Connected with God
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Acts 8:26-8:38 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
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If you are a user of the Internet then you know that you must first get your modem connected with a server before you can have access to the unlimited knowledge base known as the World Wide Web. You are out of luck if the server is busy, right? You have probably sat there in front of your computer screen many times biting your fingernails or pulling your hair out as you heard the phone line ringing and ringing and never connecting. If only we could have that kind of zeal about getting connected with God!
This morning we are going to look at a passage of Scripture that tells us four things that we need to do in order to be connected with God and to receive the knowledge of the universe from the Master Server. If we do the four things that we are about to discuss, then we will know where God is leading us, and he will reveal to us many of his plans.
Obedience to God’s voice (vv. 26-28)
The first point in being connected with God is being obedient to the voice of God. In this passage something amazing happened. An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip. J. B. Taylor, in the New Bible Dictionary, says, “The angel of the Lord . . . is represented in Scripture as a heavenly being sent by God to deal with men as his personal agent and spokesman. In many passages he is virtually identified with God and speaks not merely in the name of God but as God in the first person singular.” Basically, it was God himself who spoke to Philip in the form of an angel. He sent an angel because people are not able to look upon the holiness of God, for we are just too sinful to behold his glory.
So, it was God who spoke to Philip. When the Lord spoke to him he asked something that just didn’t seem to make much sense. He asked Philip to leave a very fruitful ministry in Jerusalem to go to Gaza, a city that lay about fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem at the very end of the Palestinian world at that time. Gaza was right at the edge of the Sinai desert, which trailed off into Egypt, and was sparsely populated. This seemed like such a fruitless area for ministry, and many people would have questioned God about going to such a place.
Sometimes God will ask us to do something that just doesn’t make much sense, but like Philip we need to be obedient and go. Philip didn’t question the Lord, or say to him, “Well Lord, I really need some time to pray about this.” If God has spoken a word to us and then we say to him that we’ll pray about it, what that really means is that we want to debate the matter with our own logic for a while, or question God and struggle with him. If God tells us to go, he means it, and we should do just as he says or we might end up as Jonah and be swallowed by a whale for our disobedience.
Now, you might be saying, “I never heard God speak to me in an audible voice. He just doesn’t speak to us anymore like he did to people back in the Bible days. How do I hear God speaking to me and in what ways does he speak?” Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, tells us that God speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. He also speaks to us through prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes, and his ways. God still speaks to us today, and if we stand around debating whether or not he is speaking we will miss an opportunity for a great blessing.
Philip was obedient to God and he went on his way to Gaza, and while he journeyed he met a Eunuch from Ethiopia. Now Philip heard the Lord tell him to go to Gaza, and he thought that God was going to use him in ministry somewhere in Gaza; but on the contrary, God didn’t mean that the ministry was in Gaza, but it was on the way to Gaza. This scenario provides us with a very important spiritual truth in ministry. The point is, “Sometimes we become so focused on our destination [or our perception of God’s plan or destination] that we may miss opportunities to share the love of Christ along the way.”
We need to always be open to God’s leading. If he speaks once then we need to be sensitive to hear his voice again. Remember that one of the ways the Lord speaks to us is through circumstances. An Ethiopian Eunuch coming down the road dressed very nicely and driving an expensive looking chariot was definitely a circumstance that couldn’t be ignored by Philip. He had to take notice. We need to view every encounter with individuals throughout the day as circumstances that God has arranged and opportunities to share with people about Jesus.
Sensitivity to the Spirit (vv. 29-31)
The second point in being connected with God is being sensitive to the Spirit. Henry Blackaby said that God speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. The Bible that Philip would have been familiar with during this time was the Old Testament, because the New Testament had not been written yet. When Philip heard the Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit within Philip helped him to recall what he had read, and he recognized it when the Eunuch was reading aloud. The Spirit urged Philip to go and explain what he knew and understood about the text.
If we wish to hear God speak to us through the Holy Spirit, then we need to be plugged into the power source, which is God’s Word. “Philip’s sensitivity to the leadership of the Holy Spirit enabled him to hear and respond to God . . . We become more sensitive to God’s leading when we develop a close personal walk with him. It is through personal Bible study and prayer that we come to know God and his ways.” If we are in touch with God by spending time in his Word, then the Spirit will definitely speak to us.
We can be in a conversation with someone and we might hear the person say something that jogs our memory of a certain Scripture verse. If this happens then the Spirit is telling us, “Hey, here’s your opportunity to share.” The person has just said something that can be answered by the Word of God. If you spend time in the Word of God then the Spirit will let you know when and what to share with a person. In the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch, the passage from Isaiah that he was reading jogged Philip’s memory about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Understanding of the Scripture (vv. 32-35)
The third point in being connected with God is having and understanding of the Scripture. This point is related to the previous point of being connected with the Spirit, because here too one must spend time in God’s Word. If Philip had not been familiar with the Scripture or had not studied it then he could not have answered the Eunuch when he asked him, “Of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” If someone were to ask you this same question about this particular passage in Isaiah, how would you answer it?
What is very astonishing here is that the Ethiopian Eunuch was neither a Christian nor a Jew and he was reading the Scripture. It’s sad to say that there are non-Christians who know the Scripture better than Christians. Non-Christians read the Bible many times to learn how to refute it, and you better believe that they can quote the Scripture to you. They might quote it out of context, but that’s better than many Christians can do. Do you want to be caught off guard when a non-Christian asks you about a passage of Scripture that you haven’t even read yourself? Of course not!
Philip started sharing with the Ethiopian right where he was. He used the Eunuch’s present knowledge of Scripture to bring him to an understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. “He explained the passage, answering the questions, and telling the good news. There are many people around us who have never heard the truths of the Bible. We must be sensitive to the opportunities to help people move from where they are, to an understanding of the gospel.” We can only do this if we know the Scripture ourselves.
Now on a side note, I would like to point out that this passage contains some important guidelines on how to witness to someone. First, we should start with the person’s questions about God and lend a listening ear. Secondly, our witness should incorporate a use of the Holy Scripture or the Bible. Thirdly, we should center the discussion around the topic of Jesus, and fourthly we should aim toward a response or decision.
Adding to the kingdom (vv. 36-38)
The fourth point in being connected with God is adding souls to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, in which he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . .” In our passage that we have examined today we see that Philip both taught and baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch. He was obedient to the Great Commission and he added to God’s kingdom. This is the duty of all Christians, or all who have been saved from their sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We must all make an effort at sharing our faith with people, or many souls will be lost.
Time of Refection
If you are a Christian and you are wondering why you are not hearing from God, or why you are having trouble understanding his will, then you are probably either not connected with God, or you are connected and you have a few lose wires that need to be tightened. The Lord reveals to us in this passage that there are four things that we can do to ensure a secure connection with him. These four things are 1.) to be obedient to his voice, 2.) to be sensitive to his Spirit, 3.) to have an understanding of the Scripture, and 4.) to add souls to his kingdom.