The Covenanted Committed Church (Part 25)

Covenant1Let us conclude our consideration of the church covenant with a challenge. Our final statement is one of commitment to engaging in missions.

As a body of born again believers,

We covenant to become an authentic family by

loving one another as Christ loves us,

praying for one another,

speaking truth to one another in love,

being patient with one another,

protecting one another,

considering one another as more important than ourselves.

We covenant to embrace the whole gospel by

studying God’s Word faithfully,

learning the gospel together in family worship,

giving ear only to sound doctrine,

living out the gospel in our lives,

embracing the whole counsel of God.

We covenant to bring glory to God by

gathering for worship faithfully,

singing to the glory of God,

joining together in fervent prayer,

doing good works to the Father’s glory,

living lives that reflect the beauty of Christ,

giving offerings to God joyfully and faithfully.

We covenant to reach the nations by

sharing the gospel with those around us,

reaching out to the poor and the needy,

praying for the cause of missions in the world,

giving to the financial support of missions,

being personally involved in missions as God leads and as we are able.

In order to unpack the mindset and heart-set that must be in place for us to be involved in missions, we will consider Philip’s engagement with the Ethiopian Eunuch inActs 8.

Will you commit to allowing your calling as a witness to be greater than your comfort?

In Acts 7 Stephen, the deacon, is martyred after his bold proclamation of the gospel. As a result, the church is scattered in the face of intense persecution. However, as the church is scattered, she takes the gospel with her, and what Satan intended for harm God intended for good. Philip, for instance, ends up in Samaria, where he has a fruitful ministry. Beginning in verse 26, however, we see God calling him to a new ministry, a new moment of missional engagement.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he 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 her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Bluntly, without prior warning, an angel appears to Philip and offers two commands from the Lord on high: “Riseand go!” Not only does this reveal the missionary heart of God in its call to action, it also reveals it in its call away from comfort. To understand this we need to understand that Philip’s situation at the time of this call was one of ministerial success. While he was part of the scattered church, he was witnessing amazing things in Samaria, as we read earlier in Acts 8:

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

For ministers, this is a wonderful picture! Philip had large crowds, he had a true ministry, he had unity among the believers, and he had their attention. He was being used mightily by God! And Philip was also seeing the amazing phenomenon of joy in the church and the city! In short, things were pretty good! He was doing well! By any of the metrics we employ today to determine the health of a church or ministry, Philip was doing great. But the angel comes into the midst of this success and comfort and calls Philip away. He calls him abruptly and he calls him to a road in “a desert place.” Why? So that Philip could have an encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch, a lone individual that God wanted him to meet.

Imagine this! God tells Philip to leave his ministerial success, to leave his active and thriving work as a preacher, and go to a desert place to meet one person from a foreign country. This is most telling! It tells us that we can never rest on our laurels. We must ever and always be on mission! It tells us that God sees not only the crowd but the individual. It tells us that God cares not only for the masses in the city but for the sojourner in the desert places. It tells us that God is strategic and that His plans often defy what we might see as “common sense.” Where is the sense, for instance, in leaving the many to go to the one, in leaving the city to go to the desert place, in leaving success to go to uncertainty? The sense is in the fact that God knows more than we know and sees more than we see and knows exactly what He is doing!

So I ask you:will you commit to allowing your calling as a witness to be greater than your comfort?Will you go where God calls you to go even if it does not, from your perspective, “make sense”? Have you even left room open in your relationship with God for Him to call you away from what you are doing to what He wants you to do? Or have you ruled it out from the get-go? It is an exciting adventure to be on mission with and for God, but it is one that requires trust and courage!

Will you commit to allowing the seriousness of your calling as a witness to lead you to a sense of urgency in reaching the lost?

Philip goes to the road in the desert place and then the Spirit speaks to Him.

29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”

Philip’s reaction is most inspiring:

30a So Philip ran to him

Philip runs! Time and again in the scriptures we see the people of God running toward those who need to hear good news! Consider the reaction of the prodigal son’s father when he sees his son in the distance in Luke 15:

20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

He ran, embraced and kissed him! Why? Because he had a sense of urgency! His son was as dead but now he was returning to life! He had been in darkness but now he was stepping into light! People with good news cannot wait to get it to people who need it! So they run! We see the same in Matthew 28 with the women at the empty tomb:

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Walk to tell others that Jesus is alive? Are you kidding me? No, we have to runwith such news as this! Why? Because this news changes everything! This news is world-altering and life-changing!

Church, if we really believe that we have good news and if we really believe that this news is the difference between life and death, we will run into the darkness with it! We will run toward the hurting and the lowly! How could we do otherwise.

Want to know what happens to a Christian who is not running toward the darkness? They begin to stroll. Want to know what happens to a Christian who scrolls instead of running? They begin to look around. Want to know what happens to a Christian who starts looking around instead of running on mission for God? He begins to notice stuff he would not have noticed before: silly stuff, irrelevant stuff, unimportant stuff. While others are running on mission he begins to think inordinately about carpet or the length of sermons or the style of music or countless other things. Want to know what happens then? He begins to forget about his mission altogether and begins to elevate these silly things in importance. He begins to complain and then campaign and then draw others into his diversions. Then, if this spreads through the body enough, he will draw others away from running on mission to strolling through their preferences. Camps form. Lines are drawn. Divisions surface. But not over things that matter. No, this happens over things that do not matter. And if not dealt with entire churches divide over silly things like this.

Church, here me: be so busy running for Jesus that you do not have time to notice, much less worry or divide, over things that do not matter! Philip ran to that chariot! Had you been there and asked him to stop and answer a question like, “So what color should we paint the walls of the church back in Samaria?” he would have said, “What are you talking about man! God has called me to go to that chariot! I do not have time for such silly trifles! Paint it whatever you want! That guy is heading for hell and God wants me to tell him about Jesus!”

Show me a church that is obsessed with and divided over silly externals and I will show you a church that has lost its sense of mission and purpose! Show me a church that has the time and energy to bicker about bathroom fixtures and I will show you a church who has stopped caring about the eternal destinies of the lost! But show me a church that really believes that Jesus is the only way and really believes that the church is how Jesus gets to the world and I will show you a church that is so busy running with the light of the gospel toward and into the darkness of the fallen world that they would find the very idea of stopping to bicker about such trifles utterly obscene!

Church, will you commit to allowing the seriousness of your calling as a witness to lead you to a sense of urgency in reaching the lost?

Will you commit to becoming serious enough apprentices of Jesus and students of the Word that you can have meaningful conversations with the lost about Jesus?

What happens next raises yet another question, and this is a question about our preparedness to engage people strategically with the word of God, the scriptures. Watch how Philip’s encounter with the eunuch unfolds:

30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Philip finds the Ethiopian eunuch reading the book of Isaiah. Tellingly, the eunuch says that he needs help. The key verse is verse 35:

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Here is the question: if you were presented with a situation like this—on a plane or in a car or at work or at school or in a chariot!—could verse 35 be written about you? Are you studying the word with enough diligence to be able to open your mouth, begin with the scripture where the person is, and tell the person the good news about Jesus? I am not asking if you know everything. None of us do! I am not asking if you are an academic Bible scholar. You do not need to be! No, I am asking whether or not you have immersed yourself in the word enough to be able to handle a situation like this.

Are you reading?

Are you studying?

Are you trying?

Are you read for thismoment?

And these questions raise another one:  Will you commit to becoming serious enough apprentices of Jesus and students of the Word that you can have meaningful conversations with the lost about Jesus?

The great tragedy of our day is that we comfortable Christians of the West are so at ease in Zion that we have lost the drive to know the word well enough to have a moment like this! And this despite the fact that we have more access to the scriptures than any other age of believers in the last two thousand years! It is nothing short of a scandal!

Perhaps you think, “Yes, but I do not get opportunities like this. This does not happen to me!” Maybe it has been there all along and you have not seen it. Maybe you have not wantedto see it. Or maybe there is an even more unsettling possibility: that God knows that we, in our laziness, are not ready and therefore cannot handle such a situation!

What if God would open more doors to us if we were more prepared?

Church, we have quite literally no justification for thinking that these missionary moments are not happening and cannot happen today! So are we ready? Are you ready? Am I ready?

It all begins with a basic commitment to follow Jesus, to carry the cross, to be His apprentice, and to learn His words and ways. Will you do that? Do you even want to do that? Do you wanta moment like Philip had with the Ethiopian eunuch? Are you fervently asking God, begging God for these moments, these open doors! And does your study of the scriptures warrant such a moment? Has your time in the word prepared you for such a moment?

Let us be ready! Let us covenant to be on mission for God! Let us covenant to follow our Savior King!

 

 

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