Sunday, August 21, 2016

Acts 8 - 'JUST a Layman'



Acts 8:26-39 – Just a Layman

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went.

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with 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 before its shearer is silent,
   so he opens not 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 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
 
I’ve entitled our time in God’s Word – “Just a Layman”



   
God uses people – to reach people.  Average… everyday folks - God uses to make a difference.

Case in point:  A man on a business trip was assigned a middle seat on an airplane.  Tired and wanting sleep, he was irritated when the young girl with Down Syndrome seated next to him kept asking questions: “Mister, do you brush your teeth?”  “Yes,” he replied.  “That’s good,” she said, “People who don’t - LOSE their teeth.”
Then she asked, “Mister, do you smoke?”  “No,” he answered.  “Good, because people who DO get sick,” she said.  

After a brief silence, she turned to him again, “Mister, do you love Jesus?”  “Yes I DO,” he answered.  “That’s good,” she added.  “People who DO, go to heaven.”
Though deeply touched, he settled back, hoping there would be no more questions.  

Just then she asked, “Mister…will you ask the man next to you if HE brushes HIS teeth?”
Well, you know what happened next.  When she came to the question about Jesus, the second man answered, “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”  And for the remainder of the flight, the first man got to share his faith with the second man – all because of a little girl with unusual persistence.
God makes Himself known – He reaches people – through average, everyday folks like us.

Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I was a layman, just like you.  I heard the weekly challenges from the pulpit.  Sometimes I was moved, other times - not so much.

But I remember ONE particular challenge very clearly – the Pastor preached on how WE are to be WITNESSES for the Lord – sharing our faith with those who are lost.  

It never really occurred to me before that it was MY responsibility to do that.  I thought it was HIS job.  “Who was I?  What difference could I possibly make in someone’s life?”  But I soon learned that God uses regular people like US to reach those who do not know Him.
We see it in our text.  Phillip was NOT one of the Apostles, like Peter, James, and John.  He was not a missionary like Paul or even a pastor like Timothy.  He was a deacon.  One of the seven men appointed by the apostles to care for the widows in the early church.  

This is not to suggest he was a “nobody” – not at all – for he WAS filled with the Spirit of God, known as a man of integrity and a model of the Christian faith.  And besides… there are NO nobody's in Christ!

He was ALSO known as a man with an unusual burden – every time we see him in the Bible, he’s sharing his faith. Right before our text, we find him leading scores of souls to Christ in Samaria.
This was unusual in a couple of ways – first because not even the apostles had taken the gospel outside of Jerusalem yet, but here was a layman gripped with the conviction that EVERYONE needed the Lord.  The gospel knows NO bounds like color or creed. It's meant for everyone.
AND it was unusual because revival broke out in Samaria – hundreds of people came to the Lord through Philip’s witness.
What a fruitful ministry he enjoyed there.  With the great population of the region, I’m sure he could envision many more hundreds, if not thousands, coming to know Christ in a short time.
But THEN - God spoke to his heart, led Him away from the crowds, away from those hungry souls eager to hear the Gospel, to a lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
This was an uninhabited region.  No town – no marketplace teeming with people – no souls gathered to hear this precious message.  Just … desert.  

Why would God lead him THERE?  Philip obeyed the leadership of God and it changed one man’s life completely.

Before we hear the “REST of the story,” I want you to consider your life for a moment.  Think about all the people you know –friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who DON’T know Jesus.  If they were to die today, they would be doomed to a Christ-less eternity.  

Does that concern you?  Concern you enough to SAY something…DO something?  

Stop telling yourself that you are just a layman!?!?! as though you can’t be expected to share your faith with someone on the verge of eternity!
As we study this story, we are going to learn how God works to reach those who are lost.  There are three truths we need to know:
1.  FIRST - God is interested in us Individually.  SURE, He cares about the large numbers.  The Bible even says that “God is not willing that ANYONE should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.”  But don’t believe for one moment that God is not interested in you personally.  Because verse 26 ought to show you that God cares about the individual regardless his background or experience.  It says,
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went.  And THERE was an Ethiopian...”

God knew that there would be a man traveling that deserted road who had a hunger for truth and a need for the Gospel.  He was from Ethiopia, Africa.  A place with no Gospel witness. A place of idols and demonic spirits and false religion. But even in dark places where there is no knowledge of the true and living God, there are people, like this man, SEARCHING for truth.
He thought the answer could be found in Jerusalem, at the Temple, in the literature of the Jews.  He had gone there searching, and purchased a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, hoping to find some insight, some piece of the puzzle that was missing that would make sense of his life.  

And God, knowing this and concerned ABOUT him, sent someone his way who knew the TRUTH.
God is interested in us individually.  You are more than just another face in a sea of lost humanity.  God is a personal being and He knows you intimately.  He knows your deepest secrets, your greatest regrets, your hidden longings.  And He loves you and wants a relationship with you.
Praise God for that!  That God cared enough to intervene in this man’s life before it was too late!
And just as he is concerned about YOU and YOUR future, He is concerned about others in our lives drifting aimlessly in darkness.  He has strategically placed you where there are people who need to know Jesus.  Will you tell them?
Sadly, for some of us, Jesus is our best kept secret.  What a shame it would be if we never shared the truth with those we know and love.  What a reproach it would be to stand before God on the day of judgment and for our loved one to look across the courtroom of God and ask, “Why didn’t you tell me???”
God is interested in us individually.



2.  Secondly, we notice that Position, power, and possessions can never satisfy the deep needs of the soul.  You can have great wealth, and still be spiritually bankrupt.  You can be a person of power and influence, and still be utterly lost and undone.  Notice vv. 27 and 28:

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
This passage explains that a black man of position – treasurer of the queen - a man of great responsibility - a man of honor – had driven hundreds of miles by chariot searching for truth.  His was a need so great, thoughts so troubling, that no amount of affluence or influence could ever satisfy the longing of his heart.
He had heard that the true God was in Jerusalem.  So he went there.  Maybe he met with the Priests or a Rabbi.  Maybe he toured the Temple, and dined with members of the Sanhedrin.  We don’t know.
But OH the disappointment he found there.  All the materialism, hypocrisy, intolerance, and deadness of Judaism.  He went there searching for answers - and all they could do was sell him something.  

We don’t know how long he was there – but we DO KNOW he was returning home no closer to eternal life than when he had begun.
Some of your friends are like this man.  Searching.  Many have tried church, thinking THERE they should find some answers, only to leave disillusioned and disappointed.  They came with such high expectations – they left with the bitter taste of hypocrisy and materialism in their mouths.
Maybe that’s YOU?  Looking for answers to life’s deepest questions, only to find that no one can answer them?
Understand THIS:  What you need is NOT more religion.  What you need is NOT more stuff.  You NEED Jesus.  Outside of Him, there is no peace, satisfaction, or joy.  Without the Lord, you will NOT find meaning and purpose.
Despite what this world tells you - Position, Power, Pleasure – these things can never meet the longing of your heart.


3.  But not only do we learn in this story that God is interested in us individually, and that power and possessions can never satisfy the deep longings of our soul,

THIRD we learn that it took a willing and available layman to care enough to get involved in this man’s life.  

For him to be saved, for his sins to be forgiven, it took someone like YOU to take the initiative to share Christ.  

Notice the passage again:

And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 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 before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.  In his humiliation justice was denied him.  Who can describe his generation?  For his life is taken away from the earth.”  And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

We don’t generally know the condition of a man’s heart.  We don’t usually know the circumstances going on in a life at any given moment.  But God does.
In this case, God knew a man was searching for truth… that all his success and prominence had failed to provide meaning and peace.  God knew he had gone to Jerusalem searching for truth, only to leave disappointed and confused.  So God had His man, Philip, waiting there to tell him about Jesus.
God was working behind the scenes in this man’s life.  All of his experiences had prepared him for THIS moment.  

  • His education enabled him to read.  

  • His position enabled him to go to Jerusalem.  

  • His wealth made it possible for him to buy a scroll of Isaiah.  

  • His interest in Judaism had taken him to the land where Christ had died.  

  • His disappointment with what he found in Israel and the unquenchable desire for truth – ALL prepared him.

God was working behind the scenes and brought Philip here to meet Him.  So that this man might find Jesus.  All because:

  • God was interested in Him personally

  • Because position and power cannot meet the deep needs of his soul

  • And because there was a willing layman who cared enough to share Christ with him


Which put me in mind of US.
I don’t know what is going on in YOUR life – the circumstances that bring you here today.  But I do know what it is to search for answers, for peace, for unconditional love.  I DO believe that the Lord has brought you here for a reason.  It’s because He wants to save you and shower you with His grace, mercy, and love.  God wants to wash away YOUR sins and give you a life worth living.  He brought you here to hear that.  And if you will open your heart, GOD will come into you and make you new!  Will you do that today?
And the rest of us??? We need to go be a Philip to someone who is searching.  And trust me when I say this – there are people all around us who are searching for truth.
God has strategically placed you where you can be a witness for Him.  He wants to reach people in your life.  He has been preparing them for this moment, just like this Eunuch, and He wants YOU to share the Gospel with them.  Maybe a family member… co-worker, or neighbor – God is working in their lives and has placed you there to be light in their darkness.
Will you let God use you like He did Philip???
Whatever your need today – if you want to be saved – OR – you want to be involved in leading someone to Christ – we invite you to come pray.  

Let’s stand…