Happily Ever After?
Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. Acts 8:13
In Christianity, we celebrate transformation. In Christ, our lives are supposed to be changed and we’re then supposed to tell others of that change. What we inadvertently do in church sometimes though, is to give the impression that faith means that all of our flaws and failures are gone, and that life is now perfect. I was a horrible person but then I met Christ and now I don’t struggle anymore. We may not say it that way, but we often make faith seem like a fairy tale where all true Christians live happily ever after.
Then, when we do stumble, when we do fail, we have an identity crisis. Wait. I thought I was a new creature in Christ. Why do I still struggle with these self-destructive behaviors and appetites? Why does bad still taste good? Does a real Christian act or think like this?
Today’s passage paints a more realistic picture of the ongoing flaws that many of us have experienced. In the story, Simon the magician came to faith after hearing the gospel from Philip. He believed. He followed. From the narrative, it’s clear that he had an authentic conversion experience. Just a few verses later though, when he saw the power that the Holy Spirit gave Peter, he tried to purchase that power from the disciples.
Simon was narcissistic. He wanted the whole world to look at him (Acts 8:9). Then, he came to faith. His old flaws weren’t automatically erased though. He was still prideful and even though he knew he was supposed to follow Jesus, there remained a part of him that desired self-aggrandizement. So, even though he was a Christian, he struggled with his old self-destructive nature.
This is where a lot of us find ourselves. We believe. We’ve had an authentic conversion experience. Now though, we find that there’s a part of us that still wants to go our way. Some days, that part wins as we indulge in pornography, drugs, anger, gluttony, greed, selfishness, or pride.
We must realize what Simon was about to learn – that coming to faith was just the beginning of transformation. The life of a disciple is continually abandoning the old to follow the new. Daily – sometimes a hundred times a day – we must choose to follow Christ instead of ourselves. It is in our obedience, that we find miraculous transformation.