I am concerned about the Church this morning. The Church in America. I am concerned that the Church has lost her heart for the broken and lost. I am concerned that she has lost her passion for the voice of God. I am concerned that she has turned from faith to fascination. I am concerned that she is more committed to finding entertainment on Sunday morning than she is with finding the lost found. I am concerned that she has lost her passion for those who do not know the salvation which comes from Jesus Christ. I am concerned that she is more in awe of stained glass than she is with saved souls. I am concerned that she is more deeply broken over spills on the carpet and children running down the hall than she is with people dying without Christ and going to hell. I am concerned for the Church in America this morning. I am concerned that she is more committed to building ornate sanctuaries of luxury and leisure than she is with building the Kingdom that has no end. I am concerned that she is more committed to preserving the past than she is to praying for people to come to know Jesus today. I am concerned that she is getting angry over things that don’t even matter while exhibiting apathy towards the one thing that matters most – winning the world to Jesus Christ. I am concerned that she has lost her prayers for God to make of her sons and daughters evangelists and preachers of the grace of God. I am concerned because she can readily invite a friend to lunch, but she hesitates in inviting a friend to worship at the feet of the Messiah. I am concerned because she is looking more and more like a reflection of her culture and less and less like a reflection of His Kingdom. I am concerned for the Church in America this morning. I am concerned that she is more committed to insuring her comfort while on earth than she is committed to preparing herself to serve before His throne in Heaven. I am concerned that she is more in tune to the masses and what they want than she is to the Savior and what He wants. I am concerned for the Church in America this morning. I am concerned because I feel like she is not concerned…

The Church in America has been tried and found ineffective by Almighty God. It is the Salt that has lost its saltiness, it is the Light that has grown dark, it is the wellspring of life that is quickly becoming a tomb of the dead. The situation has not always been so dark, so bleak, so desperate. There was a time when the Church in America was in America, but not of America. There was a time when the Church in America was alive, transforming lives and the culture around her, winning the lost to the Kingdom of God, and serving Almighty God with passion and obedience, but that was another day, a day gone by. Over the course of time the Church has forgotten her call, she has forgotten her mission, and settled for comfort and a cozy spot nestled in the heart of the neighborhood. There was a time when the Church was a lighthouse giving direction to wanderers, providing light for those groping about in the dark, and shining bright for everyone to see, but that was a day gone by.

What has happened to the Church in America is illustrated by the decline of one of the Church’s great ministries, which, founded in London, England, made its way to our shores. 1994 marked the 150th anniversary of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the YMCA. On June 4th, 1844, twelve young men met in the bedroom of George Williams in London, England. They had come together to develop some strategies for evangelizing the masses of men who were coming to the city in search of work. Williams’ plan was simple. He prayed with other Christians for the salvation of those with whom they worked. After three years of this practice, the drapery firm of Hitchcock & Rogers had shifted from being a place where it was “almost impossible for a young man to be a Christian” to becoming a working environment where it was “almost impossible to be anything else.” The success of so many coming to Christ at his place of employment led Williams to expand the ministry to other shops. This expansion included lecture courses, libraries, reading rooms, and sport facilities. In all of these activities, Williams and the other founders of the YMCA “regarded evangelism as foundational and indispensable.” Fifty years later, in June of 1884, Queen Victoria bestowed the honor of knighthood upon Williams for his “distinguished service to the cause of humanity.” Evangelism was the founding passion of the YMCA. Tremendous benefits have resulted from the 150 years of service the Y has provided as the YMCA has spread from its home of London to other nations across the globe.

Today, many do not even know what the “C” stands for and fewer still have found Christ in their gyms. Today, instead of the Cross being proclaimed, there are courses on Eastern Meditation, Zen Buddhism, and other teachings opposed to the cause of Christ being taught at the YMCA while Jesus, rarely, if ever is spoken of. The edge of evangelism can be easily lost if it ever becomes a secondary goal.

The only reason evangelism ever becomes a secondary goal for a follower of Jesus Christ is because the follower has lost his or her passion for listening to the voice of God which consistently and passionately calls out, “Go into all the world and make disciples…”

Our study for this morning brings us to the last section of the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The acts of the Holy Spirit through the followers of Jesus are acts of service and obedience which God is still desiring from His followers even today. For those of us here this morning, followers of Jesus and those who have never made a public commitment to Jesus as Lord of their life, there is much for us to learn. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Acts 8:26-40.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” {27} So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, {28} and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. {29} The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” {30} Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. {31} “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. {32} The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “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. {33} In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” {34} The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” {35} Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. {36} As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” {37} {38} And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. {39} When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. {40} Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40 NIV)

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch contains two great lessons for us – The first lesson is for those who desire to follow Jesus in obedience. In this story God gives us the prescription for how we can follow Him in obedience. The second lesson is given to show us God’s deep love for all the peoples of the world, for His desire to see all people come to receive His forgiveness and grace, even “to the ends of the earth.”

When we left off last week, Philip had been part of the beginning of the Samaritan pentecost. Men and women who had been despised by those who claimed to be the people of God were being blessed by the presence of Almighty God, and revival was breaking out everywhere. The crowds were gathering up their adoration for Simon the Magician and were falling at the feet of Jesus. There was a big crowd. There were hundreds of people gathering. There were baptisms taking place by the score. The Church was being born in Samaria and they could not have built church buildings fast enough or big enough to accommodate all of the growth.

God was using Philip in a big way in the birth of the Samaritan church. I don’t know about you, but if it would have been me in Philip’s place I would have wanted to put up a big tent, get a few spots on the local television station, and set up shop for awhile. Philip wasn’t mesmerized by the masses because all the while he was being used to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, he was listening intently so that he could discern what God was wanting to do next. Philip wasn’t concerned with having the glory for what was going on. He didn’t intend to organize the awesome things he saw happening. He wanted to be obedient to God so that God’s will could be done, so that all people could come to know the joy of knowing Jesus.

In the middle of the big revival, Philip heard the voice of the Lord calling. A messenger of the Lord spoke to Philip and gave him his marching orders. The orders were not to set up a tent or bask in the mighty movement of God, but rather they were to go, to leave the great work going on and head out on a desert road. Take a look at the Scripture.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” {27} So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, {28} and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. {29} The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Folks, it just doesn’t make any sense! Why in the world would Philip leave a thriving ministry in Samaria where those who had been hated for centuries were now experiencing the love of God? Why would Philip leave a “successful” ministry to go out into the desert? Why? Because God told him to go.

Philip is told to leave Samaria and travel on the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. By direct route, the distance between Jerusalem to Gaza would be forty-eight miles. It was a road through steep mountain-passes and the hilly “Shephelah” country of Judea before it opened onto the coastal territory surrounding Gaza. Gaza was a sparsely populated area and the road passed through two small towns. To make matters even worse, the word translated, “south,” can also be translated “noon-time,” which would make the number of travelers even fewer since few people would travel the rough road during the heat of the day.

Despite the poor prospects for converts on the road, Philip obeys the messenger’s commands and heads out for Gaza. It is important for us to understand that Philip doesn’t have a clue where he is going to end his journey, he doesn’t know who he is going to meet, and he doesn’t have any idea what is going to happen to him on the road – all he knows is that he has been told to go, and so he is going.

In a day where everyone in society is telling us that we are fools if we don’t have a five year plan of what we want to do, where we want to go, and how we are going to get there – the story of Philip flies in our face. Walking in obedience to the will of God is not a five year plan my friend — It is a moment-by-moment experience, a day-after-day commitment to trust and have faith in Almighty God and Him alone.

God’s call to Philip to leave that which seemed right to go to the unknown and the unfamiliar was not the first time that God had asked such faith of a person. God spoke to a seventy-five year old man who had settled into retirement and was enjoying playing dominoes at the Haran Senior Center. Go came to him one day and said,

“…Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. {2} I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. {3} I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” {4} So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4 NIV)

God’s call was heard and heeded by Abram. As a result of Abram’s obedience, God’s power and faithfulness was demonstrated to the world.

If we are living for the “out there” there is no way that we can hear God’s call in the “right here.” God is not concerned with your five year plan or mine, He is committed to seeing His plan for all of history take place in the lives of His faithful people. God is the Master of upsetting and over-turning the plans of men and nations in order that His eternal plans might be fulfilled. God has spoken this fact to us over and over again throughout His Word. God has told His people in Psalms and Proverbs,

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. {11} But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalms 33:10-11 NIV)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

God’s plan is to bless us and He will bless us when we surrender to His plan for our life rather than stubbornly stick to what is comfortable for us, that which we desire. God’s plan throughout history has been to bring all people, from all nations, to His throne where they will sing praises to His name for all eternity. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said,

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. {12} Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. {13} You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

If the Church in America is going to return to her place of blessing, to once again being effective at carrying out all of God’s plans for her, then she is going to have to learn to once again walk humbly with God, listening with intensity for His voice.

If you and I are going to be obedient to Almighty God and share the Good News of His Son with others, then we are going to have to pay attention, to hear His voice, go where He leads us, and passionately proclaim the Good News.

I love the story told about Coach Bill McCartney. While coach was still with the University of Colorado he had a nationally known Christian leader speak to his team before a big game. For 30 minutes, the preacher pulled out all of the stops and exhorted all of the young athletes to pull together and unite so that they could win the big game. After the preacher finished his presentation he took his seat next to coach McCartney and said, “Well coach, what do you think?” Coach McCartney looked at the preacher and said, “You know, all you seem to care about is whether or not they win a football game. And all I care about is whether or not they know Jesus Christ. We should trade places.”

That’s the kind of vision we should have for those around us. That’s the kind of vision Philip had for his life as he sought to live in obedience to God’s call.

Philip was listening to the voice of God while he was watching what God was doing in Samaria. He heard God say, “Go.” He left Samaria and headed out on the road. Once he got on the road leading to Gaza, he met a man who was an Ethiopian eunuch. There are three very important things about the Ethiopian eunuch which we need to understand if we are going to understand the power of this little portion of Scripture.

First, the man was a very important person in the Ethiopian government. The Bible says that he was in charge of the official treasury of the Queen. “Candace” was not the Queen’s name, but was a title of office, like Pharaoh. The man was a very important person in the Queen’s cabinet of officials.

Second, the man was a eunuch. In ancient Near Eastern cultures it was not unusual for high ranking officials to be castrated in order to assure that their entire attention would be given to their official duties without any threat of sexual misconduct. Since the man was reporting directly to a woman, it makes it even more likely that this is the case.

According to God’s Word, eunuchs were not allowed in the Temple, they were excluded from worshipping God. There were people in the Old Testament who, no matter how badly they desired to worship God in the Temple, were not permitted to enter in. (Leviticus 21:17-21; Deuteronomy 23:1) Even though the man made a trip of more than 750 miles to go to church, he wasn’t allowed to draw near to God.

Third, the man was from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was an ancient African nation on the south side of Egypt. The inhabitants of Ethiopia were direct descendants of one of Noah’s sons, Ham, the father of Cush. In the Bible, Ethiopia is often referred to as “Cush” or “Nubia.” Herodotus, the famous Greek historian, described the Ethiopians as “the tallest and handsomest of all men.” Ethiopians were known for their smooth, dark skin, and their strength as warriors. Ethiopia was a very affluent, highly progressive nation with a long history, which, by the first century enabled them to become a major trading partner in world commerce. There were many ports on the Ethiopian coast and they had many vessels to carry out their trade. Ethiopia was one of the world’s leading suppliers of costly gums such as incense and myrrh, which supplied the world’s needs for embalming goods. They also exported gold and precious stones to other nations.

I was thinking of something while I was studying this passage this past week and I just have to share it with you. You have heard Louis Farrakhan and the leaders of the Black Muslims say, “Christianity is the religion of the Europeans. Islam is the faith of the black man.” I want you to know this morning that the Gospel was Good News to the black man and woman long before it was ever heard by the Europeans! Jesus is not some color-coded Savior, He is the Savior of the world!

I did a little studying this past week and found out that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in Mecca about 570 A.D. Before Muhammad’s great grandparents were even born, the Ethiopian eunuch was already back in Ethiopia teaching Bible studies and singing “Amazing Grace.”

This Ethiopian brother was riding in his chariot making his way back home when all of a sudden Philip comes alongside of him. I can only imagine what was going through his mind. He had made that long journey of over 750 miles only find out that he wasn’t welcome in church. Not because of the color of his skin, but because of the condition of his body he wasn’t welcome. The man bought a copy of the book of Isaiah, got on his chariot with his entourage, and headed back to south Egypt, to Ethiopia. Verses 30-35 tell us,

{30} Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. {31} “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. {32} The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “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. {33} In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” {34} The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” {35} Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip, still listening to the Lord, asked the man, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian said, “Are you kidding? I need some help.” The Ethiopian “just happened” to be reading one of the greatest Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah found. Philip “just happened” to be listening in obedience to the Lord. As a result, a man who had been excluded from the worship of Almighty God “just happened” to find the love of Jesus on a desert road heading home.

Isn’t it amazing how things “just happen” when we are listening attentively to the voice of Almighty God. You are in the middle of the busiest day you’ve had in weeks at work when, in the middle of your lunch break, a friend confides in you that her husband is leaving her for another woman and you are given the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with her. You are busy at school when one of your teammates in the locker room tells you that his girlfriend is pregnant and that he is going to take her get an abortion. Because you “happen” to be listening to the voice of God, you share with your friend about the Author of Life and His ability to turn trying times into times of blessing. One of your buddies gets the news that his daughter has been fatally injured in a car crash. You get the news and hear the voice of God calling you to go be with your friend. It is amazing how, when we are listening to the Lord, it “just happens” that God uses us to share with love with others.

That’s the way it happened for Philip. He heard God and he went. The Ethiopian happened to be reading about Jesus and didn’t even know. The Spirit of God was working long before Philip ever arrived. The man gave his life to the Lord and followed him in baptism.

I hope you are noticing something about Philip. Doesn’t it seem that everywhere Philip goes people are asking Jesus to be Lord and Master of their life? He goes to Samaria – people find salvation in Jesus. Philip heads out on a desert road – an Ethiopian eunuch finds salvation in Jesus. Was it just that Philip was a smooth talking evangelist that so many were coming to know the Lord? Not on your life! God is always working to bring every person to Himself – Philip was just willing to go where God was working.

Are you seeing those around you come to know Christ as Savior? Don’t use the excuse, “Well, I just don’t have the gift of evangelism” or “I don’t know too much about the Bible.” Philip didn’t even have a New Testament, but he had an ear for the voice of God. God is working, He is moving on the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls around the world, but until we begin to listen to His voice and go where He would have us to go we will miss out on the mighty movement of God.

God’s heart is broken with those of you who are here this morning who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. My heart too is broken and I want to give you the opportunity to come to know His deep love for you this morning. Before I do that, I want to share with you one more important lesson that we can learn from Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. Take a look at verses 39-40.

{39} When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. {40} Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

I love this section of our study. As soon as Philip baptized the young man Philip was taken away, but the young man kept rejoicing. It is not important that any of you ever even remember my name, but it is of eternal consequence that you never forget Jesus. Don’t chase after “big name” preachers, run into the arms of the only one who can save you, and His name is Jesus.

If you have never asked Jesus to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior, won’t you do that this morning? Leave this place rejoicing over what God has done in your life this very day.

What Do You Hear?
Acts 8:26-40