Acts Lesson 20 - Just Add a Little . . .
Do you think of yourself as a committed Christian? Well, consider Philip. God called him to leave his home and walk a desert road. No mission, no time-table, and no promise of a safe return . . . just a call to go. Are you ready for that kind of commitment?
“JUST ADD A LITTLE . . .”
In his book called America on Six Rubles a Day, the comedian Yakov Smirnoff writes: Coming from the Soviet Union, I was not prepared for the incredible variety of products available in American grocery stores. While on my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk -- you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice -- you just add water, and you get orange juice. I saw powedered eggs - you just add water, and you get eggs - and then I saw baby powder -- “What a country!"
Everybody knows that it takes more than water to create a living, breathing, human being.
I happen to believe that we have arrived at a misconception that the creation of a living, breathing, disciple is somehow like adding a little water and presto - far from it.
One of the wonderful things about the passage before us is that we’re given the ingredients of a witness - seen in the life of the very first one on one, N.T. example of someone leading another person to faith in Jesus Christ.
And in this wonderful example, we can actually discover some of the elements that make some believers stand out as winsome, effective, passionate testimonies for Jesus Christ.
Let’s pick our study back up as we travel now through the Book of Action to the 8th chapter. Let’s go back to verse 4 tor refresh our memories of this incredible Samaritan revival.
V. 4. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 6. And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Phlip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. Skip over to v. 14. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John. 15. who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Now v. 25. And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But (!) here is an interruption in the incredible series of events. By the way, interruptions are often Divine opportunities. 26. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.)
First ingredient you need to add if you want to produce an effective testimony for Christ is - 1) Add A Little . . . Humility
That may seem a little strange in the beginning part of our recipe - yet, this is exactly what Philip was required to be.
Philip’s big evangelistic meetings were smashing success stories - Samaria was experiencing a national revival - Philip was the leading spokesman of the hour!
He has the potential of leading an enormous movement of the Holy Spirit; he could be the leader of the church in Samaria!
But now! “Philip - leave the spotlight for the out of sight. Get off center stage and go back-stage.”
If there was any desire in his heart to be pre-eminent, he would have refused.
Like Diotrophes who was creating trouble in the church because, as John wrote in III John 9, “Diotrophes loves to be first among them.”
He loves the pre-eminence!
If anything, the evangelical church needs to add a little humility to its resume - instead we follow the pattern of the world with our celebrities and saints; our hero status and cult like following. Whose who and who isn’t so who.
There isn’t a place in the church for sneetches with stars on their bellies and sneetches who don’t have stars on their bellies but oh if they only did - you can tell I’ve been reading that emminent theologian Dr. Suess.
There isn’t any such place in the church as spiritual celebrity status.
Frankly, if David had killed Goliath yesterday, he would have never made it back home becuase of the Christian media frenzy, the speaking tour, the photo shoots and interviews. David would have never had the time to write the Psalms.
We’re not impressing our world becuase we are too busy trying to impress each other. We are not exherting an influence over our society becuase we’re too concerned about exherting influence each other.
How about adding a little humility - Philip didn’t feel snubbed and unnapreciated because he wasn’t after his own glory - he was after the glory of God.
Lord, you want me to leave the spectacular ministry to thousands and go into the desert for the sake of one man - I’ll do it.
Philip teaches us the value of one soul.
Secondly, if you want to follow the Lords command to “be his witnesses, you need to 2) Add A Little . . . Flexibility
Some of the most amazing words in this passage are found in verse - 27 And he arose and went;
leave the city - for the desert
leave ministering to many - for ministry to one
leave the known - for the unknown
he wasn’t told before he left who he’d meet or why!
Have you ever wondered about the fact that God did not send the angel to tell the Ethiopian about Christ - he sent the angel to Philip to tell him to go and tell the Ethiopian about Christ.
Why not send the angel?! Becuase angels have not been given the great commision - God gave that to us. Angels have never personally experienced God’s saving grace. We have.
Now notice the last part of verse 27b. and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship.
We learn three things about Philip’s contact - first of all:
-an Ethiopian statesman
The text informs us that he was from Ethiopia, and specifically, from the court of Queen Candace. During this period of history, Ethiopia occupied the northeastern African coast of the Upper Nile River.
The kings of Ethiopia were believed to be the incarnation of the sun god, and that the affairs of ruling a kingdom were considered beneath their divine status. So, as was their custom, the true power of leadership lay winthin the grasp of the Queen Mother, who bore the hereditary title of Candace.
This verse informs us that this Ethiopian statesman was the cheif operating officer of the entire kingdom. He would have been the Secretary of the Treasury.
-This verse also tells us he was a eunich.
A true Eunich would have been an emasculated man, placed in charge of the Kings harem. However, these men often rose to great positions of power as men the king would come to trust.
Becuase he was a eunich, according to the laws of the temple, he would have been denied access to the temple - even though verse 27 tells us his motive for coming to Jerusalem was to worship, he would have been unable to participate in the temple worship, although he probably entered the synagogues and had spoken with the Rabbi’s. We have a clue of that later on in the text.
the third thing about this man was that He was a “seeker” of the truth
Notice 28 And he was returning and sitting in his chariot (or literally coach), and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Tradition tells us that his name was Judich. He was an African statesman of great power who had traveled some 200 miles to Jerusalem seeking the truth.
But he’d left the center of Judaism as empty as when he’d arrived. He hadn’t found the answer.
And so he’s searching through the scroll of the prophet Isaiah - in a moment we’ll read a quote from the greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint - this man is pouring over the pages - reading to fill that longing in his heart.
His education enabled him to read; his scholarship enabled him to read the greek language of the Septuagint; his executive position in the kingdom allowed him to travel to Jerusalem; his wealth made it possible for him to buy an Isaiah scroll; I think it’s interesting that he chose to purchase a copy of Isaiah - perhaps some Rabbi informed him kindly that Isaiah spoke encouraginly to eunichs - as Isa. did in chapter 56.
This is the man Philip is about to encounter. Flexible Philip
And don’t miss this - Philip was never told why he was to go to a desert road - he wasn’t told how long he’d be gone - and what to expect - he was simply told to go - and flexible Philip went.
Here’s another ingredient to add - 3) Add A Little. . . Initiative
29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
Notice, the Spirit did not ask Philip, “Do you feel comfortable knocking on chariot doors?” “Do you feel capable of rubbing shoulders with the political elite?” “Do you like confrontational evangelism or lifestyle evangelism - further more do you consider Ethiopian evangelism to be your spiritual gift?”
No! “Philip, go up and join this chariot.”
Right about here is where I would have said, “Wait a second Lord.” I’m humble and flexible - but what did you say?”
The exciting thing about this stroy, is that it teaches us the wonderful truth of God’s sovereignty in and through evangelism.
God knew everything there was to know about this Ethiopian - He knew this man’s power and prestige and yet God knew his emptiness. God knew why he had come to Jerusalem - God had seen him being turned away from the temple; God watched as he purchased from some Rabbi in some Synagogue an Old Testament book - God knew which book he had purchased - God knew what passage the Ethiopian was reading at the very moment Philip arrived.
Here was a man riding in a coach who:
-attended religious “services” or at least attempted to
-read the scriptures
-sought the truth
-sincerely desired spiritual reality
-sacrificed finacially for religion’s sake
-was willing to be viewed as “different” by peers
-accepted hardship in order to pursue his “spiritual journey”
-in spite of all of this - he was lost and needed someone to show him the way!
What God simply needed was the human agent to co-labour with him and encounter this man at his need and present him with the truth.
Have you ever been available to the Lord, to be that kind of agent.
Avoid the natural inclination for be a secret service Christian - “I’m a silent witness for God.” A witness is called to the stand to speak - You don’t plead the fifth as a follower of Christ. There is no such thing as a “mute approach”, a silent approach to witnessing.
Somebody has to take the initiative and ask the questions - Hammond - England didn’t believe a child could come to faith in Christ.
We sang just a few moments ago the Biblical truth - how lovely on the mountain are the feet of them who bring good news.
Philip - humble, flexible Philip is now asked to take the inititiave.
“Philip, go catch a ride on that chariot - HOW?! Just do it!
Now, notice v. 30 And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Here’s another thing to add to the list of those who will effectively live their lives and move their lips as a testimony for Jesus Christ.
4) Add A Little . . . Diplomacy
Think about it for a moment - Philip is under direct orders from the Spirit of God. He could have run up and said, “Hey you, God sent me over here to tell you how to repent - you sinner - now give me a ride in your chariot and listen real good.”
No! This verse informs us that as Philip was running up - which by the way is an interesting proof of Philip’s initiative - he heard this man reading, as was the custom - reading aloud.
Immediately, Philip tactfully formed his first question. “Say, do you understand what you’re reading?” Philip knew the answer to that question - he knew he was out there in the desert to reach that man with the gospel. He could have said, “I bet you don’t have a clue what Isaiah’s talking about do you . . . well, this is your lucky day.”
Oh, the very tacfulness of his question provoked a humble response from this man. v. 31. And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Someone once defined tact as “the ability to make someone feel at home, when you really wish they were.”
Diplomacy and tact is a missing ingredient today - the church seems so troubled with it’s evil society that it grows frustrated and angry with it - as if it knew any other way to act. The Bible tells us that Satan has blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest they believe the gospel.
How do you act toward a biblically illiterate person? A person who asks frustrating questions?
One woman, who answered her 130,000 question wrote about her comical, frustrating job as a reservations agent for a major airline.
She writes, “I’ve made it through all the calls from adults who didn’t know the difference between a.m. and p.m.; from the woman who called to get advice on how to handle her daughter; from the man who wanted to ride inside the kennel with his dog so he wouldn’t have to pay for a seat; and from the woman who wanted to know why she had to change clothes on her flight between Chicago and Washington (she was told she’d have to make a change between the two cities).
In five years, I’ve received an education from the astonishing lack of awareness of our American citizenry. I talked to a woman in Denver who had never heard of Cincinnati; a man in Minneapolis who didn’t know there was more than one city in the South; a woman in Nashville who asked if, “Instead of pahing for my ticket, can I just donate the money to the National Cancer Society?” And the man in Dallas who tried to pay for his ticket by sticking quarters in the pay phone he was calling from.
I knew I was in trouble when a man asked if we flew to exit 35 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Another time, when a man said he wasnted to fly to Illinois, and I asked him what city he wanted to go to in Illinois, he said, “Cleveland, Ohio.”
The winner was the woman who called and wanted to fly to Hippopotamus, NY. After assuring her that there as no such city, she became irate and said it was a big city with a big airport. I asked if Hippopotamus was near Albany or Syracuse. It wasn’t. Then I asked if it was near Buffalo. “Buffalo!” she said, “I knew it was a big animal.”
I’ve had 130,000 little wars and I am a wise old veteran, and I still end my calls with, “Thanks for calling, and have a nice day.”
What a lesson in diplomacy. Add that to your testimony and see just how many times God will use you to help someone make a reservation in heaven.
5) Add A Little . . . Focus
32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 “In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who shall relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?” 35 And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
Has it occured to you that Philip could have really waxed elequent about Pentecost - He’d seen Jerusalem first hand in the early years after the descent of the Holy Spirit - Philip could have spent time talking to this man about his tenure as a Deacon in the first church - he could have amazed the Ethiopoian with his exploits as a crusade evangelist in Samaria.
No! Beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
And what a text - this is taken from Isaiah 53 - The Ethiopian could tell from reading that the verses were referring to the violent death of someone - was Isaiah speaking of himself or of someone else?
And Philip was able to describe for him the wonder and love of the dying Savior - the lamb of God who came to die for the sin of the world. The lamb who came and was silent in the acceptance of his death.
Jesus, stripped before the Sanhedrin - beaten by the Romans, jeered by the mob who cried, “Crucify Him? - the angels, twelve legions of them would have, at His command come sweeping from the splendor of the Father’s throne and crushed the enemies of the Savior and set Him free - with just one word - but he was silent.
Philip must have explained to Judich why the Savior was silent - He had come, as the incarnation of the true and living God, to die for men like him.
Judich must have been filled with questions.
And, if you’ve spent time telling people of Jesus Christ, you know that one of the challenges in witnessing is keeping that person focused on their real need.
What they really need is not the answer to all the natives who’ve never heard; or the answer concerning the age of the universe.
What they need is the answer to the primary question: “What will you do with Jesus Christ.”
It’s evident from the text that Philip expalined not only the plan of salvation but the identification of the believer with Christ through baptism.
36 And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Would you like to be like Philip? Then
Add A Little . . . Availability
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.
Did you catch that - “The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away” - before he could wipe the water off his face that splashed from the robes of the Ethiopian - he was wisked away - changed course again!
Who knows - Philip could have continued on with this Secretary of the Finance Department for the Kingdom of Ethiopia - he could have begun a movment in Ethiopia - could have been the honored guest of this wealthy, powerful man -chould have dined with the Queen and preached to upper crust.
I love the way the text reads - But (there’s that interrupting word again - it began our story in verse 26 and now it closes our story) But Philip found himself at Azotus.
I wonder if he’s dripping wet!
I don’t know - but I do know that he was available.
Becoming like Philip:
1) is preceded by personal commitment and holiness
2 Timothy 2 describes the vessel that God will use for his service - it is a vessel that has been cleansed and sanctified. If your walk doesn’t measure up to your talk, it’s best you don’t talk.
2) is dependant upon selfless availability
It isn’t so much ability in witnessing as it is availability.
3) is expressed through a personal understanding of Biblical truth
4) is motivated by a growing relationship with Jesus Christ
Hammond - children
By the way - the Ethiopian must have beomce a lot like Phillip - becuase years later, we discover by way of church history that the first major national movement of the organized New Testament church - where great church leaders will rise up and lead the way for generations - is the national church movment, not in Asia Minor, or in Europe, but the church in North Africa.
If anything this story tells us, never overlook the value of reaching out to just one person. May God use you and me to win them one at a time for His glory.
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