Simon the Magician: The Peril of Pursuing Greatness

Posted by on Jul 13, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Some of my reading tonight included a great little article by Jon Bloom, Executive Director of DesiringGod (John Piper’s ministry). I wanted to share part of it because I think it really speaks to what many pastors and church leaders may be guilty of. This would be a good warning to us as we strive to build our own little kingdoms instead of making certain that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11).

We must heed the Bible’s warning in Acts 8: if we attempt great things so that others will see us as great, we are in grave spiritual peril.

After Stephen had been brutally stoned to death, intense persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem. Many were driven off to the towns and villages of Judea and Samaria.

Few saw these horrible events as a means Jesus was using to fulfill His word: “. . .you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Sanmaria” (Acts 1:8). We don’t need to lose heart when the world’s hostility towards Christians increases, JESUS WILL NOT LOSE! Every time the world tries to stamp out the gospel, the gospel spreads.

Philip, Stephen’s co-servant to the Hellenistic widows, headed to Samaria and preached and performed signs and wonders in a city there. Large numbers of Samaritans professed faith and were baptized. A man named Simon was one of them.

Simon was a local celebrity. He was a magician of sorts, and had mesmerized the locals with his arts. They had given him the title The Great Power of God. And he LOVED it. he basked in his reputation and fed off the admiration and respect he received.

But when Philip arrived, the game changed. The gospel Philip preached and the signs he performed were beyond Simon’s abilities. Simon watched with covetous awe as the real, great power of God flowed through Philip.

Then Peter and John showed up from Jerusalem. And when they prayed, people were filled withe the Holy Spirit. This drew even more crowds. Everyone was talking about them. Everyone was mesmerized by them.

No one was mesmerized by Simon anymore. He was a has-been, a dkiminishing star. And like many who have once experienced the euphoric drug of other people’s adoration, he wanted that rush again. If he could somehow get this Jesus power, then once again he could be great. He was willing to pay a high price for that drug.

So at a discreet moment, he approached Peter and John with a proposition. If they would let him in on the secret they possessed, if they would share their power with him, a small fortune in silver would be theirs and no one would ever know.

Peter’s eyes seemed to burn right into Simon’s heart. And then Peter’s words seemed to slice him open: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:20-23).

Peter’s words to Simon were not merely harsh. They were full of mercy. The love of self-glory is an extremely dangerous cancer of the soul and is spiritually fata if not addressed. This cancer requires a straightforward, serious diagnosis.

This account is in the Bible so that we will remember that God’s power is not a commodity tlo be traded. It’s not a means for us to pursue our own greatness or wealth.

We can all relate to Simon. We are all tempted to pursue our own glory, even in the work of the kingdom. It was a major driving force in my life for many years as I sought affirmation and acceptance.

When we recognize that familiar craving we need to deal severely with it. We must confess confess it (often to others, not just God), repent, and resist. Because if left alone, it can develop into a spiritual cancer that can bind us to real glory, and may ultimatley kill us.

Let us take Peter’s advice and do all that we do “by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

In The Name of the One and Only True and Living God,
Richard Holloman
The Sight Ministry
PO Box 140808
Nashville, TN 37214

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