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::Devotional:: ‘Are you interested in Jesus?’

July 15, 2009

man_mirrorIn a recent message by Pastor Larry Holland, an interesting point was made that has sent me into the scriptures.  Pastor Holland said, “being interested in Jesus is very different than being passionate for Jesus.”  Now, this is a quote that many of us could quickly Amen to, right?  But what if we took some time to evaluate our own lives in light of this quote.  Am I interested in or passionate for Jesus?  Let’s go to the word and see what God can reveal to us about the difference between the two.

As I thought about this question, the Lord led me to one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of Acts.  Specifically, He led me to Chapter 8 where we get a wonderful contrast between two men, Simon and Philip.

Simon was quite the local attraction in the city of Samaria.  The Bible describes his profession as that of a sorcerer because he performed and amazed the people with his magic.  It isn’t clear whether his magic was merely an illusion the likes of David Blain or Chris Angel today; or if in fact he was empowered by Satan.  Regardless, this man was living the high life.  If he were alive today you might could buy tickets to see him in Las Vegas as the main act at one of the casinos.  He was the top act in town and nobody even came close to matching him.  As you might imagine, he was a bit prideful and his pride was only fueled by the people who came to see him.

He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.”  Acts 8:9-11 NIV

South of Samaria, in the city of Jerusalem, lived a man named Philip.  The book of Acts provides a brief chronicle of Philips life and ministry in chapters 6-8.  The Bible describes Philip as a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  In fact, the Apostles selected Philip as one of the first deacons to ever serve in the local church.  At a point in the history of the early church when tensions came to a boiling point between the Jewish rulers, who were against the message of Jesus Christ, and the Christians;  Philip left town as quickly as he could to escape death and ended up in Samaria, home to Simon the sorcerer.

Immediately upon Philips arrival in Samaria he began to teach and preach about Jesus Christ.  God confirmed the truth of his message to the people by performing miraculous signs through him and many people became believers.  In fact, the Bible says that even Simon the sorcerer believed, was baptized, and became like an apprentice to Philip.

A man interested in Jesus

A good definition of the word interested is “a sense of concern with and curiosity about someone or something.”  Simon was definitely interested in what was going on with Philip in Samaria.  But what was beneath the surface of his interest in Philip and this Jesus the Christ?  The Bible does say that Simon believed and was baptized and began to follow Philip, but just a few verses later the truth about Simon’s motives is revealed.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’  Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!  You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.”  Acts 8:18-21 NIV

Peter was able to pickup on Simon’s motives immediately upon the request he made.  He knew that Simon’s heart was not right with God and he called him out on it.  I believe that Simon’s interest in Jesus had more to do with Simon himself than it did with Jesus.

Simon was interested in Jesus to maintain his own popularity:

Remember, Simon was the top act in Samaria before Philip came along.  No doubt Simon felt a bit upstaged and out performed.  The crowds were no longer impressed with what feats he could perform when Philip preached the good news of Jesus Christ, cast out demons, and healed many paralytics.  The message alone that Philip carried was life changing for these people.  Simon had to face the facts and at some point it seems that his desire to maintain his popularity motivated him in part to join up with Philip.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em as the old saying goes.

Simon was interested in Jesus to maintain his own power:

As we said before, Simon’s power to perform his magic is not clearly defined in the scriptures.  It could have been all illusions or perhaps he was empowered by Satan to some degree.  Regardless, we know that Simon evaluated the power he possessed and the power of the Holy Spirit, displayed before him with Philip and the visiting apostles from Jerusalem, and determined that he was coming up on the short end of the stick.  As a performer who made his living off of the crowds he entertained, he offered his competition a fair settlement of cash in exchange for the power to be able to perform as they performed.  However, as we can see from Peter’s response, Simon only had himself in mind when he made that request.  He was looking out for his own best interest.  Without this power, how would he ever amaze the crowds?  He would become a has-been, a nobody, forgotten.  In fact, that seems to be exactly what happened.  The scriptures don’t mention much about Simon after Acts 8.

A man passionate for Jesus

In striking contrast to Simon stands Philip, with a passion for Jesus.  Passion is defined as “a strong love towards someone or something.”  Allow me to provide some background into the situation and setting of Philip’s time in Samaria to illustrate how his passion for Jesus was so much more than merely an interest.

Philip was passionate for Jesus despite his popularity:

Philip’s trip to Samaria was not a voluntary vacation.  Remember, it was because of the murderous persecution that fell upon the church in Jerusalem that Philip ran from the city to save his life.  As a Christian, Philip was far from a member of the popular crowd in Jerusalem.  When he arrived in Samaria and people began to ask where he was from and what brought him to Samaria, he could have easily made up some story other than “I am a Christian, running for my life!”   I’m sure some people scoffed at him in Samaria just as they had scoffed at Jesus on the road to Calvary.  Nevertheless, that is what he preached; the life changing good news of Jesus Christ to all who would listen.  Despite his popularity.

Philip was passionate for Jesus despite his own power:

In Acts 6 the Bible says Philip was selected to be a deacon in the early church because he was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  Neither of those qualifications were something that he could have developed on his own.  He could not produce the Holy Spirit within himself and he could not muster up the infinite wisdom of God from his own finite mind.  Philip had no part in being identified as a Christian other than yielding to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the urging of the Holy Spirit within him.  He was powerless.  As Philip arrived in Samaria, God performed miracles and wonders out of His own power through Philip for a very specific reason; so that the people would believe the message of Jesus, Philip proclaimed to them.  Philip carried a message that was not of his own creation, and performed miracles with a power that was not from within himself.  He was powerless.  Nevertheless, he preached to all who would listen.  Despite his own power.

Are you interested in Jesus or passionate for him?

There is obviously some serious depth to Pastor Holland’s statement “being interested in Jesus is very different than being passionate for Him.”  Join me in taking this opportunity to reflect on our relationship with Jesus.  

  • Am I interested in Jesus because around here, that is a very popular thing to do?
    • Is that why I go to church?
    • Is that why I read my bible?
    • Is that why I do the things I do as a Christian?
  • Am I interested in Jesus because I want to have the kind of power in my life to do some pretty amazing things?
    • Do I want people to be impressed by me?
    • Do I want to be able to do what I see other Christians do?
    • Do I want people to think I’m pretty amazing?

OR

  • Am I passionate for Jesus even though I may not be very popular with other people around me?
    • Is that why I have chosen to be very selective over what I watch, listen to, or become involved in?
    • Is that why I want a deeper relationship with Jesus?
    • Is that why I may not do everything other Christians do?
  • Am I passionate for Jesus even though I don’t think I have the greatest capabilities to serve Him?
    • Is that why I’m amazed when He works through me to accomplish something?
    • Is that why I’m focused on what God is instructing me to do rather than what everyone else may be doing?
    • Is that why I’m thankful that I am the recipient of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love?

The Bible says that Simon’s heart was not right before God and implies that Philip, full of the Holy Spirit, had a heart that was.  What was the difference? It all comes down to a personal relationship with Jesus.  We can be Christians who are simply interested in Jesus and know of Him; or we can be Christians who are passionate for Jesus and know Him personally.

“Lord help us to see ourselves for who we truly are.  How you really see us.  Help us to change where we need to.  Search us O God and know our hearts, test us and know our anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive ways in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.  In Jesus’ name, Amen”

-Stay Rooted Col. 2:7-

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