Saturday, October 16, 2010

And so why should I seek the Holy Spirit?

Read Acts 8:1-25

In my imaginary world lots of people read this blog, and all of them click on the links and read the Scripture too. In the real world, I have no idea what happens.

So essentially I'll tell the story in my own words.  (Really, Luke does a much more thorough job.)

Stephen gets stoned, but before that, he preaches a super convicting sermon.  So Saul (later known as Paul) goes from house to house in Jerusalem, looking for men and women who have put their faith in Jesus.  And when he finds them, he puts them into prison.  He's not the only one--Stephen's death prompted an enormous persecution all over Jerusalem, and lots of followers of Christ flee the city.

The thing is, wherever they go, they can't help but share their stories about who Jesus is and what God is doing.  They even go to Samaria, and that's where our story starts.  Philip preaches in a Samarian town, and people start listening.  They pay even closer attention when they see all the miraculous signs he does.  Lame people walk.  Lives are radically transformed when evil spirits get cast out.

Samaritans want to get baptized in the name of Jesus.  Yes, Samaritans, the hated half-breeds who created their own version of following God Almighty.

When the church leaders in Jerusalem hear about this, they send Peter and John to find out what's going on.  And when they get there, they pray for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit.  And they do.

Except for Simon the magician.

And so he goes to Peter and John and offers them money.  "Hey guys," he says, "it would be totally awesome if you would pray for me so that I can do the stuff you do."  Remember, he was the guy doing awesome magic stuff before Philip showed up.

Obviously, Peter and John tell him no, he can't buy the gift of God.  They also tell him to repent of his wickedness and beg God for forgiveness.

Luke doesn't tell us what happened after that, and every time I read this, I wonder:  Did he repent?  Did he follow Jesus after this happened?  Was he ever a real follower of Jesus, or did he just jump on the bandwagon when everyone else did.  Apparently Simon's motives for wanting to receive the Holy Spirit were flawed, but what were those motives?

Which leads to a question I think is totally relevant:  Why do we want the Holy Spirit?
And another one:  Why does God give us the Holy Spirit?

(Remember, in Luke 11:11-13, Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask.)

In Forgotten God, Francis Chan asks similar questions, and so I'm going to include a passage from his book:  
Do you want to experience more of the Holy Spirit merely for your own benefit?  When the answer is yes, then we are no different from Simon the magician, who tried to buy the Holy Spirit’s power from the apostles . . .
The Holy Spirit is not a commodity to be bought or traded according to our individual wants, whims, or even our felt needs.  We absolutely cannot have this discussion about the Holy Spirit without calling our motives into question.
Right now I want you to take a break from reading and spend some time asking yourself why you want the Holy Spirit.  Is it for power?  Is it for your own betterment and purposes?  Or is it because you want to experience all that God has for you?  Is it because you love the church and desire to be a better servant to your sisters and brothers? (86) 
 I don't know what God wants to accomplish around me.  I don't know what God wants to accomplish around you.  I just know, if we want to see these things happens, we can't do these things on our own  We need to be totally surrendered to God.  We need to give him everything we have and allow him to fill us with everything he has.

And I don't know what that will look like in your life--I don't even know what that will look like in my life-- but I believe God can do anything. I'm so glad he can.  

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