The “Illusion” of a False Faith and How to Deal With It. Simon Magus and Tares Among the Wheat

Acts: Judea and Samaria

How should the church deal with those who crave power rather than a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ? In Acts 8:4-24, we see the apostles deal with Simon Magus, a Samaritan sorcerer in the time of the early church. We would do well to learn from their response, for false teachers and power-thirsty men and women continue to abound today.

Todd WagnerNov 6, 2016Acts 8:8-24; John 4:1-15; Matthew 24:1-28; Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43; Deuteronomy 29:18

We're in the book of Acts. We're in act two. Why are we calling it Act Two in the book of Acts? Because there are three primary acts. One is in the city of Jerusalem, the next one is in an area called Samaria, and the third act, which starts in chapter 13, is the uttermost parts of the earth. From chapters 13-28 we cover the rest of the expansion of the gospel. God is going to do what he said he's going to do.

He's going to let his grace be sown all over where his people are scattered, not in a haphazard way. You're going to find out that God is very patient and intentional in the way he grows his church. There is a reason this book is so important for us. It lays out the means through which we can be God's people. It is not through our own will. It's not through some human welled-up emotion of a desire to honor and serve God.

The Scriptures say, "You shall wait in Jerusalem, and you'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." "When you begin to be yoked with me and have relationship with me and you no longer live according to the spirit of sons of disobedience…" You don't do what seems right to you. You go, "God is good. He has done that which is incredibly crazy to me. He gave his life for me, so I want to live for him."

When you desire to live for him and be his ambassadors, you will be his witnesses, but apart from him you can do nothing. The book of Acts shows that Jesus sent what he said he was going to send, and there was a physical manifestation of the fact that the power of God had come. You will watch that whenever God is beginning a new work, there's always some sign. There is always some display, because God wants the world to know that this is of him, that it is divine.

The word semeion in the Scripture is the word for sign. It's used all throughout the gospel of John. You may not know this, but there are four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the SynopticGospels. Syn means same; optic means see. It's three eyewitness testimonies given from a different perspective: a Jewish perspective, a Greek perspective, and a Roman perspective. All of them are eyewitnesses.

Most people believe Mark is Peter's perspective, and of course Matthew is his own. Luke is a Greek doctor and an astute observer of history, and that's why he's very exact and the most chronological of the Gospels. John was written about 60 years later. He was eyewitness of these things, but John wrote not an eyewitness account as much as a theological presentation that Jesus is, in fact, who he said he was, and you can trust him.

John uses seven signs (semeion) that you can know Jesus is who he said he was. If you look at the different signs John gives for Jesus, you will go, "Wow! These are things only a divine person can do." By the way, it is the exact same word we get the English word signet from. A signet ring is something a king used to wear. A signet ring was always unique. There weren't a bunch of them. There was only one.

It was only in the possession of the king, and it was very unique and marked him. When there was a letter written by the king, he would roll it up, drop some wax on where it was sealed, and press his ring into it, and then everybody who received it would know this came directly from the king. That's exactly what we see happening in the book of Acts: early on in Jerusalem, today in Samaria, and even throughout the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles.

Early on, there are more signs. Once it has been established that these are God's men and God's people, some of the more miraculous manifestations go away. God is still capable of those signs. We still pray he does them, but we don't expect him to do them, because they're not called "normacles." They're called miracles.

The ongoing miracle is that we love one another, we love justice (not when it's convenient, but always), we do kindness, and we are humble people before our Lord. Folks go, "How in the world can you live with such hope and humility and self-discipline?" and the answer is, "God has saved us from ourselves and shown us there is a better way." That is the ongoing miraculous mark.

We share stories of people who have been brought out of darkness into his marvelous light every week in the Watermark News. You need to see God is still doing miracles. There's still a sign that God is alive and active. It's in transformed lives. There are healings, and dead men start to live, and people whose life was lost are found, and people who were lame in their choices are now walking freely.

That's what was happening in Samaria, and it was causing no small disturbance in that region. What you're going to find in the book of Acts is after chapter 6, verse 7, we no longer focus on the disciples of Jesus. The eleven who were there (and then a twelfth was appointed) are no longer the focus of the book of Acts. It shifts now to second-generation believers, men who have come to know Christ as a result of his death, burial, and resurrection and the preaching of the Word.

Many of them are Hellenized Jews, not even individuals who grew up in Palestine. Stephen (chapter 6), Stephen (chapter 7), Philip (chapter 8), and you're about to see an Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8, and then in chapter 9, a guy named Saul of Tarsus comes online. Peter and John and James and others show back up in an ancillary way just to confirm that the work that is being done by the people of God is, in fact, the work they saw done through Jesus, and another generation of leaders rises up.

Let me just show you from the very beginning that the church has never had a capital. There has never been a centralized fiefdom that delegates out authority to others. All that we have is unity in the church, not centralized control. That is why the most important thing you can do is choose your local leader. You don't have to ask your local leader who and what city is over him in this little denominational structure, because our denomination, where we get our name from, is Jesus, and you are called to be careful to see who it is you follow.

What happens in Acts 8 is Philip is up doing ministry in this place called Samaria, and I'll talk about the significance of that. The apostles hear about it in Jerusalem, that God is doing a great work up there. The Word of God is being received. The kingdom of God and Jesus are being preached. They hear that people want to follow Jesus. So God, to affirm that this is, in fact, his work, sends the apostles up there, and the apostles pray for them, and in order to show, "This is my work…"

This is really the only time the Holy Spirit comes… Just like in Acts 1 the Holy Spirit manifested itself later in the lives of the apostles as they waited, Jesus waited for the apostles to get there for the Holy Spirit to come on these people who were receiving the preaching to show that, "Hey, I'm going to work through them, just like I worked through you, because this is not about you."

In Acts, chapter 6, he prepared them for that. He said through Stephen, "You don't need central tabernacle worship. This is not about Jerusalem. This is not about a temple. This is about me." What's really interesting is even a foreshadowing of this is in John, chapter 4, verse 19, and following. Jesus is talking in Samaria to a woman at the well.

Samaria is a region… If you want to understand the geography of Israel during the time of Christ, the way to remember it is Jerusalem is in the south, and it's where the capital city was. Jerusalem is on a hill, and whenever you left Jerusalem, north, south, east, or west, you would go down. So even when you went from Jerusalem up, you were really going down. That's why you're going to say, "The apostles went down from Jerusalem."

Don't you guys make that mistake? Whenever you're in Texas and are driving to Missouri or Michigan, you go, "Let's go up." Well, they're talking topographically. The apostles go down from Jerusalem (because no matter which way you go, you're going down) and they go to Samaria. This is interesting, because a good Jew would never go to Samaria. Samaritans were half-breeds. Let me just give you a little history. This won't change your life. It'll just make you more informed as you read your Bible.

Here's the geography of Israel. Jerusalem is Judea. That's the very southern part of this little piece of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Up top there's a lake called Galilee, and to our great convenience, it's called the Galilean region. This is where the temple was. This is where Jesus hung out in Capernaum and other places. Between that is Samaria that you can travel in. That's how you can remember it.

Good Jews would never go from Judea straight up to Galilee. They would cross the Jordan, walk over what is now modern-day Jordan, and then come back in up by the Sea of Galilee and cross over, because the Samaritans weren't whole Jews. They were never considered full Jews. What they were is a remnant that was left over from an event that happened in 722 BC, and for 800 years there was a sense of elitism, that these people were compromised.

What happened is when the Assyrians came and wiped out the northern part of Israel, they took the men off, and they tried to eliminate Judaism by intermarriage. So a lot of these Assyrian soldiers slept with as many Jewish women as they could, and these were half-breeds. Many stayed there and were kept captive during Assyrian rule, as the men were hauled off and killed, so their children were a mix of Assyrian enemies (Chaldean, Babylonian enemies later) and Jews.

Good Jews said, "You folks should have fought. You shouldn't have slept with the enemy," even though they were oppressed and raped, and in their elitism said, "We're not going to go there." Jesus, when he was here, walked smack through Samaria. One day, he was walking through Samaria with his disciples, and he came across a woman at a well. He addressed her, and she goes, "What are you doing? A Jewish man in Samaria and, even more, talking to me, a Samaritan woman."

He said, "Woman, I'm here to help you." He said, "Get me a drink," and she said, "Why are you even asking me to do anything?" He said, "Well, if you were smart, you'd ask me for a drink. You're obviously thirsty, because you're trying to have all of your needs met by men. I know that you've been through four of them, and the guy you're living with now is not your husband." She says, "I perceive you to be a prophet."

He says, "Well, I'm more than a prophet." She said, "Well, Mr. Prophet, I have an issue for you. How come you Jewish people think we're supposed to worship down there in Jerusalem? We think we're supposed to worship up here at Gerizim." There was a moment in Jewish history even before the Assyrians came that another temple was built up north, because there was a split in the 12 tribes.

The leaders of the north said, "We don't want our folks going back down south to worship, because they'll get their hearts set right and now will give their allegiance to the true king, so we're going to give them a place to worship up here." So there was compromised worship, but even those Jews still held on to the idea that the Messiah would one day come. She says, "We're waiting for this Messiah, and when that Messiah comes, where are we going to worship him? Up here in Gerizim or down there in Jerusalem?"

Jesus' response is, "Neither place, lady. It's not going to be about temple worship when the Messiah comes, because that's just a shadow about the righteousness of God. When the provision of God comes and God delivers you through the work of that Messiah, you won't worship there or on this hill, but you'll worship him in spirit and truth." A little bit later Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and I'll rebuild it in three days."

That woman was marked by what he said, went and got the village, and the village came back and listened, and Jesus led that village to faith in him as the Messiah. The last journey Jesus made from Galilee down to Jerusalem where he was killed, he went through Samaria again. He went to another Samaritan village. They didn't receive him, and the apostles said, "Let us call down fire from heaven and destroy these fools."

Jesus says, "You do not know of which spirit you speak. I've come to save at this moment. There will be a time that fire will come from heaven and destroy those who reject me, but I am here to offer peace. You pray for them. They are not your enemies, and if they are your enemies, you're compelled by my law to love them. The time will come when they'll be judged. You just do right, dwell in the land, and cultivate faithfulness."

Here we go now about three years after that, or not even that long, and here come some of those guys who wanted to cast down fire in Samaria. They heard that the followers of Jesus were bringing about the preaching of the Word.

Let me ask you a question. Application last week. It's not the position that advances the gospel; it's the person. How did you do this week when you were scattered all throughout Dallas? Did you preach the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus? Are other people where you went that I didn't go aware of the kindness of God? Did they see an ambassador for Christ? When you showed up, was there a breath of fresh air and a sign of hope among them? If not, we largely wasted our time last week.

Let me just tell you the kinds of people who don't do what Jesus wants them to do, even though they're in the church. They are deluded, they are false sheep, they are false professors, and they need to be confronted (Acts 8). Let me tell you what God is doing in the book of Acts. He is showing you the growth of his church and all of the things the church is going to face.

They face a need for the Spirit. They face a call to preach. They face persecution because of what they preach. They endure persecution. They face members among them, believers, who lie and are deceived and need to be removed (Acts 5). They face racial tension, because even though their hearts are new, their flesh is old, and some of that enmity is still between them (Acts 6). They grab onto old traditions (Acts 7). In Acts 8, they will have false professors in their midst.

God is showing us how he works and how the church should respond. This is a very sobering text. It ought to make you uncomfortable. It ought to make you go, "I don't want to be that guy, Simon Magus," who is a magician, which has an appearance of one thing but is deceitful. Let me read this. I give you my pastoral authority to waste some time every now and then and have a little fun at a place called the Babylon Bee. It is the Christian Onion, and it uses incredible satire and wit to teach us about things that are true.

I read one about a week and a half ago that was titled, "Unrepentant Hedonist Really Banking On Sinner's Prayer He Recited at Age 7." This is what he says. This is a fake story. "Charlottesville, VA—As he continues to live out a…shameless pursuit of anything and everything that gives him any degree of temporary pleasure, sources confirmed Friday that local unrepentant hedonist Justin Bergman, 29, is really banking on the sinner's prayer he recited as a small child.

After a sleepless three-day binge of drugs, alcohol, and sex, Bergman was approached by a friend who expressed concern over the man's eternal soul, to which he is said to have replied, 'Don't worry about me, man. I asked Jesus into my heart a long time ago. Me and God are good. I know I'm going to heaven when I die. I did that whole thing [that magic prayer]. I'm a Christian,' he added, before replying to texts from his drug dealer and a married woman whom he is currently seeing. 'I hope you're not judging me,' he cautioned.

Pressed about the legitimacy of his walk with Christ, Bergman reportedly replied, 'If I knew where my Bible was I'd prove it to you. The guy who helped me say the sinner's prayer wrote in the front of my Bible that I was saved and going to heaven, with the date and everything, so I'd never forget or question [my salvation].' 'I'm totally good,' he confirmed." That may sound crazy, but I would say it sounds familiar, and it started back in Acts 8. You're going to see how the faithful church responds to such nonsense, and you want to purpose to not be that nonsensical.

By the way, I want to make a quick comment about our imaginary friend Justin Bergman, 29. This is not to say that Christians don't still struggle, but when a Christian surrenders because he doesn't want to battle against his flesh and the things he has always loved, and his nature hasn't changed, and he's masquerading around by certain, even still consistent, Christian activity but is, by and large, not regenerate underneath, he is just a washed pig, and he will return to his slop every chance he gets.

You can clean up a pig and put lipstick on him, but he's still a pig, and he loves the slop. If you still love the slop, which means you will not fight against it, and when you find yourself in it again, to confess, "This is slop. What am I doing?" If you don't surround yourself with godly Christians who will embrace you and encourage you and strive with you, and you eat at the Father's table and listen to the Father's voice… If all you do is listen to your nature as a pig and say, "Don't judge me," that should concern you.

Last week, we started in Acts, chapter 8, verses 1-8. I just want to read verses 4 and following again, because there's application here. "Therefore, those who had been scattered…" Mostly Hellenized Jews, because the Synagogue of the Freedmen is where the persecution started. That was a synagogue made up of largely Jews who had been dispersed around the Roman Empire, who had come back to Israel, and they said, "You don't need to be Jewish." That started with Stephen. "You just need to be a follower of Christ." So they went out, and when they were scattered they preached the Word. That's what you should do.

"Philip went down to the city of Samaria…" From up in Jerusalem he went down north. "…and began proclaiming Christ to them." That's what you should do. How did you do this week? "The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing." There it is. There's the unique, consistent, easily identifiable, "only in possession of God" works that were going on.

"For in the case of many who had unclean spirits…" That's what happens every time a person comes to Christ here. An unclean spirit comes out of them, sometimes with a loud voice. "I repent of that nonsense I was doing." "…and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed." Sometimes people go, "The very good I want to do I couldn't do until I found Christ, and now I have a new nature. Part of me still is longing to go back and do crazy things, but that part of me is not my master. Jesus is my master." Lives were changed. "So there was much rejoicing in that city." Then we get to the text.

"Now there was a man named Simon…" Simon means listener or one who has heard. This guy was listening. Watch what this guy was. "…who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria…" They were like, "Man, this is impressive what this guy can do." "…claiming to be someone great…" But it was an illusion. That's what magicians are. They do great things, but they're tricks.

"…and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him…" That is seductive when you are loved and seen as somebody great. "…saying, 'This man is what is called the Great Power of God.'""His talent, his beauty, his fame, his renown, and I long to have that." It's amazing to me how many Christians love and long for people in this world who are gifted and have the illusion of life because they're beautiful and talented. I don't care if it's Jay Z and Beyoncé or Kanye and Kim. It's amazing how many Christians follow them and are paying attention to them.

Verse 11 (again, you see it for the third time): "And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts." When people don't see real power, they're longing to believe that there is some power… People know we're largely powerless against sin, and we'd love to know that there's something supernatural, something above us that we could tap into. Let me just warn you with something quickly so you won't be like the Samaritans who were wooed by Simon Magus.

My daughter got me hooked on AGT (America's Got Talent). How many of y'all watch it? Raise your hand. Go ahead. It's all right. It's fairly clean. Just pretend you don't know who Heidi Klum is and you're good. If you go, "Oh, there's the Victoria's Secret model," that would be a problem. Anyway, America's Got Talent, a little show.

This year, the group that finished second was called The Clairvoyants. It was Thommy Ten and Amelie, both from Vienna, Austria. They were beautiful. They finished second. They would have probably finished first if it weren't for the cutest thing since Minnie Mouse was drawn, Grace VanderWaal, who could sing like a little bird. Amelie and Thommy, these clairvoyants, did this trick where they made people believe they could pass information back to one another.

The judges… You know, Heidi Klum would be shocked when they would take a bag, and Amelie would be blindfolded, and she'd reach in there and pull out lipstick, and she'd go, "That's lipstick." Then even more, she'd say, "By the way, it's a favorite shade of mine. The number on there is 602." Then her partner would walk out to the audience and say, "Everybody pick up something. Everybody, right now, grab anything you want out of the audience." Off would walk Thommy Ten, and he would grab something and go, "What am I holding?" She'd go, "A phone."

"What color is it?"


"Who's the provider?"


They were like, "Whoa!" Then he'd walk over to Howie and say, "Howie, what do you have in your pocket?" He'd go, "Well, I have this," and he holds it up. She goes, "I perceive it's liquid." It was eye drops. More than that, from 40 yards away she'd go, "And the expiration date is February 2017." It freaked people out, and it ought to.

Are you ready for secrets of clairvoyants revealed? Do you want me to tell you how to do it? This is how. It's called Morse code. You go, "Well, Todd, that's strange. I didn't see them up there going 'Beep, beep, beep, beep.' I didn't see some soldier in the back flashing lights back and forth." No. It's because what they did is they used something that has been used for a long time. The International Spy Museum has a Romanian Secret Service shoe which looks like this. It has a transmitter in it.

For $200, you can go to Penguin Magic and buy something called a thumper. A thumper allows you to send Morse code to a receiver. What happened is that receiver… They checked Amelie's ear, that there was no Morse code coming through it, but she was sitting on a swing, which the receiver was put in, and her little bum was taking the Morse code and just saying, "Ah, I see. That's what he's saying. He's telling me right now it's liquid. He's telling me it's an eye drop. He's telling me the expiration. He's giving me numbers 2/17," which they had all prearranged. I'm telling you, it's not magic.

Now Thommy and Amelie did not pretend it was magic, but I'm going to tell you something. People can easily be fooled. I have a good friend who's an inventor of tricks for David Copperfield and others. He's an illusionist. I have been with him. We've spoken places. He said, "I'm about to do an illusion to you." He's a mentalist.

When he does this, the people in the audience, Christians… We've asked them at the very end, "How many of y'all think Danny has special powers?" Fifty percent of the Christians would rather believe he has special powers than to believe he is doing what he told them he would do, because they don't want to believe they can be tricked. You can be tricked, and the smarter you are, the more complex your thinking, the easier you are to be fooled.

I want to tell you why I'm doing this. This is a public service announcement. It's going to keep happening, especially if you're not intimately acquainted with the power of God. You're going to be impressed by people who have letters after their name (PhDs). You're going to be impressed with people who can do stuff. You're like, "There's no way, if they didn't have powers, they could do that." Jesus, Matthew 24.

Listen to me. This is not funny. W.V. Grant, right down here in downtown Dallas at the Eagle's Nest, duped people for millions of dollars and built his Christian empire using a thumper. He was wired up, a radio device… In fact, his wasn't even that complicated. That takes immense practice to use that bad boy by typing out Morse code with your toe or your foot or your heel. These guys are charlatans. They want attention from men, and they want you to believe they're the "Great Power of God."

If I had a text I was going to teach to young pastors, this might be the text, because there are a lot of young pastors who get in the game because they have their favorite pastor they podcast and listen to and whom they think everybody talks well of and is sought out and are Christian celebrities, and they go, "I want to serve God. I want that kind of attention. I want to be spoken of with that kind of great respect."

Let me just tell you guys something. I'm not in this so y'all will write me a bunch of notes during Pastor Appreciation Month…which was last October, by the way. Thank you. I didn't get bitter, because I'm not in this thing to hear "Thank you" from you. I am in this thing because I want you to know about the kingdom of God and Jesus. I don't want you to love me; I want you to love him.

Hopefully, I am somewhat useful to you in some manner if I am a servant of Christ and the steward of the mystery of God. We are brothers in this thing. I have a gift, I have a role, I have a responsibility, but we are in this together. By the way, if there is not second-generation leadership as we are scattered, I am not doing my job. This isn't about me; it's about our King. I love that I get to serve you, but I love that you love him, not me.

Jesus, in Matthew 24, was asked by his disciples… He was on the Mount of Olives. He's getting ready to take off, and his disciples say to him, "Hey, when are the things that are going to show the end of the age going to go down? What will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?" Jesus says, "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many."

Drop down to verse 10. "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." Because they don't know to love God, so now you can have sex with whomever you want, if you want to be identified by your passions. If you want to be a different gender, go for it. If no-fault divorce is the way of the culture, you just go right down that road.

You're going to see many people who say they love God not live godly ways, because they're going to be given permission by the culture. They're going to even raise up false prophets who are going to tell you, "If God loves you, he'd let you be exactly who you are. Don't you follow those narrow-minded folks who tell you Jesus cares about your nature changing."

By the way, our nature doesn't change in the fact that we don't long anymore for pornography or same-sex relationships. Our nature changes in that we now know that our nature that seems right to us leads to death. There's a Real Truth, Real Quick coming out on what's called reparative therapy or conversion therapy, that you can "pray the gay away." No, you can't. What you can do is pray the righteousness of God in you, even though you may still maintain a same-sex attraction, just like I still maintain an adulterous flesh, but I die to that, that Christ might live.

It says right here, "But the one who endures to the end [is the one who is mine] .** This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world…"**"I'm going to scatter you all out, and faithful men will preach the kingdom of God and Jesus." Drop down to verse 21. Listen to me. Thommy and Amelie, who are crooks… Those two aren't. They're telling you it's magic, but there are plenty of W.V. Grants out there who are.

"For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ…'""This guy is doing amazing things!"

"…or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show [unique, easily identifiable, apparently supernatural] signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." I've been in churches… We've done these mentalist tricks to people, and we ask them, "What do you think is going on?" They go, "That's spooky weird. You guys have a power." No, we don't. It's a trick.

"Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms…'""You have to buy tickets. You have to go." Here's the prophet of God. He's speaking and saying things that aren't consistent with the Word. Don't go. Don't believe them. When somebody is giving you a word of knowledge because he can read somebody's mind, supposedly…

I have been in stuff where they exposed these faith healer nonsense charlatans. Done it. That's why you see me passionate about it. That's why you see me passionate about false evidences of the power of God, this mindless babbling in language you don't know. When you're hurting, you are vulnerable to these things. When somebody tells you God wants you to have all that is easy and right and good… No, he doesn't. He wants you to have all that is true and pure and holy.

Sometimes his children will suffer in this world. You might get cancer. Your spouse might leave you. You might lose your job. The wrong candidates might be nominated and elected. You don't become lawless; you just live with hope. You ought to be a marvel to the world as you suffer, when things aren't as you want them to be, knowing they will be made that way one day.

It ends with Jesus saying, "You'll know when I come, because lightning will go from the east to the west." "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." In other words, where there are dead, unregenerate people is where these vultures are. You be ready. It looks like the power of God. I've seen it. Don't you be duped. Watch what happens. This is going to get really personal. Are you ready? Verse 12:

"But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles…"

This guy is orthodox in his confession, he is obedient in his practice, and he continues to run with God's people. He is what is called a tare among wheat. This is the only place in the Bible where that word is used of somebody that we're going to find out prayed the sinner's prayer, did things that people who pray the sinner's prayer do, kept hanging around for a while with the apostles, but wasn't changed. That is a possibility.

Back to Jesus. Matthew 13. Jesus is telling stories about the kingdom of God. He says in verse 24, "Let me tell you a story." "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat…" The word tares is representative of what is called the darnel plant. Darnel looks like wheat. It comes from the French word that means drunkenness.

When you eat darnel, even though it's imperceptible in its seed from wheat… Immature wheat and immature darnel… Look at this. This is a picture of the two of them together. That little seed as it grows on the wheat turns golden and beautiful. Over here, it is small and gray when it begins to mature. Jesus tells the story that there's this life-giving plant that is nutritional and substantive, and there is…

What is wheat called? The staff of life. That's what it's called, especially if you live in Kansas. But it's called that here unless you're some Paleo freak and you don't eat it. It's the staff of life. Meanwhile, darnel is called the stalk of deceit, because it looks like that, but it'll make you sick and dizzy. If you eat it when it's hot, it will make you almost drunk. You won't walk right, and it causes vomiting.

Jesus went on to tell the story. Basically it says, "Hey, should we go and get rid of that stuff?" He said, "No, let it be." He explains this parable, only one of two parables Jesus fully explained. "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels." Let it mature. See who continues and bears fruit.

People ask me sometimes, "Is that guy saved?" I go, "I don't know. Ask me in five years." That should make you a little uncomfortable. By the way, my job is not to see through you to see if you're saved. My job is to see you through to faithfulness. That is why when we see individuals in the church who are not being faithful we are to treat them as a tax gatherer and a Gentile. It doesn't mean they're going to hell; it means treat them that way, which means they need to repent and begin to follow Jesus again.

Are they, when they come back, prodigals who returned home or are they pigs that finally got changed to sheep? I don't know. Do sometimes prodigal sons choke on pig slop and die away, and does the Father know they're his? Certainly. Is that the expectation, that you should die eating with pigs when you're a son of the King? Certainly not. You want to tell me, Justin Bergman of Charlottesville, Virginia, that you know Jesus but you just like the pigs? I'll let the Father figure that out. I'll just call you back home.

Jesus goes on to say the enemy sowed them. That's what the Enemy does. If he can't beat you, he's going to deceive people. He's going to have folks who go to the church, get baptized, continue with the church, who are really sons of the Devil, who even get involved in ministry sometimes, because they want people to give attention to them and be called the "Great Power of God."

What I was talking about with young pastors… I see these guys want to get into ministry, sometimes, because they want people to give them attention, and when their ministry doesn't just take off right away, they get angry at God and get discouraged. Don't you do that, Christian. Don't you get angry at God and get discouraged if your life doesn't become more prosperous just because you trusted Jesus. Your wife may not lose 10 pounds. Your kids may still be a little disobedient. You might still be ugly if you trust Jesus. All I'm telling you is know your Jesus, and don't expect that everything is going to get healthy, wealthy, and more prosperous.

"So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness [who practice it continually] , and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Yikes! "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."

Here's how we know what we know about Simon. "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John…""Let's go see if what's happening up there is what Jesus said would happen." "…who came down…" They left south and went up north, because it was downhill. "…and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them…"

God was going to show the church that he had given the keys to the kingdom, the authority… There is not a central despot, but there is unity. "I want you to see, Jews, who are prejudice toward the Samarians, who just a couple of years ago wanted to call down fire on them, that I'm about to bring down blessing on them, just like I brought down blessing on you."

Watch how patient God is with his people. "Hey, you Jews, who think the Messiah is only yours, he's not just yours. He's half Jews and half Samaritans. Not only is he half Jews and half Samaritans; he's completely Gentiles." That's Acts 10 (Cornelius). "He's not just for Gentiles who live in Jerusalem; he's for Gentiles all over the earth." That's Acts 13 and beyond. He's showing them, "I am here for the world," patiently.

Notice, by the way, that when they had the Holy Spirit fall on them, there was no evidence that it was manifest by this glossolalia, the ability to speak in tongues. Why? Because everybody there spoke the same language. There was no need to have universal language communicating the gospel. Verse 17: "Then they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon [the magician] saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money…"

That's what magicians do. They sell tricks. He goes, "Hey, I used to be the one who got all the attention in this city. Ever since Philip showed up, people are giving attention to real power, and now that you're here, you're giving people the ability to really know God and walk with him as manifest presence of God here. I want some of that. I'll buy that trick from you."

Notice it says nothing about Simon receiving the Holy Spirit, even though he said, "I love God and his power." Why did he say that? Because that's where the people were going, and he wanted to be identified with where the people were going. He wanted to continue with Philip, because Philip was now the man. He said, "Philip, I used to be the guy around here. I want to be the guy around here still."

Now here come Peter and John. "We're going to let folks experience, as evidence to the true church, that this is the true church." Never happens again, only here. Simon goes, "Give me that. I want to be that guy people come to and touch and something amazing happens." He didn't say, "Give me the power of God." He said, "Give me the thing that makes you the man." When you love God, you don't want to be "the man." You are humble, and you don't care that anybody gives attention to anything but Jesus.

Verse 19: "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." See, he didn't say, "I want a more intimate relationship with Jesus." He said, "I want folks to need me. I want authority and praise. I want that attention. My flesh and nature hasn't changed. It's still about me." So how does the church handle men like this? "Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you…'" We are not magicians who sell tricks. We are servants of God who give life freely.

"…because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in [the logos, the Word] this matter [of the kingdom of God] , for your heart is not right…" Believers' hearts don't love the things they used to love. They're still deceived by the pull, but they are not mastered by it. It's still all about Simon, and Peter says, "You don't know Jesus."

By the way, the Pharisees acknowledged the power of God; they just didn't like that the people were following Jesus, so they hated him. You're going to find out that Simon Magus begins to hate the church, even though he acknowledges the power of God is there, because he wants it to be about him. That's why some people who say they love Jesus but still want their sexuality or their practice to be supreme… It ought to concern you. Not that you're tempted but that you are ruled by that ought to concern you.

"Therefore repent…" That's what you need to do if this is who you are. "…of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." A direct quote from Deuteronomy 29:18, when Moses was leading the people out and said, "I make a covenant with you, and you beware that you are not like the nations you have just been delivered from who are bitter toward God and rule in deceit."

There may be nobody like those false believers among you. "Careful," Moses to Israel. "Careful," church to the people. Don't you be bitter toward God that you can't do what the world does. Don't you be deceitful that you love God when you really love you. That's nonbelievers. "But Simon answered and said…" Watch what he says. This is how you know this guy is not a believer. "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

Watch what he prays. He doesn't say, "Would you pray that my life changes?" He says, "Would you pray that though I am not God's, God's justice will not befall me?" I have lost friends say this to me all the time. "Todd, would you pray for me, bro? I'm as lost as a goose." I go, "I'm not going to pray for you. You need to repent and appeal to Jesus. I'm not going to ask God not to do what he said he's going to do.

Bro, you are separate from God, and judgment is coming. There is no prayer for you except that you would get on your knees and acknowledge your sin and God's provision for it. Don't you ask me to ask God to not do what a loving, sovereign God will do, which is to judge the wicked. Acknowledge your wickedness and come on home, just like I did."

I'll just close with this. The church has long called this idea that you can buy position and influence in the church with money simony. Is the church today affected by that? Have you ever been to a church with elders who are appointed based on who can buy influence to the pastor? Everywhere. Not men full of the Spirit who bear the marks of the King but men who write checks. It's called simony.

I don't know if you know it or not, but 499 years ago this week there was an event on October 31 called the beginning of the Reformation. Some little German monk named Martin Luther had been observing simony in the church. Here are your characters. There was a guy named Albert van Brandenburg, who was already the bishop of two districts. The church said you could only be a bishop, a leader, over one area, and he was now a bishop and a leader over two, which was against the will of the church, but he had bought that.

When you ran the church in that day and people couldn't read the language and you were the ones who held the keys of the kingdom, it was a very profitable venture. It was passed from family to family, lord to lord. They weren't godly men full of the Spirit. They were men who could afford to say, "I'm the leader of the church." You would tithe, and it was like a family business.

This guy had two Chick-fil-A stores that were working, and he wanted a third. He had to get a special dispensation, just like you do with Chick-fil-A when you become an operator. There are only a handful of guys who operate two Chick-fil-A stores, only three who had three in the country, and these things were more profitable than Chick-fil-A. So he had to get a special dispensation from Rome.

Albert van Brandenburg went and talked to the pope at the time, who was Pope Leo X. Pope Leo X was part of the Medici family from Florence, and they loved their art. He was building this thing called St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and he wanted to hire a pretty good little artist named Michelangelo to come paint the chapel, and he needed some cash. Enter Albert van Brandenburg, who wanted to be bishop now of Mainz.

"Albert, you can do that. It's going to cost you 10,000 ducats." (That's a real word. It's a gold coin.) He sold a third bishopric to Albert Brandenburg for 10,000 gold coins. Now Albert didn't have money, and just like it isn't good to get a loan from the Casa Nostra in Italy that you don't intend on paying back, he knew he had to pay it back.

So he worked with the pope, who needed money, to get some money. He got a guy named Johann Tetzel to begin to sell indulgences in Germany. People could pay money in order to have sin removed from them. Even better, these friends of yours who were caught in purgatory (an unbiblical idea)… "You can buy their way out of purgatory by giving me money, and I will pronounce through a letter that your saintly father has now moved from a dead soul to a saint."

Tetzel was a great marketer, so what he did is he coined a little phrase. The phrase was, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory does spring." He went around Germany marketing that nonsense. Finally, Luther said, "This is crazy. The church can't sell forgiveness. God gives forgiveness." So he tacked onto the Wittenberg door on October 31, 1517, ninety-five things he wanted to have a discussion about.

There was a thing called the Gutenberg printing press that had just been invented. Some guy took that from Latin, translated it into German, and started to circulate it. It went all the way to Rome. Pope Leo heard about it and said, "That drunk German, when he sobers up, will learn not to say these things against us." Little did he know that God was up to something. Luther said, "The church cannot be committed to this kind of simony."

He said, "Pope Leo, you are one of the wealthiest men on earth. Why are you building the Sistine Chapel on the poor backs of the people you are deceiving? That is not of Christ." There was a protest, and here we are. My favorite story about this is Tetzel was in Leipzig, and he not only sold indulgences for sins that were committed and people who were dead; he sold indulgences for sins that could be committed.

There was a nobleman who saw the riotousness and the evil of what he was doing, and he went to Tetzel and said, "Hey, can I buy an indulgence for a sin I've not yet committed?" He goes, "You absolutely can. That's going to cost you, though, and I need cash right now." He goes, "Name your price."

So he gave Tetzel a large sum of money, and then he went about 10 miles out, got his boys, beat the crap out of Tetzel, stole all his money, and over his beaten body said, "This was the sin I was going to commit," and went back to Leipzig. I like that. Don't be doing that…the beating, the buying, or the selling of such nonsense. Fear God.

Father, I pray that we would be a church of wheat. If there are tares among us, that you would radically transform them, as you did my wicked heart, and make it right. Would you help us to be humble, to do justice, and to love kindness? Would you help us, Father, to speak out against false prophets and charlatanry? May we never try and buy influence in the church. May we be influenced by your Spirit.

Lord, we don't want to have the appearance of power but lack it. We don't want to have the form of godliness but deny its power. We want to be men who give all glory and honor to the Father. We don't want glory and honor. You told us the greatest among us will be servants. We thank you that you modeled that for us. We thank you that you call us out of our love of our flesh.

We pray that we would never be folks who say, "God, I'm going to do this; don't judge me," but we'd be people who say, "God, I deserve to be judged. Would you in your grace forgive me? And may I pursue, then, the things that are the means of your grace, that I might not be ruled by the power of sin which still wages war against my soul."

I pray that we'd be your church. Make us your people. If there is one who is here, Lord, who has not yet come home, would you bring them? May we love the Samaritans, though they are not like us. May your church be unified. May we call what is holy holy and what is evil evil. May we love one another for the glory of our King. In Jesus' name, amen.