March 4, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on March 12, 2016.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Ego Larger Than Life”

Acts 8:9-13; 18-24

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, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention . . . . 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”  24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

What can we tell about someone who chooses sorcery as his occupation in life?  At the very least, he isn’t normal.  In Acts chapter 8, we see an interesting portrait of this funny, unusual man.  He enjoyed the attention of people, boasted that he was someone great, but when someone greater came along, he fell into line and started following this person everywhere.  His character seems almost recognizable, like the man in the movies who boasts in a bar of his arm-wrestling ability only to make a quick about-face when the real champion walks in.  The comedy is in how shamelessly he humbles himself in the blink of an eye – a seeming defeat – but in that moment, if he does it charmingly enough, he wins over the heart of the audience.

Ego larger than life on the one hand, able to follow someone around like a devoted fan on the other, Simon could have been one such person.  Despite all the outrageous things he says and does, we can still somehow see the humanity of the new believer and former sorcerer.  Because of his newfound faith, he’d had to abandon the career which had been his whole identity and source of affirmation.  As he tries to figure out a new life for himself, all he knows is that this ministry of the Holy Spirit attracts him; it seems similar to but at the same time so much better than what he’d been doing in the past.  He had a heart that longed for more and the faith to believe in God for the extraordinary, but in seeking to gain some kind of access to all this himself, he goes about things in a clumsy way, offering money, and his request is denied.

Peter says that his heart wasn’t right before God, that it was full of bitterness and captive to sin. Was it out of bitterness that he had worked all his life in the past?  A desire to make people recognize him born out of past experiences of their rejection or disrespect?  If Simon wanted to engage in God’s work, he needed to have his heart renewed; he couldn’t bring the same heart he’d done sorcery and magic with before into the Holy Spirit ministry now.  If he truly wanted to engage in this ministry, he needed to be operating from a deep love for people and a desire to see Jesus glorified, not himself.

It is admirable to seek the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry; it means we’re not content with life as usual when we know we serve an extraordinary God.  As we seek God’s power, however, let us also pursue purity of heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, what is in my heart today?  Do I desire people’s attention or affirmation?  Am I motivated at all by any bitterness that I am nursing in my heart?  Help me to lay all less than noble motives down.  This day, as I seek Your power to serve Your people, would You purify my heart?  For Your glory, in Your name I pray.

Bible Reading for Today: Nehemiah 5-6

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