Lydia’s Journey

February 3, 2013

She was a successful business woman,  actually she was a successful business owner
and that was virtually unheard of in the time and society she lived in.
Remember this was 2000 years ago in a culture that was slightly male centered;
actually it was very male centered. Females weren’t exactly chattel but they
weren’t exactly equals either. And here was a woman who was not identified by
whose wife she was instead she was identified by what she did.  She wasn’t Lydia Bob’s wife she was Lydia
from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth.
And she was a woman who had an appointment with
destiny.  It was the Sabbath and Lydia
had gathered with a group of women to pray at the edge of the river that flowed
past the city of Philippi, if we pull down our trusty map here we discover that
Philippi, which was named after Phillip the father of Alexander the Great, was
located here in what we know as Greece and this is actually the first place
that the Gospel was preached in Europe, and it would appear that Lydia was the
first convert in Europe.  We are told
that she was from Thyatira, which is across the Aegean Sea in what we now know
as Turkey.    And we know that she was a
specialized merchant, she sold purple cloth, a cloth that was worn by royalty
and the wealthy families.  The city of
Thyatira was famous throughout Asia for the purple dye they produced and Lydia
had obviously capitalized on this and was now marketing her fabric in Europe
using the city of Philippi as her base. 
And it was to the city of Philippi that Paul and his
companions had come after leaving Asia. 
As was their tradition they immediately sought out the closest Jewish
community to teach about Jesus.  In this
case there was no synagogue in town, probably because the Jewish community wasn’t
large enough, instead the people gathered alongside the river on the Sabbath to
pray and worship together.  And this is
where Lydia first encountered Paul and consequently encountered Jesus.
So how did this happen? 
First of all Lydia was in the The
Right Place 
I know that we can meet
God anywhere.  That we can worship God on
the golf course or at the hockey rink or fishing on the lake.  We can but we don’t.  If God’s name is used on the golf course, it’s
normally not in positive way, not to say it couldn’t be. 
There is something to be said about sacred spaces, about
church.  That’s why the Israelites had
the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem.  God knew the value of there being a spot
where you could leave the world outside for a little while and focus on God.
When a congregation decides to build a church building one
of the first issues is often finances.  I
love the cartoon where a man is telling the pastor at the door, “Pastor I’m
glad you don’t know where the money is coming from for the new building, for a
minute I was afraid you wanted to get it from us.”
But the pattern from the Old Testament was that the people
of God would pay for the house of God.
When we built this building we called our campaign “Building
on Faith” and the precedent for that offering was set in the Old Testament
where we see how much the people of Israel contributed to make the tabernacle
and temple a reality.  And when the time
comes for phase two the money won’t come from some magical pot it will come
from those who call Cornerstone their church home.
And that desire for sacred
space is one of the reasons why we built this building. Now you know and I know
that the church is not a building it is the people in the building, but if you
were to ask any one of the people who worshipped with us during the ten and a
half years we met at the Lions Den or Empire Theatre in Bedford I am sure they
will tell you this is different.  And
different in a good way.  And there are
those of your who have met God here and have been changed, it is the right
place.  King David wrote in Psalm 55:14 What good
fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.
Now I know that Lydia and her companions weren’t in a “Church”
building but they were at a spot that they had set aside for prayer and
worship.  They weren’t there fishing, or
swimming or boating they had gone to the river to seek God, the commentators
tell us that in cities and communities were there was no Synagogue that it was
not unusual for Jewish worshippers to find a place close to the water to meet
with God.  Here is a photo of the actual
river where this happened.
Not only was Lydia in the right place but she was there at The Right Time It all came together, we’ve
all been there, perhaps you’ve been in church a hundred times but then it
happened, you knew the time was right.  I
don’t know how many times my best friend has spoken to me about my need for God
but it was on September 2nd 1979 at 8:15 p.m. that I met with God
and he forgave my sins.  It was the right
time. 
Charles
Spurgeon was a London Preacher in the late 1800’s and he had this to say
“She (Lydia) 
was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right
time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the
handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot.” 
The week before Paul wasn’t there, a week later and he wasn’t
there but that day he was.  If Lydia had
decided to sleep in that morning, or go to the flea market, or mow the lawn or
spend the day at the beach she would have missed it.  But it was the Sabbath and she had gone to
meet God and she did. 
There is a great promise in the
book of  Jeremiah
29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for
you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you
a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look
for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
When is the right time?  When you decide to seek Him you will find
him, is that today?  Only you can answer
that question but Paul would probably tell you the same thing he told people
2000 years ago in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the
day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, God is ready to help you right now.
Today is the day of salvation.
When is the right time to meet God?  Right now! 
You have no idea what will happen in your life when you leave this
service this morning.  There is no better
time then now.
But it still wasn’t enough that Lydia was in the right place
at the right time, she made The Right
Decision. 
I truly believe that Lydia
was being wooed by God, that she was being pursued by the Hounds of
Heaven.  Paul spoke and she heard with
her ears but God spoke and she heard with her heart.  The Bible says that she was a worshiper of
God.  Scholars tell us that meant that
she was a gentile who recognized the God of the Jews but hadn’t actually
converted to Judaism.  She knew of God
but she didn’t actually know God.  There
are people like that here today; you’ve come to worship a God you’ve heard of
but that you haven’t actually met.  You
are in the right place at the right time, but you have yet to make the right
decision.
Listen to what happened that
day, Acts 16:14 One
of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth. She was
a worshiper of God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she
accepted what Paul was saying.
Three things happened. 
First of all Paul was preaching. 
That’s what I do, I preach and I love to preach, I was called to preach
and it is who I am.  When people ask me
what I do I prefer to tell them I am a preacher over a pastor or minister.  When I was nineteen I preached my first
sermon and my Pastor was a man named Jack McKenzie and after the service he
came up and shook my hand and said “You did a good job preacher.” Thirty-three
years later whenever I see Jack he calls me “Preacher” and that is the greatest
compliment I ever get. 
But understand it wasn’t anything Paul said that changed
Lydia’s life.  The second thing that
happened was the Bible tells us that the Lord opened her heart.  She did not open her own heart. Her prayers
didn’t do it; Paul didn’t do it.  God did
it.  But it still wasn’t enough, the
puzzle still wasn’t complete.
In theory everything was in place.  When I travel in Africa one of the favorite
phrases of our team is “In theory” but it was Yogi
Berra who said “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice
but in practice there is.” 
But what made the theory a reality was the last part of the
statement “And she accepted what Paul was saying.”  She still had to make the decision, God may
have brought her to that place next to the river, he may have brought Paul at
that specific time, he may have opened her heart, but she still had to make the
decision.
And it will have to be you who makes the decision, nobody
else can do it for you. 

And finally she made The Right
Response
(at this point those who are being baptized can go and get
prepared.)

Two things happened. 
The first is we were told that she was baptized.  I am sure she asked Paul “What now, what is
my next step?”  And he would have said “You
need to be baptized.”  And she probably
looked down at the river and said “Ok.” 
And she was baptized.  That was
it.
In the early church that is the way it happened, you became
a Christian and you were baptized and there was all kinds of symbolism wrapped
up in that.  It was a public statement,
you were saying “Look everyone I am a Christian and I want everyone to know.”  It was illustrative of the washing away of
your sins and of you becoming a new creation. 
It was an outward sign of an inward experience.
Listen to the stories of people deciding to follow Jesus in
the book of Acts: 

Acts
8:12
But now the people believed Philip’s
message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus
Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized.
Acts
8:36-38
As they rode along, they came to
some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be
baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water,
and Philip baptized him.
Acts
22:16
And now, why delay? Get up and be
baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Why was it so important for
them to be baptized?  Because they
remembered the words that Jesus told the apostles Mark
16:15-16
And then he told them, “Go into all
the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes
and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be
condemned.
Baptism is indicative of the
resurrection of Christ but in another sense it is indicative of our new
lives.  We die to our old lives and are
buried and then we come out of the grave as a new person.    It wasn’t the baptism that did the saving
but it is indicative of our obedience. Christ commanded us to be baptized as
believers and so anything less is disobedience. 
The bible also tells us that it is illustrative of Jesus death and
resurrection.  In Colossians 2:12 we read Colossians 2:12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And
with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of
God, who raised Christ from the dead.
The next thing that happened
was that she invited Paul and Luke and Silas and whoever else was with them
back to her place for a meal, what happened on the inside that day was
evidenced by her actions.  She wanted to
be with other believers.   We are told in
Romans 12:13Always
be eager to practice hospitality.   You
should want to be with  other Christ followers
and not just on Sunday.
You can’t have an inward change
without it causing an outward change. 
People ought to say “There’s something different about you now.”  The first evidence was her obedience, the
second evidence was her love, and that’s what Jesus meant when he said in John 13:35 Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Today we have a number of people who have experienced the forgiveness of
Christ in their lives and they are testifying to that inward transformation by
being baptised.