Fairmeadow Community Church of The Nazarene
October 10, 2021
- 26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.It was a scene that was nearly impossible to image just a few days before. But Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit was poured out to signal the last days had arrived, the age of the spirit. The age of the church.But for men like Philip, the church wasn’t a building. The church wasn’t an event. The church was a people filled with the Holy Spirit on a mission from God.The Church was a people filled with the Holy Spirit on a mission from GodSo when the Spirit said to do something. Philip did something. Just to put this into context let’s back up a little bit in this story...7 The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.The Apostles were to give their attention to the Word and to Prayer and a group of spirit-filled leaders had been challenged with addressing the other needs of the growing body of believers. Philip was one of these men. But also, Stephen.Stephen had evidently paid close attention to the Apostles’ teaching because he was well-versed in the Scriptures and how to read them well: understanding they point to Jesus, reveal Jesus, and show us that Jesus is coming again. God enabled him to perform wonders and signs. But it was his teaching that drew attention from the authorities. Basically a layperson serving on a ministry team. But he took the Bible seriously and took his role in sharing the faith extremely seriously.He had been called before the Sandhedrin, the Jewish religious supreme court. He had to explain his teaching. He gave a lengthy summary of the Old Testament. He focused on how God’s people have often chosen disobedience, rather than obedience. How they have turned away from leaders who were speaking the truth in love and turned to false leaders who told them what they wanted to hear. He then tells them that’s what they did with Jesus in the worst way possible.Now Stephen would not have known this unless he was a careful student of the Word. He wasn’t a scholar. He just made it a priority because it contained the most important stories and information in his life. He did it well because he was passionate about it. He cared.It wasn’t received well. But that didn’t mean he didn’t do it well. People in our day need to take this deeply to heart. I observe it more and more that people are leaning into their bias, rather than considering they may be wrong. That’s certainly what happened on this day...54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.He didn’t hold back the truth. It became a violent scene. But he didn’t participate simply prayed for God to receive him and asked God not to hold it against them.A layperson. Filled with the Spirit. Knowledgable in the Word.1 And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. 4 Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did,So there was serious opposition. Part of what was happening was fleeing persecution. But wherever the church went they shared Jesus more.This is the background for Philip being guided by the Angel of the Lord.What would most people today say? “Uh, OK, Angel I’ll keep that in mind and get back to you...”“Thanks but no thanks AotL (cool abbreviation for Angel of the Lord) Thanks AotL, but no thanks.Perhaps more likely: just pretend they don’t hear it and see what’s on Netflix or phone or text a friend to talk about anything else.Aren’t you glad, Philip didn’t do anything like that?26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.)27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worshipGet up and Go. So he got up and wentFolks, that’s how it should be in our relationship with God.So now, Philip, another layperson had also been paying close attention to the Apostle’s teaching. Now he’s able to help this man. Could you help someone understand Isaiah 53? And good on the Ethiopian man for having come so far to worship and being so committed to studying the Word.29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”If someone was sitting in a limousine as you approached on a wilderness road and they had the window down and were reading aloud Isaiah 53, could you walk up to them and ask if they understood what they were reading? Sure you could. How do I know? Because old Phil did it.30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”He ran. Oh, this gets me very excited, friends. A man thrilled to help someone else understand the Word better. I understand that thrill. I hope you do as well. How I long for you to be able to know that joy of helping another read the Word.31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.Philip getting into that chariot, Oh I feel so alive just imagining it. You can explain a lot about Jesus from that very chapter.So, we have an Ethiopian a million miles from home. He’s on an abandoned road parked. He has about to have huge questions. Boom meanwhile God prompts his obedient child Philip to go to a place. Philip goes and walks up and soon this man from the other side of the world, sitting in the middle of nowhere, finds himself in the kingdom of God. That’s God’s amazing grace.But it took a hunger to know, a willingness to obey, and time spent learning before it could happen.You see, yes the Spirit was up to amazing things in these days. But so were God’s people. They were stepping into the opportunities God gave and doing the hard word to learn and to grow.The Ethiopian was baptized. Philip didn’t even have time to get his name, because God had him off to Azotus sharing the gospel there.Do you know the Word? Do you know the larger story Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Judges, the Kings, the prophets? Psalms? Can you take some of these key passages that refer to Jesus like Isaiah 53 and help someone understand?We live in a time where you have the tools. Will you use them?We live in a time where almost everyone is similar to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Almost everyone you meet needs help to understand Jesus. These days 40% of Ethiopians are Christians. It’s no accident. We are dropping down to that number for active Christians in the USA.God is giving us a choice: invest in word and invest in helping people to get into the Word and prayer and service to others. Or fade into a dark age...Stephen had another point: don’t worship buildings--48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, 49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’ 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.Don’t resist the spirit. Never oppose the Spirit. Don’t think you can capture him in a building. Buildings can be powerful symbols. But it’s what’s inside the hearts of the people that makes up the church. We accomplish nothing if we keep a building but lose the ability to transfer on the faith. It doesn’t have to be either/or unless it eventually does have to be. Which would you choose?Sunday School is where we go deeper into the Word. It’s right after worship. When you walk out of Sunday School and go back into life, I want you to remember you have a mission. You are the church. People need Jesus. People can find Jesus in a moment if you help them. Lord, help us. We need it. Let’s pray...
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