Welcome Home everyone and again Happy New year!
Part of what makes a new year great is the hope of a fresh start. But a fresh start or a new beginning doesn’t require a new year. Most of the time it only requires an interruption of the “status quo.” And we see just this in Jerusalem in the first century.
If you remember from our where we left off in the story, Luke was reporting about Saul and his quest to round up all of the followers of the way. He was dragging them out of their homes and placing them in jail. All of the disciples had scattered and only the Apostles were left in Jerusalem. Saul’s aggressive actions is the very catalyst that made way for a new beginning. Philip goes to a new city to preach the Gospel. For the people of Samaria, this is a wonderful new beginning.
My big idea for today is that we may take advantage of this new beginning to prepare ourselves for the work that God has instore. There is a world out there that needs some good news. My prayer for us today is that by hearing this message we might be challenged to branch out of our comfortable circles and into a new place, relationally with other who do not know God. If you have your Bibles today you can join me in Acts chapter 8, verse 5-8.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed, or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.Acts 8:5-8
In order to help me share with you today, I have separated my thoughts into 3 sections or points that stood out to me.
We Must Branch Out In Faith
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.Acts 8:5
Wherever Philip was led, his mission was always the same. By faith Philip moved out of his comfort zone and began to become entangled with others from a different ethnicity, as well as, differing cultural and religious perspectives. Even though there was a preexisting animosity between the Jews and the Samarians, Philip was faithful even when nothing seemed to make sense. God always has a plan, and he will keep you through the places and circumstances to which He has called you.
Church, it’s important that we see faith as a demonstration of trust in God. With Philip it was go to Samaria and preach the good news. People were saved and God is glorified, and the church grows. But remember Stephen? By faith Stephen preached the good news, but he was killed for his good work. Look at the result, God was glorified through Stephen and the church grew. From the outside looking in, we can say that both are these men are great, but in reality, everyone here wants to be more like Philip and less like Stephen.
Here’s the catch, is our faith contingent on our favored outcome? Today we have the sense that faith or our trust in God is somehow conditional. Imagine Jesus in the garden, asking the Father if He could just serve Him without the whole sacrifice thing?
I’ll move on to my next point.
We Must Expect God To Meet Us There
When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed, or lame were healed.Acts 8:6-7
Here the deal, we trust God and follow His leadership because we believe that He has a purpose. Philip, regardless of the circumstance was moved by God to step out. He trusted God and believed that the Holy Spirit would guide him into whatever it might be. Possibly even death. Imagine, Stephen’s death was still fresh, so it is more than conceivable that Philip could have been expecting a less than favorable reception.
Why else would I leave a thriving ministry that we loved to go wandering for a year, because we believed/trusted God to meet us out there somewhere. People always say never leave a job unless you have a better job lined up. That would have been great advice, but that was not God’s instruction.
Let me challenge you with this. In the new year, add this element to your regular prayer. Lord help me to hear your voice and help me to respond with faith. Be thinking about the people you see and interact with not just those who you deem important. Rather consider that everyone is precious to God and therefore precious to you. Here’s my prediction. I predict that you will begin to sense things differently than before. You will begin to perceive things in a new light. You will wonder, am I hearing from God? (all of the sudden) or is this just me?
I’ll move to my final point.
We Must Give To Other What God Has Given To Us
So there was great joy in that city.Acts 8:8
God has poured His love out on us that Is has radically changed our lives. He has filled us with a supernatural love that we would become His vessels of compassion for a lost and hopeless world. Make no mistake that we cannot do this out of our own supply of love. That well is shallow at best. But think about the progression of Jesus’ teachings.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,Luke 4:18
This is Jesus’ mission Statement.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17
You and I carry the Holy Spirit with us and therefore we carry a spirit of divine liberty.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.Matthew 10:8
Whatever God has given to you, give that to those around you.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?Isaiah 43:19
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
God is creating in you this very moment a new creation with a new nature and a new purpose. And with all of that he is depositing into you and me a burden for the lost. This comes with another deposit of love and compassion. And because you carry his Holy Spirit with you, you also have the divine power to complete all that the Father has commissioned for you.
I’ll close with this. Our passage today gives us a systematic view of what ministry looks like in light of our relationship with Christ. That we might receive from the Lord, our salvation and newness of life. As a result, we respond by trusting Him to branch out of our comfort zone. And give to others that Which Christ has given to you and me.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.1 John 3:1
Our job is to let the world know us so that they would know Jesus. The lost of this world need a new beginning. This only happens if we allow our hearts to be prepared through God’s refining fire. The true and authentic relationship with Christ requires a sacrifice. It is the surrender of love and will to our Lord and Savior.
Will you join me as we seek an authentic relationship united in Christ and each other? Rejecting division, embracing God’s reality in Jesus, and encouraging one another. It’s just between you and God. Here’s the thing, If we love God and abide in Christ we will find ourselves more and more loving each other. You will we more and you will love better. We will experience God in spirit and in truth and we will share that amongst each other. Share all the ways God has shown you mercy and grace. Will you allow the Holy Spirit to stir faith in someone through your testimony? Would you join me as the Holy Spirit moves on us to be unified in the spirit of Christ? These are the kingdom values. This is truly the work of God. The intentional actions of the body of Christ. Remember the devil seeks only to kill steal and destroy. Steal your freedom, kill your joy, and destroy your destiny for hope and love. But God has a plan! He’s stealing from your neighbor, your family, and your loved ones today.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
Jesus, He’s the Son of the living God, and we can receive from Him today His Righteousness, His purpose and His calling. Will you call on him today? Your salvation/forgiveness is just one prayer away. Will you trust in his ability to do what He said He would do? Will you believe today? Many of you need a fresh touch from God today. Is there some form of unbelief or a fracture of trust as it relates to God in your life today? God wants to redeem and restore those areas of your life? He wants to restore Joy and hope for you today. You’re hearing this now and the Holy Spirit has brought someone or something to mind. He wants to speak life into this today. He wants to bring healing in this area today. There are areas of deep regret when it comes to your relationship with God and you have rejected Christ as your savior …It’s not too late
It’s not too late to humble yourself before him today, hold out your arms and open your hands to receive from him today. Will you say yes to Jesus, today? Will you bow your heads with me? Some of you already know the Lord, but maybe he’s put something on your heart that you need to deal with, you need to ask his forgiveness today. If that’s you will you just acknowledge that to him today. This is just you and God here. Now someone here may not have that relationship with Jesus and today you’ve felt him tugging at your heart, you’ve been hurt, and you’re guarded, I know. Jesus is here and wants set things right in your life. If you’ll say Pastor, I want Jesus to be my Lord and savior. Remember, it’s just you and God here. Will you pray with me today, We’ll pray here as a family and you can repeat after me?
Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I ask you today for your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins and on that 3rd day, you rose from the dead. I ask you to come into my heart today. I trust and follow you as my Lord and savior. Guide me and help me to do your will. In Jesus’ name Amen.
“‘“The Lord bless youNumbers 6:24-26
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’