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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.”

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4 thoughts on “The Motivations for Faith”

  1. mel says:

    What I had to confront was the idea of suddenly having lots of friends at church. It didn’t happen. People were either unkind or indifferent. Not exactly Christ-like behavior but mine was no better. Getting mad at God for not getting what I expected and walking away.
    It took twenty-five years to get rid of that idol. It’s heart breaking all the years that were lost. I was a fool.

  2. anaquaduck says:

    I see a difficulty in that, Simon’s last request in verse 24 (Acts 8)after a challenging rebuke seems to be respectful, fearfully recognising offence. So how does Calvin claim “in the end Simon proved to be”?

    It is true though, as much as the Bible gives clarity, things are not always clear cut regarding motivations. Weeds among wheat…yes, & weeds that look like wheat & wheat that at times behaves like a weed. Jesus has much regard & concern for bruised reeds & rebukes fig trees for not bearing fruit after waiting a year. His kingdom comes reaching people at various stages & ages in people’s lives.

    There is much to take in & consider regarding the gospel. The outpouring of the Spirit in Acts came also with much persecution as God’s plan of redemption started to take root in the surrounding nations.

  3. asdfasdf says:

    Following on with Mel, a good place to find a quality wife. I made it a personal rule to never chat up the ladies at church and within three weeks was both stunned and horrified at how little interest I had in attending otherwise.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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