Refresh: Begin today in prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Acts 8:1-25 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: When the news returned to Jerusalem that many were discovering and accepting the Good News, the apostles Peter and John were sent to Samaria. Upon arrival, they discovered that while everyone had been baptized with water, they had not been baptized with the Spirit. Peter and John laid hands on those who chose to become followers and they were filled with the Spirit, just like at Pentecost. Luke does not explain in great detail what happened next, but allows us to see how a bridge was being built between Samaria and Jerusalem. The Gospel had extended beyond the usual boundaries. Philip’s missionary efforts had been recognized and these "frenemies," these people who were, if truth be told, mostly considered enemies, were now part of the same family. The church in Jerusalem, which had never spoken to anyone in Samaria was not only entering this forbidden land, but was blessing the people who lived there. The presence of the Spirit was an affirmation from God.
What happened next is really interesting and thought-provoking. As soon as Simon the Magician, who gave his life to Jesus, saw the miracle of the Spirit he wanted not the blessing itself but the “ability” to do the same. He saw this moment, this gift from the apostles, as something that he could add to his repertoire of skills and tricks. This leads to many questions. Had Simon ever truly given his life to Jesus? Is it possible to give one’s life to Jesus and still have one’s motives out of place? Why did Peter get so upset with Simon about his request? Did Simon ever repent? Had Simon himself been baptized by the Spirit?
Perhaps we are the ones who have created this unrealistic—and non-biblical—expectation that once a person is baptized by water, he or she is complete and nothing can go wrong. Perhaps we are the ones who created this expectation with regard to the baptism of the Spirit as well. The disciples walked and talked with Jesus for three and half years. They denied Him at the cross. They were baptized with the Spirit—and yet resisted the Samaritans until persecution set in. At this point, they had not yet even begun to reach out to the Gentiles. Perhaps this is because under all the power of water and strength of the Spirit lies the incredible truth that God does not bend our wills. We still have to make choices. We get to choose if we want help with every decision and whether we ask for wisdom in considering every option or if we feel we are better on our own. Perhaps the strength of the Gospel is that love is not forced but grows freely over time.
Recalibrate: What is stopping you from being baptized by water and/or by the Spirit?
Respond: Pray for a heart of reconciliation.
Research: Read John 3.
It’s natural for parents to freak out when our toddlers get hurt, but there is nothing scarier for a small child than a terrified adult. Be their safe place, confident that God has all of us in His care.
Play a game of tag with your family, but have a safety zone where you cannot be tagged. Jesus is our safe place no matter what is going on.
What do you think it means to have the presence of the Spirit in your life today? Do you think it looks the same as it did in the book of Acts? Why or why not? Take time today to pray that the same Spirit that was alive in the apostles’ lives is alive in your life today.