Disciples: listening and coming alongside ()
The disciples have been persecuted, and yet the Church is growing Remember a few weeks ago when Richard explored the disciples working together and delegating the roles out. 7 men were chosen to particularly attend to the widows and the orphans, and 2 of them are named. A couple of weeks ago we explored Stephen – an amazing man of God who even when being stoned for his faith prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And then he died Last week we started to hear more about Philip and his ministry in Samaria – who lived the good news of Jesus – so much so that even the famous ‘Simon the Sorcerer’ became a believer and follower of Jesus And today, we are finishing out series on 'What the disciples did next' after the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus
Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus. Amen
Have you ever experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit? It’s where you’re going about your day and you get a strong sense from God that you need to do something specific Last year, I felt a strong prompt to ring my Grandad, and it turns out that was the last conversation I had with him a day before he died. In the cell notes, I share about the time I was walking to a band practice at school. I was about half a mile from home and walked past the new spiritualist shop. While praying that God would open their eyes to see and experience his love rather than the darkness which felt like it consumed that shop, I can remember crossing the road and being physically turned around and marched into the shop. I can only describe it as the Holy Spirit moving me to speak to the women behind the counter and we had a conversation about Jesus.Now I haven't had such a dramatic guidance by the Holy Spirit since, but when we are open to saying "Lord, what are we doing today" rather than being ruled by our diaries, it is amazing who God brings us alongside
I’m loving going through the book of Acts and seeing how the disciples continue living and witnessing to the way of Jesus, preaching in his name and doing what he did We see Philip here prompted by an angel. Now Angels are messengers of God and in fact the word angelos means messenger. So let’s have a look at this and get our bearings Philip’s been up in Samaria bringing the good news to their spiritual cousins who they hated And the message was that God wanted him to take the dirt track or desert road down from Jerusalem to Gaza (roughly the distance between here and Bradford) Philip could have gone his own way, but he was obedient He heard the message from God And he obeyed So he starts out and once he’s on the road he sees the treasurer of EthiopiaHere’s an influential guy from a distant nation A guy who is trusted with the money for the nation and who serves directly under the Queen And this foreign official has been worshipping in Jerusalem Which is curious Because different nations were known for worshipping other gods This man had obviously been attracted to the Jewish faith, and most importantly interested in the one true God. He was a man who had even journeyed over 2,000 miles to Jerusalem to worship the Hebrew God And at some point, perhaps on his recent trip, he’s spent a lot of money purchasing a copy of at least the scroll of Isaiah, if not more of the Old testament And the Holy Spirit speaks to Philip “Go to that chariot and stay near it” Notice how Philip heard the message from God v29 And obeyed it v30 “ran up to the chariot He then listens with ears and eyes wide open and he recognises the passage the Ethiopian is reading. It wouldn’t have been unusual to read anything out loud in those days, we now read more in our heads, but that wasn’t usual in ancient times Notice how we don’t hear that Philip was prompted with what to say. God lead him to this moment and now the emphasis is on Philip to be ready to respond to what he sees and hears He takes the initiative “Do you understand what you are reading?” v30 “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” v31 So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The Ethiopian official is ready, he’s desperate to know more And Philip doesn’t say – well actually we’ve now gone a long way from home in your Chariot I should head back. He’s ready to journey with him, he’s already come alongside the Chariot, now he’s riding up top But most importantly, he’s ready to share the good news They read the passage from Isaiah and then the Eunuch says “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with the very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. So let’s explore that passage from Isaiah The God who created the universe saw us mess up His world He saw how much we’ve damaged it, how much we’ve hurt the world and each other And instead of walking away, he rolled up his sleeves and waded into the mess of humanity He taught us the best way to live, his life was an example of what it means to be truly human, to live in relationship with the God we’d rejected And he was ready to do even more
32“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” – (NIV)
The only one who is worthy of giving a defence for his innocence did not open his mouth. Even the accounts where Jesus does open his mouth, it’s only reflecting back what the courts and Pilate say to him. It’s not a defence he gives Jesus was deprived of Justice – the God of justice, the judge of all, was deprived justice when his own creation stood in judgement over him His life was taken from the earth, the God who created life had his stripped from him by those he had given life to Friends – we sometimes get used to the good news It’s what we hear taught every week in Church, we know we’re meant to share it but we get used to how shocking it is This is the creator, stepping down to rescue us. The whole course of human history, of human exploitation and final destruction has been overturned. Nothing is the same anymore. And yet sometimes we live like it’s just like it was before we knew Jesus. And we live alongside friends, family, colleagues and neighbours who don’t know Jesus It truly is as simple as asking God “where do you want me to be today, what shall we do together. The good news of Jesus is of our loving God coming alongside us. Walking alongside us. Not just snapping His fingers and making everything alright. But of journeying with us, nudging us, counselling us, giving us guidance at times of confusion, giving us a hand to hold through the storms of life. Giving us confidence that He has it all in hand even when it feels like we’re in sinking sand
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
After all of this, they continued their journey. Philip didn’t get off once he’d given the gospel. It wasn’t what I call “hit and run” evangelism. He continued until the Ethiopian Eunuch had asked all his questions, and they’d explored it together. And I reckon that there were some questions which Philip wasn’t sure of the full answer. He respected God and this guy too much to try and look clever. And so whenever we get into a discussion where we don’t know the answer, it’s fine to say – that’s a great question, I don’t know the answer but perhaps I could get back to you once I’ve looked into it more or had a chat with a wise friend
36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”
38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Philip was ready to respond In this case it was baptism, but for us perhaps it’s being ready to lead a friend to Jesus through a short prayer like this “Jesus – I’m sorry for the wrong I’ve done in my life. I turn from all that and ask you to be Lord and guide of my life. I want to know you. Please rescue me and show me your love. Amen And if you can’t remember that – it’s all in the Lord’s prayer so just pray that with someone (perhaps with a little explanation)
So what does this look like for us? What does it look like at work, or at the school gate, over coffee with a friend or when you’re with your family? It’s about being a vessel for God. Being ready for him to do his work with you Are you willing to partner with God in bringing his kingdom to earth? The Kingdom of God grows in the heart of every believer, and when someone comes to know Jesus, that persons life is transformed and the Kingdom of God grows in them and spreads to those around them Philip firstly listened to God, he understood what God was asking him to do and he boldly went He listened to the situation, understood his response and went He listened to the Ethiopian official, understood what was being asked and responded And it took time In some ways, this happened quite quickly – it was only a matter of hours, perhaps a day or two But it took time Many people aren’t this ready to meet with Jesus – but I wonder which of your friends and family are open spiritually. Perhaps some are closed at the moment, just pray for them and hand them to the love of God But for those who are open, make sure you’re ready I think we see in Philip the importance of us being ready Is your heart ready. Do you pray daily “Lord what are we up to today?” Your diary might look packed, your life might look like there’s no space in it But if you’re open to the work of the Holy Spirit and his prompting, He will be asking you to partner with Him, in bringing the good news that Jesus loves and saves – to your friends, your family and your colleagues. Some of you might feel like you need training, like you’re not ready to do it. Firstly – if you rely on the Holy Spirit He equips us when we need it But we’ve got work to do to Daily Bible reading is the first obvious place – I use the Bible in one year app where I just listen to the passages for the day being read. I download them to my phone and listen at the gym at the moment. Then spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to prepare you and make you ready for His opportunities Also it’s great to go deeper in Bible study and in evangelism. And we have two amazing groups to help. LIFE groups and MATs are training grounds. Both take you deeper in your Bible study and MATs particularly spend time listening to God, understanding his call and then stepping out into what God is calling them to do. And in my meeting with LIFE and MATs on July the 17th is a chance to look at how we can all do both Bible study and partnering with Jesus in his mission even better and together so don’t miss it if you’re in a LIFE or MAT And for those of you who do feel like you have space – can I ask you to do something for me. I want you to give an hour of your week to spend time on a bench or in a coffee shop in Glossop just praying and asking the Lord to present you with opportunities to witness to those who sit next to you. And He will