What Does It Take To Have A Change of Heart
Text: Acts 8:1-24
Proposition: When it comes to Jesus having a change of heart requires a new way of looking at your life, a new ability to know that is built upon belief in Christ.
Introduction: Have you ever had a change of heart about something or someone? Maybe there were strong opinions, personality clashes, difficult experiences and you found yourself firmly entrenched in certain opinions.  You were convinced that what you now believed was for the best and things would likely have remained that way if you hadn’t had a change of heart. This morning we are going to begin to look at the story of two men, both very different people, different countries, different careers, different races. Yet both were being drawn to a place of having a change of heart.
Let me give you the back story. In the previous chapter a man named Stephen had boldly spoken to the Jewish supreme court of the first century. He had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and called the nations leadership to a change of belief, a change of heart in terms of Who Jesus is, what the law was and why the Temple had been. Their response was to be enraged, in a mob like fashion they put Stephen to death by smashing his body with rocks. In the next chapter we hear of the church entering a time of great persecution, people fled from Jerusalem. One of these was a man named Philip, a disciple of Jesus Christ who now moved to a city in nearby Samaria. We’re not sure where this city was, perhaps it was Sychar where Jesus talked with the woman at the well. It’s in this city that Philip preaches the gospel and does many miraculous signs such that the entire city is excited. Living in this city is a rather prominent man but not for the reasons you might imagine. He is the first man we want to look at as we consider this question, what does it take to have a change of heart. Turn with me to Acts 8:1-24.
I. For Simon Faith Was All About Power and Influence.
Simon was certainly a man of faith, it’s what enabled him to be a great success as a sorcerer. His faith was in the ability to do the impossible through the power of the unseen that he would gain in a great way. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Yet the object of his faith was not one that had his best interests in sight. It was a power that was willing to be used so long as it distracted both user and recipient from the truth of its source and end purposes. It was a Satanic power, what it gave Simon in terms of ability had a price, it seduced him into the intoxicating position of being powerful and even to believing that the power was his with no strings attached.  Consequently Simon’s heart was compromised, belief was always tied to personal glory. So one day Simon hears about this Philip guy doing amazing things. He goes and watches and listens to Philip preach the name of Jesus Christ. I think Simon understood what was preached, that Jesus was the Messiah. Even the Samaritans believed in a coming Messiah, Jesus uncovered that truth at the well in Sychar. So Simon heard about Jesus, saw the power of God in Philip, he even believed what Philip was saying about salvation. He confesses Christ as his Saviour, he’s baptised and he follows Philip everywhere, listening but not learning. You could say that Simon really did have a change of heart, the basis of what he believed had changed and yet there was key component missing. It gets exposed when Peter and John come down from Jerusalem to see this phenomenon of a new Samaritan church. Before the disciples had been told to go only to the lost sheep of Israel and now here the gospel was being preached and received by of all people, the Samaritans. It was just as if the great commission was starting to happen right before their eyes… “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me, in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” When Peter and John laid their hands on these new Samaritan believers it was God’s way of having the Holy Spirit fall upon these new believers in Christ. They had been saved by faith in Christ, they had been baptised in His name but until the apostles came to formerly mark the unifying of the Jewish believers with Samaritan believers the birth of this new part of the church had not yet experienced its Pentecost.  So we don’t twist theology around in terms of this unique event, this was not meant to be the normative way in which the Spirit is given. It was meant to mark the next step in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. And Simon sees this Pentecost effect. As much as the miracles of Philip were an amazing thing, this Pentecost effect was in Simons mind something that needed to be bottled and marketed.
So what was the key component that was missing in Simons change of heart? There’s a saying that goes something like this, ‘Insight does not equal Change, Repentance equals Change’. Simon had insight that what Philip preached was true, he had insight that Jesus really is the Son of God, he had insight that by faith he too could be saved but the component missing from his heart was repentance. Simon offers to buy the rights to dispense the Holy Spirit and you hear Peter’s sharp reply, “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.”  Repentance means that you quit living for your glory, you quit being a servant to your flesh and you turn from what used to be the way you lived and begin by giving your life into the hands of Jesus. Repentance is a change of heart that brings change to your beliefs and to your actions and to your identity as one who now belongs to Jesus Christ. I love that verse in Galatians 5:16 that makes this powerful promise, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Simon had been poisoned by bitterness, perhaps from racial prejudices of being a Samaritan, perhaps from the lost fame and popularity that Philip now experienced. Whatever the source, it had poisoned his desire to trust God.  He was bound by iniquity, a ‘what’s in it for me’ way of thinking.  He was bound to it, it was like being tied up tight to a dead body. It reeked and it held him captive. But repentance in turning to Christ could break all that if only he would yield his heart to that change. Simons reply to Peter is difficult to understand, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me." It is either an outright rejection of what Peter had just told him to do, in other words I’m not going to repent and in fact you should repent of even saying that to me. The other possibility is that he was asking Peter to pray for him that he would be able to repent though at this moment he felt he couldn’t do that himself.
Repentance is what lays at the core of belief in Christ. When we ask the question, what does it take to have a change of heart, the answer ultimately is repentance. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, ‘I have sinned.’ The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.” It’s when you see your actions as sin that you begin to see how it relates to God. Before the effects were just something you had to deal with, when there is repentance you begin to see how your actions and thoughts are experienced by God. That’s what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do when He speaks to our conscience, He induces godly sorrow. Consider the words of 2 Corinthians 7:10,11, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
What does it take to have a change of heart? If insight does not equal change then it’s time to stop pursuing insight as the end goal. If repentance does equal change, that godly sorrow that the Holy Spirit induces in us to see and agree with, then repentance is like an opening of the eyes. It sees things that need to be cut free from me, it sees myself as God sees me and it sees the great love of Jesus inviting me forward.
This is the story of Simon, the first man who was drawn to have a change of heart and who struggled with the repentance it called for. In the symmetry that is so often characteristic of Scripture there is a second man that balances this account of how change, real change occurs.  His name is never mentioned, we only know that he was an African, an accountant, a man accustomed to being on the road and alone, a man of wealth and power and a man ready for a change of heart. We’ll meet him next week as see what it takes to have a change of heart in Christ.

What Does It Take To Have A Change of HeartText: Acts 8:1-24Proposition: When it comes to Jesus having a change of heart requires a new way of looking at your life, a new ability to know that is built upon belief in Christ.Introduction: Have you ever had a change of heart about something or someone? Maybe there were strong opinions, personality clashes, difficult experiences and you found yourself firmly entrenched in certain opinions.  You were convinced that what you now believed was for the best and things would likely have remained that way if you hadn’t had a change of heart. This morning we are going to begin to look at the story of two men, both very different people, different countries, different careers, different races. Yet both were being drawn to a place of having a change of heart. Let me give you the back story. In the previous chapter a man named Stephen had boldly spoken to the Jewish supreme court of the first century. He had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and called the nations leadership to a change of belief, a change of heart in terms of Who Jesus is, what the law was and why the Temple had been. Their response was to be enraged, in a mob like fashion they put Stephen to death by smashing his body with rocks. In the next chapter we hear of the church entering a time of great persecution, people fled from Jerusalem. One of these was a man named Philip, a disciple of Jesus Christ who now moved to a city in nearby Samaria. We’re not sure where this city was, perhaps it was Sychar where Jesus talked with the woman at the well. It’s in this city that Philip preaches the gospel and does many miraculous signs such that the entire city is excited. Living in this city is a rather prominent man but not for the reasons you might imagine. He is the first man we want to look at as we consider this question, what does it take to have a change of heart. Turn with me to Acts 8:1-24.  I. For Simon Faith Was All About Power and Influence.Simon was certainly a man of faith, it’s what enabled him to be a great success as a sorcerer. His faith was in the ability to do the impossible through the power of the unseen that he would gain in a great way. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Yet the object of his faith was not one that had his best interests in sight. It was a power that was willing to be used so long as it distracted both user and recipient from the truth of its source and end purposes. It was a Satanic power, what it gave Simon in terms of ability had a price, it seduced him into the intoxicating position of being powerful and even to believing that the power was his with no strings attached.  Consequently Simon’s heart was compromised, belief was always tied to personal glory. So one day Simon hears about this Philip guy doing amazing things. He goes and watches and listens to Philip preach the name of Jesus Christ. I think Simon understood what was preached, that Jesus was the Messiah. Even the Samaritans believed in a coming Messiah, Jesus uncovered that truth at the well in Sychar. So Simon heard about Jesus, saw the power of God in Philip, he even believed what Philip was saying about salvation. He confesses Christ as his Saviour, he’s baptised and he follows Philip everywhere, listening but not learning. You could say that Simon really did have a change of heart, the basis of what he believed had changed and yet there was key component missing. It gets exposed when Peter and John come down from Jerusalem to see this phenomenon of a new Samaritan church. Before the disciples had been told to go only to the lost sheep of Israel and now here the gospel was being preached and received by of all people, the Samaritans. It was just as if the great commission was starting to happen right before their eyes… “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me, in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” When Peter and John laid their hands on these new Samaritan believers it was God’s way of having the Holy Spirit fall upon these new believers in Christ. They had been saved by faith in Christ, they had been baptised in His name but until the apostles came to formerly mark the unifying of the Jewish believers with Samaritan believers the birth of this new part of the church had not yet experienced its Pentecost.  So we don’t twist theology around in terms of this unique event, this was not meant to be the normative way in which the Spirit is given. It was meant to mark the next step in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. And Simon sees this Pentecost effect. As much as the miracles of Philip were an amazing thing, this Pentecost effect was in Simons mind something that needed to be bottled and marketed. So what was the key component that was missing in Simons change of heart? There’s a saying that goes something like this, ‘Insight does not equal Change, Repentance equals Change’. Simon had insight that what Philip preached was true, he had insight that Jesus really is the Son of God, he had insight that by faith he too could be saved but the component missing from his heart was repentance. Simon offers to buy the rights to dispense the Holy Spirit and you hear Peter’s sharp reply, “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.”  Repentance means that you quit living for your glory, you quit being a servant to your flesh and you turn from what used to be the way you lived and begin by giving your life into the hands of Jesus. Repentance is a change of heart that brings change to your beliefs and to your actions and to your identity as one who now belongs to Jesus Christ. I love that verse in Galatians 5:16 that makes this powerful promise, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Simon had been poisoned by bitterness, perhaps from racial prejudices of being a Samaritan, perhaps from the lost fame and popularity that Philip now experienced. Whatever the source, it had poisoned his desire to trust God.  He was bound by iniquity, a ‘what’s in it for me’ way of thinking.  He was bound to it, it was like being tied up tight to a dead body. It reeked and it held him captive. But repentance in turning to Christ could break all that if only he would yield his heart to that change. Simons reply to Peter is difficult to understand, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me." It is either an outright rejection of what Peter had just told him to do, in other words I’m not going to repent and in fact you should repent of even saying that to me. The other possibility is that he was asking Peter to pray for him that he would be able to repent though at this moment he felt he couldn’t do that himself. Repentance is what lays at the core of belief in Christ. When we ask the question, what does it take to have a change of heart, the answer ultimately is repentance. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, ‘I have sinned.’ The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.” It’s when you see your actions as sin that you begin to see how it relates to God. Before the effects were just something you had to deal with, when there is repentance you begin to see how your actions and thoughts are experienced by God. That’s what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do when He speaks to our conscience, He induces godly sorrow. Consider the words of 2 Corinthians 7:10,11, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” What does it take to have a change of heart? If insight does not equal change then it’s time to stop pursuing insight as the end goal. If repentance does equal change, that godly sorrow that the Holy Spirit induces in us to see and agree with, then repentance is like an opening of the eyes. It sees things that need to be cut free from me, it sees myself as God sees me and it sees the great love of Jesus inviting me forward. This is the story of Simon, the first man who was drawn to have a change of heart and who struggled with the repentance it called for. In the symmetry that is so often characteristic of Scripture there is a second man that balances this account of how change, real change occurs.  His name is never mentioned, we only know that he was an African, an accountant, a man accustomed to being on the road and alone, a man of wealth and power and a man ready for a change of heart. We’ll meet him next week as see what it takes to have a change of heart in Christ.

 

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