While I was working at McDonald’s as a teenager, a middle-aged woman approached me at the counter to order hot hamburgers and crispy fries. I put her order together and she paid for the food with a twenty dollar bill. I laid that bank note on the cash register tray, face up, as I had been trained to do, and I began to collect her change from the drawer. However, as I looked down I noticed something strange about this “twenty dollar bill” that this woman had given me. The president’s face looking up at me was George Washington, and I thought to myself, “Well, what is he doing there?” And, I could not discern an answer so I asked the woman who had given me this strange currency, “What is George Washington doing on this twenty dollar bill?” She looked at me a bit sheepish and a little bit even more guilty but she could not answer my question. And, so I asked the store manager what she thought; “Why would George Washington’s face be on this twenty dollar bill?” She became even more curious and she began to ask our customer many more questions. Someone had taken two twenty dollar bills and cut off one end of each and then taped them to a one dollar bill and this way, you see, forty one dollars could become sixty dollars; quite a return on an investment. I suspected that the one who had done this was standing right before me and we told this lady that we could not accept this twenty dollar bill because it was faulty; it was worthy only to be destroyed. This counterfeit was fairly easy to detect to any observant eye. Other counterfeits are much more sophisticated and elaborate. The fact remains, all faulty currency is worthless.
I invite you to turn your attention to Acts 8, where we are introduced to two instances of faulty faith. This is faith that first appears to be of value. Some people take it to be of value at least for a time, but in the end this faulty faith is utterly and absolutely worthless. Sadly, many people throughout the world are very much like this woman that I encountered at McDonald’s that day. They are holding onto a faulty faith that has no value at the great counter before God on judgment day. Many such ones think that their “faith” will be accepted by God. But, in reality, their faith is as filthy rags worthy only to be thrown away and burned.
One of the grave realities in all of the Bible is that some who think they are saved, in truth, are eternally lost. Many will discover, too late, that their faith is faulty and of no value; that is to say, that with such faulty faith they will stand before God, without salvation, without forgiveness, without hope of escape from the wrath of God to come. This is the reason why Peter will warn us in his Second Letter, (2 Peter 1:1 0),
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and your election sure.
In other words, “Be sure, brothers and sisters in Christ, that your faith is the genuine article, one hundred pennies to the dollar, sixteen-ounces-to-the-pound, kind of faith.”
Jesus, likewise, warns, (Matthew 7:21),
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In fact, He says (Matthew 7:22),
“Many, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name, cast out demons, and in your name, perform miracles?'”
He says (Matthew 7:23),
“…then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.”
Someone asked the question, “Well, how is it we can tell the difference between ‘faulty faith’ and ‘genuine faith?'” This is a very important question and God gives us instruction into the answer. Here in Acts 8, He provides us with two examples of faulty faith; one example of genuine faith that we will observe next week, but, two examples of faulty faith so that we will know what to avoid.
The first example that we see here today is the example of Saul. The second example is the example of Simon; Saul, before his conversion and Simon after his baptism.
In the first example, we see a faulty faith that is outside the church of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t claim to be part of the church of Jesus. But, the second example, we see a faulty faith inside the church; that is to say, someone who believed in Jesus and was baptized, and yet he had a faulty faith.
Let’s consider this first example of faulty faith and that is of Saul; a faulty faith outside the church of Jesus Christ. Saul already has been introduced to us in Chapter 7. He is there at the stoning of Stephen. He heard Stephen’s entire sermon and he hated every word of it.
In Verse 57 of Acts 7, we read, that
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, (they) dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul is introduced. Stephen is going to die from this stoning, and as he does Chapter 8, opens with another observation of Saul’s response,
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
(Clapping) “Good job. Way to go!”
This event appears not only to be a descriptive of Saul’s response to Stephen and his message, but it appears, and the desire of Luke as he writes to help us understand that this event, sets a fire under Saul; that he now discovers his life’s purpose; he now has a purpose-driven life. It is not the purpose that God has for him, but it is a purpose-driven life none the less. His purpose becomes the purpose of destroying the church of Jesus. We see that in Verse 1, of Chapter 8,
On that day a great persecution breaks out against the church…
Everyone is scattered. Notice that word “scattered,” we will come back to it.
Godly men bury Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
It is appropriate for us, as believers, to mourn the death of the Saints. But, it goes on to say,
…Saul began to destroy the church.
That word “destroy” is also translated to “ravage;” he began ravaging the church. There is a word picture of violent energy that is being applied like a wild boar tearing a victim’s body apart. He is ravaging, destroying the church. It goes on to say how he does that.
…from house to house, (dragging) off men and women and (putting) them (into) prison.
Saul stands in contrast to these Godly men who mourn the death of Stephen. He stands as an opponent of all who would follow Jesus.
He will later testify in Acts 22, (Verse 4),
“I persecuted the followers of the Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison…”
This became such a purpose that Saul became a relentless hunter, bringing misery and persecution against Jesus’ church.
We have to ask the question, “Well, why did Saul do this? What motivate him?” Perhaps he had some sadistic pleasure in producing pain in others and that became a part of his demented personality. We have to come to the conclusion by the stories that we have, and Saul’s later testimony, that’s not the reason why Saul was so zealous in his persecution of the church.
Why was he so zealous? He was zealous because of his “faith.” That is the reason why he was so active in persecuting the church. He actually thought that by persecuting the church, he was putting down a heresy; that he was somehow serving God and God’s cause. Saul was a deep man of faith prior to his conversion.
Saul was born in a home as the son of a Pharisee; his father was a religious leader among the Jews. He had great religious privilege; great religious education. As a boy, he was educated in Jerusalem by one of the greatest teachers at the time, a man by the name of Gamaliel, a prominent teacher of the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, if you look at Saul’s life and measure his life by the Law, you would say he was blameless. There is nothing we can point to in Saul’s life in which he is breaking the Law that was set out for us in the Scriptures. No one was able to point to sins in Saul’s life. He, in fact, became a Pharisee, a religious leader. He was one of the most promising young leaders on the horizon.
To be a Pharisee, understand what you had to do; it was required that you pray three times a day, it was required that you know the Scriptures backwards and forwards and be able to teach them; it was required that you fast weekly; it was required that you live a life that was very moral and upright and upstanding; it was required that you tithe on you income. All of these Saul did zealously and rightly and joyfully. It was his zeal for the Law that made him oppose the church of Jesus. After all, Jesus claimed to be God. The Law said there is only one God. Jesus claimed to fulfill the Law for us and he thought by doing such that Jesus was setting aside he Law. Saul truly thought that he was serving God by persecuting the church.
We ask the question, “What was wrong with Saul’s ‘faith’?” What was wrong with that “faith?” After all, Saul was incredibly sincere. He was incredibly committed. He was genuine. He was authentic in his faith. He was obedient to what he thought God wanted him to do. But, his faith was “faulty.” Why? Saul’s faith was faulty; it was worthless, because it was not connected to the Truth. It was not connected to Jesus Christ.
Faith is not valuable on the basis of one’s sincerity; on the basis of one’s genuineness; on the basis of one’s commitment or one’s obedience to that faith. Faith must first be connected to the Truth in order to please God; namely, the Truth concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. Any faith that is not connected to Jesus Christ is a faulty faith, a worthless faith.
We know this in other areas of life. For instance, a medical researcher designs an antidote to a virus and he or she announces, “I believe that this antidote will cure this horrible disease that has broken out upon our society.” What makes this faith valuable? What makes this medical researcher’s faith important and valuable? Is it because he is sincere in his belief? Is it because he is genuine? Is it because he is committed to it; he is willing to take the shot to cure himself of this disease? No, no, no! None of these things make his faith valuable. What makes his faith valuable is only if his faith is connected to truth behind biochemistry; that it really works. That is what makes his faith valuable. It matters not how sincere, authentic, how committed he is to it, it only matters if it is connected to the “truth.” That is the bottom line. That is the first line that we must understand in regard to faith.
A faulty faith is often zealous for God. It is zealous for God without accepting Truth from God. Saul followed Moses but he was unwilling to follow the Messiah and as a result his faith was incomplete; it was faulty. Thankfully, Saul came to a genuine faith.
We are going to learn about this in Acts, Chapter 9. We read Saul telling of his own testimony, and in Verse 20, it says,
At once he began to (teach) in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All…who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the (Messiah).
Saul came to his faith, finally became authentic, genuine, and valuable, because it was connected, and it became connected to the Truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Jesus is the Messiah.
I believe that Romans 10 also explains, in Paul’s words, why his faith was faulty in the beginning and why it became valuable. He is talking about his other brothers who currently, as he writes Romans 10, have the same faulty faith that he once had, and he says,
“…my heart’s desire and (my) prayer to God (is) for the Israelites…that they (might) be saved.
He knows that they are not saved because he knows he wasn’t saved when he believed the things that he did. He says,
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God…”
How can he testify about them, because that is who he was. He says,
“But their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God, and they sought to establish their own righteousness, therefore, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
Do you see what he is saying? He is saying that their faith is lined up in seeking to accomplish righteousness through their own actions, and because their faith is faulty, they are never going to end up receiving the righteousness that they need in order to get into Heaven because the righteousness that they need is found in Jesus Christ. As long as their faith is attached to this idea that righteousness can be acquired, and can be received and merited on the basis of one’s actions, they will never look to Christ. “Christ is the end of the Law. He becomes righteousness for everyone who believes,” Paul will write.
Perhaps there are some of you who have genuine, authentic faith. Perhaps, you are committed to your faith, but it is not a faith that is committed and directed and connected to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was talking with a friend this past week; he became a believer about seven or eight years ago, and he recalled the first time that I shared the Gospel with him, and he said, “Do you remember, Ritch, how I told you, ‘I am not ready to trust in Jesus Christ, just yet?'” It was about nine months later that he did trust in Jesus Christ, but he recognized that his faith was faulty because it wasn’t connected to the Lord Jesus Christ just yet.
Perhaps, that is where you are today. You have heard about Jesus Christ; you have been taught about Jesus Christ, but as of right now your faith is not connected to Jesus Christ. As such, please understand what the Bible says about your faith. Your faith is not worth just a little bit, or worth much, it is not worth anything at all until it is connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what makes faith valuable.
Some people sometimes ask me, “Well, what about my Hindu friend, or my Muslim friend, or my Mormon friend, or fill-in-the-blank friend? They are so nice, they are kind, they are loving, so sincere, I can’t believe that God would reject them.” We think, somehow, faith will be accepted on the basis of its sincerity, but faith that is not connected to Jesus Christ is utterly and absolutely worthless. That is the reason why, earlier, in Acts 4:12, we read that there is
Salvation…in…no other name under Heaven…
and that, “We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved.”
Before we move on to the second kind of faulty faith, in Verse 4, we read,
Those who had been scattered. . .
and that is the second time that word is used,
…preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city…and proclaimed Christ there.
That word “scattered” in the Greek is interesting. There are a number of words that are translated “to scatter.” One word means as a scattering of a person’s ashes on the ocean, where it is scattered and then it is lost. But, that is not the word used here. The word used here is the kind of scattering that a farmer does as he sows seed; he scatters seed on the field; he plants it. And so, while the persecution was scattering, these believers, against their will, they didn’t want to move away from their home town; they had to because of the persecution, and they were scattered, we understand from the word what God is saying is, He is behind the scattering so they would be planted in a place that ultimately produced spiritual fruit because they took the Gospel with them.
I wonder if this is true of you. Wherever you find yourself, and often you are not scattered because of persecution, but sometimes you are scattered because of a job situation, employment, or a family situation, I wonder if you understand that God is scattering you for the purpose of planting you; that wherever God has you He intends to plant you like a seed to produce life, to bring the Gospel to the people where you are living in that neighborhood, or in that workplace, or in that church, or in that community; that God has an ultimate purpose behind the scattering; it is a purpose to advance the cause of the Gospel. If you are a believer, this is true of you, and I urge you to connect to the purpose that God has.
The first example we see is that of Saul; of faulty faith; faulty faith outside the church; zeal without knowledge. But, the second example is even more interesting, and that is the example of Simon. And, it is more interesting because it connects more to most of us in that this is a faulty faith inside the church. Here is one who accepts the Truth, in some way he accepted the Truth in regard to Jesus Christ, but he had no heart commitment toward the Lord.
This danger concerns me most as a Pastor here at Bethany, for I hate, and I shed tears to think of the possibility that there are some here who sit and listen to sermons perhaps week after week, who have professed faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, who perhaps have even been baptized, as Simon was, who even have joined the church, and yet, have no salvation, no hope of Heaven. I know that the Bible says that this is a very real possibility, in fact a probability.
We meet such a person in Simon.
In Verses 9 through 11, we read about Simon practicing
…sorcery in the city. He boasted that he was someone great, (amazing) all the people…
He boasted that he was someone great and people believed him. They gave their attention to him
…and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.”
Simon the great. Simon the magnificent.
And they followed him because he amazed them.
And it says,
…for a long time.
This was not just a fly-by-night act. He had been in this community for a long time and everyone knew him as Simon the Great. Today we refer to Simon as Simon Magus because that is Latin for Simon the Great. He electrified crowds with the display of his magic and with his power. They thought of him as a god. Simon’s work magnified himself to others and this was hard to shake.
In Verse 12, it says,
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news…they were baptized, both men and women (in the name of Jesus Christ).
Verse 13 is interesting, isn’t it? Simon is loosing his following now because men and women are embracing Jesus by faith.
Verse 13, tells us,
Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
If the text stopped here we would have every reason to believe that Simon was genuinely regenerated; he was genuinely born again, converted. You can imagine the joy of the church. “Here is the first ‘celebrity’ who has believed and was baptized. We now have a celebrity; someone we can get up in the modem church as soon as he was baptized, have him up in the pulpit teaching and preaching and telling his testimony everywhere because this is Simon Magus, Simon the Great. Everybody knows about him and it is important for us to give him a large platform.” That is not what the early church did. That is, sadly, what we often do because we are so enamored by human greatness.
There are a number of lessons here, not the least of which is a warning to the church of using human methodology and human values to promote the work of the church and the work of Jesus Christ. How tragic it would have been if the early church had done that.
We discover, as we read further into the story, Simon is not a genuine believer at all. He is still dead in his sins. He is without God. He is without hope. He is a child of disobedience. He is destined for God’s wrath.
In Verses 18 and 19, we read a bit of the story.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, (and) he offers them money.
He said, “Give me this ability.” He still wants to be center stage. He was drawn to this display of power; he knew that he was loosing followers to this more powerful influence and he wants to be a part of that. And, he actually thought that God was for sale. He says, “I will give you money if you will give me this power to give people the Holy Spirit.”
Listen to Peter’s response in Verse 20,
“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. . . pray to the lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
First, let us observe that Peter’s priorities are right. Priorities were upon preaching the word and not seeking to curry the favor of the wealthy and the influential. Now, we thank God that there are some who are noble and wealthy, and influential in the church of Jesus Christ, but it is vital for the church to always remember that that is not where her power lies. Her power lies always in the Gospel, always in the teaching of the Word, always in the Holy Spirit’s work.
Someone asked, “How do you know that Simon is not a genuine believer?” Peter’s description settles the matter for us. Simon is said to, “perish with his money.” A person who is a believer never perishes; we know that from John 3:16. This word is so strong, it almost is not strongly enough translated here in the New International Version. J.B. Phillips actually translates it this way, “To hell with you and your money.” That is what he says Peter is saying and I believe that’s the sense. Now Peter isn’t cursing there. He is literally saying, “You are going to go to Hell with your money.” That is what he is saying.
Furthermore, he said Simon, “had no share in this ministry.” That word “ministry” is logos, literally means, “The Word;” “you have no share in the Word, in the Gospel itself,” and then he says,
“…your heart is not right before God.”
That is not true of any believer, is it? While our actions may sometimes stray from the obedience to Christ, our heart, because of the work of Jesus Christ, is always right. We have peace with God. We are justified. We are declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus. That is who we are.
Finally, Simon’s soul is described as,
“…full of bitterness and captive to sin:”
still enslaved to sin, and that is not said of a believer in the New Testament. Interesting, the early church fathers speak of Simon as an arch-villain of the early church. Iraneous, for instance in 180 AD, refers to Simon Magus as the “father of Gnosticism and ancient heresy.” It is a fundamental truth in the Bible that wherever God sows His true believers, Satan will sow his counterfeits.
We find in Matthew 13 (Verse 24) this parable of Jesus’ teaches in regard to the wheat and the tares; how one person, the farmer, sows wheat in his field but at night an enemy comes along and sows weeds, they sow tares, in the field, and then they start growing up and the question is asked, “What do we do now? Should we try and pullout the weeds?” Jesus says, “No. Wait until harvest time, then weeds will be winnowed away from the wheat and the weeds will be burned up and the wheat will be preserved.” What is the meaning of this? The meaning of this, Jesus is going to say, “God is at work sowing genuine believers in His field and the church. But, Satan is also actively working inside the church, in the same field, sowing weeds, sowing faulty faith.” And we can expect this to happen. And, it is not up to us to say, “I don’t believe you’re genuine.” That is up to God because the danger is of trying to pull up the weeds we pull out some of the wheat as well. So we wait until the Day of Judgment for some of these things, but please understand, that this Simon’s faith appeared so genuine that Philip baptized him. And, yet we discover that he was one of these that was sown in this field that was a weed. And, by his actions, it became apparent.
The fact that some within the church have faulty faith should no surprise us. In the same field, the church, God sows good seed and Satan sows bad, evil. And often we cannot discern the difference between the two. These are very much like the disciples mentioned in John, Chapter 6. They are called Disciples of Jesus, but then at the end of John 6, when Jesus taught, after he fed the five thousand they were Disciples, but when Jesus starts talking, using terms, “You have to eat my flesh; drink my blood,” the Disciples came to Him saying, “This is the hardest thing… don’t know if I can follow it.” In fact, later in that same chapter (Verse 66), it says, “The disciples turned away from following Jesus,” and that is when Jesus turns to The Twelve, and He says (Verse 67), “How about you? Will you leave me also?” Simon Peter turns and says (Verse 68), “Jesus, we can’t. You alone have the words of life. To whom else shall we go? You alone have the words of life.”
It is possible for people to believe, to believe in one sense, with a faulty faith, to even be baptized, and yet be separate and apart from the true church without salvation.
The question has to be asked, “How do I know if my faith is genuine or faulty?” And, again Simon helps us by revealing what to avoid in three specific ways.
First, faulty faith holds on to spiritual pride. Simon did not humble himself before God, but he kept hold of his spiritual pride. You cannot hold on to your pride and become a born-again Christian. A person must humble himself, or humble herself, before God, even as a child, Jesus will say. We must recognize that we are weak, we are lost, we are helpless, we are spiritually dead without God, before we can be saved. Simon was ready to change all kinds of externals. He was ready to get wet through baptism. He was ready to give up some forms of his pursuit of his pride; giving up the magic arts because he thought he was trading one form of magic for another form of magic. He was willing to change a lot of the externals of his life but in the end, Simon wanted to remain Simon. He wasn’t interested in a life of transformation.
James (Chapter 4, Verse 6) tells us that, “God is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the humble.” Beloved, the greatest problem you and I have is right here inside our hearts. The greatest problem is not economics; it is not other people around us; it is not the way we grew up; it is not our job situation. The greatest problem you and I have to a fulfilled life, to a life that is right with God, is this, our heart is desperately wicked. That is it, and until we come to embrace this, we can never be born again. Simon was unwilling to acknowledge this about himself.
The part of Christianity that appealed to Simon was the part that appealed to his pride. He saw the power of the miracles. He thought, “I want that.” Now this is where churches and where Christians have to be utmost careful as we declare the Gospel and as we advance the cause of Jesus Christ. You see, there are still some things regarding the church and regarding the Gospel that appeals to the pride of man, and it is easy for us to focus only on those aspects of the Gospel and thus create more and more Simons in the church because we are not even telling the Gospel in its fullness. So we tell people, “Hey, you are a very important and valuable person.” “Hey, if you follow Jesus you will be successful, you will be happy, you’ll be blessed. God will give you power. God will cause you to become a center of His focus and attention, and He is going to bless you.” It is not that these things are not true, in a sense. It is these things are not the whole truth. So there are those people who crowd after those things in regards to the Gospel and with regards to what the church offers that appeal to their pride and they never have to deal with pride. And, it keeps them from never having an authentic faith because they don’t understand what the Bible says about their heart and they won’t accept it. That is where Simon is.
Faulty faiths continue to hold on to a spiritual pride. Secondly, faulty faith misunderstands the Grace of God. Simon still thought that favor from God could be purchased with earth’s currency. He treated Peter and John as though they were fellow magicians; that a price could be negotiated for this new power that they were displaying. By an act of offering money to buy the Holy Spirit’s power, and ultimately the Holy Spirit Himself, Simon lent his name, a new word in the English Dictionary – the word “Simony.” It is used to describe the practice of buying and selling church offices. There are many who still today who view their relationship with God on the basis of such purchase, on the basis of human merit.
There are some who think, “If I give money to the church or money to a ministry, God’s obligated to bless me, and so, here God, what are you going to give back, because I expect more back than what I give? In giving money, I expect you to hear my prayers. In giving a tithe, I expect you to provide for my desires.” Even beyond money, we still have this relationship with God where we expect God to respond to human merit. So, we say, “In serve you faithfully, in obey the Law, then you must act on my behalf.” It is possible to serve God through an act of self-aggrandizement, even as Simon did, not for the glory of Jesus name. It is possible, for instance, for me to preach in order to gall recognition, to gain status, to gain respect, serving with an eye to my own personal advancement, maybe to become more powerful in authority, or more powerful in the esteem of others. Seeking spiritual gifts for the promotion of one’s self is Simony, plain and simple, and it is a faulty faith.
Anytime we seek abilities, or even ministries that promote our own reputation, we are very much like Simon. But, the Gospel Truth is this, and if we are to have genuine faith we must come to grips with this Truth, nothing God has can be purchased. Let me say that again. Nothing God has can be purchased; not one thing. We have no currency with which to barter with God; none whatsoever. All our righteousness is just filthy rags; God doesn’t care about our money. He doesn’t care about our obedience in terms of gaining merit from Him. Once we come to faith in Jesus Christ, of course, we give all of our lives over to Him as a sacrifice of gratitude, but not for the promotion for ourselves, it is for the promotion of the glory of Jesus’ name, who loved us even when we were yet sinners.
This is the reason why, in Romans 6, (verse 23), Paul is going to say,
The wages of sin is death.
If we get what we deserve, we are going to get death; that is what we deserve, but the gift of God is eternal life.
This is the reason why Isaiah (Chapter 55, Verse 1) will say,
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the water (of life)…you, who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
Everything that God has, if we are to have it, it comes to us as a gift. Nothing God has can be purchased, and this is the reason why, at the very end of the Book of Revelation (Chapter 22, Verse 17), the church, and the bride, and Jesus Christ, say,
“Come, everyone who is thirsty, let them come. Let them drink the waters of life without cost.”
Beloved, have you come to this authentic faith, recognizing that you are a pauper before God and that you need Him to give you that which you could never earn?
Faulty faith holds on to spiritual pride; it misunderstands God’s Grace, and the last thing is faulty faith refuses to repent. And this, perhaps, is the most dramatic part of the whole story, I think. After Peter rebukes Simon, very forthrightly, very clearly,
“May you money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part, (no) share in this ministry…your heart is not right (with) God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
What is Simon’s response to that call? Look at it. Faulty faith refuses to repent. That’s the issue. And, look what Simon says,
“Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
Now does that sound really pious to you? Doesn’t that sound really religious? Doesn’t that sound almost right?
“Pray…for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
We talk to somebody about spiritual things and we call them to believe in the Gospel, repent of their sin, and we hear them say, “Well, pray for me. Pray for me.”
Beloved, the truth is, if we don’t pray to God, if we ourselves don’t repent, it doesn’t matter who is praying for us. The prayers of others cannot give us a right standing before God; not the prayer of your pastor, your priest, or even the Pope. Not one prayer of one other person can get you in a right relationship with God. What can? You must repent and believe – you personally.
I don’t want to be misunderstood; of course, it is good that we pray for people. I believe that prayer accomplishes much. When someone asks me to pray for them, I do it. I believe that there is an affect. When Simon replied, “Pray for me,” he was not being pious, rather what was b being? He was being disobedient. He was refusing to do what Peter clearly said he must do. He was passing the buck on to Peter. He was saying, “Peter, it is your responsibility. Pray for me, now.”
I ask you, do you ever do that? Do you pass the buck for your own spiritual growth to other people? Do you pass it on to your pastor or your Sunday school teachers? Lots of people try to pass the buck; they think that others, religious leaders can solve their problems, but we cannot. We can’t even solve our own problems. That is a little secret, but that is the truth; we can’t even solve our own problems. How are we going to solve your problems? If we are to come to God, we must come to God like the Prodigal who came and said (Luke 15:21),
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”
We have to come like the tax collector who says (Luke 18:13),
“God, have mercy upon me a sinner.”
I close with quoting another pastor by the name of Lloyd Ogelvie. He says, “We would all like to have spiritual radiance without repentance. We want life without having to change our lifestyle. Hidden sins, fantasies we could never tell anyone, broken hostile relationships, determined patterns of thought that contradict the Gospel, habits, selfish attitudes which emaciate the people around us, all these lurk within most of us. While at the same time, we say we want Christ as Lord of our lives and His living Spirit as the power of our living. We are willing to pay handsomely for the worst and best of the two worlds; not only money, but religious activities, self-generated goodness, ablations of over-activity, and manipulative kindness; all so we don’t have to let down the moot bridge of the castles of our carefully protected, secret hearts. But the very things we hide are the point of entry for the Holy Spirit. When we confess them, accept forgiveness, and turn them over one-by-one, the Spirit takes their place as in the room swept clean of demons in Jesus’ parable; there must be something, someone, to fill the emptiness. Only His spirit, the Holy Spirit, can do that.”
I ask you, do you have a genuine, authentic faith? Or, is your faith faulty? I call you, and there is a clear call from the Gospel, that says, repent of your sins, believe in Jesus Christ, and He win abundantly save.