Jan 20, 2019 | Taylor Rutland

The Spirit Transforms

We are in a third week of our series entitled, When Love Comes to Town focusing on encounters that lead to transformation. Today we move away from the Gospels to look at a story in Acts 8:26-40. 

Rely on the Spirit:

"And the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over and join this chariot.'" — Acts 8:29

Philip responds to the angel of the Lord’s request and travels down the road. Luke’s description of the road to Gaza is a deserted place. This is not a place with a mass group of people. It wasn’t an opportunity for Philip to preach to the masses. Earlier in Acts 8 Philip had gone to Samaria, and proclaimed the gospel to the crowds. But would he be faithful to God’s call on his life for the one person. I can identify with this scenario. I love teaching to a crowd full of people, the larger the crowd the more excited I get, but what if only one person shows up? Do I have as much energy and excitement to teach God’s word to one person?

Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch who is a royal official. In the Greco-Roman world, people had great admiration and wonder for those from Ethiopia. They came from a far off place, and their dark skin was not something normally seen.

The transformation in your own life or anyone else’s life begins with the Spirit drawing people’s hearts to Jesus. The first step that you must take is to begin praying for that person. The salvation of another individual will not rise and fall with your knowledge of the Bible, with your persuasive words, or with your ability to answer every question that someone has about God. It will begin with the Spirit of God helping them to realize that they need a relationship with Jesus. You are not the one who is responsible for saving them. Take the pressure off of yourself. Your journey to a friend, family member, or coworker coming to Christ begins with a burden that you have for someone you love.

  • Relying on the Spirit is difficult for us as Western Christians. In fact, it is much harder for us than for believers in other parts of the world. The philosopher Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Ageargues that one of the central transformation of the past 500 years is a shift from the porous self to the buffered self. The porous self is open to external forces like demons, spirits, and witches. But the buffered self is much more resistant to external forces because the buffered self believes that at our core we are the center of the universe and we decide what influences us and what doesn’t. Relying on the Spirit means that we will need to be sensitive to all of the ways that modern culture teaches us to put ourselves at the center instead of God.

 Sit Down with Them:

"'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." — Acts 8:31

The Ethiopian invited Philip to sit with him. When you sit down with someone it indicates that you are willing to spend time with them. This is why groups have standing meetings. This is an indication that it won’t take a long time because when you sit down people think it’s going to take longer. If you have ever been invited into someone’s house or someone’s office and they say have a seat it indicates I want to spend time with you.

When sharing the Gospel with someone it often takes time, and time means that you will have to sit down with them. There is certainly a time and place for sharing your story while standing, but in our world today people have lots of questions and they want more information sometimes than just a 1 minute story can offer. Spending lengthy amounts of time on people or projects is not our strength as Americans. In fact, we normally want to accomplish as many tasks as possible in the shortest amount of time.

  • In his book The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin argues that while multitasking is prized by our society it has serious physiological effects on our brains. Multitasking increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. In addition, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias which means its attention can be easily hijacked by something new, and yet this is the part of the brain that is needed to stay on task. So we answer the phone, check the internet, send an email or a text and every time we do we tweak the novelty-seeking, reward-seeking centers of our brain all to the detriment of staying on task.

So the question is, Who are you sitting down with? Who is currently in your life that you know is not a follower of Christ and you are currently praying for them, sharing Jesus with them, and burdened for them?

I told you a few weeks ago that I had developed a plan for our church to be more deliberate about reaching out to those in our spheres of influence. We are calling it 4 the City, and here is what I want you to do. Identify 4 people in your life. One family member, one coworker, one neighbor, and one person that you hang out with maybe someone you know at the gym, someone on your child’s sports team, a parent at your kid’s school, someone you play basketball with, etc.

Take those 4 people, and in this year do these four things with them commit to:

  1. Pray for them every day;
  2. Invite them to be a part of your life: Mardi Gras parades, super bowl parties, church events, and family dinners;
  3. Share your life them when you read a good book talk about it with them, when you read a good article share it with them, share what is going on in your life, be willing to be vulnerable with them;
  4. Tell them about Jesus.

There is a commitment card for everyone to fill out today. This is not going away ok. Every Sunday we will have some way to emphasize this whether it be us sharing a resource with you that you could share with someone, whether it be praying for one of the individuals, passing out invite cards for you to give to people, or highlighting your stories of sharing the gospel with your friends. We are in this together. We are going to hold one another accountable, and we are going to watch God work. We are going to spend 2019 sitting down with people.

Get to Jesus:

"Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus." — Acts 8:35

Philip begins with the prophecy from Isaiah but he doesn’t stay there. He moves to Jesus. As you dialogue with people you have to get to Jesus. The conversation must shift to him. There are going to be encounters that you have with people, and they are going to want to know all sorts of other information about the Bible. When was it written, can we trust it, when were dinosaurs roaming the earth, how can Jesus be the only to heaven, and so on and so on.

Start with Jesus. Tell them politely that all of their questions are good questions, but I’d really like to tell you what sets Jesus apart from everyone else. I love that Luke tells us that Philip opened his mouth. I think that is fairly obvious, but sometimes we are willing to do everything to follow Jesus except open our mouth and actually talk about him. Until you bring Jesus into the conversation you are just like every other person in the world trying to live a good life and make the world a better place, and you do not need Jesus to do either of those things. I’ve told you many times that I know a lot of people who are better human beings than me so I don’t need Jesus to make me a moral and good person. but I do need him to save me.

So when you do talk about Jesus you need to get to the cross. Luke tells us that Philip told the good news about Jesus. The good news about Jesus is that he took our place on the cross. That the judgment and wrath of God that was supposed to be for us Jesus took on willingly because he loved us. People need to know that Jesus loves them, and that he died for them. That’s what they need to know.

We often hear this, people don’t want to be told that they need something. They want to discover what is true for them, and they don’t want to be preached at. I’m not asking you to preach at them. I want you to have a conversation with them. I am asking you to be their neighbor.

  • Rosaria Butterfield wrote a book entitled, The Gospel Comes with a House Key. The premise of the book is that as followers of Jesus we are called to exhibit what she calls radically ordinary hospitality. I am convinced that many of us have forgotten what it is like to practice the ordinary everyday practice of hospitality. We haven’t forgotten how on purpose, but in the busyness of our lives we have simply lost time to be hospitable. Her book is a call back to hospitality. She says, “Our post-Christian neighbors need to hear and see and taste and feel authentic Christianity, hospitality spreading from every Christian home that includes neighbors in prayer, food, friendship, childcare, dog walking, and all the daily matters upon which friendships are built.” As you seek out these people in the different groups you already have something in common with these people. They run in a similar circle as you for a reason so focus on the areas where you have common interests and build up the friendship from there.

 Join In the Transformation:

"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." — Acts 8:39

Immediately after sharing the Gospel with the man he desired to be baptized. There was an immediate transformation in this man’s life. Luke tells us the man went away rejoicing.

Unfortunately for Philip he was not able to stick around and watch the transformation in this man’s life, but most likely the Spirit of the Lord is not going to carry you and me away after we share the Gospel with people. Therefore, you get to be a part of the transformation. Once a person professes faith in Christ your work with them is not done. It is just beginning. This is when they need you more than ever.

So how do you join in the transformation in another person’s life? It’s not a matter of you knowing all of the answers. Most everyone in the room has heard of the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. But Dr. Allen Tough developed the 70/20/10 principle in his book The Adult’s Learning Projects, which has since been elaborated and expanded by others. The principle states that 70% of our learning comes by doing, 20% by interaction with a coach or mentor, 10% learning by formal lecture. But did you know traditionally when we disciple adults in church we do just the opposite. We spend 70% of our time teaching them, 20% talking about it, and only 10% doing it. So if you wanna join in the transformation process of someone I suggest you spend the majority of your time doing something with them. If you are discipling them read the bible with them, memorize scripture with them, then spend 20% of your time discussing what you are learning, and only 10% of your time should be spent you talking.

I know some of you are scared to death right now. The thought of intentionally reaching out of your comfort zone horrifies you. But sometimes you need a little chaos in your life. Jordan Peterson wrote a book entitled, 12 Rules for Life, and he writes about the difference between order and chaos. He says that while we want order chaos is actually when we are challenged. He says, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. It’s time for us as s church to explore the unknown. To take a new risk in 2019 by reaching out to these people. You have order in Christ, now reach out and begin exploring the unknown through your relationships because just like Peterson writes in his book chaos is when are actually challenged. This is a win-win for everyone today. If God moves in people’s lives than they are new creations in Christ, and if they are not interested in doing life with you than you identity is still in Christ. These risks don’t impact your identity. So let’s be 4 the city.

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