All right, who likes apples? You like apples? All right, we’re in Washington today, at least I am. As part of our citizen requirement is you have to like apples if you’re from Washington. I remember when I was a little kid—you ever picked an apple when you were a kid? We had a red apple tree near my house. I was a little kid. I thought, “Man, I really want an apple.” It was early in the season, about this time of year almost, and there was an apple, but it wasn’t red, it was green. I thought, Well, I thought this was a red apple tree/little kid. Aww, it’s OK, I’ll pick it and see what it tastes like.
So I grab this little, green apple, take it, bite it, how’s it taste? Horrible! Horrible. Sour, tart, awful, texture was wrong. You know why? It wasn’t ready to be picked. It wasn’t ripe. It needed more time. It was in a process, and eventually it would have ripened, but it needed more time. It’s interesting, when we come to the teaching of the Bible, particularly the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, he says that people becoming Christians is like a harvest, and that people becoming Christians, they’re like fruit.
He uses a lot of this language, and what we see in the physical world is true in the spiritual world. We can’t make something ripe. It’s going to take time. We can’t make someone ripe for Jesus. It’s going to take time. And so we have to lovingly, patiently wait until someone is ripe, and then we pick them. We tell them about Jesus, we love them, serve them, inform them, instruct them, and then their heart’s open to Jesus as he’s been preparing them.
This is your story if you’re a Christian. This is what God is doing in your life today if you’re not a Christian. He’s preparing you to be part of the great harvest of Jesus and fruit on the tree of his resurrection. And what we see today in Acts 8:26–40—and if you’ve got a Bible, go there. We see what it’s like to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to evangelize.
When we talk about evangelism, we’re talking about this as a Christian talks to a non-Christian about Jesus. And you’re going to see a guy today who is in the process of becoming ripe for the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is a man who is in process, and then God is going to send another man for the harvest, to pick the ripe fruit of this man’s life and to introduce him to Jesus. It’s an awesome text. All the texts of the Bible are awesome. This one’s awesome! It’s great because we get to see a person become a Christian.
I don’t know what is going on in your life. If you don’t know Jesus, you need Jesus. The most important thing, more important than anything, more important than everything is that you know Jesus. And today, we get to see the God—yes, he loves crowds, and we’ve seen thousands saved through the book of Acts. And today, the camera hones in on one guy. You know why? God doesn’t just love numbers, he loves faces and he loves you. And he loves you. And he’s got a plan to seek you, to serve you, and to save you. Not because you’re great, but because he’s great.
WHOM HAS GOD PUT IN FRONT OF YOU?
I want to start with the first question. Whom has God put in front of you? Here’s the story in the book of Acts, beginning in chapter 8, verse 26. “Now an angel of the Lord.” You know it’s going to be awesome when an angel shows up. That’s a great day. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise, go toward the south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert place.” Middle of nowhere. “And he rose and went.” He’s obedient.
“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, was returning, seated in his chariot.” Dude’s loaded, right? He’s rolling in an SUV with rims. Loaded. “He had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning, seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ Four characters, people, here. We need to meet each one.
First, the angel. The angel shows up, and the angel speaks, and the angel says to Philip. And don’t you wish there were more details? The angel told Philip to go and Philip went. You’re like, back up. Tell me about the angel conversation. I want more details. Angels are in the Bible. Do you believe in angels? Here’s what’s amazing: Most people believe in angels, but they don’t believe in demons. Demons are fallen, sinful, rebellious angels. God created angels. They’re not equal to God. They don’t share all his divine attributes. They’re not eternal. They have a beginning point in history and time. They’re made to be ministers and messengers on behalf of the Lord. As ministers, they serve, and as messengers, they speak. That’s what angels do.
Some angels became rebellious, proud, self-righteous, and independent. They rebelled against God. They were cast out of heaven. That includes now Satan and demons. So, dear friend, be careful. Test the spirits. 1 John says, “Not every spirit is holy.” Not every spirit comes from the Lord being spiritual. It can actually be very dangerous. In addition to the angels, there are fallen angels. This is a holy, godly angel. He comes as a messenger and as a minister.
Some of you wonder, “Have I ever met an angel?” Hebrews 13:1 says to continue to practice hospitality, opening our homes and lives, because in so doing, some of us will entertain angels without even—here’s the key—without even knowing it. See, angels are spirit beings. They don’t indwell or inhabit a body as we do, but they can appear as a person if that is the assignment that the Lord has given to them.
Some of you have met angels and you didn’t even know it. Because their goal is not to draw attention to themselves, that’s what the demons do. Their goal is to let all of the attention, the focus, and the glory, and the emphasis be on Jesus. See, they don’t take a lot of attention for themselves, so they tend to do their work very quietly and very humbly, sometimes very privately.
GRANDPA GIBB’S MIRACLE AT THE AIRPORT
I’ll give you an example, a story. Grace’s dad, Grandpa Gibb, has gone home to be with the Lord about a year ago. I got to preach his funeral. Godly guy, loved Jesus, loved the Bible. He was a pastor for forty-some years. He was headed out, in his latter years, on a mission trip to some far away country, and he was going to go teach pastors and help in this far away mission field. He was older, he was tired, he was a little disoriented, as he told the story. He was in an international airport trying to get his connecting flight. Somehow got turned around, confused, didn’t understand the signs. Ended up wrong terminal, wrong part of the airport, far—right, you even been there? Your plane’s over there, you’re over here. You’re totally lost, don’t know where you are. And he realizes,Man, the clock is ticking, I’m really close to my flight, and I’m going to miss my flight. If I miss my flight, I’ll miss the conference. I can’t train the pastors, I can’t help the missionaries, the gospel can’t go forward. So he stops. What’s Grandpa Pastor Gibb going to do? Pray, OK? “Jesus, help, amen.” A little prayer, you know?
Immediately, he opens his eyes. A guy walks up. He said nice guy, very warm, welcoming. “Sir, you seem confused. It seems like you need help. I’m wondering what I can do to serve you.” He’s speaking and serving. He’s a messenger and a minister.
“Well, I’m a pastor, I’m trying to get on the mission field. You know, and I think I messed up. I got on the wrong train, or tram, or whatever it is, and I’m in the wrong part of the airport. I don’t know the language, I can’t figure out the signs, I’m going to miss my flight.” The guy says, “You know what? No problem, I’ll take you there myself.”
How many people do you know catching an international flight connector have an hour to kill and want to walk with a total stranger around an airport? So, he said, “OK, fine. Well, you love the Lord, I love the Lord, too. That’s great you’re serving the Lord.” They’re talking about Jesus. This guy literally escorts Grandpa Gibb right to the gate just in the nick of time. Grandpa Gibb goes to thank him, poof, the guy disappears.
OK, can that happen? Yes, and it’s awesome! It doesn’t happen all the time. That’s why we don’t call it Tuesday, but a miracle. But God can do that, amen? Grandpa Gibb makes his flight, makes it to the mission field to love and serve the Lord Jesus, yay!
Our God is a supernatural God. Our God is a capable God. Our God is a living God. Our God is a miraculous God. Our God is a creative God. He sends an angel to Philip, tells Philip, “You’ve got to go somewhere. You’ve got something to do.”
THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH: A GREEN APPLE TURNING RED
That brings us to the second person in the story, the Ethiopian eunuch. We don’t know the guy’s name, but here’s what we do know. Ethiopian, in that day it was Sudan or Egypt today in that region. Eunuch, OK?
Now, I’ve got to be careful how I explain this, but how do you become a eunuch? Men, how do you become a eunuch? You’re castrated. And this was part of his employment contract, OK? You really got to want the job, OK? You’re reading the job and you’re like, “OK, now the queen of Ethiopia, she needs a CEO, CFO, head of the treasury. Are you good at money? You know, can you count? Accounting.” You’re reading the fine print and you’re like, “Willing to be castrated.” _Wow, wow, I’m going to apply. OK, you’ve got to really—something in you has got to be like, I really want this job. Like, you need a job if you’re like, OK, I’ll check the castration box. He does.
Because the way it would work in that day, you’re working with the queen, you’re part of the court, you’re part of the kingdom. Well, there’s the queen, there’s the princesses, and there’s the harem, and if you’re a guy working in close proximity, you could find yourself a little interested in certain ladies, including the queen. And the king thought, I don’t want anybody getting involved with my lady or ladies, so they came up with this idea, “I’ll just castrate all the men.” And so to get the job, you had to be castrated.
So, here’s this Ethiopian eunuch. He is in the middle of nowhere. He’s from a godless nation. He works for a godless, Pagan queen. He would have been considered—in his culture, he would have been highly esteemed, but among God’s people he would have been lowly considered. Because in Deuteronomy 23:1 it says that any guy who’s castrated himself can’t even enter into the worship assembly of God’s people. You know why? Because children are a blessing, we’re to be fruitful and multiply, and any guy who does that to himself, he doesn’t understand the will of God and the ways of God, so he’s not to be part of the worship of God. So, this guy’s in a bad place.
Here’s what we do find out, though: He’s a green apple turning red. When I was a little kid, I was the oldest of five kids. My dad, Joe, my mom, Deb—Joe and Deb loaded up the old Griswold station wagon that we owned, and we were going to make the family road trip to Disneyland, OK? And it’s about, from Seattle to Disneyland, about roughly a thousand miles. Now, imagine doing that two thousand years ago in a chariot pulled by a horse over rough, Roman terrain. You got to really want to get there, amen? So this guy’s heart is opening up. He’s a green apple turning red. He’s like, “I’ve got to get to Jerusalem so—” and it says, “So he can worship God.” Is he a believer? No, OK? If you’re here and you’re not a Christian, this is you. You’re here, you’ve traveled a distance, you’ve inconvenienced yourself. You’re here with God’s people. We’re here to worship him. We love you. We’re so blessed and honored that you would join us.
On the way, he’s sitting in his chariot and he’s reading Isaiah—you’ll see it in a moment—chapter 53, verses 7–8. It would have been very difficult to get a book of the Bible in that day. The printing press was nowhere near invented yet. He’s not even Hebrew. He’s not a Jewish guy. He didn’t grow up with the Bible, not in his country. So, he’s making the 1,000 mile journey to get to Jerusalem to worship God, to meet God’s people, and along the way he’s reading the Bible. All right, he’s a green apple turning red. God’s working on him. God’s preparing him for the message of Jesus.
MEETING PHILIP THE SPIRIT-FILLED EVANGELIST
Thirdly, there is this guy named Philip. We met him in Acts 6. Godly guy, filled with the Holy Spirit, loves Jesus, missionary, minister, he’s an evangelist. And an angel comes to him and says, “I need you to go to the middle of nowhere.” They just had like a, boom, Billy Graham revival, right? They just had an explosion, lots of people become Christians, and he tells Philip, “Leave.” “Leave? We just—we just had this massive revival.” “Go to the middle of nowhere.” You know why?
There’s one person there that God loves. There’s one person there that God loves. Isn’t that wonderful? That God loves one person enough that he’d put together an entire plan to go get that one person. And friends, if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, you’re one of those people that Jesus loves so much that he has been pursuing and preparing you because he wants you to become a Christian too.
Well, here’s what we know about Philip. He’s a godly guy and he raises godly daughters. The last picture we have of him in Acts 21:8–9, it says that he had four daughters who were all single and could prophesy. That’s quite a lineup. I can tell you why they’re single. It’s hard to find a guy who can marry a gal who can prophesy, right?
Some of you guys want to marry a godly gal, you’ve got to up your game, right? So, he loves Jesus, he’s filled with the Holy Spirit, he raises four daughters who love Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit, he does ministry with his four daughters who all love Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit. And it says, “He obeyed the Lord.” He didn’t argue or fight, “I’m a big guy. I got picked. I was part of—you know, back in Acts 6, they picked me. I’m one of the important guys. Come on, I’ve got big things to do. I need to be in the city. I need to be in the center of power. People just got saved. I’m very important.” He’s like, “Whatever, Lord. You got one guy you love, I’ll go.” Are you willing to go for one person, dear Christian? Are you willing to give yourself and your time to one person? That may be what God is asking of you. God doesn’t ask us all to be Billy Graham. God sometimes asks us to pursue, love one person, speak to them about Jesus. And that’s what he does with Philip, and Philip is willing.
GOD USES PEOPLE TO SAVE PEOPLE
Two things I want you to know about this. Number one, God uses people to save people. OK, God saves people. If you want to boil Christianity down, here’s one way to do it. God saves sinners, right? God saves. We can speak about the Savior. We can serve on behalf of the Savior. So we can speak and serve, but only God can save, amen? Everybody at Mars Hill say, “Amen.” One, two, three, amen. OK, we can speak, we can serve, only God can save. We don’t save anybody. Philip is not going to save this guy, forgive his sin, give him access to the presence of God for all eternity. That’s not his responsibility. His responsibility is to speak and to serve. God uses people to save people.
Now, an angel was sent to Philip. Here’s what’s curious: An angel wasn’t sent to the Ethiopian eunuch. God could have went to the angel, “Angel, there’s a guy in a chariot reading Isaiah. Get him!” And the angel could have obeyed that and gone there, and sat in the chariot with the Ethiopian eunuch, and done a little Bible study out of Isaiah 53, and closed the deal. God didn’t work that way. Oftentimes, God doesn’t work that way. God sometimes sends an angel. There are lots of people in closed Muslim countries who are getting saved because they’re having dreams about Jesus or an angel shows up because God will jump over any obstacle that is set against the gospel to bring the good news of Jesus to those who don’t know him. But oftentimes, God works through his people. So, God sends the angel to Philip, and then the angel sends Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch.
Now, some of you may have heard we’re a Reformed church. Don’t Google it, don’t blow your head up. We love Jesus, read your Bible, stay off the Internet. It’s all shenanigans anyways. Nonetheless, nonetheless, what we mean by reformed is this. Out of the historic Protestant tradition, that God seeks, that God saves, and that God is sovereign over the seeking and saving process. Now, what some will do is they’ll turn this into fatalism instead of faithfulness. And they’ll say, “Well, if God’s going to save them anyways, why should we speak? Why should we plant a church? Why should we send a missionary? Why should we preach the gospel? Why should we make an invitation? Why should we pursue them to talk about Jesus? If God’s going to save them, he’ll save them.” And God’s in heaven going, “I’m sovereign over the ends—who I will save—and the means—who I will send.” You are part of God’s sovereign plan for the salvation of someone else.
You say, “Well, God doesn’t need me.” Right, but he loves you so he wants to involve you so you can share in his joy. There are things that I do that I involved my kids, and I don’t need them to help me with certain things. But I involve them because I love them, and what brings me joy, I want them to share in my joy by doing it with me. That’s what every good father does with a son or daughter that’s beloved. If you’re a Christian, you’re the beloved sons and daughters of God. God can save people without you, but he’s invited you and I to be part of his process. And we can speak, and we can serve, and we can watch him save, and then we share in his joy, and we learn a lot about our Father as we see him saving sinners, amen? What this does, this frees us up not to worry about the results and only worry about our faithfulness to what God has called us to.
So, number one, God likes to use his people to save other people by bringing the message of the Savior.
YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO EARN THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD
Number two, you don’t always have to earn the right to be heard. There’s this weird myth, “You can’t talk to me. You don’t even know me.” Sure I can, I yell at people for a living, right? You can—there is relational authority, but sometimes there’s just spiritual authority. Now, there are many case studies in the Bible of evangelism and how somebody becomes a Christian. This is only one.
There are other examples where somebody’s got a relationship, and they, you know, build a friendship, and trust is earned over time, and through the context of the relationship, you earn the right to be heard. And whole books have been written on this and I’m not against that, but here’s Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, right? Philip walks up, “What are you reading?” I’m going to show you in a second. “Isaiah.” “You need Jesus; become a Christian.” “OK.” Boom, no coffee. No seventeen months of Tuesdays at Starbucks. No, “Hey, I hate to offend you, and I know I need to earn the right to be heard, so I’m going to change the tire on your truck and help you move because then I can talk to you about Jesus in fifteen years after you feel like you’ve got enough credit, you know, Christmas cards, that you can trust me at the heart level.” “You’re going to hell. It’s going to be hot. We need to deal with this right now, OK?”
You’re going to see in a moment, he baptizes him and leaves, gone. It’s like, this might be like fifteen minutes. This is quick. This is like, “Duck, duck, duck, save!” It’s quick. And I need you to see that. Sometimes you’ll see somebody, they don’t know the Lord, they need to know the Lord. They don’t know about the Lord, they need to know about the Lord. And you go, “I don’t even know them. I don’t have a relationship with them. How many years—” No, just walk up. “Hey, I love you. I don’t have a lot of time. Hell’s hot. Forever’s a long time. You need Jesus. Let me talk to you about him. My bus is coming. In or out?” Right?
Sometimes there has to be a sense of urgency. OK, sometimes there just has to be a sense of urgency, and here it is. And in God’s kindness, the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch, he’s becoming a red apple. He’s ready for that message. Well, the fourth person is the Holy Spirit. It says that the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip and the Holy Spirit’s overseeing the process. Jesus said early on, you know, “You’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You’ll be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”
THE HOLY SPIRIT SHOWS UP TO SPEAK
Here, the gospel’s going out, the good news about Jesus, to the Ethiopian eunuch. It’s starting to be fulfilled. The good news of Jesus is getting out to the nations of the earth through the person, the presence, the power of the Holy Spirit. He’s mentioned frequently.
Here he shows up again. Who is he? There’s one God, three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. He’s God. We saw this in Acts 5 just a few chapters previously. Ananias and Sapphira are husband and wife, part of the church. They make a pledge, “We’re going to sell a piece of real estate. We’re going to bring the proceeds and give them to the church as part of our tithe.” They withhold a bit, put it in their pockets, steal from the Lord and the church. Before they die for doing this, Peter looks at them and says, “Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit? You’ve not lied to men, but to God.”
The Holy Spirit is God, and the Holy Spirit is not just a force, it’s a person. He doesn’t inhabit a physical body, but he has feelings, he has a will, and he can communicate with us. He’s God. He can be grieved, he can be resisted, he can be quenched, the Bible says. He’s God, and it’s not an impersonal force, it’s a personal God. That’s why Jesus, in John 14, when he promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent, and here is a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, “He will convict you of sin. He will lead you into righteousness. He will remind you of what I’ve taught you.” He, he, he, not it, it, it.
So, the Holy Spirit is personal God, sent to bring the message of Jesus to God’s people and to bring the life of Jesus in and through God’s people. And here, the Holy Spirit shows up, and here’s what we read, that the Holy Spirit said to Philip: “Go over and join his chariot.” OK, the Holy Spirit tells him to do something and he obeys that. I will say, in my walk with the Lord, 99.9 percent of the time, when God the Holy Spirit says something to me it’s from the Scriptures that he has inspired to be written. The highest authority are the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit has inspired to be written. And occasionally, the Holy Spirit will provide additional revelation for the application of what was already written. We know in the Bible that God wants to save sinners, and we know that God likes to use people to bring the message of salvation to sinners, and so here, the Holy Spirit tells Philip, “Go talk to that guy about Jesus.”
How does God do this? Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to us internally, sometimes externally. Sometimes internally it’s a deep burden, it’s a profound conviction, it’s a heartbreaking longing. Sometimes it is in the form of a dream. Sometimes it is external. You get a vision, you get a visitation. The Lord shows up or you hear the voice of the Lord. And these are rare occurrences, and they are to be tested by Scripture and leadership because not every Spirit comes from the Lord, 1 John says.
But there are occasions where God speaks. I still remember when I was 19—and some of you know my story. I was praying and God spoke to me and said to marry Grace, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. There are times that the Lord tells us something, and here he is telling Philip something, and Philip obeys him. We want you to be filled by the Spirit. We want you to be led by the Spirit. We want you to be in relationship with the Spirit, and that requires a deep, profound commitment to the Bible. And also, when he speaks to you, you hear him and obey him, which is what Philip does.
Here’s my question: Who had God put in front of you? So, God puts the Ethiopian eunuch in the middle of nowhere in front of Philip. Whom has God put in front of you? Family, friend, neighbor, coworker. Who is God already preparing their heart, ripening their soul for his evangelistic harvest? Who is in front of you that you need to put your phone down so you can see them and initiate a conversation with them?
I had a situation like this. It was interesting. This week, I was sitting at a coffee shop, actually going over parts of this section of Scripture. And I look across the coffee shop, and there’s a young woman crying, like late teens. And I didn’t know why, and she kept crying. She was emotionally distraught, so I just walked up. She’s in front of me. I said, “Hey, look, I’m not a crazy old man. Now, don’t Google me. Take my word for it, OK? I’m a pastor. I love Jesus. And I’m a father, and I have a daughter who’s around your age. And I can see that something is happening, and I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do for you. I wonder if maybe God put me here to help you.”
She opened right up. “Well, here’s my story, here’s where I’m struggling, and here’s what’s going on.” “Are you a Christian?” “No, I’m not.” “Do you have a church family?” “No I don’t.” We had a great conversation. I don’t know what the Lord’s going to do with that, right, but there was a green apple turning red. Not quite ready, but turning red. Her heart was open. Whom has God put in front of you?
WHAT CAN YOU TEACH THEM?
Next question, what can you teach them? “So Philip ran to him.” Don’t you love that? To how many of you has God said, “I need you to do this,” you’re like, [groaning] Here’s Philip . . . I know I don’t run fast, but I’m trying to illustrate a point. Philip has instantaneous obedience. He’s really excited to do what the Lord said. Do you think it’s a little weird to walk up to a total stranger who’s of another culture and race, another people and religion, who’s rich and powerful governmental official and castrated? Any of this is an opportunity for awkwardness, amen?
Oftentimes, we don’t talk to non-Christians, those of us who are Christians, because we don’t want to feel awkward. You know what? It’s better that we feel awkward and they meet Jesus than we don’t feel awkward and they don’t meet Jesus. I would trade awkwardness for conversion every time. “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet.” The guy’s reading out loud. “He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’” Do you even know what that is? “And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’”
This is amazing. He’s like, “I wish a Christian would show up and explain this Bible.” Do you know that there’s people like that all over the place? There’s people like that all over the place. “And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him,” on the chariot. This is pretty awesome. “Hey, why don’t you climb up in my Escalade. I’ll turn the seat warmer on. We’ll walk through Isaiah.” “OK!” “He invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this.” Oh, it just so happened to be he’s in Isaiah 53:7–8, which if you’re in the Old Testament, it comes of the wick. Boom! It’s amazing. “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.” This is amazing. The guy’s sitting there reading the Bible.
This is like you walk into Starbucks, there’s a guy with a Bible. You’re like, “What is that?” “It’s a Bible.” “Why are you reading it?” “I don’t know. All of a sudden I’m interested in it.” “Oh, green apple going red. I know what’s going on here. Do you know what it means?” “No, I’m reading this part in John 3:16. “‘God so loved the world.’ “I don’t—Can’t make heads or tails of this. I wish somebody would explain it.” Right? Right? That’s what’s going on here. Philip’s like, “I can do this.”
The whole section of Isaiah 40–66 is about the suffering servant Jesus coming to serve us by suffering, dying, and rising in our place for our sins. The bull’s-eye of it all is the second half of Isaiah 53 through the end of—second half of Isaiah 52 through the end of Isaiah 53. He would live without sin. We would put him to death. He would be buried with the rich. He would rise from death. He would see the light of life and be satisfied. He would atone for our sin. He would justify us in the sight of God. He is our Savior and victorious King, and he’s really excited that he gets to do this for us. He’s reading this aloud. There are people like this all over the place. God is preparing them to hear about Jesus. They have questions.
3 THINGS TO LEARN FROM THE SUFFERING SERVANT ABOUT EVANGELISM
So, three things I want you to learn from this, Christian and non-Christian.
1. GO TO THE PERSON
Number one, go to the person that the Holy Spirit sends you to.
2. GIVE THEM A BIBLE
Number two, give them a Bible, OK? Let’s just keep the—this is a Bible. Give them one. If you’re here, and you’re not a Christian, and you don’t have a Bible, take one. You’ll get to the part where it says not stealing, you can have it. You’re not stealing. Take it with you, OK? Who gave you your first Bible? Who gave you a good Bible? When I was 19, Grace, my now wife—something to think about guys. Gal buys you a Bible, buy her a ring. Just throwing it out there, OK? Grace bought me a really nice Bible, and I was a green apple. “Man, I’m not going to read that. I think it’s going to tell me to stop doing stuff that I kind of like.” Then I’m in college, I decide I’m going to start reading it. OK, I start—OK, green apple turning red. And then God saved me. I’m reading the Bible, I got questions. I start meeting Christians like, “Hey, could you answer this? Could you answer that?”
One of the best gifts you can give somebody is a Bible. Get them a good Bible. If you love them, give them a good Bible. I don’t want to be a Bible snob, but my recommendation—this is what we do. We have stacks of Bibles. We give them away all the time—I, the kids, and Grace. The ESV, the English Standard Version, which is what I preach out of, Study Bible. It’s packed, lots of helpful tools. We give those away. We give those away all the time.
Who do you need to buy a Bible for? Who are you like, “They are so lost. They drive me crazy. Those people are nuts.” Buy them a Bible. They obviously need one, all right? I can still remember when I was on CNNwith Piers Morgan when he was still on the air, and he would bring Christians on to argue with them about what the Bible says. So, I showed up, I brought him an ESV Study Bible, and I said, “Hey Piers, my name is Mark,” you know? “Here’s a Bible.” Here’s what he said—I’m paraphrasing. He said, “You know, I’ve had a lot of Christians on the show over the years. We always argue about the Bible. Nobody’s ever given me a Bible.” We can argue with people about the Bible and be very frustrated that they don’t rightly understand the Bible. Maybe it’s because they don’t have a Bible. Don’t overlook the obvious.
Number two, go to the person the Holy Spirit sends you to, give them a Bible. I hope you give away some Bibles this week.
3. TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS
Number three, answer their question by telling them about Jesus. I love what he says, right? He says he’s going to tell them about Jesus. “Philip opened his mouth,” verse 35, “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Mars Hill, we say this all the time but it cannot be said too much. This is the book that God wrote, and it’s all about Jesus from beginning to end. There are many stories, but there’s only one story. There’s only one hero. This book is for you, but it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus.
IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS
I need you to see that everything in this book is about Jesus. And if you give this book to anyone and then they have questions, the answer is always somehow connected back to the good news of the person and work of Jesus. And this—I don’t have time to do it, but I’m going to do it anyways as fast as I can. This includes events.
THE SACRIFICED LAMB
So when you see, in the Old Testament, Passover, where God’s people sacrificed a lamb, and they cover the doorpost of their home with blood so that the wrath of God would pass over them, that through the shedding of blood their sins would be atoned for, that all points to Jesus, our Passover Lamb who was slain. He died for our sin. His blood covers us so the wrath of God would pass over us.
When you see, in the Old Testament, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest, as the mediator, comes between God and the people, and he takes an animal, and he confesses the sins of the people, and he slaughters the animal as an atonement sacrifice as a substitute for guilty sinners, that’s us and that’s our Jesus. Jesus is our Day of Atonement. He is not only the High Priest, he is also the substitute sacrifice. And because of him alone, sin is atoned for. This includes titles. The whole section of Isaiah 53 is that Jesus is a lamb. That’s what he was reading. And then Jesus comes humbly and meekly. He leaves glory for humility. He enters into human history. And as he makes his way on the stage, John the Baptizer sees him and declares, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
THE SUFFERING SERVANT
In addition to that title, there is also another title in Isaiah 40–66, of which he is reading, that Jesus is the Suffering Servant. And Jesus came to suffer, he came to be without sin, to suffer at the hands of sinners, to go to the cross and die in the place of sinners, and in so doing, he is the one who serves us through his suffering. It’s not just that Jesus is found in the events and the titles, but also the prophesies.
Dear friend, when this book was written, 25 percent of it was prophetic in nature, predicting the future because the God who knows the future is sovereign over it. He knows everything in intricate detail. There’s nothing that he does not know. There’s nothing that is beyond the reach of his sovereign rule. And the prophecies all point to Jesus, and no other religion has this kind of prophetic insight. The Bible stands alone. It is unique in all its authority because this is the book that the Holy Spirit has written. A few of these include the fact that 700 years before Jesus even walked on the earth, in Isaiah 7:14 it was prophesied that he would be born of a virgin and he would be Immanuel, God with us.
In addition, 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, Micah 5:2 declared that he would come to the little town of Bethlehem. Five hundred years before Jesus walked the earth in Zechariah 11:12–13, it was prophesied that he would be betrayed by a close friend for no less than 30 pieces of silver. A thousand years before Jesus walked the earth and hundreds of years before crucifixion was even invented, Psalm 22:16 declared that he would be pierced through his hand and feet, nailed. The carpenter nailed to a Roman cross. And in addition, we read in Isaiah 6 that Isaiah was called into ministry by the Lord Jesus. As he’s reading Isaiah in his chair, the Ethiopian eunuch is hearing the words of Isaiah.
Firstly, Isaiah heard these words, “Go and preach.” God revealed himself to Isaiah. He says, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted. “The train of his robe filled the temple. He was surrounded in glory. He was worshiped by angels.” That’s Isaiah 66—chapter 6, rather. You go to John 12, it says, “And he saw Jesus in all his glory.” So even the God who is commissioning Isaiah to write the book that the Ethiopian eunuch is reading is Jesus Christ in all his glory.
In addition, we see Jesus in theophanies. Before he enters into history through the womb of Mary, he makes certain cameo appearances. He walks with Abraham in Genesis 18. He wrestles with Jacob in Genesis 32. He speaks to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3. In the days of Daniel, he enters into the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. And again, he is the one. He is the one who calls Isaiah into ministry.
He’s reading Isaiah 53:7–8. In the next section, it talks about after Jesus dies that he would be buried, that he would be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and that he would rise, and after his suffering, he would see the light of life and be satisfied, that he would atone for sin, that he would make sinners friends, that he would make enemies into family. And all of the Bible is about Jesus.
A TYPE OF ADAM
The includes types. The first man in the Bible is Adam, and we’re all born with a sin nature into Adam. Jesus is called the last Adam, and we’re born again with a new nature through Jesus, the last Adam. The first Adam sinned in a garden; the last Adam bled for sin in a garden. The first Adam sinned at a tree; the last Adam atoned for our sin on a tree. The first Adam was made naked and unashamed; the last Adam was naked and bore our shame. The first Adam brought us thorns; the last Adam wore a crown of thorns. The first Adam brought us condemnation, but it’s through the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam, that God alone brings us salvation.
When you see priests, it’s about Jesus, our great High Priest. When you see kings, it’s about Jesus, the King of kings. When you see prophets, it’s ultimately pointing to Jesus who is the very word of God. When you see shepherds, it reminds us of Jesus, the good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. When you see judges, they point to Jesus who is the Judge, alone the Judge of the living and the dead. And when you see the temple, the meeting place between God and man on the earth, it all points to Jesus who is God become a man and mediates between us and our God.
Friends, ultimately, this includes like service. So when you see Abel, who was godly, murdered by his brother, Jesus is the greater Abel who was God, murdered by his brothers. When you see Isaac, willing to carry his own wood on his back to lay down his life to honor his father, he is pointing to Jesus who carries the cross on his back and lays down his life at the will of the Father.
Mars Hill Church, the whole Bible is about Jesus. We believe in good advice. There are things you should do to improve your life. We believe in good deeds. There are things that we want to do to love and serve you. But make no mistake, this whole book, from beginning to end, it’s about the good news. It’s about Jesus Christ, who he is, what he has done. He is God become a man. He is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no way to the Father but through him. There is no other name by which we will be saved. And from beginning to end, the whole book, it’s all, always, only about Jesus, amen?
This is the bedrock of where we stand, Mars Hill. The Bible is true—it’s all about Jesus. When the book is open and Jesus is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit shows up because that’s the book he wrote and that’s the person he loves to glorify. And Philip does this. Here they are sitting in the chariot. God goes to all these lengths for one person’s salvation. He’s reading Isaiah. What’s it about? Jesus.
ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
My last question, are you a Christian? Acts 8:36–40, they’re going along the road, they came to some water. Middle of the desert, God provides water. You know why? God provides. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Sense of urgency. I need to become a Christian today. You need to become a Christian today. Today! Right, this is a divine appointment between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
Today, let me tell you this, why are you here? Because this is a divine appointment between me and you. I’m in the position of Philip sent by God. You’re in the position of the Ethiopian eunuch, brought here by God so I could tell you that you need Jesus. And as he responded instantaneously, I need you to respond instantaneously. And he’s like, “I need to get baptized.” This shows the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus, how the Christian goes public to show externally what God has done internally. “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” They went down into the water. This is immersion, right? They dunk him, bring him up, just like Jesus was baptized. “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away.” I don’t know what this looks like. To me, it seems kind of Trekkie. I don’t know what happened. So you see what I’m saying here?
How many of you would be like, “Man, Philip you should stay with this guy. You should disciple him. You should walk with him.” No, you know why? He has the Holy Spirit now. Philip isn’t going to be with the guy, but the Holy Spirit will be with the guy and the Holy Spirit can take care of the guy, amen? God doesn’t need you. God doesn’t need me. He’ll use you and he’ll use me. But ultimately, if somebody belongs to Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in them, he will figure out the details. Rest assured in that. “And the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way”—what? “Rejoicing.” This is the mark of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer: rejoicing. Hey, my sins are forgiven! God loves me! He has a plan for me! I have entrance into his kingdom! Praise be to God! Jesus died for me! Jesus lives for me! Jesus judges me! I’ll stand before him! His righteousness is mine! On the cross, he took my place and put me in his place!
Some of you look only at all of your troubles and not your Savior, and you lack rejoicing. This guy’s whole life isn’t better. He’s still castrated, still got to go back to Ethiopia, 1,0000 mile road trip to work for a godless queen far away from the temple and God’s people. If he wants to be depressed, he can find a couple reasons for that. But instead, he’s rejoicing. Because I don’t care what your problem is, the biggest problem is not knowing Jesus. And once your biggest problem is dealt with, your other problems are still problems, but they’re problems in perspective. “But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” He’s going to do this again and again and again.
First question, are you a Christian? Not born into a Christian family, born again into the family of God. Not sprinkled as a baby, but committed as an adult. Not a decision that your parents made, but the Holy Spirit compelled you to make. Are you a Christian? He was a moral guy. He was reading his Bible. He was going to worship. He was religious. It’s not about religion, it’s not about spirituality, it’s not about morality. It’s about you and Jesus. That’s what it’s all about.
Are you a Christian? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you love Jesus? Do you belong to Jesus? Have you submitted to Jesus? Have you surrendered to Jesus? If not, have a sense of urgency. This, make no mistake, friend, is your divine appointment day. God brought me, God brought you, the Spirit brought us both together. I can serve you, I can speak to you, only Jesus can save you. Would you trust in him? Would you give your sin to him? Would you walk out of here with him as a Christian? You can do that right now. It’s a decision of the heart, the mind, and the will. God knows your thoughts and he receives your soul. Would you become a Christian today? Has God been working on you? Has he been ripening and preparing you? Is today the day of your harvest? Are you part of the fruit of the gospel of Jesus Christ? I want you to become a Christian today. If today you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, open it and invite the Holy Spirit to bring the love of Jesus to you.
Secondly, have you been baptized? Baptism is where we show the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was in our place for our sins, that he’s alive and he’s our Savior. Some of you are going to become Christians today and you didn’t know this was your divine appointment day. He didn’t know that that was his day. But this is the day that God has chosen for you. You’re not here by circumstance, happenstance, or chance. You’re here by God’s sovereign providence.
Some of you are going to be Christians today, and you need to go ahead and get baptized just as he did. What is to prevent me from being baptized? The answer is no one and nothing. No one and nothing. Once you’re committed to Jesus, you want to go public with your faith and you want to be consistent with your faith. We don’t know from the Scriptures, but we know from history that this man, by all accounts, stayed faithful to the Lord Jesus, the Ethiopian eunuch did. Irenaeus, a 2nd century church father says that he went on to be an evangelist back to Ethiopia, leading people to Jesus and baptizing them. We don’t know what God has for you, but I’m assuming it could be something wonderful if you’re filled with the Holy Spirit and sent on mission with Jesus.
Some of you have been Christians for a while and you’ve not been baptized. You need to be baptized in obedience to Jesus. Baptism doesn’t save you, but it shows how Jesus saves you. His death, burial, resurrection, that’s our salvation, amen? And at Mars Hill, if people get saved, we get excited! When people get baptized, we get excited, because if the Ethiopia eunuch is going to rejoice, we need to rejoice. And here’s what the Bible says, “When one sinner repents, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels.” That’s God rejoicing. That’s God rejoicing. We want to share in God’s joy. We want you to share in God’s joy.
So, we’re going to invite you to give your life to Jesus. And to do that, all you need to do is just go to the foyer. We love you. You got questions, we want to answer them. You got parts of the Bible that you’re struggling with, we want to talk about that. If you want to begin a conversation about Jesus, we welcome you to the foyer right now to have that conversation. Don’t waste any time. For those of you who are ready to become Christians, go to the foyer. We want to meet with you, talk with you, pray for you, care for you, give you a Bible, help you, love you, serve you.
Some of you say, “I didn’t know I was going to get baptized today. I didn’t bring a change of clothes.” We knew, so we got towels, we got shorts, we got T-shirts. We’re all ready to go. We’re ready to love, serve, and celebrate with you. And if you’re someone who has not been baptized, but you become a Christian today, or you’ve been a Christian for a while, join us in the foyer. We’re going to interview you, and then we’re going to baptize you, and we’re going to celebrate with you, and we’re going to leave here rejoicing together, amen? So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to open the doors and you can go to the foyer if you want to become a Christian, got questions about Jesus, and/or you want to get baptized.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND
We’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. This is the end of our fiscal year. Our fiscal year goes from July through June. June is our last month of the fiscal year. I want you to be generous. We want to finish it strong and get set up for a great next year. As we collect our tithes and offerings, thank you to everyone who gives generously so that the message of Jesus can go out.
Then we’re going to see an amazing vision video. We’re going to hear about the testimony of God’s work at Mars Hill Church. The book of Acts is, in many regards, a report of the Holy Spirit’s work through the church. And this is to show you the Holy Spirit’s work through our church, including the work we support in India, Ethiopia, and all of the 15 Mars Hill churches.
I want you to leave here today rejoicing. And we’ll also take Communion, showing Jesus’ broken body and shed blood for our sins. Baptism is about Jesus’ resurrection. Communion is about Jesus’ crucifixion. Giving is about Jesus’ generosity. God so loved the world he gave us his Son. And mission is about more people meeting Jesus, amen?
I want you to share in the joy and see what he’s been doing. You know, I’ve still not lost a sense of awe in what Jesus is doing here. God has been doing a tremendous work. For me, it’s been so encouraging to be at a church where people love Jesus, and people love the Bible, and people love one another. I feel that Mars Hill has an amazing opportunity to fund evangelists to go preach the gospel for people to be saved by Jesus, to grow in Jesus, and then for them to be on mission with Christ’s mission.
Now, the Ethiopian eunuch is an amazing story because it’s really—it’s the first time in the book of Acts that we see the gospel going to the ends of the earth. When we find the Ethiopian eunuch, he really shows up in verse 27, where it says, “And he”—that would be Philip—“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 of her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning.”
I just want to encourage you today because Jesus is using us and working through us to reach the ends of the earth. Praise God! Praise God! There is now enough water, so praise God. And thank Mars Hill churches for water and going here, supporting, and praying for evangelism to reach Ethiopia. Right now, we have 43 planters that are here in Ethiopia, going out and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Last year, 843 people were saved by Jesus Christ. I think our responsibility, according to the Bible, according to the book of Acts, is that we—our duty is not only to preach in Jerusalem, but to the outermost parts of the world. Whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, that’s what we are called to do. The beginnings of Mars Hill Church, Pastor Mark and the elders of Mars Hill, started supporting Arjuna and the church planting here in India. And since that time, Arjuna’s planted literally thousands of churches in India. Massive—the Lord has used Arjuna in a massive way. A person may not be able to go to India, but a person can support a ministry in India through different ways. One is, of course, through prayer, a lot, as the needs are brought together.
Number two is financial support. We praise the Lord for you all for doing this great ministry of our Lord which shows a great love of our Lord through the Mars Hill Church people. Yeah, I’ve been thinking of praying a lot lately about what is sort of the bedrock of Mars Hill Church and what will our future be. And I think it’s really basically two things. It’s learning and loving, opening the Bible to learn about Jesus and opening our lives to love like Jesus. And I’d say, if those are the two pedals on the bike, we’re going to keep rolling down the road if we’re learning and loving. I think everything else flows out of those two things. And so the future of Mars Hill really is less about results, numbers, and achievements, and it’s more about being faithful to those two things, learning about Jesus and loving like Jesus. And I think if we do that, some great things are in store for us. You know, at the end of the day, the vision is simple. It’s all about Jesus. When everything comes crashing and tumbling down, when the concrete crumbles, we’re left with Jesus. And I hope that if Mars Hill Church leaves behind a legacy, it’s just that the kingdom is continuing to advance and that one day we’re going to see Jesus face to face, and that’s going to be a glorious day.
I’m very grateful to be a part of this family. I mean, there’s no—I mean, as a lead pastor, as a staff guy, you know, we could choose to be at another place, and there’s no other place I’d rather choose to be. Like, this is where the Great Commission is active. Lost people are being saved, people are being baptized, and then people are being discipled to be more like Jesus. My hope is that the legacy of Mars Hill Church will simply be this. Those people loved Jesus, and they were loved by Jesus so incredibly that the love of Christ just got everywhere. And people who met them knew Jesus is alive, Jesus has saved sinners because they’re a sinner and they’ve experienced salvation, and I know what it’s like to experience the love of Christ because that person has loved me in the love they received from Christ.
We are a family, and you look at the family, there’s no perfect family, but we all depend on one another, depend on Jesus’ grace so we could continue to grow in repentance for the glory of Christ and the glory of his church. To come on a Sunday and just watch, you know, the enthusiasm of the volunteers, to watch the response, you know, in singing and the sermon—just to watch people interacting, praying together, coming forward, asking for prayer. I mean, it really is. It’s just a work of God’s grace. I love watching people meet Jesus because of, just, the church’s zealousness for the gospel. I mean, the people of Mars Hill, I mean, they are the reason that we get to do what we do. We are blessed to be able to lead the people that are here.
And so, I want to thank them for everything that they’ve done, thank the people from all the Mars Hill locations who’ve given faithfully, who’ve served faithfully, who’ve loved Jesus with everything that they have in them because you know what? Like, it makes our job and it makes our life just an absolute joy to be able to be a part of what God’s doing here. Thank you for giving, for serving, for loving, for caring, and for seeing that the gospel would go forward. What do you say to someone who’s part of your family and you’re like, “You love me well, thank you.” There are really no words to say, “Thank you for loving me well.” Our church is just very generous. They always have been. It’s been a great blessing to see that. You know, thanks for being faithful. Thanks for serving the Lord. Thanks for looking to Jesus. Honestly, I’m hesitant to use the word “ideal,” but I have felt very loved, very welcomed, very supported by the people, by the members, and by the leaders of Mars Hill Shoreline. Thank you for supporting us. Ultimately, the support, whether that’s through giving or whether that’s through prayer, is incredibly appreciated as we really focus on the mission of Jesus here in U-District. Bible teaching and Bible preaching is going to be lifeblood of Mars Hill.
Then I think where we’re going to continue to grow is in our ability to love people. Learning about the Bible and loving people is really what the future is going to be about, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Yeah, the complexity of Mars Hill is overwhelming, and the number of people that make it happen is absolutely amazing. I can’t even honestly conceive of the number of people and the hours that they are giving to make Mars Hill continue to operate, exist, grow, and flourish as a church. And so, man, deeply, profoundly, incredibly, sincerely grateful just for the generosity of their time, talent, and treasure to be so kind as to give so much of themselves to help so many.
Thank you, Mars Hill. Thank you, Mars Hill Church. Thank you, Mars Hill Church. Thank you, Mars Hill Church. If you met Jesus today or if you’re a Christian and you’ve never been baptized, I want to invite you again to come right over here, talk to someone with a lanyard on, and they’ll tell you more about Jesus, more about what we believe about baptism. I would encourage you to be faithful, to be obedient to what the Spirit would be doing in your heart right now. We’re going to stand together, we’re going to celebrate in singing and watching people express through baptism their faith in Jesus Christ who saves us.
Note: This sermon transcript has been edited for readability.
We can’t make something ripe. It takes time, especially one’s spiritual life. We have to lovingly, patiently wait until the time is right. Then we tell them about Jesus, love them, serve them, and instruct them. It’s only then that their hearts will open to Jesus as he’s been preparing them.