Religious Freedom for Evangelism

D-Day 66th Anniversary

Today is the 66th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, under the direction of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. I want to read you a little history about that, and ask you to contemplate the hand of God in the weather — to deceive the Germans into relaxing, and to give enough hope to the Allies for Gen. Eisenhower to make the decision to launch the offensive, even though conditions were not perfect.

While we can share a nationalistic pride, particularly with Britain and Canada, in the success of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, as having created the conditions to break Hitler’s grasp on France, and the ultimate collapse in defeat of the Third Reich, I encourage you today, to remember the hand of God, not just in the weather, but all through that World War II, and to remember – as we considered last week in our study of religious freedom in the context of Memorial Day – the courageous men and women who committed their lives in defense of liberty and freedom on such foreign soil. America has never conquered a foreign land and retained ownership of it, as was the plan of imperialism of Germany, Russia, and, even in other centuries, of imperialist Greece, Rome, Spain and Great Britain. America has only asked for enough land in those places to bury our men and women who gave their lives there.

So, Lord, we pray, in Jesus’ Name, that we won’t forget the commitment of our forbears to the principles of liberty that assure the right and the practical ability to exercise religious freedom in our land and abroad, that we and others might worship Jesus, and Jehovah God, and live in the Holy Spirit, as we choose, and may we never lose the conviction and the courage to live and die for the right to live our lives as your children, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

Today, we consider the call to evangelism in the exercise of religious freedom, in the call to disciple, in the call to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and we also consider, in the application to evangelism, of the principles and hope of religious freedom. We know (I Timothy 2: 4) that God desires all men to be so saved. We know that we are God’s hands and feet to do that (Matthew 28: 18-20), yet we know that it is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction (John 16: 8) in regards to sin, righteousness and Judgment. And we know that it is the Holy Spirit that guides us to Truth (John 16: 13), and that the Truth is Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

God shows us, by His Word, His Truth, Jesus, in John 6: 44-45, that “No one can come to Me (Jesus) unless the Father Who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. As it is written in the prophets (Isaiah 54: 13) ‘And they shall be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

We have seen in Scripture the evangelism of speaking to large crowds, of ministering one-on-one, of going two-by-two to the towns and households within towns. None of those approaches are inconsistent with the Scriptures we just reviewed, in fact those approaches prove those Scriptures to be correct. That it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Truth, that draws people near to God, and as they choose to draw near to God, He provides a way for them to learn about Him, to learn about Jesus, and to draw even closer in chosen belief and chosen life decisions, quality choices, to follow and obey Jesus and God, and to live in the Holy Spirit.

We find a wonderful example of evangelism at work, in all sorts of supernatural ways, in Acts 8: 26-40, “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship (a Jew), was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.’ [See, Isaiah 53: 7-8.] So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to ‘Caesarea.

Do you see these common threads of evangelism, in all of its formats, in the history of Philip and the Great Eunuch of Queen Candace of Ethiopia?

These are those common threads:

  1. Verse 26, God set things in motion for this even before Philip knew he was to go see the Eunuch, and before the Eunuch knew he needed help. God told Philip to arise and go along a certain road. Philip did not know where he was to go to, nor why he was going, nor whom, if anyone, he was to see, nor what, if anything, he was to do. Scripture says, and as I see it, obedience in Christ means that one’s life is not his own. This kind of obedience is like that of a good horse: you take it out and put on a saddle and a bridle, mount up, and off you go. The horse does not know where he is going, nor why he is going, nor what he is going to be doing along the way or when he gets to wherever he is going, nor how he is going to get food, water, shelter and rest along the way, nor when or if he is coming back home. In Psalm 32: 9, and in James 3: 3, it is written that we put bits and bridles and harnesses on horses and mules that they may obey us. Of course, you have to have something developed in that horse or mule before you can get the bit on, and that something is meekness or humility. And once you have that in a Christian, meekness and humility before the authority and ownership of God, thenyou have a Christian which the Holy Spirit can direct, because that Christian will obey. And another thing: questions, neither the meek horse nor the humble Christian ask God all those questions before starting to obey, those questions of where am I going, how will I get there, why am I going, how will I eat and drink and find shelter and rest, what am I to do, and when will I return home. Consider these Scriptures for the obedient Christian who does not ask God all those questions, and therefore ready to do God’s work as He directs: I Corinthians 6: 20, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.Romans 1: 1, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God, which He promised before, through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.Romans 12: 1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
  2. We also find, verses 27-28, 31-32, that the Holy Spirit had prepared the heart of the Eunuch to be eager to learn more about God and His word and His prophecies. The Eunuch had been all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship and was reading from Isaiah on the way back and was, at the precise moment when Philip showed up, confused by the passage in Isaiah 53 containing a prophecy of Christ. And the Eunuch wanted help. We don’t know how all the seeds were planted and watered, but it is obvious that the Holy Spirit was all over this man’s conversion, and it is obvious that when Philip was delivered by God into the company of the Eunuch that the Eunuch was ready to become part of the Holy Harvest, and he was saved that day by His belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
  3. We also find here, so obviously, that the Holy Spirit was all over this conversion, this one-man harvest, in verse 26 (Philip heard from an angel of the Lord, with instructions); in verse 29 (at just the right time Philip was instructed by the Holy Spirit to run and overtake the chariot {how many of us can outrun a horse, or a team of horses?}; in verse 35 (Philip was bold to preach the gospel of Christ to the Eunuch, picking up right where he found the Eunuch, in Isaiah 53, and coming forward to the truth of Jesus); in verses 39-40 (as soon as that business was done, the Spirit “caught Philip away, so that the Eunuch saw him no more”, and Philip was transliterated to Azotus; and in verse 40, that Philip went on his merry way preaching in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.
  4. Even in those days of Roman occupation and control, and lack of real religious freedom – although the Romans coopted the Jewish leaders to help them control the population — Philip was fearless to exercise his religious freedom, and so was the Eunuch to exercise his religious freedom. In that exercise of religious freedom, a man came voluntarily, after having been convicted by the Holy Spirit, and after having received Philip’s preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that one little historical snapshot of the working of the Holy Spirit, and a sincerely-earnest Eunuch, seeking to understand God’s prophecy, and an obedient, meek and humble Christian, we see why religious freedom is so important to us, and to God’s plan for all men to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thus, we better understand the Godly, and Christian, foundations of our Nation, America, and we better understand the wars for freedom and liberty, freedoms of assembly, belief and thought, and speech, limited only by the principle which the Q’ran does not accept, that everyone should be free to reject someone else’s evangelism without fear of earthly reprisal. Because of the way God works in evangelism, with planting, watering, and reaping a harvest, it takes time. The person who at first rejects the gospel of Christ, for whatever reasons in his/her life at the time, may find, in his journey of life, his road from Jerusalem to Gaza and elsewhere, that the convicting truth of the Holy Spirit gradually brings him to understand that he was bought at a price, that his life is not his own, that he indeed should be a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and that he is ready to commit his live in those beliefs, and to offer his body a living sacrifice, a mere, meek and humble, reasonable service to his Creator and Savior and Lord. If his initial rejection, or non-acceptance, of the evangelism message given him caused his death, as per the Q’ran, then he would never join the harvest! Thank you, Jesus, for our religious freedom, and may it spread all over the world.

That is our message on this anniversary of D-Day, just a few short days past Memorial Day. (Now, a Prayer for thanksgiving to God for Jesus Christ, for God’s eternal mercy and love, for our religious freedom claimed by our forefathers and us, and so bravely defended by our men and women in arms, not only on D-Day, but today, all around the world and here at home, against all of our enemies, foreign and domestic.)

God bless you and Amen.