Thursday, February 21, 2013

Motives Matter

Motives Matter


And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8:18-19

They prey on those that are in need, and desiring that God to fill those needs.  All you have to do is turn on the TV late at night and you’ll hear their false claims:
“If you will only plant this small seed in our ministry, for $20 you will become rich.”

“For your gift of $50, you can purchase a prayer package, and our ministry will pray over you.  We will pray over you in holy tongues, speaking directly to the Father on your behalf.”
“For your donation we will send you the Miracle Spring Water, which will heal all your diseases, cause you to receive checks in large sums for no reason, and have total victory in every area of your life.”

The above are paraphrased examples of actual product scams made by televangelists peddling God for money.  The scams are so easily spotted by looking at the motive of the “minister”.  God’s gifts are not sold on TV.
There are good products, such as books and CD’s, sold on religious television shows as well, which sometimes are overlooked in the light of all the scams.  There are those ministers that truly are sent by God and anointed to preach His Word.  But you can tell them apart from these false prophets by looking at their motives.  A truly anointed minister of God isn’t going to require you to give a donation to receive God’s word because getting your money is not their motive.  Winning your soul and life to Christ is their motive.  They also won’t promise you things that are not in their power to give.  No one can sell you the spiritual gifts of God.  God cannot be bought.  He is priceless. 

In Acts 8 we read of Philip’s travel to Samaria.  Because of the persecution of the church after Stephen’s martyrdom, it had dispersed to all the regions of the area around Jerusalem.  In Samaria, Philip preached and performed many miracles and signs through the Holy Spirit in him.  Many more came to believe in Jesus, and were baptized. 
There is confusion about what happens next regarding Peter and John being sent to these new believers.  In Acts 8:14-17 we read “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”  Being believers, they had the Holy Spirit living in them, which is the seal of our salvation (Romans 8:16, Ephesians 1:13).  But they had not received the supernatural gifts of ministry through the Holy Spirit, such as healing and casting out demons.  For this purpose, Peter and John came to Samaria to lay hands upon the believers so they would receive these gifts. 

In Samaria, there was a man named Simon, who was a sorcerer (one who performs magic and witchcraft), and was claimed to be “the great power of God”(Acts 8:10).  The people followed him and believed his powers were from God.  But when Philip came and preached, many became believers and were baptized.  Simon himself believed (Acts 8:13) and was baptized and followed Philip, amazed at the miracles and signs that were done through the Holy Spirit working in Philip (Acts 8:13).
Simon, thinking that the gifts of the Holy Spirit should be sold instead of given freely, offered them money saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter rebuked him of this sin and said in Acts 8:20-23, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

There are those that misunderstand this to mean that Simon was indeed not saved.  But he was.  We were already told in verse 13 that he had believed.  Notice also that Peter tells him to repent of “this your wickedness”, and not a plurals “sins”.  Peter further points out the sins in question by saying that Simon was “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”  If Simon had been an unbeliever, Peter would have addressed his unbelief in Christ.  But instead, he addressed Simon’s bitterness that his profession of sorcery had faded from the limelight as the mysterious signs of the Holy Spirit had been seen.  His sin was one of thinking he could make money from the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Simon accepted the correction of Peter and replied, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”(Acts 8:24).  Again, his requesting prayer of Peter was not a request made by an unbeliever, for an unbeliever would have had no reason to believe prayer was of any value.  He requested that the sins of his heart would not be manifested in his life.  Had Peter not rebuked Simon, we might have had the first example of a product scam in Acts 8! 

In Matthew 10 Jesus is speaking to the twelve disciples, and sending them out to their ministry.  Matthew 10:1 we read that, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” They didn’t buy it or earn it, but Jesus gave it to them.  In Matthew 10:8 Jesus instructs them regarding these gifts, saying Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.  Their motive was to be ministry – not money.  Likewise, our motive, having freely received, should always be to freely give.
The one time in Jesus’ ministry when we see Him acting in righteous indignation was when He went to the temple and found people there selling animals for sacrifice, and exchanging currencies.  When he addressed those that were using the temple as a marketplace, he said in Matthew 21:13 “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

It’s easy to spot the fakes when it comes to televangelist offering up products for financial gain!  Some of them might as well be wearing a flashing green neon sign saying “FAKE!”  But what about our own motives? Do we offer the gift of healing only to those we think deserve it?  Do we freely apply the gifts we have been given?  When God calls us to use our gifts, to we give freely?  Or do we use them when there are opportunities for social gain, fame, or positional gain in the church? 
God’s gifts are never to be sold or bartered.  His gifts are priceless, and ours only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Freely we have received the gifts, and freely – without thought of any compensation whether tangible or intangible – we are to give.  These gifts are not our own, but belong to the Holy Spirit living in us.

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