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The Sin Of Living A Lie!
Acts 5: 1-5
Luke is writing history, not fiction.
He did not hesitate to reveal the tragic facts concerning a weakness in the early church.
Although it was painful, the story had to be told.
It shows us how the victorious march of spiritual progress can be threatened for a period of time.
Remember the tremendous victories the church had just experienced.
They had experienced the outpouring of the Spirit.
They had experienced the sight and sound.
They had witnessed 3000 receiving Jesus as their Saviour.
A lame man had been healed.
They had great victory even when they were persecuted.
Peter and John had been arrested.
It was in such a victorious atmosphere that the spirit of hypocrisy
and of covetousness projected itself into the life of this early church.
In this early church whenever there was a need in the congregation,
those who had property would sell it, and they would bring the money received from the sale
to the apostles so that it would be divided among those in need.
Barnabas was one who had done this.
We saw this in chapter 4.
Ananias and Sapphira saw how the people felt about Barnabas.
They envied his good name and desired his popularity.
So they sold their property and agreed together not to bring all the money to the church.
They pretended to the congregation that they had.
The devil despises harmony.
He is the arch- promoter of discord.
When you discover discord in the church, just look around -- the devil is behind it.
The devil hated the purity of the motive that prompted the church to its great generosity.
He saw that the waters of unselfishness were flowing generously;
so, he prompted Ananias and Sapphira to contaminate the stream.
While Barnabas did not desire the recognition and the praise of others, Ananias and Sapphira did.
If there had been no one to see Ananias give the money, he would not have given it.
How many of us are like that?
How much of our good works are done for the praise of others?
If we could analyze our own motives, even the best motives, we might be shocked at our discovery.
Ananias' sin was not primarily in withholding a part of the money, but in pretending that he was giving it all.
He was implying his own complete dedication to God, when his real dedication was to himself.
Ananias and Sapphira were not required to sell.
They could, if they wanted to.
The issue is -- they lied!
They brought the money and pretended it was the whole amount received from the sale of the land.
The basic sin of Ananias and Sapphira was that of hypocrisy; they were living a lie!
It is an overconcern for self which causes a person to lie.
The root of his sin lay in his vanity.
He coveted the reputation of appearing to be as generous as others,
while in his heart he was the slave of money.
When our outward attitude bears no relation to what we are inwardly, we are actually acting out a lie.
We are hypocrites, pretending to be what we are not.
The Greek word, hypocrtes, means "actor."
Living a lie is destructive!
It can destroy a friendship, a marriage, or even a community.
It can destroy fellowship of a church.
It is always destructive.
This dishonest act was actually a sin against God.
"Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
It is God who is forming and shaping the church.
It is God who brings believers together.
In the fellowship of the church, honesty and reality are absolutely essential.
Nothing will ruin a fellowship as much as dishonesty.
Nothing will chill a congregation as much as pretense and hypocrisy.
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira is indeed against God, as are all sins.
All sins of believers are against the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Ananias allowed Satan to influence him and to beguile him
to carry out a deed that came directly from hell.
Deliberately, mockingly, Ananias belied the Spirit and attempted
to palm off the devil's work on the Spirit, and hoped that the Spirit would not detect the deception.
God cannot be deceived!
He sees right through us!
When pretense and hypocrisy invade the church, the church as a whole is hurt.
The Holy Spirit of God does not move in a church where people tolerate pretense.
The Holy Spirit will not move in a church filled with pretense.
The church must openly oppose hypocrisy in any form or shape, regardless of who it is, rich or poor.
This experience in the early church emphasizes
the reality of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence in the church.
This experience also emphasizes the solemn implications of that fact.
It was necessary to enforce the lesson that Paul later presented:
"Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy;
for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye." (1 Corinthians 3: 16f)
No one likes a hypocrite!
We want the people we deal with to be frank, honest, and on the level.
We want to do business with those we feel we can trust.
This is especially true in the church.
There is something particularly repelling about someone who is a pretender in the church.
It is difficult to walk into the assembly of the church in complete honesty of heart.
Have you ever heard the expression: "Putting on your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes?"
Do you go to church with a pious attitude, when you are not really very pious?
Do you act spiritual, when you are not spiritual?
That is hypocrisy!
Hypocrisy is repulsive to God!
Isn't it a lie if you sing, "I Surrender All," but actually give the Lord little or nothing at all?
Just think how God has blessed you.
If you haven't given to God as God has prospered you, then you are withholding from God what is His.
What if God decided to take all that we have -- it is all His!
What about those who are merely putting on a front in order to appear "spiritual."
Putting on a front is dangerous, especially where God is concerned.
God knows all there is to know about us.
It is foolish to think we can deceive Him.
Putting on a front is foolish where people are concerned.
Acting as though we are sophisticated or qualified may lead us into a painful embarrassment when we are discovered.
And we will be discovered!
The life of the church is not to be a religious hobby to which we give some time and attention when it suits us.
We must be real!
We must be honest!
We must learn from the sad experience of Ananias and Sapphira.
Ananias laid the money down.
He most likely said a few words and expressed his intention and generosity.
He probably expected Peter and the others to shower him with words of praise.
Instead of this, the exposure of his hypocritical sin came like a bolt out of the clear sky.
"Why did Satan feel thy heart?"
This question refers the guilt back to its real source.
The question implies that Ananias could and should have resisted Satan.
"Filled" means that Satan took complete control of Ananias and that it was done with his consent.
Peter merely declared his sin, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
It is clearly said, "Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost."
He fell dead!
You might think that this is too severe!
All of God's judgments have a severe side.
Ananias and Sapphira were cut off in their sins.
People are summoned into eternity every day in precisely the same state and the same way.
The only difference is that with Ananias, we see the sin which provoked the judgment,
and we see the judgment immediately follow.
This was an evident act of judgment.
The Scriptures say that judgment begins first at the house of God.
It is no wonder that great fear came upon all who heard about this.
Wouldn't you be fearful?
Suppose all hypocrites in the pulpits and in the pews were smitten on Sunday in the morning worship service.
In this case, most worship services would have to be canceled.
The double death of Ananias and Sapphira has lessons that we must learn.
Such lessons are desperately needed by our churches today.
There are so many professors of love and devotion to Jesus
who give such a small portion of their substance to God.
There are so many who profess to love God, and yet give Him the leftovers of their lives.
For this, they expect His blessings.
For this, they expect their brethren's admiration.
These Christians are usually the most vocal as to how God's money is to be divided and expended.
They are usually the most critical of the programs and leadership of the church.
God is teaching us a penetrating lesson in this passage.
Just as the healing of the lame man pictures what the Lord Jesus
does in the inner life of a person who loves Him and follows Him,
this judgment of God pictures what happens in a person's life when he indulges in pretense and hypocrisy.
The Holy Spirit is reminding us that purity is a condition of power.
The Holy Spirit is reminding us that the church must be clean to be conquering.
The Holy Spirit is reminding us that the church must be disciplined to be daring.
The Holy Spirit is reminding us that church must be holy to be happy.
First purity, then power.
First purity, then peace.
First purity, then progress.
God demands absolute honesty!
If there has been hypocrisy and pretense in your life, then confess it to God.
If you have been living a lie, then confess it to God. (1 John 1: 9)
It is then that we will understand what God has already given us in Christ Jesus.
He has given us all that it takes to be what we should be and to do what we should do.
"Are you weary, are you heavyhearted?
Tell it to Jesus! Tell it to Jesus!
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus! Tell it to Jesus!
Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Tell it to Jesus! Tell it to Jesus!
Have you sins that to men's eyes are hidden?
Tell it to Jesus! Tell it to Jesus!"
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org