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Why God’s Good News Is Great

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Why God’s Good News Is Great

Acts 16:16-34

Sermon by: Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - July 11, 2010

*If you came to the United States from another planet last week, you might think the greatest thing in the world was basketball superstar Lebron James going to the Miami Heat. A Google search for “Lebron James decision” gave 12,700,000 results.

*Today we are talking about the most important thing in the world and it’s not the NBA. The most important thing in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ!

*That word “gospel” simply means “good news.” So the gospel is the good news about God’s salvation through His son Jesus Christ. And we must never underestimate the power and importance of the gospel. It is so important that God directly speaks about it over 100 times in the New Testament.

*The Apostle Paul understood the power and importance of the gospel.

-In Romans 1, Paul felt that he owed everybody the great blessing of hearing the gospel, and he declared:

15. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

-In 2 Timothy 1, Paul encouraged and challenged his young friend with these words:

7. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

8. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

9. who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

10. but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

*That is the greatness of the gospel, and we see it lived out in Acts 16.

-Here in God’s Word we find at least 4 reasons why the gospel is so great.

1. First: The gospel is stronger than our worst enemies.

*In Acts 16, Paul and his mission team were trying to find out where the Lord wanted them to go next. Then in vs. 9&10:

9. A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us.''

10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

*So they went to Philippi, and began to share the gospel. But starting in vs. 16, they ran into some serious opposition.

16. Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

17. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.''

*Friends, we still have the same enemy at who was work in vs. 16-17.

-This poor slave girl was as real as you are.

-That evil spirit was as real as you are.

-Satan and his fallen angels are our enemies.

*How do they work?

-Well, they can still possess nonbelievers, especially those who seek that evil.

-And they can still pretend to be a believer’s friend.

-The devil can pretend to be your friend.

-And he still promotes his lies by tying them to the truth.

*The devil is our enemy. But most Americans don’t believe that today. According to a Barna survey in 2007, only 24% strongly believe that Satan is a real spiritual being. (1)

*But Satan is real whether we believe it or not! Many years ago a man went to revival preacher Charles Finney and said: "I don't believe in the existence of a devil." The preacher replied: “Don't you? -- Well, you resist him for a while and you WILL believe in him.” (2)

*David Holwick says that Satan is more than a symbol. Jesus believed in him.

*Your devil is too small if he is consigned to long-ago times and faraway places.

-Job 1:7 tells us that Satan roams over the whole earth.

-John 12:31 and John 14:30 call him “the ruler of this world. . .”

*Your devil is too small if you decide he is not capable of performing miracles.

-The Bible says he can in 2 Thess 2:9 and Rev 13:13

*Your devil is too small if you assume he leaves Christians alone.

-1 Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The Devil tried to tempt Jesus. And he will try to tempt you. He cannot steal your salvation, but he can ruin your spiritual effectiveness. (3)

*And he will try. As Priscilla Shirer says, “The enemy knows he can't destroy you. But the rest of your life he will be trying to distract you.” (4)

*We have fierce enemies. But the good news is that they no match for our God!

-We see this in vs. 17&18.

17. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.''

18. And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.'' And he came out that very hour.

*Most of us might not feel too confident commanding an evil spirit to come out in the name of Jesus. But if the need ever arises, God will give you all the confidence you need.

*And here is some more great news from James 4:6-7:

6. He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.''

7. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

*We know that the gospel is great, because it is stronger than our worst enemies.

2. And because it is worth the worst suffering.

*Many of the greatest heroes of our faith have suffered incredible hardship for the good news about Jesus. We see a good example starting in vs. 19:

19. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

20. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;

21. and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.''

22. Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.

23. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

*Some of God’s best have suffered the worst for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

*During the Communist tyranny of the 20th century, many Christians in Russia were forced into prison camps because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Russian pastor Georgi Vins told of meeting a young woman named Galena. She had been arrested for teaching at a Vacation Bible School.

*Can you imagine that? -- We had a wonderful VBS here just a few weeks ago. Can you imagine being sent to prison for helping in VBS? -- But Galena was.

*The prison camp was filthy. Food was scarce. Medical care was nonexistent. And the women were forced into hard labor. Galena's hair and teeth fell out. Painful boils broke out all over her skin.

*When Galena's mother finally saw her, she was horrified at her daughter's condition. But Galena was positive. She told her mother that thousands of women in the prison camps had never heard of Jesus. And it was her responsibility to tell them about Him. (5)

*What a life of Christ-like love! Some of God’s best have suffered the worst for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why were they willing to do that?

-Because they realized the incredible value of the Good news.

-And because they never lost sight of how much Jesus has suffered for us.

*These verses from Psalm 22 help us understand the Lord’s suffering for us.

1. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?

7. All those who see Me laugh Me to scorn; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8. "He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!''

11. Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help.

13. They gape at Me with their mouths, As a raging and roaring lion.

14. I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.

15. My strength is dried up like (sun-baked pottery), And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

16. For dogs have surrounded Me; The assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;

17. I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.

18. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

19. But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!

*Every moment of that suffering, every pain, every heartache was for us.

-Jesus went through all of that on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.

-And the good news about Jesus Christ is worth the worst suffering we could ever have to endure.

*We know that the gospel is great, because it is worth the worst suffering.

3. And because it gives a joyful song in our darkest night.

*What did Paul and Silas do when they were beaten so badly? -- Look at vs. 23-25:

23. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

24. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

*Yes Paul and Silas were beaten, yes they were hurting, but they were still singing praises to God. -- And so can we!

*If we know Jesus, if we are saved, then the good always outweighs the bad in our lives.

-On our worst days, we still have great reasons to praise God.

-And our praise can still tower over our problems.

*Yesterday I had the sad blessing of going to the funeral for Jordan Tuttle. (He died while serving his country in Iraq.) Yes, there were many tears for the loss of his young life. But there was great hope and gratitude mingled with those tears. Here is part of what Jordan’s mom, Annette, wrote for the memorial:

*“I have wept deeply. The sorrow of losing a child is greater than any I have ever known. I am simply walking in the covering of God’s grace.

*I cannot tell you what an incredible comfort it is to know, to have absolute peace that Jordan is with his Savior. If I could bring him back, I would not. This world cannot compare.

*He was a precious young man to the very end. So many are going to miss him, but what hope salvation gives. What he cannot be in this life, he has become, passing through the veil of death.”

*We know that the gospel is great, because it gives a joyful song in our darkest night.

4. And because it will save anyone who believes in Jesus.

*Something amazing began to happen in vs. 26:

26. 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 chains were loosed.

27. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

*Pastor Ken Gehrels explains: “Earthquakes happened rather frequently in that part of the world, not at all unusual. Bit of a problem, though, when the jail falls apart and there’s a giant jail break. See, that’s sort of an issue, because in Roman Law, when a prisoner escaped, the jailer received the sentence. So, he reached for his sword. Lesser of two evils he must have thought.” (6)

*But what a terrible mistake!

-The jailer felt like there was no hope.

-He felt like he was doing the best thing.

-But his feelings were wrong.

*The problem today with a lot of people is that they are basing major life decisions on feelings, on their perceptions of the moment.

-But feelings can change in a moment of time.

-Vital information could be just around the corner.

-So basing your decisions on your feelings is a recipe for disaster.

*Think how close the jailer was to total disaster.

-He had his sword out, and he was ready to kill himself.

-He was this close to killing himself and devastating his family.

*But that’s not the worst of it.

-He was this close to spending eternity in hell.

-But Paul stopped the jailer just in time, and shared the good news with him.

*We see this starting in vs. 28:

28. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.''

29. Then he called for a light, ran in & fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

30. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?''

31. So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.''

*Listen to Dwayne Brown’s take on the jailer’s salvation: “It took an earthquake to get that man’s attention. He realized that there was greater power at work, and he asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ -- Save from what? The earthquake was over. The tremors had stopped. All of the prisoners were in place. Saved from what?” . . . (7)

*The jailer had obviously heard something about the gospel, maybe even through the songs Paul and Silas sang in the jail. He obviously wanted to know how to be saved from his sins.

*. . . “And Paul, who was one of the greatest theologians this world has ever known, didn’t give this man a lecture on the doctrine of salvation. Paul didn’t go into long discourse on how a person gets saved. He didn’t tell the man to settle down, there’s no need to be alarmed, because he didn’t want the man to miss the urgency of the hour.

*Paul didn’t tell this man ‘be good and you can be saved.’ Some people think that if we are just good enough we can make it into Heaven. What did Paul and Silas say to this man? -- ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!’” (7)

*Paul made it simple. God made it simple!

-Jerry Shirley explained it this way: “If you had a child that was lost, and if you had the chance to get a message to that child, telling them what to do, and how to get home. Would you make the message complicated or simple?” (8)

*Of course you would make the message simple. For the same reason, our Heavenly Father has made the message of salvation simple for us: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

*Put your faith in Jesus!

-Because He is God the Son.

-Because He came into this world to die on the cross for your sins.

-Because He rose from the dead, and He will give everlasting life to you.

*“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” The jailer did, and he was! That is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

*Notice the transformation in vs. 32-34:

32. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

33. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

34. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

*There is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ! -- When the jailer got saved, he went.

-From darkness to light. -- From death to real life!

-From beating men’s backs. -- To binding their wounds.

-From a home in hell. -- To a home in heaven.

-From total despair. -- To total delight.

-From no hope. -- To full hope for his future and his family.

*What a transformation! -- But we also see multiplication. Salvation started here with Paul and Silas. Then it went to the jailer. Then it spread to his family.

-And only heaven knows how far it went from there.

-That’s what the Lord wants to do through us. And He can!

*This is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

-It’s stronger than our worst enemies.

-It’s worth the worst suffering.

-It gives a joyful song in our darkest night.

-And it will save anyone who believes in Jesus.

*Have you believed?

-Have you trusted Jesus Christ to save your soul?

-You can do that right now as we go to God in prayer.

1. Source: Barna Online 52107 (Found in Church Leaders Intelligence Report 071807)

2. Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by Evie Megginson

3. Adapted from online sermon #1287 - "PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS" by David Holwick - Eph 6:10-13

4. Priscilla Shirer (Bible teacher, motivational speaker, author) Facts & Trends, July/August 2007, p.34 (Source: “In Other Words” July 2007 #2 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington ~ Beaumont, Texas 77706 (800) 553-4697 -

5. "The Higher Uses of Suffering" by Arthur Caliandro - “Plus: The Magazine of Positive Thinking,” May 1994, pp. 35-36 (Found in “Dynamic Illustrations”- Jan-Feb-Mar 2002 - Sacrifice)

6. Adapted from online sermon “Changed By the Relentless God” by Ken Gehrels - Calvin Christian Reformed Church Of Ottawa Ontario, Canada - Acts 16:16-40

7. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “A Miracle at Midnight” by Dr. Dwayne Brown - Acts 16:25-31

8. SermonCentral sermon “The Simplicity of Salvation and Assurance” by Jerry Shirley - Acts 16:25-30

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