Eugene Cho

the dilemma of self-glorification

Things are going well in the movement and then suddenly, two people drop dead.  That’s the story in Acts 5:1-11 and the dramatic death narrative of Ananias and Sapphira:

“When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened… About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened…At that moment she fell down at his feet and died…”

Let me be honest and say that prior to these recent Sundays, I’ve always managed to avoid preaching on this narrative but this is one of the reasons why I’m a fan of expository teaching.  Whether we like it or not, we are occasionally confronted by such awkward, weird, and uncomfortable passages.

Most of you who were at Quest the past two Sundays have heard all the points so there’s no need to go over all of them.  If you want, you can listen to the two sermons below and subscribe to the podcasts:

Acts 4:36-5:11 | The Dilemma of Self-Glorification Part I [2/24/08]

and here’s Part II  of The Dilemma of Self-Glorification [3/2/08]

But for this blog community, this story exemplifies both harshness and grace.  It all depends on our perspective.  What happens to Ananias and Sapphira is harsh.  Period.  What happens to us is a story of grace.  Because if deception, manipulation and self-glorification is what Ananias and Sapphira are guilty of, we should all be dead.  End of sentence.  Period.  But we’re not and it is a testament of God’s grace.  Why Ananias and Sapphira are judged with physical death [not spiritual damnation] is a mystery to us as the Scriptures are unclear.  We obviously know of their sin but why them and not us.

Ananias and Sapphira saw the response that Barnabas received in Chapter 4.  They envied him; coveted the attention he was receiving and thus conspired to deceive not only the church community but God.  The difference was that Barnabas was convicted by the Holy Spirit but Ananias and Sapphira were deceived by an Unholy Spirit.

But before we applaud the judgment against Ananias and Sapphira, [if we are all honest with ourselves], we should all admit that – to a certain extent – we enjoy being liked, looked upon with respect, elevated, celebrated, etc. But if we’re not careful, we’ll sacrifice our integrity and humility to bring glory for ourselves. The reason why this hypocrisy is so much more devastating and deceiving in the church or in the Christian life is that we use the name of Jesus to bring glory – not unto Jesus but to ourselves. This is why I believe God was so harsh with Ananias and Sapphira. This is the worse hypocrisy.

All of us are susceptible.  But leaders who are visible are especially in danger.  This =  me.

And this is why the last two Sundays have been especially “good” for me.  While I hope and pray that many were blessed and convicted, I was certainly convicted.  

In small but increasing ways, Quest Church and my name is “getting out” – newspaper articles, interviews, photos, inquiries about book possibilities, teaching classes, speaking at small conferences, etc.  Coincidentally, a photographer from the Seattle PI showed up last Sunday to shoot pictures which was awkward esp. in light of the message.  [I was scared I might get struck down.]

And while this is not meant to sound arrogant, I believe that our “deeper years” are only ahead of us.  And so, I write this entry to simply confess that I need to be careful.  I don’t ever want to compromise the process for the product; to exchange Christ for celebrity; to increase so that Jesus decreases; and to allow hypocrisy to seep through my life that I can’t be honest with my shortcomings.

In short, I need Jesus.  Thank you Jesus for your mercy and grace.

Filed under: religion

5 Responses

  1. KL says:

    Eugene,
    I just appreciate your heart. I think as long as we remain honest and humble, the Lord will be honored.

  2. Peter Choi says:

    Eugene,
    after reading that, i want to take you out for a round of golf. thank you for your constant risks in being real and vulnerable. it ministers to me very much.

  3. dennis says:

    You arrogant jerk!

    Just kidding. Seriously, thank you for your honesty, Like you said, if we’re all honest, we all want to appear “more” than we are.

    Keep pressing on.

  4. justin says:

    are you considering writing a book? i have a good friend who’s an agent. she’s the wife of the pastor that married jeannie and me. anyways, we can talk more about it tonight if you want. i just didn’t want to forget.

  5. Pastor Eugene, thanks for your honesty and humility.

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One Day’s Wages

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It. Still. Hurts.
#TamirRice Incredible news: @onedayswages is projecting to have our most impactful year as we grant out $1.3 million dollars! Thank you so much for your prayers and support...please read on to learn how you can join in our work.

As you gather with family, friends, and loved ones for Thanksgiving and the holidays, I wanted to share an opportunity. Often times, when I speak to people about the privilege of generosity, I remind them, "You don't have to but you get to." It's so true.

My wife and I (and our three kids) started ODW in 2009. We felt the Holy Spirit convicting us to give up our year's salary. It wasn't an easy thing to say "Yes" or "Amen" to but we made the decision to obey. As a result, it took us about three years to save, simplify, and sell off things we didn't need.

It's been an incredible journey as we've learned so much about the heart of God and God's love for the hurting and vulnerable around the world - particularly those living in extreme poverty. ODW is a small, scrappy, grassroots organization (with just 3 full-time employees) but since our launch, we've raised nearly $6 million dollars to help those living in extreme poverty: clean water and sanitation, education, maternal health, human trafficking, refugee crisis, hunger, and the list goes on and on.

So, here's my humble ask: As we do this work, would you consider making a pledge to support our work...so that we can keep doing this work with integrity and excellence?
You can make a one time gift or make monthly pledge of just $25 (or more). Thanks so much for considering this: http://onedayswages.org/give (link in bio, too) Don't just count your blessings. Bless others with your blessings. Here, there, everywhere. Be a blessing for this blesses our Father in Heaven and builds the Kingdom of God.

#ReThinkRegugees #WeWelcomeRefugees
@onedayswages Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply.

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