Finding Our Place in God’s Kingdom: Part 4 – Enabling Your Mission
Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been writing this series of blogs, it’s become increasingly clear why the Lord recently called me to a long, slow read of Acts. I first had the hint that I should spend some time in Luke’s presentation of biblical history as I was wrapping up a months-long study of the Gospel of John. I found the deepest love of Jesus in that study. When it became clear that it was time to move on, I was a little sad; like when you finish a good novel and you’re lonely for the friends you met in the story. Maybe I was afraid that leaving John would make me lonely for the Lord. I don’t know. But I do know I felt the nudge to move on to study Acts of the Apostles. I had no idea why, but I did it anyway.
When I began my slow read of Acts, I didn’t know that I would be writing this particular series of blogs. But now that I’m praying through the writing of Finding our Place in His Kingdom, I think I’m getting a sense of at least part of God’s purpose here. This morning, the Lord gave me a message; a story to share from Acts. I think it relates directly to understanding and enabling our missions for the Lord. So here we go.
Remember Simon? He was the magician, a sorcerer, who willingly let people call him great and powerful.
“All of them, from the least to the greatest, paid attention to him, saying, ‘This man is the ‘Power of God’ that is called ‘Great.’ They paid attention to him because he had astounded them by his magic for a long time, but once they began to believe Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, men and women alike were baptized. Even Simon himself believed…”Acts 8:10-13
Simon knew all along that his magic was just an illusion; not the truth. He was fooling people and it was winning him human praise. Caught up in vanity, Simon continued the deception for a long time. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Then, Simon met Philip, and we are told he believed the good news about Jesus and was baptized. But that’s only the beginning of the story. You see, Philip was baptizing in the name of Jesus and that was good; very good. Still, something was missing.
“Now, when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen on them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”Acts 8:14-17
The English Standard translation is similar, reading, “the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Only…simply in the name of Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God, God incarnate, God from God, Light from light, true God from true God. And, He sent the Holy Spirit. He sent the Holy Spirit because He knew we needed an Advocate…an enabler of our faith so that we could “do even greater things than these.” It is appropriate here to describe Jesus’ name as simple and limited (as implied by the word “only”) because God is one in three. In the early days of the church, not all Christians were aware of the Holy Spirit, but today, we all know about the triune nature of God. Still, too often we forget about the power of the Holy Spirit; the advocate that remains with us even as Jesus is ascended and reigns in Heaven.
In blog two in this series, I talked about the Holy Spirit; how the power of our God-given Advocate, fully realized, can distinguish us as Christians. The Holy Spirit is our guide, our advisor, our interpreter even. When I say, “Come Holy Spirit,” I’m setting myself aside and asking the Lord to guide my thoughts and inform my actions because in my human frailty I am insufficient to take on the challenges of this world; but, in the fullness of Christ, under the power of the Holy Spirit, I am able, strong, courageous, and I even share in the wisdom of God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is absolutely true. It’s true because Christ is part of the three in one; the Trinity that we call upon to guide our lives. We need the wholeness of the Lord to realize and to accomplish the fullness of our purpose in God’s Kingdom. We need the Holy Spirit.
So far, in this series, we’ve talked about how valuable and rare each of us is; that each of us is made in God’s image for a unique role and purpose in His Kingdom. We’ve talked about how the enemy works to erode our ability to understand and achieve God’s purpose. And this week, I’m asking you to think and pray about this:
- What do you need in your life to work against the enemy’s trappings; to avoid sin?
- What do you need to enable your strong relationship with Jesus and keen understanding of His plan for you?
- Considering the eroding factors you identified last week–sins you struggle with and things working against you–what do you need?
Friends, this is a critical moment in your journey to discern your place in God’s Kingdom and what He might be asking of you. It’s important to slow down here and really consider who is directing you. Are you inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you? I pray you do. This one enabler of your faith will dramatically change your ability to go forward confidently…even if not entirely unafraid. We remain human, of course, but we are empowered if only we choose to accept and engage our Holy Spirit advocate.
I suspect for some it may feel foreign to call on the Holy Spirit. I’ve been intentionally trying to operate under the influence of the Holy Spirit for years now and I assure you, it still feels a bit odd sometimes. As it should…the Holy Spirit is Holy; not of this world. So, it makes sense that it feels a little strange sometimes to sense a prompting to this thing or that and then actually do that thing only because I felt the prompting. Doing so is my human attempt at obedience. It’s the best I can do. And much of the time, it goes really well when I follow promptings. But sometimes it doesn’t because sometimes I get it wrong. And that’s okay.
I have good friends who serve as bumpers, pushing me back onto the straight and narrow when I get off track. And, I have some friends, more knowledgeable and experienced than I, who let me talk things through until I have a better understanding of what the Lord is telling me or calling me to. And, I have the Word of the Lord. The scripture is my ultimate source of truth. The Holy Spirit, Godly friends, and the Word of the Lord are key enablers of my understanding of and my ability to pursue the work the Lord is calling me to in His Kingdom. I need all of them. We all do.
The story of Simon the Sorcerer is a cautionary tale, warning us that we all need the fullness of God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives. This, together with a Godly community, and the truth of the scriptures help us navigate this earthly realm. Simon found Jesus and he had Godly friends but we don’t really know how his story ended. We do know this: Simon believed and was baptized. He became a follower of Philip who initially shared the truth of the gospel. Through Philip, Simon met Peter who may have been an even better friend. You see, though he believed the gospel, Simon remained quite corrupt in his motives and Peter called him on it.
Peter rebuked Simon for thinking he could buy the Holy Spirit. Peter didn’t mince words. He made sure Simon knew he needed to “repent of this wickedness” because God cannot be bought. We don’t know if Simon repented. That detail isn’t included in Acts. The scripture does tell us what Peter said to Simon when he sought to purchase from the apostles the power of the Holy Spirit.
“You have no share or lot in this matter because your heart is not upright before God.”
We don’t read of Simon repenting. We don’t read of Peter laying on hands and offering the Holy Spirit. We do know Simon asked for prayer. In Jesus’ day, sorcerers were a real problem. They deceived, and their deception made it all the more challenging for those walking in truth to be recognized. Today, we are similarly challenged. We all struggle with sin, with factors that hold us back from becoming our best selves in the Lord. As believers baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the fullness of God is in us and enables us as long as we remain in Him.
I hope you’ll take the time this week to prayerfully consider what you need to enable a strong relationship with the Lord and to empower what you sense He might be calling you to. Use the questions I provided above to guide your prayer and reflection. Invite the Holy Spirit to inform both. Next week, we’ll review all the steps in this discernment process and see what we’ve discovered. Until then, I’m praying for you.
With the greatest of love,