Taking Christ to the People

(Acts 8:26-40)

Who am I talking about when I say green beer, shamrocks, leprechauns, and March 17th? St. Patrick There is no doubt one man who impacted the people of his nation in a profound way for Christ, is Patrick of Ireland. St. Patrick was truly a man of God, and called by God to take Christ to the people.

Kidnapped by pirates as a teenager, Patrick was taken from his well-to-do home in Britain in 405 AD, he moved to Ireland, was sold to a farmer, and given responsibility for the farmer's sheep.

Eventually Patrick escaped from slavery and returned to Britain, where he became a priest. Patrick then returned to Ireland, which was primarily a pagan nation at the time, determined to share the gospel with those people enslaved by superstition and Druid worship.

Now by the time Patrick died in 461, he had started a movement of the church that transformed ancient Ireland. Patrick was clearly a gifted evangelist, commissioned to reach all people for Christ.

The same can be said of Philip, whom we just heard about in our scripture reading this morning. Philip was told by an angel of God to make an evangelistic call along the road that goes south from Jerusalem to Gaza. No name was given, no specific address to target. He was just told to go.

As he traveled down the road, Philip came upon an Ethiopian who was reading the Scriptures. Philip stopped to explain the Scriptures to him and led him to faith in Jesus Christ. And as a result, his story has powerful implications for Christians today.

Now the Ethiopian had power, prestige, and position, but still there was something missing in his life. He was searching for answers: perhaps for his purpose in life, a new direction, or just wanting a sense of peace and fulfillment. Our world, our nation, our community, our neighborhood, and even our families are filled with people a lot like the Ethiopian. They feel something's missing, but they don't have the power to bring forth the answers they seek. They're seeking and searching for answers, and all seems hopeless.

Therefore it's my contention that all people who are disciples of Jesus Christ are to help people like the Ethiopian come to Christ. So to this end we ought to be prepared to do four things when called upon by God.

1. The first is, all disciples of Christ ought to be prepared to pray for their needs and the needs of others, realizing that God is the sole provider of our needs.

As many of you know prayer is one of the most powerful tools God has blessed us with. And if you've been part of this congregation long enough you know first what I mean. Together we've seen and experienced extraordinary healing miracles, life-changing intervention, and spiritual transformation that have led to a deep and lasting faith within those we've prayed for.

Prayer has been vital, and many of you have stepped up to the battle against sin, disease and the like as mighty prayer warriors.

You know I've always believed in the power of prayer, but never more than the last couple of years as I've seen God respond to the many prayers lifted up right here in this congregation.

As disciples of Christ we are called upon to pray for others: those in need, those folks we don't even like and those folks we don't know, and we're called upon to pray for all of God's creation. Through prayer we speak directly to God, and as we've experienced first-hand God does respond.

2. The second thing all disciples of Christ ought to be prepared to do is embody the love of Christ by helping and serving others.

There are many examples of how we can do this, but the example of serving and helping others we are lifting up this morning is the work of missions. Mission work like all other ministry or work done in the name of Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God's love, mercy, and grace.

So in our mission work, whether we support the team that's going or we're on the team that's going, we are the embodiment of Christ's love, mercy, and grace in a very real and practical way. Those we help are experiencing Christ through us.

Wow! What an awesome opportunity and responsibility God has placed before us. When we see our ministry as the incarnation of God's love, mercy, and grace doesn't it shed a whole new light on what we're about? So as disciples we ought to be prepared to be Christ-like in what we do.

3. The third thing all disciples of Christ ought to be prepared to do is share their faith with others.

The Good News is meant for sharing, not keeping in a book we call the Holy Bible, or within the walls of this building.

Isaiah 53 is the passage of scripture the Ethiopian was reading, and is called the song of the suffering servant. In this passage Isaiah was prophesying about the one who had borne our grief and carried our sorrows.

So when Philip came upon the man he began explaining this passage of scripture and told the Ethiopian that the lamb who went to the shearer was Jesus, and the good news was that though Jesus was cut off, God raised him from the dead. And he explained how God freely pardoned sin, poured out His Spirit to give life to all, and how he created a community in which all are valued, accepted, and loved.

Philip did more than read the Good News, he spoke it in a convicting and passionate way. The Ethiopian accepted Christ and the gospel, and went away rejoicing. He found what he was looking for and his search was over.

Have you ever experienced a moment when you helped or saw someone genuinely come to Christ? It's an experience like no other. It's more than reciting the "Apostles Creed," it's more than receiving the sacraments. It's experiencing a new birth.

You know one place in the hospital where there seems to be unending joy, is the nursery. People are found rejoicing over the birth of a new baby. Well the same is true of a spiritual new birth. There is great joy when someone receives Christ as their Lord and Savior.

When someone receives Christ in their heart, either for the first time, or after straying away, there is an indescribable joy you can see in their eyes, and a peace you can sense in their heart.

Disciples are called to help people find this kind of joy and peace. We are called to share our faith on a moments notice. So we must convey the message that God is good in a passionate way. Persuading others that God's goodness, mercy, and love are with them all the days of their lives, and that it does endure forever.

4. The fourth thing all disciples of Christ ought to be prepared to do is go where they are sent.

As powerful and convicting as today's reading from Acts is, the fact remains that the Ethiopian would still be searching for answers if Philip hadn't been obedient to God's call to go. Through the angel the Lord asked Philip to go and he could have easily said, "No, send someone else." But he didn't, he was obedient.

When a disciple listens to the call of God, swift obedience is always the next step. Philip's obedience reminds us that God doesn't have part-timers. He calls men and women to complete obedience. When God has a disciple that is available and adaptable he schedules appointments for them that are unforgettable. These appointments might take us next door, down the street, across town, down to Frederick, to West Virginia, down to the Gulf Coast, or half-way around the world. The place isn't important, obedience to God's call is. We are all gifted differently; we are all gifted to go to different places, to do different things. Where God wants to send us isn't the big issue, our obedience to God is.

During the darkest hours of World War II, Britain faced a critical shortage of silver for the war industries. Informed of the crises, Winston Churchill asked if there were any possible sources of silver, no matter how remote.

The answer came back: The churches, cathedrals, and abbeys held beautiful, sterling silver statues of the saints. From Churchill came the now famous reply, "Well, it's time to put the saints into circulation!" And so they did.

When obedience is manifested in a believer's life, a saint enters circulation. That's what happened to Patrick of Ireland and Philip of Jerusalem. The question we each have to ask is have we been put into circulation, and if not why not? What's holding us back? Is it a lack of call, lack of listening, fear, what? Disciples are to be in circulation, holy circulation, to bring glory to God, not sitting on the sidelines watching life go by.

It's been said that Christianity is one generation away from extinction. Well we're not responsible for the past generation or the future generation. But we sure as heck are responsible for this generation. We can't do everything or be everything for all people, but we can do something, and must. For the church to remain relevant we must do our part as disciples, allowing god to use us for the sake of Jesus.

The greatest danger to reaching all people isn't ignorance, its apathy. Some Christians today just don't care about anything or anyone beyond the walls of their church building or outside their circle of friends.

Well apathy is contagious and can spread to all facets of life. Before too long apathy can lead to a community of sour-pusses walking around complaining about everything and everybody, always seeing the glass half empty rather than half filled. Apathetic people can just suck the joy and life out of everyone around them.

Philip, however, was not indifferent to the leading of God and spreading the gospel to Samaria and Judea. Patrick didn't turn a deaf ear to the voice of the Spirit, and the gospel was spread throughout Ireland.

Many of you have said, "Yes Lord, send me" and the gospel has been passionately spread through hammers, nails, words, acts, financial resources, and by many other means. You see the counter to apathy is passionate-action. And passion for the gospel can spread even deeper, wider, and further than apathy can.

As full-time disciples of Christ there's much we can and must do to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. So what will we do as Christ's church, and as individual disciples, to see that the gospel is reaching the searching souls of those of our generation?

To this end I encourage you to always be available. God has your phone number and will call when he has a task for you. It could be, praying, it could be sharing, it could be serving in some way, or it could be all of the above. So be prepared to answer the call.

Hear God's encouraging words recorded in Isaiah 41:9b-10: "You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.

As disciples we ought to always be striving to live a life that mirrors the life of Jesus, so that we are bringing glory to God. This means humbly praying for our needs and the needs of others, openly sharing our faith with those people the Lord places in our midst, helping and serving those who need help, and going where we are sent to work as Christ's hands and feet.

So are you prepared to respond? What ministry is God calling you to participate in or support? Whatever our call, whatever our task, we must faithfully assume our role as disciples, and take Christ to the people!


Read other messages by Pastor Wade