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A Conversation in the Desert | Sunday Message with Jonathan Laurie

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
November 7, 2021 2:00 am

A Conversation in the Desert | Sunday Message with Jonathan Laurie

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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November 7, 2021 2:00 am

Opportunities to share the gospel aren’t limited to the walls of the church. In this podcast episode, speaking guest Pastor Jonathan Laurie, Greg Laurie’s son, shares how you can be bolder in your faith by following the leading of the Holy Spirit! Listen in for a compelling message from Acts 8. 

Notes

Stronger

Harder

Increased fatigue resistance

Integrity retention

How can I understand unless someone guides me?

About whom is the prophet speaking?

What prevents me from being baptized?

Scripture Referenced

Acts 1:8

James 1:2–4

Romans 10:15

Jeremiah 29:13

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Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners.

I'm Greg Laurie, encouraging you. If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. One of my favorite things about the book of Acts and the gospels as well is how we just see all kinds of people being used by God to do extraordinary things. But I've got to say I especially love the fact that God uses ordinary people.

So common. Normal people, everyday, ordinary, average Joes, blue collar workers, he used carpenters, he used, of course Jesus himself was a carpenter, he used fishermen, he used shepherds, he seemed to really like shepherds. He used shepherds, Moses and King David. But I just love to know that God uses normal people. And aren't you glad to know that God wants you to be on his team? That's right. He literally wants you to be on his team.

He wants to pick you. We see this throughout Scripture. The Bible is filled with average people being used by God again to do those ordinary and amazing things by God. Imperfect characters God uses to carry out his will.

You're looking at one right now and I'll be honest, our church is filled with everyday ordinary people and I love that. I'm reminded of the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 1 27 that says God has chosen the foolish things of the world, another translation says the average things of this world, the ordinary things of this world to put to shame the wise. And God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. This quote's been attributed to a few different people, some say Abraham Lincoln said it, there's no definitive source but it's a good quote nonetheless. It's been said that God must love common ordinary people because he made so many of them. Isn't that true? Our world is filled with average ordinary people. Now if you're on social media and scrolling through your highlight feed is filled with people that are celebrities and athletes and actors and political people and hey, that's great.

But I'm so thankful that God uses normal people. When I was in school, I was always the last to get picked for everything, everything. I was just not an athletic guy I mean I was athletic, I was you know had tons of energy and I was really mobile and I, you know, was very hyper as a kid.

But I was not picked very often to play any of the sports at school I was usually the last to get picked. And I remember one time in particular in sixth grade it's still a pretty vivid memory. For one of the teams were playing kickball out in sixth grade out during our little recess time. And I remember I was chosen to go and play in the outfield right like I'll send Lori out there like nothing will come to him like you just put him, he can be first base right, literally he will be first base.

No, but they sent me out into the outfield to go and hang out. And I remember this so vividly because I remember one of the snacks that we ate that was so popular for some reason I don't know why if people still do this today kids it's still popular with. We would take a raw bag of top ramen not like the cup of noodles like top ramen in the bag, like the 30 cent bags right you get like three of them for $1, and we would take these bags and gently crunch them up. So we didn't puncture the plastic bag that it came in, and then we'd open up the the seasoning and we dump it in and shake it up and we would eat it and it was amazing and that was like the most popular snack, everybody ate I have no idea why.

I still eat it once in a while to be honest get some nostalgia. But it's so funny because I was I was holding this bag, and I'm playing in the outfield just kind of minding my own business and nothing's really coming my way so I'm not really paying attention. All of the sudden, that everybody goes crazy because the guy that just kicked the ball. It went super high way out into the outfield way in the air and I look in this thing's coming straight for me I'm like okay here's my opportunity, and I'm walking backwards and I'm tracking with this thing just right I've got my little bag of top ramen in my head, and I reach up to catch the ball, and the ball goes right through my fingertips into my bag of top ramen, and the bag explodes everywhere little crushed white noodles go all over the ground. It was a pretty dramatic scene. Everybody erupts in laughter and I'm there, empty handed, no ball, my snacks spilled all over the ground. And then the recess bell rings, break was over.

This is kind of a summation of what my adolescence was like, and so together, we're going to be looking at a story about a guy, much like myself, who's in need of some coaching, he needed some TLC he needed some really clear direction like very specific, nothing left to chance, do this exactly at this time, and we'll see how it goes. Philip the evangelist. He had just preached in Samaria, he had just left Jerusalem and gone and proclaim the gospel to the Samaritan people and literally a mini revival had just broken out. People were coming to Christ people were being baptized being filled with the Holy Spirit, it was a big deal. If you're with us last week you remember hearing my dad talk about a man named Stephen, a man who was full of faith, and ultimately he was martyred for his faith in Jesus, based on some false accusations, they said that he was speaking blasphemous words against God and against Moses and so they executed Stephen by stoning him to death, a horrible barbaric and painful way to die to say the least. Both Stephen and Philip the evangelist who we're looking at today were part of the same group of seven men who were chosen by the apostles to go and serve the people, they were wonderful men, they were held in high esteem and so that was really saying something about Philip, that he was in common ranks with Stephen, who he had just read about, but something interesting happened that my dad pointed out to us.

After the killing of Stephen, something very important happened. A man named Saul of Tarsus rose against the church we are told in Jerusalem, and began entering every home of the believers and carrying them off to jail, putting them in prison for their faith in Jesus. Men, women, Jew, whatever, he wanted to throw them all in jail and he wanted to stop Christianity. And what happened as a result of that, this persecution, this very negative thing, it scattered the believers.

It's called the dispersion, the diaspora. And what happened is because of that persecution, the believers fled Jerusalem for their lives, for their safety. They didn't want to be persecuted by Saul of Tarsus, this Christian terrorist. And so they ran for their lives and they went into the surrounding areas.

And one thing they say is that hindsight always is 20-20, right? And so we can look back on history and see that this act, though it was very negative for the believers in the time, having to maybe leave their families and their homes and their professions to leave for their safety so they could have their faith in Jesus, it did something amazing that wouldn't have worked any other way. You remember the words Jesus told his followers before he ascended to heaven in Acts 1-8? He said to them, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and into the ends of the earth. And he told them to go and do it.

Well, they didn't listen very well. Up to this point, a few months, I think we're about one year, a little over a year after Jesus had ascended to heaven, and they're still in Jerusalem. They had not gone into the ancient world. They had not gone into the surrounding areas and preached the gospel yet.

They were still in their little holy huddle hanging out in Jerusalem. And my dad pointed out to us last week that God can use bad things to produce good results. He can use bad things to produce good results.

He can use that negative, painful, hard and difficult trial in your life, that illness, that hardship, to produce something good. The good thing that happened because of this dispersion of the first century church was they went into the ancient world, and what they did was they brought their message with them. They brought the message of the gospel to anybody and everybody who would listen. And so in the first part of Acts 8, we read about Philip going into Samaria and preaching in this. Again, this revival broke out.

It was amazing. God was working in a powerful way, and he didn't stop there. Who else can do that but God? Who else can do that but God? But bring something good out of something that is bad.

He can use that negative, painful, hard and difficult trial in your life to produce something beautiful. The persecution of the church caused the believers in Jerusalem to flee for their safety, and on their way they preached the gospel to anyone who would listen. And Philip, up to this point, he wasn't observing the Great Commission all that well. He wasn't listening to this call Jesus had given to go into the surrounding areas and preach the gospel. And it took this little bit of a wake-up call, this wake-up call in his life to go out there and obey the Lord's charge.

It took the death of his friend and peer, Stephen, to go out and preach. Maybe the Lord sent a wake-up call in your life recently. Maybe you got some bad news from the doctor. Maybe you got let go from your job. Maybe you found out that your wife is leaving you or your husband's been cheating on you. A terrible, terrible set of news and you're processing it and trying to figure it out. Listen, I believe that God can use that thing in your life for something good. I know that it's hard. And I will never, ever tell you that it's a good thing that these things have happened to you.

I'll be the last one to tell you that. But God can use bad things to produce good results in us. Maybe God used that wake-up call in your life to get your attention, to bring you to himself. That illness, that hardship, that job layoff, that time in jail to get your attention. I don't believe that God causes these things to happen in a direct way always.

Sometimes he does. But I believe that God, again, can use these things in our lives to produce wonderful results. I used to work at a company that did electroplating. We worked for a company that did aerospace parts. We dealt with airplane parts. Very important internal components that you would never see with your eye unless you were a mechanic that worked on planes and took them apart. And a lot of times, these parts, obviously, you want them to last for tens of thousands of hours because if a landing gear goes out on an airplane, it's not like your third gear and your transmission going out. Oh, shoot, I got to pull over to the side of the road and call a tow truck. If the landing gear breaks on the airplane, that's a bad thing.

You don't want that to happen. And so these parts were treated very carefully and they were processed very meticulously. And one of the processes that we did when I worked at this company is we would bring these internal components from the airplanes and we would put them on an oven rack and we would put them into these ovens that were very, very hot, up to a thousand degrees. And something really interesting happened when we took these raw metal parts and put them into the oven. Now, when we think of something going into an oven, you know, that's kind of a Christian analogy the Bible uses of going through adversity, going through a trial, going through something that is heating you up, it's breaking you down, it's changing you.

It's really hard on you oftentimes. But one of the things that happened when we put these airplane parts into the oven is it actually enhanced the components' durability. It actually made them better. It actually made them stronger. It made them harder. It increased their resistance to fatiguing. And it also helped to keep their integrity when they're under load and pressure on those tens of thousands of hours on the airplane.

It helped them from being brittle and breaking apart into pieces. Now, you've got to tell me that this is not a great example of James 1, 2 to 4, where James says, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and that steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Listen, God can bring you through that trial. We might say, oh, it's so hard. It's so hard.

I'm under pressure. Take this away. Take this pain away. Take this thorn in the flesh away from you, Lord. Help me through this.

Just take it out. But we also know that God can use those things in our lives to produce wonderful results. What if you wanted to get in shape, but you said, oh, I never want to experience pain.

I never want to go through anything difficult. You know, you know, when I'm lifting those weights, my muscles, they're tearing and it's hurting and it's painful. Yeah, but what happens?

It breaks them down and it makes them stronger and they get bigger and harder and better. Some of you need to chill on the gym time a little bit. Let's be honest.

Scrolling through Instagram. There's some intense people out there, but that's OK. I think that in general, we understand that God can sometimes put something into our life that we don't want to have there and we don't understand it. But listen, listen to what the Lord says to his people in Isaiah 43. When you pass through the rivers, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. That's a wonderful promise from our Lord, knowing that when we go through these times, he is not going to allow them to overtake us. He is not going to allow us to be consumed or overwhelmed. We will not be burned. God will allow suffering into our lives.

But when you know that your heavenly father is good and you can trust him, you know that there will be a purpose for your pain. You can trust God. He will be with you. He tells us you will not be overwhelmed. He tells us you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.

That's a promise from the Lord. We can thank him for that. I will not ever say in my own life that the death of my brother, who was killed in a car accident 13 years ago, was a good thing. I'll never say that because it wasn't. Bad things are bad. Right. And God's not saying I'm going to take something bad and turning in, you know, turn it into something good.

I'll never say that. I miss my brother. I love my brother. I think about him. I talk about him. I share stories with my children about him. I still cry for him and miss him terribly. And I look so forward to seeing him again in heaven someday and seeing Jesus face to face and spending eternity together and catching up right where we left off.

I'm so thankful for that. So I'll never say that my brother's death was a good thing, but I can see that God did something through it. He did something in my life through it. We had a conversation shortly before Christopher went to be with the Lord where he asked me a very poignant question. He said, Jonathan, what's it going to take for you to give your life to Christ? And then when I heard that news that Christopher had gone to be with the Lord, the only question that I could get in my head, I couldn't stop thinking about it, was him asking me, what's it going to take for you to give your life to Christ? And I knew that was the moment that I needed to receive Jesus and turn for my sin and make him the Lord of my life. And because of that, because of the death of my brother, he saved my life.

He saved me. I was going down such a negative, terrible path, filling my life with drugs, anything I could find in this world to numb me, make me feel better. I was absolutely miserable. I was addicted. I was lonely. I was a liar.

I was isolated. But because the Lord got my attention through the death of my brother, he made me into the man I am today. And I'm going to tell you right now, I am far from perfect.

You can ask my wife that I am far from perfect. But I know that the Lord has brought me out of the pit of hell. He has brought me out of addiction, out of destruction. And he's given me a new name and he's given me a new identity and he's given me a new character. And he's blessed me with a family, with children and and restored my relationships with my parents and with my family and and so many friends.

Listen, only God can do that. He used a wake up call in my life. And I believe that the Lord wants to get your attention, too. And he loves you so much.

He'll send a wake up call your way to get your attention. God can use bad things in our lives to produce good results. I've seen God use tragedies. I've seen God use hardships.

I've seen God use cancer and death and suffering and pain and termination from jobs and even more to bring our focus onto the things that matter. I've seen him use those things enough to know that my opinion on the matter isn't always the most relevant. No, Lord, this is bad. Don't use that. That's not good. That's not what I would do. God's like, interesting. Thanks. Moving on.

Your opinion is irrelevant. I know what I'm doing. You can trust the Lord.

He's a good father and he knows what's best for you. C.S. Lewis said, God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but he shouts to us in our pain. Pain is God's megaphone, Lewis says, to rouse a deaf world. Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Nothing gets our attention quite like pain does, does it? And so we see God using pain. We see God using the death of Stephen as a megaphone to move the church towards its mission of preaching the gospel and making disciples and baptizing them.

And we see them doing that here in our text today. And that brings us to Acts chapter eight. We're going to be reading verses twenty five to forty. Yes, that was the intro. OK, we're going to be reading verses twenty five to forty. Would you join with me?

It says this. And now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, speaking of the apostles and preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. Now, an angel of the Lord said to Philip, rise, go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Some very specific instructions for Philip. 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 and was returning seated in his chariot. And he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the spirit said to Philip, go over and join his chariot. And so Philip ran over to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet. And he asked, do you understand what you were reading? And the Ethiopian eunuch said back to him, 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 like this. It says, 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? And then Philip opened his mouth and beginning with the scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus. 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? Verse 38. And he commanded the chariot to stop and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 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. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through, he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Let's end there. Lord, we ask now that as we just read this amazing passage, that you would speak to us through it. Lord, we pray that we too might be sensitive to your prompting, just as Philip was, that we would recognize your voice, that we would not have to be roused from our sleep to obey your commissions to us 2,000 years later, that, Lord, you would bring these appointments to us just like you did to Philip. Lord, that you would use us as imperfect as we are to accomplish your will. Use us, Lord. Thank you.

In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. What an amazing story this is, isn't it?

I just love it. I love how specific the angel of the Lord was to Philip. I love the image of him just kind of standing out there in the desert. I love the picture of just this Ethiopian eunuch riding along in his chariot and coming along. And here's Philip. We don't know exactly what he looked like, but probably a pretty humbly dressed guy just standing out there waiting for his divine appointment. And here it comes.

Just such a fun story and such an amazing principle for us to follow today. The angel appears to Philip and tells him to rise and go toward the south to go on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Like very, very specific.

I mentioned how I needed a coach when I was younger. Like, Philip, how specific did this angel of the Lord need to be with Philip? Philip, you need to go toward the south. Okay, so start heading south. Now you need to get on the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.

And just keep walking, you'll know when to stop, right? And then he throws in this detail. This is a desert place.

Yeah, you don't say, thanks. Thanks for that little insight there, Dr. Luke. And so Philip's now left Samaria. Again, he's got to be pretty excited about what just happened there. This little mini revival that broke out, got to preach the gospel, see people get saved, demons were cast out, healings took place. And now he shows up to a very dry, dusty wilderness.

You can imagine Philip being just a little confused, right? Is this the place? I just came from like a metropolis.

I just came from a big city and now I'm standing out here literally in the wilderness in the middle of nowhere. Lord, what do you want me to do here? Am I here to like preach to the lizards? Do you want me to preach to these lizards over here? Like lizards are cool. They eat bugs and stuff and they can change colors kind of.

Their tails come off when they're, you know, being chased by predators. That's kind of cool. And you can just imagine Philip like trying to figure out how to communicate to lizards maybe. This is my own internal dialogue trying to imagine what's happening here. But Philip, as he's trying to figure this out, he's trying to figure out how to like break the language barrier between him and like a Jackson Three Horned Chameleon. Along comes this chariot. The Holy Spirit taps him on the shoulder. Hey, Philip, actually, this is the guy I want you to talk to.

Stop looking at the lizards. And here comes this Ethiopian eunuch cruising up in his chariot, a man of authority, a man of success, a man of affluence and status, for sure. He is a court official of Canis, which is a title for the queen of Ethiopia. And the New Living Translation says that he was a treasurer. He was, excuse me, he was the treasurer of Ethiopia. OK, so this guy has got some, he's got some status, right?

He is part of the royal, the royalty there in Ethiopia. He's an important guy. He's got wealth. He's got money. And we see that he's riding along in his chariot.

But we also see something very interesting and unusual. This Ethiopian man is reading aloud from a scroll of Isaiah. You know who had scrolls back then? Like nobody. Nobody had reading material. Maybe they would jot something down on a piece of parchment or something.

They'd have that. But very few people would have a scroll of Isaiah and be able to read from it. Also, this man was educated. He was able to read. He was intelligent.

He was, again, part of this elite class of people. Nobody would read in those days. And if you could read, it's almost a guarantee that you would not personally own your own reading material. It's not like when I take my kids to the store and they ask me for a new book. And it's like, OK, cool, buy you a new $14 book. And they read it in a day.

It's like, OK, this is not working out. This is not financially responsible for me. Every time I buy you a book, you finish it in a day.

$15, this is not a good investment. We found some other alternatives now if we go to the library. It's a much better, much cheaper and effective way to get my kids reading.

And so it's not like back then where you could just go to the library and check out a book or go down to the store and buy a book and read it. No, to have a scroll of Isaiah. This was copied by hand, word for word, letter by letter. They painstakingly and accurately would carry over from one scroll to another. And so this man, this Ethiopian eunuch, had his own scroll of Isaiah 53.

It's pretty amazing. And I love in verse twenty nine that the Holy Spirit again prompts Philip and tells him some very specific instructions. Yeah, just so you know, Philip, this is the guy. Go on over to his chariot.

Right. The Holy Spirit says, go over and join his chariot. And Philip hears what he's reading.

Isaiah 53, one of the most obvious prophetic passages in the Bible about Jesus. And Philip asks him this question. And that brings us to our our first question that we see this first part of the dialog. We see Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch having this first question. He asks him, Do you understand what you're reading? And the Ethiopian eunuch replies to Philip, How can I unless someone guides me?

How can I unless someone guides me? Romans 10, 15 tells us, And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news?

Philip now understood his mission. Oh, OK, I see what I'm here to do. I'm not here to get a suntan. I'm not here to break the language barrier between me and the, you know, the reptiles.

No, I'm here to preach to this guy. Basically, this man was asking Philip, Can you help me make sense of this? Can you help me make sense of what I am reading? And so Philip climbs into the chariot at his invitation, a blue collar Jew and a member of Ethiopian royalty. And then the next question that we see happen is in verses thirty four to thirty five. Number two, the Ethiopian eunuch says to Philip, About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this about himself or about someone else? And then Philip, he opened his mouth beginning with this scripture and he told him the good news about Jesus.

I love that. I love that Philip saw his opportunity and he took it. Philip masterfully guided the Ethiopian eunuch through Isaiah 53. And he arrives at this question. He asks him, Who's this all about?

Who is this talking about? Is the prophet Isaiah speaking about himself or is he speaking about somebody to come? I can't help but think that he was probably referencing verse five, which says, But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And by his wounds we are healed.

That was written hundreds of years before Jesus was even born. Doesn't that sound exactly like what Jesus did for us? He was crushed for our iniquities. He was pierced for our transgressions. And this eunuch, this Ethiopian man asked Philip, Who is this?

Who is this all about? And Philip starting with this scripture used it as a launch pad. And he told him the good news about Jesus and he shared the gospel with them. This man from Africa, he was searching. He was a seeker. He was looking to find spiritual truth.

He was looking for answers. He was open to God. And I love that God met him right where he was at. The Lord says in Jeremiah 29 13, You will seek me and find me when you look for me with your whole heart. This man was an earnest seeker. He was diligently seeking the Lord. He traveled hundreds of miles from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to go and worship at the temple of the Lord. And the Lord met him, not in the temple, but in the wilderness, coming back on his journey back home. The Lord met him right where he was at.

You know, it's really interesting when you look at scripture, all the different places that God went and met really interesting people right where they were, met them on their level. This Ethiopian man, he was very different culturally from the people in Jerusalem. He was not a Jew.

He was not practicing. He probably had all kinds of other gods that his country worshiped, but he was seeking the Lord and the Lord met him. He sent him a messenger, his very own evangelist into the middle of the desert to go and witness to him. I also think of the Magi, the Magi who were looking in the stars for a sign about, you know, the Messiah, something that was going to happen. And they were looking and God met them with what?

A star. These men were astrologers. They were astronomers. They believed that there was signs in the skies and so forth. And God met them right where they were at. He sent them a sign in the sky to bring them to the newborn baby Jesus that we read about in the gospels.

That's amazing. God met them right where they were. I also think about the Ninevites. These are some of the most wicked, horrible, terrible people in all of history. How brutal they were. They were a war country and they were known just for being scary.

And you didn't want to mess with them. Who did God send to the Ninevites? Jonah. He sent them a prophet. He sent them an evangelist to go and preach to them because they clearly were ready to turn from their wicked ways and turn back to God. Jonah went and preached what is known as the shortest and worst gospel presentation of all time. Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.

That was all they had to hear. And they turned to God en masse, the entire nation, the king, down to every last person put on sackcloth and ashes. God loves it. He loves an earnest seeker. When you seek God with your whole heart, we read in Jeremiah, you will find me. When you seek and look for me with your whole heart, you will find me.

That's God's promise to us. Notice how much the Ethiopian eunuch also was willing to admit that he didn't have all the answers. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't like to ask for directions. I don't like to read the directions. I don't like to have to look online.

I want to try and figure it out myself and be independent and be able to get it handled on my own. But here we have this Ethiopian eunuch being honest enough to say, I don't know who this is about. I don't know what this is all about. Can you help me understand what this is saying?

That's vulnerability. He admits his ignorance and he asks Philip for help and he brings him into his chariot. And now what do you have? You've got a little small group happening right there. You got a little sermon discussion, right?

A little opportunity to talk about what the scripture is saying. How cool is that? They've got a little community taking place right there. And I want to let you know that we have an amazing online church. We have an amazing online ministry that we call Harvest at Home. And we also have some local campuses.

We have one in Orange County, California, one in Riverside, California, and also one on the island of Maui. So if you're ever in the area, make sure you come by and say hello and visit us and let us know that you're one of our family that watches online. But, you know, watching online, let's be honest, it's pretty easy to remain anonymous.

It's pretty easy to watch online and just tune in at your leisure. It's the same thing is true with large churches. You can come in and come out and people don't notice if you're there or not. If you're searching, you can come in, you can get your inspiration and you can go home.

Nobody has to know, just you and God. And it sounds convenient. It sounds like a good idea at times, right? Oh, I'm just processing. I'm just thinking about what the preacher is saying. You don't want to get involved. You don't want to participate. You don't want to become a volunteer or join a small group or anything like that.

You don't want to find a new group of friends who are ahead of you spiritually and you can share your questions and doubts with. It's easy to be anonymous online. It's easy to be anonymous in a large church.

But can I let you in on a little secret? Nobody wants to admit how stupid they are in spiritual things. Nobody wants to admit that.

Nobody's comfortable saying, I don't know the answers like this Ethiopian man did. Nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to expose themselves for being spiritually illiterate. Hey, especially me. But I'm so thankful that I have people in my life because of this church, because of this ministry who speak into my life, who help answer questions when I don't know the answer, who help direct me when I'm asking, what do I need to do next in my life?

And this doesn't just pertain to spiritual matters and understanding theology and doctrine and so forth. This is like in my life. Hey, man, I've got teenagers.

I've got a blended family. Like, how do I work this out? What do I do? How do I navigate through this? Help me.

I'm so thankful that I have men and women of God who are ahead of me in life and also behind me so I can be poured into and then I can pour into them and we can continue this process of discipleship. I get it. It's hard to be vulnerable. It's hard to come and make it known that you're struggling in an area or you need help.

But here's the rub. If you don't, if you don't do these things, if you don't make yourself vulnerable, if you don't step into community and make yourself known in the church, you are not going to have your life changed by God in any real practical way. I'll say that again. If you don't get into community, if you don't get really plugged into church, you are not going to have your life changed by God in any practical way.

Why? Because a changed life happens by the power of the Holy Spirit through community, through community. Yeah, that's exactly right. This man from Ethiopia, we see him right here. He was willing to invite someone who didn't look like him, who wasn't raised like him.

He wasn't part of the same social class, that's for sure. He invites Philip into his little chariot to have a conversation about Jesus. And what do we see? We see a changed life.

And we're going to see that right now. The next section shows us just how much this Ethiopian man valued having someone like Philip in his life. And it brings us to our third and final question from this man from Ethiopia. We read it in Acts 836. And as they were going along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, see, look, here's some water.

What prevents me from being baptized? I love how eager he was. And he commanded the chariot to stop and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more. But he went on his way rejoicing.

I love that. He went on his way rejoicing. He had an encounter with the living God because of Philip, because Philip came and explained to him the scriptures. He pointed out to him that this was about Jesus. He told him the gospel. Jesus came.

He lived the perfect life. He died on a cross. He rose again from the dead. And if we put our faith in him, we can have the hope of heaven and have our sins forgiven. He tells him the gospel.

It's amazing. And this Ethiopian man is so blessed. He wants to be baptized and he walks away from it rejoicing. His last question, I think, is really interesting. He asks, should I be baptized?

Should I be baptized? Now, we know this guy, he was on a spiritual quest for sure. He had everything that he could ever want in his life. Something was missing in his life, though. He knew that there was something missing in his life, this God shaped hole in his heart. And now he was finding the answers he was looking for. This man went from searching for God to hearing the gospel to believing, to finding a believer who could help him and he could trust and be vulnerable with to take the next steps in his faith.

Philip knew exactly what to do. Now, maybe you ask yourself, why didn't he just say, Lord, I want to believe in you, come into my life and I give it to you. Amen.

We do that every year at Harvest at Home. Give people an opportunity to believe and and put their faith in Jesus and pray that prayer. And that's nice. And that is absolutely great to pray that prayer. But it's between you and God, isn't it? It's between you and God. And nobody else has to know, especially when you're watching online.

Nobody else has to know. But notice that he doesn't turn to Philip and say, hey, I've had this religious experience, but I don't want anybody to know about it. It's between me and God. Hey, I believe you keep your faith private, right? Faith is a private thing. It's between you and the Lord.

It's a personal thing. To pray that prayer, asking Jesus into your life is something you do as an individual, but to be baptized, that's inviting someone into your life and asking somebody to do it with you. He's asking for an evaluation from Philip. He says, should I be baptized?

Is this the appropriate thing for me to do? Is this the next step I should take in my faith? It's a logical next step for a follower of Jesus Christ to be baptized for sure. And so what does he say?

Philip says, yeah, absolutely. He's the eunuch says, look, here's some water we're passing by right now. He tells the chariots, you know, slam the brakes on.

I assume they've got some kind of entourage, some kind of group of people with them, put the whole brakes on the operation. And he says, look, here's some water. What prevents me from being baptized? He doesn't say, I know I'm right with God. That's between me and him.

So leave me alone. No, he looks to someone else to help him. He looks at someone else to evaluate him and bring him along in his faith.

And what do we read? He was baptized. Philip was sideways raptured over into that Azores area and he goes his way rejoicing.

This man from Africa, he goes his way rejoicing because he had a new lease on life. He had a relationship with the living God. And that is why the church exists today.

That's right. The church exists for that very purpose today. Really, there's three reasons why the church exists. Number one, we believe that the church exists for the evangelization of the world, for the evangelization of the world. We also believe it exists for the edification of the saints and lastly for the glorification of God. Evangelization is just telling people that there's a God in heaven that loves you. He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross on your behalf so that you could have your sin forgiven because we've all sinned and we give people an opportunity to put their faith in Jesus and come into the family of God and be a part of the church. That's evangelization. Edification is helping people along in their faith just like Philip was doing with the man from Ethiopia, talking to him about the scriptures, helping him wrestle with these questions, figure out these different things and also answering the question, hey, should I be baptized?

Yeah, you know what? You're in this right place. You're clearly on the right path with God. You should be baptized. This is an outward profession, showing people around you that you were dying to your old nature, coming alive again. That's the edification of the saints. That's why the church exists. And then lastly, the glorification of God. We do this by living out what we believe. We do this by living out the first two things, the edification, the knowledge, the understanding of who we need to become.

We do this. We glorify God by living this out. Also, I worshiping. We come to church and we worship. We lift our hands and we sing songs and and we give of our tithe and our offering and we extend and and show God the generosity that he has shown to us. This is how we glorify God.

So the evangelization of the world, the edification of the saints and the glorification of God. And in closing today, I can't help but just think that your logical next step as a believer, if you're watching online, wherever you might be, you might be watching this archive, your logical next step. Yes, you believe you have faith.

That's beautiful. But your logical next step in your life should be for you to stop being anonymous and to join one of our harvest groups, whether it's in person. If you're in the area or online, we have tons of harvest groups that meet online. There's one for you.

I guarantee it all over the country. They meet via Zoom. They obviously, if you're in the local area, they meet in person as well.

But if you go to our website, there's a link on the screen now you can go to. You can find a group for you. So if you've been watching online for some time and you haven't found community and your relationship with the Lord is just kind of this private thing, listen, it's time for you to invite other people into your life that, like I said, can pour into you. So you can do what? You can pour into other people. You can use your experiences, your failures, your successes to pour into others.

They can learn from your example. The apostle Paul says we should be able to say follow me as I follow Christ. We are going to be imitating the Lord and we need others to be able to imitate us, imitate our conduct. And so my encouragement to you, join one of our groups. It is an absolute blessing. It's one of the best things that you could do. It's helped me along in my relationship with the Lord so much, so much. I've sat in Sunday services and heard amazing teaching my entire life, but until I started studying and working on these small group studies and the lessons myself, when I started, when I was like, I think 20 years old or 22 years old is when I started jumping into a small group, it changed my life.

And so I want to encourage you to do that today, right now even, go on the website and do that. We have a group for you, whether it's a men's group, a women's group, a couple's group, a student's group, young adults groups, we have all kinds of groups, one just right for you. In that context of community, you are going to find that the Holy Spirit is going to move in your life like never before. But I also know that watching right now, there might be some here who have not yet put their faith in Jesus Christ at all.

You haven't asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life. And maybe you're kind of like the Ethiopian eunuch. You know there's something more to this life. You know there's something more to it. You know that it's not just wealth and status and success and experiences and whatever else this world has to offer. There's something more. There's something more to it. The more you get, I found, and the more you succeed, the emptier you feel.

That's because you have something missing in your heart. It's a relationship with God. Sometimes the lowest moment in a person's life is when you just achieved what you thought was going to deliver the ultimate, but it just let you down. Yeah, seriously, when you thought, oh, if I get to this mountaintop, if I get this career, if I get this status, if I get this relationship, if I have this experience, that's going to deliver the ultimate. And you get there and you hit the pinnacle and you get to the mountaintop and what do you find? You're just as empty as you were before, but now you're even more empty because now what's your goal?

What's this life all about? You achieved your goal. You got your dream. You made it happen. You closed the deal. Awesome.

Good job. Now what? So often those times can leave you lonely and feeling more empty than when you first started. I am telling you now that, yes, a relationship with God is the very thing you were created for. It's the reason why you exist and why you were given life on this planet and you can have that relationship today. But there's a problem.

There's a problem. Your sin is keeping you from God. It isn't like you have to be actively sinning like right now I'm sinning.

I'm telling a lie right now. That's when I'm separated from God. No, it's like you sinned in your life. All it takes is one sin. All it takes is one sin for you to be separated from God.

Like it's a singular thing. One sin is enough. And the reason for this is because God is perfect. And in the presence of the Lord, sin cannot be tolerated. That's just the nature of God.

It's how he works. Sin cannot be tolerated in his presence. If we were to all stand before God right now with our sin, without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, we would evaporate. We would be atomized. We wouldn't be able to be in his presence. It'd be like lighting a tissue paper on fire, dropping it at the bottom of a pool and then dumping 40,000 gallons of water on top of it. Well, I want that fire to be able to stay lit underneath water by nature of the fact that that is fire and that is water.

I'm not a molecular biologist, obviously. But as that comes on, I know well enough that it's not going to work out. It's impossible. You can't be in God's presence with your sin anymore that you can take a piece of paper underwater that's on fire.

You can't do it. We are forever unable to reach God on our own. But friend, that is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus came. He died on the cross for our sin, and he paid the price for us.

The ultimate price. 2 Corinthians 5 21 says, For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him, in Jesus, we might become the righteousness of God. When God sees us and we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and we make him the Lord of our life, he sees us with the righteousness of Christ.

He sees us with, like, Jesus' vision. He sees us as his own dear children, and he allows us to come into his presence because of the debt Jesus paid. It's been said Jesus paid a debt he did not owe. Because we owed a debt we could not pay. There's nothing that we could do to get to God.

We can't get there on our own. That's why Jesus came to die for us. It's a free gift that he extends to us, and all we have to do is receive it in faith and allow the Lord to work in our lives. And so, in closing now, would you like to be forgiven of your sin today? Would you like to know that when you die, you'll go to heaven? Would you like to have that burden of guilt, of sin and shame removed?

You can get right with God now and be forgiven of that sin and have those burdens taken away because Jesus died on the cross for you. He died on the cross for you. And if you're watching this now and you want to do that, I want to lead you in a prayer.

It's really simple. It's you calling upon the name of the Lord. What scripture says, if anybody calls upon the name of the Lord, they shall be saved. And so if you believe in your heart and you call on him, you recognize your sin, you recognize your need for a Savior, and you want to turn from that sin now and turn to God, just pray this prayer.

It's really simple. Pray this prayer now. Dear God, I know I'm a sinner, but I know that Jesus is the Savior who died on the cross for my sin. And I turn from that sin now, from this moment forward, and I turn to you and I make you the Lord of my life. I ask that you would fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to walk with you and talk with you and be more like you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-26 12:54:14 / 2023-07-26 13:14:45 / 21

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