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About this series
Satan's Agenda for Planet Earth (Including You)
God's agenda for your life and planet Earth is under constant attack by the enemy of your soul, who seeks to distract, derail, and destroy. It's the ultimate illustration of competing agendas, and eternity lies in the balance. Learn how to recognize and fortify yourself against Satan's schemes, even when you've taken a direct hit. Based on the book of Acts, Diabolical will equip you with biblical truth about your enemy and reveal the battle plan you need to thwart Satan's plans and fulfill God's agenda.More from this series
The roar of a lion can be heard for over five miles. That same roar thirty yards from your car or truck will rattle the metal. There are three reasons that lions roar. Number one, it’s territorial proclamation. They roar over what they rule. Second is to communicate with other lions, and third, they roar when they’re angry.
In my research, I found a person who had done studies on lions in Africa and he said, “His roar is an awesome message of power that he is lord and master of all that he surveys.”
And so, it seems fitting that the Holy Spirit would lead Peter to describe our enemy, the devil, Satan, as a roaring lion. He writes, “Be self-controlled and alert, your enemy, the devil prowls about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Your response: “Resist him, stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”
By and large, Satan likes to be covert. He likes to be under the radar. He would rather use lies, deception, getting us divided with one another, tradition. He likes to get us moving in ways where we’re convinced things are right, we don’t even think he really exists. And all the while, subtly, having us completely off course.
But when a group of people or an individual begins to get in line with God’s will, and you begin to expose him for who he is, and you begin to take the Word of God into the lives of other people, and you begin to grow, and God begins to use your life or a group’s life, his tactics change.
Sometimes subtlety doesn’t work. And when subtlety doesn’t work, he uses intimidation and isolation. He goes frontal. Here’s intimidation. Webster says, “It’s to make fearful.” It’s what he wants to do. “To compel or deter by acts or threats.” Literally, the enemy wants to terrorize you. “Causing alarm, fright, or dread with the apprehension of violence, or injury, or death.”
“To intimidate means to cause to fear, to have a sense of inferiority. To bully, to cow, resulting in a broken spirit or a loss of courage.”
And sometimes he does that through a biopsy report, sometimes rejection in a relationship, sometimes you lose your job, or you’re in bankruptcy. Sometimes, you take a step and everything falls apart at work.
Sometimes, you’re just alone and you find yourself taking a step that you never dreamed you could take and you fail and all this fear and all this condemnation. And the fear is to immobilize, and then to paralyze, to isolate you.
Lions don’t roar when they attack. They roar to create fear. When a lion wants to attack, it’s stealth. In fact, a lion will not attack until it’s within ten to twenty meters of its prey. And unlike other animals who wait for the weak, or the sickly, and wait for that weak or sickly animal to get off to the side – that’s not how lions work.
They stealthily move and they go for that which is unaware. It can be strong, it can be sick, it can be weak, it doesn’t matter. But when they get within about ten meters, they’re extremely fast for ten to twenty to forty meters but they have very little endurance.
And when God’s Word says your enemy is a roaring lion, he wants to create tremendous fear to get you isolated, and in your isolation and self-condemnation, and withdrawal from people, and withdrawal from God’s Word, no matter how weak or how strong a Christian, the attack will come when you’re alone, and when you’re vulnerable.
And he wants to isolate. That means to cut off, to seclude, to get you away in order to kill, and steal, and destroy your life, your relationships, the work of God in you, and the work of God through you. And it’s real and it is serious.
But Peter gives us two things. One, he gives us a warning. The devil is a roaring lion. But notice at the bottom of the page, he finishes with a promise. “And the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little,” there are wounds, you’re in a real battle. Tough things happen to people who love God. “After you have suffered for a little, He will Himself restore you, make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever.”
His roar is fearful and certain. His attack is predictable. And the only question is: how do you respond? What’s God’s answer to the tactic of intimidation and isolation? And the answer is in Acts chapter 8.
Open your Bibles, if you will, to Acts chapter 8 or open up your mobile device. Remember? It started out subtle. They tried to divide the church, chapter 6.
Chapter 7 they were wrapped in this tradition. Well now, chapter 7, at the end ends with the martyring of Stephen; they stone him. And if you’re a follower of Jesus now, it is a bad person to be. And they’re fleeing for their life. They’re leaving their homes, they’re leaving their businesses, they’re fleeing to Samaria, some are hunkered down in Jerusalem.
And we pick up the story in the beginning of chapter 8. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the Church at Jerusalem. All except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned for him deeply.
“But Saul began to destroy the Church going from house to house he dragged them off and put them in jail.”
You might circle that little word, the word “destroy” here? Used nowhere else in the New Testament. It means “with hatred or cruelty.” It’s used in other Greek literature for when boars come in and if you’ve ever seen a wild boar root up things and completely destroy things, it’s with a vengeance.
Paul is somewhere between twenty-four to forty years old. He’s probably late twenties at this point in his life. And he is a zealous, over-the-top, thinking he’s doing God’s will to kill all these Christians.
I mean, that’s the environment. It’s frontal. It’s intimidation. He’s going from house to house, dragging them out of the house, throwing them in prison.
But God often does what I call “spiritual judo.” He takes the evil that comes at you and by grace, if you cooperate with Him, He flips it. And He brings something really good out of things that were designed to be really bad.
Look at verse 4: “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.” Remember one of the seven? “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and he proclaimed Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs that he did they all paid close attention to what he said.”
And then notice the results: “With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Now, to get the context, to really get what’s going on, you need to understand that, remember Jews hate Samaritans. It goes back hundreds of years. The Samaritans were in mixed marriages so they’re part Jewish and part other people.
And the Jews in Jerusalem were one hundred percent Jewish, not only in culture, but in genetics. And these were the half-breeds. But now they’re running for their life. And as they’re running for their life all of a sudden, they are the people are being rejected.
And the Samaritans, “What do you need?” “Well, I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’ve lost that, I’m running for my life.” And in the midst of their worst time they begin to share with them, “I found life.” And the story of Jesus, and the love of Christ, and Philip says, “There’s power here. We don’t have to be afraid of death anymore.”
And he begins to preach, and God begins to work, and miracles occur, and people were healed, and all of a sudden, amazing things are happening.
The year of Acts chapter 2 is about A.D. 33. Acts chapter 8 is two years later, A.D. 35. This is two years, all the Christians that you’re reading about are two years old in the Lord.
Now, if you’ll look at your notes, let’s summarize: Satan’s strategy is to destroy through intimidation and isolation. You see that in the first eight verses. Hey, it’s true here. It’s true for you, it’s true for me.
He wants to take the issues in your life and make you fearful. This marriage will never work out. My son or daughter will never come around. This health issue will never go away. I’ll never find a job. I’ll never break this addiction. And there’s fear. I’ll always be single.
Notice, however, God’s purpose is to deploy through suffering and proclamation. You’re not immune to suffer, I’m not immune to suffer. It’s a fallen world. He never promised, in fact, He said, “In the world we’ll have tribulation or suffering.” But He takes the suffering and as we suffer, He can use it to do really, really great things. It’s not a wasted suffering.
The truth is, sometimes our worst times are God’s best times to use our lives. It’s hard to think about, isn’t it? Sometimes, when you’re going through the bankruptcy, when you’re reeling from losing your job, when your house is upside down, and you just think, “Oh God.” And you’re so fearful.
He says, “I want to come close to you, and I don’t promise to wave a magic wand and make everything wonderful overnight, but I’ll go through whatever the most difficult, painful issue is in your life and I will be with you. And let me tell you this: as I’m with you it is how you respond and My grace in you, in the midst of that, maybe the greatest platform for Me using you that has ever happened in your life.”
You can go all the way back to the Old Testament, the principle shows up early in Joseph’s life. He’s what? Rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, left in prison.
I mean, for thirteen years, suffering, suffering, suffering, suffering. And all the while, God had a plan. And at the end of that plan he becomes the head of all of Egypt and he would say to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring about this present result.” He saved the entire nation.
You may have a boss, you may have an ex-mate, you may have that health issue, you may have a rebellious child, you may have out-to-lunch parents. They actually may mean it for evil, but God means it for good if you cooperate with Him.
And here’s the application. The application is: fear not; preach the Word. See, did you notice that, who is preaching? It’s not the apostles, it’s not the pros, it’s not the professionals. These are two-year-old Christians. You know who they were? Regular people just like us.
I mean, if persecution happened on Christians and we were running for our lives, and going for other countries, and your homes are gone, and your money is gone, your bank account, 401ks are, I mean, they’re zero-one-ks. You’ve got nothing going.
And how you respond, and you cling to God. And as you went, you preached, and told people about your hope in Christ. That’s what’s happening here.
And a revolution is occurring. Remember, Jesus said that this Gospel will go, it’ll begin, right? “You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.”
Well, after two years, guess how far the Church made it – they never got out of Jerusalem. God actually allows this persecution to occur, to begin to fulfill and break the cultural barriers, and now here’s what we see. Amazing things happening with the group that they used to hate. Now they’ve come to Christ.
Now, I’ve got to tell you. What I just shared is really true, it’s right theology, and I’ve known it in my head a long time. But now and then God gives you a little opportunity to get it from your head to your heart. And I think he brings fear in the areas that you’re most vulnerable.
I was a younger pastor in Santa Cruz. We’d been there about five or six years, and all I can tell you is it was one of those windows in your life where it was just the hand of God. There was a movement of God. We saw hundreds of people come to Christ and the churches were working together.
And all of a sudden, we had to build some buildings, and there was times where people would line up after every service, ten or fifteen or twenty that all were brand-new Christians, and all this Satanic worship and weird stuff was happening.
And there was this movement of God and every Sunday afternoon, sort of, to blow off steam I’d get out and play basketball with some friends. And it was a little bit rainy one day so I thought, “Well, if we play outside I might slip and get hurt.” So we went up to Bethany College to play and had a good buddy there.
And so I can still remember driving down the middle and a guy was cutting to the corner and I was going to throw an off the ball pass like this and then out of the corner of my eye I realized, this guy sees it. So I reared back to give it a bunch and I went, well, you notice where my body is? I, you ever turn your ankle? I twisted my knee like this with all my weight and I tore my ACL, my MCL, and all the cartilage. And it just went, whoo.
Now, to know the personality, as warped as I am, I mean, my knee is kind of dangling. And I get up and I say, “You know, I think I can play one more game.” You know? And there was a football coach there and he looked at me and he goes, “Stupid. Just sit down.”
Well, you know, when you get refreshed by something that’s physical like that and just with my make up, putting me on crutches and having to go to physical therapy three days a week. We’re in the middle of a capital campaign, all these things are happening, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m under incredible pressure.
The one little window was working out a couple times like that. So, I go to the physical therapist and it’s a young gal, who has a small child, and is divorced, was abandoned, and was pretty bitter.
And she let me know early on her father was an atheist, that she’s in line with her father and what he believes, and the only people that she’s really more mad at than God are people from church. “By the way, what do you do?”
And I thought, Yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi. Make a very long story short, little by little, she began to share her story and I began to share mine. And she was not open to hearing from me. And I said, “Well, have you ever, you know, have you ever just even explored who Jesus is?” “And, no, I really haven’t.”
And I said, “Well, just, I mean, you’re killing my body three times a week here. Would you just, like, read John chapter 1 and maybe just, I mean, just…” “I don’t believe in the Bible.” I said, “You don’t have to believe in it. It’s okay. Just, you ought to be educated just to know what it says.” “Well, okay.”
God’s Word never returns void, and it was a long rehab, and God miraculously brought that young woman to Christ. And then she began to grow, and it was a neat story, but the story gets better.
Then we moved to Atlanta, and then about a year after that or two years, they asked me to come back and speak at Santa Cruz, which was kind of cool, and let them know what was going on.
And so I came back and I’ll never forget, I can’t even remember what I spoke on. But she was in the second row. And now that little girl when I first met her, five, six years ago or more, was a bigger girl. And I’ll never forget. I came down the steps and she just came right around, tears flowing down her face. And her arms were out like this with her little girl. She gave me a big hug. And she just said, “Jesus is so real. I’m so glad. Thank you so much. And I want you to meet my little girl. And I’m reading Bible stories to her.”
And I thought, you know what? I walked out the side door and I thought, “That’s worth a knee.” That’s worth a knee! Isn’t it? That’s worth a bankruptcy. That’s worth an unfair getting fired. That’s worth someone walks out on you.
What difficult situation do you have in your life right now that makes you just want to get focused, and isolated, and fearful that could be the greatest opportunity that God ever gives you to preach the Word? And I don’t mean just with your life. We’ve got to get beyond that.
Hebrews 4:12. I put it in your notes. It says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as the far division of soul and spirit and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
It wasn’t that I was convincing with this woman. It was that she, for the first time, explored the living Word of God. Your neighbors don’t have to believe it. People in your hobbies, the people in your carpools, they don’t have to believe it.
But God calls us regular, normal people to preach the Word. Not judgmentally, not “we’re better than.” But winsomely, lovingly, sharing our life, our testimony, and inviting them to explore what it says.
Now this revival occurs. And after this, now there’s sort of a battle between good and evil. Because these Samaritans had been hoodwinked by some demonic activity.
We pick up the story in verse 9. In verse 9 it says, “Now for some time a man named Simon practiced sorcery in the city and he amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great. And all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is the divine power known as the great power.’” He actually was claiming deity.
“They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.” The word “magic” and the word “sorcery”, same root words, it has the idea of the manifestation of supernatural things through demonic power.
And then look at verse 12. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized and he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles that he saw.
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them. They’d simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Now this big confrontation of good and evil, if you summarized it, Simon is intimidating through demonic sorcery. People were scared.
We experienced a lot of this in Santa Cruz. I’ve seen it in Haiti. When I was in India and parts of Africa. I mean, there are people all around the world, you know, we kind of think we’re a little more sophisticated. I mean, I’ve seen people in South Africa pull up in Mercedes, who have great jobs, that live in a first world country, and with the demonic issues they have, put money and food on an open grave so the demons, representing their dead parents, don’t terrify them at home.
I mean, the world is in the lap of the Evil One. This is real stuff. But Philip liberates. How? Through the Word of God.
And so, what you need to understand is the Gospel goes from the Jews, then it goes to the Samaritans, and then it goes to the Gentiles. And every time that happens the Spirit of God, and the wisdom of God the Father and Jesus is He wants to make sure these groups stay unified.
Remember, when they were just all Jews but they spoke two different languages, remember the division? The Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrew-speaking? I mean, that was a problem.
Well, now you’ve got Samaritans. Well what are most of the people in Jerusalem going to think if you say, “Oh, the Samaritans are now Christ-followers.” “Oh, no way.”
And so God doesn’t baptize them in the Holy Spirit. In other words, that external manifestation. It doesn’t say it here. But I would assume, because it’s visible and you can see it as probably the same as Acts 2. They spoke in other languages. There was a manifestation of God’s power and God’s Spirit when Peter and John came.
And so, what they did is they wanted to authenticate, to keep the unity of the Church, you know, it happens different ways through Acts. And so, they go and they say, “Oh, it’s for real. They have received the Word.” I mean, all of Peter’s and John’s prejudices are going out the window. They pray for them and then, boom, now they’re brought into the body of Christ. You’ll see the same thing happen in Acts 10 a little bit later.
And so, God keeps the preservation of the unity. But the real issue going on here is between evil and good. The people following after Simon or now it’s the truth of the Word of God.
Here’s the truth I want you to get: the power is in the message, not in the messenger. The power is in the message, not in the messenger.
These people, they’ve only been Christians two years. Philip has only been a Christian two years or less. If you would go through, it would be interesting, in my Bible every time “preach” or “proclaim,” I highlighted it.
This is normal, ordinary, regular people running for their life and every time you see the yellow, what it is is the word of God is going out. See, the power – it’s not “you don’t know enough.” It’s not, “you’re not bold enough.” It’s not that no one would ever believe you. It’s not that they’re going to ask questions you can’t respond.
The power is in the message, not in us messengers. But here’s the deal. When you begin to share that message, Satan’s tactics will go from division and subtlety to, often, frontal.
We saw that in Santa Cruz. I mean, it was crazy. The first couple years there, we experienced things that I thought only happened in books. But we saw hundreds of people come to Christ, and there was all these Satan worshippers and all this weird stuff, and it got frontal.
And what I want you to know is you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to be afraid. But I will tell you, there’s all kind of Christians that, you know, you start growing, you start sharing, and you start living. As you press against things, you will experience some frontal attack and guess what the goal is – to get you to isolate and say, “Oh, well, that’s for someone else.”
Here’s the application: “Fear not. Greater is He that is in you than he that’s in the world.” And but see, we say that and it’s up here but it’s not in here. There’s not a boldness, there’s not a power, and these people had conviction. They knew that there’s nothing more powerful than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just let it loose. God works through His Word.
But we know that, greater is He that is in me, but down deep I don’t think we believe it a lot.
The Bible says that we have the sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken Word of God. And when you understand who you are, and how to use that, God’s going to mobilize us thousands, and thousands, and thousands, of people into the people that share, who are not ashamed to say, “I love Jesus! I’m not anti-intellectual, I’m not a bigot, I’m not politically correct. I love Jesus. It is the name above every name in heaven and on earth and His Word is true. And I live in one of the most politically correct places in all the world, and I’m unashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation.”
And the issue is you won’t have to be weird and it’ll often happen in your suffering, and in your pain, and in the mate that left you, and in the upside down house, and the child who is having a struggle, and in your loneliness, and in your cancer biopsy, and they will watch your life, and they will watch the power of Jesus in you, and you know what will happen? They’re open.
Your neighbors are open, your coworkers are open, the people where you work out are open, the people at the coffee shops are open, where you get your dry cleaning done are open. Eighty-seven percent of all the people in America pray, Christian or not. They’re looking for hope. Not from weird, zealous, better-than Christians but real people, handling real problems, and where you just love them.
That’s what God’s going to do. But He’s not going to do it, there’s no big program coming, people. There’s no big formula. There’s no superstars we’re shipping in. It’s going to be us.
Notice what happens. After this big, good-versus-evil event there is a warning. And the warning occurs in this man named Simon. And the warning is going to have to do with genuine versus counterfeit faith.
And here we pick up the story in verse 18. “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given to the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me this ability so that everyone whom I lay my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered, ‘May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He’ll forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.’”
And it’s not that God would be unforgiving. Peter is saying, “Man, you’ve got to come clean from the heart for real.”
“‘For I see that you are full of bitterness and you’re a captive to sin.’ Then Simon answered, ‘Pray to the Lord so that nothing that you have said will happen to me.’ And then when Peter and John had testified and proclaimed the Word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem.”
And then notice what they’re doing. They’re preaching the Gospel…where? In many Samaritan villages. I mean, there’s a breakthrough. But it’s very interesting. This is like there’s a story and there’s, in parentheses, by the way, Simon. Everyone who “believes,” intellectual assent, and goes through some external ritual – baptism, communion, raising a hand, walking forward – here’s the truth: intellectual assent and external ritual does not constitute saving faith.
Simon sought to use God. In the paragraph before, it said, “And Simon believed.” The same word is used in James chapter 2 verses 19 and 20. It doesn’t always mean saving faith. It says the demons also believe and shudder. The demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The demons believe He’s the Savior of the world. The demons believe in His deity. But they don’t have personal, saving relationship. They intellectually agree with those truths.
Second thing, there’s a lot of people that have, kind of, ritual. Everyone else is getting baptized, Simon says, “Hey, man, I had this kind of power, they got more power, I want that power.” Simon tried to use God. There wasn’t a change of heart, we learn later. He wants the benefits of the power for his own personal use. He intellectually agrees with what’s happening. But there’s not been internal transformation of heart.
Now, I want to say something and you need to just ask God to give you real ears to hear right now. For the last, probably, fifteen to thirty-some years there’s been a new gospel. And it has made it into the Church and has gone all around the world.
And the new gospel goes something like this: you may have tried Buddhism, self-help books, seminars. You may have worked at this job, tried that, and somewhere along the line, someone said, “Why don’t you try Jesus? Jesus came and paid for your sin, He wants to make you healthy, He wants to make you wealthy, He wants to make everything work out. Just believe in Jesus, you’ll be upwardly mobile, your kids will all turn out right.”
And basically, Jesus has very subtly become your personal self-help genie to fulfill your agenda, and what you really want to do is use Him to get what you want, that what you think will make you happy and fulfilled. That’s a big word now. Fulfilled.
Now, when things get kind of hard, or when the hard side of following this Jesus, it’s like, “You know, I’m really not interested in that.” It’s what can He do for me? It’s a consumer mentality. It’s a Simon mentality.
A lot of what is very clear about what it means to follow Him, Christians, about eight out of ten, in America, just disregard about very clear teaching about morality, very clear teaching about relationships, very clear teaching about commitment. About eight out of ten, their lifestyle, their priorities, their speech, their love or lack of love, their…it doesn’t line up with Jesus.
Now, here’s the danger. This is from Jesus’ lips. The most famous sermon Jesus ever gave was called the Sermon on the Mount. And He said, “Watch out for false prophets,” chapter 7, “they come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. It’s by their fruit you will recognize them.” And then He says that good fruit is on good trees and bad fruit is on bad trees.
Regardless of the externals people say, it’s the fruit, the evidence, the results. He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day of judgment, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name? Didn’t we drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers.’”
You had external religion, we even got involved in some service, but He said, “You know something? There wasn’t a change of heart. There wasn’t real relationship.” He says, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice, he’s like a wise man who builds his house on the rock and the rain comes down and the waters rise and the wind blows and it beats against it but the house remains because it’s on the rock. But every single person who hears these words of Mine and does not obey is like a person who builds their house on the sand and the rains come and the streams rise, and the wind blows and they’re gone.”
My observation is we may have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in the Church that are convinced that they have personal relationship with God but by the fruit of their life, maybe there’s a great possibility they don’t.
Maybe they’re like Simon. You intellectually believe. “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Yes.” Do you believe He’s the Son of God?” “Yes.” “Do you believe He died on the cross?” “Yes.” “Do you believe He rose from the dead?” “Yes.” Intellectually.
Have you ever recognized that your life has offended a holy God and you have to turn from that sin and it’s in receiving that grace and following Him, not just the parts that you like?
And it’s not about Him fulfilling your agenda. It’s, He is God and you follow Him with loyalty and, therefore, the fruits are compassion, and a love, and a sacrifice, and a commitment, where you become more and more like Jesus, where His Word is precious to you, where you talk to Him, where there’s tough issues but He is transforming your life.
See, for a lot of people you just come once a month or a couple times a month, you check a box, you’re a shade more moral than the next person. But Jesus is a self-help appendage to you, as you live your life and God brought you in this room on this day, so you could fear not and settle the issue today.
If there’s any doubt in your mind, you don’t have to be afraid thinking, you know some of you, I bet, are thinking right now, “You know, I’m not sure.” I’ve never thought about it like that.”
And it’s so crept into the life of the Church, it’s just, let’s just stop right now. Let’s settle it. For some of you, you’re not sure. Today is the day of salvation. If you’ve never placed your faith and repented of your sin and said, “I want to follow Him,” let’s do that right now.
Lord, I ask You because You know every heart, You know every situation, and You love us. God, it is out of Your great love that You paid the price for our sin, not that that would be the end but a beginning.
Could I invite you, not just to follow along in a prayer but a transfer of trust and focus from you, to accept the forgiveness of Christ and follow Him?
In your mind or heart just pray, “Dear God, I admit I need You today. I don’t want to use You or manipulate You. I want to submit and follow You. I ask You to forgive me, right now, I believe You died and paid for my sin. I believe You rose from the dead, bodily, and You sit at the right hand of the Father, and I ask You to come into my life, and I tell You I want to follow You, and I desperately need Your help.”
Lord, will You convince and overwhelm those who, in their heart of hearts have turned from sin to follow You? Would You flood them with Your love, and courage, and faith? In Christ’s name, amen.
Well, now we’re going to see something that’s absolutely amazing beginning in verse 26 and through the end of the chapter. The Gospel is now going to do what Jesus said. After two years, it’s stuck in Jerusalem.
It was meant for evil by the enemy – fear and isolation – but the Spirit of God said, “Mm, mm, baby. We’re going to do the spiritual ju-jitsu, judo move. And I’m going to use this persecution, and this fear, to take these two-year-old Christians to Samaria, and then I’m going to take them to the Gentiles, and now the Gospel is going global. Everything I said is going to happen is going to start to happen.”
And here’s the way it’s going to happen. He’s going to choose what we call a “prime mover.” He’s going to plant the Gospel, even before the Church gets there, through an unlikely person that we would say could never be ready to hear about Christ, he’s an Ethiopian eunuch. He’s one of the cabinet members of the queen, Candace, you’ll read in just a minute, that’s a queen title.
The government of Egypt at this point in time is run by a woman. Her son is thought to be divine, they’re a direct descendent from the sun god. And this eunuch, who is a proselyte, or at least a God-fearer, has come to Jerusalem to worship because monotheism is so attractive in this warped world.
And he has a copy of the text, he’s a wealthy man, he’s a leader, he has platform, he has tremendous influence. And he’s on this chariot coming back from Jerusalem, back toward Africa. And Ethiopia here in this context isn’t the Ethiopia that we know. It goes all the way from the northern part of Africa down to Sudan.
Let’s pick up the story as the gospel goes global, as the plan unfolds. “Jesus said that we’d receive power, the Holy Spirit would come upon us, and we would be witnesses.” Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. Now we’re going to see the uttermost parts of the world.
“Now an angel of the Lord,” verse 26, “said to Philip, ‘Go to the south to the desert road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out on his way and he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and he was on his way home and sitting in his chariot, reading the book of Isaiah.
“And the Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and he heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.” And I love this. This is the way you share. You don’t have to preach at people. You just ask good questions.
“‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I, he said, unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit down with him.” And then he begins to read out of Isaiah 53, speaking of Christ.
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. In His humiliation He was deprived of justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth. And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about? Himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
See, what he does, again? Philip is two years old in the Lord. But for two years, Philip’s been digging in. And all those Old Testament passages, which lead to Jesus. And he’s being going to those meetings on the weekends where Peter or John or James preaches and he’s been going to those small group meetings in the homes and talking about this new Messiah and how it works, you know? How’s it play out in your marriage? How’s it play out with your kids? How’s it play out with your finances?
And all of a sudden God says, “Go on this road.” And he starts walking on this road and pretty soon there’s this chariot of a very important, influential man who is intimidating. Because he’s wealthy and he’s powerful. And Philip’s going, “Who am I?”
And God says, “Hey, just go walk by the chariot.” So he goes and walks by the chariot. As he’s walking by the chariot the practice in this time and world, whenever people read, they read out loud. And so, as he stands near he’s hearing this guy and he’s going, “This is unbelievable. I mean, I’m supposed to stand by this chariot. This Ethiopian guy is reading the book of Isaiah.”
And so he has a moment of boldness. He goes, “Hey, do you get what you’re, you know what that’s about?” The guy goes, “Not really. Why don’t you come up and sit down?”
And notice, he just took it from that passage and began to explain, “Do you realize there’s a God who loves you? Do you realize the problem of sin has been addressed? Do you realize there’s purpose and hope? Do you realize there’s a heaven? Do you realize that you can know this God personally through the Son that He sent, Jesus? Do you realize that your whole world of purpose can be transformed? And, by the way, here’s what happens: it’s a gift of God, by grace, you receive it by faith and then you go public. And, you know, I was baptized.”
Because baptism back then had a much bigger picture of total identification change. You know, it’s like, I had an old uniform; I’m putting on a new uniform.
And so pick up the story. What happens? “As they traveled along the road, which came to some water, the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ And he ordered the chariot to stop and then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. Then they came up out of the water and the Spirit of the Lord suddenly snatched,” literally, “Philip away and the eunuch didn’t see him again but he went on his way rejoicing.”
This was a great baptism. He said, “Wow, this is amazing. I just met God. I put my faith in Christ. Down! Up! Woo! Where’d he go?”
Would that be just amazing? And Philip finds himself, like, “Whoa, it was amazing. Now I’m in a different city!” Azotus. “And he traveled about, preaching and sharing the Gospel in all the towns that reached to Caesarea.”
These are normal, regular, ordinary people where God is intervening and doing supernatural things. You know why? Because He loves people. He loves your boss. He loves your employees. He loves your neighbors. He loves your relatives. He loves the boss that you never think could ever be open to Christ.
Here’s what I want you to get: Philip obeys prompting by the Holy Spirit. That’s what God wants us to do. You don’t have to lay it all out, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar. What if you said, this week, “God, okay, ready? This week, would You give me a little nudge about when to tell someone about You? And maybe introduce them, in some way, to Your Word?”
Or, you know what? “God, I’m not sure I’m ready for that one. Could You just lead me to someone who has a problem, and I’ll ask them for coffee or ask them for lunch. I won’t even bring up Jesus at first. I’ll just love them.”
What would happen if you said, “You know, I understand you just went through a divorce. You want to grab a cup of coffee? I’ve actually, I have that in my history. I’d just love to hear how I could help you.”
Or, “I hear your son is in the hospital.” Or, “I hear you got a problem, health issue.” Or, “You know what? Man, I am so sorry, I heard the downsizing happened and you were on the list. Can I buy you dinner? You want to come over to our house?”
What if, this week, each one of us were prompted by the Holy Spirit to love someone, to reach out in some way and connect with them? You know what would happen? God will work.
See, it’s not that He doesn’t prompt. It’s that our ears get spiritual wax and we don’t hear or we think it’s for someone else. Or we’re so afraid, intimidated, he’ll ask a big spiritual question. Here’s my answer to the really hard ones, are you ready for this? You can use this. “I don’t know.” I use it all the time.
“What about this, this, and this? And so-and-so says this, this, and this. And this religion says this, this, and this.” “Great question. I don’t know. But you know, would you be willing to read a little bit and talk about it?” I’m just telling you, people will.
Philip obeys a prompting, but God had prepared a heart to hear. Isn’t that amazing? See, the enemy doesn’t want you to believe that. He wants you to be afraid to share your faith. He wants you to be afraid to go public. He wants you to be afraid of what people might think. He wants you to be isolated.
And the truth is, God is sovereignly working in the lives of people all around you, all the time. And the most unlikely people that you think would never come to Christ, He’s already preparing.
And the application is: fear not. Boldly share the gospel every day in every way. And the boldness isn’t in arrogance. It’s a boldness where your conviction is that the only hope for the world is Jesus, that the Word of God is true, and you love those people. And when you do, God will prompt you.