Faithlife Sermons

Acts 16.11-15 "The Opened Heart"

The heart  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
What is a Christian? I came across a GCSE textbook and quote: “Among Christians there are different opinions about who will be with God eternally. Some Christians believe that only those who believe in Jesus will be with God in heaven. Other Christians think that heaven is reserved for Christians and perhaps followers of other faiths who have lived good, principled lives and pleased God in doing so. Others believe that it is for all those who call themselves Christians regardless of how they lived their life, and that simply the act of being baptised into the faith is almost a guarantee of heaven.” (AQA GCSE, p.26-27).
This is what our children are taught and it’s accurate. At least, it’s accurate to say there is a spectrum of belief among those who call themselves ‘Christian’. But J was quite clear. He said to Nicodemus, ‘Unless a person is born again…unless he is regenerated…unless he is converted, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’ () Jesus was clear enough, what counts is not whether you call yourself ‘Christian’ but whether you are Christian, whether you are what we might call ‘converted’.
The Bible gives us many pictures of conversion. And we find a precious one here in : the conversion of Lydia.
And of course, if left up to us we would have as many definitions of Christian as there are Christian. But God hasn’t left it to us to decide. He has given us many pictures of what is a real Christian. And we have one of the most special here in : and the conversion of Lydia.
Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in the Roman Colony of Philippi. The first European Christian. And as we look at this account we see what a true conversion looks like. We see what caused her conversion and what were the evidences of her conversion. And that should interest everyone here today bcs J says that conversion is necessary to enter heaven.
The Cause of Her Conversion
The Lord opened her heart.
Lydia was, by nature, like all the rest of mankind, closed. Her heart was shut up against God and his gospel. As we have seen earlier in this series, her heart was deceived about the truth, her heart was defiled in God’s sight, and spiritually she was dead. Deceived. Defiled. Dead.
But the Lord, as it were, opened her heart. He knocked and entered into her life.
There’s a famous picture by Holman Hunt. Here it is. It’s Christ knocking on a door and waiting for the person to answer. The quote at the bottom is from Revelation, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock and if anyone answers, etc.’ It’s written to lukewarm Christians. But fails as a description of what happens when someone first comes to faith in Christ. When someone comes to faith it is not first that they have opened the door of their hearts, but that Christ has opened it. [I don’t mean to rob you of a treasured verse and I know that the Lord has used it for the conversion of many, including many here, but on its own it is an incomplete picture of conversion. Taken alone it is an inaccurate picture of conversion. The text tells us not that Lydia opened her heart but that ‘the Lord opened her heart’.]
And it was the Lord alone who opened her heart. He is always the efficient cause, the agent of a person’s conversion.
It’s NOT that everyone comes to faith quite as suddenly as Lydia, but everyone is in the same state as Lydia, spiritually dead, until such a moment as God opens the door of their hearts.
Sure, God may lay some groundwork first. You’ll notice that we’re told Lydia was ‘a worshipper of God’. Probably a God-fearer. She had respect for God. She believed God existed. She feared him, even. And we’re not told what brought her to that point. Perhaps her parents spoke of God, or she had conversations whilst trading her purple cloth. But there had been some preparatory work before the point God opened her heart.
It’s NOT that someone comes to faith bcs of a preacher’s character or eloquence.
Paul’s outstanding life and rhetorical skills were not the decisive factor for Lydia.
It was the same with the disciples. They were with Jesus for 3 years. No one ever lived as he lived. No one ever taught as he taught. Yet the disciples were blind until the moment that Jesus opened their understanding on the Damascus Road.
And in the same way every person by default has a veil over their hearts. They may come and hear sermon after sermon, but until God removes the veil the truth bounces of them, as if their hearts were teflon-coated.
All this means that...
If the Lord has opened your heart you should be very humble. Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father draws them.’ ().
And this should make us patient with those whom we’re trying to reach for Christ. We don’t need to change the message if it’s not ‘working’. They’re dead. They need spiritual life from God. So we should ask him to do so.
And it should make us patient with ourselves if we’re not yet Christian. You may have heard one sermon, then another and then another. And may be thinking ‘I don’t get it. I don’t have what some of the others here have.’ But be patient. Each time you walk through these doors ask God to open your heart to Him and his truth.
To respond to Paul’s Message
The interesting thing here is that the Lord opened her heart before she paid attention to Paul, not the other way round.
Once the Church History Prof. John Gerstner, was in a lecture course and the lecturer wrote on the board ‘Regeneration precedes faith’. Gerstner was stunned. He thought the teacher had made a mistake and put it the wrong way round. Surely, you believe and then you’re born again/regenerated, thought Gerstner. That’s what everyone thinks! But that’s not what the text teaches. The text teaches us that our hearts are shut up to God and unless God opens our hearts we will never respond.
Naturally we don’t like this. We like to think that we have a reservoir (or at least a small puddle) of goodness within and can respond if we want to. But the Bible teaches that we’re too optimistic about ourselves. We are dead: blind to God’s truth, deaf to God’s word, and God’s gospel has no taste for us. That was Lydia until the time God opened her heart and gave her ears to hear Paul.
And what she heard was the gospel. She heard what I proclaim today, that through Jesus everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you are not able to obtain under the law of Moses (). She heard from Paul that through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus she could be saved, have her sins forgiven, find the free mercy of God, and be restored to a right relationship with God.
The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. And this gives us a way to test whether we ourselves have had our hearts opened, whether we are children of God, whether we are Christians. If our hearts have been opened to God’s word so that we have a taste for it. I don’t say we feel this at every point, but a converted person will delight in God’s word. They not only hear the word but they love to hear it. They not only read the word, but they look forward to reading it. Let’s use this test to search and find whether or not we are genuine believers.
???Practical instructions for hearing: What need, how speaking, how remember and profit?
The Evidence of Her Conversion
The Evidence of Conversion
There were 2 main evidences of her conversion...
She publicly professed faith in Christ:
She was baptised. She was not ashamed to make it known what had happened; nor afraid to confess her faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, it’s true that baptism is not decisive proof that someone is converted. Many have been baptised who have never received grace. But it is strong evidence, especially in a culture hostile to Christianity, where she would have been exposed to ridicule and could probably expect her business to be adversely affected.
We notice that she ‘and the members of her household were baptised’. (Apparently she had no husband or her husband had died.)
Some argue that infants were involved. Others who say that these were adults and there must have been a time of instruction beforehand. The text doesn’t say.
What we do know is that her faith had an effect on her family. One of the surest evidences that a person has come to faith is that their family is affected. Why? Bcs they are the people who know us best which means they are the people who see us at our worst. And so if our families begin to think that there is something to Christianity when before they were uninterested then it is likely that they have witnessed a change in us, a change brought about by God.
She passionately promoted the cause of Christ:
Out of love for those who preached, Lydia invites Paul and his companions to her house. This would have cost her money. More significantly it was dangerous. Glance down to v22 and we find Paul and Silas stripped and beaten with rods, then severely flogged, then thrown into prison. Nothing but a sincere conversion would be liable to make her associate with these men. She had counted the cost and was willing to pay it. In fact, in v40 we read that the church met in her house - opening her to further cost and still greater danger of persecution. She promoted the cause of Christ even though it cost her.
This is strong evidence of her conversion. As was the fact that Paul and co actually went to her house.
She reasoned like this: come and stay if you consider me a true believer. And we read that ‘they were persuaded’. They considered her a Christian.
Sometimes a person unsure of salvation finds encouragement of their salvation through Christian friends. Some in particular have a disposition to always question their salvation. they look at their lives and condemn themselves. They see no evidence of their conversion. But another believer sees plenty, and when they tell them, sometimes a great burden is lifted.
Sometimes a person unsure of salvation finds encouragement of their salvation through Christian friends. Some in particular have a disposition to always question their salvation. they look at their lives and condemn themselves. They see no evidence of their conversion. But another believer sees plenty, and when they tell them, sometimes a great burden is lifted.
If you are a Christian believer here. If you or others can point to evidence of your conversion. You have publicly professed your faith and you are promoting the cause of Christ with whatever the Lord has given you, let me ask: What is the difference between you and your neighbour who is not a Christian? Are you better than them? More deserving? Are you naturally more open than them to spiritual things? Are you more receptive to the truth? Are you more fair-minded? Is that the reason? No! The reason, the sole reason, is that the Lord had mercy on you and opened your heart.
If you are not a Christian this account should give you hope. God started a church in Philippi first with Lydia, a rich woman (we know she was rich because purple cloth was expensive and she had a house big enough for a church); second with a slave-girl; and third with a male jailer. The point here is that God opens the hearts of all types of people whatever their background. Their sex is no barrier, nor is their wealth or poverty, whether you are religious or irreligious God can come into your life and take you to heaven if you believe on his Son.
But maybe you say, how am I to go about believing on Christ if I have no natural ability to do so? The answer is look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry out to Christ, as you are, confess your sin and unbelief and as him for mercy and a new heart. Say to him, ‘Lord, I am guilty and deserve your wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord be merciful and give me a new heart. Lord save me today, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.’
Related Media
Related Sermons