26/09/2007

Sermon Conversion

Acts 16:14 Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. Conversion

Though the Lord's people are thinly scattered, and sometimes throughout large cities, yet they have a way of finding one another out. True religion serves as a sort of magnet to draw their hearts together, and those who were strangers before, now become friends and associates. After abiding certain days at Philippi, Paul found that prayer was wont to be made out of the city by the river side, and thither therefore lie resorted to preach the gospel. " And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard : whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Whether Lydia had been a true worshipper or not, she from this time worshipped God in spirit and in truth, and became a follower of the Lord Jesus. Considering the text as descriptive of true conversion, I shall offer a few remarks on the nature of the change denoted by the Lord's opening the heart.

1. It is a divine work, a work which God performs, and which none else can perform.
2. It is God's first work, that which is descriptive of true conversion. Transient impressions, partial convictions, and powerful restraints, are common to all; but the opening of the heart is the effect of special grace, and the commencement of true religion.
3. The opening of the heart is an instantaneous work. It is done in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, without any previous exertions or endeavours, preparations or qualifications. In our apprehension it may be gradual, like Christ's opening the eyes of the blind man, who first saw men as trees walking, and afterwards, upon a fresh touch from his hand, all things clearly: but in itself the change is quick and powerful.
4. Powerful as this work is, it is not effected violence, but in a way perfectly consistent with human liberty. God opens the heart by engaging and inclining it to that which is good. ... Divine influence is not compulsive, but attractive.
5. It is an internal work, the opening of the heart.
6. Though the work itself is invisible, yet its effects are not so. Grace cannot be seen but by its fruits. Where the heart is changed, the conduct will be changed. New duties will result from new principles, ....
Three blessed effects of God's opening the heart of Lydia are here mentioned.
(1) '' She attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." She might have heard the gospel before, but now it is in a different manner. Her eyes were fixed on the preacher, her heart was raised to God, she hears with judgment and affection, desiring the sincere milk of the word that she may grow thereby. It comes not unto her in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance
(2) She manifested her regard to the commands of our Saviour by being immediately baptized in the name of the Sacred Three in whom she had believed, and to whom she had now acknowledged obedience and subjection. This was the answer of a good conscience, and her alacrity shewed the fervour of her zeal. " I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments."
(3) Her love to the brethren, especially those who had been the honoured instruments of her conversion. "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord (says she), come into my house, and abide there : and she constrained them." No sooner had she received Christ into her heart than she received his friends into her house: one door being opened, the other did not remain shut. Perhaps she had been penurious and selfish before: now she is generous and hospitable: she had partook of their spiritual things, and was willing that they should partake of her carnal things. .... 7. It is a work that shall be abiding: He openeth, and no man shutteth: he shutteth, and no man openeth. I know that what God doth shall be for ever, and it shall never be undone.
8. The work we have been considering is absolutely necessary to salvation. As we cannot be saved without the death of Christ, so neither without the work of the Spirit.
More particularly,
(1) Satan, that unclean spirit, had usurped the dominion of our hearts, and it is necessary to put an end to his influence and deprive him of his power. The prey must be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered. There must he a pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringeth into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, if ever we be saved. The spread of the gospel expelled Satan from the heathen temples, and the power of divine grace expels him from our heathenish hearts.
(2) Our souls must be cleansed and purified, and this is done by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Christ comes into our hearts by water for our sanctification, and by blood for our justification. Thus he came personally into the world, and thus he comes spiritually into the souls of his people. In this way he restores both peace and holiness; that image which sin had defaced, and that comfort which sin had destroyed.
(3) The heart must be opened in order to its being beautified and adorned with every grace, with integrity and humility, patience and temperance, charity and heavenly-mindedness. If when Christ puts in his hand by the hole of the door, the handles of the lock drop with sweet-smelling myrrh; how much more when he opens the door and enters,in ! Wherever he comes he brings with him a fullness of grace and truth.
(4) By all these means the Lord makes us a fit habitation for himself. Wisdom now enters into the heart, and knowledge is pleasant to the soul. Whatever Christ has done for us is now applied, and whatever he has purchased is brought home. He dwells in us, and we in him : he sups with us, and we with him. Adorable grace! Inexplicable mystery! Men of humour may deride the saints, man of power may persecute them, and their worst enemies may be those of their own household; but they have that which will more than counterbalance all the evils that they may either feel or fear. Christ is in them the foundation of present peace, and the pledge of future glory.
CONCLUSION
(1) Let those consider their miserable condition whose hearts are still shut against the gospel and against the Saviour. God will one day shut you out of heaven. If you remain deaf to his calls, he will be deaf to your entreaties. If Christ be not in you the hope of glory then Satan will be in you the prelude of misery. May the blessed Saviour open his heart, his loving heart to you, and open your hearts, your stubborn heart to him!
(2) If there be any whose hearts the Lord has opened, let them assume nothing to themselves, but give him all the glory. All the evil that is in us is from ourselves, and all the good is from God alone "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."
With arguments profound,
Diffuse among the listening throng,
In vain does Paul's persuasive tongue,
The gospel's joyful sound.
Apollos, fam'd for eloquence,
Tries all his arts in vain;
Tho' sweet his voice, and strong his sense,
Sinners unchanged remain.
Jesus, the work is wholly thine,
To form the soul anew;
And nothing short of grace divine
Can stubborn hearts subdue.

These concluding lines are very similar to Hymn 588
In vain does Paul's persuasive tongue,
With arguments profound,
Diffuse among the listening throng,
The gospel's joyful sound.

Apollos, famed for eloquence,
Exerts his powers in vain;
For sinners still enslaved to sense,
In unbelief remain.

Jesus, the work is wholly thine,
To form us all anew;
Oh may thine influence divine,
Our stubborn hearts subdue!

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