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Lydia,

Your mother and I can’t wait to meet you. The due date is fast approaching. The doctor says your heartrate is right on pace. And judging by your late-night dance parties when mom is trying to sleep, I’m betting you’ll be a pretty fun girl to have around.

As you grow up you’ll have lots of questions—many of which I won’t have a good answer for. But there’s one question I can answer preemptively.

You may be wondering why your name will be Lydia. Most people these days just pick a name for the ring of it, but not so with us.

In Acts 16, as the news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to save sinners—the gospel message—spreads throughout the Roman Empire, we meet a woman named Lydia in Philippi. Luke, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul, records this in verses 13-15:

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

We don’t hear much about this Lydia, sparing the fact that the apostle and his team stop by to see her on the tail-end of their time in Philippi (v. 40). So what’s so significant about Lydia?

It’s no small compliment from God that one’s name should be permanently enshrined in the pages of Scripture. I love the fact that the Holy Spirit saw fit, through the hand of Luke the human author, to immortalize a normal, hardworking, unassuming woman.

Lydia was…

  • A woman who prayed (v. 13)
  • Industrious, entrepreneurial (v. 14)
  • An influence in her household (v. 15)
  • Faithful to the Lord (v. 15)
  • Hospitable (v. 15, 4)

But none of these reasons, by themselves, compelled us to make you Lydia’s namesake. Verse 14 is what stirred us: “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (emphasis added).

It sounds like a sweet sentiment (who, after all, doesn’t love the idea of having an open heart?), but the meaning is deeper. You see, to imply that one’s heart must be opened is to make a very serious statement about the state of the human heart in general.

The heart is not neutral. We are not all naturally innocent. God originally made humanity in a state of perfection, but when the first man, Adam, chose to rebel and sin, we began to inherit a fallen nature. Regarding the heart, within several generations of Adam’s fall, it became true of mankind that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Later, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (17:9).

This isn’t an arbitrary claim. It is the natural conclusion of the evidence. Sins, big and small, flow from individual lives and corrupt society not because of any external pressure on us but because of an internal disposition of rebellion against God. “…[O]ut of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:9).

And though you’ll often hear advice like “listen to your heart” and “let your heart be your guide,” the truth is that our sinful nature—the desire to cast off God’s standards and redefine goodness, truth, and beauty for ourselves—is inescapable from birth. We are born “dead in sins and trespasses… carrying out the desires of the body and the mind… by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1, 3). And since God is perfect and just, we deserve to be done away with by him.

But there is hope. Long ago, God promised he would rewire his peoples’ hearts and bring them back into relationship with himself: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). God, rather than leaving us to ourselves, is the God who can step in to give us new life—to open our hearts.

Then, into the picture comes Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus teaches the same thing, explaining that without a radical change of heart accomplished by God, one cannot truly follow him the way that is required. We must be “born again” (John 3:3), since “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (8:34).

But Jesus did not only issue a bleak diagnosis—he accomplished the cure. After living a life of perfect, willing, joyful obedience to God—the kind that would merit eternal life—Jesus died condemned as a criminal, absorbing the Father’s wrath in our place as in an act of love, fulfilling the justice of God. Then, he rose from the dead, granting his people a new, righteous standing with God (Romans 4:25) and providing the basis for us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

All this he accomplished not for the good, pretty, or disciplined, but for empty-handed sinners who will simply believe.

Having died for sinners, been raised to life, and ascending into heaven to rule as King and Lord, Jesus sent down the Holy Spirit—the one who transforms hearts. So even though we’re so rebellious that, in our own human initiative, we’ll never exercise faith in Christ so as to be saved (Romans 8:8), the Spirit comes and opens the hearts of people, enabling them to believe and take hold of Christ for salvation (see Acts 13:48).

The Father chose unworthy people to save, Jesus died in their place and rose to grant them new life, and the Spirit comes and open the heart to believe and receive all those benefits.

And that brings us to Lydia. Like us all, Lydia’s sin kept her blinded from the beauty of Christ, who could save her. In order to receive eternal life as a free gift, she only had to believe—but in order for that to happen, she needed a change of heart.

So God stepped in. The Lord opened her heart to believe. He took out the heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. She was dead in her sin, and she was made alive.

And immediately, in an imperceptible moment, the lightbulb went on and Lydia responded by embracing Christ—and she was saved. She saw her sin as ugly, she saw Christ as able to save, and she clung to him in faith, receiving his death for her sins and his life as her life.

Daughter (and all reading this)—this is our constant prayer for you. We eagerly await the day that, just as happened to us earlier in our lives, God would shine in your heart to give the light of “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Sound crazy? Maybe. But it won’t when the Lord opens your heart—as he opened Lydia’s heart, your mother’s, and my own.

Your job? Trust in Christ when you get old enough, when you hear, when you understand. He is a perfect Savior, and he will receive any who come to him.

And until then, dance on.

All my love,

Dad

2 thoughts on “Why Your Name is Lydia: A Letter to My Daughter

  1. That is so beautiful and precious thanku for sharing. I wish you all blessings on the birth of your daughter Lydia. Your lives will change FOREVER.

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