Victor Lyons, pastor
First Avenue Baptist Church, Rochelle
A first-century Roman general, when asked which weapon was the most important on the battlefield, responded, “Courage!” The inner quality of courage is of greater importance than all the diverse weaponry. It is the essential ingredient that puts one on the battlefield and keeps him there.
A courage that sprang from faith in God was the essential ingredient for David’s victory over the Philistine giant Goliath, a veteran soldier.
Today, the battleground involves our public institutions like schools, hospitals, and prisons, our businesses, and even our homes. Those who have been the strongest advocates in the past of free speech and choice, now call for the silencing of the Christian. These intolerant and undemocratic cries from secular sections of the population would disallow Christians a place at the table. This most unseemly prejudice misinterprets and revises the concept of the separation of church and state.
Separation of church and state simply means the independence of the church (in America, the churches and other religious groups) and the state from interference one with another. It does not mean that religious people are now second-class citizens to be discriminated from the public arena. While this opinion may dominate the media, it only represents a fraction of the public. The Christian’s voice is crucial in the public arena.
Advocacy groups abound in America. Some sell products and we call it advertising, quite legitimate. Others are advocates of a political or moral issue, forming political pacts.
So, advocacy is as American as mom’s apple pie. Why not be an advocate for Jesus?
Are we not ambassadors of Christ, honored advocates?
There is no lack of great strategies for sharing the plan of salvation, no lack of wonderful, creative materials. But it takes courage to go out. We must increase our Gospel Conversations.
Will there be resistance? Research shows that 26 percent of Americans are resistant to the Gospel. The percentage rises to 47 percent for those 35 years old and under. Thirty-eight percent of Americans, however, are receptive to the Gospel, including 11 percent who are highly receptive. That’s more than one in ten.
In Acts 16, Paul’s sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential to his going out, including where he is to go and where he is to share his faith in Christ.
Acts 16:6-8. Persevere in your efforts to reach others for Christ.
Paul’s passion for Christ is obvious as he seeks opportunities to share the Gospel in Phrygia, Galatia, and Bithynia. However, he encounters closed doors as the Spirit prevents him from witnessing there.
We do not know why Paul was constrained. The Spirit’s message is clear, “Not now. Not here.” Arriving in the coastal town of Troas, Paul retires for the night.
Acts 16:9-10. Embrace the opportunities before you to represent Christ.
Those awake at night have access to a God on duty 24/7. He evens speaks to us as we sleep as He did with Joseph (Matthew 1) or as he does here with Paul.
In a night vision, a man standing pleads with Paul, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” Who was this Macedonian? Alexander the Great? Doctor Luke? An unknown Macedonian? With the doors to Asia closed, Paul does not hesitate. Paul was now on the Holy Spirit’s schedule.
Acts 16:11-15. Share Christ with those you encounter.
It appears that Luke has joined Paul’s team as the first “we” passage of Acts recounts the travel from Troas to Samothrace to Neapolis, finally arriving at Phillipi.
On the Sabbath Paul goes outside the city gate, by the river, where there was a place of prayer (our Bible study groups/LifeGroups should be places of prayer). Arriving, Paul encounters only women. Among them is a notable businesswoman named Lydia who sold purple cloth from Thyatira. Although Gentile, she worships the true God.
Lydia becomes the first European convert, baptized with her household. She then becomes hostess to Paul’s team (“she persuaded us”). Later after Paul and Silas’s imprisonment in the Philippian jail, including the time of praying and singing, the violent earthquake, the conversion of the chief jailer and his household, and subsequent release, Lydia continued as their hostess (16:40).
Women, as well as men, play an important role in planting churches.
Live it Out
Pray that God would give your church a vision for reaching your community for Christ.
Follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as you reach out.
Expect souls to be saved as a result of your efforts.