Heavenly father thank you thank you for these ancient words will you come now by the power of your holy spirit will you open our hearts and Minds that we may receive them we lead us to your throne of grace that we might find help and mercy in this our time of need and Jesus we pray this in your mighty name amen you may be seated you know what a perfect passage from the book of Acts for our stewardship commitment. Sunday I could not possibly have planned it any better and actually I didn’t plan it at all when two people who selfishly held back in their financial commitment to the Lord were struck dead before the church I hope that you put a lot of prayer and thought into your financial giving this year but don’t worry uh if not we have a crew of undertakers who are just waiting outside who are ready to take care of things uh this morning yeah yeah all kidding aside this passage really is a perfect passage for our commitment Sunday but it’s not because it gives me any kind of uh ammunition or justification for scaring you uh into giving uh more or being more generous uh in fact while uh standing and stark contrast to the the Bold generosity for the kingdom that we saw from the Believers last week in Acts chapter four this passage really isn’t about money it’s not really about money it’s about the h an heart and the and the greatest threat to the mission of the church and it’s something that God takes extremely seriously and the greatest threat to the mission of the church is hypocrisy and spiritual Pride hypocrisy and spiritual Pride you know GK Chesterton who was a 20th century great English Christian writer philosopher apologist literary and art critic uh he once said this he said the greatest arg ent against the truth of Christianity is the lives of Christians what an incredibly sobering thought isn’t it that our lives could in any way be the greatest arg ent against Christianity for anyone but it’s true only it’s true in ways that I don’t think we we normally think about it we normally think that people who uh who say they’re Christians and yet they’re sexually promiscuous or embezzling money or cuss a lot or watch R-rated movies or do drugs or abuse alcohol that they’re the ones who turned people off from Christianity that if we could just keep ourselves pure in every way and make make sure that no one sees us doing anything sinful ever that that will be uh will be good and attractive witness for Christ to to everyone and everyone will want to come and imitate us because they’ll see our lives and how perfect uh a picture of Christianity we are the perfect family with respectful and well-behaved children the perfect business person who has been blessed by God with great success and financial Comfort is the perfect grandparents who or great-grandparents as I know some of you I’ve heard lately or have gotten some good news or is the perfect great grandparents who always are available and loving and giving and sacrificial to your your grandkids but but what we’re going to see in Acts chapter 5 verses 1 through 12 is that perfect lives are not what is most attractive to non-believers and it’s not what’s the most helpful to the mission of the church and what is the most unattractive and repugnant quality of Christianity to a non-believer it’s hypocrisy it’s false piety spiritual Pride but not only is hypocrisy and false piety and pride unattractive to non-believers it’s also abhorrent to God and something that he will not tolerate in his church and that’s what we see happening in Acts chapter 5 verses 1 through 12. and so I want to invite you to either open up your bulletins to that passage or if you’ve got your Bibles you can open those up to acts 5 verses 1 through 12. as we work through this a little bit together and so if you’ll remember uh last week or if you don’t I’ll give you a little bit of a reminder at the end of Acts chapter 4 We’re told about a man about a man named Barnabas and Barnabas uh his life was so transformed by the grace of God that he willingly and he generously sold a field that that belonged to him and he brought the money the proceeds that he got from that land and he laid it at the apostles feet that’s what we were told at the end of Acts 4. that was the last testimony of Acts 4 until we turned the page to acts 5. uh that and as we turn the page to acts 5 we turn to another man and his wife ananias and Sapphira and they too just like Barnabas sold a piece of property uh just as Barnabas had done but while Barnabas but unlike Barnabas ananias and Sapphira kept back for themselves some of the proceeds from the land sale and brought only part of it and laid it at the apostles feet now I say they both did it although the text says that ananias is the one who did it but uh but with his wife’s knowledge right uh this is kind of like Adam and Eve uh in Reverse if you really think about it uh Eve’s the one who listened to the lies of Satan and she ate and then she gave the fruit dad and he ate but they were both equally culpable right so here both ananias and Sapphire were equally culpable but equally culpable of what exactly uh they brought a portion of the proceeds to the church you know perhaps it was ten percent maybe they took 10 percent of what they had gained and they uh and and they gave it to the church and surely there’s nothing wrong with that uh but in verse 3 Peter said this to ananias why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land this issue was not was not that they kept for themselves part of the proceeds that that wasn’t the issue that was going on here because Peter went on to say in verse 4 while the land was unsold did it not remain your own and after it was sold were the proceeds not at your disposal why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart you have not lied to man but to God the issue here was not how much of the proceeds they gave that that had nothing to do with it the land was theirs the proceeds were theirs and they could have done whatever they wanted with it this was no forced March people were not giving because they had to they were giving because they wanted to Believers were joyful to give because they had received the grace of God and Jesus they had been freed from that bondage of fear that we talked about last week and they wanted to help and the kingdom work they wanted to help those in the church that were in need and they wanted to further the kingdom work of the church the issue with ananias and Sapphire was not that they kept the proceeds back for themselves that was their prerogative they could do it if they wanted to the issue was that they lied about it they lied about it you know the similarities in this lie of theirs to God and the lies of Adam and Eve again are very are very striking uh Adam and Eve act ate the fruit and then they blamed everyone else for for what had happened right uh they blamed everyone they wanted to be like God they ate they ate of it it’s a simple essentially the same thing here they lied about why they did it and ananias here and later Sapphire lied to the church which Peter associated with lying to God himself but the real question is why did they feel the need to lie about it what was it that was going on in them that gave him this need this insecurity to lie yeah they could have been honest they could have been honest they had every right they could have said you know we’re scared to give it all we’re scared to give it all what if we need it what if we get into any trouble and we need a we need a little uh rescue money that’s there something to save us what if we found ourselves in need of it or they could have said you know we don’t want to give it all because we’re not really sure if you Apostles are going to use it the right way you know how do we not know that you’re not going to go off and buy a mansion in Malibu in a in a jet to get you there uh they could have said that right they could have said we like you guys but we really have uh we’re having difficulty and really embracing this this lifestyle that uh that’s happening here we’re having a hard time with that they could have been honest about it but they weren’t they felt the need to lie why did they feel the need to lie well why do any of us lie I’m sure you don’t but you know why why do uh you know why why do we lie we all do lie but we do it we lie to protect ourselves to protect ourselves somehow we lie to protect our reputations we lie to protect our freedom we lie to protect our security we lie to protect our wealth we lie to protect our comfort and our sense of peace and really truthfully what it is is whatever we value most in this world we will lie to protect it will lie to protect it that’s the state of our fallen hearts ananias that says fire they lied to protect their image or to try to gain a reputation that they desired as being dedicated and generous members of the church without actually making any real personal sacrifice in the process they wanted to look the part but they didn’t want to have to fully act the part right they were hypocrites they wanted the recognition as being super Pious people so they sold a false picture of themselves to the community most likely they had already long before this sold themselves on that desired Public Image that they had and so misrepresenting themselves in this moment to the body of Believers probably wasn’t even a second thought that’s kind of how it works with the lies don’t they we can lie to ourselves to protect whatever image we want we can then we just keep kind of telling ourselves that over and over and over again until we just believe it to be true but one thing’s for sure this was not just some minor misdemeanor uh this wasn’t just a minor crime in God’s eyes because when ananias heard Peter’s words were told that he fell down and breathed his last now some believe that this must have been just some sort of natural occurrence that happened right ananias certainly was under a lot of stress in this public scrutiny uh and probably just had a heart attack and dropped dead right then and surely that’s happened before right uh you know Sanford and Son he was always good at that you know it would have the heart attack in the moment uh but what are the chances that both ananias and Sapphira both just happen to fall down and breathe their last when they were called out for their hypocrisy slim to none right but even if their deaths Were Somehow natural it’s clear that this was God’s doing or at least it was God’s allowing and really that’s the same thing this is how serious God is about hypocrisy and the threat that hypocrisy uh that have thought puts the mission of the church under they were ultimately lying to God about who they were you know we we pray and I don’t know if you ever pay much attention to it but in the beginning of our service Thomas kramner when he first wrote put the prayer book together he made sure that the collect for Purity was right up front in the beginning of everything uh and if we really read that it’s forcing us if you if you pray it uh and you and you do your best to mean it we’re being really honest before God almighty God to you all hearts are open all desires known and from you no secrets are HID cleanse the thoughts of our hearts in the ins by the inspiration of your holy spirit that we may perfectly love you we’re recognizing that uh anything less than that is a lot we’re lying to to God we’re not just lying to ourselves we’re lying to God
you know Jesus was always at odds with hypocrisy he was always at odds with hypocrisy uh this is why he had such a hard time with the Pharisees right called them whitewashed tombs meaning that they were Hypocrites they were only concerned with outward appearances while they weren’t going to send at all it’s concerned at all about the sin of their own hearts in Our Gospel reading from Mark 7 though Jesus said what causes a person uh what comes out of a person is what defiles him for from within out of the heart of man comes evil thoughts sexual immorality theft murder adultery coveting wickedness deceit sensuality Envy slander Pride foolishness all these evil things come from within there would defile a person the threat that ananias and Sapphire opposed to the mission of the Gospel was hypocrisy was hypocrisy
to become just like the Pharisees who were only concerned about outward appearances and behaviors and cared nothing about the root of sin and the h an heart and didn’t care much to admit their own but loved to point out others hypocrisy continues to threaten the mission of the church non-believers look at look at Christians who are obsessed with image and behavior and outward appearances while they see and hear about them secretly embezzling money and having adulterous relationships cheating people in business and are addicted to pornography all the while pretending that they’re perfectly Pious people who are pillars of their Church community but here’s the Dirty Little Secret well it might not be a secret at all we’re all hypocrites we are all hypocrites because we’re all sinners and when we pretend otherwise in any way we’re being hypocritical Christians aren’t called to be perfect Pious examples for all the world to envy and to try to emulate as followers of Christ we are called to own our own Brokenness our own sin to own our own hypocrisy Jesus said blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven we’re to be a people of repentance not a people of piety for piety’s sake the gospel the good news of Jesus Christ it doesn’t make us perfect it exposes our sin and it brings us to the only place where we can find forgiveness the gospel is not the system by which we can earn our own righteousness it’s the free gift of God’s Grace by faith in Jesus who then clothes Us in his righteousness alone to pretend that we have it all together is to lie to God it’s the lives of the Holy Spirit the same Holy Spirit who is at work in US convicting us convicting the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment you know the saying is true I don’t know who first said it it seems to be a little bit of a disagreement about this but that the church is a hospital for Sinners it’s not a country club for Saints we’re invited to the Lord’s table not because we’ve made ourselves spotless but because we’ve been washed cleaned by the blood of Christ we’ve been made his spotless bride we’re washed clean by the repenting of our sins and believing Jesus is our Lord and savior you know last week in my sermon just an example of uh how this plays out uh this is confession time uh last week in my my sermon on acts 4 I said something that this week as I was working on this sermon I realized was wrong uh last week when talking about Barnabas I told you that he was a Next Generation Christian that he had been called by the apostles and turned to Jesus through their witness uh now no one said anything to me yesterday last Sunday or all week so I’m guessing either you weren’t listening or you didn’t catch it either but as I Was preparing this message this week and I was looking back at in Acts 4. uh I I was it was exposed to me uh as I Was preparing this uh message I was horrified last week I was moving fast I didn’t have as much time as I normally like to and I was moving fast through the passage and my preparation and so I didn’t pay close enough attention uh but this is what acts 4 verse 36 says it says thus Joseph who was called by the apostles Barnabas which means son of encouragement in my haste this is what I saw uh I just saw the called by the apostles part and so I made a sloppy mistake uh but it maybe wasn’t just a mistake it was a little bit of a self-fulfillment or trying to uh fit this because it fit really well into the narrative that I wanted to portray about reaching the Next Generation for Christ it was you know I thought this was gonna be great because it’s something that we’re focused on right now as a church and Barnabas is being a Next Generation uh Christian was really going to be compelling especially as we work further into uh the passage now when I realized it the mistake that I made I was certainly horrified and uh and mad at myself for my failure to bring you God’s word accurately uh I wasn’t upset with you all for not noticing but then then I began thinking a little bit more about it well how should I deal with this now you know no one seemed to notice maybe I should just let it go maybe I should just let it go maybe I should just leave well enough alone right uh but then on a more deeper level and my real heart of hearts I was thinking you know if I bring it up there’s the potential that people are going to lose trust in me people will think that I’m not really a very good preacher of God’s word and my reputation and my credibility will be shot uh and so there was that thought in my own heart of let’s just let this go preserve your reputation uh just don’t say anything because no one noticed anyway uh and then I encountered ananias and Sapphire and I didn’t want to be struck dead but no what I realized that I was being just as hypocritical in my own heart I was longing for the same thing to preserve reputation and while theirs was a sin of uh you know they said it outwardly mine was just going to be a sin of or I guess there’s a sin of commission mine would have just been a sin of omission right uh just to let you go on thinking how wonderful I am uh but by Omission I’d be lying to preserve my own reputation and what what this passage is telling us is that that’s the threat to our witness of the Gospel friends I was wrong I’m not a perfect preacher pastor and I am certainly going to disappoint you which is not something I like to say or not something I want to think uh but I also know this that I’m clothed in the righteousness of Christ Alone and I’m free because of that I’m referred to repent I remember from free to repent of my heart’s desire for my own reputation hypocrisy and spiritual Pride are the greatest threats to the mission of the church but on the other side do you know what’s the greatest Safeguard to the mission of the church honest h ility and repentance of people who have been transformed by the power of the Gospel men and women who are free from the bondage of fear men and women were freed to admit that they’re wrong redeemed men and women who can h bly ask others for forgiveness because we ourselves have been forgiven by the god of the universe men and women who do not worry about damaging their reputations because they’re so secure in who they are as Sons and Daughters of God and heirs to his eternal Kingdom by the will and the grace of God Alone that’s what’s most attractive to non-believers and most beneficial to the mission of the church this is why Jesus is so attractive while being God Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped he h bled himself even in the face of the greatest betrayal and Injustice that the world has ever known from the cross Jesus said father forgive them for they know not what they do
and Friends he did it all because he loves us and because he loves us and by faith in his death and Resurrection he has made us Sons and Daughters of God we’re free we are free to H ble ourselves we’re free to be honest about our own sin and to be a people of true repentance and in so doing the mission of the church WIll thrive and the Lord will add to our n bers those who are being saved through his gospel transformation transformed and grace-filled spirit-led people amen.