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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Make My Commitment Visible

Pastor Shim's sermon from July 17, 2011.

(Acts 8:26-40)

“Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake this world for Christ.” – John Wesley.

When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military venture. Ordering his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, he commanded them to look down at the water below. To their amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.

As extreme as the above story sounds, true commitment is proven by one’s actions. That’s why John Wesley wanted men who loved God with their total beings. Wesley’s idea agrees with Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:28-30. “Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your mind and with all your strength.”

Loving God with all our hearts and with all our mind is the sign of our commitment to God. And Jesus added this, “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

I believe Paul clearly understood Jesus’ teaching above about a committed life. When he said, in Gallations 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now lives in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Philip the evangelist was a Jew preaching in Samaria and enjoying great success, but God sent his angel to tell him to go to the Gaza desert to minister to an Ethiopian. The man traveled home to Ethiopia from worshiping God Jerusalem. Both men were trying to do God’s will as they understood it. Their story is found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip waited on tables according to Acts 6 and was forced to leave his home Jerusalem because of persecution. God led him to Samaria to preach. He was successful in his ministry, drawing large crowds and doing miracles. Yet God sent him to meet one man need in the desert. Why did God interrupt Philip’s effective ministry to the crowd in order to reach one man? Is one man as important as the whole nation of Samaria? What can we learn?

a) What does the story in Acts 8 tell us about God? John 3:16 answers,” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

b) What does Acts 8 and John 3:16 say about you? God loves you, you and the Ethiopian man and everyone. Then,“whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That’s why God sent Philip to the Ethiopian man who was hungry for God.

c) What does God wants you to do for him? He wants you to be his agent, like Philip, to share the Good News about Jesus. The Samaritans and Jews despised each other. The Samaritans were a mixed race and the Jews considered them unclean. In John 4:9, the comment of the woman gives the clue about the prejudice that existed between the two races, “The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”

Despite the Jews’ and the Samaritans’ conflict about race, God sent his servant Philip, a Jew, to them to tell them the Good News about Jesus, Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs from God. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”

And yet, Philip got a call to leave a large crowed to minister to one person. God loves and fills those who hunger for him, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Are you hungry for God and his teachings?

By his action the Ethiopian man made his commitment to God visible by traveling over 500 miles to worship God in Jerusalem. Because he was a eunuch he was not allowed to worship with the Jews according to Deuteronomy 23:1, No eunuch is to enter the congregation of God.” God in his mercy reached out and touched the Ethiopian man through Philip. God is never far from those who seek him. Just breathe Jesus’ name and be surprised by his comforting presence.

Philip obeyed God’s order to go to the desert road: Acts 8: 26-29, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he read aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” As Philip ran along beside the chariot, the Ethiopian man invited Philip to sit with him while he read out loud.

Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus Christ. How he could find forgiveness for his sins by repenting and accepting Christ as his Savior and Lord and how to walk with Jesus daily as his disciple (Matt.28:19-20). 2) The Ethiopian man was ready to make his commitment visible through baptism. We see his act of obedience in Acts8:36-40, “As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?'" He ordered the carriage to stop, they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. He wanted to identify himself with Jesus as his Lord and savior.

Baptism was the standard practice of the disciples of Jesus, Peter said in Acts 2:38, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter got his teaching from Jesus Christ, the head of the church, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Obedience to the teaching of Jesus is the visible way one shows the change of the heart or a desire to become a disciple of Jesus.

After Philip baptized the Ethiopian man, his assignment was completed and God sent him to his next appointment and the Ethiopian man went back to his home to establish the church there. Listen how the story ends: When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.

Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea. Philip continued to serve God as evangelist in Caesarea. Luke writes in Acts 21:8, “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” Philip continued to be God’s agent of grace. Are you open?

How Do We Make Our Commitment Visible?
1) Like Philip We follow Christ and Spread the Good News.
2) Like Ethiopian officer we Seek God.
3) I ask myself, “Am I Making My Commitment Visible by obeying?

Dr. David Livingston served Christ in Africa’s jungle. No difficulty hindered him. A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all."

Jesus came to make going to heaven possible for you. Are you pointing others to Christ?

Pastor Shim Habte, Willows United Methodist Church, 544 N. Shasta St.
Willows, CA 95988. 530–934-3190
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