AGCC Sun. a.m. 7/12/98
TEXT: Acts 16:16-40
INTRO: The term "bondage"
resonates in our society today, there are people that feel in bondage to food,
to certain lifestyle habits like smoking, financial bondage, bondage to fears,
anxiety, etc. Nothing drains the human heart more than being held captive by
some kind of bondage. Such bondage in our lives can yield a death of the spirit
ILLUS: Archibald Rutledge tells the story that as a young boy he was always catching and caging wild things. He particularly loved the sound of the mockingbird, so he decided to catch one and keep it so he could hear it sing any time.
He found a very young mockingbird and placed it in a cage outside his home. On the second day he saw a mother bird fly to the cage and feed the young bird through the bars. This pleased young Archibald. But then the following morning he found the little bird was dead.
Later young Arch was talking to the renowned
ornithologist Arthur Wayne, who told him, "A mother mockingbird, finding her
young in a cage, will sometimes take it poisonous berries. She evidently thinks
it better for one she loves to die rather than live in captivity." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 225.
Those in the world that have attempted to break free from bondage have
found that their desire to be free and the reality of being free are many times
a very different thing!
There is a way to break free from bondage however, and His name is Jesus!
Christ came to "set the captive free" from sin and from sin's hold on our
lifestyles. In Christ we can find a door out of bondage.
PROP SENT: The Bible teaches us
that there is freedom from bondage through Jesus Christ. This freedom brings
deep confidence and joy to our hearts.
I. BONDAGE OF THE HELPLESS HEART 16:16-21
A. Controlled! 16:16-17
1. This slave girl is a slave in more than one way!
a. A slave to sin
b. A slave to Satan
c. A slave to business men who used her to make money by her occult prophesying.
2. She is demon possessed, and as such has little control over her life.
3. She had the worst kind of bondage, her soul was not just fallen in sin, but controlled by demons!
4. Being a demon possessed slave girl, no one cared about her really, the only care anyone had for her was to keep her enslaved so that they might benefit!
5. This is the nature of Satan:
a. Satan's greatest lie is to make people think that he really wants to help them and bless them!
b. Satan can no more help anyone than he can help himself!
c. No matter how good Satan appears to be for people, his true nature will
reveal itself every time when things get tough!
ILLUS: A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to
carry him on its back across the river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle.
"You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown." "My dear turtle," laughed
the scorpion, "If I were to sting you, you would drown and I'd go down with you.
Now where is the logic in that?" "You're right," cried the turtle. "Hop on." The
scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty
sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle, resigned, said, "Do you mind
if I ask you something? You said there is no logic in your stinging me. Why did
you do it?" "It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion replied.
"It's just my nature."
6. This girl followed Paul and the others around and yelled out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 6:17
a. This is remarkable in the fact that this was accurate - perhaps this was intentional so that she could draw even more customers when they realized the accuracy of her statement. This would be consistent with the Devil's tactics to lure people in by appearing to be "good" and then spring the trap on them later!
b. Paul however did not want the Devil proclaiming the gospel lest it give credibility to these evil people who are used by him later!
c. This simply detracted attention away from God's servants to Satan..so
Paul decides to put an end to it!
B. Cured! 16:18
1. Paul now demonstrates the superiority of Christ's power over Satan's, he commands the spirit to leave this girl and it flees!
a. And of course with it gone, so is the gold mine of business she could generate for others!
b. This will set the stage for an angry outburst by the business men of the community that didn't like their business impacted by the Gospel ... some things never change!
2. For this young girl however, freedom comes!
a. Her bondage is gone
b. She is able now to serve God rather than Satan.
3. Freedom from slavery is something to celebrate!
ILLUS: In 1838, after a strong emancipation movement among blacks,
slavery was abolished in Jamaica, to take effect on August 1. On the evening of
the last day in July a large company of former slaves gathered on the beach for
a solemn, yet joyous, occasion. A large mahogany coffin had been constructed and
placed on the sand next to an accommodating hole in the beach. All evening the
soon-to-be-emancipated slaves placed, with some ceremony, symbols of their
enslavement. There were chains, leg-irons, whips, padlocks, and other similar
symbols of slavery. A few minutes before midnight came the box was lowered into
the hole in the beach. Pushing sand into the hole to cover the coffin, all
joined their voices with one accord to sing: "Praise God from whom all blessings
flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise him above ye heavenly host,
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost." They were free from their slavery. How much
they were like Christians, who, through Christ's death are free from their
slavery to sin. And how like them are Christians, who in heaven shall be free
from the very reminder and presence of sin. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 225-226.
4. Satan however hates to lose, and conflict usually comes to those who
C. Conflict! 6:19-21
1. What is a gain for the slave girl is a great loss to others who used her, and so the conflict sets in!
a. Whenever we oppose the enemy of our soul there is likely to be conflicts.
b. These men cared nothing about this girl, only the money she could generate and which they were losing now!
c. Some things never change in this way today too! Too many people who are slaves to sin only appear to care about others, but only as long as it benefits them in some way.
2. In anger these businessmen grab Paul and Silas and drag them into the MARKETPLACE ... the place of business so that the whole community will feel the threat financially, this will provide the motivation they need from leaders to get rid of Paul and Silas.
a. As Christians oppose the trash that Hollywood produces these days and see how they respond!
b. These men probably thought they had gotten rid of their problem once
Paul and Silas are thrown in jail, but the Gospel's power is greater than the
ILLUS: You and I have an English Bible in our possession largely
because of a man named John Wycliffe. He was known not only as a builder,
producing the first English text of the Bible, but also as a fighter. What a
leader! When he died, his enemies burned him at the stake and took the ashes of
his body and sprinkled them over the Thames River in London. "Forever, we're rid
of Wycliffe!" his enemies must have thought. They were wrong. The product of his
labors, the English Bible, is with us today because he did more than fight. He
stayed at the task.
3. As long as we are no threat to Satan he probably will leave us alone,
but when we stand up and are counted we will probably find ourselves targeted by
this world which is much under his influence.
II. BONDAGE OF THE HARD HEART 16:22-34
A. Callous! 16:22-24
1. The crowd demonstrates the same hard heart as the business men who used this slave girl, they now feel threatened too and so attack Paul and Silas and demand their imprisonment.
a. It was unlawful to flog a Roman citizen, even if found guilty, so their actions here are illegal!
b. They reacted emotionally and from their wallets, not from law.
2. The jailer too shows a very hard heart!
a. jailers in those days had to be hard people anyway. If a prisoner ever escaped the jailer would be put to death, so they usually treated the prisoners very harsh to ensure they stay too weak to leave!
b. Indeed we can see this in the text, for the jailer takes them AFTER THEY HAD BEEN BEATEN and puts them in the INNER CELL and puts them IN STOCKS!
(1. This was completely unnecessary, they had not had a trial, nor were there actual charges pending!
(2. The inner cell was like a maximum security cell, and the stocks were used basically for torture not security!
(3. By putting them into the inner cell and stocks he was deliberately torturing Paul and Silas with their wounds...this was a hard hearted man!
3. A hard heart needs the love of God to be set free.
ILLUS: Recently a young man underwent surgery to remove the pericardium, a paper-thin lining around his heart, because his had enlarged to about three-fourths of an inch thick, restricting the function of his heart muscle. The doctors said that when they slit the pericardium, the heart immediately began to function about twice as fast as it had been working.
As with an enlarged pericardium, sin cuts down
on our spiritual functioning, thus making us spiritually ill. We need to let the
Lord remove the sin that restricts us from functioning on a 100 percent basis
for our Lord.
4. Paul and Silas prepare the way by singing praises from prison at midnight!
a. They probably figured they had a "captive" audience anyway, here was a great opportunity for ministry!!
b. How many of us would have seen this in those circumstances?
5. The only way to change a hard heart is through PRAYER &
B. Cleansed! 16:25-34
1. At midnight while they are praising God and praying a huge earthquake rattles the doors open and drops the chain links off the walls...all are free!
a. This was a jailer's worst nightmare, if they escape he will be executed, Rome did not recognize any excuses for escapes!
b. Knowing this the jailer prepares to commit suicide, figures it will be faster than being tortured slowly until he dies, and will save his family the humiliation of having to watch it all!
2. HOWEVER, ALL the prisoners are still there!! Paul yells out to tell him not to panic, nobody has fled!
a. While this is remarkable for Paul and Silas, it is even more remarkable for the fact that the others in prison didn't take off either!
b. Why? Perhaps they were all too fascinated by the power of a God that could make injured innocent men praise Him while in prison - it was the power of the Gospel that kept them all there!
3. The jailer can hardly believe this, he calls for a light and goes in and looks for himself!
4. Rather than take their own good fortune and decide that God had set them free, Paul's concern was for this hard hearted jailer's spiritual freedom as being greater than his physical freedom!
a. This kind of concern breaks the jailer's hard heart and he immediately asks, "sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 16:30
b. How quickly the power of God changes things...and people!
5. The jailer finds the cleansing power of Christ, and with great joy invites his prisoners to his home as his guests!
a. This results in his whole house getting saved!
b. Notice too that this same jailer who put them into stocks to aggravate the wounds they already had, in other words to torture them, now administers solutions to their wounds to cleanse them!
c. He even feeds them to strengthen them, all of this late at night!
6. There is little doubt when someone finds Christ as their Lord, their
heart changes dramatically and they see things in a very different way than they
ILLUS: Jesus holds the answers to all of the everyday problems
that you face. I am talking about an acceptance and belief in Jesus, heaven, and
God. I guess you can deal with your problems on your own without these beliefs,
but it's much, much tougher. With those beliefs, you realize how insignificant
the budget deficit debate is in comparison with the big picture. -- Rush Limbaugh, interviewed in The Door (Nov.-Dec. 1993).
Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no.1.
7. Paul has the privilege of baptizing this man and his whole family who believed.
a. Paul had come to establish a Church...and already they had made progress!
b. So far: a Gentile business woman Lydia, a demon possessed slave girl, and now a jailer and perhaps some other prisoners, yes, things were looking up!
c. This is the power of the Gospel (not government!) ... changed lives that though so very different can come together now as the body of Christ!
8. Word comes to the jailer that Paul and Silas are free to go the next
morning ... but Paul isn't done yet!
III. BONDAGE OF THE HARASSED HEARTS! 16:35-40
A. Cleared! 16:35-36
1. Though harassed, Paul and Silas are now pronounced innocent and are given the freedom to go!
2. By standing together they had found strength to stand for God.
a. How much easier it is to stand up for the Lord together.
b. We receive strength not only from the Lord, but from each other
ILLUS: The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone, because high winds would quickly uproot it. That's why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
Suffering comes to all of us, and no one can
suffer for us. Even so, just like those giant Sequoia trees, we can be supported
in those difficult times by the prayers and understanding of loved ones and
friends. It's when we are too proud to admit our needs to others that we are in
the greatest danger.
B. Concern! 16:37-40
1. Though Paul and Silas are free, Paul refuses to go!!
a. Was this stubborn pride on Paul's part, did he want to embarrass the officials for what they did to him? NO!
b. Paul understood that by using his Citizenship and legal rights here these officials were in big trouble, and he was being stubborn not for himself, but for the Church that he would leave behind in this town that hated the Gospel and believers because it ruined their monetary machine!
2. Paul saw everything through the lens of God's grace and desire to save the lost, he refused to live for himself even when everything seemed against him!
3. Even in his own loss and pain he looked for what God might want to do,
ILLUS: Some years ago Alexander Woolcott described a scene in a New York hospital where a grief-stricken mother sat in the hospital lounge in stunned silence, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had just lost her only child and she was gazing blindly into space while the head nurse talked to her, simply because it was the duty of the head nurse to talk in such circumstances.
"Did Mrs. Norris notice the shabby little boy sitting in the hall just next to her daughter's room?"
No, Mrs. Norris had not noticed him.
"There," continued the head nurse, "there is a case. That little boy's mother is a young French woman who was brought in a week ago by ambulance from their shabby one-room apartment to which they had gravitated when they came to this country scarcely three months ago. They had lost all their people in the old country and knew nobody here. The two had only each other. Every day that lad has come and sat there from sunup to sundown in the vain hope that she would awaken and speak to him. Now, he has no home at all!"
Mrs. Norris was listening now. So the nurse went on, "Fifteen minutes ago that little mother died, dropped off like a pebble in the boundless ocean, and now it is my duty to go out and tell that little fellow that, at the age of seven, he is all alone in the world." The head nurse paused, then turned plaintively to Mrs. Norris. "I don't suppose," she said hesitantly, "I don't suppose that you would go out and tell him for me?"
What happened in the next few moments is
something that you remember forever. Mrs. Norris stood up, dried her tears, went
out and put her arms around the lad and led that homeless child off to her
childless home, and in the darkness they both knew they had become lights to
each other! --James S. Hewett, Illustrations
Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp.
4. Paul discovered that the door of bondage is broken down through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be set free from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and self!
a. no doubt this new Church Paul left behind in this city of Philippi had a unique freedom from open persecution because Paul had been willing to be falsely accused, and then stand up for his rights.
b. The Church would enjoy a freedom from bondage too after Paul left, the authorities would be afraid if word got out how they had mistreated this Roman citizen, this Christian citizen!
5. Paul's love for Christ and His Church broke down all kinds of doors of
bondage ... how are we doing this in our world today?
CONCLUSION: There is nothing more frustrating than bondage! Sin can keep the human heart captive. There is good news however, Jesus Christ can set the captive free! The door of bondage can be broken down by faith in Christ and where there once was brokenness there can now be wholeness. Why not break free from bondage through Jesus Christ?