22 April 2024

Faithful Obedience and Mutual Learning in the Christian Journey

From March 15 to 18, 2024, Apostle Lodewick made a visit to Japan. During his stay, he celebrated Divine Service at the Tama Church, where he could seal a soul with the Holy Spirit. Following the Service, members engaged in a fellowship with the Apostle, delving into discussions about faith and spiritual matters, while also showcasing their musical talents.



My dearly beloved connected through the internet and also present in the congregation. Our Chief Apostle, and our district Apostle are not far from us. They’re in Thailand, and I sent a message to them. I said, "Please, can I give the Chief Apostle's greetings and the District Apostle's greetings to the Tama and Japanese congregation?" And I got a message back, “Please give my greetings of love."


So my brothers and sisters, now we have a Bible text word for this morning which comes out of Acts 8:30-31. "So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah and say, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'How can I understand less someone guides me?' And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”


My dearly beloved, I'm truly thankful and joyful to be with all of you today. I know it's been well quite a while actually. And I just want to remind you firstly about something. Our Chief Apostle was here in August last year. And he has very fond memories, of the time when he was here. And I thought, I must think back a little bit: “What was the Service about when he served us?” The Bible text word that he used was from John 10:9, and it reads as follows, "I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” And the Chief Apostle spoke about the shepherd, and the sheep, and the door that's open for all. And then when I was sitting in the sacristy [this morning], I opened your hymnal. And I saw the very first hymn, number 28, “We love the place, O God.” That was the opening hymn for the Service of the Chief Apostle. 


So today, I want to ask you a question. You don't need to answer me, but yourself: “Is your door still open for the Word of God? Is your door still open for the teaching of God’s word? And is your door still open to believe and to accept that Christ is returning, and to the opening hymn, “We love the place, O God?” I hope that is still the case with you. 


So my dear beloved, now our Bible text word for this morning: It's about a time when there was this man from Ethiopia. And there was this man called Philip. He was an Evangelist, a Minister. And he was prepared to testify and to speak about Jesus Christ and God, he was willing to preach the gospel, which means he became a tool and an instrument in the hands of God. If we read  chapter eight where our Bible text word comes from, it speaks about this man called Philip, the Evangelist, who went to Samaria and preached the word. He baptized the people who believed, and then he stopped. And then he called the Apostles to come to seal them with the Holy Spirit. So he fulfilled his ministry. And then he knew that the Apostle ministry was required for the Holy Sealing. Such was this Evangelist, a bearer of a priestly ministry.


Now there was this man from Ethiopia in Africa - I myself was born in Africa. This man from Africa was a treasurer for the queen. He was a man of knowledge and of trust. And he must have been educated, because he heard and he read about the teaching of Christianity, because in the place where he was from, in that time, they were always worshipping idols, and did many other strange things, witchcraft and all those things. But he had heard about Christianity, and he came to Jerusalem, he was going to find out some more. So it says in our Bible text word that he then went to Jerusalem, and he heard that he must pray and sacrifice. Because he was not Jewish, he was not allowed into the temple. There were all these restrictions. But he was looking around, he prayed and he brought his sacrifice, his offering. But he still didn't think he had met Jesus or “Oh, I've met God.”  Now, God saw all of this. I just want to stop it for a moment, my dear brothers and sisters, all of us we may not have been ordained into the ministry. But we are all Evangelists. What is an Evangelist? It's one that brings the gospel. It’s one that brings the message. It's one that serves, it's one that is willing. It's one that says, "Father, pick me up as an instrument or a tool in Your hands." So we have many instances to find ourselves in a situation when someone is looking, and maybe we could respond. So are we always prepared to be a tool in the hands of God?  God knows everything. 


Now we come back to Philip, and in the verses before our Bible text word it says: “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south, along the road, which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza’” (verse 26). Firstly, God had the confidence to speak to him, because He knew Philip would do what God asked him to do. My dearly beloved, God has the confidence in all of us as His children that we will try to do our best. Now I must show my confidence in God, through my trust, through my faith, through me coming to church, and being happy to be here, and wanting to hear what God has got to say to me. Philip had a very good relationship with God, through His praise, through his faith, through his trust, and through his experience.


So Now Philip was told by this angel, “You must get up and go somewhere.” Brothers and sisters, sometimes I need someone to say to me, “Hey, get up and go.” Maybe sometimes on a Sunday morning, maybe sometimes when we can connect to the transmission service, or sometimes when we feel lazy. There are many other things that I want to do. But what did Philip do? He got up, and he went. And now it says in verse 27: “So Philip, he got up, and he went. And behold, the man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority, who had charge of all her treasury, he now was returning from Jerusalem (verse 27). Because this man from Africa, Ethiopia, was the Queen's treasurer, he did not have to walk. He was in a chariot, maybe a horse and cart, maybe a donkey and cart, I'm not sure. But there was an animal that was helping him, he didn't have to walk by himself. So now Philip saw this. And the Spirit said, "You must go and you must run to get past this chariot." My dearly beloved, sometimes God says to us, "To overcome your challenges, or to overcome those things which are separating you from God, you cannot walk anymore, but now you must run." Walking means, “Ah, I will do it tomorrow, or do it the next day. Running means there's an urgency. Running means that we want to reach some place. Running means we are serious.  How serious are we about our faith? How seriously do we want to learn more about the gospel of Christ in preparing ourselves for the return of Christ? What was Philip’s response when the Spirit said, "You must run?" Verse 30 says, "So Philip ran to him." Brothers and sisters, in all our situations, good and not so good, run to God, run to Christ in your prayer. Because prayer works. Speak to God, come to His word, and experience the love of God.


So now Philip ran to him, and Philip heard what the man was reading. He wanted to know more, but didn't understand. Brothers and sisters, we must read to know more, to know more about Jesus Christ. Do you know more about the fruit of the Spirit? Do you know more about forgiveness? Do you know more about Holy Communion? Do you know more about eternal life? Do we understand everything? We don’t. I don't understand everything. But God reveals it to us as when we read, but I must make the effort. I must make use of the opportunities to learn more, to know more to develop my relationship with God. 


So now, Philip came to the carriage. God had seen two things, the Ethiopian, wanting to know more; Philip, a servant, willing to teach, willing to testify, willing to help and willing to share what he knew. So now Philip said to this Ethiopian, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian could have said, "Who are you? Mind your own business." Philip could have said, "Oh, he’s an educated man, he's on a carriage. How can I speak to him?" But Philip responded to God's instruction, not knowing what the outcome would be. This instance shows we don't always know what the outcome is going to be in our lives. Just respond to God's instruction. And God? It doesn't mean no adverse circumstances. It doesn't mean no sorrow. It doesn't mean no disappointments, but if God is for us and with us, who can be against us? I repeat, my dearly beloved, Trust your God! Use your faith and experience to love God. "If you're a good man, he turns to you, Philip.” And he said to Philip, "I don't understand. How could I understand unless someone helps me to understand." Brothers and sisters, I've said before in the service “we don't understand everything.” “We may not understand everything today or tomorrow. But God has revealed to us what is needed and necessary. God will help us to manage what we do not understand. But we need to remain connected to the word, connected to the altar of grace, connected to forgiveness of sins, connected to the body and blood of Christ. And then God will guide us. God will help us to understand more. It doesn't matter how long it will take. God provides for us what we need. 


And then the Ethiopian said to Philip, "Come on my carriage, sit next to me." And he allowed Philip to explain. Brothers and sisters, what is this carriage in our time? It's the congregation; it's the church. God says to us, "Come up into the carriage. And God says to us, "Sit next to me. I will help you to understand."  Brothers and sisters, the carriage may be a bit of a rough ride sometimes. Sometimes our life is a little bit of a rough ride. God will guide us. He's with us. He will help.


So after Philip now had spoken to him and explained to him, this man understood and said to Philip, "Oh, can I be baptized?” Obviously he understood. To be in the kingdom of God, you must be firstly baptized with water, and Philipp had the authority to do that. And then Philip baptized him.

And then in the very last verse of this chapter, it says that this Ethiopian went on his way happy and rejoicing. Brothers and sisters, I hope after every divine service we leave happy and rejoicing because through the word God spoke to us, God guided us, helped us to understand more, and we sat in the carriage next to God,. So my dearly beloved, I can sincerely hope that from this story of the Bible, we can see, maybe, I need to run a little bit with more faith and trust. Look a little bit more to understand what the servant of God has got to teach you and then to rejoice that we have been children of God, that we have received the promise “I will come again and take you unto myself.”


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