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“We’ve been exploring this concept of the quest we take toward figuring out who Jesus is, and we’ve talked about it in terms of “believing,” “becoming,” and “belonging.” Today we’re talking about the “believe” side of things. But before we kind of get into that, I have a question. What is the quest? What are the things that we look for? What are the things that we think we are searching for? What are the things for which we quest? … It’s an open question. (laughs)
“Good food” – yes!… or love of food – anyways. (laughs) We could go on that one for a while. What else?
“Meaning” – What does that mean? I think it’s kind of that sense to finding what’s valuable in what we’re doing now, and maybe in some sort of sense. What else?
“Destiny” – That’s kind of, once again, in the sense of like, “Is there something purposeful? Am I just mixing around atoms in a random way, or is this going somewhere?” (pause)… (laugh) You have a good one? Oh, you liked my joke and everyone was surprised. (laughs) What else?
“Family.” Yeah, we quest for family.
These are all true – these are all things that we can see in ourselves and in other people. You guys are doing a great job – oh, did you have another one?
Yeah, friendship too. I think you can put a lot of these into the idea of like really connecting with people and is there meaning and purpose in what we’re doing. And also money (laughs). No, but I think money – I would actually argue that when we’re questing for money, what we’re really questing for is security. Right? And if you could get security without money – if you have have security, but relatively little money, or money, but relatively little security, people would say money, but they would really want security – that’s what I would argue.
These are all true, and as we talk, and we keep on going through this, we’ll see that there’s many questions like this that come up and this is by no means exhaustive. This is just one little taste of it. And then there’s things we see in our own lives, and we see in the lives of people around us. I see it all the time, even in my friends that have no Christian background at all – especially in the sciences. The path as a scientist toward getting your PHD is really challenging. It taxes you – you have a lot of uncertainty in there, and you can put years into and have nothing to show for it. Some of my friends there, they really struggle, especially when things are going bad, and these are the questions they ask.
It comes out in other majors – really any place where you can put a big investment and it doesn’t work out, that’s when these issues come out. I’m not married, never been married, but when I’ve seen people have trouble in their marriage, that’s when these big questions come up. Another time it really comes up is in times of transition. How many of you here are in undergrad? Wow, that’s awesome – I love undergrads, by the way (laughs). It comes up, right? When it comes up? Senior year. What are the questions you think about during senior year? “What do you do now?” “Where’s the money to pay all these loans?” “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The thing to know is that even when you grow up, you still ask that question. You see all of you who are in undergrad are in the front row, the people behind you are nodding yes. And these are big questions we have.
And you might be wondering, what does this have to do with the quest? Actually, that is the quest we’re talking about – because these are core questions that we believe that are things that are really ingrained in the nature of who we are and that God’s put there for a reason. To point us to Him. And so we’re going to see it played out in this story that the answer to many of these questions, even though they’re actually the same question with many variations, that the answer is actually the same answer with many variations.
And actually one key step in our process of finding and really asking these questions is to understand that simple truth. So what this process of “believing” is, is figuring out what we really believe to be true about who Jesus is and what He means for us. That’s the simple way to put it.
Now, I’m going to kind of explain that in this passage; you’re going to see a person who’s asking questions that have nothing to do with Jesus, and Jesus turns out to be the answer to those questions. And then I’m going to take some time to explain how that’s played out in my life, and flesh that out a bit more.
But before I explain the story, I want to address this issue which is important, about why this whole idea of “belief” is so important to Christianity. Because one way to see this is that it’s a misplaced thing – because all this theological stuff is kind of out there – why is it important what’s going on in the recesses of people’s minds? Isn’t it better if a person does the right stuff and is a good person? Isn’t that enough? And the clearest explanation for me is in this verse: it says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Now that makes a ton of sense if you understand of our faith is not “create good people.” The core of our faith is not about getting people to go to church, it’s not about behavior, it’s about a relationship with a person – a relationship with God. And if you think about that, how can you think you could have a relationship with anything you don’t think exists?
And if you don’t think it exists, you don’t have a relationship with it. So that’s why we say without any fear that atheists don’t have a relationship God – they don’t think he exists, how can they have a relationship with Him?
And secondly, you have to believe that this God who exists is good on some level and that he’s going to actually respond to you when you seek him. Now, once again, if you don’t believe that about a person, how is it possible to claim you have a relationship with them? It’s not – if you don’t believe that that person exists, or that they will respond appropriately to your advances for a relationship, how can you ever claim to have a relationship with them? That’s why the way we view God, and if we see him as an angry God, it really calls into question if we have a relationship with him, because how can we have a relationship with someone who you believe is just this pure angry person?
That’s why this is important – it’s not about particular behavior, it’s not about how you feel. It’s really about this relationship. And then in that context, we see how what we believe about a person is important.
And we know this because when we’re in a deep relationship with someone, and they say things about us that are patently untrue, that doesn’t just offend us, that deeply injures that connection. We think, “Wow that person doesn’t really know me.” That’s a statement about belief – that’s saying “They don’t believe the right things about me.”
So how does this story play out? This is a story about an Ethiopian eunuch, and Philip. Now to give you a little bit of background – this is shortly after Jesus was here on earth, he died on the cross, he was buried for three days, and then he resurrected, revealed himself to people for 40 days, then went up into heaven, and they were just waiting around for what to do next, and then in Acts 1, what happens is that the Holy Spirit is poured out on all the people, and they finally get it. That God wanted to continue what Jesus had started.
And there’s a lot of persecution. Actually in the prior chapter, chapter 7, the first person dies in this – do you remember his name? Stephen. Yeah, and all he was doing was waiting on tables, and people caught up with him, and he couldn’t keep quiet about why he was waiting on tables. And that got him killed. And it was an interesting choice that God chose to do that because he was a person in a very humble role, elevated to be the very first martyr.
And after that, crazy stuff is happening in the church. And there are many stories with this small group of people that are having something amazing happening that God is orchestrating. And the story goes:
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road – the desert road -that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
So when we see this interaction, it’s kind of like if you were driving and listening to a song you didn’t know, and you pull up to the car next to you and roll down the window and you ask, “You know what the lyrics of that song mean?…”
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