"I Want to Buy God’s Power"
Are there old habits and attitudes that sometimes emerge in your Christian walk? It is difficult to give your life over to Jesus and not keep some of it back. This is a story of a man who struggled in the transformation from sinner to saint.
I Want to Buy God’s Power
A. Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to break a bad habit? Let me illustrate it with the letters of the word HABIT. As you strive to change, work hard and pray, you begin to drop a “letter” from the first H, then A, the B, but you still have IT. It is not until we surrender to God and repent that we really can stop IT.
B. When a person responds to the love of God and desires to become a Christian, they realize that it means there is going to have to be a lot of change in his life. We all desire to have our sins forgiven, but there is a lot of effort on our part to put to death the sinful nature and walk in the Spirit.
C. Easy Christianity is something that many people desire, but when you are confronted with a call for discipleship, that becomes a difficult calling. As we will see in the text today, Simon was a man who believed. That was not his problem, but he was a man who had a heart problem. Here was a man whose desires did not change with his new faith in Jesus. He was quickly tempted to have some of his old self back and mix it in with his new self.
I. The Story of Philip, Simon and Peter
A. The book of Acts opens up with Jesus ascending back into heaven. But before he leaves, he tells the apostles that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they were also told that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. The good news of Jesus as our Savior and the forgiveness that comes through him was not limited to the Jews. It was to be good news for all mankind.
B. After the death of Stephen godly men buried him and the church hurt deeply. The time of persecution was not growing as these disciples began to feel the wrath of the Jewish leaders. The young man Saul from Tarsus was growing in power and influence. He was ravaging the church, enter house after house and dragging off disciples both men and women and putting them in prison. The Christians in Jerusalem was scattered, but where they went they told the good news of Jesus. The threats only expanded Christianity.
C. One of the men who left Jerusalem was Philip. Like Stephen, Philip was one of the seven chosen to fix the problem involving the aid given to the widows of the church. He also was a man filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. He took his message north to the region of Samaria. The Samaritans were people who had a Jewish heritage, but intermarried during the time of the exile. They did not help with the rebuilding of Jerusalem or the temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. There was bitterness from the Jews that grew over the years. Even during the ministry of Jesus, he had to teach the apostles about love and forgiveness for they did not like traveling in the region of Samaria. But Philip saw past the racial divide. He saw past the religious conflicts of the past and had a new story to tell, the good news of Jesus. And that is what he did.
D. The Holy Spirit worked miraculously through Philip and unclean spirits cried out were cast out of people. A healing was taking place and people were coming to faith and joy was evident.
E. In that town was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic and amazed the people to where they saw him as someone who was great, a person who the power of God in the flesh. But he believed the good news that Philip preached about Jesus and the kingdom of God. He was amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit working through Philip.
F. While Philip was up in Samaria preaching, the news of his ministry was told to the apostles who had stayed in Jerusalem. Peter and John go north to Samaria and see that while people had become saved they did not have a miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This idea of the Holy Spirit “falling upon them” or the need for the apostles to “lay their hands on them” in order for a person to have a miraculous gift from the Holy Spirit only helps us to see that that type of gift is not necessary for salvation but was important in the spreading of the gospel at that time. When you and I repent of our sins, confess Jesus as Lord and Christ and are immersed in the waters of baptism we receive the indwelling of the HS. But the Spirit of God does not all of a sudden start causing people to perform miracles. He lives within us as a guide, a seal of our redemption and a connection between us and the Father. Miraculous gifts are separate from the indwelling of the HS. But all that is secondary to the story. Simon wanted power. He wanted to buy God’s gift.
II. Old Habits Are Hard to Break
A. Read again verses 18-19. There are some who believe that Simon was not really a Christian, that he had fooled Philip into baptizing him and Peter saw him for who he was. I don’t believe that. The text states that he believed and was baptized and I will take the Bible at its word. But what is evident is that his sinful nature reared its ugly head. It is easy for a new Christian to be drawn back into his old ways. Remember, Simon was a person who had been called the “power of God” and had great influence among the people. With their new faith he would have lost that power and possibly the income that came with it. What he saw in the apostles was the ability to give a portion of the power to others by the laying on of their hands. That was appealing to Simon. Think of the income that would come if he had the power to give miraculous gifts to people.
B. I want to buy that power. Now look at the response that Peter gives (vs. 20-23). While he quickly believed the message of Philip and was baptized, his heart was still being pulled by sin. The very idea that you could buy God’s gift is so horrible that Peter’s response is that it can condemn a person. Is that what you want? To simply slip back into your worldly ways? To do the things you had left? For many, the answer is yes. They want easy Christianity. They want grace without repentance, faith without works, a quick fix to an old problem and no effort to really change. That is a worldly teaching that continues to this day. But it uses God and demeans the very idea of the cross. Listen to Heb. 6:4-6. That is the threat that Peter places before Simon.
C. As much as I teach repentance to the lost and grace to the saved, there are times in which as Christians need to be reminded of repentance. Old habits may be hard to break, but if we walk in darkness instead of light we no longer will have fellowship with God and the blood of Jesus will cease to cleans us from sin. You can’t have a heart that wants to keep doing what God has said to stop and think God doesn’t care. He understands our struggles, and our failures, but he does not condone a heart that longs for the world.
D. Simon asked Peter to pray for him. I can only believe he was sincere. Peter did not tell him to get rebaptized, he told him to repent and pray so that the intent of the heart may be forgiven. If you are struggling in a sin it does not mean you are not a Christian.
E. What it means is that you need to learn to repent and pray. It means that change is difficult but through God and his Spirit working in you, is very possible. You don’t have to die in your sin. I don’t know your heart. I don’t know if you are here because of habit, force, guilt or desire. I don’t know if you live the rest of week serving your own sinful nature and hiding it from everyone but God. What I know is that as a child of God sin must be faced, repented of, and confessed to God with a sincere heart.
A. Today we stand ready as a church to receive all whom the Lord our God has called. If God has touched your life and you have seen your sin and never believed in Jesus, repented from them and been baptized into his body, then come. If God has touched your life and you are a Christian but still live in your sin, repent! Change from your evil ways and call upon the name of the Lord. If you desire us to pray with you and for you, then come.
B. If God is calling you to come before this church so that we can help you in your spiritual walk, the come as we stand and sing.