Easter 5b

Preached: May 10, 2009

How Can I Share My Faith?
Acts 8:26-40

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus our Savior is Acts 8:26-40

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our crucified and risen Savior:

What were the disciples doing that first Easter evening? Hiding hiding behind locked doors. Where were they a week later? Again behind locked doors.

How often don't we imitate these disciples! We hide in the safety of our family, friends, and fellow church members safe among those who believe as we do. And when we go out into the world, it's so tempting to hide by blending in, camouflaging our faith. We act and speak in ways that hide or ignore our Savior and his importance in our lives.

But that all changed for the disciples and throughout our lives it's changing for you and me. Jesus sent out these same disciples to go out into the world, preaching the good news to all creation (Mark 16:20). And those words still sound out for you and me. So how can we share our faith instead of hiding it?

Sharing our faith certainly begins at home, even as Jesus told the disciples that they would be his witnessing beginning at Jerusalem, the home city. On this Mother's Day, give thanks to God that so many of us learned of our Savior from little on up in our homes. Did your mother teach you your first prayers or to sing Jesus Loves Me? Give thanks for your mother and father who carried out the will of our God, who said, “Fathers . . . bring . . . up [your children] in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).

Yes, sharing our faith begins in the home, but it does not end there. And that leads us back to the question: Instead of hiding my faith, how can I share my faith? As we look at the example of Philip in the text, we see answers, answers we can summarize with the words: Go. Glow. Show. Know.

A. Go around the roadblocks

1) What makes you hesitate in sharing your faith?

Who is this Philip? He is one of the seven that were chosen in the Jerusalem church to take over the responsibility of distributing the food for the widows so that the Apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. Another one of the seven was Stephen who become the first Christian martyr, stoned to death by the Sanhedrin. The persecution that followed scattered many of the Christians from Jerusalem. Philip, for one, traveled north into Samaria and proclaimed Christ there.

But God also had work for him in the opposite direction as well. An angel told him to go south from Jerusalem along the desert road to Gaza. Now Philip could have said, “That's out of my way!” But he did not let his circumstances become a roadblock. He went. That's part one: How do we share our faith? Go. Go around the roadblocks.

On that desert road he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, a high official in charge of the treasury of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians. Here was a foreigner, a non-Jew, a Gentile, who may have been interested in the Jewish faith but had not fully adopted it by any means. Not even the Apostles had taken the Gospel to the Gentiles yet. Was this man's race and culture going to be a roadblock to stop Philip from sharing his faith? If Philip had any doubt whether to speak to him, the Holy Spirit removes it by telling Philip: “Go to that chariot and stay near” (Acts 8:29 NIV). Go around the roadblocks.

Our circumstances and our prejudices can throw up roadblocks in our way. Some circumstances we cannot change. They are in God's hands. But don't walk in the opposite direction when God opens an opportunity. Is there a neighbor you could approach or an acquaintance who needs a friend? Is there a coworker struggling with a problem; a friend or relative with whom you've never talked about spiritual matters? Pray. Pray, dear friends, that the Lord open your eyes so that instead of seeing your present circumstances as roadblocks you see the opportunities he's placed all around you.

And remember his great love for you, so that you overcome the prejudices that infect us. You cannot get any more different than the difference between the holy God and us sinners. Yet God's love gave his Son for us while we were still godless sinners. With that same love, go to those who may be different than you. We don't have to wonder whether the Gospel is for them. We don't need an angel from heaven to direct us. We have the Scriptures. The Scriptures record Jesus' words sending out his Gospel for all people. In addition, we have the example of Philip and later Peter, who went to the house of the Gentile Cornelius, and Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles. And note how each time, God uses human beings, not angels, to speak his Gospel. For that is the work he gives Christians , like you and me. Yes, go, go around the roadblocks. That's the first part of the answer to how can I share my faith.

B. Glow with genuine concern

1) To whom can you shine with Christian love?

And when you go, also glow. Glow with genuine concern. Glow with Christian love. Although it's very brief in the text, we see that Christian concern in Philip. His concern shines out when he asks the Ethiopian if he needs help. “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30 NIV).

Let the light of Christ's love for you shine out in genuine concern for others. Don't impose your will on them. Rather ask with humbleness. Remember how God's Son humbled himself even to death on the cross for you. Imitate his humble love.

Glow with genuine concern for their physical and spiritual wellbeing. Glow with love that loves your neighbor as yourself. One reason God gives us our material blessings is so that we can show concern that helps others. And one reason he gives us our spiritual riches in Christ is that we can share them. For the more we give away these riches the richer we become.

Glow with genuine concern not only when others can see you, but also as you pray. Pray for your neighbor, your acquaintance, and others. Pray for God's help in their hour of need. Pray for the opportunity to show them genuine concern. Pray that the Lord open their heart to the Good News of Jesus. Pray for the Lord to give you the wisdom and courage to say and do the right thing at the right time.

And even though their minds may be focused on their physical needs, glow with concern for their spiritual needs as well. And one way to do that, might be to ask them about Baptism. Have they been baptized? Have their children been baptized? Baptism was certainly something Philip and the Ethiopians talked about. Yet so many churches today do not baptize children or they charge for baptism that here is an opportunity for you to talk about God's gift in Baptism. Baptism unites us with Jesus in his death and resurrection. It promises that through his death Jesus washes away our sin and through his resurrections brings us rebirth and renewal for a new life. Baptism offers these blessings free of charge for faith to hold on to with all sureness. And your church will baptize. Invite them to talk to me, your pastor, about it.

And as you talk about Baptism in this way, you've already begun the third point: Show them Jesus, crucified for them and risen.

C. Show them Jesus, crucified for them and risen

1) In your own words, write down what you could say to show someone Jesus.

That's what Philip did. The portion of Isaiah the Ethiopian was reading, pointed to Jesus not to Jesus as a miracle worker or moral role-model or a wise teacher, but to Jesus as the Savior, the crucified and risen Savior. This is what sharing your faith is. Only going and glowing with concern won't save anyone, but showing them Jesus, crucified for them and risen from the dead that's where the Spirit's power changes hearts. Show them Jesus.

Jesus “was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Acts 8:32 NIV). Jesus willingly suffered all without complaint. For his great love fully carried out the Father's saving plan. Yes, Jesus, though condemned and crucified, was innocent. He was holy, perfect, righteous. Then why did he silently bear all the agony and injustice? No doubt Philip pointed the Ethiopian to the verses in Isaiah 53 shortly before these recorded in our text. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows . . . He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. . . the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV). Yes, he did it for us all, for you. He became our sins, so that his blood pays our debt. His death turns God's anger from us so that in him you have peace, peace with God.

That's the peace his resurrection brings to your heart. Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death for you. His body came to life again. He has risen in victory, and he gives you that victory. See your crucified and risen Savior. Believe in him. Believe that he has done all this for you. Trust his promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

You don't need to use my words as you show Jesus to others. You know the message. You know the Gospel. Speak it with your own words to show them Jesus, crucified for them and risen from the dead.

D. Know that the outcome is in God's hands

Show them Jesus, their Savior, knowing that the outcome is in God's hands. That's the last point we note here this morning. Your job is not to prove the Bible right or to argue why your church is better. Our job, our mission, is to show them Jesus, the Savior, and know that the rest is in God's hands.

Philip knew that the outcome was in God's hands. Oh, he saw some immediate results as the Ethiopian asks to be baptized. But he did not know what the long term outcome would be. That was in God's hands. For it would seem that Philip never saw the Ethiopian again in this life. Philip appeared at Azotus along the Mediterranean, and the Ethiopian went home rejoicing. What came next for the Ethiopian, Philip did not know. But he knew it was in God's hands, that's all that mattered.

So also as we show Jesus to others, sometimes we might see the fruit. At other times, though we show them Jesus again and again, they may refuse to believe. Sometimes we use that as an excuse not to show them Jesus they won't believe me anyway. Sometimes we become discourage if the results aren't what we want them to be or don't grow as quickly as we think they should. That's why like Philip we need to know that the outcome is in God's hands. Our mission is to show them Jesus, to do that in spite of what results we may or may not see, for we know that the outcome is in God's hands.

How do we share our faith? Go. Glow. Show. Know. Maybe we can wrap this all up with the word sow and the picture of the sower who scatters the seed on the ground. The sower needs to go. So also we go despite the roadblocks. The sower needs to till the soil and prepare the ground. So also we glow with genuine concerns, which prepares others to pay attention to what we say. The sower plants the seed. The seed is the Gospel of Jesus. Show them Jesus, their Savior, crucified for them and risen from the dead. And God makes it grow. Know that the outcome is in his hands. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313