Dr. Packer continued the series we have been doing in church (as well as our home groups) on the Acts of the Apostles. This week was Acts 8:1-25. While the sermon itself was on "The Mission" (our duty as Christians to proclaim Christ and preach the Word wherever we are), it was a bit of a tangent that particularly grabbed my attention.
In verse 13, Simon the Sorcerer believed Philip as he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God:
Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
Later, however, it becomes clear that Simon did not truly understand what the apostles were preaching (verses 18-23):
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."
The intent of Simon's heart was not to receive Christ as his Savior, but rather to gain more "tricks of the trade", seeing the apostles as fellow magicians. When he tried to buy their abilities, Peter rebuked him because his heart was not right before God.
Meanwhile, what was my intent, where was my heart, sitting there in the pew with one ear tuned to the service and the other tuned to my toddler?
I was angry with my husband, who had stepped into the shower about the time we were to be leaving the house, causing us to be 20 minutes late to church. I was annoyed with his rustling jacket (why can't he ever take it off during the service?), with the lack of room he was giving me on one side, and with the wet pew from my umbrella on the other side. I was more concerned about keeping my son quiet than helping him to follow the service. I had hurried us out of the house that morning because that's what Sunday morning is for - and besides, we had a Christmas Child box that needed to be dropped off there.
Nothing about my heart, about my intent, was pure or right before God at that moment. I was like Simon, playing along but not truly getting it. Everything may have look right from the outside, but it was all appearance, not sincerity.
How often do I see that in others and yet fail to recognize it in myself? The recognition left me ashamed and humbled, but also allowed me to repent and bring my heart back to a place of pure motives and sincere intent. The rest of the day flowed smoother, the quiet peace of forgiveness and love soothing my spirit. Praise God for His grace and mercy, new every day.
Father, please forgive us the insincere intents of our hearts.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."