Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Deeper than Magic

I am not a fan of magic. I don’t get into being tricked. I hold magic with the esteem of a master liar. Sure, it can be amusing, but to spend your life learning how to deceive people, through their hard-wired perception is kind of cruel. I don’t like jokes at other people’s expense, either. Hypnotists…no way.

I am always intrigued to find our friend Simon of Samaria, in Acts. A magician, smack dab in the middle of this holy book (I wrote that with a southern accent). This is a guy who amazed the people of Samaria, and they thought that he was really something. Everyone listened to him. They said, “This man is the power of God that is called Great (Acts 8:10, NRSV).” So, he was a big deal.

Showdown in Samaria…here comes Phillip. What happens next goes something like this, “But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place (Acts 8:12 & 13, NRSV).”

To me, this says that all of those people who exalted this magician, listen to his words, and watch his feats of wonder; they recognized the real deal when they see it. Simon recognized the real deal when he saw it.

Sometimes reading through the gospels can seem like a series of unlikely events with the common tie of Jesus. We have to understand that what we are seeing, the signs of John, the miracles of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are deeper and more mysterious than we can understand. The retelling of these things, the gospel containing the power of the Spirit, is deeper and more mysterious than we can understand.

Acts 8:15-19, NRSV, “The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come  upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Obviously, this does not go well for Simon.

The power of the Spirit, Christ living in us is a mystery that belongs only to Him.

I used to wonder what Oswald Chambers was talking about when he spoke of the gospel as the end. Our testimony, perceptions and emotions are nothing more than relationship builders…and they are not what we are called to share with the lost. When Jesus came he proclaimed the good news that the kingdom of heaven was near. That is the good news.

The good news is what Phillip had when he walked into Samaria. There are multiple examples in Acts of the words spoken by the disciples, which resulted in mass conversions. It was the proclamation of this Messiah. Jesus had done what He promised He would do from the beginning of time.

I will confess to you that I still lack boldness when verbally sharing the gospel. I am much more likely to share my testimony. Come to think of it, no one has ever accepted Christ based on my testimony. They have felt close to me. They have empathized with me, and I with them, but it did not result in salvation. The only words that lead to Christ are the words of the good news.

While I am confessing…there have been times in my life when I have thought that Christianity looks like milk toast from the outside. People do not want to be a part of this devoted little sect because it doesn’t have the flare and sparkle, the amazement of the Simon’s of the world. I understand, as I am writing this, that this is when I have not let the Spirit do its work. I have not participated in the mystery of the Spirit that served as the power through Phillip, and that “something” that Simon coveted.

God is alive in His good news. God is deeper and more mysterious than we allow Him to be. We need to boldly speak the words of the gospel and let God use them, like Phillip in Samaria. We need to count on the influence that God’s word has demonstrated in history, and know that He has a purpose in you and me speaking the good news today.

Father, thank you for your good news. Thank you for giving us the Spirit so that we don’t have to be anything but a mouthpiece. Make us bold to speak your gospel today.

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