Acts 8:26-40-- Spiritual Atrophy

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Introduction

Let’s Pray Together:
Father, as we gather together the lyrics of that song are my story:
But as I ran my hell-bound race Indifferent to the cost You looked upon my helpless state And led me to the cross And I beheld God's love displayed You suffered in my place You bore the wrath reserved for me Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Father, thank you for this Good News. This Gospel that has totally wrecked my life, and so many of us gathered together this morning all throughout this city and area. And now as we turn to your word, I pray Paul’s words are true for me this morning, “For what we proclaim is not ouselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” Jesus may you be magnified, lifted high, and worshipped this morning. Amen.
Wall-E
I’d like to share a quick clip with you all from arguably the most disturbing film ever made! Wall-E.
Wall-E is a Disney Pixar science fiction film set in the distant future, and takes place in a world that had become engulfed by trash due to decades of mass consumerism, and as a result the planet has become inhabitable and humans have been evacuated to live in space.
While in space their consumeristic tendencies continue, and all of life is lived in a lazy-boy. The lack of physical exertion coupled with the fact that they are in a weightless environment creates severe physical atrophy.
Just take a look.
CLIP
WATCH from 0:04 til 1:16.
Oh man, that is equal parts hilarious and incredibly cringeworthy.
Again, the whole movie is primarily about our ability as humans to amount masses and masses of trash, but for us this morning, I want to call our attention to the atrophy on display.
Atrophy
For you medical people in the room, you know what this is, but I had to google it.
By definition atrophy is, “the loss or thinning of your muscle mass and strength that can occur due to malnutrition, age, genetics, or lack of physical activity.”
In fact, the leading cause of atrophy is disuse. A sedentary lifestyle.
Those guys were cruising along in their lazy boys, busy at their screens. Hurried to get somewhere else. But atrophied in their bodies.
The disuse led to atrophy.
And do you know what the prescribed remedy is for atrophy caused by disuse???
REGULAR EXERCISE.
Spiritual Atrophy
As I was preparing for this sermon this week, I couldn’t get away from the image that Wall-E provides, because although the majority of us don’t struggle with physical, muscular atrophy…
I believe we are all prone to spiritual atrophy.
Spiritually, we sit in our comfortable lazy boys, and oftentimes we busy ourselves with religious activity after activity, or jet from one bible study to the other figuratively gourging ourselves with Christian content.
Or what’s even worse, and probably most widespread is we put faith in Christ, yet continue to gourge ourselves on the delicacies of the world.
Always consuming, yet never exercising our faith leading to spiritual atrophy.
But… do you know what the remedy is?
Regular Exercise.
Church, don’t mishear me… I love when we are a hungry people. Hungry for theology (we could use more of it), hungry for Scripture, re-newing our minds with worship music, biblical podcasts, and christian books. But we have to remember, that although,
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The wealth of inspiration found in Scripture is profitable for teaching, but it is also profirtable for training. For equipping.
For exercise!
That is what I want us to look at today. Spiritual Exercise: The Remedy for Spiritual Atrophy.

Context

Read Acts 8:26-40
Acts 8:26–40 ESV
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
So Philip, one of the recently elected “deacons” is scattered to a leading city of Samaria due to persecution.
And as we saw 2 weeks ago, this is in fulfillment of God’s plans because he wants his people to be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. His plans can never be thrwarted. He is a Kintsugi Artist!
So Philip in Samaria proclaims Christ, and performs great signs and THE CROWDS (vs 6) and multitudes were responding with great joy (vs.8).
His ministry is so effective that this famous magician begins to follow Philip’s ministry.
All in all… things are going pretty good for Philip and his ministry. At the look of things he’ll probably start a podcast soon, author a book, get on a lecture circuit, lock up the domain name “philiptheevangelist.org”. And grow that platform.
But that’s not what happens.
Instead of glory in the city, he is sent by an angel from God to head to a desolate, desert place for no communicated purpose!
But what we see in God’s Direction, and Philips Obedience is the remedy for spiritual atrophy.
Personal Evangelism.
Personal evangelism is the spiritual exercise that can build your faith. It can reinvigorate your love for Jesus, and help us overcome our spiritual atrophy.
But as soon as I said, “Personal Evangelism” I just lost like half of you didn’t I....
But don’t check out just yet, because the reality is we have all been tasked with personal evangelism. Sharing the good news of Jesus with others. Rather that’s in major cities among the crowds, or on assignment to leave the 99 just to find the 1, we all need to be engaged in evangelism.
But how many of us are? Are you atrophied? Forever consuming Christian content, but rarely if ever exercising it?
Because let me tell you: It’s not the only thing, but if you are in need of a spiritual spark, a reinvigoration in your faith: the remedy is personal evangelism.
But far from leaving you feeling condemned, I want you to leave feeling equipped and empowered!
So as we dissect Philip’s obedience, we are going to find 4 Principles to Personal Evangelism, and they are easily remembered with a simple acronym
F.I.S.H. To be fishers of men and women, we need to learn F.I.S.H.
And to ensure I give credit, I have used this acronym personally and in training others for 10 years. And I pulled it from a boook Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World by Bob McNabb.

Find

The Remedy for Atrophy begins with FIND. We have to FIND people that we can actually share the gospel with!
Let’s see how this happened with Philip
Acts 8:26-27 “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship”
First notice the Divine Direction
Initally Philip was divinely directed to Samaria by persecution. But now, he is to FIND the person whom he was to evangelize through an Angel.
Hebrews 1:14 “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
And all the angel says is, “Go south to a desert place.”
Like really!!? I would have been so discouraged. “Lord, really? You want me to go the desert… Have I not proved myself worthy of a broader ministry? Have I not been faithful in the small things---- I even served tables in the daily distribution, and now you want to me to go to the desert!”
And this desert is a place of desolation. It’s a south road, south of Gaza that would not have been heavily traveled at all.
On top of that, he was kept ignorant of the reason for his journey!
But… “he rose and went.” He obeyed.
Like Paul he was not disobedient to the heavily vision and like Abram he went out not knowing where he was going.
Church, God is the initiator of evangelism. He divinely directs our steps, and just like that Kintsugi purpose He never wastes anything.
He divinely directed Philip through circumstances, so that Philip would go to Samaria and witness.
He divinely directed Philip through an angel, so that he’d go to the desert.
He divinely directed Philip with the inner voice of the Spirit, so that’d he’d appraoch the chariot.”
He is the author and initatior of evangelism.
Philip was subjected to his direction, the question for us today is simply, “Are you? Are you subject to God’s Divine Direction in an effort to use you in personal evangelism.”
Do you view your circumstances as orchestrated by God? The greatest place for personal evangelism, is the place where circumstances have placed you.”
Are you here for a new job? Do you view that relocation as God’s Divine Direction?
The restaurant you eat at after church.
The playground you take your kids to play at.
The supermarket you shop at.
Philip was able to Find by obeying the divine directive.
Secondly, notice the Divine Appointment
Philip was also able to "FIND” due to a Divine Appointment.
Acts 8:27-28 “And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.”
Out there in the desolate place, where hardly any travelers are known to traverse, we find the Minister of Finance from Ethiopia.
Now this Ethiopia is not modern day Ethiopia, but the ancient Nubian Empire or in the OT we read about the Kingdom of Cush. It stretched from Modern day southern Egypt to Khartoum of Sudan.
In essence, an approximate 500 mile journey to Jeursalem one way!
Ya’ll, this is a Divine Appointment. Put yourself in the narrative here!
Philip is divinely directed by an angel to go to some of the remotest parts Israel, with no further instruction. No insight or hint into what awaits him.
And at that specific moment, in that specific place an entourage comes rumbling down the road. This was a high ranking official, in a chariot pulled by oxen, with multiple servants accompanying him on his journey.
This was no chance meeting! It was a Divine Directive! Orchestrated solely by the extravagant love of God.
A love that would leave the 99 to go after the 1.
A love that would light a lamp and sweep the house and search diligently for the 1 lost coin.
A love that has compassion and runs and embraces and kisses his long lost son.
A love that fulfills all its promises: for the salvation of Cush was foretold:
Psalm 68:31 “Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.”
Only the Love of God would orchestrate such a divine appointment.
Church, we are seeking some spiritual exercie through personal evangelism, and we have to get out there to FIND,
but we do it believing and trusting that we can’t out “seek” God. HE is the ultimate FINDER, constantly giving divine direction leading to divine appointments all driven by His extravant Love for each individual!
Even an Ethiopian Eunuch. A Eunuch, being someone set apart for royal service who had been castrated in an attempt to ensure they could not usurp the throne and establish a dynasty of their own lineage.
Yes, even an Ethiopian Eunuch.
Is this not your story? Is this not all of our stories?
I was invited to a church camp right after I graduated HS, and I was more interested in the girls attending than the God being worshipped, but GOD SOUGHT ME, and the man that led me through the gospel and my surrender to Christ happened to be a campus minister who "coincidentally” lived in Athens, GA where I’d be moving in the following week.
Coincidence?! NO! Divine Appointment.
I heard a story this week of a family in our church who went to lunch in town last sunday. As they sat there, the waitress noticed her volunteer sticker and asked her what church she attended, and how she has been praying for a church.
Coincidence! NO! Divine Appointment.
A story in our church of a dear brother who saw some of us out at Ft. McAllister for a community picnic before we launched. Someone in our church, befriended him, told them about our church, and he attends here every Sunday.
Coincidence! NO! Divine Appointment.
Living in the middle of Divine Appointments will reinvigorate your faith ya’ll. It’ll remedy your spiritual atrophy, but we got to FIND. We got to put up our spiritual antennea, but FINDING with God is like playing T-Ball… he sets it up.
He gives divine directives that lead to divine appointments that we may FIND.

Interest

The Remedy for Atrophy then moves to “Interest”.
We have to discern the Interest that God has created in the Divine Appointment
God is always Working
Jesus said, “My Father is always working.” John 5:17. And what is this work? “Jesus answerd them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29.
God is always working to draw us to himself. John 6:44.
It is His Work, and he does this creating spiritual interest in people. Our job is just to discern the interest God has created!
Let’s look again at our text: Acts 8:27-30 “And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Interest in the Ethiopian
First, we see that although residing 500 miles away he had come to Jerusalem to worship!
Apparently, unsatisfied with the local gods of Ethiopia, he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem
But the ache in his life for something more, his awareness that he was missing something that he could just tell deep in his bones that he was created for led him to pilgrim 500 miles in order to learn more about this invisible, yet all-powerful God named Yahweh.
So he makes the dry, hot, month long journey there only to learn to his dismay that in His case, as a eunuch, full membership in the congregation of Israel PREVENTED HIM due to his physical blemish!
DEUT 23:1 forbids eunuchs from approaching the Lord.
He could visit the temple, but he could never enter it.
So he settled to purchase a scroll from the prophet of Isaiah in the bookstore as a souviner on the way out.
But, his interest only deepens, as we find him reading aloud from the prophet Isaiah.
But he is despairing in his confusion, and Philip DISCERNING his interest but also perceiving his confusion says, “do you understand it!”
And in his interest, this high court offical possesses the humilty to say,
Acts 8:31 “And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
This is God’s work ya’ll. It’s what he does. He creates Interest in people so deeply that their curiosity becomes insatiable and draws them in closer to himself.
Is this not your story?
Maybe not the whole chariot, and scoll stuff, but when you reflect on your own conversion you’d say,
“Something happened to me.”
“I saw the change in someone elses life, and it got me thinking...”
“I found that I was actually listening to what was being said...”
“I realized that my view of the world didn’t really answer the deeper questions of life...”
“I saw my neighbors and how they just had something different about them, and learned they were christians.”
“I was struggling in life, and decided to pick up my bible and its just like the words jumped off the page!”
Church, this is the work of God! CREATING INTEREST in the lives of his people.
Some of you are there right now.
Like the Eunuch, you’re interested enough to come to church.
Maybe even, buy a christian book.
Maybe even curious enough to ask some questions about what you’re hearing or reading.
If that’s you listen… God loves you, and he is doing all this, creating all this interest so that you might have life, and life abundantly!” He has brought you to this specific moment, in this specific place.
But if you are like Philip… after we’ve obeyed the divine directive, and engaged the divine appointment is just to do what Philip did...
Discern the Interest already created.
T-Ball.
But, our remedy for spiritual atrophy doesn’t stop there.
The sp. exercise in personal evangelism moves to SHARE.

Share

Philip discerns the interest, and proceeds to OPEN HIS MOUTH. Look at
Acts 8:32-35 “Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
The remedy for spiritual atrophy requires us OPENING OUR MOUTH.
We have so much fear at this step don’t we.
“What do I say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don’t know the answer to a question?
But notice again how God has gone before Philip even in his sharing.
He’s lounging on his chariot reading none other than Isaiah 53:7-8!
Of all the OT Scriptures that points to Jesus as our Savior, none compares to Isaiah 53.
So he just begins with that Scripture and begins to tell him:
This sheep that was led to slaughter is actually Jesus who was crucified.
Like a lamb silent before its shearer, Jesus was silent before his accusers.
The justice denied him, was all the false accusations of blashphemy lobbed against them.
So he explains the Scripture, but that was just a beginning!
Philip proceeds to tell him the good news about jesus! the Gospel!
That Jesus dying isn’t bad news, but good news. He directs his attention up a few verses to Isaiah 53:4-6 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The Good News, that it was the Love of God that sent Jesus to the cross. He died because of our sins, our iniquities, he was pierced for our transgressions. It was the Love of God for us that led the Lord to lay the sin of us all upon him.
But it was his death that ultimately brings us peace. He died the death that we deserved, so that through faith in Him we might the life we don’t deserve.
And perhaps the Eunuch, like the crowds in Acts, looks at Philip and says… well what must I do!?
And Philip continues… Repent and believe and be baptized . You see friend, the claim of Christ is not work hard and do your very best and perhaps one day you will be accepted.
Instead it is that even at your very worst, He sent his very best and purchased your acceptance!
So he repents. He believes. And he wants to be converted. He wants to publicly symbolize this change with baptism!
And that leads us to our last point:
Philip after Finding, Discerning Interest, and Sharing… He Helps Him.

Help

He helps him.
Acts 8:36 “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?””
Alright, so how does he help him?
He answers his questions
The Eunuch asks, “what prevents me from being baptized.”
Now why would this question need help.
We have to remember that the good man was returning from Jerusalem, where his interest had driven him, only to learn what?
That he was PREVENTED by the law to enter the Temple.
He was told that he was unworthy to be accepted, but a good Evangelist HELPS him overcome his reservations by once again reminding of him of his acceptance in Christ, not in his own self, but in the finished work of Jesus.
So many, like this Ethiopian man, turn back at this juncture.
They are interested. They hear what is shared. But...
The shame of their past.
Or a lie they believe about God
Or a lie they believe about themselves.
Or fear of what others may think.
Or pride.
Or a number of various reservations stand to PREVENT the final step to conversion.
What was it for you? What did you need help with in order to overcome your preventions? For some of you, what is it currently?
Is it the shame of your sins? That God could simply never accept me if you knew the bad things I’ve done.
Let us help you by reminding you of the Gospel.
Is it a past hurt from so called “Christians”. Were you rejected at the temple door like this Ethiopian man, and that hurt led you to reject the Christ of sinful christians?
Let us help you by reminding you of His sinless sacrifice even for the sinfulness of hyopcrites.
Is it pride? You’ve lived for so long acting like you’re a christian or pretending you’ve got it all figured out and you worry what others may think if you publicly convert with the symbol of baptism?
Let us help you, by reminding you of the far exceeding value of living in the approval of God, compared to the approval of man.
We all need help. There are always things, or even principalites or powers attempting to prevent us from following Jesus and commiting our lives to them.
Be a Philip, and if you’re an Ethiopian Eunuch you need a Philip.

Conclusion

Philip Finds, discerns Interest, Shares, and Helps. He goes FISHing.
Acts 8:38-40 “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.”
What a wild conclusion.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit carried Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more.
But you know what, I don’t think he cared… for he may have lost Philip, but he had found Christ.
We don’t know a lot about what happened next with this Ethiopian, but Iraneus in 160A.D. (100 years after this) writes of how this man became the first missionary to Ethiopia.
And what happened to Philip… he found himself far north in Azotus and just kept FISHING.
Here’s where I want to challenge you today church:
For the Christians in the room:
Don’t be like the spiritual version of what we saw in Wall-E. Don’t always be consuming, and yet never spiritual exercising. Often we find our faith a little flat for lack of exercise, and nothing invigorates faith like putting it to practice in personal evangelism.
So here’s what I want to call you too: FISH. Next week we begin Advent, and between now and our Christmas Eve Service I want to challenge you to go FISHing.
This time of year is a time of deep interest for many far from Christ, and I believe that God will lead you to Find through divine appointments, you just need to be attentive to the interst, be willing to share the good news of Jesus, and Help answer their questions.
Will you do it. Go Fishing. And I want to hear about it.
For the non-Christians in the room:
Don’t let whatever is PREVENTING you to keep you from the love of God in Christ.
You are here because of His extravagant love, receive the Good News of Jesus, that your salvation, purchased by Him, is free of charge. You are saved by grace, through faith.
Repent, believe, and be baptized.
now, As a continuation of our worship as well as a visible disPlay of the gospel i just preached…
we are going to take communion. If you are serving go ahead and start passing out
communion is a sacrament of the church, instituted by Christ, where he commanded us to regularly partake of it in “remembrance” of him.”
the bread represents Christ’s body and the juice his blood, and this meal is for the believer, for those who by faith acknowledge what these symbols mean for them personally. So if you aren’t a Christian, I kindly ask you to let the elements pass you by.
so take as the elements come around, and as john plays, remember Christ. Or think about Fishing, and who your divine appointment could. Be
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