Celebration of Changed Lives – Acts 16

This message is final part of our Rethinking Church Sermon Series.

Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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Even in prison, the difference Jesus made in the lives of people was worth celebrating.

In the late 70’s Bob Helms felt called to start a new church in the greater Evansville area. He looked at holding services in a couple of places, including Castle High School and Newburgh Town Hall, but was denied. On a subsequent request to use the Town Hall, he was given permission and New Life FWB Church started holding services.

We would become Faith FWB Church when we merged with Faith Temple Baptist here in this location. I love that Bro Helms initially named the church New Life, because I believe it gives us a very early indication of the heartbeat of our church. Sown into the DNA of who we are, from the very beginning, we are a church that brings people the message of NEW LIFE in Christ. Several years ago, when we started a targeted effort toward reaching addicts in the community, the leaders said they wanted 2 Corinthians 5:17 to be the theme verse.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

So it took on the name, New Life Recovery.

For 40 years our church has been about reaching people with the offer of new life.

I sat with Bob and Jean this week. I was there to pray with them before Jean’s important tests this week, but we got to talking about Anniversary Sunday. They mentioned that they hoped to be here, but with Jean’s health being what it is, the just didn’t know if it would be possible. In fact, it was then that we realized that the last jean was able to be at church was last year’s 35th Anniversary…

I said, well can you believe it’s been 36 years? Jean said, there were times that it felt longer than that… When I think back of think of people that I was able to teach who are serving the Lord today, here and elsewhere. We then caught up on a few people that we’ve heard from recently, I told them about recently running into Wes Bennet who is serving as a Youth Pastor in Evansville, we spoke of many others… They said, we’re so thankful for those lives that have been changed.

Now hear this, it is currently a very difficult season for Bob and Jean. Jean has been so very sick over this past year, but a source of joy and gratitude in the midst of this hardship has been celebrating the lives that have been changed…. That’s what the church is- the church is a celebration of changed lives…  That’s what we see in Acts 16.

Today as we close out our series on Rethinking Church, looking at what we see happening in and characterizing the church Jesus designed, we are also going to kind of introduce our next sermon series JOYRIDE. You see, the church brings us the great joy of being able to reach other people with the good news of the gospel…

We’ll see that lived out in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas are ministering in Phillipi- and Joyride sermon series will be out of the letter Paul would later write to the people will meet here in Acts 16. Let’s read this together, and as I read I want you to pay attention to the people we meet throughout this passage…

Verse 13-34

I love this passage, and over the past few years I’ve alluded to it several time because of that… Some time ago I got a good picture in my head of Paul and Silas sitting chained with their feet in the stocks, having just been beaten and whipped, sitting in jail and singing…

Singing! Giving praises to God. They must have been so sore. They must have been bloody and dirty and smelled and hungry and exhausted…But they start to sing… Actually, first they start to pray. I imagine their praying and Paul says, thank you Lord for the work you are doing in Lydia’s life and that she has offered up her house as a place to meet, so that we can begin to teach and train these people you’ve drawn to yourself. Thank you for showing yourself so powerful and mighty in the casting out of that demon, you definitely got the whole towns attention. Thank you for freeing her from that bondage. Thank you for freeing us from the bondage or our sin and giving meaning to the emptiness of our lives… They start thinking about what God has done for them, what God has done for these people in Philipi and they say, hey how about we sing amazing grace… How about It is well…

You see, in the darkest of hours and the hardest of times, God’s mercy still shines bright and changed lives are still something to celebrate. In the darkest and the hardest of years, that’s worth celebrating.

Tim Keller has some great stuff on this passage. He points out that Luke gives us these three testimonies on purpose. There were many people who came to Christ in Phillipi and he gives us these three for a couple of reasons.

  1. God changes the lives of people from every background.

Lydia was a seller of purple dye. That was a big deal she was wealthy. She had means. She was from Thyatira, but here she was in Phillipi, a major city.  Lydia had built a business. You might equate her with a fashion designer of today…

Then we have the slave girl. She is enslaved by men who use her divination powers to make money, she is also enslaved by the power of dark forces. She has no physical freedom and she has no spiritual freedom.  She would be equated with the addict who’s used as a mule by heroin dealers. She is forced to carry their product from place to place to feed her addiction…

Then we have the jailer, Keller tells us that typically these type of government jailer type jobs were given to retired Roman soldiers. He’s a veteran, a Roman who has served with distinction and now he has a quiet life keeping the jail. He’s the factory man who is a veteran. He works a solid job, fishes with a six pack on the weekends, lives a stable quiet life…

God changes all of these lives…

One of the things that I love about our church is the more we attempt to minister to families, or addicts, or kids, or whoever, the deeper we go in trying to minister to a specific group, the more we are relevant to every group…

In Keller’s writing about the jailer being most likely being a retired soldier, he says, you know the kind of guy that would have no need for church and no desire to hear a sermon given by the likes of Paul and Silas, but when he sees all that God has done in them and through them, he’s convinced. The jailer would have never come to hear Paul and Silas preach, but he saw something in their changed lives….

2.God changes the lives of people through strategy and “coincidence.”

Coincidence is the word we use when we didn’t know what God was up to… Paul and Silas start out this passage going to the river because they figure that’s where they will come across people going to pray. They find seekers there. They come across people like Lydia who are searching for God. That was a strategic move. The demon possessed girl comes after them when they are on their way to prayer, the jailer comes across them as a result of their persecution…

Wherever Paul and Silas were and whatever they were doing, New Life was their mission and goal. So whether or not they were on a strategic mission to find people who were searching, or circumstance placed them in the right place at the right time, their goal was always the same…

There’s a super interesting experiment that
A few years ago the designer and engineer Peter Skillman put together.  
Over several months, he assembled a series of four-person groups at Stanford, the University of California, the University of Tokyo, and a few other places. He challenged each group to build the tallest possible structure using the following items:

Twenty pieces of uncooked spaghetti

One yard of transparent tape

One yard of string

One standard-size marshmallow

The contest had one rule: The marshmallow had to end up on top. The fascinating part of the experiment, however, had less to do with the task than with the participants.

Some of the teams consisted of business school students. The others consisted of kindergartners. The business students got right to work. They began talking and thinking strategically. They examined the materials. They tossed ideas back and forth and asked thoughtful, savvy questions. They generated several options, then honed the most promising ideas. It was professional, rational, and intelligent. The process resulted in a decision to pursue one particular strategy. Then they divided up the tasks and started building. Other teams were made of kindergartners. They never had planning sessions, they just started building.  According to Daniel Cole, “Their entire technique might be described as trying a bunch of stuff together.”

The actions of the kindergartners appear disorganized on the surface. But when you view them as a single entity, their behavior is efficient and effective. They are not competing for status. They stand shoulder to shoulder and work energetically together. They move quickly, spotting problems and offering help. They experiment, take risks, and notice outcomes, which guides them toward effective solutions.

Our goal has always been the same, New Life in Christ.

The original core group worked toward that goal and built the church we have today by

Coming to know Jesus, Growing closer to God,  and Serving together.

Today we phrase that as:
Follow Jesus, Grow in a group, serve on a team.

We are doing things differently, but the object, the goal, the mission is absolutely the same.It’s time for another change.

It’s time for us to make the switch to holding multiple services on Sundays.We are setting the last Sunday in January as our target date to start holding multiple services every Sunday. In January we will begin holding 2 Sunday Worship Gatherings every Sunday.

This past fall, Kerry and Tami were out of town and Derek had back surgery… Derek’s exact words were, I know this timing is not ideal but I’ll be out the same two weeks… However, we made it work. We had enough musicians that we were able to hold services and sing both old and new songs…
Then another thing happened, we held two services on Friend Day and something that had not happened before happened, the services were more lopsided than they had ever been. There were 77 people in the sanctuary (80% full) during the first service and only 48 in the sanctuary during the 2nd service (50% full).  I had feared that if we went to two services to early, that we might have services that felt empty… But when I stood to preach that 2nd service, it hit me. This is just like 2008. If I could preach and God could move then, we can do this now…. We are out of parking, we are out of seats, we are running low on Kid Min volunteers…. By adding another service, we will make it possible for some of you who are knew to faith and need to be in service every week to do that AND serve. By worshipping at the first service and then serving during the second, or serving during the first gathering and worshipping during the second…

3.God uses the changed lives of people to reach other people.

Lydia made her house the church… The demon possessed girl’s life being changed led Paul and Silas to meet the jailer…The jailer’s changed life changes the lives of his family members…

$40,000 DARPA red balloon challenge, which consisted of locating ten large red balloons deployed at secret locations throughout the United States. The MIT team that won found out about the challenge only four days before launch, so they had no time to craft an organized approach.  Instead, they built a website that invited people to join the team and have all their friends sign up as well. And they promised to give $2000 per balloon to the first person to send the correct coordinates, $1000 to the person who invited them, $500 to whoever invited the inviter, etc.  Thousands of teams competed in the DARPA challenge, which organizers figured would take up to a week to complete. But in less than eight hours, the MIT team had found all ten balloons, with the help of 4,665 people. They had created “a fast, deep wave of motivated teamwork and cooperation.”

1t step – Faith Essentials Follow Jesus and Grow in a Group

2nd Step Growth Track – Serve on a Team