Hello and welcome again to Lechem Panim. In recent weeks in our study of the book of Acts we have been talking about the persecution that broke out against the Church in the wake of the stoning of Stephen. And this [persecution scattered the Jerusalem fellowship and led to the first missionary outreach of the Church. And Philip, whose ministry begin with waiting on tables with the rest of the Hellenists, is now being used by God as a mighty minister to bring the Gospel to the Samaritans. But in the midst of this incredible story, there was a man who (despite outward appearance) was in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It says in…
Acts 8:9-11 (ESV)— 9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
A Contrast-- Now it’s important in our study of this passage to also look ahead; because the book of Acts is about to present us with a stunning example of what it means to place saving faith in Jesus Christ. And that is demonstrated in the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch, which we are about to come to later in this chapter. But before we get to his story, we are first given the account of Simon Magus, who represents the first known Satanic attempt to sew a tare in the Church. He’s a Samaritan; and one whose beliefs are very unorthodox and (as we will see) very much self-worshipping.
Bargain Emeralds— Now I know most of us are not traveling much during these days; but if you ever do plan on traveling out of the country and [If you're planning to vacation in Zambia, beware of the street-corner "emerald vendors." And if you're driving, be prepared for some confusion in the streets, owing to stolen traffic lights. The two warnings are related: The traffic light thieves are selling green glass chips to unsuspecting tourists who think they're getting bargain-basement emeralds.]
All The Earmarks-- Well, Simon Magus was one of those who at first appeared to be a stunning emerald; a monument and testimony to what God can do in a person’s life. He had all the ear-marks of being a genuine Christian. And he even managed to deceive Philip, who was very godly and discerning. And no wonder. Simon had believed, had been baptized, and he had “continued on with Philip” (verse 13), which are the three major marks of the true believer. And in reality, he was very close to being a Christian. So where did he go wrong? Well, we will see as we proceed through this passage four major faults in Simon’s theology; faults that were severe enough to cause him to miss salvation. (1) He had a wrong view of self, (2) a wrong view of salvation, (3) a wrong view of the Holy Spirit, and (4) a wrong view of sin.
A Wrong View of Himself-- And the first of these is seen in that he sees himself as not just good, but “somebody great“. And that is antithetical to what the Bible tells us about mankind before we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But this faulty philosophy is still being taught today. A myriad of people will tell you that man is basically good; and if we can reach deep down inside of ourselves and tap into our inner goodness (who we really are underneath), then the world would be a better place. However, scripture tells us that sin has so marred us, that our hearts are wretchedly sinful; so much so that we are incapable (without Christ) of doing any works that aren’t (in the eyes of God) like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The reality is that we are desperately wicked and in need of a Savior. And without that necessary starting point of humility (recognizing our need of a Savior), we are incapable of receiving saving grace. And Simon Magus never seemed to come to that point; and certainly wasn’t there in the beginning, which is seen in his declaring himself to be “somebody great”. And that greatness he and others believed flowed from his ability to perform magic. Now that word “magic“ obviously comes from the word “magi“, which remember referred to the high-priestly tribe of the Medo-Persians. And those beliefs were a mixture of science and superstition. They combined astrology, divination, and cultic practices with history, mathematics, and agriculture. Now were these magical feats trickery or were they demonic? We don’t know for sure, but it very well could’ve been a mixture of both. Those who are possessed by or using the power of demons can sometimes perform feats similar to God’s, but on a much smaller scale. But whatever those miracles were, they gave Simon Magus an incredible hold on the people of Samaria. Everybody was paying attention to him and held him in the highest respect. They even said “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” Now remember what Jesus had said in…
Mark 14:62 (ESV)— 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Claiming Deity— Simon is claiming a very similar description. And this seems to suggest that Simon was even claiming deity of himself, which is the most heretical view that you can have of yourself. And the early church fathers report that Simon was in fact one of the founders of Gnosticism and that he actually viewed himself as God incarnate (like Jesus). And so we see that his false teaching actually did a lot of damage not just to this group of Samaritans, but to the Church as a whole. And that is always where Satan wants to bring us; to where we attempt to place ourselves on the throne of God. That was the heart of his temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden; and we see this same temptation even today. It is at the heart of virtually every key issue we are facing in our culture. Who has the ultimate say-so over our lives?
Our Bodies?— Whether it is the issue of abortion, homosexuality, or the myriad of other practices that involve our bodies, it is very important to pay attention to the language used to defend those practices. It is said “You have the right to do with your body whatever you wish.” “It is your body, your choice.” I talked with a homosexual man this week who told me “Yes, I am a Christian, but I live my life how I want to.” Now that (to me) was a very interesting and telling statement; one that rubs against what the scriptures tell us about the Lordship of Christ over our bodies. Listen to the words of...
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)— 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
The Crux of It-- Let me tell you, those two verses have the power to change the world and can completely reverse the downward spiral of our nation. The crux of many of the issues we are facing today in these great culture wars boils down to this single question; am I God or is God God? Do I have the freedom to define who I am and use my body how I see fit or do I trust in God’s Lordship over my body? If God is God, then when it comes to the issue of abortion, we have no right to kill the works of creation He has established in us, even if (for a time) they are dependent on us. And when it comes to our sexual identities as well, He has a plan that is not ours to redefine. We are not our own. We were created by and bought anew by the blood of Jesus Christ. And until we are willing to receive Jesus Christ (to borrow the words of Thomas) as “My Lord and my God”, we will miss salvation just like Simon Magus did. Pride (the elevation of ourselves to the place of God) is the enemy of salvation. And that was Simon‘s problem.
Pride’s Masquerade-- Now Simon Magus didn’t recognize his pride. And nor do we most of the time and that is because pride can masquerade under seemingly upright motives. With Herod, it masked itself as integrity when he beheaded John the Baptist. With the Pharisees, pride masked itself as holiness; and they ironically ended up rejecting the Holy One Himself. With the Jewish authorities, pride masked itself as zeal for God, but ended with their killing the very Son of God. Pride caused the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pride cost Nebuchadnezzar his reason, Rehoboam his kingdom, Uzziah his health, and (as we studied in the book of Esther) it cost Haman his very life. This is why there is so much emphasis in scripture on humility as the starting point of salvation.
The Kiddie Door-- The other day on our day off my wife and I spent the day together while the kids were in school. And let me tell you, even after 11 years of marriage we still know how to have a romantic date. Of all the frivolous ordinary things we could have done, we sprang for the ultimate; we went shopping. And one of the places we shopped at was a kids consignment store. Now I very chivalrously offered to stay and guard the car (because, you know, you can’t be too careful these days), but my wife didn’t think that was necessary and “requested” that I come in with her. And of course I was MORE than happy to do so; at least that’s what I’ve been told. But there were two doors into this kids clothing store; one normal sized door and then a much shorter door for the children. And my wife frivolously and cheerfully ducked under the kids door. However I (in all my dignity) walked through the regular run-of-the mill door for big people. I was not about to duck and look ridiculous stooping to fit through that small kiddie door. After all, I’m a man. But you know, as I was preparing this message I thought again of that small kiddie door. Jesus had said the most remarkable thing in...
Matthew 18:1-4 (ESV)-- 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
We Have to Stoop-- You know what Jesus was saying? “You have to stoop.” There IS no big person door to heaven. Until we become as little children (as Jesus says) we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There’s only one way. And it begins with humbly accepting Christ’s Lordship over our lives and our bodies, and recognizing that our ways are not His ways; they’re not even good ways; they are (without Christ) desperately wicked. And it also means we must we see ourselves as weak, lost, and utterly helpless without the intervention of Christ. There is no other door but through the humble door of submission to Christ Jesus. Have you entered that door? Have you humbled yourself and accepted Christ’s Lordship over your life? If not, I would like to encourage you to do that today. Receive Him as Lord and He will fulfill you in a far better way than you ever could have doing things your own way. Receive Him today as the Lord of your life. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.