Acts 8B

Acts 8: It Ain’t Easy!

Have you ever run a full marathon ( 26 miles 385 yards)?  Guess what few have. In fact only 5 out of 3,000 will have ever done this. You know why?  It ain’t easy.

The Navy Seals were in the news recently for their assault on the Bin Laden compound. Did you know only one out of ten are selected to enter this program? Did you know only 2 out of 10 will complete it? You know why? It ain’t easy.

Bad habits are easy to form and hard to break. Good habits are hard to form and easy to break. Today’s lesson will look at easy believe- ism as we realize we all are prone to take the easy way.

The story so far…

On the day of Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit came just 10 days after the resurrected Lord had ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit came down that day and Peter preached, and the crowd heard the Gospel in their own language and 3000 souls were saved that day. From that day forward we believe when a person is truly saved, born again  of the Spirit the Holy Spirit comes at the instant of salvation. The Spirit indwells and seals the believer. The Spirit will never leave us nor depart from us. We can be filled many times, but the indwelling and sealing is once and for ever. We also can through disobedience quench the Spirit and grieve the Spirit.

In the early days of the church it was mainly Jews who were becoming believers. Jesus’ instruction was to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. We read about the persecution of the Sanhedrin as well as the internal problems with Ananias and Sapphira, and the problem that arose with the Greek widows. Then we were spellbound with the trial and defense of Stephen which ended with his being stoned to death and the church moved to the next level.

Saul of Tarsus began a mission to destroy this work he called ‘the Way’ and literally dragged people from their homes and had them put in prison. So the 12 apostles stayed in Jerusalem while the others scattered. We pick up our story with Phillip, one of the seven original men selected to care for the Greek widows.  He goes to the city of Samaria and begins  to preach and we will meet a strange person named Simon and see something unusual happen with response to his preaching Christ in Samaria. You will soon realize why I have entitled this lesson –‘ it ain’t easy!”

Let me also remind you of the wisdom of God when combined with His other attributes  enable God to do the following: THE WISDOM OF GOD TELLS US THAT GOD WILL BRING ABOUT THE BEST POSSIBLE RESULTS, BY THE BEST POSSIBLE MEANS FOR THE MOST PEOPLE FOR THE LONGEST PERIOD OF TIME.

Let that sink in for a minute.   That means if there was a better way to do it, if there was a kinder, faster, more expedient, more gentle way, God would be using it.  But since He is All Wise, All Powerful, All Knowing  He always does not only what is right- but perfectly right. Which means if it took the death of Stephen, the persecution of Saul to scatter the church and spread the Gospel- then God knew best what it would take.

Consider the following attributes of our Heavenly Father: Creator of all things, owns all things, sustains all things. He is righteous in all His ways. He is Just in His wrath. He is intolerant of sin. He is Holy above all things.  Then I want you to remember – God does not change.

Sometimes we have to get on the other side of the storm- have some time to think about it and look back and we can see as Joseph did- you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good for the saving of many people. I don’t believe Joseph was probably that sure of this truth when he was in prison.

The world of Biblical times was inhabited by some unique people with unique powers. Take for example the story of Moses and his staff. When he cast it down before the Pharaoh it turned into a serpent. Was the Pharaoh impressed? Not by that magic trick and to show his disdain he called upon his two magicians, Jannes and Jambre to throw down their two staffs which also turned into serpents. ( It should be noted that Moses’ serpent consumed the other two serpents proving the devil’s power is less than the Lord’s- always has been, always will be.) Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2: “ the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of satan with all power, signs, and lying wonders…”

Jesus, Himself performed miracles during his earthly ministry. But he knew miracles can be duplicated or manipulated by the enemy. He often told those he healed not to tell anyone. And at the very beginning of his ministry in John 2- we see many followed because of the miracles but Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew what was in their heart. You see IT  IS EASY TO  BELIEVE in miracles and miracle workers  that you can see and experience. But faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. ( Hebrews 11:1)  And without faith it is impossible to please the Lord.

We will look today at an interesting passage of scripture and an intriguing and somewhat disturbing event. It is the story of Simon the magician, a Samaritan and of Phillip’s mission to the Samaritans. The story has much for us to think about- and one of them is ‘ easy believe-ism’. It is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. It is what is happening this Sunday, May 15, 2011 in churches  all over the world.

Let’s read the text as if for the first time ever.

The story is simple enough. Phillip, a man of God, goes to the city of Samaria and preaches Christ. The crowds heard Phillip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention(heeded KJV) to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits were cast out of many and many lame were healed and there was great joy in the city. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Verse 9 will introduce us to a man who shows up for a few verses in Acts 8, that we never hear from again.- But this occurrence has led to a lot of speculation. His name is Simon, he is a magician, a man who practiced sorcery. He claimed he was someone great and the people believed he had the power of God. Simon was the main man in Samaria. He would soon be replaced by Phillip and this new way- Christianity. Simon was no fool and he realized if you can’t beat ‘em- join ‘em. He figured he could learn to work this magic also. We are told to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Simon’s false confession of faith- for he did not possess what he professed comes one chapter before Saul’s confession of faith and subsequent conversion. This will allow us to lay one beside the other- like a real dollar bill compared to a counterfeit dollar bill. For that is how the banks teach tellers how to recognize the false by studying and comparing to the real.

Phillip’s arrival and preaching had dried up Simon’s ministry. So Simon wisely joined in and it would appear  to be a new believer. Of the Samaritans we read ‘ when they believed Phillip as he preached the good news of  the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ ,they were baptized, both men and women. Everything sounds great so far. More baptisms – more members added to the role.Even Simon- that old rascal we are told believed and was baptized.  Notice when he, Simon,was baptized he continued  with Phillip and look at what was his interest- ‘ he was amazed , seeing the miracles and signs that were done.’ Jesus knew that the belief that is based on miracles is shallow.  Like the seed that falls on the shallow earth with the rocky stone beneath. (Luke 8) It springs up but it withers in the sun.  Witness the Israelites who had seen  the mighty hand of God in the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from heaven yet when Moses is up on Mount Sinai for 40 days- they want another leader and their old gods of Egypt.

Now the scene shifts for a moment as we read in verse 14 the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem  receive word of Phillip’s ministry in Samaria and the conversion of Samaritans.  Keep in mind up until this time, most of the converts to Christianity had been Jews. The Jews hated the Samaritans. In Luke 9,when the Samaritans did not receive Jesus, James and John wanted the village destroyed by fire from heaven. They despised the Samaritans and the Samaritans despised the Jews. A Jew would travel miles out of their way to avoid through Samaritan territory.

So the decision is made for Peter and John, the main apostles to go check this out. See what has really happened. Are these true conversions or not and if so- how would the church respond to these Samaritans?

Now by this time, if this is your first reading of this story, you might suspect that Simon is a tare among the wheat. That he is after  something that will empower him. He will be exposed. But if we are honest when we read when Peter and John came ‘they prayed they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon  ANY OF THEM! They had simply been baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.’ We are shocked!  None of them are saved? What is going on?

Let’s look carefully and prayerfully at this passage:  Phillip preached. He did miracles of healing. The Samaritans with one accord heeded the things spoken by Phillip ( verse 6)  Great joy was in the city. They believe the things concerning the kingdom of God  and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.( verse 12)  It is obvious there was a change as they turned from Simon’s sorcery to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But when Peter and John arrive we read: “ Who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet, He had not fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they(Peter and John) laid hands on them , and they received the Holy Spirit.” ( verse 15-17)  What is going on here? What has happened?  Were they saved before or not?  If not why not?   The scripture teaches us when we get saved we receive the Holy Spirit immediately at conversion. The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at the moment of salvation. We are sealed, indwelt in an eternal condition and the Spirit will never leave us or desert us. Filling is different and will occur numerous times. So based on Scripture- the Samaritans were not saved because they had not been indwelt by the Spirit yet. They said the right things  but yet the Spirit has not fallen on them.   Let’s look again to make sure we have not missed something.   Phillip preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord HEEDED the things spoken by Phillip, hearing and seeing the miracles.  But notice what is said of Simon- “this man is the great power of God. And they HEEDED him(Simon) because he had astonished them with his sorcery for a long time. Could it be- what the Samaritans believed was a shallow belief based on miracles? That what Phillip really represented was a new magician, a new more powerful miracle worker to believe in?

Let us remember how God operates : The wisdom of God tells us that God  will bring about  the best possible results, by the best possible means for the most possible people, for the longest period of time.

If Jesus would not entrust Himself to those who believed in His name when they saw the miraculous signs  He was doing as we read in John 2. Why do we expect the Holy Spirit to entrust  Himself to one who believes in the miracles and the miracle worker?  For He also knows the heart of man.

Listen to the Lord Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:20 and following: “ Therefore by  their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness?’

Jesus says you will know a tree by its fruit. A good tree will produce good fruit. There will be change in one’s life, you become a new creature. The plant that sprang up in the shallow soil never came to fruition. Compare Simon who wants to learn this new, more powerful magic to Saul at his conversion.Saul makes a radical change in his life,just like Zaccheus did. Perhaps the Samaritans and surely Simon wanted to add this new power and this Jesus to their current lifestyle. After all- there was the joy caused by the miracles, the casting out of unclean spirits, the healings . Jesus does not want to be something added to our lives- He wants to be our life. He wants to be the center of our new life.

So the Samaritans needed to receive the Holy Spirit.

“Unless one if born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3. )

Here in the early days of the church the Gospel and salvation must be presented fully. Just as it was in the days of the Samaritan revival where Phillip preached ,you will have tares among the wheat. You have those that receive the word with joy  but these have not root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.  What does that stone represent?  “ I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart nd an new SPIRIT  within you; I will take the heart of STONE  out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put MY SPIRIT   within you and cause you to walk in my statutes…” Ezekial 36. The stone represents an unrepentant heart.

You see those four types of soil in the parable of the seed and the sower  represent the different hearts of mankind. The hard packed earth represents the broadway  the majority of the world takes that seems right to them and many enter in. The soil on the rock represents the shallow heart- that likes the miracles and manna and the good stuff but let the talk of taking up your cross and the teaching of entering the hard, narrow way of following Christ and they fall away. Then there is the soil that represents the worldly heart that loves the things of this world so much they crowd out the seed of the Gospel. And the fourth soil is the good soil which is the heart that believes and receives and produces fruit. A noble and good heart. But we were all one of the other types of heart before we received a new heart weren’t we?

Salvation is of God. I do not want to confuse you – I want to challenge you to examine yourself and see that you are in the faith. Paul tells us to do just that in Corinthians.

I know you know these wonderful scriptures:

John 3:16; Romans 10:9 & 10  “ If you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified , and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  Heart not head belief.

The Samaritans had been conditioned, or conformed to believe in miracles and were drawn to men who could do such things. Satan understands our need to worship and he knows we like to have leaders we can see and hear. So false religions always have a strong , charismatic leader who people worship. That is why we call them ‘ idols.’

Let me assure you of this:

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. It involves repentance, commitment, discipline  and a renouncing of all that stands in the way of Jesus.  I want you to go through these verses with me and then see if you agree with what I have to say about this lesson.

Matthew 7:13,14; Luke 13- the narrow door vs. 22; Luke 14;25John 2;  John 6:53

Let me tell you what many people who profess Christ but do not possess Christ always want: They want Christ without the Cross. They want salvation without sacrifice. They want ‘input’ without ‘output.’ The want what we all want in our flesh- ‘something for nothing. They want to take the shortcut. But there are no shortcuts to any place worth going!

Do you see what happened here in Samaria?  It is a classic case of ‘easy believe-ism’. That is not the whole story of the Gospel that Jesus told us. But somehow  it has become the norm .  The Lord experienced it in his own earthly ministries. He was the latest, greatest miracle worker and thousands followed Him to get something for nothing.

We need a new heart for our old hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can understand it?’ ( Jeremiah 17:9)   God makes all things new. He gives us a new heart, new desires, a new mind, a new relationship.

One of the commands of the great commission is to make disciples, teaching them to observe all things  that I(Jesus) have commanded you. ( Matthew 28)  Discipleship is an important, necessary element of the great commission and the spreading of the gospel. For the Lord wants us all to grow up, mature in our faith.

But God always does what will accomplish the most good for the most people for the longest period of time. Who else was affected here in this story? Peter and John. The laying on of  hands by Peter and John had nothing to do with the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit. The laying on of hands of the apostles was their way of putting their stamp of approval on the whole Samaritan movement. (Just as they had put their hands on the 7 men chosen by the multitude- it denoted their approval.)  Therefore I believe this was an event engineered by God that was necessary to get the largely Jewish believers to see God had accepted  Samaritans just as He accepted them. For as Paul would later write “ There is one body, and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and One Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” ( Ephesians 4)

Now Simon shows his true nature, his unredeemed nature by the actions he takes when he sees this laying on of hands and the Holy Spirit given. He pulls out his wallet and says I would like to buy this  power. His words revealed what was in his heart. Peter tells him what he can do with his money and that his  words out of his mouth reveal his heart is not right in the sight of God. Peter tells Simon to repent.

Now after this Peter and John return to Jerusalem. But notice in returning they preached the Gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.  Look what God had accomplished : the Samaritans got saved, Simon was exposed, Peter and John realized God was going to save the Samaritans , the  same way he saved them, and the Gospel was preached in many village

One more thing I see in this passage is the prayer of Peter and John that is very encouraging.’ They prayed for them(the Samaritans) they might receive the Holy Spirit’. (verse 15) For those we are concerned about their relationship with God, we also can pray for them they might receive the Holy Spirit.  In Luke 11, Jesus said: “ If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit  TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM!”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and He is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance.

“Now this is the confidence we have in HIM, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions  that we have asked of Him.” ( I John 5:14,15)   ‘Ask and it will be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it will opened. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

So as Paul said: ‘ continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling..’

Salvation is free.. but the Christian life –  IT AIN’T EASY!

Acts 8- Scene 3

In verse 25 of Acts 8- let us  take note of what Peter and John did as they returned to Jerusalem from Samaria: “ When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.”

Notice the three things they did:  they testified; they proclaimed the word of the Lord; and preached the gospel. These three activities are considered to be the normal, usual activities of the church and the Christian.  To testify is to share your personal experience- the way you were – what happened and the way you are now. This is witnessing  101.  You do not tell people what they ought to do- you tell them what the Lord has done in your life. Next we read they proclaimed the Word of the Lord. They shared what the Scriptures said. If you have ever listened to Billy Graham or read of Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade ministry you know both always proclaim-  ‘the Word of God says..’ Both of these men who have been used mightily by the Lord say it does not matter what Billy Graham or Bill Bright have to say- they know the power of God’s word . “ For the Word of God is powerful and alive..” ( Hebrews 4:12) Then they preached the Gospel that is referred to as ‘evangelism.’ So we see the normal activities: witnessing, sharing Scriptures, and presenting the Gospel- i.e. evangelizing.

But let us remember the three symbols that would characterize the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost with the: sound of a mighty rushing wind; and tongues of fire.  Wind. Tongues. Fire.

Wind. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:8-‘ You hear the sound of the wind, but you cannot tell where it is going, and you do not know whence it comes. So is he that is born of the Spirit..’ The wind is a symbol of the sovereign direction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit goes where He wills and we cannot  predict Him.

Tongues are a symbol of the proclaiming of the gospel in various languages.  The gospel started out in Jerusalem in the Hebrew and Aramic and probably Greek languages of the day and region- then spread until today it has reached many different languages in the known world, including isolated groups of people in their own native tongue.  The miracle on the Day of Pentecost showed us that the Lord wanted the Gospel to be translated to all the people groups of the world where they can hear it in their own language. This is why the invention of the printing press and the work of translation is so important since the days of Martin Luther to the work of Wycliffe today.

Fire represents judgment and purifying. These are two works the Holy Spirit performs in the church to keep it usable and clean. We see the work of the  Holy Spirit in the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira when God judged their hypocrisy. We see the work of the Holy Spirit in exposing  the  shallow faith of the Samaritans as well as the exposure of Simon’s false profession.

In verse 26 of Acts 8 we will read of the wind of the Holy Spirit to move Phillip to where He, the Holy Spirit would unexpectedly work with one individual.  It is the expected we come to rely on, isn’t  it? After all our  order of service is printed out and published in the bulletin  so we can know what is going to happen and the order in which it will occur. We are creatures of habit who like the familiar. But we must be careful for the Jews substituted the rituals of religion for a relationship with the True and Living God. Let us make sure we are not guilty of the same. Let us make sure we are born of the Spirit for it is the Spirit that brings life and the flesh accounts for nothing. The flesh, our old nature, likes ritual, ceremony and routine. It does not like change. It likes for the services to follow the order of the service as printed in the bulletin and be over in a timely manner.

Listen to what Peter would write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:  “ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who CALLED  us by His own glory and goodness. Through these (his glory and goodness) He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world cause by evil desires.” ( 2 Peter 1:3-4)   Then Peter describes what will produce a well-rounded fruitful Christian life as he described the virtues that grow out of this divine relationship: faith, goodness, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.  The Peter cautions us: “ Therefore , my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”

The Apostle Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Let me tell you three identifying marks of a Christian:

  1. Life marked by obedience. Jesus said if you love Him you will keep his commandments. This is not sinless perfection; however, it is a desire and passion to follow Him  in obedience. (John 15)
  2. Life marked b change. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us: “Therefore, If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new has come. “ We have been changed and are being changed and transformed from the inside –out by the power of God and Gods’ Word as the Spirit reveals its truths to us and we obey.
  3. Life marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are Gods’ children.” Romans 8:16  The Holy Spirit indwells and seals the believer at the moment of salvation. Paul says we know that we know.

I have said all of that to make this statement:  There is the predictable and the orderly and the normal. And the Spirit can be at work in those conditions. Nothing wrong with that, just be careful you do not come to rely on that and  NOT leave God room to do the unexpected.  If the Holy Spirit wants to break into the routine and ordinary to do the extraordinary- let us be sensitive to it. So now let us look at the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing  into Phillip’s life to interrupt what he was doing in Samaria to move him where God wanted him .

“ Now an angel of the Lord said to Phillip, ‘ go south to the road- the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (vs.27)  What did we say last week about the wisdom of God?  The wisdom of God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means for the most people for the longest period of time.

Well, you might say if God sent an angel to tell me something, I would do it also. But does God send angels today?  Hebrews 1:14 tells us: ‘ Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” And Psalms 91 says: “ For He (God) will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” And also we are told in Hebrews 13: ‘ do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Do angels still make visible appearances?  Well there are documented stories in our time of angels intervening in the life of missionaries. The point is- the Holy Spirit like the wind will move as He pleases and will interfere with our pre-conceived ideas as to how He is going to accomplish the will of God.

The point is Phillip was sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. God had a divine plan to send Phillip on a divine encounter. If you find your life interrupted by something unexpected, be prepared for God to bring some change in your life.  The wind blows and we can resist it or we can set our sails and go with it. Ask Jonah about resisting God’s direction.

God spoke to Jonah and gave him a personal, clear and direct word. God told Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness had come up to Him.  What did Jonah do? He bought a ticket on a boat headed in the opposite direction we are told to ‘flee from the Lord.’ Does God speak to us today?  Yes. He speaks through His word, through His Spirit and others. Furthermore, you can heed his call or disregard his call. You might think I am not equipped to do that Lord- but if the Lord calls you to do something He will also equip you to do it. If God calls you to go to a Nineveh, don’t be like Jonah and think you have a better  idea than God.

Here is the point of the story of Jonah. God directed him where to go and Jonah went in the opposite direction. What did God do? He sent a great ‘wind’ on the sea that threatened to break up the ship. You know the rest of the story- Jonah thrown overboard, a great fish prepared by God swallows Jonah. Three days later Jonah repents, and promises God he will do what he tells him to do. And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a  SECOND TIME.  ( The God of second chances). And Jonah obeys.

Phillip is sent to lonely desert road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza. Remember what Jesus said in John 5:  ‘ My Father is always  at work to this very day, and I, too am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also. For the Father loves the son and shows him all he does.’ Jesus never operated independent of the Father. In essence this was what the temptation of satan is always about to operate separate from God the Father and from his will and directions. It has been that way since the Garden of Eden. That is why in his Sermon on the Mount Jesus emphasizes there are two directions- the narrow way and the broad way.  There are two foundation on which you can build- the solid rock or shifting sands.  Jesus said always seek the kingdom of God first and all the things you need will be added.

Phillip obeys. He follows God’s directions even though they may not make sense to him. May not seem like the best use of his time.  Go to a lonely desert road? Witness to one man?  Why wouldn’t staying in Samaria be the best use of my time? But God knows how to get the best results by the best means for the most possible people for the longest period of time. Consider the Apostle Paul, who we know from his letters longed to go to Rome to preach the Gospel. Finally he gets to Rome- but he is a prisoner. Yet his prison epistles have reached untold millions- much much more than he could have ever reached by preaching to Roman crowds.

The wind of the Holy Spirit has blown Phillip down this lonely desert road. About that time an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of Ethiopia passes by in his chariot.  We read this man has been to Jerusalem to worship. So this is a man in search of the truth.

He must have purchased a copy of scripture. He is reading from the book of Isaiah aloud as he passes Phillip and the Spirit says to Phillip –‘go to the chariot’.  God told Jonah to go and Jonah said no. God said to Phillip go and he went. He was a ‘go-getter’.  Phillip was not a hesitant witness- he was a willing witness.  Witnessing is not optional for Christians- it is the last commandment of our Lord to us. To be witnesses to our Nineveh’s – on our  lonely desert roads to Gaza, or in your own neighborhood or workplace.

Phillip asks the man- ‘ do you understand what your are reading?’ How can I unless someone explain it to me?  He was an honest doubter, seeking the truth.  The Lord Jesus said ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened.  The eunuch wants to know who is the writer talking about- himself or someone else?  Phillip begins with that passage  and told him the good news about Jesus. Phillip  showed him how Jesus was the one who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and by his stripes(wounds) we are healed. He showed him we all like sheep have gone astray.

They came to water and the eunuch wants to know why shouldn’t I be baptized?  The NIV omits verse 37- citing in small print it was not in early manuscripts- but the KJV has it .  The question is a very important question- what hinders me to be baptized?  Hinders- that is obstructs or holds one back. Phillip then answers the question that must be answered honestly. “ If you believe with ALL YOUR HEART- YOU MAY BE BAPTIZED.”   The eunuch answered and said , ‘ I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Listen to what God says:  “ I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with  ALL YOUR HEART.  I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity. (Jeremiah 29)

And then in Proverbs 5- we read: “ Trust in the Lord with  ALL YOUR HEART,  and lean not to your own understanding, in ALL YOUR WAYS  acknowledge God and He will direct your paths.’

When I got saved in 1977 and started going to church and AA meetings. I was reading the Bible and the Big Book in AA.  Both told me many of the same truths- and the one that stood out was – ‘ half-hearted efforts did not work.’

What does the enemy tempt  you to do?  To live your life apart from God. To make your own decisions- to do what you want to do and feel like doing. It is a way that seems right – but the broad way leads to destruction. We thought going down the broad way was the way to go- it seemed like more fun and  everyone else was going down it. Didn’t we tell our parents everyone else was going to the party?  I will tell you exactly what happened because it is the way of sin. Sin takes you further than you want to go; keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs you more than you want to pay.  The deceitfulness of sin.

The eunuch and Phillip go down in the water . Phillip is whisked away to his next adventure and the eunuch goes on back home rejoicing. Can you imagine the work the Lord is going to do through this important official’s life in the country of Ethiopia?

Back in the book of Isaiah and I wonder did they Ethiopian man ever read this and he probably did for it is only two chapters away from where he was reading. In chapter 55 listen to this: ‘ Seek the Lord while He may  be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him and to our God, for he will freely pardon.’

Seek Him while he may be found implies there can come a time when God cannot be found. The door will be closed.

I remembered something as I was preparing this lesson. One summer day a few years ago- I was flying to California.  The flight attendant brought a minor, a young boy around 10 years old who was flying back home by himself. Since he was sitting next to me – she told me to keep an eye on him. He was a typical 10 year old with a baseball cap, a summer tan and tennis shoes. I asked him was LA his home and he told me where his family lived in California.  I asked him where had he been and he had been to visit his grandparents, his mother’s mom and dad. They lived in the country outside of Ripley.  He came every summer to spend a couple of weeks. It reminded me of my mother’s grandparents. Then I noticed the bracelet on his wrist. It was made of three different colored strings- red, white and blue. And I knew what it was and asked him what is that unusual bracelet you are wearing?  He looked at me and said – it is a salvation bracelet.  I got saved at my grandparents’ church and baptized. I asked him what the colors stood for and he explained- the red stands for the blood of Jesus shed for our sins; the white stands for snow- His blood washes away our sins and we are white as snow;( he added – we have all sinned, you know);  and the blue stands for heaven where we spend eternity. This little boy was not ashamed of the gospel. And what he had just done was – testify, proclaim the Word of the Lord and share the gospel – just like Peter and John had done and just like we believers are supposed to do.

The Lord had used a wind to blow this little boy 1500 miles from home to a country church with loving grandparents who had told their grandson about the Lord many times I am sure. But now he was returning home a new boy.Just as God had a divine plan for the eunuch and Phillip and this little boy- he has divine plans for others including you and me.

You see if we love the Lord with all our heart; we will trust Him with all our heart. And when we do He will direct our paths.  Like a kite – or the sails of ship we await the winds of the Spirit to blow us in the way God would have us to go.

It matters not which way the wind blows – it is the set  of your sails that determine  the direction of the ship. Go with God! You will never regret it and He has promised He will always be with you.