Summary: The devil does not mind a person having a faith, going to church, being religious, doing deeds of service, using Christian vocabulary as long as that person does not experience saving faith in Jesus Christ and His merits.
A Close Look At A Phony
Several years ago, in Long Beach, California, a fellow went into a fried chicken place and bought a couple of chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The young woman at the counter inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day—a whole bag of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken.
After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to open the meal and enjoy some chicken together. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken—over $800! But the man was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. He and his date got back into the car and drove all the way back. Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero.
The guy with the bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, “I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money. Here.”
Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, “Oh, great, let me call the newspaper. I’m gonna have your picture put in the local newspaper. You’re the most honest man I’ve heard of.”
To which they guy quickly responded, “Oh no, no, don’t do that!” Then he leaned closer and whispered, “You see, the woman I’m with is not my wife...she’s uh, somebody else’s wife.” Here was a deceptive honesty.
Dr. Adrian Rodgers after arriving slightly late to a prayer meeting one time said, "I’m sorry I’m late, I had lost track of time. I’ll have you know that even though I was in a hurry to get here, I didn’t break any speeding laws, although I passed a number of people who were!"
There are some who go through life with a false faith, though to them it may be a sincere faith. Yet it ends in hell and not heaven. A false faith may appear good to most onlookers. It may even appear good to the one who possesses it.
Our text helps to answer some pertinent questions on how a person can have a false faith and what is its remedy. The devil does not mind a person having a faith, going to church, being religious, doing deeds of service, using Christian vocabulary as long as that person does not experience saving faith in Jesus Christ and His merits.
A person can have a false faith right in the midst of
God’s church and His working. How can this happen?
I. A DEFICIENT VIEW OF SIN
There are many speculations throughout Christian history of this man named Simon. Some of the earliest church fathers claimed that he was the founder of Gnosticism, a second century heresy, which later affected the church by denial of the deity of Christ and a belief that salvation came by illumination rather than the new birth and the atoning work of Christ. Others would suggest that Simon eventually developed a cult following that extended all the way to Rome. At best, we can only speculate about him, so we are best served by confining our understanding of him to our text.
At the heart of what takes place in this narrative is the matter of Simon’s sin. He was involved in magical arts and sorcery, both of which are condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. He obviously had not repented of his sin after his profession of Christ, since Peter told him that he had no part in the Holy Spirit, that his heart was not right with God, and that he needed to repent of his wickedness (vv. 21-22).
We must never forget that Jesus Christ came to deal with sin. It is sin that darkens our hearts and blinds our eyes. It is sin that brings eternal judgment upon us and hopelessness to our lives.
See Matthew 1:21. Jesus did not come into this world to save us from hell, but He did not come to save us from sin. Not going to hell is the by-product of being saved from their sins. Jesus does not save us in our sins but from our sins.
This truth stands in direct opposition to the many claims of false believers. They claim to be "saved" yet there is no difference in their lives in terms of personal holiness, attitude of life, and love of truth. Many false believers have never seriously considered their sin problem.
A. False assestment Simon made some incredible claims! He practiced magic in Samaria, keeping the people in amazement over his abilities. For this he was claiming to be someone great (v. 9). He could boast about his life and achievements. He rather enjoyed displaying his magical powers and hearing the applause of men. Simon had evidently learned the magical or demonic arts of eastern, mystical magicians. Just as the magicians in Pharaoh’s kingdom during the day of Moses practiced magical skills which were related to demonism, Simon was capable of the same kinds of things. "This man is the great power of God," was the word around Samaria. This was essentially a claim to deity on the part of Simon. He enjoyed the attention people gave him, even to the point of devotion and awe (v. 11). Now the interesting thing about his believing and being baptized (v. 13) is that nowhere do you get the idea that Simon saw anything wrong with all of his false claims. Sin was not a problem in his life as far as he was concerned. The reason so many today fail to come to Christ is that they never see a need; they are enjoying their sin, ignoring the revelation of God, all they while their hearts become harder and harder. Until we are convinced of our own sinfulness, we will not be convinced of the necessity of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not die to give us a wonderful example of sacrificial living. He died to atone for our sins! He died as a substitute for sinners not saints. Many professing believers are still lost in their sins because they have never seen the power of sin in their lives and the offense of their sin before a holy and righteous God. They ignore their sins and think that being a Christian is a nice thing to do in polite society. B. Favorite alternative Simon was a religious man. “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done." Notice what took place: Simon believed, was baptized, and continued on with Philip. Now all of this looks good on the surface. These are the kinds of signs you look for in real believers! You look for people who believe, who will follow Christ outwardly in baptism, and who will go on following the teaching of spiritual leaders. To all apparent witnesses, Simon was now a Christian. But the real Simon got exposed (vv. 18-21). Simon had the idea that since everyone had quit following him and had started following the teaching of Philip, it would be a good idea to get into this circle of Christians. Maybe Simon could regain his status as before, or so he thought. He believed the miracles done by Philip but not the message of Philip. As good as this appealing substitute looked, it was still not real; it was just a substitute. If the kind of Christianity you have is nothing more than a substitute for genuine faith in Christ, you may look good to everyone else, but you cannot pretend when you stand before God. Satan had tried MONEY as a means of stopping the church in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and he had tried MURDER as means in the case of Stephen. Now he tries MIMICRY.