Have you ever had someone give you something for nothing? Just a random act of kindness by an individual for not apparent reason? Did it make you feel a little uncomfortable? Kind of like you had to return the favor? I think it is part of our nature to want no "debt" on our conscience. Getting something for nothing in our society is usually too good to be true, and I'm pretty sure it has been that way in our world for a long time. Even in the days of Peter and Paul people felt the need to give back for a gift...especially one of high cost.
I don't think any of us can argue that Jesus paid an extremely high price for us. Pain, blood, death, and separation from the Father. And yet we are told that our salvation comes to us freely. Our flesh wants to tell us that is too good to be true. In Acts today I read about a man named Simon. Simon was a witch and did some awesome things with his witchery! But when the Apostles came to where he was he converted and was baptized. Amazing, right? As you read in Acts you think there is nothing the power of God can't do! However, Simon had a problem...he thought he had to buy his way into the power that comes from Christ. He offered money to Peter in order to be like him. Bad call. Peter promptly chastised him by saying: May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin. (Acts 8: 20-23).
We know better though, right? We know we cannot buy the Spirit with money! Silly Simon! However, there are other ways that we try to "buy" ourselves into the Kingdom...with service, with sacrifice, with words. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't serve, sacrifice or speak! Not at all! However, just as Simon had to evaluate his heart, so must we do with ours. Do we serve because we are "supposed to", do we sacrifice because "the Bible says so", do we speak because "we want to look knowledgeable before others"? All the things we do in life might be good...but not Godly. It's a really hard line to walk because it is in our nature to want to repay the debt to God. We have this need to be good for God. We want to do what is right...but we don't always know if that right thing is what God wanted us to do. Like Simon we must examine our hearts...find the sin that holds us captive. Is it fear, need, greed? Is it ignorance of the truth of the Word? Is it a lack of time spent with God so that we may know the path He would choose for us?
I find it interesting that Simon, after Peter's scathing words to him, turns around and says "Pray for me." Peter had pretty much just shut Simon down and told him that he was not good with God. A man newly come to Christ, wanting to impress others, had just been slapped down. But instead of bitterness or anger, Simon asked for help. Way to go, Simon! I encourage all of us to do the same. After you have examined your heart, spent time with God and discovered the sin holding you captive...find someone to tell what you have learned and ask them to pray for you. Pray that you will not end up the way Peter said Simon would. Pray that you will break those bonds. Pray strength and peace for you. The power of prayer is amazing...and even Simon, a brand new Christian, instinctively knew it! This process may not be easy or quick. But when you commit to it you will find such peace and relief in it! Christ does not want you to feel guilt for His sacrifice! He wants your heart and your love. And in return, you will find that He will bless your efforts on HIS behalf, and that you will not have to endure the struggles of captivity.