Second Reformed Church

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Where Your Heart Is" Sermon: Acts 16:16-24

“Where Your Heart Is”
[Acts 16:16-24]
July 25, 2010 Second Reformed Church

Where is your heart? Not where is it physically, but where is your heart centered? Where is your love and passion focused?

Let us notice something I neglected to point out last week as we looked at the arrival of Paul, Silas, and Timothy in Macedonia – which was north of Greece. At this point, we see Luke saying “we” did this and “we” did that, because it was it this point that Dr. Luke, the Greek physician, the author of Acts, joined Paul’s missionary work. We will notice as we go through the rest of the book of Acts, times when Luke speaks of “we.” On those occasions, Luke is part of the missionary work.

So, it was Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and others, who went to Macedonia, preached by the river, and saw the conversion of Lydia – the seller of purple goods – and of her family. And they stayed with her for some days.

One of those days, they went down to the river again – to the place of prayer – and they were met by a slave girl who was demon-possessed. This girl was possessed by a demon who told fortunes, and the girl’s owners made money off of her by charging people to have the demon tell them their fortunes. This was not a trick – this was a real demon who had real insight. We know that because the text tells us that they made a great deal of money off of her fortune-telling. The people found what she said credible, and they came back for more.

Now, when Paul and his friends came to the place of prayer, she was there, and she began to follow them, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation. These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation. These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Over and over again she cried out. And day after day she followed them, crying out over and over.

After many days of this, Paul was greatly annoyed, and he performed an exorcism: “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out of her. And she was silent.

Why did the demon keep crying out the Truth – that Paul and his friends were servants of the Most High God and that they were preaching the Only Way to Salvation – through Jesus Christ Alone? Why didn’t the demon say nothing – or try to mislead people?

Because, although demons despise Jesus, they are compelled to confess the Truth about Him. They can’t help but confess the Truth of Jesus when they are confronted by Him.

When Jesus, Himself, came upon demons, this is what happened: “And immediately there was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God’” (Mark 1:23-24, ESV).

So, we might wonder, why did Paul cast the demon out, since it was telling the Truth about them and the Gospel? And the answer is this: the demon spoke out of fear, not faith. The demon was crying out the Truth, but in fear of what would happen to him, and it cried out over and over again, being a distraction from the very truth it was speaking. So Paul cast the demon out in the Name of Jesus.

That was the same reaction Jesus had: “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him ’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him” (Mark 1:26, ESV).

We aren’t told if the slave girl came to faith, but she was freed from the possession of the demon, and she also lost the ability to tell fortunes, so her owners lost the large income she was making for them. It is quite obvious that the slave owners didn’t care about the girl, much less the fact that she was demon-possessed – they only cared about the money they could make off of her “ability.”

The heart of the slave owners was on money. They showed no interest or concern for what Paul and his friends were saying until they lost their meal ticket. Then they flew into a rage and grabbed Paul and Silas and brought them before the magistrates to accuse them. And did you notice what they accused them of? Did they accuse them of ruining their slave? Did they accuse them of ruining their business? No, the magistrates might not have been concerned about one slave – the slave owners needed something that would stick.

Macedonia was under Roman rule. And one of the laws of Rome said that you could worship any of the gods accepted by the state, but it was illegal to attempt to convert a Roman citizen to the worship of a god who had not been publically acknowledged by the state.

So the slave owners accused Paul and Silas saying that “these Jews” – because Jews were second class citizens and most people considered Christianity one form of Judaism at the time – “these Jews were trying to get Roman citizens to accept unlawful customs.”

When the crowd heard that Paul and Silas were breaking Roman law – trying to get Romans to go against the customs of faith that they subscribed to – the flew into a frenzy and started attacking Paul and Silas, and the magistrates, who had lost their composure and went with the passion of the crowd, tore their clothes and ordered that they be beaten with metal rods. Their hearts were on keeping their jobs and appeasing the crowds, so they threw the law aside. According to Roman law, Paul and Silas were entitled to give a defense before they were punished, but the magistrates broke the law, bending to the will of the crowd, instead.

When the crowd and the tormentors of the state had all but beaten Paul and Silas to death, the magistrate ordered that Paul and Silas be thrown in prison, and they were taken to the inner chamber, and their feet were fasten in the stocks, so they couldn’t move, much less escape

Why were they put in the most secure part of the jail? They were preachers, not political extremists or murders. They were put in the deepest confinement and made immobile because the people were afraid of the Power of God that worked through them. So, they were tightly bound in the innermost part of the jail.

What do we learn from our text?

First, demons know Who Jesus is and can confess Who He is. For that reason we ought to be careful who we listen to. Non-Christians can become demon-possessed, and there are plenty of non-Christians in pulpits around the country and around the world. We must be careful who we listen to and always check what is said against the Word of God – checking both people’s words and actions.

I don’t know if Adolf Hitler was demon-possessed, but in reading a biography of another man, I have been reading quotes by Hitler where he claimed belief in Christ and faithfulness to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, behind closed doors, he verbally despised Christ and Christianity. He was trying to use people’s beliefs and sympathies to get them to support him.

Second, stating Who Jesus is is not the same as confessing faith in Who Jesus is. This is another reason to be careful who we listen to: the demons could state Who Jesus is – there are plenty of people in the world who can correctly state who Jesus is and still deny Him. They state Who He is out of fear or out of knowledge with lack of belief.

I have known many people, including relatives, who have told me that they believe in Jesus, the Son of God – that they were Christians. Yet, upon probing their belief, I have found them to believe He was just a man, just a good moral teacher, that they don’t believe the Bible, that they don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and so forth.

Third, demons are afraid of Jesus and those who truly believe in Him.

Fourth, those who serve demons are afraid of Jesus and those who truly believe in Him.

Paul explains how we are to stand in Jesus by the Power of the Holy Spirit: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:10-18a, ESV).

Fifth, those who serve demons will punish us for preaching against and stopping their sin. And this is a warning to us: as we see in the Scripture and throughout Creation – sometimes the response for correction and fear is violence. That shouldn’t surprise us: they killed Jesus. And Jesus said, “So have no fear [of the servants of the devil], for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:26-28, ESV).

And sixth, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, ESV).

Where is your heart? Where is your treasure?

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44, ESV).

The slave owners’ treasure and heart was in the profits they could make off of the demon-possessed slave girl.

The magistrates treasure and heart was in their jobs and in the approval of the crowd.

Paul and Silas’ treasure and heart was in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

The Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Alone is like a treasure that was hidden in a field, and if we find God has set our hearts on it, it is such a treasure to us that we will be willing to give up anything and everything, to consider everything else in all of Creation as nothing, compared with the joy of receiving Jesus. Jesus is the joy and the everything of the Christian. Is He your treasure? Is your heart set on Him? Do you want Him and all that is His above everything else?

Then, let us preach salvation in Jesus Christ Alone no matter how people react to us.

When we get a new car, a new house, a new diamond engagement ring, a new companion pet – whatever is a treasure to us – we want to show it off – to show others the blessing we have received and the joy we have over it. If our hearts are set on the Treasure of Jesus, we can’t help but tell others – tell them.

Let us denounce all sin no matter how it effects us.

All sin is ultimately against God. Whether it is slavery, racism, genocide, corporate greed, lying, or littering, we ought to say these things ought not to be. If a brother or sister sins and continues in sin, we have a way to address that, as Jesus has proscribed. If the world sins, let us be examples against such sins. Let us explain to our leaders why such things ought not to be tolerated. Let us do everything we are able, without sin, to promote holiness and obedience to our God and Savior.

Let us know Jesus as the One Great Treasure He is and have our hearts be set on Him.

Let us pray:
God of Salvation, rouse us from our pews. Help us to see that we are the richest people with the Greatest Treasure in Jesus. Help us live in the face of the world to spread Your Glory and the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

No comments: