I wonder if Philip was surprised by all the things God did through him. Back in chapter six of Acts he was just helping hand out alms to widows, waiting on tables as the apostles called it. He had just be elected a deacon in his church. It was a nice job, pretty easy, not a big deal, not to demanding. You know how some people think about deacons. They are sort of junior elders, they are the lower tier of spiritual leaders. Deacons is for the younger men, those starting out, like apprentices. But clearly God doesn’t look at it that way. Deacons are spiritual leaders gifted and equipped for important spiritual work. There is nothing second class about it. There are different roles and responsibilities, just as there are differences between men and women, husbands and wives, pastors and lay people. We should celebrate and honor the differences without ever slipping into suggesting one is better. In chapter 8 of Acts Philip has been used of God with great power and influence. Philip is the one who spreads the Gospel to Samaria and to Africa. He wasn’t an apostle, he wasn’t a professional evangelist, but God doesn’t just use pros. By His Spirit’s power and gifts, God can and will and wants to use every one of us for His glory and the blessing of others. Be open, be willing, be ready. Don’t despise the gifts he has given you. God loves to glorify Himself through what seems weak and foolish. Pray and ask Him to use you.
Last week we considered the persecution that followed in the wake of Stephen’s death, the first martyr of the early church. This morning we come to consider the first missionary of the early church. The ancient church father, Tertullian, once wrote, the more you kill us the more we will multiply, every drop of our blood will spring up, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold (Apology, ch. 50).
John begins verse 7 with what sounds like discouraging news. There are many deceivers who have gone out into the world. He doesn’t want believers to be naïve about how many, they are not rare, but commonplace. Don’t be discouraged about all the false teaching in the church in the world. Jesus said again and again there would be false angels, false spirits, false apostles, false teachers, false evangelists, false missionaries, false shepherds, false messiahs, anti-christs, wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is nothing new here, no surprises. This is the work of Satan, it has never ceased and won’t until Christ returns and puts an end to it. The enemy never rests and the enemy is very subtle. Our world is filled with thousands of cults with millions of followers, false religions, liberal theologies, and worldly ideologies. There are over five thousand cults with millions of followers. Many of them once attended a church. But we need not fear, “And though this world with devils filled.” Jesus is on His throne and He will not be overthrown and the gates of hell will not prevail against His blood-bought Church.
In our culture today which would you say is more important, truth or love? I think the answer is pretty obvious. Love trumps everything. Truth is relative, diversity and tolerance are all the rage. People who stand for truth are labeled haters speaking hate speech. Unyielding commitment to the truth is called unloving. Truth has been sacrificed on the altar of love. We are told truth divides and separates us from love, because it makes distinctions and calls error error. We are told doctrine divides and love unites. Today love is defined as tolerance without the truth. Love is never challenging someone’s views. Love is refusing to label anything as wrong. One example is the view of marriage. It is no longer culturally acceptable to say marriage is only between one man and one woman. That is too exclusive, elitist, narrow, unfair. It marginalizes people who feel and think differently, and want all the rights and benefits even if they don’t believe God’s will and purpose for marriage. Predictably it won’t stop at same-sex unions. Recently the American Psychological Association announced it is opening the door to polygamous relationships or what are now called polyamorous relationships. If we throw out God’s definition of marriage, then anything and everything goes. Why not a marriage with three or four or more people? Who can stand up against that? If gender doesn’t matter then why should number matter? There is no end to the folly of godlessness. If there is no God then everything is permitted.
We are returning to the Book of Acts this morning. This is Luke’s history of the early church. We started with Jesus’ ascension into heaven, then Pentecost and the phenomenal growth of the early church which lead to the formation of deacons to help with the work. One of them was Stephen who became the first martyr in the Christian church. He was stoned to death by an angry mob of Jews. All of this was watched over by Saul who was approving it.
I am going to start my sermon this morning by telling you the destination, where we are going. Then I am going to back up and tell you why we are going there and how we will get there. If this was a big bus and I announced that we are going to go the Thudpucker, Arkansas, I am sure I would have to make a good case for why in the world would we go there, or I might have a mutiny on my hands. So, this morning our destination is to call First CRC to become a prayer advocate church for the nation of Nigeria and specifically for the Muslim Hausa frontier people group in northern Nigeria. Now already a few of you are thinking, I would rather go to Thudpucker, Arkansas. So, let’s back up and talk about the bigger picture and then zero in on why that destination.