I love the story ~ it gives me hope for my own salvation in that I am still a sinner; Jesus loves me so much he [puts up] with my sins while challenging me to [mature].
I know hundreds of people stuck in their sins. They truly love the Lord, but they are unwilling or unable to repent. If you tell me, but Pastor Carl, Simon the Sorcerers sin is much more evil than my “minor” sins, then I say to you, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Sin is anything that takes us away from God’s presence. “Harmless” gossip is as serious as premeditated murder. The consequences in the world are often profoundly different, but the distance it puts between you and God is the same.
God does not grant [salvation] based on how we measure up to other people, Salvation is a free gift to all who receive Christ and [embrace his grace]. Only God knows the heart. Many of you (all?) have an awareness of a secret sin you have accepted and you are not asking/wanting the Lord to change you. A woman asked for prayer this week because she felt inadequate as a parent when she never had a childhood herself ~ “how can I pass on that which I never experienced,” she said. In her case, I am not saying she is sinning in her perceived inadequacies, but she was saying I want to change, I want to learn, I want to be a different parent, I want to let go of my past, I want to be a parent as Jesus would want for my children… she was asking for the help of God to let go of all she’s known and replace with wisdom, perhaps a mentor… so I prayed for wisdom, God’s mercy to open doors, courage to walk through them, supernatural transformation. Do not be quick to condemn Simon’s public sin while excusing our sins that are “harmless.”
An extreme worldly example: Can an active prostitute be saved? // I say YES. A few times I have talked to prostitutes who genuinely love the Lord, but feel stuck for a variety of reasons…I am not called to judge their heart. I desperately want a better life for them, but that is different from their relationship with Christ. If you say no to the question “Can an active prostitute be saved?” then let me ask this: “Can an active tax evader be saved?” What’s the difference? Both are immature/wrong practices... Do not define Christianity as obedience to a set of rules so you are in or out depending on how well you obey (that’s legalism), instead see faith as a [journey]. Obedience is an important part of faith to journey towards God… Are you headed [towards] Christ or [away] from Christ? Some appear to be close to Christ, but they are not growing, only going through the motions ~ others appear to be far away, but like Simon, they are desiring Christ.
I don’t see anything in the scripture that tells me Simon is not saved. Acts 8:13 is a definitive statement READ. Later, after Simon offers money for the power of the H.S., Peter is harsh, / disappointed for disobedience, he calls him bitter and captive to sin. But Peter stops short of saying Simon isn’t saved. Peter is jolting him to maturity of faith… Peter emphasizes need for continual transformation. Statistically we know many church leaders are captive to the hidden sin of pornography. Are we prepared to say they are not saved? Not me.
In the flow of the story of Acts, the gospel is now in Samaria. The feathers are scattered because of persecution in Jerusalem; Christ followers go everywhere. Philip lands in Samaria, the ancient nemesis of the Jews, 7-800 years earlier the northern tribes were captured by the Assyrians the Assyrians tried to destroy the Jews with intermarriage, destroying the blood lines, thus are birthed the Samaritans, named for the capital of the northern tribes Samaria. The followers of Jesus had heard the story of the Good Samaritan ~ a despised Samaritan is nobler than the Jewish Priest in helping a man robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. When Philip preaches the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Samaritans believe the message and are saved. This is an aha moment for the fledgling church, even the Samaritans are welcome into the Kingdom. Do not give up on anybody coming to a [saving faith] in Christ.
The apostles send Peter and John to bless the new converts. To me, Acts 8:14-17 is humbling. Just when I think I understand a bit of the way God works, boom, here’s a challenge to my formula READ. I don’t quite get what it means that they seemed to be saved but don’t yet have the Holy Spirit. How to make sense of this is a sticking point between groups of Christians. I fall into the camp that you cannot be a Christian without the H.S. even though this scripture appears to contradict that thought. Others say you can believe Jesus is savior but not be spirit filled ~ there is a second act of grace…I don’t have time to explore all the ins and outs of the two camps, but for me I point to other scriptures like Rom 8:9, “You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” I believe the weight of scripture points to the necessity of the Spirit of God dwelling within us as the essence of what it means to be a Christian. You cannot be a Christian in heart without the Spirit, but based on Acts 8:14-17, I fully accept those who disagree with me; I am reminded there is much about the ways of God I cannot understand (Is. 55….)
Whatever the exact nuance of truth, this I know, the Spirit of God is powerful, life changing, but sin is real and even after we are saved we still [struggle]. This is the example of Simon the Sourcerer, love/hate his story, it ought to cause each of us to invite the Lord Jesus Christ to transform us from the inside out so that we can mature in our faith and live our lives with greater integrity and maturity of faith. Sin is sin, do not dare to rank some sin as [greater] than others when it comes to deserving salvation, for we all fall short and are equally unworthy of the Lord’s salvation.
The astounding verse to underline is Acts 8:13. The previous verses introduce us to Simon as a popular and influential man because of his magic ~ my best guess is that Simon is dabbling in the dark world of demons... Acts 8:13 clearly says he believed in Jesus and is baptized. Period. If the gospel ended like a fairy tale, there would always be a complete change of life and heart. The before and after stories are the classic wonderful testimonies… but that isn’t Simon. He believed but then in Acts 8:18 ff he wants to buy the power of the spirit. Many people hear this and conclude Simon wasn’t sincere in the earlier conversion, but it says he believed. Did he fall from grace? This is the rub.
I hate the story of Simon, I love the story of Simon. I conclude Simon is a genuine Christian but sin still has a grip on him. (one person after the service described him as an egomaniac!) I know many people just like him… Simon is immature in his faith but he is still a Christian. You can come to a different conclusion, and if you do that, my only warning is that you must not hold Simon to a different standard from yourself. During Jesus life a woman was caught in adultery; the crowd wanted to stone her to death. Jesus came to her side and said, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The story of Simon is [humbling] because it causes us to confront the old nature of sin even as we embrace the grace of Jesus Christ who died for our sins. We are already in Christ but not yet fully like him. We keep on sinning. 30 years ago a woman full of guilt made an appointment to talk to me: “Carl, I think I’m going to hell” she described a flirtatious relationship with a coworker that her husband knew nothing about… only God knows the heart, and God is full of grace and if sin, no matter how serious, is the criteria for damnation, then we are all doomed. I know people that in my judgment are genuine Christians but don’t appear to consider some of their behaviors as sinful, unethical business practices, stealing time from their family neglecting their loved ones to varying degrees. I wonder what sin I’m fooling myself about?
A few lessons from the example of Simon, who is stuck in his sin:
#1: Simon wanted to hang around Philip in Acts 8:13. When you are stuck in your sin, find Christians you admire who are more [mature] than you. …
#2: Ask the Lord to give you [new priorities]. This is Simon’s basic problem, he is in love with his past. He wants it all, his way. He is immature. It is sad/comical that he offers money for the power of the Spirit… but that’s all he knows and he hasn’t yet discovered the better way… the free gift. Acts 8:23 Peter says Simon is captive to sin. Sin enslaves us; Christ sets us free. Free to live with values that give most peace and satisfaction. Free to do that which is right. We need freedom to serve God and discover the joy of the Lord.
#3: Repentance is a huge part of the book of Acts. What we learn from this scripture is that [repentance] is not only needed for conversion, but it is a way of life. Include in your prayers and in your walk with God the practice of repentance, regularly asking the Lord to reveal your sins and asking him to show you the better way.
#4: Commit yourself to [discipleship]. Maturing in Christ is a process. You don’t become a Christian and instantly know everything or make perfect decisions. Seek to mature in your faith. I believe the story of Simon is left open ended because we don’t need to know the end of his story. The real power of the story is when we see it is an invitation for us to complete the story in our lives. Maturity as a Christian is real. To be a disciple is to be a forever student of Christ.
Simon the Sorcerer made a commitment to Christ but he stayed stuck in his sin. May his example be a lesson of humility that God is incredibly patient with us, but we must make a commitment to be transformed by the power of God, grow in our faith, and reach for a greater relationship with Him. Amen.
When You are Stuck in Sin
Jesus loves me so much he _________ with my sins while challenging me to __________.
God does not grant ____________ based on how we measure up to other people, but it is a free gift to all who receive Christ and ______________________.
Faith is a ________. Are you headed _________Christ or _________ from Christ?
Do not give up on anybody coming to a ____________ in Christ.
The Spirit of God is powerful and life changing, but sin is real; even after we are saved we _____________.
Do not rank some sin as __________ than others when it comes to deserving salvation.
The story of Simon is ____________ because it causes us to confront the old nature of sin even as we embrace the grace of Jesus Christ who died for our sins.
Lessons from Simon, when stuck in sin:
#1: find Christians you admire who are more ________ than you.
#2: Ask the Lord to give you _________________.
#3: ____________ is not only needed for conversion, but it is a way of life even after conversion.
#4: Commit yourself to _______________.