God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we saw how Philip went down to Samaria and continued God’s pattern of laying a foundation of love before and/or during the proclamation of Jesus. The result was the people responded enthusiastically to the way Philip shared Christ and there was another result too: “there was much joy in that city.”
We also learned about the three steps a person takes to receive the Holy Spirit. If you’re interested you can learn more here: 3 Steps to Receiving the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:4-8. Today we’ll see how these new believers in Samaria were missing something, even though they had already believed and been baptized. And we’ll also discuss how John was transformed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.Acts 8:9-17
What Was Missing in the Lives of these New Believers
So in our last post we mentioned how there seems to be two experiences with the Holy Spirit. The first experience occurs when a person first receives Jesus and believes in Jesus and invites Jesus to be their Savior and King. In today’s passage we see the second experience mentioned. The believers in Samaria already believed on Jesus. They already were baptized into the faith. They already experienced the joy of receiving Christ as their Lord. But even though these wonderful amazing joyous experiences already occurred, the disciples sent Peter and John to Samaria, because something was missing: the Holy Spirit “had not yet fallen on any of them.”
Peter and John come down to Samaria and join Philip and the other Jesus followers there, and “they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” in this second way. God wants believers to receive His Holy Spirit in a way that goes beyond simply receiving Christ as Lord. If you’re interested in this second experience with the Holy Spirit, if you’re interested in experiencing the Holy Spirit in the way it’s described here in Acts chapter 8, you can learn more in this previous post: 3 Steps to Receiving the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:4-8.
John: Before and After
At this point I want to share about John’s transformation. One time while Jesus was still walking the planet, Jesus was traveling through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem and he, and his disciples, needed a place to spend the night. So Jesus sent messengers ahead of him, into a Samaritan village to find a place to stay. But the Samaritans declined to provide accommodations for Jesus and his followers because Jesus’ destination was Jerusalem. There was tremendous tension between the Samaritans and the Jewish people during that time. Each group called out the other for being wrong — so wrong, wrong about important things, entirely wrong. And there was this enormous animosity between the two groups. It would seem that when John (and James) found out the Samaritans turned them away, because they were Jews, John became offended.
And John said to Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
So here’s the thing. For a long time now we’ve been looking at this pattern of God’s and how Jesus, Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Paul followed this pattern, the pattern of laying a foundation of love before sharing Jesus Christ with people. And we even see the same pattern in the same chapter where we see John wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans (Luke chapter 9). At the beginning of Luke 9, not long before this encounter with the unwilling Samaritans, Jesus gave John and the other eleven disciples power and authority to deliver people from demons and to cure diseases so they could lay the foundation of love as they proclaimed the kingdom of God to the people. (Luke 9:1-2)
Conspicuously absent from that list of power and authority Jesus gave John that day was the power to call down fire from heaven to consume those who rejected Jesus.
So of course Jesus “turned and rebuked” John and James for their hard and unforgiving hearts.
Imagine with me for a minute what might have happened if John had his way that day. Some of the Samaritans we see in today’s passage receiving Jesus and experiencing great joy and receiving the Holy Spirit might not have been around to experience these things, these amazing things, God’s best things.
To John’s credit, or more appropriately, to the Holy Spirit’s credit and to Jesus’ credit, in today’s passage we see John laying hands on perhaps some of the same Samaritans who rejected Jesus earlier. Today we see John praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit.
John was transformed.
When fire is called down on people, they won’t be around anymore. When the opportunity comes to share Jesus they won’t be there. But if we follow God’s pattern and lay down the foundation of love: then they will be there, with hearts prepared to receive Jesus. And great joy, and the abundant life Jesus spoke of can be experienced by those who receive Christ: and by those who share the the Gospel too.
“Father, please be merciful to me and to the dear person reading this right now because we’re sinners. We sometimes become offended when people reject us or even when people disagree with our opinions. Have mercy on us. Transform us the way You transformed John. Send Your Holy Spirit to fall upon us and to transform us into people who lay Jesus’ foundation of love everywhere we go, and to share truth in the timing of Your Holy Spirit.
“In Jesus’ name we ask this of You.
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.