Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Simon the sorcerer and other False Christian leadership

I felt led to take one of my Bible studies that I'm writing and turn it into a blog.  I plan to not do this often, but I feel like many people have been hurt by false believers in the church, both in and out of leadership.  It was not my plan to write two blogs in a row about false believers, but I hope the Lord blesses this and heals hearts through it.  And also encourage people to come to church despite its hypocrites. 

Acts 8:9-25

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
On reading this passage, I observe that Simon the Sorcerer started showing signs of believing in Jesus when his followers started following Philip who did signs and wonders.  With money, Simon wanted to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit to people.  Peter was offended because Simon thought he could buy out God.

Simon the Sorcerer’s name is now used in the word “simony,” the act in which people try to buy church positions, which happened notoriously in the Reformation era.  He went on to be known in history as Simon Magus, or the Magician, and he led many people into a false Christianity based on health and wealth.

Luke tells Simon’s story in Acts because Christians need to know that there will be people who call themselves Christians who do not really believe.  They may be attracted to the church because of the people or the music or the good programs, but if they do not truly get to know Christ, then they are false believers, and true Christians need to be aware of them.

Jesus's first two parables in Matthew 13 deal with false believers in the church.

Verses 1-23 deal with the parable of the Sower and its meaning.  What kind of people are described by the path that received the seed/Word? (People who never got the word because it got eaten away by the devil)

What kind of people are described by the rocky soil? (People who got the word, but who did not stick around when times got tough)
What kind of people are described by the thorny soil? (People who like the church but are worried about the things of this world)
What kind of people are described by the good soil? (The people who hear God’s word, become true believers, and grow in the Lord)

The parable of the Sower shows that the church will have many people come and go.  The church is where people hear God’s word, and different people react differently.  Among those hearers are people who will look like Christians and appreciate different aspects of the church, but because they to not place their faith in Jesus, or because they love the things and attention of the world more than the Lord, they will eventually leave and not return.  But before they leave, they will come to your church, get involved in the ministries, and seem like genuine believers.  They may even hold leadership positions.  Let’s read Jesus’s next Parable.

He tells the parable in verses 24-30 and then explains it in 36-43.  Here is the text:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
In agriculture, wheat and tares look identical when they sprout.  But when they reach maturity, the wheat produces a fruit that can be made into bread while the tares become a poison to the wheat and produce nothing beneficial to the farmers.  What did the owner say to do with the weeds in verse 30? (Let them grow together until harvest)

The Church as we see it today will have true and false believers sitting next to each other until Jesus returns.  And some of those weeds will come into leadership positions and hurt the congregation causing people to leave the church.

I once knew of a man who went to church and then went into business with a trusting friend.  He seemed to love the Lord, and he wrote songs and told about how much he cared about people and God.  But years went by, and he embezzled from his friends, and many affairs, and soon showed that he was not a true believer.

There was a well-known preacher in the Atlanta area who used his position to tell the women in his congregation that it was the Lord’s will for them to sleep with the pastor.  This created a huge scandal and caused many to leave the church.

What is a person to do when people in the church and even in its leadership hurt other people? (rhetorical question)
The first thing is to pray for the hurt people, that they do not fall away from the faith on account of the false believers.

The second thing is to pray for the abuser.  They are people who need the Gospel of Jesus to save them from their sins.  The blood of Christ forgives all kinds of people from their sins, including abusive church leaders.

The most important thing, however, is to continue to follow Christ and belong to his Church.  You go for Him, and not for the people.  You go for the message, not the messengers. 

Jude 17-23
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.[f]
Verse 23 is the crux: Stay in God’s covenant community because outside of it, there is no hope for salvation.  And wait for Jesus to either change their hearts the way he changed all who believe or to bring his justice upon them.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

When false teachers pass away

It's been since March since I blogged last.  I am sorry.  I probably won't blog much since I've been writing Bible studies for our local pregnancy center, but when I do have something to write, I will write.

In recent weeks, a woman who I consider a false teacher in the church passed away.  Although I did not agree with anything she said, I was sad at her passing and that thought that she may or may not be with the Lord and has lost that opportunity forever.

But that's not the point of this blog.  This morning I dreamed that I was having dinner with her and a some other people.  Toward the end of the dinner, we had really bonded as friends and she gave me a huge hug.  I had realized in the dream that it was the week before she would pass away that Friday, so Thursday, I resolved to send her an email to share the gospel.

I woke up with tears in my eyes.  I sat and wondered, what if some of the women who I really love died and were lost forever.  There are certain people in your life that you become more than friends with, that you even develop those in-love feelings for.  How can I love them if I don't care for their souls or constantly share the Gospel with them even if they already know it?

And I know of at least one relative that I was close to who lapsed into each popular anti-Biblical lie one by one until I could no longer follow her on Facebook because I hate arguments and arguing, even though I end up doing it.  I think the feeling was mutual.  I'm saddened by that because we aren't guaranteed tomorrow.  We could die any moment and realize that maybe the Bible really was to be interpreted the way it's been interpreted for at least the past 2000 years.

So here's the Gospel plain and clear.  We have a Holy God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He created the world and created humans as his image, little copies of him that would spread his praise all over the world.  We betrayed him by sinning, and we brought death into the world.  There was no death or pain before that, therefore, the world cannot be that old. 

Our sins separate us from God, and if we die apart from God, it will be permanent.  But God sent Jesus to die in your place.  If you accept his Son as your Savior and substitute for your punishment, then he will send you the Holy Spirit to change you to be more like him, and when you die, you will live forever with God in happiness and joy.

Don't believe the lie that there is no hell.  Hell was not made up by the church to get your money and to control people.  If there is no hell, then all the horrible things people do to each other will go unpunished, and God would not be just.  Either we will die for our sins, or Christ died for them.  But sin, must be punished, and we need that accountability so that we don't keep destroying each other.

Don't believe in evolution theory or long ages.  You can be a Christian and believe those things.  I was once before I understood that science doesn't actually prove old ages.  The evidence is what you make of it.  But if the Bible is true, then true science won't contradict it.  But if we evolved from animals through a long process of death and rebirth, then there is really no sin or death for our Savior to save us from.  And then, there is no Gospel.  But God made humans special and separate from the animals, and there was no death or pain before humans sinned really fast, and I'm so happy to know that death will be defeated when Christ returns and was not a part of his original creation.

And also don't believe the lies that you can have sex outside of a marriage between man or woman or that God didn't know what he was doing when he made you one gender or the other.  Love is not sex and sex is not love.  The secular world has painted a very one-dimensional view of love that only exists to satisfy carnal lusts.  Our God has given us a much better world where we can love people deeply in many ways.  Those feelings you have for your friend aren't a sign that you were called to a romantic relationship.  They're actually better: an intense friend love that exists for God's glory and for their uplifting.  The main idea is to get to know God, and if he brings you someone of the opposite gender to marry, then rejoice.  Until then, love God first and love your friends by getting to know them, not their bodies. 

And finally, pray that I can be bolder to share the Gospel with people and to love the unlovely.  And never, ever rejoice when someone dies away from the Lord.  Apart from his grace, I would be there, too.