a self centered egostical showman in Simon vs. the ultimate servant in the Ethiopian Eunuch. As a eunuch it means he’s been castrated; in those days Kings would often use Eunuch’s to be in charge of their harem or wives ~ (The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts ~~ EE ~~ is in charge of the treasury under Queen Candace of Ethiopia. I read that in Ethiopia, the King was revered as the child of the sun. He was so holy, his mother served in his place, “Queen Candace” is not actually a name, but means Queen mother… it was common in the ancient world for servants of the court to be eunuchs (it still happens)….
Too many people make the gospel so [complex]….Some people fight/resist for years reluctantly giving their life to Christ. Incrementally. Trying to be Christians halfway… that’s Simon. But EE is so simple… I crave a day when I see a flood of people make a simple and easy commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking the Lord for forgiveness and the birth of a new creation in Christ ~ the old is gone and the new is come. That’s EE. The simple gospel that changes a person from the inside out, nothing is ever the same, a freshness, an renewed innocence, like a child…. As we go over the story of EE, be in awe of how simple this man comes to the Lord, how simply Philip the Evangelist listens and responds. It’s a wonderfully beautiful story of a curious man asking sincere questions who is immediately transformed by the message of salvation. I love it… let’s pray for the simple message of salvation to explode in our crazy world….
I started reading a 1955 book by Thomas Merton: “No man is an island.” ~ the search for meaning. Merton’s description of the dilemma of men and women’s hunger for meaning is as applicable today as it was 65 years ago: “No matter how ruined man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man’s despair may become….his very humanity continues to tell him that life has meaning. That, indeed, is one reason why man tends to rebel against himself.” (pg. 9). All of the rampant unhappiness, discontentment and rebellion in today’s world reflects deep uncertainty and confusion. If men and women could find peace in their heart we would see a slowing down of the external struggles that grip our nation and world. The simple gospel is a power that brings profound meaning revolutionizing our relationships and place in society… I love EE for his simple embrace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and a whole new way of living.
This story of EE is Acts at it’s best. There are 3 characters to consider in this story, each demonstrating an amazing simplicity of faith and action.
1. the H.S. has unleashed the message of salvation, liberated from the box of the Jerusalem way with all it’s rules, regulations and expectations, and is quickly flowing to the ends of the earth.
2. Philip the evangelist, one of the amazing deacons appointed to care for the widows in Acts 6:5. Philip demonstates a simple commitment to evangelism.
3. EE shows us how coming to the Lord can be so beautifully simple.
The H.S. ~~ to follow the leading of the H.S. is to be immersed in a wonderfully simple life of simple obedience for a simple message.
A huge problem is [overthinking] everything. That’s what we often do with the Spirit… we know what God wants, but we hesitate, don’t listen, let opportunities pass… in the early 90’s Sally and I lived in the Nooksack parsonage next to City Hall. Across the alley were buildings owned by Dwayne Dunlap… a man named Roy rented a building and would work with Dwayne to make improvements. Roy told me a story about how much he admired and learned from Dwayne... Dwayne wanted him to run some sort of line in a trench from the building to the alley. For days he tried to figure out how to get it done, what would be the best equipment, how to be most efficient. A few days later Dwayne came along, looked at the problem, grabbed a shovel, dug the trench, and boom, it was done. Roy thought, how come I didn’t think of that…. That’s what often happens when the H.S. speaks… we overthink the message, is it really him? we let the opportunity pass, we are afraid. Lazy. Question the need. Philip hears from the H.S. and immediately starts digging… READ Acts 8:26-27a. “So he started out…” What Philip does sounds so simple. Why do we make it so hard? We overthink. Just do that which you know is right. Grab the shovel and start digging…
A few months ago when we started Acts, the message was [Just Show Up] and let the Spirit do the rest. That’s what Philip does ~~ what is the Spirit showing you… “So he started out…” is far more of a profound statement than we realize…
I love the way the story of EE ends as Philip is whisked away by the H.S.; EE is left to continue his journey to Ethiopia with a new heart… This is the end of the story in the NIV. READ Acts 8:39. I love the way this story reads in the KJV… READ Acts 8:36-39. Sometimes I think of myself as a closet charismatic; I love the way the Spirit seems to whisk Philip away, the KJV makes it sound like the prophet Ezekiel who is lifted up by the Spirit and transported to far away lands, … In my goofy thoughts, Philip is the N.T. equivalent of Ezekiel in the supernatural way the H.S. zooms him around… I can’t say the H.S. has zoomed me around in the same way I imagine Ezekiel and Philip, but I find myself all the time in just the right place at just the right time, to listen, love, care… about half a dozen times in my life people have told he well after the fact they were hurting, struggling, considering harsh solutions a few times even suicide, I showed up having no idea I even said anything particularly profound, but it made all the difference. I know God uses you in your personality and giftedness as well… Just show up and let the Spirit to His work. It’s simple, so simple… yet so profound.
Consider Philip’s character. What a wonderfully simple man who is sensitive to the H.S. and just loves being obedient to God. The angel of the Lord spoke (seems to be interchangeable with H.S.) and Philip “started out.” Philip sees EE and it says in Acts 8:29 READ. I love it. Philip is sent to the middle of nowhere and told to go stand over there… I could see myself arguing with God because it makes no sense to be sent to the middle of nowhere... Philip doesn’t even get any follow up with EE... the truth is that God uses millions and millions of [unsung] heroes, people who get no recognition, people who quietly serve in obedience to the H.S.
Philip is privileged to see EE come to greater understanding and give his life to Jesus Christ. Most of the time people come to the Lord in a series of connections, like links in a chain, but somebody is the [last] person in the chain. This is Philip… I learned one of the important lessons from Philip 15-20 years ago when I was between pastoral leadership assignments; for five years I averaged a funeral a week … I learned the importance of a chaplaincy ministry. Sometimes our calling is to be in a person’s life for a brief time, just a moment, I seldom knew how the family responded, but at the moment in the aftermath of a death, to go into the home of a grieving family and listen, ask questions, try to share a bit of wisdom, help them say good by…what a great honor. I understand plumbers and electricians drive around the county and point out all the houses they once worked. I do that with funerals…there are 250 homes around the county when I drive by I think, I was in their once…and I pray, Lord, may you be their peace…
Philip has a simple assignment and he listens, he obeys and it’s beautiful the way he connects with EE…what are you reading he asks EE, and they get into a discussion about a prophecy in Isaiah… Philip uses his best wisdom and understanding… Sharing the gospel does not have to be complex. God will use you as you are if you have a love for him and want others to have that same relationship. Philip is a servant. Philip, in his wonderfully simple way, is focused on the one whom God has called him to serve. We serve God by serving others! That’s simple… yet so profound…
Let’s look at how EE accepts the simple gospel. EE was in Jerusalem because he was searching, wanting to learn… keep an eye out for the EEs… everyone needs the Lord, but some are right there… EE is reading in Isaiah, a prophecy of Jesus Christ, EE has a sense there is something missing in these wonderful words. The Merton quote from earlier speaks to this: “No matter how ruined man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man’s despair may become….his very humanity continues to tell him that life has meaning.” The gospel is simple because it speaks to the needs of every one of us. The answer is a [relationship] with Jesus Christ. We aren’t likely to find ourselves in a desert and meet a eunuch reading Isaiah, but we have plenty of opportunity in our community to know people that have incomplete ideas of who Jesus is and what his life means….
EE was reading about the prophecied nature of Jesus. READ Acts 8:32. He asks Philip a question. Amazing opportunities for evangelism come when we listen to people’s questions. EE is curious, wants to know more, is seeking…
Philip tells EE about Jesus…. Every Christian on the planet can do what Philip did when talking to the curious. God wants you to tell others about Jesus in [your life]. If you don’t think you know enough, then I have an assignment: learn more. I.e. be a disciple. God will use you to help open the eyes of others if you are willing for him to use you… it’s simple. It’s simple…
Boom. EE is baptized. READ Acts 8:36-38. How I wish I could be so simple… BTW, as a side note, last week I briefly spoke about Acts 8:14-17 and how the Bible says many Samaritans were baptized but had not yet received the Spirit and how that was different from the Day of Pentecost in which the H.S. seemed to be the beginning of the young church… there is disagreement among Christians as to how it all works. What do we learn from EE, baptism and the H.S. and ? Nothing. The fact that God doesn’t care enough to settle every nuance of questions we have tells me that maybe it’s not all that important…
One more detail about EE and the simple Gospel, the last word about the man is a delight. READ Acts 8:39. The simple gospel results in [joy]. That’s what I want for myself and that’s what I want for you. To live the gospel in such a way that we go on our way rejoicing… tell me a greater testimony of what Christ does for you, doesn’t need to be profound, yet there is nothing more life changing, no greater sign of a transformed life, than joy.
The gospel message is simple. We can make it complex like Simon, but it does not have to be that way. To follow the H.S. means to just show up and be ready to take advantage of whatever H.S. assignment is there…Be like Philip who just showed up as the spirit led him, he listened, cared and answered the questions of EE who was seeking telling him everything he knew and experienced in Jesus Christ. EE shows us a simple way as he asks questions, listens and eagerly responds only to live the amazing joy of salvation. The simple gospel message has the power to transform the world so that more and more will make a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Notes for today’s sermon: Acts 8:26-40, The Simple Gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation, is very simple when we _____________.
Too many people make the gospel too _________.
The Holy Spirit’s testimony to the simple gospel:
A huge problem is ____________ everything.
The simple approach to following the Holy Spirit is to _______________ and let the Spirit to the rest.
Philip’s testimony to the simple gospel:
God uses millions and millions of unsung ________ to reach people for Christ.
Most of the time people come to the Lord through a ________________, but somebody is the _______ person in the chain.
The Ethiopian Eunuch’s testimony to the simple gospel:
The gospel is simple because it speaks to the needs of every one of us. The answer is a ____________ with Jesus Christ.
God wants you to tell others about Jesus in ___________.
The simple gospel results in __________.