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8th May 2015
There are some difficult passages in the Bible. We can’t – and shouldn’t – avoid them. Our job isn’t to make them palatable, but to seek to understand them and invite God to speak to us through them as He wants to.
When we accept Jesus as both the Lord of our lives and our Saviour, so much changes: our destiny, our hopes, our heart; He even renews our desires. However, not everything changes and we're all work in progress. Acts 4:32-5:11 illustrates this point, showing us that there is a real danger for us as Christians that we can love things more than people.
This passage in Acts recounts the amazing example of church life together. However, this account shows that even in a time of incredible blessing things are not perfect. This isn't a Hollywood revival! It teaches us that with great blessing comes great responsibility to live holy lives before God and there are consequences to living fast and loose with God.
Imagine if you had to share a physical heart with another person: you’d be very, very interested in what they were eating, how much exercise they were doing, etc., etc. The Early Church is described as of “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). And the way Luke illustrates this oneness of heart and soul – this depth of love and commitment – is to describe how incredibly generous they were.
They were completely counter-cultural with their possessions. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to love people more than possessions, to the extent that there were no needy people among them.
The Bible describes Christians as members of one body (1 Corinthians 12). When one member suffers, we all suffer, just like when I hit my hand with a hammer, my whole body responds to the pain – my eyes cry, my mouth yells, my other hand reaches out. The Church is designed to share this same type of unity, where we can feel one another’s pain and care more about the lives of other people than we do ourselves. We need to grow in this!
After Luke has described the Church as a whole, he then specifically mentions Barnabas, who gave sacrificially – he made the decision that his eternal inheritance was more valuable than his physical inheritance. He thought the investment in the needs of the poor then and there was worth of it. Barnabas was given his name for being so encouraging – it was a nickname that reflected who he was. He picked people up not only with his generosity, but also with his words.
God doesn’t miss the small things like this; they are massive in His Kingdom and their value lasts for all eternity.
Although this is a time of great blessing, it’s not perfect. The devil had tried to destroy the Church through persecution, and now he tried to destroy it from the inside. Luke writes about sin in the camp, as Ananias and Sapphira try to deceive the Church and even God. Ananias and Sapphira owned their field – they didn’t have to sell it and they didn’t have to give the proceeds to the apostles. It was theirs to do with whatever they wished. Yet they were tempted into deception and gave in to that temptation.
The issue here isn’t that they didn’t give all the money and kept some back; it is about deception and hypocrisy. They wanted to look better than they were. Together they made the decision to lie. In this season of amazing favour and grace, God judges their sin. They came under His judgement. It’s not easy to explain or for us to understand – but we mustn’t dilute our perception of God. He is a loving Father, but He’s not soft and He’s not daft. He is both completely loving and completely holy. We need to recognise that He hates sin – it’s why Jesus had to go to the cross.
Christians shouldn’t be more interested in the praise of people or others in the church than we are in the praise of God. Don’t fake faith! It’s a fearful thing to do that, because you’re either saying, “God isn’t here, so it doesn’t matter how I live,” or you’re saying, “God is here but won’t bring any consequences to my actions.”
If we, as Christians, are living in unrepentant sin, we are on thin ice. Don’t view grace as an opportunity for doing whatever you want. Jesus came to set us free from the power of greed and hypocrisy. Ananias and Sapphira weren’t battling against their sin; they deliberately faked it before God.
God’s desire is that we love people and not things. In fact, as we follow Christ we should expect our desire for more stuff to reduce, and our compassionate love for others to grow.
Posted by Paul Mann