Sunday, November 20, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Only Want to Be with You.” This is a secular song, so I inquired of the Lord as to its purpose. The Bible lesson here will bear that out, I believe. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 8:9-24 (ESV). I Only Want to Be with You / Dusty Springfield Written by Ivor Raymonde, Mike Hawker I don't know what it is that makes me love you so I only know I never want to let you go 'Cause you started something, can't you see That ever since we met you've had a hold on me It happens to be true, I only want to be with you It doesn't matter where you go or what you do I want to spend each moment of the day with you… Practitioners of Magic (vv. 9-13) 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. What is a practitioner of magic? Well, magic is a fairy-tale, sorcery, witchcraft, and trickery. And, one who practices magic (sorcery) is an entertainer, performer, enchanter, and/or one who uses the power or control of evil spirits to do his (or her) work (magic). A magician is also a con artist, a fake, and a deceiver; one who cheats people, and who gives false impressions of what is real. He (or she) is usually charming, smooth-talking, funny, and likeable, and many people are captivated by people just like this, and will follow them anywhere. Those who worship such people, and who make them their idols, are often blinded to their faults, and will overlook their sins, and may even enable them to keep on charming, deceiving, manipulating, tricking, conning, and cheating, etc., because the “magician” has an emotional hold on their lives, and they don’t want to let go. These “magicians” may even claim to believe in Jesus Christ, and may even call themselves ministers of the gospel. Although it says here that Simon believed and was baptized, it later says he tried to buy the ability to lay hands on people and to have them receive the Holy Spirit. So Peter said, “May your money perish with you.” He told him that he had no part in this ministry, because his heart was not right with God, and that he was full of bitterness and was captive to sin. Peter, thus, told him he needed to repent of his sin, and pray to the Lord, and perhaps the Lord would forgive him. So, it would appear that Simon’s faith in Jesus Christ was surface only, and that his desire to buy the gift of God revealed what was truly in his heart. So, although he claimed to believe, and was baptized, he was going to perish in his sins if he did not genuinely repent of his sin and turn to God in faith. Yet, this idea of this magician being captivated by sin has me thinking here that the idol doesn’t have to be human, but it could be a pet sin that has a hold on someone, and that has captivated them like magic, and they don’t want to let go of it. In a sense, they are in love with that sin, and it has become their god, instead of God being their only Lord. The sin has charmed their socks off, and it makes them feel good inside, and no matter how bad things get, or how deep they get into the sin, and no matter the consequences of the sin, they want to spend as much time with this sin idol as possible, because it gives them a euphoric feeling inside, much like what is described in the lyrics to this (opening) song. Sexual sin is especially captivating in this way, especially pornography. And, nothing else matters to the sinner but being able to indulge in this sin, even if it means losing everything else in life that matters, even his or her own soul. One other thought comes to mind here, as well, and that is of government worship. What I mean by that is that, here in America, we were taught from elementary school on up, and within the institutional church, and from our government leaders and parents, too, to pledge allegiance to the American flag and to its republic (our form of government). A pledge is a vow, and allegiance is loyalty, faithfulness and fidelity. So, this is a vow of fidelity to the US government. It is worship. And, this pledge is performed with hand over heart. Our hearts are the center of our being (mind, soul, spirit), the seat of our emotions. So, we are being asked to give our hearts and devotion and fidelity in pledge (vow) to the god of government. And, we sing patriotic songs (of devotion to our government), in adoration, love, reverence, loyalty and commitment, too. And, thus, as Americans, we become blinded to the sins of our government leaders, and we pay no attention to what they are doing in our nation or overseas, and we believe all the lies they tell us, and so we end up being deceived and captivated by the government, and we make it our idol, too. Receive the Holy Spirit (vv. 14-17) 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. So, instead of making idols of humans, preachers, politicians, sin or government (nations), we need to make God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – our ONLY Lord (master-owner). He is the only one who should have such a hold on our lives, and for whom we should feel such strong affection, loyalty and devotion. He will never lie to us, deceive, manipulate or cheat on us. With him there is freedom from sin. Instead of allowing ourselves to be strongly influenced by evil spirits, or by those who are being led by evil spirits, i.e. by magicians, we need to have the Holy Spirit living within us. And, he (God) is the only one who should have such control over our lives. So, how do we receive the Holy Spirit? In the beginning, when the Spirit was first given, they received the Spirit through the laying on of hands, because their faith in Jesus was separate from the receiving of the Spirit, because the Spirit had not previously been given, because Jesus had not yet returned to heaven. And, so they were just learning about the Spirit. Since that time, though, people have received the Holy Spirit when they are born of the Spirit in new birth, i.e. in salvation. Paul said, “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Ro. 8:9). So, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, and we are indwelt and empowered with the Spirit of God, who is God in us. Jealousy and Greed (vv. 18-24) Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Simon was jealous of the gift of God given to the apostles, and he wanted the same power, for he was still a magician at heart, wanting to mesmerize and impress people, so he thought he could purchase such a power. But, he was dead wrong! God can’t be bought with money. We can’t fake Christianity, though many do try, and seem to be successful, at least in this world, and for a time. So, this calls for discernment on our part. There are many liars, deceivers and manipulators (magicians) passing themselves off as followers of Christ and even as ministers of the gospel, so we need to not be charmed by them, but it is necessary that we test everything we hear them say, and pay attention to the hidden (subtle) messages, too. Just because someone says he is a Christian doesn’t make it true. This same thought goes, as well, for government worship. Before you pledge allegiance to the flag and republic of the USA again, with hand over heart, think about what you are actually doing, and pray, and ask God if he is pleased with such a display of worship of government, for that is what it is. And, before you sing the next patriotic song, pay attention to the words, and look up the lyrics, and see what the songs are saying, and ask God if this is what he wants you to be singing – praises to a human government, as though singing praises to God. And, before you blindly follow your government (and media), and believe everything they tell you, ask God if what they are telling you is true. Do the homework on the US government and its founders and our presidents and their secretive organizations, and idolatry in Washington, D.C., too. Don’t let magicians mesmerize you. And, before you make that next decision to follow your flesh, and to indulge in your pet sin (the love of your life), without regard for anyone else, or for the consequences, because of how that sin makes you “feel,” ask God to show you the way out from under the temptation to that sin, and be willing to let go of it, and of anything that leads you down that path of sin. Repent of (turn from) your sin, and turn to follow Jesus Christ with your life, in obedience to his commands, and don’t look back. And, trust your Lord Jesus and his Spirit within you to give you all you need to resist Satan and to flee temptation, and to draw near to God. Daily put on your spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-20) with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against you, and set your face like a flint (with full determination) in ridding your life of all that hinders your walk with the Lord. Don’t be charmed into sinning again.