As Philip, the evangelist preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ in Samaria, a magician named Simon believed the gospel and was baptised along with others who also believed. Then, Simon continued with Philip in the gospel work.
When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard of the new believers’ community (church) in Samaria, they sent Peter and John out to serve the church. They arrived and God used them to bless the brothers and sisters to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands. Though Simon was present, he didn’t receive this blessing — he was more interested in buying the power that he too might lay his hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit Acts 8:4-19. Was Simon a believer and part of the assembly? Yes!
But, Peter’s reply to his request was revelatory and instructive. Here is the apostle’s reply: Acts 8:20-23
May your silver perish with you! Why the threatening reply?
Because Simon, thought he could obtain the gift of God with money!
You have neither part nor lot in this matter! Why?
Because this disciple’s heart was not right before God.
Repent! Of what?
The wicked intent of his heart. How?
By praying to the Lord, if possible, for the wicked intent of his heart to be forgiven him.
For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity!
While the first three comments of Peter centred on Simon’s action of wanting to buy God’s gift, the fourth focused on his heart. Also, in a different scene, Peter prophetically commented on Ananias’s heart, “why has Satan filled your heart…?” and why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? Acts 5:3 & 4. Was Peter’s utterance to Simon and Ananias, right? Is revelatory prophecy not meant only for exhortation? Well, what do you know!
As we read the scriptures, the Holy Spirit can use it to expose our hearts to us as well as use us prophetically to expose one another’s heart with the intent for us to repent. But, if we fail to humble ourselves and repent, eventually, our hearts actions (imaginations) which are tangible to God plays out physically Psalm 14:1. This is the reason Christ’s life starts in our hearts. A “heart set on God” may sin and recover — but it’s not so with a “heart set on sin” Romans 4:8. Why? “… In whose spirit (heart) there is no deceit” Psalm 32:2b. Selah!
Careful study of the scriptures reveals something strange about believers who did not “set their hearts on God” (failed to guard their hearts) and Satan used it as his factory. They hardly ever recovered. They either died or never got mentioned again in the bible. Examples: Ananias and Sapphira, Sual, Judas, Simon, the strayed widows, Demas et al. Given this ugly possibility, scriptures exhort and admonish us to embrace the faith (Christ) wholeheartedly and keep good conscience 1 Timothy 1:19.
Simon’s response authenticated Peter’s insight about the condition of his heart. “And Simon answered, pray for me to the Lord that nothing of what you have said may come upon me Acts 8:24.” Again, he was more interested in avoiding “perishing” than the state of his heart for which Peter advised him to seek God. Simon’s heart was unlike David’s. David’s reply and reaction after Nathan confronted him mirrored the kind of “heart that is set on God” and commended 2 Samuel 12:1-4, 5-7, 9, and 13, Acts 13:22b.
As disciples, we need to set “our hearts on God” and not let poison in because, it can affect our relationship with God — separating us from having part in the business of the Holy Spirit while being active with “Churchianity”. Twisting Hebrews chapters 7, 9 & 10 in order to console ourselves, ‘All sins — past, present, and future — have been dealt with once and for all” will not heal a “heart set on sin” and take away its deep seated guilt.
It’s doubtful any human can live a guilt free life without Jesus Christ.
As Christians, only Christ’s sacrifice, a sincere and humble walk with Him deals death blow to guilt. It makes us fall at His feet as He exposes our hearts and actions of sin(s) to us by the Holy Spirit and we actually experience increasingly the double cure of His blood. Firstly, He cleanses us from the sin(s) we’ve fallen into and it becomes history. Albeit, people may still hold it against us but not God — the sign is, we enjoy His peace within and not guilt. Secondly, the sin(s) lose its or their grip over us and we neither cherish it in our hearts nor carry on practising it or them Joel 2:13 NLT, Micah 6:8.
But, if we continue cherishing the sin(s) we fell into in our hearts or — and, practice the sin(s), then, guilt will not go away. No theological analysis, psychologist or psychiatrist has the power to take away guilt’s power over a person.
Scriptures indicates that nursing iniquity (letting out the room of our hearts to Satan) is a different kettle of fish from falling into sin through overzealousness and carelessness. I am not saying circumstance justifies sin, just highlighting the truth that God, knows each of our hearts. ‘God looks on the heart’ 1 Samuel 16:7. This is why God’s understanding and judgement differs from ours and we’re not qualified to judge (condemn) anyone. We can state our understanding of God’s position but, is God’s to condemn or justify anyone.
Hence, Jesus’s words to His body (the Church) is always pointed to the inside of the cup (heart) because it’s where God looks on. While, it’s not optional to keep outside the cup clean, for God, as aptly narrated by Jesus, outside cleanliness of our cups must come from the inside cleanliness His blood has achieved and is achieving for us Matthew 5:20, 1 Peter 3:4. This is the kind of righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees Matthew 23:25, 5:8.
So, to think or teach that the evils we may harbour in our hearts is less evil compared to when it’s actualised for others to see is deceptive. Whilst physical murder has more consequences for a victim’s family and friends unlike a victim of hatred, God, who is Spirit, understands how hatred of anyone (even those who make us their enemies) equates to murder 1 John 3:15, Matthew 5:43-48, 1 Peter 1:22 . We have the option to agree or disagree with God but not the luxury of moderating His judgement, period!
We can best serve our communities and bring healing to those battling with guilt by encouraging them to walk heartily with Christ.
God takes the things we permit, contrive, cherish and hold in our hearts towards other people and our spouses very seriously 1 Chronicles 15:29, Malachi 2:15 NKJV, Proverbs 4:23. A teaching that diminishes this truth is deadly Proverbs 25:28 NKJV, Proverbs 16:32 NKJV.
Paul stated it clearly: Think aright — and act rightly Philippians 4:8-9. It’s opportunity that restrains whatever we have in our hearts (hatred or love) from translating to physical murder or act of kindness.
It’s a faithless generation that fails to guard her heart. Guard YOUR heart!