2018-04-22 – Acts 5.1-11 – Cooking the Books

Acts 5 1But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

2018-04-22 – Acts 5.1-11 – Cooking the Books

Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.

Well tax day has come and gone, and I hope you got your finances in order and maybe even got some money back this year.

Joke: A Preacher got a call at church one day, it was the IRS. The IRS agent said one of the members reported a $25K donation to the church, and asked if was true? After a brief pause the preacher replied, “I’ll tell you what, call back tomorrow, I’m sure it will be”.

In light of tax day, today’s title is called Cooking the Books, that is an older term that is the practice of lying and cheating in any record or bookkeeping in order to increase personal profit. Needless to say it is illegal. Today’s message involves a little unethical finance management, and serves as a good lesson for us.

Today we are going read about a travesty that took place with the early church in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, most all of us has experienced church challenges of one type or another. We would like to think that these things would never happen because we are Christians and we share God’s love. However as long as we have broken and sin-filled people, then we all will have challenges at times as well.

In contrast to the examples we will discuss today, last week we ended the message with an uplifting event about a fellow named Barnabas.  Verse 36 of Acts chapter 4 said: There was a man named Barnabas that sold a field that belonged to him, then he brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This fellow Barnabas is mentioned several times in scripture and he shines as one of the most mature, reliable, loveable leaders of the early church. He trusted God and demonstrated his freedom from the love of things, and he had a big heart of love for the poor. He sold his field and gave all the proceeds to the apostles. He trusted God’s grace more than his things. That was a great example of a right relationship with God and His bride the church.

Again, that’s where we left off last week, now let’s look another event from this same book of Acts as recorded by Doctor Luke.
Please turn in your Life Book Bibles to Acts 5:1, pg 122 in the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, and let us start with prayer.   [Prayer]

So the church was growing like crazy. Thousands were being added to the ministry daily. People all over the place were starting to notice. This church in Jerusalem was new, fresh, and blessed in many ways.

Peter was managing this church growth very well to this point. People were sacrificing what they had for the cause, and Barnabas was giving and doing even more than what was normal, so he stood out and people noticed.

Acts 5 1But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Now from all that I read and researched, I believe that these folks (Ananias and his wife Sapphira) were Christians and part of the first church family; they decided to give to the church some of what they had as they were in need. They sold some land, just like Barnabas did previously. Barnabas didn’t intend on getting any attention for his offering, but obviously people took notice.

I find it interesting in these first verses that it says the wife Sapphira gave consent. Thats interesting because it was not normally the practice in the Jewish community. I don’t know if it was because of the new Christian perspective that she was a participant in the decision making process or not, however it is indeed noteworthy, and I would argue it to be a good practice.

I have taught several courses on financial management over the years, and I have counseled many married couples, and I can tell you that most healthy Christian families work together on financial issues. There are always exceptions for good reasons, but God gives us an opportunity through marriage to capitalize upon the intellect and partnership of resources in these matters. Although we will see that this example does not end well for this particular couple, we can appreciate the fact that they were making decisions together.

So these folks were part of the Christian family, and the made an effort together to sell a piece of property and give only part of the proceeds to the church. They laid the money at the Apostles feet. The problem is, although they presented publically that they were giving all the proceeds, they actually only gave a portion. They were lying to the church family, and effectively lying to God as well.

 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

Everyone say “God knows”. I want you to notice in these verses that although Ananias presented the money to the church, Peter says that it was Satan who took advantage of Ananias’s empty heart and filled it with this deceitful, hypercritical idea. That is how Satan works in the hearts and minds of Christians. You see there is a place in our hearts that needs to be filled up on a regular basis. Deep down you probably know that of your own self, even if you can’t put it into words. The New Testament speaks frequently about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and if we aren’t filling that space with Godly things, then we will still feel the need to fill it with something else. Satan and his demons cannot control Christians, however when we feel that void, we unconsciously or consciously choose what to fill that void up with, Godly things, or sinful things.

In John 8:44 Jesus said about Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.

Ananias was filled with Satan’s lie. Sadly, we too effectively sometimes invite Satin to fill our hearts with his evil ways and sin as well. And as this example demonstrates, sometimes as a result devastation ensues.

In this case, Peter points out that it was Ananias’s who chose to sell the property. Nobody was demanding or even asking for him to sell their property; he chose to sell it for the purposes of deceiving everyone to think that they were like Barnabas, and deserving of the same accolades and notoriety the he got. We are going to see in verses ahead that God pays attention to the heart of the giver.

You see a proper Christian perspective is that God gives us the privilege of managing monies and resources that we acknowledge He owns in the first place. He doesn’t demand anyone to give, but He wishes you to participant in His ministry for your own joy and pleasure. When He sees your joy then He is happy. 2 Corinthians 9 states “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God wants you to care so much about His ministry, and His bride the church that you give because you love Him and appreciate what He has done for you.
Then just like a parent gives to their child when they know there is need, God will provide for you as well. Parents want to help their children, they want to participate in their lives. And when God sees people being a cheerful giver, He is well pleased. When He sees us being good stewards of what He has trusted us with, He might even give you more to be trusted with. God loves a cheerful, humble and caring giver. In this case, Ananias was none of that. He was trying to make a name for himself, he was attempting to deceive Peter, and as we will see in these next verses, Sapphira his wife, was right there with him in that.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

Everyone say, “God knows”. That is what we have here again. They had already buried this woman’s husband, and it was now her turn to talk with that great investigator Peter. God knew what was in her heart, and the Holy Spirit revealed that to Peter. Peter confronted her just as he had confronted her husband previously, only to result in tragic circumstances. I would bet that although these folks were trying to get recognition by telling this lie, the people already knew what was going on and was an audience to witness what God was going to do about it. Even today, real-estate transactions are part of the public record and even mentioned in the local newspaper. And although they didn’t necessarily have newspapers those days, there was town gossip. And I am here to tell you, town gossip travels faster than the internet even. Don’t lie church. As we see here, your lies catch up to ya.

I want to address now a couple of “Why” questions that is normally associated with this event. This is a real incident, not a parable, but a real-life example for us learn from.

First Question: Why would God kill two people for just lying?
God’s reasons for bringing about the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira involve more about God’s hatred of sin in general, and the hypocrisy of the couple.
And it serves as a harsh lesson for the rest of the church both then and now.
It wasn’t about the money, it was about their deceit and hypocrisy. God has always dealt with such things harshly, all the way back to Adam and Eve. I was just reading yesterday in 1 Samuel 15 where King Saul, the first King of the Jewish nation, was told by God to destroy the Amalekites, but Saul kept some of the plunder and said He was even going to sacrifice it to the Lord. But that is not what God told Saul to do. God told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice”.
God doesn’t need your sacrifices and offerings, What He wants, is your heart.

Second Question: Were Ananias and Sapphira saved and did they go to heaven? While only God knows for sure, I believe they were saved and went to heaven when they died. Recall Peter said in Acts 5:3 that they lied to the Holy Spirit, so that means they had the Holy Spirt which comes through salvation.
But the best evidence that they were children of God, may be that they received discipline. Hebrews 12:6 and Proverbs 3:12 say “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Ananias and his wife had conspired to get praises of the church, but were disciplined by death instead.

The sudden, dramatic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira also served as a warning for the church. Right away in the church’s infancy, God made it plain that hypocrisy and dishonesty were not going to be tolerated. His judgment and discipline helped guard the church against future deceptions.

Furthermore, the incident involving Ananias and Sapphira helped to establish the apostles’ authority in the church. If the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira had succeeded in fooling Peter, it may have severely damaged the apostles’ authority.

The sad story of Ananias and Sapphira is not some vague incident from the Old Testament regarding a violation of Mosaic Law. This occurred in the first-century church to believers in Jesus Christ. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a reminder to us today that God sees the heart, that He hates sin, and that He is concerned for the purity of His church. As Jesus says in Revelation 2:23, “All the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds”. That goes for this church, but it also goes for each individual as well.

The last verse of this story is very telling. Luke wrote: And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.
Great Fear sounds pretty scary doesn’t it. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..” But what does it mean to “fear the Lord” and why is this fear the beginning of wisdom?

I would bet those that knew Ananias and Sapphira were shaken when they realized what had happened. To witness God taking the life of their friend in this matter was I am sure shocking. We can look at the word fear in a couple different ways. Fear like in scared, and fear like in respect.

Fear and respect that God is the Creator.  He is the Creator of ALL things.  As such, He owes no one anything, all things are done according to His will, and nothing happens outside of his will.  [Daniel 4:34]

Fear and respect that God is the Almighty, all power is His.  He is sovereign and He is in control of every aspect of all things, from the foundations of the earth, to the weather. The fact that even time bows down to Him should get our attention.

Fear and respect knowing that God needs nothing.  Because He is the Creator of all things, He owes nothing to anyone or anything. God most certainly does not need man. Man is God’s creation and as such, God can do with us whatever He pleases. Man is created for God’s glory

Since God is so far greater than us and He can do with us as He wills, including destroying us in a moment, we should be fearful.  We MUST recognize who He is and who we are NOT. We have absolutely no hope apart from God’s mercy upon us, and fortunately God loves us and is exceedingly and abundantly merciful. We should never take that mercy for granted.  Never.

God Knows, brother and sisters, God Knows.

4 conclusions I offer you today:

  1. Sin in the life of a believer is even more serious than sin in the life of an unbeliever…for you are God’s child, His representative and ambassador.
  2. Be very careful not to lie to God. The repercussions can even prove to be deadly to you and your loved ones.
  3. Guard against hypocrisy in your life…be the same at home as at church.
  4. The devil is the king of lies and manipulations. Therefore fill your heart with Godly things, leaving no room for Satan’s schemes.

Let us close with a final verse for reflection..

In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have [already] received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And as we are now entering into this new tax year, I will leave you with a positive thought, there ain’t no taxes in heaven J

Let Us Pray:   Please stand.. Heavenly Father..