problems in the jerusalem church

Yesterday was my last sermon in the brief series on the Jerusalem church – when I return to preaching at my home church in Siliguri in May I shall have moved on to Judea and Samaria – anyhow it has been a brief but enjoyable little sojourn which has once more left me delighting in the book of Acts and wanting to go deeper into the life of / in God that it so powerfully describes. Yesterday was all about challenge – Ananias and Sapphira are dishonest in their giving – dishonest to God that is – the temptation is there for all of us and so a strong challenge on turning from, and resisting, sin was delivered.

Incidentally Simon is working to enable me to put the html versions of the sermons online so you can see the presentations not just some outline notes – as soon as we get it fixed you will see it here.

Acts 4:32 – 5:11

32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.  3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

kept back – literally to embezzle [steal money placed in one’s trust or belonging to the organisation for which one works] or misappropriate [dishonestly or unfairly take something, esp. money, belonging to another for one’s own use]
Used also of Achans sin in Joshua 7:1 which was punished severely

‘The story of Ananias is to the book of Acts what the story of Achan is to the book of Joshua. In both narratives an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God’
FF Bruce

1. You are responsible
Ananias was responsible for his own actions
God allows your tests and trials
1 Corinthians 10:13, Rom 8:28, James 1:2-4
Life is war!
John Piper

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God

Satan targets believers
You choose how you respond to temptation:
Give in, don’t recognise it, resist!
Resist the devil and he will flee from you

2. How is your character?
The real issue was the lying, the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira
They could have used the money as they wanted to – what they did revealed their character
God allows our character to be tested

Tests, Trials and Temptations
Improve the quality and genuineness of our walk with God – Joseph
Throw us on the Lord, teach us to depend on Him – Abraham having a son
Refine or purify us spiritually – Samuel in a corrupt situation
Show us what is real and what is not – Peter happy to follow Jesus anywhere, then denial!
Show us what is of God and what is not – Elijah facing Ahab & Jezebel, discouragement brought unreality
Assess and examine our inner attitudes and motivation – Pr 29:25
Reveal to us our weaknesses and limitations so that we can depend on God more
Show us what we are really like
Establish the pattern of our future decisions

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” 
      “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

3. What motivates you?
They were motivated by; Pride, ego, desire for esteem, need for recognition?
What makes you act as you do?
Are you giving to God or to be seen by others?

A very popular (but often) misquoted verse
1 Timothy 6:9-11
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
 11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

4. Do you deal with sin?
Their sin is dealt with speedily and strongly
Sin is sin, and has to be dealt with decisively
Ajith Fernando

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

Action by the church leaders – regardless of how big the gift was!
Do you exercise church discipline?
Do you root out ungodliness?
Do you fear God?

“For Christians today this is a temptation: to so luxuriate in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning.”
William J Larking Jr

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows…9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.