Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Acts
“One of those listening (to Paul’s teaching of the Gospel) was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Acts 16:14
You may not be aware of this, but there’s some debate as to what came first, the chicken or the egg when it comes to our salvation. By that I mean:
- Some Christians think that the non-Christian – the ‘unsaved’ person – hears the Gospel message – that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of sinners in order to forgive them, and to make them right – justified them before the Holy God – and then that spiritually dead sinner thinks about the available options open to them (accept/decide for Jesus, or reject the Gospel), and then decides which way they want to go or not go with Jesus.
- Some other Christians believe that since man is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13; Romans 8:6-10, and others that I mentioned from my Top 66 about John), and is an enemy and in active rebellion against the Lord, then he is in no way going to accept/decide for Jesus on his own. I have found from my extensive experience of officiating funeral services, that dead people don’t respond to anything that anyone says to them – good or bad. So, this group of Christians believe that the only way that a spiritually dead sinner can come to a saving faith – can come to even think spiritually – is for the Lord God to first open their eyes by speaking His redeeming and transforming life into them by His grace.
It’s interesting that the most well known verse about being born again is not really understood by the average Christian. We find this ‘born again’ reference in John 3:3 and it says,
In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’.
Pretty straight forward you’d think, right? But just think a little bit more about what is being said there: Jesus is saying that you must FIRST be born again – He must speak His Life into you in order to wake you from your spiritual slumber – your spiritual death – and THEN you will see the kingdom of God.
What’s the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is everything that pertains to the Christian life and fellowship with the Triune God, and that includes repentance and our allegiance to the Lord God. But again, you cannot ‘see’, ‘comprehend’, ‘understand’, ‘choose to follow Jesus’, until you are first ‘born again’. And what does it mean to be ‘born again’? Jesus said a few verses later in John 3:6,
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
In other words, humans give birth to humans, and those humans are born spiritually dead (see verses above); and only the Spirit can give birth (spiritual life, forgiveness, redemption, salvation, justification) to spirit – our new spirit – Christ’s life. And that’s what Galatians 2:20 is saying when Paul writes,
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ
lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
My life is Christ’s life, and that only came by God’s grace. I was a dead man – spiritually dead and separated from the Lord – but in His amazing grace He spoke His life into me because of what Christ did on the cross on my behalf. I wasn’t just treading water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean waiting for the Lord to toss me a life preserver so I could swim over to it and be ‘saved’. I was dead and laying on the bottom of the ocean – lower than whale dung – and the Lord God reached to the deepest depths and pulled me out and placed His resurrected (not resuscitated) life into me.
Which now takes us back to our verse concerning Lydia’s conversion. Paul, Luke, Timothy, Silas and his other ministry companions were in Philippi, and one morning they went to the nearby river to pray. While there they came across some women, so Paul began to share with them. One of those women was Lydia. She was from Thyatira and was probably an astute businesswoman who worked with expensive purple (my favorite!) cloth. She was a worshiper of God, which didn’t mean that she was a Christian, but a Gentile that had converted to Judaism.
And here’s the key to it all: She didn’t listen to Paul share, and then Paul told everyone to bow their heads, while Silas played ‘Just As I Am’ on his harmonica, and finally Paul gave an altar call and asked anyone present who wanted to decide to be a Christian to raise their hand so Paul could lead them in a “sinner’s prayer” so they could then be saved.
The verse plainly says: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message”. She didn’t “decide on her own” to follow Jesus….the Lord opened her eyes – spoke life into her – quickened (old word for ‘brought life into) her dead spirit to now possess the Spirit of Christ. It was – as I spoke in a previous day’s verse – a monergistic work. The Lord God did all the work (mon – one; erg- work; one working in our salvation – God!), and man did nothing but become alive.
Oh sure, at that point she “chose Jesus” and repented, but that was only after Jesus first ‘chose her’ (John 15:16) and gave her the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).
So, why do I love this verse? Because it brings magnificent glory to the Lord God, for He and He alone is the One who brought spiritual life – His Life – Jesus’ Life – into me, and caused me to respond positively to the Gospel message that I heard on October 27, 1974 in the little Nazarene Church in Dover, New Jersey. And I haven’t been the same since. Soli Deo Gloria – God alone receives all the glory for my salvation! How about you? What are you going to do about Jesus?