Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27 - Acts 8

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 8. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Stephen's speech and death started a great persecution of the believers. So, everyone was scattered, except for the apostles. But, as they say, good things can come out of bad circumstances. Jesus had already commanded them in Acts 1:8 to leave Jerusalem and share the message with the world. The act of persecution is simply what propelled the church forward.
  • One infamous religious leader was named Saul. He was personally dragging men and women from their homes into jail.
  • A man by the name of Philip decided that he would go to Samaria to preach the gospel. This would have broken down great racial and religious barriers because the Jews and Samaritans hated each other (think Jets and Sharks). As a result of his efforts, many people came to faith in Jesus.
  • Although the Samaritans had accepted Jesus and were baptized in water, we learn that they had not received the Holy Spirit (vs.14). So, Peter and John came down from Jerusalem to pray with them that they might receive the Spirit. We saw the Holy Spirit descend this way in Acts 2:1-13, as the ability to speak in another tongue, or language. Simon the sorcerer is in such awe of this great visible gift that he offers money to replicate it! Peter warns him that God's gifts are not for sale and that he should repent greatly for thinking such things in his heart.
  • The chapter closes with Philip following the Holy Spirits direction to go down to Gaza. It is there he tells an Ethiopian eunuch the "good news about Jesus." The Ethiopians' response is to ask to be baptized. We see that baptism is a part of the good news and is the natural response for someone who believes in Jesus. Amazingly, after he is baptized in water, Philip vanishes before the eunuchs eyes and is transported by the Spirit to Azotus. 
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Throughout this chapter we see the priority of sharing Jesus with people, with all people, at every possible opportunity. God desires for us to break down all barriers- religious, racial, and socio-economic to bring people to him.
  • The central character of this chapter and this book is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's presence inside his followers to guide and empower them. In this chapter, we see the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit and we see Philip guided by the Holy Spirit. For us to live the life God has for us, we need to be utterly reliant on the direction of the Holy Spirit. 
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Is your priority sharing Jesus with people? If not, ask God for help with that. And ask God to give you an opportunity to gently, and gracefully share Jesus with someone this week.
  • Are you relying on the Holy Spirit? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Just as you made a choice to accept the gift of God's love and forgiveness, we must also choose to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit's power. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in our own power. In fact, it can't be. Ask God to help you to be aware of his presence in your life and to rely on his power to overcome temptation and to embrace the opportunities he gives you. How do you think you can rely on the Holy Spirit more today?