Following the Spirit’s Lead
Intro: Do you ever feel guilty for failing to be an effective witness for Jesus? How many times have you been told that you need to introduce the Lord to your neighbors, friends, and acquaintances, but you have to admit that you’ve not been very successful? Sometimes you are not sure what to say. Other times you find yourself wondering, “Is this the right time to say something, or will it turn this person away from God?”
-Now we should all share our faith in some way, but we need to be careful so that we don’t run ahead of the Lord. Instead of asking God to give us an opportunity to share His love with someone, we sometimes go about it our own way – if at all. This isn’t to make us feel guilty, but hopefully to help us learn and grow.
-The Bible tells us we are God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:9). We are in business with God. We take our orders from Him and simply follow what He puts in our hearts to do.
-Today’s message can be summed up in these words:
Prop: The more we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, the more God will use us to help others come to know Him.
Interrogative: What does this Spirit-led evangelism look like?
TS: Let’s look at 4 thoughts from our text which remind us to follow the HS’s lead.
I. God Wants Believers to Go and Share the Good News
-The book of Acts follows up on the emphasis found in the first 4 books of the NT. That emphasis was that Jesus wanted His followers to take what they had received from Him and go and share it with others.
-Matthew 28:19 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Mark 16:15 says, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.” Luke 24:46-47 says, "The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” John 20:21 “Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Acts 1:8 says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses….” In Acts 5:20 when the angel let the apostles out of jail, he told them, "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." Much of the book of Acts finds believers doing just that: going out and telling people that God loves them and is offering them forgiveness and eternal life.
-In our text, Philip is doing the same thing. He has just taken the good news to the Samaritans, and they found Jesus to be their hope for life. Now we find Philip listening to the HS and going to share the good news with an African gentile who had apparently converted to Judaism. As we attempt to reach out to those who do not yet know Jesus, it would do us good to remember that evangelism is God’s idea. God cares more about lost people than we possibly could. That is why He stirs our hearts to care for them and to share the good news with them. If we can catch a glimpse of God’s heart for the people of our community and the world, we will begin to see why He wants us to get out there and start sharing His love with others.
-As the Lord did several times in the Bible, He tells Philip to go: "Go south to the road-- the desert road-- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." The implication we get from this is that those who need to hear about Jesus probably won’t come to us. We will need to find a way to enter their world and show them that they matter to God.
-Now, you might be encouraged to know that there is more than one way to share the good news about Jesus. One way is to invite people to church. The biggest single reason newcomers give for coming to church is that someone invited them. Don’t assume that they don’t want to come. Maybe they’ve just been waiting for someone to invite them. Get them here, so they can sense God’s presence and experience genuine Christian community. Maybe you don’t think you could share the good news with someone personally, but you could ask them to come to church and sit with you. Let them know that nobody will embarrass them or ask them to sign up for anything. Let’s all do our part in sharing God’s love with other people in every way we can!
-TS: As we purpose to do that, God will help us. However, He doesn’t always give us all the details at once. He asks us to trust Him and obey what He tells us to do, which leads us to the 2nd point.
II. Sometimes God Leads Us on a Need-to-Know Basis
-He will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it. Philip apparently didn’t know what was going to happen when he started down the road to Gaza. He just knew that the Lord had spoken clearly to him and that his responsibility was obedience. So, he left Samaria, and traveled south from Jerusalem on the desert road to Gaza. This route was the one less traveled from Jerusalem to Gaza. The more popular route went straight west to the coastal plains through the village of Lydda and joined the caravan route between Egypt and Damascus. The Lord (through His angel) was very specific about where He wanted Philip to go. In fact, some alternate translations render the Greek word for south as meaning midday. Going down from Jerusalem to Gaza would already establish the direction. So, the Greek word mesembria, which can mean noon or south, may have established the time Philip was supposed to travel.
-God told Philip everything he needed to know. Imagine if Philip had said, “The desert road at noon! Are you crazy? My skin is kind of sensitive. I burn easily. Maybe I’ll go early in the morning.” The angel didn’t tell him why he was supposed to go. He just told him to get ready and go.
-In v.29 we see Philip getting further instructions from the HS: “The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Again, Philip obeyed, and God gave him a chance to share the good news with someone who was ready to hear it.
-I’ve heard some people say that if God would have told them everything that was ahead for them, it probably would have scared them to death. Our spiritual journey is a walk of faith. God wants us to trust Him every step of the way.
-If we will learn to listen to God and obey what He tells us to do, then He will lead us to people who need exactly what we have. God wants to use your life experience and personality to reach specific people in your circle of influence. God cares enough about lost people to send someone like Philip out during the heat of the day into a desert area to take living water to someone who is thirsty for God.
-TS: God is faithful to speak to us and to prepare the hearts of those to whom He sends us. Our part is to listen and obey, but there is more to our part.
III. We Must Prepare Ourselves to Explain God’s Word Clearly to Others
"Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?"
-What if Philip had not been a student of God’s word? What if he had not studied the book of Isaiah with its prophecies about Jesus? I suppose the answer is either that God would have used somebody else, or perhaps, the Ethiopian Eunuch would not have heard the gospel that day. God knows. Here is what we do know: 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”
-NLT 1 Peter 3:14-15 says, “Don’t be afraid and don’t worry. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”
-Always be ready to explain it. That means we need to know God’s word. We need to know the gospel message and be able to explain it clearly to others. Furthermore, we need to learn to explain it to people who may not know anything about the Bible or about God. That is a challenge, but the HS will help us if we ask Him.
-Missionaries often face the huge challenge of explaining the gospel to people who think differently than they do, speak differently, and value different things. Sometimes there are certain things that might deeply offend people in some cultures. Missionaries have the challenge of studying the culture and finding out (with God’s help) how to best present the good news to those people.
-We may need to do the same. Many of us live in a culture far-removed from the people who live around us. If you live your life based on the truth of God’s word, you are bound to have a different way of seeing the world than those who do not yet know Jesus. It is not unspiritual to get to know more about people. Paul made it a point to know who he was talking to when he shared the gospel. When he shared the gospel in Athens, he used ideas that were familiar to those people so they would understand who God really is. We also need to find common ground and start with the familiar before we try to throw something new and strange at an unchurched person.
-Whatever you can do to improve your knowledge and communication skills can help you become more effective when you share the good news of forgiveness. Finally…
IV. God Draws People to Himself through Our Obedience
-In John 12:32 Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." Clearly, this didn’t happen while Jesus was on the cross; however, it could never happen without the cross. How would Jesus draw all men or nations to Himself? He would do it through His followers. As His followers told others about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, people from every tribe and nation would come to know Him.
-Philip apparently did not know Jesus when Jesus walked the earth. However, he certainly came to know him soon after, because He was chosen to help lead the NT church. As a follower of Jesus, Philip learned to obey the Lord. Many came to know Jesus through Philip’s obedience. He had learned to follow the Spirit’s lead, letting God work through Him to save others.
Conclusion: In closing, we’ve been reminded today that we need to follow the lead of the HS. When He speaks to our hearts about going somewhere or doing something, we need to listen and obey. God wants us to be involved in going and sharing the good news with others. He often leads us one step at a time, asking us to trust Him, and that more details will follow. Part of our spiritual preparation is getting to know Him through His word. Without the Bible, we lose our guidebook for life. Without the truth of God’s word, we have no news to share- and no news is not the good news! God wants us to prepare ourselves to explain clearly to people how they can access His love and forgiveness. He will draw people to Himself through us – if we learn to obey Him- even when what He says doesn’t seem to make sense.
-I’d like to give 2 appeals today: 1. If you’ve never asked the Lord to forgive you and to change your life, I hope you will come and talk with me about it. God has been drawing you to Himself. He is just waiting for you to give Him your heart and let Him become your forgiver and leader. If you would like to, you can ask God today to forgive you and lead your life.
2. If you want to learn to hear the Lord’s voice and share your faith more effectively, I’d like to invite you to come and ask the Lord to help you. God is not looking for your ability to make it happen. He is looking for your availability and willingness to obey whatever He tells you to do.
-[Sing, Lord I Give You My Heart and close in prayer.]