I was preparing to post this week but got distracted, a bit of undiagnosed ADD probably, lol. Seriously though, I was going to post something about my old youth group being at camp this week and blah,blah, blah, blah, but then at my Life Group last night we talked about letting closed doors alone and some other really cool stuff (main topic was sex and how Satan has twisted our perceptions of it) and on the way home I came to a realization that I had set my grief (I still don’t like using that word for some reason pertaining to what happened) as a sort of idol and was holding on to it and worshiping it and practically wearing it as an ornament. Talk about a realization, it got me teared up and I almost drifted off the road, but I got over it and drove home safely. So, as the box/category man thinker that I am, I’m going to put it in a box, categorize it as “oh well, life goes on”, and pack it away. God’s plan is perfect, there was a reason it happened the way it did, I had two years of great memories and 2-3 months of drama. Life goes on, so there ya go. Let’s talk about Peter.
We’re skipping ahead a bit. We left off at Acts 5 with Peter and John having been arrested and the Jewish Authorities struggling to understand the new movement that was developing with the Christ Followers. Their decision at the time was leave them alone and if it’s of God, they can’t stop it, if it’s not, it will disappear. Acts 6 and Acts 7 are fascinating, and dare I say, even EPIC chapters. Chapter 6 deals with the appointing of additional men to positions of responsibility and the beginning of persecution, Chapter 7 deals with the first martyr. If you’ve never read those chapters, click on the link and read them, they’re fascinating, but our focus is Peter, and this is his next conversation. Because of the Persecution starting in Jerusalem, the church scattered, with the exception of the apostles. I can imagine the believers reactions at the time when the persecution started. Panic, fear, stress, etc., been there, but as we’ll see, something tragic had benefits that ended up being a huge blessing. If it hadn’t been for the persecution, the word may not have spread, well, let’s take a look at what I’m talking about:
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many,and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
Do you see it in vs 4? Because they were scattered to the four winds the Word of God spread to the Gentiles and other areas of Israel. If the persecution hadn’t of started, then it’s a possibility that it would have been contained in Jerusalem, become a localized sect of Judaism, but it didn’t happen that way. The Persecution started and the faithful scattered and spread the message and hope of Christ. What man had hoped to destroy, they simply caused it to spread. Satan had hoped to destroy it, but God used it to HIS benefit. That is pretty typical of the cycle of faith. Satan starts a scheme to destroy the church, a person, a movement, and God uses it to HIS benefit in some way. It’s usually not immediate that the benefit is seen, I’m sure those that fled didn’t see the benefit immediately, but as they looked back over time (like we’re doing now), they hopefully saw the good that came out of it.
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great,10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
So, Phillip, one of the seven new deacons appointed in Chapter 6, goes to Samaria and he’s doing the “missionary” thing and amazing things are happening and he attracts a local celebrity. A guy who was a practicing sorcerer that had the people of Samaria in Thrall of him, however, when he runs into Phillip he became enthralled with what Phillip was preaching and believed and was baptized and started following Phillip everywhere. Now, it says he “was amazed by the signs and miracles” he saw Phillip perform, and that’s a bit of foreshadowing for us as readers as we’ll soon see, but it’s also pretty typical of people as well. When you first hear the gospel, and realize your need there’s a fascination, almost an awe of what the possibilities are, even more so since, at this time Phillip was healing people and banishing demons. I’m sure a part of Simon truly believed, but there was something else at work here, maybe he saw Phillip doing what he was doing and there was a want, a jealousy of sorts. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Hmm….interesting development. Peter and John head to Samaria to support Phillip, and even greater things happen. Peter and John show up, lay hands on the new believer and the HOLY SPIRIT fell upon the believers. That’s when Simon’s “true colors” and nature appear. Instead of going to them humbly and trying to understand the work, power, and reason of and for the HOLY SPIRIT, Simon goes for the shortcut. He just wants the ability, the power, he’s looking more at how this will increase his prestige and fame then he’s looking at how it will spread the word of GOD and benefit others. He wasn’t interested in learning more and growing, that would probably take too long for him, he wanted the immediate benefit so that he could be praised. So he offered money, because heck, who doesn’t need money and money solves everything and gets you what you need, right? There’s truth to that, but the HOLY SPIRIT isn’t a commodity that is bought or bargained for/with. It’s a member of the trinity and the power of GOD. Peter and John knew this, their reply to Simon is pretty epic…..at least I think so:
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
WOW!!! Someone got owned right there. Did you see it? Peter levels Simon with the truth. It’s a heart issue. His heart is still captive to sin and bitterness. Simon is fascinated by the “stuff” that Christ provides, but his heart is a walled off fortress of bitterness and sin. It’s all about the heart, you’re heart shows who you really are. Peter tells him that it’s not going to happen and he has no share in the ministry. WOW!!! It’s a heart thing, I’ve heard that so many times in so many ways that it’s easy to become almost deaf to it. GOD doesn’t want our stuff, HE wants our hearts. Not the red, beating pump that pumps our blood, but the heart of our selves, the part of us that is our “ID/EGO/personality/self” however you want to psychologically describe it, HE wants the innermost part of us that only we know. The parts that we hide from the outside world. The part that only we know or sometimes don’t know. HE want’s the parts of us that we don’t even like. HE wants those parts so HE can change us and make us into something beautiful that, like Peter, John, Phillip, as well as the other early church disciples and apostles, that will change the world.
What was Simon’s response? Well, it’s pretty typical of shallow faith people. I’m making an assumption with the “Shallow faith” comment, but the passage doesn’t say if Simon had a heart change moment, because this was his response: 24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” Hmm…interesting response. It’s not a “Forgive me, help me” or a “you’re right, I’ve been stupid” His response is a bit selfish still. He asks that they pray to GOD for him so it doesn’t happen to him. Uh…What? It’s not a prayer of repentance, he’s asking them to do him a favor by praying to for him. He doesn’t get it. I’ve seen this before. I’ve even seen it in myself a time or two. It’s not a prayer request or asking someone one to pray with you for repentance. It’s cheap, simple statement of “hey, pray for me” almost as a cast off statement. No commitment or meaning behind it. Nothing more is known of Simon after this point, we don’t know the rest of his story, maybe at some point in his life, he had a heart change, we don’t know. But right here, at that moment, he is a perfect example of shallow faith. A warning to us, an example of what not to emulate, and how not to approach GOD. Personally speaking, I’m tired of shallow faith. Of thinking that I have to do something or give something to GOD to give me more of HIM. HE just want’s my heart, the part of me that is, well ME. That’s what he wants for you (the 12 or fewer people that actually read this blog, lol). We can’t buy, bargain, trade or whatever to get salvation or the Power of the HOLY SPIRIT. It’s a gift from GOD whose only requirement is that we give ourselves in return to the Savior. It’s the simplest hard thing ever. I say that because it’s so simple, yet surrender is so hard, it’s something I still struggle with daily, but so worth it.
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
And so we end this conversation with Peter and John returning to Jerusalem. What did they do on the journey back though? the preached the gospel to the Samaritan villages along the way. The persecution that Satan started to eradicate the gospel in Jerusalem, simply spread like a disease throughout the region. From there, it would be spread to the known world. What Satan meant for persecution by GOD used to shake the world. GOD does that. He uses the crap that Satan uses to bring us down to make us stronger. The worst thing that Satan can do is to leave us alone or to distract us from the stuff of GOD. That’s another blog post though. We’ll leave Peter here for this moment, we’re not done with him just yet, there’s more. Stay tuned.