Implication

          God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by delivering their spirits.

          C.      Illustration

Sept. 7 to Nov. 4 and March 1 to May 1 are highest periods of Satanic ritual activity – why?

          Young man at Joan's workplace that requested Oct. 31st as a religious holiday.

          We make error when we either exalt Satan's power and activity or when we discount it.

          It is real and must be confronted.

          What makes us think we are above facing trouble as Christians? But God gives us the victory.

          Car given to Johnston and Sandra Pablo after facing trouble on theirs from theft.

D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 19-40)

The salvation of Paul and Silas from jail (the leaders of the mission team) prompted the jailer to plead how he might himself have such a salvation as he has just observed.

Perhaps he first heard about it from the situation with the slave girl.

          B.      Implication

God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by shaking their self-confidence.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

          What can we learn about the means of grace that God uses to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ?

          God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by opening their hearts.

          God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by delivering their spirits.

God is able to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ by shaking their self-confidence.

Timeless Truth:

          There are many walks of life, but there is only one way to heaven.

Each of us has a story to tell about how God got our attention.

But the question upon which we must remain is whether he still has our attention – all of it.

In these last days we must not become distracted.

Instead, we must become more devoted lest we fall away from divine truth.

We must become more devoted lest we fall away from each other.

We must become more devoted lest we forsake the proclamation of the message.

And if you have yet to receive the message of the gospel into your own heart, how will you receive it?

What will be your story?

          Will you come through preaching, like Lydia; or through deliverance, like the slave girl; or through shaking, like the jailer?

          The easier way is through preaching like you are hearing this morning.

          But no matter what your need, God is able.

          No matter where you've come from, you know where you belong.

          Let him prepare you and draw you unto himself.

          Just trust him for it.

          We did, and he will continue to build his church until Jesus comes.

          We just don't know when that is – but it is going to be very soon.

          Come unto him now and hold on for dear life!

          Nothing else is worth the effort – or the pain.

          Titus 2:11-13

Closing Hymn: # 551 Soon and Very Soon


To gain profit (Lydia) for the KOG, to destroy profit (slave girl) for the KOS, to live out the message of deliverance (jailer).

The gospel brings forth the riches of faith, renders Satan's kingdom unprofitable, and humiliates human pretension.

The characteristics of our citizenship: we have royalty (relationship) in Christ, we have value in Christ, we have freedom in Christ.

Principles of evangelism.

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