PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 8:9–17 (NIV)
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Simon was something else. He was a sorcerer, which is another way of saying a magician, which is another way of saying a con artist. (And no, I’m not saying the magician at your nephew’s birthday party was a con artist). Perhaps the better term would be an illusionist. Here was our first clue about Simon:
He boasted that he was someone great.
People are so easily deceived. We are easily impressed and enamored with confident and apparently powerful people. This was our second clue:
. . . and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.”
It’s worth noting we are outside of Jerusalem now and beyond Judea. The gospel has reached the territory known as Samaria. It was a mess of a place, filled with religious syncretism. Syncretism is what happens when sound doctrine gets blended in with other religions, mythology, emperor/celebrity worship, old wives tales, political ideology, and civic religion. It sounds a lot like, . . . well . . . where many of us live. In Samaria, people get tossed to and fro by charismatic leaders who are often master manipulators at gaming the system for their own benefit.
Into this setting comes Philip. Remember Philip? He was one of the seven known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom who was set apart to work with the widows in Jerusalem. He was #2 on the list after the late great first martyr of the church, Stephen. Don’t you love it when the widow workers pull apostolic duty? That’s at least part of the point here. We see the makings of great awakening rising up in Samaria.
But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Not to be upstaged, Simon the Sorcerer gets in the baptism line. We will come back to this. There’s a curious thing I want to broach today. Back in Jerusalem, Peter and John heard the news from Samaria and decided to make a field trip. Then this:
When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Right there. I think this is my story. I grew up in the church, baptized, confirmed (even re-baptized), perfect attendance Sunday school, youth group, summer camps, you name it. Nowhere did anyone ever say much of anything about the Holy Spirit. I started reading my Bible with some intensity in college and I had many questions—all of which were about the Holy Spirit. I began to ask my questions to any preacher I could find, and to my stunned disappointment, no one could answer them. They just assured me when I was baptized I “got it.”
After many years now of sound teaching and significant experience with the Holy Spirit and much reflection, I am certain I spent many years in a state not unlike those first Samaritan Christians: “Believing in Jesus” yet not receiving the Holy Spirit.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
Do you identify with my experience here—of spending too many years with some level of “believing” in Jesus but not “receiving” the Holy Spirit?
Every day we sing a hymn together on the Wake-Up Call audio edition/podcast. Get your Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise at the Seedbed Store today.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt