Whenever God is at work there will be genuine responses and counterfeit responses. We’d like it to be nice and neat, clean and easy. We’d like the difference between faith and not quite faith to be obvious. But there are always going to be weeds among the wheat. The question really is: What kind of faith do you have?
In Acts 8, for example, we see that Simon the Magician had a kind of faith. It just doesn’t appear to be saving faith.
Is your faith such that you want to use God? Is that why you go to church? Is that why you read your Bible? Is that why you’re a Christian? Sometimes we just want God were nothing more than a magician, a genie in a lamp. Give him a rub and watch him do his thing. Some of us are syncretistic like Simon. We’ll ladle up a little bit of Jesus as long as he fulfills our plans. Anything for a little more power or a little more improvement in our circumstances.
The walk of genuine faith is the walk of Calvary. It carries a cross, and it takes a lifetime. When we have “faith” like Simon we come to Christ to make our dreams come true. When we come to Christ with saving faith we come to him to call him Lord. We come as nobodies eager to worship a Somebody. In the end, Calvin says, “Simon proved to be a profane man such that had not tasted the first principles of godliness, for he is touched with no desire for God’s glory.” That’s the heart of the matter. God’s glory or ours?
The contrast in Acts 8 is striking. Simon is going around Samaria amazing people. He’s telling people he’s great and they believe it. He is preaching a message about the name of Simon. But then we see Phillip in verse 12 preaching good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know the most impressive thing about Phillip? It wasn’t the power he had that was greater than Simon’s power. It was the name he proclaimed that was greater than Simon’s name. Phillip had the attention of the crowds. He had power from on high. He was seeing great success. And yet the only name he came to proclaim was the name of Jesus.
What is your attraction to Christianity? Is it power? Is it prestige? Is it purpose? Or is it the person of Jesus Christ? Saving faith says with the psalmist: “Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.”