Be Very Afraid
Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:22
On my third treatment for chemical dependency, I questioned my faith. Despite claiming that I followed God, I’d followed myself into my addiction. In the midst of my destruction, another addict, having been through several treatments himself, asked me how we could even be Christians. Christians don’t act like this, right? The don’t lie, cheat and steal so they can abuse drugs, do they?
I didn’t have the answer. I was more than a little lost myself. In my addiction, the disgusting just became normal. I acted like God’s grace meant I could do whatever I wanted. It wasn’t until my behavior was exposed that I became willing to do what it took to stop. I needed fear. I needed to be told, in no uncertain terms, that I must make some radical changes if I wanted recovery and life. Looking back, that was a dramatic turning point. I was worried my faith was a sham and if I’d have returned to my addiction, I think my choice would have proved that it was.
Simon the magician faced a similar turning point in today’s passage. Though he believed in Christ, he soon returned to his old ways. Struggling with his pride, he found it hard to resist the temptation to promote himself, and so, when the disciples displayed the power of the Holy Spirit, he tried to buy that power for himself.
Peter harshly rebuked him. 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 (Acts 8:20-21). Peter told him to be afraid. He had this once chance to repent, implying that if he didn’t do it in earnest, his very soul was in jeopardy.
When we come to God, we find forgiveness. We sometimes mistakenly think though, that his grace and mercy mean that we can simply live however we want. In going our way, we come to accept evil behavior as simply normal. God will forgive me. It’s not that bad. In this condition, we shouldn’t be comfortable. Rather, we should be afraid. If we continue to dwell in our old life, that’s all we’ll have. Only when we do what it takes to abandon the old life, can we experience the joy and peace of the new life in Christ.