The Lights Come On
A jailer is about to commit suicide, but the lights come on, and he finds Jesus.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Let’s start this morning with something depressing.
Has there been a more embarrassing time ever to be a MN sports fan?
Some of you just can’t take this.
The Vikings are 2-6 and are guaranteed to not lose this Sunday only because they’re not playing.
The Twins were terrible last year.
The Wild are destined to be terribly average
And my favorite team the Timberwolves….thanks to the lockout, haven’t lost a game this year.
It’s depressing really.
And it’s interesting to me to watch how different people deal with it.
There’s a lot of MN sports fans who believe they are simply destined to a life of sports misery.
I would say this is the prevailing thought.
We live in MN, it’s a cold miserable place, and thus, our sports teams should be miserable like us.
Discard your hope, and learn to just live with it, and accept the misery
There’s just not a lot of reason to hope. As my friend Ryan Burnham said to me the other day, “I can’t wait to go to a Timberwolves game this year, and finally see a banner hung in the Target Center. A Lynx Banner”
But every once in a while, you can find a sports optimist in MN
Oh just wait, Christian Ponder is going to change everything!
Ricky Rubio is going to be the Timberwolves Savior!
Joe Mauer just had a bad year, I’m sure all those injuries are real!
And both sets of fans are looking at the same situation, yet somehow, they are able to see something different…
One group of people has HOPE
Let me come back to that in a little while…
We are continuing in the Book of Acts in the Bible this morning.
Acts is the 5th book of the New Testament, and is the story of how the early church got started after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Last week, we were in chapters 15 and 16, and it ended with the apostle Paul having a vision of a man from the region of Macedonia (modern day Greece) saying come fix our economy.
I’m just kidding…the vision was from a man from Greece saying, come help us.
So Paul and his companions get ready to take off and sail to Macedonia…or modern-day Greece.
Let’s join them there.
(Acts 16:11-15) – NIV
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
I mentioned last week that I love the Book of Acts because we get to look at maps every week. Let’s take a look at where they are
(SHOW ACTS MAP)
They set sail from Troas, stop at Samothrace (little island), eventually get to Philippi in Macedonia (Greece)
By the way, maybe you’ve heard of the book in the Bible Philippians? That’s Paul writing to the people we’re about to meet in Philippi.
I LOVE those connections that the book of Acts makes. We’ve already met Timothy, who he writes 2 letters to, we’ve met the Galatians, and now we meet the Philippians.
So Paul goes and finds, presumably some Jews (which is usually what they mean when it says, “a worshipper of God” and explains the Gospel (that Jesus died for them) to the people.
And we meet hospitable and sweet Lydia.
The passage continues…
(Acts 16:16-21) – NIV
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
So, this slave has a spirit that can predict the future.
Which by the way, sometimes you see creepy fortune teller people on TV today, and they sometimes even get things right..
The Bible tells us that perhaps they are telling the future. It’s just, they’re playing for the wrong team.
But Paul has enough, and frees the girl from the demon.
And the owners aren’t even happy for the girl. What they care about is the fact they’re NOT gonna make money off this girl anymore, so they have Paul & Silas brought to the authorities.
(Acts 16:22-36) - NIV
2 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. 35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
Okay. That’s an awesome story. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. A lot to talk about.
The passage wraps up though with 4 more verses of Paul making sure that the believers aren’t going to be railroaded over in Philippi in the future
(Acts 16:37-40) – NIV
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
DON’T HARM YOURSELF
“The climax of this story from history is really when the jailer is about to kill himself. He’s about to run himself through w/ his sword
Because if the authorities get there the next morning, and the prisoners are gone…he’s a dead man.
We actually see precedent for this. IN Acts 12, when Peter escapes from prison, the guards summarily are executed.
But Paul yells out, “Don’t Harm Yourself!!
And I think in a real similar way God is trying to Yell this out to much of humanity.
(SLOW) “Don’t harm yourself! Don’t live a life of pain, confusion. I’m here for you. I’m here!!”
And Humans…are so often like that jailer. Who up to this point, despite hearing OF the good news, chose to ignore & try & live a normal life
And that’s what it looks like to most of us
Think about all the people you kind of know. People you kind of know at work. Or your neighbors that you kind of know.
Here’s what I think. Everybody appears way too normal. Life looks too easy…too good.
For the vast majority of people we know, we get a “Facebook perspective” of them
Here’s what I mean:
Here’s the type of stuff people share on facebook:
Got a new job! Got promoted!
Having a kid!
Had a wonderful vacation.
Wow, I love my wife! My husband, etc!
Here’s the stuff we don’t share
My job is slowly killing me inside
My kids are making me depressed
Last time on vacation, I was so miserable, I wished I was home the whole time
Wow, I hate my wife right now. I hate my husband…
Now, granted, there are people who share all this stuff, but you’ve probably unfriended them by now because 15 complaints a day was a little over the top
But for most people, we just see a “Facebook perspective.” The “good things” of life.
But here’s what I know about life. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard.
And here’s what I know about people. They’re messed up. Often really messed up.
We live in a culture though…especially in the upper Midwest, where people are afraid to say, “Life hurts”
Some of that has to do with a lot of people just holding onto their idols like we talked about in October.
As long as people can hold on to their idols…idols like success (oh my job is great…people respect me), or money (life’s good…check my bank account)…or whatever…they can trick themselves into thinking life’s good despite the pain
But every once in a while, an earthquake hits… like it did in Acts 16
And an earthquake has a great way of revealing things about life.
Cuz when life gets really rocky for people…and God maybe even rips their idols right out of their hands…then what’s life about???
And for a lot of people, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope. Life seems kind of pointless.
You grow up, you go to school, to get a job you don’t like, to live in a house you someday have to sell, to move to a nursing home to die. The end.
And the point?
Listen…if you’re here right now… Thinking, “What’s the point?!?” You’re in a good spot.
It’s called an area of brokenness. And often God needs to break you before he can use you.
Or, for some of you, often God needs you to be broken, before you’ll look to Him in the first place.
Think of the jailer, he had heard about Paul and this “way of salvation” before the earthquake hit.
Otherwise, why would he come to Paul shouting, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved!” How did he know to ask them that?!?
Maybe he heard them talking about “the way of salvation” like the slave girl said.
Or maybe he heard it when they were singing.
And yet, he didn’t ask about it then.
Life was okay. He was “just fine”
Or at least that’s what he told himself
I’ve been there.
Before I became a Christian at age 18, I had heard people talk about Jesus and salvation, and yada yada…I’ve got things to do…. J
Life can have a way of just trapping us in its business.
But sometimes…and sometimes it’s even out of nowhere…life hurts.
And for this Jailer, all of a sudden life got hard. Real quick. He was out of options. And he was going to GIVE UP.
Not trusting that God could still pull him out somehow or someway
But Paul yells, DON’T HARM YOURSELF!
And maybe that’s where you are right now
To be honest. Your life sucks. And that’s not a dig. That’s human.
Can I say something ridiculous?
Do you know that for the person who’s contemplating suicide there’s actually a tiny, tiny bit of sanity there?
They’ve finally stopped saying, “Ahh…money will make me happy. Success will make me happy. Relationships will solve all my problems”
They’ve stepped out of the hamster wheel of idolatry
There’s a hint of truth…yeah, all this junk IS pointless.
Yet, everything else (99.9%) about the thought of suicide is wrong.
Because let me tell you something…the things of this world ARE pointless, ut there is STILL hope! There’s hope! And there’s a God who thinks you are INIFINITELY valuable.
Hear the words of Paul…Don’t harm yourself!
Don’t end it. Don’t give up.
Because there is a reason to hope. There’s a reason to life.
And this isn’t just false hope…or hope just for hopes sake
This isn’t the Timberwolves are finally going to be good cuz I’m going to be optimistic and say they are type of hope…
This isn’t the Joe Mauer’s actually going to be worthy of even starring in Kemp’s ice cream commercials because I’m going to be optimistic
This is putting your hope on something solid! Something real. Something that can actually save you.
And will 100% come through.
Jesus is the Savior. It’s kind of what he does. He saves people.
Churches don’t talk about dark issues like suicide enough
But people are there. More and more every year in our culture.
And if you’re there right now….You NEED to hear this:
Your life does have a purpose. God does have good things in store. And at the very least know this, there is a God who is so desperately in love with you, that He can’t stop thinking about you…
If you’re struggling w/ suicidal thoughts… talk to somebody TODAY. A friend from your house group…someone from church here…a family member.
That’s okay here. You’re in a room full of messed up people… it’s ok to struggle.
But look for Hope.
Look at the passage again!
When Paul yells out, “Don’t harm yourself!” the Jailer turns on the lights.
And for him, the lights come on.
He realizes, okay, maybe there’s another option here.
God is obviously doing something. There was just an earthquake…AND these prisoners…these Christians…are still here.
So he thinks, what do I have to lose, and he asks them, “How do I get saved? What do I have to do?”
Listen, maybe you’re ticked that your life is broken right now. But did you ever think, maybe God let it be broken for a reason?
Who do you think sent that Earthquake in that passage today?
Often, it’s only at rock bottom that we look for Him, and then at the bottom, we finally notice Him…(oh, you are here)
And when you notice Him, let me tell you something. To be “saved”, to be forgiven, you don’t have to “DO” anything.
That’s what’s so amazing about real Christianity.
Jesus already did it for you.
See, 2,000 years ago, God sent his son Jesus to earth.
Jesus came to teach us, love us, and then die for us.
And he did just that. He died IN OUR PLACE.
Because all of us have sinned against God. The Bible tells us that we all fall short. There’s no perfect person. We ignore him, we rebel against his path, we sin, and the list goes on.
And God has to be a just God. He can’t be a cheat. So punishment is necessary. And what we deserve is hell.
None of us “deserve” heaven for a life of sin
But, here’s the crazy thing about God…he’s also the most merciful, forgiving being you could ever imagine.
And here’s what he did….
He said, “I’m going to send my son to die on the cross and take your punishment in your place”
How incredible is that?!
And if you, as our passage today says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.”
And that’s all it is. You don’t have to “DO” anything like the jailer suggested.
Jesus already died for you.
The offer is on the table.
You just have to believe in it.
And the Bible says, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you WILL BE SAVED.
All it takes is believing that He died for you on the cross. And saying, “God, I fall short. I’ve sinned against you. I believe. I want to follow you.”
I mean, isn’t this crazy? That God…would look at us. Seriously messed up people like us…and say…I love you so much…that I’m going to send my son to die for you.
And you can make that decision to follow Him today
Because when we make that decision, we’re not only forgiven COMPLETELY forever, we get to spend eternity in heaven w/ him!
And you can make that decision today. It’s awesome.
That’s why the jailer was so “filled with joy” as the psg said. He was so broken and about to end it all, and now, he’s FORGIVEN, LOVED, and GOING to spend eternity in heaven.
What a God!!
And if you feel like He’s moving in your heart to make that decision, then let’s do that. This is the best decision you can ever make. Seriously. Trust me. The best decision you can ever make.
And if you want to give your life to Him this morning by asking for forgiveness and believing in what he did on the cross, let’s do that.
Here’s what we’re gonna do:
I’m going to give you a minute to think about it. God is big. So big that I know that if it’s something you need to do…He’ll put it on your heart.
And then after that, if you want to give your life to Him for the 1st time, I’m going to ask you to stand up (as a way to say, you reached out for me by coming DOWN and they even stood you up on a cross), and I will stand up for you…
And then pray with me if you want to give your life to him. To believe on Him.
So let’s just spend a minute in silent prayer, and then I’ll ask you to stand if you want to make a decision to follow Him today…the best decision you can ever make.
All right, let’s take a minute to each talk to Him.
(Wait a minute)
Ok. Everyone can keep their eyes closed.
If you want to give your life to Him today and believe on Jesus, I want you to stand up where you are.
Stand up if u want to let Him in…to be forgiven…to follow Him.
Ok, amazing. Praise God.
Now, I want you to pray with me.
This isn’t a magic prayer. But just a prayer for you to tell God what’s on your heart.
If you’re standing, would you pray this out loud after me:
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
And that I have fallen short
But God, I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God, I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
Thank you God. Amen.
Amen, you can have a seat.
I just want to pray and praise God…… Let’s pray.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do 2 things for me right away.
1) I need you to steal that Bible under your seat. Seriously. Take it. We put it there, so you could.
2) Then, at the end of the service, I need you to come up here to your front right, and we’re going to give you just a few materials to help you get started in your relationship with Christ.
Won’t take you long at all, but it’s important that you have direction in where to go next.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.