Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bible Reading: Acts 5v1-11

Having faced the threat of persecution and remained faithful now the church faces a different threat, this time it is of internal corruption, sin.

Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of land just like Barnabas, and they want the reputation of generosity, they want others to think well of them – another way our individualism can show itself - and so they lie about how much they got for it. I wonder how you think about that? What did they deserve for doing that? What should happen to them?

Our reaction will show us how we think of sin. But (3)look at how Peter views it “how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied…” It’s not just that they lie, they are faking a work of grace, Satan wants to get in and destroy the church. Do you see how serious Peter says this is (3)you have lied to the Holy Spirit, (4)you have lied to God, (9)you’ve conspired to test the Spirit of the Lord. They were free to do whatever they wanted with the money, if they’d said this was only part of the money that would’ve been fine. But they wanted the reputation of grace filled generosity to mask their greed. They are counterfeits, faking grace at work.

But isn’t the reaction a bit harsh? Isn’t Peter a bit gung-ho? I mean; death? God takes his glory and his name seriously and he stakes it on his church. Satan wants to undermine the church and stop the advance of the gospel. Sin is his Trojan horse. God hates sin, loves his Son and wants people to be saved and he won’t let his church be undermined.

That means as a church we must take sin seriously. Not in terms of calling down death on people, but we must fight it, we must ensure it doesn’t undermine the churches witness. We aren’t perfect people; the church is made up of saved sinners who fight sin by grace filled by the Spirit. We mustn’t put on a mask of perfection, that’s what Ananias and Sapphira do. But we mustn’t tolerate sin or grow comfortable with it. We need to be helping one another fight sin, or the gospel is undermined and God’s name is sullied.

What’s the outcome of this incident? (5, 11)“Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” Not a terrified cowering that shrinks away from God, the gospel and one another. But a healthy right fear that is amazed and in awe of God, his gospel, the filling of the Spirit and the wonder and privilege of being part of God’s new community. God is precious and protective of his church because he stakes his name on it.

We’re familiar with the phrase “stake your reputation on it”. It means someone has tied themselves and their name and everything they have done to a particular thing.

God has staked his reputation, his name, his glory on the church.

Practically that fear of the Lord, knowing God in his power, majesty and glory, means we mustn’t do anything to undermine the church because to do so is to deny God the glory he is due. Ananias and Sapphira’s lie is an attack on God’s name because he stakes his name on his people. Anything we do that tears down church defames the name of God, be that sin, be that hypocrisy, be that moaning and grumbling, or anything else. To know and fear God, to relate to him rightly is to be concerned for his glory and his name and that means being concerned for his people.

Jesus unites us together in a new community, God’s new people where grace and the Holy Spirit is at work transforming us. Where we’re freed to live with open hands in a tight fisted world, and where we love God and his people because we know the price of our redemption and that the church is God’s means of taking the good news of his Son to a needy world.

How do you think about following Jesus? Individually or united together with God’s people? How can you tell? How do you regard your money and your possessions? Has grace reached and transformed your bank balance? How do you think of sin? Do you want a reputation without a reality? Are you tempted to wear a mask with others? Or are you determined to fight sin with your brothers and sisters in arms?

The church is God’s means of taking the gospel of Jesus to a world desperately in need. As our hearts are transformed by God’s word through the Spirit and grace is at work among us a watching world is won by the changes it sees. Changes that counter the cultures individualism, its selfishness, its hoarding, its concern for reputation. Because Jesus rescue and the relationship he wins for us with God and others is more precious than any other thing.

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