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.