Monday, March 26, 2012

Mar 26: 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?)

  • Today’s reading starts with a guy named Saul who witnessed Stephen’s death (and nodded approvingly). This guy then starts going house to house in Jerusalem, arresting Jesus’ followers and putting them in prison. It seems like he is bent on punishing Jesus’ followers for their beliefs. Because of this persecution, the church (all followers of Jesus) in Jerusalem runs to nearby towns. And even though they are being followed and jailed, they keep telling people about Jesus.
  • The behind-the-scenes character in this chapter is the Holy Spirit, which can sound pretty weird if you're not familiar with this entity. Let’s take a look at its activity:
  • After the local magician, Simon witnesses the Holy Spirit he offers Peter and John money so they can teach him this ability. Peter’s rebuke reveals Simon’s motivation: to have the same authority and power as Peter and John. But the Holy Spirit is not something that can be bought or even faked. The right motivation for Simon -- and us -- is to follow Jesus and share that life with others. The timing of God giving the power of the Holy Spirit is completely up to him. Accordingly, we should just focus on following and sharing Jesus.
  • The Holy Spirit worked a lot with Philip in this chapter. Phil was led by the Spirit to Samaria and also to the desert road leading to Gaza. At both places, Philip spread the message of Jesus and people believed. Then Phil, under the Spirit's direction, quickly split. The Holy Spirit led Phil to travel away from his home and share Jesus with people of a different culture and race. The Holy Spirit led Phil to break cultural and racial barriers.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)

  • The people in Samaria received the Holy Spirit after Peter and John prayed and laid hands on them. When the disciples laid their hands on the new believers, it wasn’t like they were trying to hurt or control them. Instead, it was like touching the person they were praying for, which makes things a little more intimate. As Peter and John pray and lay hands on these people, they receive the Holy Spirit, which probably looked like what happened in chapter 2 of this book. This section makes a distinction between believing in Jesus then being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. This may be due to the intense, powerful experience of the Spirit entering a person’s life.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)

  • Throughout this chapter, God was working in people’s lives. Through the Holy Spirit, he led Philip to preach... and people believed. Later, Peter and John prayed and laid hands on people and God powerfully changed their lives with the Holy Spirit. What kind of experience have you had with the Holy Spirit? Having experiences like those in this chapter doesn’t mean you are a better follower of Jesus. And a lack of experiences doesn’t imply a lack of following Jesus either. When the Holy Spirit comes, it is to accomplish God’s work. Our focus should be on selflessly following Jesus and spreading his message; God will take care of the rest.