Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our Spirit-filled Mission (Acts 8, Part 1 of 3)

I spoke at Cardiff University CU on Acts 8:26-40 last night, and then popped down to Swansea to bring the same word to the UCCF Wales team. A really enjoyable 24 hours in South Wales.
DOWNLOAD MP3: The Gospel Gathers.
Here's part 1 of my notes.
It’s the evangelists dream. When we first met Philip in 6v6 we’re told, he was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. Now, the Spirit-filled Philip fresh from revival in Samaria is walking along the road and hears the prompting of the Holy Spirit, v29, “go over”.
Some think we hear the Spirit often, and sometimes its just a hunch, but others of us always think it’s a hunch – and we should recognize that the Spirit is nudging us – when it’s going to lead where this leads it’s definitely God. What does he find? A guy reading the Bible! And Isaiah 53 at that, and he asks you to explain it to him (v30-31). The scripture is read, and the Eunuch asks: “About whom does the prophet speak, himself of someone else?” to which Philip gets the opportunity, v35: “beginning with this scripture he told him the good news about Jesus”.

Spurgeon said: “I try with all my might to preach my Lord Jesus Christ, and I love to meet with people who delight in this theme…. and he is always fresh. If you have Jesus Christ, you have everything. Have Christ and nothing else but Christ. If you want to understand the Scripture, test yourself by this: Is Jesus Christ everything to you? You understand the Scripture if you make everything of the Lord Jesus Christ”

Philip took his text and did not deviate from speaking good news about Jesus. And almost matter of fact the guy believes with his heart – for God is not seeking intellectual assent but seeks our heart, he repents, is baptized and rejoices, going off to found the church in Ethiopia while the Spirit carries Philip off elsewhere, v40, to preach the gospel. Which is great if you’re Philip and your course, house, team mates are reading Isaiah 53, but not so good if you’re me or you and they’re only ever reading Facebook.

Nonetheless, this is the logic of CU gospel projects. Say to your mates, you know me, you see how I live, you know it is because of Jesus, you’ve never consider Jesus as an adult. Why not take an hour to read Mark’s gospel, and then to chat about it with me for an hour over a coffee or a beer.

Why would we do that? Why did Philip think that explaining the Scriptures would be a good idea? This is how God works – the Father is a potent life-giver – who gives life through his word. As Peter says – we’re born again by the word of God.

The recurring theme of The Book of Acts is – “the word of God increased, the number of disciples multiplied” which is a nifty reworking of the 1st commission in Genesis 1 to increase and multiply. For Adam and Eve that was to be life-givers by making babies. And the church can do that. But even more so by announcing the word of God, the good news about Jesus – by explaining and unpacking the scriptures to show people who Jesus is. Persuasively, convincingly, passionately, lovingly. (More at Preaching is the 'new' sex)

Sometimes that’s planned at an event, sometimes its chance encounters whose significance only becomes apparent later – like the first time I met my wife, at a CU weekend away… or the moments that led me to study in Bath or to get certain jobs. Imagine the significance of an encounter with an International Student – just passing through Cardiff for a term or a few years whom you could introduce to Jesus… someone like this Ethiopian, who could go home with a degree and the gospel.

In February it must surely be our goal to get the Scriptures open with those we meet, friends and strangers, to seek to unpack the message of the whole Bible concerning Jesus that people would believe with their hearts and come to God. In the mean time will you give yourself to hearing the Spirit’s nudges and taking opportunities to open up the Bible with people – start with something like Mark’s gospel – and see where God leads?

But… I’m not sure that this is primarily what Luke is doing here. Its great but there is more.

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