First we need to realize that salvation is not dependent on a prayer, a baptism or the religious history of our family. True converts examine themselves as the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5). A true convert has a great desire to study the Word and appreciate being with other believers who have a like minded spirit, where Jesus is always the center of attention.
We see in the account of Acts 8 that the Philip mentioned was one of the original seven deacons selected to serve in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5). Philip had a heart for evangelism, and, when the “great persecution” arose in Acts 8:1, Philip left Jerusalem to become an evangelist in Samaria (Acts 8:5–12). And we see that the Lord used him greatly.
Now while in Samaria he encountered a man named Simon who had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.
But when Philip arrived they started listening to him as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ; and believing, they were baptized.
Now even Simon himself ‘believed’ and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered Peter and John money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Peter saw right thru him and answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 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. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:20-23)
False converts don’t love God and don’t care if He ultimately receives the glory; rather, they are only seeking recognition and attention for themselves. Simon didn’t truly care for Jesus; he simply wanted Jesus to give him the desires of his carnal heart. He completely misunderstood salvation, because true salvation requires a change of heart. False converts think that it is through their actions that they are saved. They might say that salvation does not come through works, but their hearts declare something completely different.
Simon wanted spiritual gifts so that he could be the center of attention and feel proud about himself. Christ, on the other hand, teaches his disciples that “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
Peter exposed Simon’s intentions and he was concerned about the consequences of his actions, but not because he disappointed the Savior, but because he didn’t want what Peter said would happen to Him. So he replied: “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:24)
Not only was he worried about the consequences, but he also misunderstood how repentance works; which is a constant desire to be pure in front of God. Repentance doesn’t need others to intercede for them, but, instead, it is the act of a person who humbles himself before his Father and requests forgiveness and desires to change. And this doesn’t just happen at the moment of conversion; this is continual each and every day throughout the believer’s life.
False converts hate exposure and confrontation. They defend themselves or, better yet, attack back in order to keep the confronter at a distance. They can’t believe that they could have sinned in some way. False converts are prideful and don’t ever own up to sins that they have committed. In other words, they are blind to their sin.
Simon had all the wrong motives in coming to Christ, and, even though it wasn’t evident at first, his true character was discovered in due time.
True converts trust Christ and seek to become more and more Christ like all the time. Those who claim to be Christians should display the characteristics of true Christians: sound doctrine, obedience to God’s Word, and love. They should diligently work to spread the good news of the gospel, as we are called to do (Matthew 28:19–20), knowing well that they might be mocked and ridiculed by many in these increasingly secular times. And although false Christians may sometimes be able to deceive us, they certainly cannot deceive God, as nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight. Everything is uncovered before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). At the end of the age, His angels will separate the true from the false converts just as the parable tells us that He separates the wheat from the tares.
Therefore, the true believer brings forth the fruit of a new lifestyle, a lifestyle that is pleasing in the sight of Almighty God. If we are rooted and grounded in Christ, it should be evident. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.” (John 15:5)