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A Tale of Two Simons

Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭8‬:‭9‬-‭24

“A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic. But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!” But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.” “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!””

Samaria is in revival. Peter and the other apostles who once avoided this region of the world as pious Jews, are now ministering the gospel there through signs and wonders as Jews who are now obedient disciples of Christ.

As is typical in the book of Acts, when one of the ancient cities is in an outpouring of the Spirit, the local authorities and community leaders take notice. One of these being “Simon the Sorcerer”. Until this point, Simon has been able to captivate this region with sorcery and witchcraft. He has a reputation and influence in his city that he has spent many years of his life building. As he watches the same people who were once captivated by his magic, be saved, delivered and baptized through the preaching of the gospels, he realizes he wants to be in the Kingdom also. Hallelujah! A sorcerer giving his life to Christ. This is a momentous event in itself. After giving his life to Jesus and watching Peter and John minister the Holy Spirit, ironically, he begins to follow Jesus through a man whose name was once Simon also (Peter). Simon the Sorcerer sees Peter has a power that he does not yet have and wants in on that also. Again, Hallelujah! An ex-sorcerer wants to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. This would be another milestone in Simon's life if his motives were pure.

Peter rebukes Simon, when Simon offers to purchase the anointing of the Holy Spirit from Peter. Peter calls Simon to repentance. Seemingly, Simon is remorseful but we have no idea what happens to him from there. Peter who was once known as Simon also, understands something that his new friend has yet to be revealed to. When we come to Jesus we are not simply believing and trusting in a different source of power. We are dying to our old nature and identity and being reborn into a new life and identity within it. Just as Simon became Peter when it was revealed to Him that Jesus was the Messiah (see Luke 9:18)... So, is it also necessary for Simon the Sorcerer to die to his old nature and embrace his new life and identity in Jesus. Peter is rebuking him for not only perverting the grace of God, but also for trying to live his new life in Christ the same way he lived in bondage to death and the sin of his old life. Assuredly, all of us good Christian folk would nod in agreement, yes this is a bad thing to do. Though, I want to challenge you with the same challenge this Scripture presented me with. Are there any parts of my old sin nature that I have tried to incorporate into my new life with Jesus. Of course, the obvious sin that you're waging war against in your life no doubt. Obviously, Simon trying to purchase the Holy Spirit like he would a spell or an incantation is sinful and wrong. But what about his desire for power and control over his own life and other people? What about his manipulative tendencies in the way he does relationships with others to get what he wants? I believe Peter, who struggled with these same broken qualities in a more subtle way early on in his walk with Jesus, was calling this out also in Simon. Remember when Jesus was washing the disciples feet the night He was betrayed? Remember how Peter responded. “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” - John 13:8. Peter thought himself to be wise and humble but was actually rebelling against Jesus' leadership by not allowing Him to wash his feet.

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” - John 13:8.

Like Simon the Sorcerer, Peter did not realize the false humility that was leading how he followed Jesus then, was actually the same spirit of control and manipulation that was leading Simon the Sorcerer to follow Jesus in Acts 8. Peter used false humility to cover up his sin nature. Simon the Sorcerer simply used money and gifts to cover the same sin.

Here's the point: all of us are guilty of the same sin, but very few of us ever have someone call it out in us as Jesus did to Peter and Peter did to Simon. Even fewer of us will ever have the courage to receive the rebuke and address it. Part of our new identity in Jesus is that we are all called to lead through true humility and servanthood. Until you let go of your personal selfish ambition that causes you to manipulate and control others, you will never step fully into that part of your identity in Jesus. Simply stated, staying in control of your life is a form of rebellion to Jesus, “and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” - 1st Samuel 15. So all of us must repent of wanting to stay in control of our new lives in Jesus by trying to incorporate old sin nature into the glorious new life He has given us. Jesus I repent. I repent of trying to control my life, and manipulating relationships around me in order to do so. I repent of rebelling against your leadership in my life. Would you graciously show me the way that I do this, so that I can be healed and walk more fully in the identity you have died to give me.


Pastor John

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