Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes


Shepherds & Wolves
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 8:9-13; 18-24
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is kind and compassionate. When He began His ministry He introduced Himself this way:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18, 19; Isa 61:1, 2).

This is why the Father sent Him to earth, and this is His heart toward us: to save, to release, to heal, and to set free. He’s a good shepherd. And when He comes to live inside us He changes our heart to make it like His, and in doing so turns us into shepherds too. All of us. Every single one. How could it be any other way? If we have the Good Shepherd living inside, how could we not love His sheep? God is love, and if He lives inside me, how could I not live a love-filled life? (1Jn 4:15, 16)

Which is why Peter instantly knows Simon isn’t saved. Simon said he believed and had been water baptized. He’d hung around with Philip and watched him minister to the sick and oppressed. And then when Peter and John arrived he had been amazed at what he saw when people received the Holy Spirit. Now he wanted that same power, but he wanted it for wrong reasons. In spite of his confession of Christ his heart hadn’t changed. He wasn’t a shepherd, he was a wolf.

“Simony”
This man’s name has been incorporated into the English language. The definition of “simony” is “to traffic in that which is sacred.” It’s “the crime of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment” (Webster). In other words, a person commits the sin of simony when they use their spiritual gifts or authority as a means of generating money or other personal benefits. This isn’t to say it’s wrong for a church to support ministers, in fact the Bible teaches that principle. But this man serves as a warning to us about the danger of desiring God’s power for selfish reasons. He reminds us that only those with a “shepherd’s heart” should minister to God’s flock.

A wolf’s heart
As we’ve moved through these first chapters of Acts we’ve seen the devil attack the church in a variety of ways. There have been threats, a flogging (Ac 5:40), lying (Ac 5:1-11), cultural tension (Ac 6:1-7), a public execution (Ac 7:54-8:1), violent religious persecution (Ac 8:1-3), and now a man who wants to be a leader in the church to get money and control. Paul calls such people “wolves” (Ac 20:28-31) and Jesus calls them “hirelings” (Jn 10:11-13). This encounter with Simon is not a minor event. It is a major attack by the devil to insert a wolf into the growing Samaritan church. And he still tries to bring wolves into the flock, in fact we all need to guard our heart against this impulse. But Peter was a good shepherd and he stopped that wolf.

Simon, the Shaman
Simon was a man who made his living by practicing divination. He used magic (sacrifices, incantations, special ceremonies, etc.) to curse or protect, prosper or impoverish people. He would cast spells or break spells, and what he did had an observable effect. When he cursed someone, trouble came. When he protected someone, things got better. That’s why people gladly paid him to do the spiritual work they needed. And he was good at it. He had a national reputation in Samaria. He boasted that he was someone “great,” and young and old, rich and poor, called him the “power of god” (v10). He was full of pride and self-promotion. To allow himself to be called the “power of god” shows he had no fear of the true God, because the people of Samaria did know about the true God.

When Philip showed up he simply had much more power than Simon. There was no real contest. Philip made Simon look weak by comparison and Simon, amazed by what he saw, said he too believed in Jesus, and was baptized (v13). When Peter and John showed up they laid their hands on people, and the Holy Spirit came in such power that there were supernatural manifestations taking place in them (vs 17, 18). When Simon saw that, his unchanged heart was exposed. He was thrilled to see such power and knew that if he could control it, it would make him even richer and bring him greater honor. So, he offered Peter money, asking him to teach him how to operate this kind of “magic”…and all of us can be forever grateful that the person he asked was Peter!

Basically, Peter’s response was, “May your silver go with you into eternal destruction because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money.” Then he tells Simon he’s not saved. He says “you have no part or lot in this matter because your heart is not straight before God.” Then he calls on him to repent and to ask God to forgive the wicked attitudes in his heart. And finally, he speaks prophetically to him, saying he “sees” him being full of bitterness and enslaved to sin. Simon responded as any magician would. He asked Peter to pray such a curse off him.

A shepherd’s heart
What changes have taken place in the human heart when someone has become a true shepherd? Before we try to answer that question, let’s admit that nobody but God can fully understand the miracle that takes place when someone surrenders to Jesus as Lord, and trusts that He has become their righteousness by His cross and resurrection. The change that takes place is far deeper than the words they say or the act of water baptism. Those are outward expressions of an inward reality. The process started when God gave them a revelation of Himself and of their need, but at some point they cried out, asking Him to save them…and He did. That person doesn’t become perfect and will still wrestle with temptation, but there will be new attitudes present in that heart. Here are five:
1) love: I love Him and my greatest joy is pleasing Him.
• Jn 21:15-17
2) fear: I fear Him because I know He sees all things and will hold me accountable for what I teach and how I care for His people.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…” (2Co 5:10, 11)
3) hope: I believe in eternal life and know that true riches await me there.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:19-21).
4) faith: I see the reality of the spiritual world. I know that this is not all there is. I know that you and I are eternal.
“…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal (passing away), but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Co 4:18).
5) calling: I do this because He told me to do it. He put you in my life and told me to care for you. As a believer I am called to shepherd His sheep. The only difference is the size and age of the flock.
• 1Pt 5:1-4

Undershepherds
In Ezekiel (Ezk 34:1-24) God warns religious leaders that someday He would take His sheep away from them and give them to the True Shepherd, the Messiah, His Son. So now, since Jesus has arrived, there is only one shepherd of God’s sheep. That means believers should always think of themselves as “undershepherds,” as caring for sheep who belong to someone else. Jesus announced Himself as this shepherd in John 10:11-15. Through Ezekiel, God had promised,
“…I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them, he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken” (Ezk 34:23, 24).

Jesus said,
“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me…and I lay down My life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14, 15).

God has given His flock to His Son. We all belong to Him, and we all serve Him. Here are the attitudes of an undershepherd:
1) I’m not in charge (Mt 28:18).
2) I have no power in myself (2 Co 3:5).
3) They don’t belong to me (ICo 6:19, 20).
4) I’m not the one they must love (Jn 3:25-30).
5) No one owes me anything (Mt 25:21).
6) I’m still a sheep. I need Him as much as you do.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters; He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23).

Questions
1) Name two people who have been shepherds to you and tell us how they cared for you.
2) Who has God placed in your life and told you to care for them?
3) Review the “attitudes of an undershepherd” and tell us which one is the most difficult for you to maintain.

 


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