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We will either be a good example or a horrible warning to others with our lives. We learn from Acts 5:1-14 that holding back even one area of your life from God can cause destruction. Our God is serious about removing sin from where He dwells, and we should be too.
Stephen…a Faithful Mailman Who Saw Jesus
How to Destroy a Shadow: Stephen’s Masterful Defense of Jesus Finished Work
Hellenistic Lives Matter (And So Does the Ministry of the Word)
The Gospel is NOT a Fad
Beauty and the But
Where Does That Come From?
Living Bolder as We Grow Older
What Makes a Man Fit for Judgment, Ministry and a Ready Response - Acts 4:7-23
The Beginning of Persecution and the Proper Reason for It. - Acts 4:1-12
The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church
The First Savior Exalting Sermon of the Church
The Gift of Tongues Part 2
Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
From Judas to Matthias: How to Choose Leaders and Find Hope in Failed Ones
The King’s Orders for the King’s New Men
The Story Before the Beginning of the Story: Genesis - Acts 1
Hello, friends. We are glad to be with you in the Metroplex in Dallas and Fort Worth and Plano. It is awesome to be together. Let me pray, and we are going to dive right in. We're in the book of Acts, wrapping up chapter 4 and diving into an absolutely key passage in the book of Acts. You're going to see it's the very first funeral. You're going to see it's the very first time Satan shows up in the church.
You're going to see it's the very first time the word church is mentioned, and you're going to see it's the key to the church prospering. You're going to see the greatest threat to the church show up. You thought it was the persecution of chapter 4. You're going to find out it's not the persecution from without but the perversion within that is the problem. Let's see if we can't learn something.
Father, thank you for a chance to study your Word. I thank you that there are friends here who are still trying to figure out if you're a God worth knowing and a God worth following. I pray that even as we talk about what the church is supposed to be, that you would encourage them that there is, in fact, a God who does business with men, who wants to call them out of darkness into his marvelous light, that they would seek to respond to his grace, and I pray that they would see among us a holy difference in our lives, that they would know you are who you claim to be. Thank you for this text. Thank you for Luke who recorded it and your Spirit who will illumine it in our hearts. Would you teach us now as we study together your Word? In Jesus' name, amen.
We're going to get about halfway through or at least about 16 verses deep in chapter 5, but to set it up we want to go back and remind ourselves where we were. There's an unfortunate chapter break. Again, chapters and verses were inserted almost a thousand years after our New Testament was put together, and if I had been on the committee I would have changed some of that. I'm sure they did better than I would have, in general, but you're going to find the end of chapter 4, verses 36-37, probably go better with the thought of what's in chapter 5. It's why I stopped where I did.
Let's remind ourselves of what's going on. We have these chapters and verses so we can turn places there easily together. Look at Acts 4:31, and let me just remind you what is happening. There is persecution that for the very first time hit the church. Jesus told the church, "Hey, you're going to have trouble. The world is not going to really celebrate the fact that you're going to remind them that there's a God who exists who will hold them culpable for their actions and for their living apart from him.
Even though you're offering them grace, that offer of grace reminds them that they're under judgment, and people don't like to be reminded that they're under judgment. So you persevere. You don't worry about what they do to you. You just do what it is I ask you to do." It's like God said to Jeremiah in Jeremiah, chapter 1. "Do not be dismayed before them, lest I dismay you. I expect you to stand firm, to be a wall of bronze, a fortified city."
You're going to see that the persecution of the church in Acts, chapter 4, is not the greatest threat. In fact, Peter, the central figure in the very beginning of the formation of the church, when he was writing his own epistles, his own letters to the remaining church that God would preserve to encourage us for generations to come…
He wrote 1 Peter, which primarily deals with persecution from without and that we shouldn't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us and that God will allow us to rejoice even in our sufferings as we put our hope in the resurrection. We know this world is not our home. This is our time of service, so don't be surprised when it's difficult. But that's not where he ended. That wasn't the last note he sounded. Peter ended with his last letter, and he said, "Even a greater threat to persecution without is perversion within."
We taught through 2 Peter. Not long ago, we walked through that book, and I showed you that the greatest threat to the church is when we have false teachers, when we welcome the woman Jezebel (which I'll reference again today) into our midst and don't live in a holy reverence to God, when we become hypocrites or people who are indifferent to God, when we think God's grace toward us is because of his inability, his lack of knowledge, or his indifference, and none of those things are the reason.
Acts 5 is going to be a key place for us to understand what God wants the church to be. In Acts 4, it says, "And when they had prayed [in light of the persecution from without] ,the place where they had gathered together was shaken…" The idea of them being shaken means the landscape of their lives was completely altered. That's what happens when there's a shaking. You guys know there was an earthquake here not long ago up in Oklahoma. It registered 5 on the Richter scale.
It happened largely in the plains state, so no real damage happened, but my kids claimed they felt it in their room. I don't know if you did. I started talking to them about earthquakes, and I said, "Do you guys know where the greatest fault line in America is?" When you're asked that question, where do you think immediately? You think the San Andreas Fault in California, and that is incorrect. It is in the Arkansas/Kentucky/Missouri area right along the Mississippi River in New Madrid. It's called the New Madrid Fault.
Being a Missouri boy growing up, by and large, we didn't study the Alamo, but we did study the great earthquake of 1812, when the Mississippi River… It was a thrust fault. In a normal earthquake, the earth slips down. That's a normal fault, or it's a slip fault where it slides sideways. This is a thrust fault, where the earth pressed and went up. Where it went up in very Southeast Missouri, it created a 30-foot waterfall in the Mississippi. The Mississippi flowed backward.
It's said a bunch of rivermen had their boats anchored by an island, and they woke up about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and a guy said, "I had to grab my hat because I was flowing up river at the speed of a horse." That was a major reshaping. It was an altering of the landscape. Let me just make a note right here. If you have not had your life radically altered, if there isn't something tremendously different about the landscape of your life, you probably haven't had the shaking of what a real transformative understanding of the gospel is.
You might have said, "I'm a sinner." You might have said, "Jesus is somebody special. There was a cross. There was an empty tomb." You might confess. The word confess means to agree. But confession is only half of the game. When you confuse confession with repentance… John the Baptist when he was here said, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." He doesn't say, "Just confess that you're a sinner."
He called some folks who were saying they needed to have their sin dealt with a "brood of vipers," but if they don't change in light of what they know to be true, they're going to still be in a lot of trouble. John and Jesus both said, "Repent," which means agree that you have a need. Agree that Jesus is the solution to your need. Agree that God is not a God to be avoided or managed or appeased; he's a God to be embraced in his grace.
Confession is not to be confused with repentance. One communicates your sin; the other turns from it. That's why it says in Proverbs 28:13, "He who conceals his sin will not prosper." You have to go, "It's in me. It isn't right. There is a fault in my life, a fault line that is going to be trouble unless there's something that comes and radically alters my world." That means repentance. I'm going to start flowing the other direction toward God and in fear, meaning in respect and out of love for him, I don't want to miss anything from him.
It says in Proverbs 28:13, "He who conceals his [sins] will not prosper…" That fault line will eventually jack with you if you don't. "…but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." That's why sometimes people go, "Yeah, I shouldn't have done that," but they keep doing it, while people go, "Man, I don't know what to do with you."
When you go, "I shouldn't have done that. I need God's grace. I'm going to find out what the things in my life are that led to that, and I'm going to deal with them. I'm going to get people around me. I'm going to radically pursue the provision of God…" If there isn't a radical shaking and altering of the landscape, you might be a confessor but not a possessor of a relationship with God. You're going to find out God doesn't like guys who just play games. That's a problem, and it's going to show up here in just a moment.
It says they were shaken. "…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…" This is not the initial filling in Acts 2. Once again, as they reminded themselves of the goodness of God and his provision, they were controlled by their love of God and their desire to honor him. So they did a couple of things. Acts 4:31: "…and began to speak the word of God with boldness." Then in verse 32: "And the congregation of those who believed…" Who didn't just confess but believed, had a personal trust relationship with God.
"…were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own…" So here we go. You know you are a Spirit-filled person when you have lips that speak the Word of God with boldness and you have lives that show the love of God with action. That's how you know. Church, I want to ask you. We talked about this the last time we were together, and I said if you want to know you're a person who is being controlled by the love of God, your lips ought to communicate on a continual basis about the goodness of God.
You ought to be able to share with other people what God would say about any given moment. You ought to be a student of his Word, and because you're a student of his Word and because you love divine truth, divine love ought to live in you and ought to change the way you treat people. That's what marks you. There is an increase in your care for people, and there is a decrease in your care for things.
Let me say it another way. Your love for people increases, and your loosening of a love of this world increases. If that's not happening, if you don't have lips that praise, love that increases, and a grip on worldly things that loosen, you ought to ask yourself, "Am I being controlled by the Spirit of God?" If that's never the case, you might want to go back and see if you don't just have some awareness of a fault but not an actual dealing with it.
This is what the church was, and it was a beautiful thing. What he's going to do now in verse 36, after he talks about how that manifested itself in the life of the church, is hold up a glorious example. We released a Real Truth. Real Quick. this week on Pharaoh. Pharaoh is a guy… This phrase shows up a lot in your Old Testament: "Pharaoh's heart was hardened." "Pharaoh hardened his heart." "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart."
People go, "How could Pharaoh be judged if God hardened his heart?" It's a fair question, and it's one answered for you in about six or seven minutes on Real Truth. Real Quick. this week. One of the things I say in there is relevant to this same text. That is, you are either going to be a good example to others or you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning. You're going to be one of two things every time.
What I'm going to show you is what's about to happen in chapter 4, verse 36, all the way down through chapter 5, verse 11, is a good example and a horrible warning, and you have to figure out who you want to be like. This is why I love to study my Bible. Acts 4:36: "Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet."
You might read that and go, "Okay, that's nice; way to go," and move on, and I would tell you that would be a mistake, because those two verses are incredibly instructive to us. He is going to show us how Acts 4:33-35 happened, where the church was renowned for its love for one another and how they cared for each other, and here comes this guy. I always tell my kids, "When you're reading and you come across something you don't understand, you want to take a moment and look up the word or ask questions."
This is one of the best things you can do, by the way. If you're in community with other people, when you're reading God's Word and you come across something and you go, "I don't know why this verse is in my Bible" or "This verse confuses me," shoot it out to your Community Group and say, "Does anybody have an answer to this?" If nobody does, commit to finding the answer together. Get in touch with us. We'll help you, and you'll all grow, but don't just act like you know what a Levite is, what a Cyprian is, and why this verse matters.
I was memorizing a verse yesterday with my 12-year-old son. We were driving along. Psalm 141:5, which is a great verse with an application to Acts 5 this morning. We were going over it, and he was quoting it to me. It talks about, "Let the righteous smite me with kindness. Do not let me refuse it. It is like oil on my head." We were talking about that, and I go, "Do you know what smite means?" He goes, "I have no idea." I go, "Well, then, let's not just memorize it. Let's talk about what smite means."
When you read a verse like this and see that there is a guy who was a Levite of Cyprian birth, you might go, "Why is that detail in there?" I'm going to tell you, because it's going to encourage you. This guy doesn't just show up in two verses and get moved on. You might recognize the name Barnabas. This is the same Barnabas who a little bit later, when the number-one terrorist to the church, the guy who became the defining figure in being the external persecution the church felt…
When that guy was radically saved and the church wasn't so sure and really didn't want to welcome him into fellowship, there was a guy who stepped up and said, "I'll welcome him. I'll disciple him. I'll take him under my wing." You find out that this guy encouraged Saul of Tarsus. This guy was the man who used his credibility with the church to say, "Let's let this guy in. Let's let God use him. I think God changes people."
Why was Barnabas so willing to say, "I think God can change people"? Because he was radically changed. This guy is a Cyprian. What's a Cyprian? I'm going to show you something else that's even more amazing. Behind me is a map of the ancient Near Middle East that shows all of the places Paul and Barnabas went together on their missionary journeys, the ones they did together. Here's a map of Paul's first missionary journey. Take a look at this.
We're going to study this a lot more later, but you see down there Jerusalem is at the very bottom right. You see Tarsus up there by Cilicia. That's where Paul was from. They eventually were a part of the church in Antioch, and look at the very first place Paul and Barnabas went when they decided to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world. Where did they go? Cyprus, where Cyprians lived.
I always wondered why they went to this island first instead of the land mass that is Asia, and I know why. Because Barnabas said, "I want to go and encourage people I know and love." Why did he want to go there? Because when he lived among them previously as a Levite he did not live in his love for the Lord. The word Levi means attached, and Levites, if you know anything about your Old Testament… This is why you want to know this. When you read a word like smite or Levi or Cyprian, you want to go, "What does that mean? What's the significance?"
A Levite never owned land. When Joshua apportioned the land after the conquest and the tribes were given different tracts, the sons of Levi didn't get any land. They were set apart, because back when Israel had forsaken God and worshiped the golden calf at the foot of Mount Horeb at Sinai, when Moses came down and saw what was going on, he wasn't very happy, and he said, "Whoever is for the Lord, come forth," and the entire tribe of Levi came forward and gathered with him.
Moses said, "You take the sword at your side and go through the camp, and anybody who's committed to rebellion against God and idolatry… I don't care if it's your father, your brother, or your sister. You take them out." Three thousand folks were killed by Levi. As the nation repented, there were some who held on, and the Levites were the ones who cleansed the camp. God said right then, "I'm going to set Levi apart, and they will be my priests among the people."
So God ordained the Levites were going to serve the nation in the temple. They weren't going to go to war against foreign enemies; they were going to go to war against sin. There were 48 cities that Levites were given, four in every region that was given to a specific tribe of Israel. It was apportioned out. It was where God wanted those who were committed to the ministry of the Scripture and a war against sin to live in the midst of the people. They weren't to own land, and they were to live in the middle of Israel.
What do we know about Joseph in Acts 4:36-37? Was he living in Israel? No, he had some island vacation going on. He was Jimmy Buffet and mai tais. He wasn't attached to the Lord; he was attached to wealth. He had land, and he was not concerned about the things of God. But all of a sudden, something had him back in Jerusalem, and word of this man who didn't claim to be a man but very God of very God, who lived a holy life and did mighty acts and miracles, who was crucified and was raised again, was making its way around.
Something got ahold of this Cyprian Levite, and his life was changed, and he became a part of the first 5,000 who followed Jesus. He was so smitten he said, "I don't really care to be attached to my land anymore. I am increasing in my love. I am increasing in my boldness. I'll take a chance on Saul. I am decreasing in my attachment to things. I loosen my commitment to the things of this world." He is a good example to you and me. There was a major tremor in his life, and he repented.
Everybody was so encouraged that this student of the law, this scribe, understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had been anticipated in the Old Testament, and he was fulfilling what Jesus said would happen in those who believe. So you say, "Way to go." You ought to be encouraged by Barnabas, and you ought to follow him. You ought to be just like him, and you ought to look at your life and go, "Am I like him?"
So there's chapter 4, which should be a part of chapter 5, because we go right from there, and there's a but. Every church has a but. Sometimes we look back and are like, "Man, wouldn't it have been great to have been part of that early church where there was no sin and there was no conflict and the Enemy hadn't really jacked with them yet?" Well, buddy, I don't know if you're paying attention, but we're just a couple of months into this thing, and you're about to get your very first but. It is a great threat to what God wants to do, and you're going to see how God wants us to deal with it.
While a lot of good was going on, there's a but. There's a synonym for but, and that guy is about to show up. His name is Ananias, which interestingly means, "The Lord has graciously given." I think God graciously gave us Ananias because he serves us as a horrible warning. The truth is God had graciously given Ananias many things, including a wife whose name was "Beautiful." That's what Sapphira means.
This guy had been given a tract of land (like Barnabas, who shouldn't have one; there was no problem with Ananias having some) and a beautiful wife and even some awareness of this Jesus culture and this Jesus figure, but what he really wanted was the praise of men, and he didn't have a real loosening of his love of things. He didn't love men; he needed men. His lips weren't proclaiming boldly the Word of God; his lips denied the holiness of God. Watch what happens to that.
"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has…'" Here comes the answer to a trivia question. Where is the first time Satan shows up in the church? Answer: Right here in Acts, chapter 5, verse 3.
He was around the Old Testament, he was around the Gospels, and he's still around today. That's why we need to be of sober spirit. We need to be on the alert, because our adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He always shows up in one of two places. Where Christ is least known he owns them, and where Christ is being most glorified he comes after them.
If you don't feel, by the way, much bothered by the Enemy and temptation, it's probably because you're neither hot nor cold. Some of you guys very well know Satan. Your life is a mess, and you are giving yourself over to him. You have nothing inside of you to resist him, and he occupies and possesses you in a way that you listen to your flesh. You listen to the course of the world. You listen to lies about God.
You might have some form of godliness that's just muted completely in your life. You've been inoculated with a mild enough form of Christianity that you're immune from the real thing, and you basically do his beck and will anyway. So he is very familiar to you, because your life is miserable, and you go, "Where is this joy of the Lord?" Well, you don't know it because you don't know Christ and you're just living that way.
There are others of you who are really seeking to have lips that honor God and speak with boldness, lives that commit to loving other people, and you're loosening your grip on things, and the Enemy goes, "I have to take that guy out. I have to do everything I can to get him out of the picture." This is what he did in the early church. You have to tip your hat to him. This is no coward. He's courageous. He will go right to the front of the battle. He has run there, and he is looking for someone to devour, and he has found in Ananias a willing vessel.
Peter says, "Satan has filled your heart." People ask, "Is Ananias a believer?" I don't know. I probably think he at least thought he was. Because you're filled with Satan doesn't mean you're possessed by him. People ask me, "Todd, can a believer be possessed?" Possession implies ownership, control of your destiny. Christians can't be possessed, but you can give yourself over to the Enemy. Whenever you don't allow yourself…
The word filled doesn't mean something empty is suddenly occupied only. It can mean you are controlled by. A man filled with rage, filled with lust, filled with obedience to the Word of God. That means I am being controlled that way. All of us this week probably had our moments when we were filled with… We didn't take captive every thought we had been given, and our hearts ran away in the wrong direction. So in a sense, we were oppressed by those lies, and we decided to do what it is we should not have done.
Rightly, I think, in those moments we have to tell ourselves, "Hey, we have to deal with that and repent." What we did is we were tempted and carried away and enticed by our own lust, and the Enemy convinced us doing this made sense. In that moment, when we did what makes sense to liars and men who don't know God, we are filled with, if you will, satanic will. We're still culpable. As believers we're not possessed by him, but we don't consider ourselves dead to sin, and we let sin live in us even though it is not our master anymore.
By the way, I just want to tell you this. Christian, temptation is not sin. Do you want to go back and study this? I did a series called Way of Escape. Go look at it. There are four messages that talk to you about how to handle the Enemy and spiritual warfare, and I talk a lot about exorcism and all that stuff. It's very exciting. What I would tell you is that what we have to do is, day by day, take captive our thoughts and not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or seat in the seat of scoffers, but delight ourselves in the law of the Lord, and on that law meditate day and night.
When I don't meditate on the law of God, when I follow my heart instead of train my heart, it gets me in trouble. In a sense, I sometimes can be filled, controlled by my flesh, which has as its twin the way of the world, which has as its triplet the lies of Satan. My flesh isn't dead. That's why I'm to consider it dead. What's different about me now is that the Spirit of truth dwells in me. I don't just have now the spirit of disobedience that works in the sons who don't know God.
I now have the Holy Spirit. I know that God is good. I love him. I want to walk in his ways. So I need to surround myself with friends who encourage me. If my companion, if my beautiful Sapphira around me doesn't care if I start to do something God wouldn't have me do, I'm in trouble. "The companion of fools will suffer harm." Wives, if you have this perverted idea that you're supposed to be submitted to your husband all the time, you're not.
You submit yourself to Christ, and because you are willing to believe your husband wants to be God's man, when he's not doing what God wants him to do, you speak up. You don't condone sin. You don't compete for headship. You complete him. It's what we all do. By the way, if you have a problem as a wife being called a completer, then you should have a problem as a believer being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, because guess what God calls him: the completer. He is in us to bring about to completion what God brought in us.
That's why I have a wife. That's why I live in community with others who, in a sense, are doing business with me, and there's nobody who should do more business with me in my life than my wife. When there is something in my life that is off of what God wants, they should not go along with it, but the Spirit of God that I'm quenching in me should live in them, and they should go, "I'm not sure I'd do that." They should counsel me biblically, admonish me faithfully out of the overflow of their daily devotion, and keep me from going and being devoured in that moment.
Your community matters. Your wife really matters. Sometimes, though, a wife is willing to go along, and she's not just putting up with her husband; she likes the plan. When you get people around you who like your plan to compromise on the Word of God, it's trouble. Because God is kind and because he doesn't want the church to be constantly preoccupied with funerals, it doesn't always end up like Ananias and Sapphira, but it's trouble.
So they have concocted this plan. They want the church to be encouraged by them the way they saw Barnabas be elevated as a leader. They loved things, and they loved the praise of men. "Here's what we're going to do, sweetie. We're going to sell this land for 500K. We'll give 250 of it to the church and tell them we're giving it all. We'll still have money, and we'll probably be leaders in this new organization in no time, and folks will speak well about us the way they did about Barnabas." The love of things and the love of the praise of men are very connected, and you ought to be wary of both of them.
Peter looks at him and says, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holly Spirit…" You didn't lie to us. "…and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." That's trouble. You'd better not lie to God. You'd better know God is holy, that he is wanting to represent himself through us, and he doesn't tolerate people who act like he's not real and doesn't really care about how he's represented.
In effect, Peter is saying, "Hey, I don't know if you know what's going on here or not, Ananias, but no one is selling or giving anything here because they have to. No one made you do this. There are no rules here that say you have to sell anything or that you have to give any percent of what you sell. People are doing that because they have been radically transformed by Christ and were following his example, who though he was rich, for our sake became poor. He didn't hold back anything. He gave his all. So when we give, we're giving the exact same way."
Had he come and told them, "Hey, listen. I sold this land for 500 grand. I'm going to give 250,000 of it to the church," they would have gone, "Well, God bless you, Ananias. That is amazing." And Ananias probably would have said, "And guess what? If there's further need, I'll give more, because I know God will take care of me. I have a loosening grip on things. This world is not my home." But he said, "I gave it all."
When you say you love God and your entire life is his and you keep some of it back, that should concern you. If you say, "Jesus died for me. I'm going to live for him except in my thought life, except in the way I manage my money, except with my hobby, except with my covenant commitment to my wife, except with my career…" If you have any sense of your life that there is a secular part and the rest is spiritual, if your Sundays are God's and your Mondays through Saturdays are yours, you look a lot like this guy. It just happens to be he did it with property. You're doing it with your person.
What I'm trying to show you is God isn't fond of that, and neither is the watching world. This is a moment where we're going to see God show up, and God is going to do something that he often does early on when he's establishing himself. I don't have time to do this, but if I did I'd take you back to Joshua 7. We would show that Israel is now in Canaan. They're now in Palestine. They're taking the land. They defeated Jericho. God says, "I want everything in Jericho to come to me. Don't take any of it. Burn it all."
There's a guy named Achan. The exact same word that is used here in Acts, chapter 5, Luke borrows from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. What Achan did with a mantle, or a robe, from Babylon that was really nice and you couldn't just pick up anywhere in Palestine and with some silver is he took it and hid it. Israel left there and went up to battle a much lesser fortified city in Ai, and they got whupped.
Joshua said, "Why did that happen?" He said, "Because I'm not going to work with an unholy people, and there's sin in the camp." Joshua is like, "What are you talking about?" God says, "You go find out where the trouble is. There's a but in Israel." It was Achan. His name means trouble, and he was a horrible example, a horrible warning to you. God is not going to work where there is compromise amongst people.
So Achan is rooted out. Guess what? He dies. You're going to find out when the law is established, there are two guys, Nadab and Abihu, who are priests, and they offer an unholy fire. Instead of kindling the fire the way they were supposed to in an offering to God, they do it their own way, and guess what? They die immediately. God is saying, "We're not going to jack around in my worship."
A little bit later, when David is setting up the monarchy in Israel, there's a guy named Uzzah who is bringing the ark of the covenant back into Jerusalem, and he didn't carry it the way God told him to carry it. He reaches out his hand to stabilize it and drops dead on the spot. David goes, "What in the world, God?" and God says, "Hey, what in the world, David? I'm not to be jacked with."
It doesn't happen often, it doesn't happen always, but when new works of God are starting, you're going to see God is going to say, "Hey, people, this is a big deal. We're going to remove sin if I'm going to live here." So what God is doing early in the church is saying, "Hey, people, don't play around with what a shaken life looks like. We have to flow the other direction. Don't lie to me, and don't lie to one another."
Don't test God. That's what that word… It shows up a little bit later. He says, "Why do you put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?" It's kind of like somebody who basically says, "I'm going to see how much I can sin and get away with before there's any consequence in my life." That's what it means in Deuteronomy 6 when it says, "Don't put the Lord God to the test." "How foolish can I be and get away with it?" No. That is a problem.
Some of us in this room are doing that. "How much porn can I get away with? How much can I flirt with that girl at the office and get away with? How much can I not see everything I have as the Lord's?" I don't maybe have to give it, but I ought to make sure it doesn't get its hold on me. I ought to have all my community going, "Hey guys, this is what I have. What do you think we should do?"
There is nothing here that we should do but pay attention. God doesn't always kill us, like I said, lest the church be preoccupied with funerals. If God always did this, I wouldn't be here to preach this week, and if I was, I'd be investing in Sparkman/Hillcrest because it's going to make a lot of money this week. This is why the church is to deal with sin.
What's really interesting is the reason most of the world doesn't like what's going on at church is because the church is no different than them. It's filled with hypocrites. They say that things are wrong and continue to do them themselves. Just because you sin doesn't make you a hypocrite. When you plan to sin and you give yourself permission to sin and you say sin is wrong, that makes you a hypocrite.
When you sin and go "It's wrong" and confess it and forsake it, you're not a hypocrite. You're doing what people who know it's wrong do. We are not a perfect people; we are a yielded people. But when the church is seen by the world as just like them, making excuses for their lack of covenant commitment to one another, when they hide their materialism underneath the blessing of God, the world goes, "You guys are playing games. You're a bunch of fools. There is no fear of God, there is no love of Jesus, and there is no flocking to be here."
God says, "We're going to root that out. We're going to deal with it." Peter is going to say, "Ananias, look. Here's the deal. What you don't know is that this isn't a radical external conformity that's happening here. This is a radical internal transformation. We're not making you give." Someone asked me this week, "Todd, why don't we have a basket that we pass here?" One of the reasons we don't is we know a lot of people think all the church does is want their money.
I don't want your money; I want you to know Jesus, and I want you to know his heart. When you know his heart and you know Jesus and you see your life being radically transformed and other lives radically transformed, you're going to want to invest in that as much as you can. When you see other people living faithfully with him who are in need, you're going to want to supply and support them. People give here freely all the time.
Communists demand your money; the church doesn't. Christ doesn't. Even though we hold all things in common, we are not communists. We are free, not under obligation. This is grace, not law. This is why we give the way we do right here. This is exactly what 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, says we should do. It says in verse 7, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
People ask me, "Todd, how much do I have to give?" There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. titled Should a Christian Tithe? The answer is the tithe was the minimum the Old Testament children did. New Testament saints are told to give as much as they can with as much joy as they can give it. You don't treat it like a tax, where you negotiate with the government to give as little as you can.
You go, "Hey, I want to give to the common good that is the work of the kingdom of God. I want to give as much as I can as often as I can, and if God blesses me more, I believe it's to increase my standard of giving, not my standard of living, because I have a loosening of my hold of things, and I have an increase in my love of people and the lips and the work of God."
So I invest as much as I can here. I don't go, "I've done my part." My part might be a thousand times more than yours, and I'm glad God has given me that privilege. I want to give as much as I can, and I'm glad I do it. I have given to this place like I've never given anywhere. I've given to the building. I've given to the ministry. I give more all the time. It is a joy, because I want a piece of what God is doing here.
If you know a place that God is doing something more in your life, tell me. I want to invest in that. But if we see God at work right here, we're like, "What else can I do? Let's multiply this thing out. Let's get better at being instruments of his gospel, and let's invest that the gospel might increase." You do it because you love him. You don't try and figure out how much you have to give so God is not mad. You love God, so it makes you madly happy to give more. That's the New Testament model. Peter is saying, "Ananias, what are you doing? You're lying to people."
Verse 5: "And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it." I guess so. "The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him." If you ask most people who the first death was in the New Testament church, who are they going to typically say? Stephen, who shows up here just a chapter or two later, but they're going to miss it. It's Ananias. That's the first death.
The difference is in Acts, chapter 8, verse 2, it says, "Devout men buried Stephen and lamented loudly over him." Nobody was sad that the but was gone. He was gone, and it wasn't but three hours later that here comes "Beautiful" strutting in, not knowing what had happened, and Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?"
She wasn't going to be judged because of what her husband did. Achan's family was destroyed because they all knew what he did. It was buried in the tent. They were all part of the conspiracy. By the way, wives, it's never good to answer a question until you know where your husband is. "Sapphira, do you know what's going on here? How much money?" She goes, "Oh yeah, that was the price."
Peter said, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?" To see what you can get away with. Why is it you have agreed together to do this? "Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." Those guys were still sweaty, hadn't showered, and he said, "Dig another hole." God says, "We're going to remove that from the body. We have to get it out if you're going to be my people." There really wasn't rejoicing and laughter. I think this is probably where the phrase, "There but by the grace of God go I" came from. I am capable of doing what Ananias did.
Typically, what happens once God has kind of snapped (I love to use this phrase. You hear me use it a lot. It's from the Scripture) the plumb line… That's when you're measuring and getting ready to make the cut. You have a chalk line there, where you pull it back and pop it, if you're in construction, and then you move the string away and there's a line here. "That's how we're going to cut it. That's the way it's going to go." That's what God is doing right here.
He's saying, "This is the standard, folks. We don't tolerate sin." So how does that look in the New Testament church? Well, here's how it looks. We don't shoot our wounded here. What we do is when we see a brother caught in any spiritual trespass, we who are spiritual look to ourselves, lest we too be tempted, either by being arrogant and thinking we're better than they are or by being more concerned about them liking us than doing what God wants us to do.
We go and fulfill the love of Christ by admonishing them when they're unruly, encouraging them as they're growing fainthearted, and helping them when they're weak with great patience, exhorting them to biblical obedience. If we go to them and say, "I don't think this area of your life is in line with what God wants. A little leaven leavens the whole dough. I think there's a little bit here that isn't right," and they go, "I don't really care what you think," God says what you do is go get another.
We come to you and say, "Hey, beautiful one, we both think this is what God would have you do." If they say, "I don't care what both of you think," then we expand it to the church and say, "This modern-day Ananias and Sapphira are not dealing with sin the way God wants them to deal with it. They are making provision for it. They are following Satan in this area." The Bible says you treat them as a tax gatherer and a Gentile.
Now listen. Watermark has about 20,000 folks who make their way through here every month. You don't know 19,980 of them. So when that happens, we don't drag them up here in front of you and go, "See this guy you've never seen before?" When we tell the church, we tell all of the people around them who know them, who are a part of their biblical community, who are aware they're a part of this body, and we all love them together.
We say, "Listen, the last thing we want to do is remove you. We love you. We all get it, man. There but by the grace of God would we be caught in stuff. In fact, let's talk about my junk. But we don't want this to continue, because the blessing of God, the power of God, the renown of God will leave this place. If we don't deal with this, he'll leave you. This is dishonoring God. It's hurting your witness. It's damaging other people. We love you. Come on back."
If the person says, "I'm not coming back; this is the way I'm going to roll," then the Bible says we treat them as a tax gatherer or as a Gentile. How do you treat tax gatherers and Gentiles? You don't stone them. You love them and call them to repentance, but you don't say they're a part of the church. Every now and then, that happens, and you don't hear about it most of the time.
We just say, "Listen, we love you. You're welcome to come here, but as you come, know that our desire for you to be here is that we would preach to you about the kindness of God, that you would leave following this one who says God is not good and his Word is not true and you'd start to abide with God again and we would welcome you back. Our toes are at the end of the ranch. We're ready to run to you, but we're going to remind you that this is who God is, and we're not going to let you pretend you're a part of God's people."
We're going to tell the world, "Hey, we love that guy, but he's not one of us. He can tell you why if he wants to. We're just going to tell you there are areas of his life that he doesn't want to bring into submission to Scripture, and we love him, and God says we can't have fellowship with that." That's the way we do it here. Now if it happens to me, just like it says in 1 Timothy 5… All of you guys know who I am, so if that happens to me, where I say there's an area of my life I'm not going to bring into submission to God, the elders are going to come to me and say, "Bro, we're concerned about this."
If I say, "Well, you can concern yourself all you want. What are you going to do about it? You know what my role is here. Are you going to really go through that?" They're going to say, "You bet we are. We're going to remove you, man." When I'm removed for that reason, they're going to stand right here and tell you why I'm not here and that you should pray for me and, if you see me, love me and call me to repentance, beg that I'd come back.
You're going to hear about it, as you should, as the Scripture says in 1 Timothy 5:20. "Those [elders] who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning." So we do that in communities. Why? Because we understand the principle right here in Acts 5. Now here's what's really scary. Today, there are entire churches that form around and pride themselves on being the church that tolerates sin of some specific kind.
They say, "We'll give you safe haven here, Ananias, if you want to say you're giving everything to the Lord but not your sexuality," and that's trouble.One of the reasons the church, by the way, has lost its voice with those churches that say, "You can do what you want sexually and still be a devoted follower of Christ," is because they have watched us practice serial monogamy in the traditional church. We go, "Hey, man, we don't sleep with the same sex here, but what we'll do is let you divorce the sex you married and just remarry and it's okay." It's not okay.
A lot of guys go, "Todd, I can't talk about that sin here in this camp because about half the folks here have been divorced. They're going to think I don't love them." Well, we do love them, but that doesn't mean we're going to tell you it's okay. We have to deal with sin in our camp, and we have to make sure marriage is held in honor and not tolerate serial monogamy and just say, "Hey bro, I know you have a tough time with your wife. I know your wife might be Jezebel, but you married her. Love her like Christ loves the church."
"Hey, Abigail, I'm sure you're married to Nabal the fool, but let's figure out how to win him back and not just move on because somebody is talking sweet to your ear." See, when the church starts to say, "We're the church that tolerates something that God doesn't want to tolerate," it loses its voice. There's a reason the church in this country has lost its voice.
This is a fact. The elect who compromise are a greater threat to the church than the enemies who terrorize it. The elect of God who compromise with sin are a greater threat to the future prosperity of the church than the enemies of God who terrorize it from without. Judgment always begins with the household of God, so we have to take care of our own business.
Here it says in verse 11, "And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things." I guess so, as I said. Fear doesn't just mean being scared. It's a healthy understanding of the way God views his character. Fear can be a friend that alerts us to the danger of forging ahead. Do you guys ever get scared before you do something stupid? That's good. Like, "Maybe I shouldn't jump off this roof. Maybe I shouldn't click on that website. Maybe I shouldn't further this conversation. Maybe I should ask somebody in about what to do with all this resource."
The truth is when we think sin is the source of fun…sex outside of marriage or accumulating more things for ourselves…then we don't fear sin. When we fantasize about it and are enticed by it, that's when we have trouble. What happened is Ananias and Sapphira said, "Hey, here's what we could do." It was enticing to them to be praised by men and to still keep some stuff, and they got carried away.
Instead of just showing up at the church and going, "Hey, church, here's the deal. We have 500,000. We're not sure we want to give it just now, but we're going to give this. Keep praying for us. We're growing. We never thought we'd sell this, ever. This was our future. This is what we were going to give to our kids, but we see a need here right now, so we're going to sell the land. We still have half the land to live on, or we're going to take the money and buy something else that's really nice. Would you pray for us? Because if there's more need, we want to be able to do that." They would have been heroes.
But when you say, "I've given Jesus my all" and you haven't, that's trouble. So once this was done, this is what happened. Remember what happened when they prayed? There was a shaking, and it was the Spirit of God that showed up in their lives. There was great blessing amongst the people. The blessing of God continued. Now we have perversion within, and then they deal with it.
Watch verses 12-14. "At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them…" Who is that? I'll tell you who I think the them is. The them is Ananias and Sapphira, people who were concocting plans to say they loved God when they really didn't fully at that moment.
The church said, "I'd better not be like them. I'd better be like Barnabas." All of the carnal Christians, all of the people who were compromising, said, "Let's not do that." How do I know that? I know that because of what's next. It says, "…however, the people [outside the church] held [the church] in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number…"
Because they saw a difference in the church. They didn't tolerate sin. They loved each other. They were bold in their proclamation of the kindness of God, and they loosened their grip on the things of this world, and people said, "That compels me." When you have a church that says, "You can come here and do what you want as long as you want…" By the way, stealing was not a capital offense in the Old Testament. When you stole something, you paid back four times what you stole.
What got you killed is when you told the priest, "Yeah, I'm stealing, and I don't really care what you think about it." Some people call that a high-handed sin or it's a sin that just says, "Hey, God, I'm going to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I'm going to say what I want to say when I want to say it, and you can't do anything about it." God says, "You have to remove that. You get that out of Israel." There is no provision for that heart, and it has to be set aside and, hopefully, in today's modern age, called back to repentance.
I told you I would mention what the sin of Jezebel was. It's mentioned to the church in Thyatira in Revelation, chapter 2, where he says, "Hey, you're growing, you're doing a lot of things, but I have this against you. You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. 'This is the truth of God,' she says, and she teaches and leads my bond servants astray so they commit acts of immorality."
We can't have the spirit of Jezebel here. What we have to be is people who prepare our minds for action. As Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13, "…keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." First Peter 1:17: "…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth…" We want to be God's people who have God's blessing who extend God's kingdom and do God's work.
Father, I pray that would be true at Watermark. I pray we'd love each other. I pray that we would be kind to each other, that if we see any brother caught in any spiritual trespass, we who are spiritual would first look to ourselves, lest we be tempted, and then we'd go to them and love them and say, "Hey, man, I get it. My flesh is still strong. The course of this world is still powerful. The Enemy lies to me too. Let's stop that nonsense. Let's meditate on the law of the Lord. Let's come back home. Let's get our hearts right with God again."
Lord, as that happens, we see your church restored. Would you do that so that your blessing can be here, so you don't have to sub us out and remove us from usefulness to you? Would you help us to love each other and be a body of people that the world goes, "I like that. Can you explain that?" and we could tell them about your grace in our lives. We thank you for Barnabas and Ananias. May we be like the one and not the other. For the glory of Jesus I pray, amen.