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YOU MIGHT’VE BEEN IN THE BIBLE

 



YOU MIGHTVE

BEEN IN THE BIBLE

There are a few stories in the Bible where everything turns out right. This is one. It has three characters.

 

The first is Philip—a disciple in the early church who had a penchant for lost people. One day he was instructed by God to go to the road that leads to Gaza from Jerusalem. It was a desert road. He went. When he arrived he came upon a ruler from Ethiopia.

 

Must have been a bit intimidating for Philip. It would be similar to your hopping on a motor scooter and following the secretary of the treasury. At a stoplight you notice he is reading the Bible, and you volunteer your services.

 

That is what Philip did.

“Do you understand what you are reading?”

 “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”

And so Philip did. They have a Bible study in the chariot. The study is so convicting that the Ethiopian is baptized that day. And then they separate. Philip goes one way, and the Ethiopian goes another. The story has a happy ending. Philip teaches, the Ethiopian obeys, and the gospel is sent to Africa.

But that’s not all the story. Remember I said there were three characters. The first was Philip; the second was the Ethiopian. Did you see the third? There is one. Read these verses and take note.

 

“An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get ready and go south. . . .’ So Philip got ready and went” (Acts 8:26–27).

“The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ So . . . Philip ran toward the chariot” (Acts 8:29–30).

 

The third character? God! God sent the angel. The Holy Spirit instructed Philip; God orchestrated the entire moment! He saw this godly man coming from Ethiopia to worship. He saw his confusion. So he decided to resolve it.

 

He looked in Jerusalem for a man he could send. He found Philip.

 

Our typical response when we read these verses is to think Philip was a special guy. He had access to the Oval Office. He carried a first-century pager that God doesn’t pass out anymore.

 

But don’t be too quick. In a letter to Christians just like us, Paul wrote, “Live by following the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).

“The true children of God are those who let God’s Spirit lead them” (Rom. 8:14).

To hear many of us talk, you’d think we didn’t believe


these verses. You’d think we didn’t believe in the Trinity. We talk about the Father and study the Son—but when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we are confused at best and frightened at worst. Confused because we’ve never been taught. Frightened because we’ve been taught to be afraid

 

May I simplify things a bit? The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in our lives, carrying on the work of Jesus. The Holy Spirit helps us in three directions—inwardly (by granting us the fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22–24), upwardly (by praying for us, Rom. 8:26), and outwardly (by pouring God’s love into our hearts, Rom. 5:5).

 

In evangelism the Holy Spirit is on center stage. If the disciple teaches, it is because the Spirit teaches the disciple (Luke 12:12). If the listener is convicted, it is because the Spirit has penetrated (John 16:10). If the listener is converted, it is by the transforming power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11). If the new believer matures, it is because the Spirit makes him or her competent (2 Cor. 3:6)

You have the same Spirit working with you that Philip did. Some of you don’t believe me. You’re still cautious. I can hear you mumbling under your breath as you read, “Philip had something I don’t. I’ve never heard an angel’s

voice.” To which I counter, “How do you know Philip did?

We assume he did. We’ve been taught he did. The flannelboard figures say he did. An angel puts his trumpet in Philip’s ear and blares the announcement, and Philip has no choice. Flashing lights and fluttering wings are nothing to deny. The deacon had to go. But could our assumption be wrong? Could it be that the angel’s voice was every bit as miraculous as the one you and I hear?

              

What?

You’ve heard the voice whispering your name, haven’t you? You’ve felt the nudge to go and sensed the urge to speak. Hasn’t it occurred to you?

You invite a couple over for coffee. Nothing heroic, just a nice evening with old friends. But from the moment they enter, you can feel the tension. Colder than glaciers, they are. You can tell something is wrong. Typically you’re not one to inquire, but you feel a concern that won’t be silent. So you ask.

 

You are in a business meeting where one of your coworkers gets raked over the coals. Everyone else is thinking, I’m glad that wasn’t me. But the Holy Spirit is leading you to think, How hard this must be. So, after the meeting you approach the employee and express your concern.

 

You notice the fellow on the other side of the church auditorium. He looks a bit out of place, what with his strange clothing and all. You learn that he is from Africa, in town on business. The next Sunday he is back. And the third Sunday he is present. You introduce yourself. He tells you how he is fascinated by the faith and how he wants to learn more. Rather than offer to teach him, you simply urge him to read the Bible.

 

Later in the week, you regret not being more direct. You call the office where he is consulting and learn that he is leaving today for home. You know in your heart you can’t let him leave. So you rush to the airport and find him awaiting his flight, with a Bible open on his lap.

 

“Do you understand what you are reading?” you inquire. “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”

And so you, like Philip, explain. And he, like the Ethiopian, believes. Baptism is requested and baptism is offered. He catches a later flight and you catch a glimpse of what it means to be led by the Spirit.

Were there lights? You just lit one. Were there voices? You just were one. Was there a miracle? You just witnessed one. Who knows? If the Bible were being written today, that might be your name in the eighth chapter of Acts.

 

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