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Agenda # 3 - Intimidate and Isolate, Part 2

From the series Diabolical

In this message, Chip shares how the worst situations in your life can become the greatest opportunities for growth - and for God’s glory.

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Message Transcript

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.