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Craig Smith - This Is Your Sign


Craig Smith - This Is Your Sign
TOPICS: Unleashed (Acts 6-10)

Well, hey, welcome back to week number three of our “Unleashed” series, where we’re talking about how to get off the short leashes that we sometimes put ourselves on as followers of Jesus. Leashes that keep us from being on mission with Jesus, leashes that keep us from living the lives God intended for us. Today, I wanna talk to you about signs, okay? I wanna talk you about signs. And I’m not talking road signs, not stop you, I’m talking about supernatural signs. I’m talking about spiritual signs, miraculous signs. I’m talking about signs from God.

And all the campuses, including everybody’s watching us online, how many of us feel like we’ve ever gotten a sign from God? We’ve got a lot of hands. Yeah, I’ve had a couple of signs in my life, I think, some really clear signs from God. Sometimes people are surprised like, well, you’re a pastor. Like, isn’t your whole day filled with miraculous signs? That has not been my experience, that’s not the way. I’ve had a couple of clear signs and then, I’m gonna be really honest with you, I’m actually a little bit skeptical of people who seem to get a lot of signs. Anybody else feel like that?

Like, sometimes I feel like that speaks more to their creativity than their sensitivity, right? Like I had a guy once that was 15 minutes late to a meeting with me and no big deal, whatever, it happens. But he came in and he goes, “Yeah, I’m sorry I’m late. I hit every single stoplight. Every stoplight was red. And I realized,” he said, “That was a sign from God that I’m supposed to slow down and stop rushing through life so much.” And I was like, “No, it’s not.”

It’s a sign you need to leave earlier and stop wasting people’s time. I’m just a little skeptical, but here’s the thing, like, I do believe that God gives signs, but I think a lot of the things that God calls us to do as followers of Jesus, he’s already kind of told us everything we need, and we just need to get busy actually doing, we don’t really need a sign for that. Now, not everybody thinks that way. There are people who are really big into signs. We actually had a family live with us for a while, couple of years back that really big time into signs.

In fact, this family, and I kid you not, they would…what they would do is every morning they would get together as a family and they would pray and they would ask God for a sign about what they should do that day. And then they wouldn’t do anything and until one of them felt like they got a sign about what they were supposed to do.

And the first time I heard that I was like, that is the most spiritual thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. But then I started thinking like, is that really what following Jesus is supposed to look like? Are we constantly supposed to be looking for signs to figure out what it is we’re gonna do as followers of Jesus? Well, that’s what I wanna dig into today. And if you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in Acts chapter 8, Acts chapter 8 starting in verse 1. So while you’re making your way to Acts 8, let me just make sure we’re all on the same page. The Book of Acts is called Acts because it’s the acts of the apostles or it’s the acts of the early church. The apostles, of course, were the followers of Jesus that he used to kinda get the church up and running.

And what we see in the Book of Acts is really the story of the early life of the church. Now, a couple weeks ago, we talked about a certain time where some problems kind of arose in the church. There were some widows or Christians that were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. And the apostles said, here’s what we’re gonna do, they said it would not be good for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables. They said, we can’t leave aside the important task of Word work in order to wait on tables. So we’re gonna select a group of guys and they’ll be the ones who wait on tables.

And so, one of those guys was named Stephen. And what’s interesting, as we saw last week, is that we never see Stephen actually wait on tables, what we do see him do is preach. We see him do Word work. And he preaches so powerfully, so effectively, that they kill him for it. That is what happened, right? He preached and he ended up being stoned to death. And what’s interesting is that as he was being stoned to death, there was a man watching, there was a Jewish man watching that. And Luke’s about to introduce us to this man, his name is Saul.

And Saul is gonna become a really big, important player in the Book of Acts here in just over the next few weeks. But here’s how Luke introduces us to Saul. So, Stephen’s lying dead on the ground, they’ve just killed him, and this is what Luke tells us about Saul. And Saul approved of their killing him. Saul was totally down with Stephen’s death. And from Saul’s perspective, Stephen deserved to die. From Saul’s perspective, Stephen was…he was a blasphemer. He was a heretic because he was preaching that Jesus was God’s Son, and that he had died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. And then God had raised him from the dead. And if you wanted to be saved, you had to put your faith in Jesus, you had to follow Jesus. That was the only way to be saved.

And from Saul’s perspective, as a Jewish religious authority, he was like, well, that that’s wrong, and so Stephen needs to be silenced, he needs to die. And in fact, I can’t help but think that maybe Saul watched Stephen die and thought, “Well, God didn’t intervene. God didn’t rescue him. God didn’t raise him from the dead.” And maybe even Saul took that as a sign that other Christians needed to die. They needed to stamp out this Christianity thing and so, what we see next is this, on that day, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. And all, except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and they mourned deeply for him, but Saul began to destroy the church. And going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and he put them in prison. And those who had been scattered, they preached the Word wherever they went.

It’s kind of an interesting description of what happened there because on the one hand, it’s a description of something bad, but it’s a description of something bad that led to something really good. Do you see that? The bad’s really easy to see, right? I mean, persecution broke out, they’re arresting Christians, or killing Christians, that’s a bad thing, but it actually accomplished something really good. And what it accomplished was good, was it scattered the Christians throughout Judea and Samaria. It kind of made them leave Jerusalem, go to Judea and Samaria. And why do I say that’s a good thing? Well, because that was Jesus’ plan all along.

In fact, if you wanna flip back a couple of pages to Acts chapter 1, after Jesus rose from the dead and he was telling the apostles, “Here’s my plan for the church.” This is what he said, he said, “I want you to go to Jerusalem and I want you to wait in Jerusalem until something happens, until the Holy Spirit comes.” And then Jesus said this, Acts 1:8, “But you’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses.” In other words, you’re gonna share the truth about who Jesus is. “You’re gonna be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and then into the ends of the earth.” That was Jesus’ plan for the church. It was a three-stage plan, right? The power of Holy Spirit’s gonna come on you, and at that moment, you’re gonna get busy, you’re gonna move out on mission.

You’re gonna share the Gospel all throughout Jerusalem. And then you’re gonna move out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. That’s kind of the surrounding region. And then, you’re gonna move out from there to the ends of the earth, to the rest of the world. So you’re gonna to take the Gospel to the rest of the world because I want the whole world to have an opportunity to say yes to following me, and be saved, and have eternal life with God, and all those good things that come with it. So that’s the three-stage plan, Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and then the rest of the world.

Now, that was Acts 1, and now, we’re in Acts 8, and a lot of time has passed. At bare minimum, one year has passed, and most of us think that actually between three and five years have passed. And where is the church? Well, they’re still in Jerusalem. They’re exclusively in Jerusalem and they’re staying in Jerusalem. They’re not moving out on stage two or three of the plan, they’re staying there until persecution happens. And if persecution happens, and what does Luke tell us? He says persecution scattered them from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. They’re now living out the second part of the plan, not necessarily voluntarily, but they’re finally moving into stage two of the plan. And that’s interesting.

And it raises a couple of questions, I think, because see, what seems to have happened is that this persecution against the church actually accomplished Jesus’ purposes for the church, right? Which raises two questions. The first one’s just this, did God allow this persecution as a form of discipline? Was this God basically kicking the church in the butt going, “I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Get moving.” Was it possible that the persecution was actually a form of discipline? Because see, here’s the thing, anytime a bad thing happens to us, there are three possible explanations for why that bad thing happened. Did you know that?

Anytime a bad thing happens to you, there’s three possible explanations for it. One of them is that we live in a fallen world, okay? We live in a world that’s broken because of our sin. The world doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work, relationships don’t work the way they’re supposed to work. And so sometimes, bad things happen to us just because we live in a world that’s been broken by our sin. That’s one possibility. There’s a second possibility for why bad things happen, and that’s because we have an enemy, we have a spiritual enemy. We call him the devil. There is a devil, there are demonic spirits, and sometimes, bad things happen because we’re under attack by our spiritual enemy, that happens.

But there’s a third reason why bad things sometimes happen, and we don’t like it, but unfortunately the Bible’s pretty clear, it’s a real possibility we have to consider. And that is that sometimes bad things happen to us because we’re being disciplined by God. Sometimes because we’re persistent in rebellion and sin, God allows bad things to happen so that we’ll go, “Oh, right, I’m not following God, I’m out from under the umbrella of his safety, and so I need to get back in line with God. I need to repent of my sin, ask for forgiveness, and start walking close with Jesus again.” Bible’s pretty clear that sometimes God allows bad things as a way of disciplining his people because of his love for them, he wants them back in that close relationship with him.

Now, in this particular case, it’s interesting because see, at any time we find ourselves facing a difficult circumstance, we just kind of need to ask some basic questions. And one of the questions we need to ask is, is it possible I’m being disciplined because of a particular sin? So we need to look at our lives and go, am I living in persistent rebellion? Is there a sin in my life that I know is sin, but I’m still walking that way, I’m living in rebellion?

And if the answer is yes, then we have to consider the possibility that the bad thing that’s happening might be God’s wake up call. Now, the church, if they had asked that question, that they might have gone, well, you know, it is interesting that Jesus gave us a plan, and we’re not really living out the plan. We’re not really moving out on the mission he gave us. We’re sticking where it’s comfortable, and kind of safe, and really the church was keeping itself on a pretty short leash until this persecution hit. So, that’s the first question that I think we probably wanna ask is, is it possible that this persecution was actually a form of discipline to get the church moving?

And that leads us to the second question I think we probably wanna ask here, which is just this, what do you think they were waiting for? What were they waiting for? The Holy Spirit had come, the power of God was evident but they weren’t moving out. So, what do you think they were waiting on? If I had to guess, I’d say, they were probably suffering from something that I call when-ism. Anybody here ever suffered from when-ism? You’re like, what is that?

Well, it’s okay if you don’t know what it is because I just made it up. But you know what when-ism is, when-ism is, it’s the tendency to say, “I’ll do blank when blank happens.” I see some nodding heads now. Still not sure if you’ve ever suffered from when-ism, how about this? Anybody ever said, “I’m gonna get in shape when the holidays are over.” Come on, come on. Yeah, that’s when-ism right there. Maybe said, I’m gonna cut down on my drinking when I graduate from college, that’s when-ism right there.

I’ll start practicing generosity when I make more money, that’s when-ism. I’ll start serving others when my kids are out of the house, when my kids are grown, that’s when-ism. I’ll join a Life Group when the pandemic is over. I know, I just commenced to meddling, I’m sorry. Or, Greg Stier challenged us last week to share the simple Gospel and maybe we go, “Hey, I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna start sharing the Gospel when I know more about the Bible. Well, when I’ve answered a few more of the questions in my own mind that I think other people might ask me, that’s when I’ll start sharing the Gospel.” See, all that’s when-ism. It’s a tendency to say, “Well, I’ll do this good thing when this other thing happens.”

And the problem with when-ism is that it keeps us on a pretty short leash. It keeps us from moving out of comfort zones, it keeps us from moving into the scarier world that God’s calling us to. But it’s in that scary place that we’re gonna see the power of God really evident in our lives and through our lives impacting other people as well. When-ism keeps us on a short leash, it keeps that from happening. So, listen, if we wanna live unleashed, that’s what we’re talking about in this series, if we wanna live unleashed, we have to stop giving in to when-ism.

So, ask yourself this question, what good thing is when-ism keeping me from doing? Ask yourself that question. What good thing do you know, you probably should be doing, and you’re definitely gonna do it when this other thing happens? What good thing is when-ism keeping you from doing? I think we all suffer from when-ism, I know I do. Coletta and I realized recently that we were doing it when it came to our neighbors. I mean, we really believe that as Christians, we have to have good relationships with our neighbors.

And we had a couple of new families move into our street over the last couple years. And we did the basic stuff like, we stopped, we said hello. We took them a little welcome to the neighborhood thing, but we went, you know what we need to do though? We really need to build a deep relationship. We need to go beyond the surface. And so, we need to have move for dinner, we need to really get to know ’em, and we’re totally gonna do that when the pandemic’s over or when the holidays are over. Things have been really busy, you know? You know, been going some with my parents. When that stuff’s over, we’re gonna…

And we finally kind of looked at each other and went, “We’re just suffering from when-ism,” and we just need to make a phone call. So we made some phone calls and we said, “Hey, what about this…can we do Monday night? Can you come over for dinner? Can we have you over?” And we just needed to do that because we were suffering from when-ism, it’s an easy thing to do. And I believe, probably what was happening for the early church is they were suffering from when-ism. They’re like, “We’re definitely gonna get busy on the rest of this plan, Jesus, when this has happened.” But what was it they were waiting for? What were they…what when were they waiting on, right?

And I don’t know for sure, but given the way the rest of this passage flows, if I had to guess, I’d say, I think they were waiting on a sign. They were waiting on some kind of a sign from God that it was time to get moving on the mission. Check this out. So, Philip went down to a city in Samaria…and by the way, Phillip is another one of the table waiters. Phillip is another one of the guys the apostle said, “Hey, it’s not right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables. You guys wait on tables. We’ll do the Word work. We’ll proclaim the Gospel stuff.”

Now, Phillip, one of the table waiters, Philip went down to a city in Samaria and he started waiting on tables. Oh, that’s not what mine says actually. Philip went down to the city in Samaria and he proclaimed the Messiah there, that’s Word work. Because Word work is a responsibility of every follower of Jesus. We’re all called to extend the influence of the Gospel into every sphere of influence that you and I have. That’s what it means to be on mission with Jesus.

Philip did that. He went down to a city in Samaria and he proclaimed the Messiah there. And when the crowds heard Philip, and they saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed, and so, there was great joy in that city.

So Philip goes, and he’s preaching the Word, but he’s also…he’s doing some pretty impressive stuff, right? He’s doing things that we call what? We call them miracles, right? Lame people being healed, demons are being cast out, miracles. But I want you to notice that Luke doesn’t call them miracles. What does Luke call them? He calls them signs. And Luke’s really precise with his words. I think of all the New Testament writers, he may be the most precise with the kind of words he picks, he’s really precise.

And so, I think we need to pay attention. Why does he call them signs instead of what we usually call them? Why not miracles? Here’s the reason. Because miracles are demonstrations of power, okay? Miracles just mean there’s spiritual power there, but signs are something else. See signs, signs show us where we wouldn’t otherwise know to go. Let me say that again, it’s really important. Signs show us where we wouldn’t otherwise know to go. Without these signs, we wouldn’t go in this particular place.

How many of us have a big sign over our house so we know how to get home? No, nobody? How many of us, we have to really pay attention to all the signs on the roads leading to our house so that we know how to get home? No, why? Because you know how to go there. But if you’re going someplace else that you’ve never been before, and you don’t know how to go there, even that you should be going there, you need some kind of a sign. That’s when we begin to pay attention to signs.

Well, biblically, signs are things from God that show us how to go where we otherwise wouldn’t know to go. And it’s interesting, people will often say to me things like, “Well, you know what, I read the Bible and I see signs all over the place, I see miracles all over the place, just seems like they were constantly experiencing these incredibly miraculous events. And I don’t see many of those in my life. In fact, I haven’t seen many miracles at all, and I don’t understand why were they so common back then, and we don’t see so many of them today.” How many of us have ever wondered that? All our campuses online, yeah.

We’re gonna answer that question a little bit today. And here’s part of the answer by the way, it’s that, you need to be careful. Don’t read the Bible and go, wow, there were miracles every day because the Bible records the days where there were miracles. Nobody was writing about days where there wasn’t a miracle, right? Let me prove this to you. If you wanna flip back to the beginning of what we call the New Testament. The New Testament is the after Jesus was born, it’s right after the Old Testament, which is the before Jesus was born. And the New Testament begins with the Book of Matthew, and the space between the Old Testament and the New Testament is this big. It’s a very, very small page. You know how much time is represented by that page right there? About 400 years.

Why don’t we have stuff? Well, the Jews actually called it the silent years. They said, God’s not doing the same kind of miracles, he hasn’t raised up the same kind of prophets as we had at this point. There are ebbs and flows to God’s activity, his miraculous activity and history, and so nobody writes, “Hey, today, I didn’t see a miracle. Day two, see day one.” Nobody does that for 400 years. And so what happens is the Bible records a lot of the highlights, and then we come along, we’re like, well, there are miracles happening every day. Well, that’s not the truth at all. So we gotta be careful about that.

But there are other reasons I think why we don’t necessarily see as many signs and miracles, and we’re gonna unpack three of those today. And one of them is this signs business, what is a sign? Well, it shows us how to go where we otherwise wouldn’t know to go. See, what was happening was Philip was going into a place where nobody had ever heard about Jesus, and they didn’t know any Christians, and so why would anybody listen to him? Well, he did signs. God enabled him to do signs and wonders so that they would listen to him and his message about Jesus. Because they didn’t have any other reason to think they should be listening to this guy, this stranger who wandered into town with this message.

And it’s interesting that in the Book of Acts, when the Gospel went into a place where nobody had heard of Jesus and they didn’t know any other Christians, you often got signs and wonders, but then after there was a church there, the number of miracles and signs tended to kind of decline a little bit. Which is interesting because you see the same thing in history when the Gospel goes into a place where nobody’s ever heard of Jesus, and they’ve never known any Christians, you often see signs and wonders. It even happens today. I’ve had some friends who’ve been taking the Gospel to people groups around the world that they’ve never heard of Jesus, they’ve never met a Christian, and even though my friends weren’t necessarily looking for miracles, they often found that miraculous things happened that caused the people to listen to them. Unexpected, but they were miraculous signs.

And then after there was a church, the number of signs and miracles kind of went down. Well, what’s going on? Are Christians getting in the way of the miracles of God? No. Listen to me. Christians are the miracle of God. Christians are supposed to be the sign that the Gospel message is true because listen to me, Jesus never said, “The world’s gonna know the truth of the Gospel, the world’s gonna know that you’re my followers by all the miracles you do.” That ‘s not what Jesus said. Jesus never said, “Everybody will know that you’re my disciples if you perform signs,” that’s not what Jesus said. You know what Jesus said? This is what Jesus said. He said, “By this, everyone will know that you’re my disciples, if you love one another.” Pay attention to that. That’s how, Jesus said, people would know that we’re his, that’s the proof of the truth of the Gospel, is that we would love each other.

And think about it for a second, in a world dominated by hatred, and we live in a world dominated by hatred, don’t we? In a world dominated by hatred, what is more miraculous than a group of people known for their love? Why don’t we see more signs and wonders? Because you and I are the signs and the wonders. Our transformed lives because of our relationship with Jesus, and the way we deal with each other, and the way we deal with other people who think differently than we do, that have different color skin, that have different social practices, and cultures, and politics, and those kinds of things, how we deal with people that we don’t always agree with, how we love them, that is the miracle that points people to the truth of the Gospel message. You and I are the signs. That’s one of the reasons we don’t see quite so many signs after there are Christians around because you and I are the signs. At least we should be.

But there’s more reasons than just that. So Philip came, and he did these signs, and so people listened to him. And then we’re told this, we’re told that now for some time, a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city, and amazed all the people of Samaria. By the way, I want you to notice as we go through this passage, notice all the words that kind of indicate these people were fascinated, they were obsessed with signs. They were amazed and he amazed all the people of Samaria. And he boasted that he was someone great, and all the people both high and low gave him their attention and they exclaimed, this man is rightly called the Great Power of God. And they followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. So we got this guy, Simon, who’s been doing miracles.

Now, pay attention, Luke, again, really careful about his words, he didn’t call them miracles, he didn’t call them signs, he calls it sorcery. And I know in our culture today, we don’t necessarily think of sorcery as a bad thing because you know, Harry Potter’s pretty good, right? Don’t think Harry Potter, think Voldemort, okay? Sorcery in the Bible is a bad thing because sometimes people go, “Well, he didn’t really perform miracles, right? He was just doing illusions and things.” No, no, no, Luke says he was doing miraculous things because he did have spiritual power. The problem is, it wasn’t God’s spiritual power. They might have said, you know, he’s the hand of the great God or something like that. But the reality is, he was in league with evil spirits. Because we do have a spiritual enemy, there is a devil and their demons, and the interesting thing is the devil and demons have spiritual power and they can perform counterfeit miracles. They can perform miraculous signs that nobody else can explain, they’re that supernatural.

And this is another reason why we don’t see as many signs as we sometimes think we ought to. Because a sign doesn’t necessarily point you to God, a miracle doesn’t necessarily mean it was Jesus. There are other spiritual forces that perform counterfeit miracles. You know, the one miracle, the one sign the devil can’t counterfeit, is love. The devil can’t counterfeit that. Well, he’s tried. His best attempt is what we call tolerance, it’s a whole different message. But see, that’s his best attempt to counterfeit love, it’s that, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re doing anything wrong. Just whatever they’re doing, you know, just love them.

Well, that’s not love. I mean, the Bible says that love is sacrificial. The Bible says that love even has difficult conversation, which says, because I love you, I need to tell you what you’re doing, it’s sin and it’s got you going farther and farther from God, and moving into a way of doing life that’s gonna lead to utter destruction. And because I love you, I’m gonna have to have this uncomfortable conversation to try to draw you back into the relationship with a God who loves you more than I do. That’s not comfortable, but that’s real love according to Bible. See, the devil cannot counterfeit that. That’s the one miracle the devil can’t fake. But it’s another reason why we gotta be careful about signs because they don’t necessarily mean that God’s at work, and this guy, that they weren’t.

But when they, meaning the people of Samaria, 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. And Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. So Simon believes, he says yes to following Jesus, he gets baptized, he goes public with it, it’s awesome. But then notice that what Luke tells us is that he followed Philip everywhere, like a puppy dog, right? He followed Phillip everywhere because he was what? He was astonished at the signs. This is a guy who’s fixated on signs, this is a guy who’s obsessed with signs still. And that becomes a problem.

Now, when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. Now, that’s so interesting, okay? So, the apostles are still in Jerusalem. All the other church went on to stage two, they’re out there in Judea and Samaria, the apostles, the only one still in Jerusalem, but they hear that there are Samaritans that have said yes to Jesus.

And you need to understand, that’s hard for the disciples to get their heads around because the Samaritans, they’re messy. I mean, they’re kind of Jewish, so they’re a little bit like the apostles and God’s people historically, but they’re not really Jews because they’ve got Jewish blood, but they’ve also… it’s been mixed with Gentiles, non-Jewish people. And so, you know, it’s kind of hard for them to believe that the Gospel of Jesus would include them, that they could become part of the family of God, too. That’s kind of hard for them to believe.

Basically, when Jesus said you’re gonna start in Jerusalem, then you’re gonna go to Judea and Samaria. They really thought, well, yeah, but you really mean Judea, right? Because that’s Jewish people. I mean, Samaria, that’s just a convenient…you don’t like really mean them, right? Then they get this message that, “Hey, the Samaritans are saying yes to Jesus.” And the apostles go, “That’s hard to believe. Peter, John, you guys can need to get over there, launch an investigation, right? Do a full inquiry, find out what’s going on.”

And 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. And then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And we need to do a little bit of a theology lesson here. See, the Bible says consistently that when we say yes to Jesus, three things happen, and they typically happen simultaneously. They happen instantly the moment we say yes to following Jesus.

First thing is we’re forgiven of our sins. Instantly, your sins are forgiven. Number two is that we are adopted into the family of God. We become a child of God, it’s irrevocable adoption, that’s who we are now. The third thing that happens immediately, the Bible consistently says, is that we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God comes into us and begins to change us from the inside out. The Bible consistently says those three things happen at the same time.

There’s a couple of exceptions to that set of things happening at the same time, and this is one of the rare exceptions. Because in this case, he said yes to Jesus, presumably, they were forgiven of their sins, they’re adopted in the family God, but they didn’t get the Holy Spirit. Why did the Holy Spirit not come right away? Why did the Holy Spirit not come until the apostles got there? This is I think the answer. Because apparently, the apostles needed a sign that Jesus was serious about reaching the whole world, that Jesus was serious about this Gospel going out and taking root throughout the rest of the world, including not only the Samaritans who were partly Jewish, but even beyond that, to the people who were purely Gentile.

The apostles needed to see that the Holy Spirit was coming on them, that they were given the same benefits of belonging to God’s family, that they, the Jews had. They needed to see that. And so in this particular case, it’s kind of an exception to the rule because they needed to see that Jesus was serious about inviting everybody in the world into this relationship with him.

Now, when Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money. And he said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” It’s a guy who’s obsessed with signs, right? He’s trying to go back to his old way of life, where he was able to do those, and now he’s kind of renounced the demonic spirits that were capable of allowing him to do counterfeit signs. But he’s like, “I still want signs. I still wanna do wonders, I still wanna do miracles, and so guys here, I’ll pay you, right? I’ll pay you, and you give me this ability.” It’s a guy who’s obsessed with signs. Here’s Peter’s response.

Peter answered, “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money.” Basically he says, “I hope you and your money die. You have no part in this ministry, no share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for being such a thought in your heart, for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” Anybody feel like this is just a little bit harsh? Why is Peter so harsh? Why does he come down so hard on this guy?

Some of it might be, let’s just be honest. Peter’s a little bit of a hot head, which I love because I’m a little bit of a hot head, and so I love that, you know, God has a place and a plan even for him, right? That his failures aren’t fatal. That might be part of it, but I think there’s another reason why Peter responds so strongly to this guy who’s really kind of obsessed with signs, and it has to do with something Jesus said.

At a certain point in his ministry, Jesus entered into a place where he hadn’t really done any signs. Now, in other places, he had done signs. He’d healed people, and lame were walking, and blind people were seeing. He’d done all these amazing signs, but then he came to a place where he hadn’t done any of these, and there was a group of people who came and this is what they said. This is Matthew 12:38. And then some of the Pharisees, the religious leaders, and teachers of the Law said to him, they said, “Teacher, we wanna see a sign from you. We’ve heard about the signs, we would like to see it for ourself. Could you give us a sign?”

And the implication of course is if you’ll just give us a sign, of course, then we’ll believe you, right? We’ll trust you then. So just give us…come on, give us another one. And this is what Jesus answered. He said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the Prophet Jonah.” Sign of the Prophet Jonah, Jonah is that prophet who got swallowed by the great fish, spent three days and nights in the belly of a fish. And Jesus is saying, I’m gonna give you a sign kinda like that. I’m gonna die, I’m gonna go into the grave for three days and three nights, and then I’m gonna come back out, and that’s the only sign you’re gonna get.

Why didn’t he give them more signs? Because what he says, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign.” What Jesus is basically saying, and what I think Peter understood, which is why he responded to Simon so harshly is that, he understood that insisting on signs is a sign of sin. You hear me, church? Insisting on signs is a sign of sin. It’s a sign of rebelliousness, it’s a sign of disobedience. It’s a sign of unwillingness to move forward in what God’s called us to. Insisting on signs is a sign, it’s a sign of sin. And so Peter comes down pretty harsh on Simon.

And then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” And this is the last we hear of Simon. It’s interesting, people have been debating for thousands of years, whether or not Simon was a true Christian or not because nothing said after this. Some people think, well, no, he, you know, he couldn’t have done what he did. He couldn’t have been obsessed with signs in that way if he was really a Christian, and others go well, Luke said that he believed and was baptized, which seems to say he was a believer. But we’re not told anything else about him and which is kind of a strange thing like, why not finish the story, right? Why not tell us what happened to Simon?

And I think the reason we’re not told is because Simon’s not the point of the story. Simon is not the main focus of attention here. The main focus of attention here is this obsession with signs, and understanding that makes the next thing that happened really interesting. And after they had further proclaimed the Word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel in many Samaritan villages.

And I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t know what to do with that verse. Because on the one hand, they’re starting to get it. On the one hand, their world’s opening up a little bit, they do preach in Samaritan village, like, I guess Jesus is serious about bringing Samaritans into the kingdom of God. And so they’re opening up to that and they’re beginning to move out on mission, but they only preaching in Samaritan villages on their way back to where? Back to Jerusalem.

And the rest of the church is scattered and they’re doing stage two, but they’re going back to Jerusalem, they’re going back to stage one. And it’s interesting, they could have easily sent people back, they could have sent messengers back and said to the apostles, “Hey, it’s crazy, God’s really doing a work here. This is where the Word work is happening. You guys need to get here and you need to be part of this,” but they don’t send messengers to bring them, they just go back themselves.

And as the rest of this story unfolds over the next few weeks, we’re gonna see that that’s still where they are, they’re still in Jerusalem. It’s strange because, you know, Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes, and then you’re gonna be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and then Judea and Samaria, and then to the rest to the world.” And the Holy Spirit came and it kind of seems like God said, “Hey, this is your sign.” They stayed on the short lease, they’re in Jerusalem.

So then got a lot of persecution to break out, which scattered the rest of the church, everybody, except the apostles into the Judea and Samaria, stage two. And it kind of feels like God is going, “Hey, this is your sign.” And then they hear the Samaritans are saying yes to Jesus, and they go out there, and as hard as it is for them to believe, they lay hands on them and they get the same Holy Spirit. They’re fully members of the kingdom of God, just like them. And that really feels like God’s going, “Hey, this is your sign.” And they’re going back to Jerusalem.

This makes you go like, what are they waiting for? Because you know, it’s interesting, the Bible has a word for when we know what we’re supposed to do, and God’s told us what we’re supposed to do, and we don’t do it. Whether it’s because we’re afraid, or we’re rebellious, or we’re just waiting for another sign. You know what the Bible calls it when we know what we’re supposed to do and we don’t do it? Let me tell you what God says. James 4:17, “If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it’s sin for them.”

You know, I told you, there was a family that lived with us for a couple of years, or I’m sorry, a couple of years ago, they lived with us for six months. And the reason they lived for us for six months is because I found out that the guy, the husband had lost his job. And because of that, they’d lost their apartment, and they had four kids under five and they were camping. And so Coletta and I said, “No, come live with us ’til you get your feet back under you. Come live with us till you find a job, and get enough money saved up, you can get an apartment. So please come do that.” So they did it.

And they were with us for six months. And day after day in those six months, they would get together as a family and they would pray, “God, give us a sign of what we’re supposed to do today.” And it’s interesting during that six months, not once, did God give them a sign that he should apply for a job. I mean, I had some hard conversations with them, I said, “Hey, like, you’re young, you’re you’re able to work, and your family needs you to work to provide for them, so you need to go apply for a job.” He’s like, “Well, you know, I’m thinking about it,” and he bought a hotdog stand actually. He was like, “I think that’s gonna be the new thing.”

I was like, “Well, that’s a good idea but maybe another good idea would be to get a job with a paycheck until you get that running.” But apparently, that was never the sign that he needed. At one point, I was like, “Okay, here’s what I think I’m gonna do, Coletta, I’m gonna get a piece of paper, I’m gonna write, apply for a job today, and then in parentheses, this is your sign.” I wonder if that would’ve worked. I believe that was sin. When you know the good you’re supposed to do and you don’t do it because you’re waiting on a sign. It’s not good.

Listen, I think what God’s telling us here is that if we wanna live unleashed, we have to stop waiting for signs and start doing the good we know we need to do, you hear me, church? If you wanna live unleashed you, you need to stop waiting on a sign, and start doing the good God’s already told you you need to do. So ask yourself this question, what good do I know I need to do but I just haven’t done? If you wanna live unleashed, that’s the place you start to let yourself off the leash.

Just ask yourself, what’s the good thing I need to do that I just haven’t done? Some of us know that we need to find a job, or we need to start taking our job really seriously, or maybe we need to get another job, but we’re still waiting on a sign. Some of us know, we need to go back to school, or we need to start taking school seriously, stop wasting the money we’re investing in. Or maybe we need to change majors because we know that’s not what I wanna do with the rest of my life but you keep racking up debt and spending money on a major you know isn’t really where God’s calling you, but you’re still waiting on a sign to do it.

Some of us have been thinking about serving God on a short term trip, but you’re still waiting on a sign of some kind. Some of us have allowed sin to take root in our lives. You’re on a path that’s taking you away from God and his plans for your life. And you know you need to deal with it, but you’re waiting for a sign. Some of us know that we need to be building relationships with our neighbors, that’s me. We’re still waiting on some kind of a sign. Some of us know we need to start serving others, but we’re still waiting on a sign. Some of us know we need to start practicing generosity, but we’re still waiting on a sign of some kind, for some kind of a sign to show up and tell us, “Yeah, it’s time to start doing that.”

Some of us know we need to get out of a relationship we’re in that we shouldn’t be in, but we’re still waiting on a sign. Some of us know we need to get into a relationship, we just need to ask the girl out, or maybe you just need to ask her to marry you. We’re gonna get some marriages out of this message, okay? But you’re still waiting for a sign. Guess what? This is your sign. Right here today, right now, this is your sign. Some of us know that we need… Yeah.

Some of us know that we need to forgive somebody because bitterness and resentment is destroying our relationship with God, and our souls more than it’s doing any damage to them, and so we need to say, I forgive you. We need to let that go. But we’re still waiting on a sign. Well, listen, this is your sign. Some of us need to ask for forgiveness. We need to go to somebody and say, “I’ve done wrong by you, and I realize that, and I am sorry, will you please forgive me?” But we’re still waiting on a sign. Well, guess what? This is your sign.

Some of us, we need to get help for our marriage because it’s not the marriage God intended for us. And we need to bring somebody else into that, to start making it the marriage that God dreamed it up to be. But we’re waiting on a sign. Well, listen, this is your sign. Some of us know that we need to lean in to getting help in our parenting, or in spiritual lives, or in our marriage, or somewhere. We need to get somebody else to help us get unstuck from where we are, but we’re still waiting on a sign. This is your sign.

Some of us need to get baptized. We got baptism coming up in a few weeks. Some of you need to get baptized, you’re still waiting on a sign. Well guess what? This is your sign. And some of us need to say yes to following Jesus. You’ve been circling faith in Jesus for a while, you’re waiting on some kind of a sign. Well, guess what? This is your sign. Would you pray with me?

God as your people, we thank you for signs. We thank you for the greatest sign, which is the resurrection of Jesus. We thank you for so many ways in your graciousness, you go before us and you lead us. Father, we also wanna ask for your forgiveness in the ways that we maybe have found ourselves stuck in disobedience, or just stuck in a place that we aren’t supposed to be anymore, because we’re waiting for someone kind of a sign, when the reality is you’ve already told us the good we need to do, and we just haven’t done it. We ask for your forgiveness. And Holy Spirit, we invite you right now to move in us and give us the courage. Give us clarity, yes, but maybe more than anything else because we’re already pretty clear. What we really need is the courage to start doing the good that we’re called to do. And Lord, I know there are people listening to this message, that they heard that last one, they heard that they’ve been waiting on a sign before they were ready to commit to following Jesus. And I just pray you would move right now in their hearts and give them the clarity.


And if that’s you, you don’t need any more signs, it’s just time to say yes. You can do it right here, right now. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God, and it goes a little bit like this, say something like this to God, right now:

God, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned, I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me enough to send Jesus. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay off my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I’m ready to say yes. I’m ready to put my trust in you. I’m ready to commit myself to following you from here on out. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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