Monday, July 3, 2023

            Acts 8 introduces us to an interesting character named Simon the Sorcerer.  He had dazzled and amazed people with his magic and bag of tricks for a long time.  But then the gospel came to town through the preaching of Philip.  People no longer had any need for magic since they had met the Lord.  The Bible says that even Simon the Sorcerer “believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13a).  Yet, we have reason to think that Simon’s conversion might have had some ulterior motives.  When believers in Samaria received the Holy Spirit, in part because of the prayers of Peter and John, Simon witnessed what had happened.  He wanted the Spirit so badly that he offered the apostles money so he could “buy” the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18).
            In his own words, Peter had an immediate response to Simon’s request. The apostle said, “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.  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.  For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8:20-23).  Those words were probably hard for Simon to hear but they were necessary.  Peter’s response stands out for at least five reasons today.
            First, the truth can often be hard to hear.  Truth is not always easy but it is always right.  God’s Word often confronts us with the truth when we have been holding on to lies and falsehoods.  We can be challenged to trade the lies we have told ourselves for the truth that God has for us to know and understand.  While the gospel often comforts the afflicted, it must also afflict the comfortable. And the Word corrects and rebukes us when we are wrong. Peter realized that Simon’s motives were neither sincere nor pure.  This magician seemed to have thought that he had found a higher power that could enhance his power and reputation.  But the Holy Spirit cannot be bought or controlled by human methods or means.
            Second, a wicked heart requires repentance.  To repent simply means to change directions.  When we see wickedness in ourselves, we have two choices.  We can persist in it or we can turn from it.  The Holy Spirit will always lead us to turn from sinful ways.  Isaiah wrote, “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).  Forgiveness awaits those who repent of their sins and turn toward the Lord. 
            Third, we are to see ourselves as the Lord’s servants.  God is not obligated to do our bidding or to give us everything we might want.  Simon seemed to think turning toward the Lord was a good career move or business strategy.  But if we reduce God to a tool or object that we turn to when we need a leg-up or a bit of an advantage over some competitors, then we have missed the whole truth of who God is and what He offers us.  We exist to bring glory to Him and to love and serve Him with heart, mind, strength and soul.  We are to approach God in humility and surrender and know that we are His people and His servants.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts that we use to share the gospel, edify other believers, grow our churches and serve the cause of Christ in the world today.  May we never use the Lord or His gifts for selfish gain or sinful ends. 
            Fourth, Peter’s words teach us to be bold about sin.  We are not to excuse it or minimize it.  We are not to leave it alone and look the other way.  We are to be ruthless when it comes to sin.  We are to see it, confess it, turn from it and bring it to the Lord for forgiveness and grace.  We are to live for Him and with Him and not sinful desires or ways.  We flee sin. Remember Paul’s command to a young man named Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). 
            And fifth, we are to check our motives consistently.  We may not always have the right motives in mind when we make decisions about what to do in life.  Motives do matter—as much as methods or outcomes.  And our motives can be yet another way to serve the Lord and bring glory to Him.  Motives are not always easy to see so they can be easily overlooked.  We have to ask the Lord for discernment into the motivations behind what we are doing.  For example, being helpful to a terminally ill neighbor might be a good and loving way to serve.  But if our motivation is to curry the neighbor’s favor and earn a place in his will or estate, then our motivates are sinful and badly flawed.  Simon’s motive did not appear as a desire to be filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Rather, he wanted to elevate his power with an infusion of divine power. 
            In his own words, Peter brings both conviction and clarity.  The conviction comes from seeing whether we are acting righteously or wickedly.  The clarity comes from seeing where God is at work so we can join Him.  Not everyone speaks about the Lord in holy and humble ways.  We all too often can treat God like a vending machine where we are forever looking to get something from Him.  In the word of Peter, may our hearts be right before Him.  Have a great Monday.  Remember you can share our worship with others at

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