"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. -- Revelation 3: 14-18 (NIV)
Most people are very uncomfortable with confrontation. I get it. I understand. I often hear the pleadings from Christians who want their little slice of heresy to remain intact. What's the big deal? What's the harm? I'm sure he or she helps some people! I woke up today with this question on my heart. Can we find middle ground when it comes to heretical teaching? If so, where is the middle ground? How much leaven should be acceptable to Christians? We already know that Jesus Himself taught that not everyone who says "Lord Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, so merely saying Christ is not enough to warrant a free pass. I think sometimes that is how pitifully low we have set the bar for acceptable Christianity. When I first started considering these things, God led me to the story of Simon the Sorcerer in the Book of Acts. Simon performed great signs and wonders for the people in Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great and people believed in him and called him the great power of God. Then Phillip came to town.
But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. -- Acts 8: 12-13 (NIV)
From these verses we can safely determine that Simon appeared as saved as anyone who sits on our pews today. He believed and was baptized! He followed Phillip everywhere! Peter and John would soon come to Samaria and then we see where Simon's heart truly was.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." -- Acts 8: 18-19 (NIV)
Now, can we tell the motivation of Simon? Perhaps his intentions were benign. Perhaps he just wanted to see as many people baptized in the Holy Ghost as possible? I see a correlation to some common excuse making today when I hear people excuse heretical teaching and watering down the Gospel because they want to "reach as many for Christ as possible." So, did the intentions of Simon matter to the Apostles?
Peter answered: "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 (NIV)
Not so much. Peter does not mince words with Simon here. The issue is not his intentions but rather that he thought he could use a carnal method to secure the power of God. How often is this still going on today? How many Simon's do we have standing behind the pulpit, trying to buy the power of God? Even worse -- how many stand behind the pulpit selling the power of God? I have heard the arguments from mega church pastors who I assume are as about as sincere as Simon was here. Compromising with the world so they can reach more people. Compromising the Gospel so they can appear relevant. Paul experienced the same thing with the Church at Corinth:
You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. -- 2Corinthians 11: 4 (NLT)
A sad statement on where we are today as a church too. Happily putting up with whatever the heresy du jour is. What's the big deal? It sure seemed like a big deal to Peter and the Apostles here. They were not going to allow carnality into their ministry and neither should we. As Peter's response indicates; this is a heart issue beloved. Using carnal reasons and worldly rationales to advance the kingdom of God will not work! Sure, you might be able to build an individual church that way. People will be willing to come back if you are not preaching sin and repentance. People will be willing to come back if you cater to them and say what their itching ears want to hear. That God is only love. That God is only about blessings. That God is only grace.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. -- John 1: 17 (NIV)
The problem with grace alone heretics is that they present half the Gospel. They leave out the truth portion. They leave out the cost of sin. They leave out the devil. Paul said to the Ephesian elders that he was free of their blood because he proclaimed the whole Gospel to them. It is far too easy to cherry pick which portions of the Gospel will sell better and lead to more people returning and higher offerings. But salad bar theology leads to false conversions. People end up at the last day saying to God -- Lord Lord -- only to be turned away. There is a price to be paid for middle ground theology. The purpose driven models and seeker friendly theories develop a relationship with the church -- not Christ.