Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Divine Conspiracy

[this is the last lesson in my Acts series, and when i presented this lesson in Sunday School this morning at my church, i could tell i was going out on a good note. i'll explain at the bottom.]

Acts 8

This chapter in Acts records two very unlikely encounters, and the even more unlikely results. The Gospel reaches Samaria, a land with a history of enmity with the Jews. An evangelist preaches to a royal official of an African kingdom. In both stories, souls are added to God's Kingdom. God set up people and circumstances so that the Gospel would continue to spread. Today, he does the same. These stories illustrate two key truths of evangelism.

God may call us to witness to anyone.
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. - Acts 8:30-31

The eunuch seems like an unlikely candidate for conversion for a few reasons. This man was an important official in charge of the entire treasury of his queen. (Acts 8:27) We can assume that he was well-educated. And certainly, he was wealthy. Jesus' words for the rich are far from encouraging, on the surface. (Matt. 19:23-26) Yet, this is one of the easiest and most enthusiastic converts we've seen so far. God had already begun to put the pieces together. He had brought the eunuch to Judaism, and put him in the right place at the right time, with the right scroll in hand. In fact, God may have started the process when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon. (1 Kings 10) Phillip, guided by the Spirit, capitalized on what was already there. He spoke directly into the eunuch's context, and the eunuch responded. Encounters with us may be steps along a non-believer's journey to Christ. We may be pieces of the puzzle that will, in time, fit together.

· Are you ready to introduce people to Jesus?

· Do you reflect Jesus to those around you?

Don't give up on anyone.
They were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. - Acts 8:12-13

The Jews and Samaritans had similar roots, but they were not on speaking terms. There had been bitterness between them since Israel split into two kingdoms. (1 Kings 11-12) When Phillip arrived, there were long-standing cultural and religious barriers between the two peoples. Still, Jesus spent much time in Samaria, with mixed reactions from the people. (John 4:1-42, Luke 9:51-56) But no matter the history, Phillip and the other believers witnessed wherever they went. (Acts 8:4) And when the apostles got word that God was at work in Samaria, they left their prejudices behind, ministering not only to the village where Phillip was, but others as well. (Acts 8:25) Sometimes, those we think of as furthest from God surprise us by coming to Him. Not only is Phillip in Samaritan country, he is faced with a sorcerer who claims to be a divine being. Simon was probably the last person anyone expected to convert. But he did.

· Have we written off certain people or groups as hopeless?

[it was after this point that i said the following: At the risk of being controversial, let me name some examples. Homosexuals. Muslims. Atheists. Let's not write them off. God hasn't. i believe God wanted me to say it, and was pleased that i did.]

[i realize how offensive that is for those who have been burned by the church. for those who believe that the last thing they need is a savior. for those who see Christianity as heresy.]

[thing is, i really do believe that accepting Jesus' sacrifice is God's chosen method of reuniting Himself with us. and Jesus went, in person, to people that lived in a way that offended Him, and showed them love.]

[for me to do otherwise would be un-Christian. because i said this to the Sunday School class this morning, too: It's because God doesn't give up on people that we're sitting in this room today.]

[thank you for reading.]

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