The political usage of “judge not” in scripture to support abortion (or any other evil)

September 3, 2019

 

This brief article will address the wicked practice of people using God’s holy scripture to defend sin.

Here’s scripture that is so frequently wrested out of context:

Luke 6.36,37

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”

For starters, I am not judging anyone, God will do all of the judging of people. I am abhorring evil & reproving the unfruitful works of darkness, (as God tells us Christians to do in scripture, as you will soon see).

I’m also telling the workers of iniquity that God offers them salvation in the risen Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith. And I’m telling them that if He saved me in my wickedness, then He can do it for you too. If anyone hasn’t come to Him for salvation to be cleansed of their guilt, then they haven’t come to Him legitimately for salvation. We are all dead in our trespasses and sins apart from being saved, (Ephesians 2.1, Colossians 2.13).

[Moreover, if defenders of iniquity really embraced that section of scripture regarding “judge not” (as they define its meaning), then why would any abortion supporter defend the prosecution of any mother who kills one of her toddler children?

(Hypocrites of all ilk) wrest scripture out of context for their personal gain, just as false prophets do].

Why don’t these same people also reference the following scripture?

Isaiah 5.20

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Psalm 97.10

“Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Romans 12.9

“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”

Ephesians 5.11

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

Proverbs 6.16,17

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,”

Killing defenseless children is wickedness, and claiming Holy scripture as a defense to do it is extreme wickedness! It’s blasphemy against God to use His words to defend evil!

Repentance unto God is the solution to these sins, but for such people who will not repent unto the Lord Jesus Christ, terror will overwhelm them at their judgment such as they have never known.

Matthew 24.51

“And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Hebrews 10.30,31

“For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

All glory to the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

https://logosdot.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/the-political-usage-of-judge-not-in-scripture-to-support-abortion-or-any-other-evil/

https://leeposkey.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/the-political-usage-of-judge-not-in-scripture-to-support-abortion-or-any-other-evil/


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Anything …With God

 

September 6, 2019 by Discerning Dad

 

How many times have you heard it said, “You can do anything you set your mind to”? As great as that sounds, there are many bothersome things with that statement, the least of which is that it is flatly wrong. When I was a young ridiculous teenager, many, many years ago, I was a Beatles fanatic. I would dream about being on stage singing “She Loves You” with thousands of girls screaming for me, and, of course, being able to perform so well. I started taking guitar lessons and was certain I would be turning heads in no time.

Then reality began to set in. After years of effort, that golden voice that resonated in the shower, that made me certain girls would be chasing me down the block when I left my house, was typically way off key when heard in the real world. Not to mention other missing traits, excellent guitar skills, superb song writing skills, rhythm…sadly the list goes on. As I got older it became clear, I will never be a Beatle. DUH! This was simply absurd, as is our propositional phrase. God had gifted those men with extraordinary abilities, and no amount of practice, money, or coaching could ever cause these abilities to inhere in me.

Yes, reality does at times stink. And, can you imagine if we could do ANYTHING we set our mind to? There have been times I’ve wished for some dreadful things. I am grateful I wasn’t able to accomplish any of them—thank God for my limitations. HUH? Yes, we are fallen creatures with the ability to do great harm. Limitations, among other things, limit the damage we can do.

The phrase “You can do anything you set your mind to” is only true for one person, really three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Only a being that possess omnipotence and complete sovereignty over all things can produce and guarantee a particular outcome. How unbelievably fortunate we are that our God possess these wonderful qualities and is also good, perfect, and without error or malice. Otherwise we would be doomed.

It’s really the word ANYTHING that kills the phrase. Still, most people, at one stage, or even several stages in their life, ask the question, what CAN I do with my life? Is it too lofty to believe that we have something special to offer? No. The Lord himself not only encourages it, but has also ordained it:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 KJV

Aside from the fact that the works are to be good, the phrase “God hath before ordained” means that God had been intimately involved in planning our lives before we were born, and with that has instilled in us the traits necessary to achieving these plans, though we may not know it, or maybe we do? God is not limited in what he can instill in any human being, that is, within the bounds of what he has decided a human being can or can’t be.

For example, he gave David the power and skill necessary to defeat lions and bears in hand-to-hand combat. And who can forget he was given the ability to defeat Goliath. God had ordained this for David. I don’t believe anyone else could have defeated Goliath, but David. If we pause here as David is faced with the challenge of Goliath, and ask the question, what can David do with his life at this instant, we can see that God had provided the evidence David needed to make his decision. The question arises, did David have any assurance that he could do this? The obvious and typical answer is, yes, of course. David had great faith in his mighty God. This is true, but the more relevant question, is, did David believe God could and would do this through him? That is the question at the core after all, right? He knew, in the Lord, he could overcome incredible odds from his experiences fighting lions and bears. In David’s case, I would argue that he was provided sufficient reason for trusting that God would use him this way. David was keenly aware that God had been working in his life from long ago as we can see from his words in this Psalm:

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:13-16 NASB

We must do away with the notion that God only started working in our lives when we got saved, when in reality He started in eternity past and continued through our birth to present day.

Furthermore, we must be aware of any unwillingness in us to do what God has prepared for us, as it was in a certain great figure from the past. Long before David, was Moses. Raised in the Pharaoh’s household, he became intimately familiar with the ways and mindset of this aristocracy. And they with him. God did not choose at random, a man to lead his people from bondage in Egypt. He purposed to use Moses and orchestrated circumstances that lead to Moses being taken from his true family and placed in the palace of Pharaoh to be reared in Egyptian culture. All this was done to prepare Moses for his future calling. Unfortunately for Moses, unlike David, when his time came, he did not greet it with open arms. He was resistant and full of excuses. He did not see himself as fitting the part. He did not consider his history as being woven by the sovereign hand of God to prepare him for this day. Thankfully, God in His mercy condescended to Moses concerns, and appointed Aaron to be his mouthpiece. This is a wonderful picture of how God is willing to help us succeed in doing what he has called us to do.

One last example from the life and ministry of Paul. Being the humble guy, he was, Paul said:

“Although I myself have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee; as to zeal a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, found blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6 NASB

Yes, yes, he does say in the next verse that whatever things were gain, he now counts as loss, but this is meant in the sense that it is not those things that contribute to his salvation and relationship to Jesus. The things he calls out here did have value in Paul’s ministry. And the Lord is the one who sovereignly instilled them in him and did so before Paul came to know Jesus. Paul’s vast knowledge of the scriptures contributed greatly to his ability to express how Jesus fulfilled the messianic scriptures. Most Christian biblical scholars, if not all, consider Paul to be the greatest theologian that ever lived. His knowledge, under the power of the Holy Spirit, has given the Church a great understanding of the essence and power of the Gospel. This, along with his zeal for the Gospel, allowed him to spread the message to so many, in the face of great adversity. This man was well prepared beforehand by God. We can easily see how God used these divinely instilled qualities strategically for spreading the Gospel.

You may say these are lofty examples, and I’ll never be a Paul, David, or Moses, and you would be correct in saying so. God does not need you to be Paul, David, or Moses. He needs you to be you. You are at your best when you are being the person God made YOU to be. You Christian, are the missing part in someone’s life, or in some community or church. YOUR effectiveness may be on hold until YOU discover from the experiences YOU’VE had, the way YOU feel, the convictions YOU hold, the skills YOU embody, the sufferings YOU’VE endured, and even from the weaknesses YOU possess, that YOU have something precious to offer, instilled by the hand of God.

Discerning Reflection:
Think through your life experiences from as far back as you can remember, both good and bad. How did people and events affect your life? What drives you? What do you feel deeply about, and why? What things have you learned to do well? What skills have others noticed in you? Instead of just thinking about these things, write them down…it will help to paint a clearer and more useful picture.

Prayer:
Lord, help me to open my heart and mind to what you have instilled in me. Help me to understand who you have made me to be and do. Help me to let you use my life, that it may be profitable for you. Amen.

Mark DiSalvo

Guest Discerning Dad

 

Guest- Mark DiSalvo- Anything…with God

VIDEO When Sin Entered the Church, part 2

Sept 28, 2014 by John MacArthur

Acts 5.  “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men, but to God.’  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.  The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.  Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’  And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’  Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?  Behold, the feet of those who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’  And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard these things.  At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.  But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.  And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”

Frankly, that seems a bizarre approach to church growth; killing people at the offering, frightening the people in the church and terrifying the people outside the church.  But as it turns out, based upon that text, that kind of divine action bringing judgment on the church, God used as a means to add more believers.  This is the first sinful event in the life of the church, the first sinful event.  In fact, it is in this text that we have the word church used for the first time in the book of Acts.  Even though the church began on the Day of Pentecost, that word, which is so familiar to us, doesn’t actually appear until the passage that I read you. 

This is not the first sin.  There was always sin from the Day of Pentecost on because though they were redeemed, they were still sinful.  Believers sin, but this is the first sin recorded in Acts.  This is the first public discipline of sin, and it all started out so wonderfully.  Jesus rose from the dead.  He spent 40 days, as the Book of Acts begins, meeting with His disciples, speaking with them of things concerning His kingdom.  Then they select somebody to take the place of Judas, a man named Matthias so the apostles, it is back to 12.  Then the Day of Pentecost comes, and the Spirit arrives.  By the work of the Spirit, by Christ through the Spirit, He literally creates His body by the Holy Spirit placing all believers into one by sharing the common life of Christ.

The church is born on the Day of Pentecost.  There are miraculous evidences that God is at work and something remarkable is happening.  Then the gospel is preached and 3,000 people believe.  First, it’s 120.  Then it’s 3,000, and then Peter preaches again and another 5,000 men.  So it’s 3, 000 men, then 5,000 men.  Add the women, add the young people to that, and the church is 20,000 or so, and it’s all flourishing, and it’s all joyful.  Chapter 4, as you remember, verses 32 to 37 ends with a look at the unity of the church, amazing unity.  They were all, according to verse 32, “one heart, one soul.”  Nobody was holding on to property that they possessed.  Not only liquid assets that they possessed, but even those assets that weren’t like houses and property, they would be willing to sell in order to provide money for needy people, so that verse 34 says, “There was not a needy person among them.”

They weren’t trying to control their giving.  They laid it as the apostles’ feet, verse 35, and let the apostles distribute the money to anyone who had need.  Well, a man came along that becomes a very important part of the Book of Acts.  His name is Joseph.  He is a Levite from Cyprus.  We know him as Barnabas because he was nicknamed “son of encouragement.”  He owned a tract of land and sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet to be distributed to the folks who had need.

Remember, there were a lot of believers in Jerusalem who had come for the feast of Pentecost from other towns around the Mediterranean, other countries.  Since this was the only church, they stayed, and there was nothing to go back to.  So they’d become a burden for the church, and they need care.  So people are literally selling their assets in order to meet the needs of those who depend on them in this situation.  Even later in the Book of Acts, Paul is going around Asia on his missionary journeys collecting money from gentile churches to give to the Jews who were still in Jerusalem. Also, I have to add the fact that when these people identify with Christ, they would have been put out of the synagogue.  Not long from now, they’ll begin to feel some serious persecution, but they would have been cut off from social life.  So these folks wouldn’t have been offered economic opportunities and jobs.  Maybe the opposite would have happened.  Some of them would have lost their families, family support, inheritances as well as jobs.

So, everything looks absolutely wonderful.  We come to the end of chapter 4 on a high point.  The gospel is being preached.  People are being converted.  Unity exists in the church, and then we hit chapter 5.  Against the background of all this wondrous work of God is this really devastating Sunday in the early church.  This, by its nature is a sin that the church has to always recognize.  It is the sin of hypocrisy.  It is blatant in this case.  It is devastating.  It is exposed.  It is exposed because the Lord exposes it.  Normally, it’s not exposed.  It normally survives for a very long time, a very long time.

In fact, in some cases, we don’t ever find out about hypocrisy.  People die as hypocrites.  Some men’s sins, the Bible says, follow after them, but some don’t.  Time and truth go hand in hand, but sometimes hypocrisy is so well-managed that we never find out.  But just to let us know that this is of dire consequences in the life of the church, this is what Paul calls the leaven that leavens the whole lump.  The Lord exposes such a sin to make us aware of its presence, and shows us how He feels about it by executing in front of the whole church the two hypocrites.

By its nature, hypocrisy is hidden.  That’s what it is.  By its nature, it’s a disguise.  It’s a mask.  It’s a rouse.  It’s covered, but Scripture is very clear on the seriousness of religious hypocrisy, spiritual hypocrisy.  Our Lord’s most strong devastating malediction that ever came out of His lips, Matthew 23, was given against the hypocrisy of the leaders of Israel.  God hates hypocrisy, even in the early years of human history. 

Go way back to the patriarchal period and look at Job, for example, and his conversation with his friends because the issue of hypocrisy comes up a lot in the Book of Job.  Job is in the time of the Pentateuch, historically, very early in redemptive history.  In Job 8:13 we read, “The hope of the hypocrite shall perish.”  In Job 13:16 we read, “A hypocrite cannot stand before God.”  In Job 15:34 we read, “The company of hypocrites shall be barren.”  Job 20:5, “The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment.”  So way back at the very beginning of redemptive history we find out that whatever hypocrites hope for, perishes.  They cannot stand before God.  Their lives are barren, and their joy is only for a moment. 

In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul warns those who he says, “Boast in appearance, but not in heart.”  Hypocrisy is unmasked by our Lord again and again.  I’m not going to take the time to delve into all of the things that He said about hypocrisy, but obviously just knowing Matthew chapter 23, and being familiar with that gives you a full idea of how He viewed hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is a corrupter, and it should be exposed, and it should be judged, listen, for the sake of the hypocrite and for the sake of the church.  It needs to be addressed.  So-called churches, so-called churches today welcome piles and piles of people who make a pretense of interest in Jesus Christ and never warn them about hypocrisy.  To be called a hypocrite, to be warned about a being a hypocrite is very offensive, very offensive.  But we have to do that for the sake of the hypocrite who needs to be exposed for his own sake and the sake of the church.  It needs to have the hypocrite exposed for its own health sake. 

But again, churches that are that direct and that concerned about hypocrisy and that targeted at genuine conversion, genuine sanctification, genuine godliness are not the norm today.  They’re just not.  The idea today is to make everybody feel comfortable and to welcome people who have a nominal or superficial interest in Jesus, but that’s not God’s attitude towards hypocrisy. 

His church is a gathering of truly redeemed people, and He is not eager to have hypocrites hiding in it.  That, in fact, is a work of Satan.  Jesus said, “An enemy sows tares among the wheat,” and the enemy is Satan who sows the hypocrites among the genuine.  This literally sucks the power out of the church, corrupts the unity of the church, devastates the testimony of the church, confusing the world.  Having superficially committed people in the church is not helpful.  They may feel good about it, but it doesn’t help the church.  It doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t advance the gospel effectively because it confuses people as to what a Christian really is, at least those who know the truth about those hypocrites.

So against that beautiful backdrop is the reality that Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 13 that when the wheat begins to grow, the enemy will sow tares and those are the hypocrites.  Here, we have a perfect illustration of the fulfillment of Matthew 13, Matthew 13.  This sin is a sin that needs to be recognized.  There are sins that are easy to recognize.  They are overt.  They are manifest.  They are experiential.  But what you can see is not nearly as dangerous as what you can’t see.  And this is the kind of thing that literally sucks the very power and testimony out of the church because, by design, it intends to be invisible.

Now, as we look at this account of this sin, we’ll just give you four little titles.  First of all, sinful pretense, sinful pretense.  “But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price for himself with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.” 

The little word “but” is there.  We know something is up.  Against this beautiful backdrop of verses 32 to 37, and you could even go back to verse 31.  They had all been filled with the Holy Spirit.  They were speaking the Word of God with boldness.  There was all this wonderful unity, one heart, one soul, all this love, sacrifice, giving, all this trust in the apostles.  Against the beauty of this background is the word “but,” “but.”  A word of failure, a sad word.  This is the word that signals evil.  Two members of that church, two of those believers, and they are professed believers, and I think it’s fair to say they are very likely believers because there don’t appear to be in this congregation folks whose faith is called into question.  Why do I say that?  Because they were all, all continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, prayers, fellowship, breaking of bread.  They were all, verse 31 of chapter 4, “Filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

So these wouldn’t be false Christians at this early point, but these would be hypocritical believers, hypocritical believers.  Two believers caught up in pride are the first hypocrites who are identified in the church.  Ananias’ name means “the Lord is gracious” and Sapphira’s name means “sapphire, beautiful, jewel.”  The deed is anything but gracious and anything but beautiful.  They are believers.  You say, “Well, wait a minute.  This kind of severe discipline against believers?”  Absolutely.  According to 1 Corinthians 11:30-32 there were actual true believers that God was killing at the Lord’s Table.  “Some of you are weak and some of you are sick, and some of you – ” what? “ – sleep.”  You’re dead because of how you desecrate the My table.  Some of you, some of you. 

“Among believers – ” 1 John 5:16, “ – there is a sin unto death.”  So this is that kind of situation.  You have sinning believers, and their sin is this hypocritical pretense that begins to unfold in verse 2.  This piece of property that they sell brings a certain price, but they kept back some of the price, both of them agreeing, and they brought only a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 

Obviously, they had publicly declared they were going to give it all.  That was what others were doing.  That is what we see being illustrated.  For example, back in chapter 4, verse 34.  If there was someone who owned land or houses, they would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet.  Then there was Barnabas who did that, owned a tract of land, sold it, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  Now, obviously, there’s gratitude.  There’s affection.  There’s love.  There’s honor.  There’s praise being heaped on the people making the sacrifice, and Ananias and Sapphira want to get in on this.  So they decide they’re going to sell a piece of property, and they make a public declaration that they’re going to give all the proceeds, that it’s all going to go for God, but this is a complete pretense.  They are like Pharisees, Matthew 6, “Doing their alms before men,” to be seen.

But nonetheless, they sell a piece of property, as the others had done.  They show up and they lay an amount of money at the apostles’ feet minus what they had kept back for themselves.  The sin is not that they didn’t give everything.  That’s not the sin.  You don’t have to give everything.  In fact, they weren’t commanded to give anything.  God didn’t command them to sell their house, sell their land.  God never demanded that.  The selling was voluntary.  The sin was not that they kept back some of the price, that they could sell the land if they wanted and keep some of the price.  They could sell the house and keep some of the price.  It’s not a sin.  It’s not a sin to keep it, not a sin to sell it and keep some of the price.  It is a sin to lie about it.  That’s the hypocrisy.  They had vowed to the Holy Spirit to give everything, and this was a pretense before the congregation and before the apostles while they were secretly holding back some of it.

The sin is not in the selling.  The sin is not in the keeping.  The sin is in the lying.  They committed a secret sin and, of course, secret sin on earth in open scandal in heaven because you can’t hide it.  They wanted spiritual status.  They wanted to be elevated.  They wanted to be exalted.  They wanted to be honored and appreciated as others who had done this.  They sought prestige.  They wanted to be thought of as great and godly and generous and sacrificial, but they weren’t willing to give up everything.  They just wanted to appear to be giving up everything. 

So they made a pretense of giving it all.  The lie was simply the vehicle that their greed used to gain their ends.  The sin is the sin of hypocrisy.  It’s a dirty sin.  It’s trying to create the impression you’re something you’re not.  You’re doing something you’re not, you’re giving something you’re not.  Thus, did Satan move from the outside persecution to the inside?  What did I tell you about persecution?  What did persecution do to the church?  Empowered the church, expanded the church.  The old saying, “The blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church is absolutely true.”  The more the church is persecuted, the more it flourishes.  We saw that.

So Satan was being counterproductive by persecuting the church.  He’ll do it again and he’s done it through history, but a persecuted church is a purified church, and a purified church is a powerful church and a growing church.  So Satan decides that his external work didn’t gain his end, so he goes inside the church to corrupt the church from the inside.  This sin, which God hates, is the sin of hypocrisy among believers, among believers. 

It’s not wrong not to give everything you have.  It’s not wrong to hang onto your property, to hang onto your house.  That’s a choice God allows you to make.  The Lord has given us richly all things to enjoy.  It’s just wrong to lie.  It’s wrong to create an imaginary image of yourself.  It’s wrong to be a hypocrite, and it also needs to be said that you’re lying to the Holy Spirit.  Verse 3, “Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?’”  Did you think you could fool the Holy Spirit?  This is so ugly in God’s eyes, so ugly.  To paint spiritual beauty where it doesn’t exist, to paint virtue where it doesn’t exist, but it happens in the church all the time. 

People say there’s hypocrisy in the church.  Of course there is, of course there is.  There always has been.  That’s the first sin that is recorded in the life of the church.  But you need to know God’s attitude toward that hypocrisy.  That’s why the story is here.  Yes, it’s in the church.  Yes, it’s in this church.  Yes, we’re all subject to putting on a mask of spirituality that’s not legitimate.  You just need to know God’s attitude towards hypocrisy in the church by the people of the church.  Sinning saints feigning holiness, feigning virtue, pretending godliness.  Very dishonoring to God.

So we see the sinful pretense in the first two verses.  Then we see the spiritual perception.  Spiritual perception comes quickly in verses 3 and 4.  “Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men, but to God.’” 

Peter immediately saw the deception.  How?  How did he know that?  I don’t think he took a look at the books, their private accounting.  I don’t think he necessarily knew whoever did the transaction or brought the property or knew the price.  I think the Holy Spirit is at work here, and he was given the ability to discern this.  This is pretty bold on Peter’s part because everything is going really well.  Peter might have said, “You know, things are going so well.  The church is booming, people are being converted.  This is a glorious time.  There’s so much love and so much unity, and we did get a lot of money from Ananias and Sapphira.  Maybe I ought to just cool my heels here a little bit.  Why do I want to make an issue out of this?  It’s better that they sold the land and we got what we got.  After all, Ananias and Sapphira are some of the wealthier people in our congregation.  We need his shackles coming in to keep the work going, and he was generous, and we want to be appreciative.”  Those are not his thoughts.  Those are the thoughts of a rationalizing compromiser. 

Ananias comes to church, and he’s ready to receive honor from the apostles for the money that he places at the apostles’ feet in verse 2, and instead after he’s deposited his money, and assuming he’s still standing there, Peter says, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  Whoa!  Immediate spiritual perception, immediate. 

The whole church back in 4:31 was filled with the Spirit, but here the same word filled is being used of Ananias being filled with Satan.  I don’t know all the dynamics of this.  Literally, this man opened himself up to satanic influence.  I don’t believe that Christians can be demon-possessed in the sense that demons take up a permanent residence in them, but I believe they can be demon-influenced, Satan-influenced.  The apostle Paul says, “Don’t let Satan take an advantage of us.”  The apostle Paul say, “Put on the whole armor or God because we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against – ” what? “ – principalities and powers and the rulers of spiritual darkness and wickedness in the heavenly places.”

We’re in a battle with demonic forces.  They don’t live in us because we’re the temple of the Holy Spirit, but they have influence over us.  Because of the lie and the hypocrisy, they had given place to the devil.  They had given place to the devil.  It isn’t so much that they were money lovers.  They were.  It isn’t so much that they were greedy.  It isn’t so much that they were liars.  All of that is true.  They were really glory-seekers, and that’s so ugly.  Glory-seekers pollutes the church.  Just be honest.  Just be real. 

Do you not think the Holy Spirit knows?  You open yourself up to Satan’s influence.  That would be the last thing any true believer would want, right?  I mean we don’t want to open ourselves up to the influence of Satan.  That’s what hypocrisy does.  So we see the sinful pretense and the spiritual perception of the apostle who nails it while a man is still standing there just having put the money on the altar.  Thirdly, come swift punishment, very swift.  God moves fast to perform surgery. Cut out the hypocritical cancer from this beautiful creation, the body of Christ.  The judgment is swift.  The judgment is terminal. 

Peter says, “Look, you didn’t have to give it.  While it remained unsold, it was yours.  You didn’t have to give all of it.  Even after it was sold, it was under your control.  You could do what you want.  Why have you conceived this deed of lying that you’re giving it all when you’re not?  You have not lied to men, but to God.”  This is so corrupting in the church.  Hypocrisy, spiritual hypocrisy is so corrupting in the church that God’s action is shockingly swift.  “And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last.”  He died on the spot.  What an amazing moment in the church.

What killed him?  Well, you remember reading from the twelfth chapter of Acts how God struck another man, and he was eaten by worms and died who usurped undue glory to himself.  What killed Ananias?  We don’t have any clinical report.  We have no idea.  There’s an old record, kind of interesting in English history that says, “One day, Edward I,” the king who was a fierce guy, “blazed in such anger at the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London that the man dropped dead on the spot of fear, under the sheer power of the verbal barrage from Edward I.”  I don’t know how true that is, but it is true that there can be literally such an overwhelming terror that grips the heart. 

Just imagine Ananias comes.  He’s all decked out.  Sapphira’s not there.  She needs three more hours to do her hair.  She doesn’t show up for three hours.  He’s there.  He’s ready for his big moment.  He walks up, lays down his money.  Peter says, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?  You blatant Satan-influenced liar,” in front of the whole church.  His conscience went into immediate tremors.  His heart surely began to beat fiercely as he was trapped in the horrors of his hypocrisy.

You could say he died of a ruptured heart, or you could say God killed him, but whatever happened, no doubt he was so literally terrified of that moment that he must have been horror-stricken.  When that killed him or God added to that, I don’t know.  He came up for glory and he was stunned at what faced him.  Burial, as you know from Lazarus, was immediate in Israel.  So the young men got up and covered him up.  They went up and put some kind of cloth on the dead man lying in the front of wherever they were meeting there, and carried him out and buried him.

Burial was immediate in Palestine, immediate.  No embalming.  We saw that, right?  Just to review that.  Burial was immediate.  The body begins to decay and rigor mortis sets in.  You know the whole process.  So the burial is right then.  That’s the perfect illustration of how the Jews dealt with dead bodies.  The young men take him out to wherever the appropriate place was, and they bury him.  This takes three hours.  There elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in not knowing what had happened.

As I’ve often said, this proves that church services should be at least three hours long and maybe even longer.  They should be at least long enough for people to fall out of the window, break their neck and die, be raised from the dead, come back, and hear the rest of the sermon as we’ll find out later in the Book of Acts with Eutychus.   

She comes to church, puffing up her hair.  All excited to get a little of the glory because by now it’s rippled through the crowd.  Everybody knows they’ve given the gift.  She’s coming in.  It’s all theater for her.  She walks in.  Peter responded to her.  “’Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’  She said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’  Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?  Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they’ll carry you out as well.’  And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”

Why would it take three hours to do that?  Because burials always had to take place outside the city because grave sites, caves, places of burial were never inside the city.  Notice the question in verse 9.  Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?  Are you trying to see if the Holy Spirit can spot hypocrisy?  Is that the test?  Is that what you’re doing?  Do you think you can deceive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God?”

What folly.  What stupidity.  It wasn’t as if there was any question about the Holy Spirit being present.  This isn’t now where we don’t see manifestations of the Holy Spirit that are visual; but from the very beginning on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came, there were visible manifestations of the Spirit’s power.  Languages were being spoken people didn’t know.  There was a loud noise like a mighty rushing wind.  There were tremors.  There were all kinds of phenomenon going on, and then there were miraculous signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles.  Miracles were flourishing in the early church, and it was very clear that the Holy Spirit was present and powerful.

The question says, “How ridiculous are you?  How stupid are you?  Do you not know that the Holy Spirit is present?  Do you think you need to give Him a test to see if He can spot a hypocrite?”  So she fell at his feet, Peter’s feet, just like her husband had fallen at Peter’s feet.  It all happens in the same spot.  Ananias comes, puts the money down, falls over dead.  Haul him out.  She comes to Peters, falls over dead.  They haul her out.  Right where the money was laid.  Ah, it’s just a stunning Sunday in an otherwise glorious beginning in the life of the church.

Somebody might look at this and say, “Well, this is the end.  I mean this is the end.  There’s no hope for that church.  People are going to run like mad.  They’re going to flee.”  I remember when I first came to Grace Church, I’d never heard of a church, never through all my years as a student, through all of the times that I grew up in my dad’s church and knew lots of churches and pastors.  Through all of my seminary days, I’d never heard of any church that did discipline like Matthew 18.

If a brother sins, go to him, confront him.  If he repents, you’ve gained your brother.  If he doesn’t, take two or three witnesses, confront him again.  If he repents, you’ve gained your brother.  If he doesn’t repent, tell the church, tell the whole church to go confront him.  If he still doesn’t repent, put him out and treat him like an outcast, a tax collector because you treat him like an unbeliever because he’s acting like an unbeliever.  Get him out because as 1 Corinthians 5 says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  That’s the first instruction in the entire New Testament given to the church. 

It’s in Matthew chapter 18.  The church is first time mentioned in 16.  The first instruction to the church is to confront sin in the church.  I had never ever heard of a church that did that, never, no church.  Nobody suggested that in any course I had in seminary.  So I came here, and I’m looking at the Bible, and I’m saying, “Why don’t people do this because it’s clear?”  So I asked some older, wiser pastors.  I said, “Why don’t you do this?”  “Well, people will leave.  It will drive them out.  You can’t do that.  You can’t confront sin.  People will run.  You’ll frighten them away, and who are we to sit in judgment.” 

I would answer by saying, “But what do you do with the passage?  What do you do with this?  You just ignore it?”  So I was warned that if you do that, you’ll destroy your ministry and you’ll be out of there.  But really I was hoping to get better advice than that, so I did what the Bible said and guess what?  People didn’t run away.  They ran toward us, and they’re still running toward us because the Lord wants a pure church, and the Lord blesses a pure church.  True believers want a pure church, and the Lord adds to a pure church. 

This is the most critical lesson of church disciple in the Book of Acts because this is before anything is actually implemented and God does the whole thing.  This is 1 Peter 4:17, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”  This is where judgment begins.  The Lord was saying, “I am dead serious about my church.  I’m not playing church.”  I’m dead serious about my church. 

That leaves the fourth principle, the sinful pretense followed by the spiritual perception of Peter led to swift punishment and that produced a solemn purging, a solemn purging.  The end of verse 5, “Great fear came over all who heard of it.”  Great fear.  Fear of whom?  Guess.  Fear of God, fear of God, great fear.  Verse 11, “Great fear came over the whole church and over all who heard these things.”  Twice, same thing.  Verse 5, second half, verse 11.  This is a holy terror, holy fear. 

The Lord is serious about the church.  What do we draw out of this?  God hates the sins of the saints.  They corrupt His church.  God hates hypocrisy.  God hates lying.  God punishes sin.  People died in the early church and people died at the Communion table.  There was a sin unto death.  Purity is critical to the church, and critical to the power of the church and the testimony of the church.  Now, we’re not perfect people, but we don’t want to hide hypocrites, and we don’t want to be hypocrites. 

I don’t know.  If you come up to me and you tell me, “Here’s who I am spiritually,” I’m going to have to take you at face value, but I don’t have any apostolic revelation.  I don’t have any insight.  I promise you I’m not going to judge you.  I don’t have any secret knowledge.  I have no more access to the mind of God than you do.  All I know about God is revealed to me in His Word.  Okay, I don’t have any secret knowledge, so I don’t want you to worry when you come up to me that I’ve got some kind of spiritual radar that’s seeing the real you.  I don’t have that.  I’d like to have it, but that would really be devastating.

I will take you at face value, but I will do this.  I will pray that God will reveal hypocrites.  I will pray that God will reveal hypocrites for their sake and for His church’s sake, and for the sake of the world that is watching us. 

Solemn purging, the Lord will do some of that.  The Lord will reveal some hypocrisy.  The Lord will uncover sin, and we have to be involved in that.  If your brother sins – what?  Go to him, take two or three witnesses, tell the church, pursue purity in the church.  Did it destroy the church?  No.  Verse 12, “At the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were taking place among the people.”  Then parenthetically, we read this: “And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.”  There they are back in that place that we saw Peter with them in chapter 3 and back in the very place in John 10. They’re all back in one accord.   

Somebody said this is where Hondas are first mentioned in the Bible, but that is not accurate.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, you’ll figure it out.  They were all in one accord.  It is a moan.  It’s worthy of a moan.  I understand, yeah. 

But I just want you to know that they all went back to the same unity that they had back in verse 32.  After the sin was dealt with, the corruption was removed, the hypocrites were dead; they were back to where they were before.  The signs and wonders take place.  They’re all unified again.  Verse 13, “But none of the rest dated to associate with them.”  Is that good?  That’s kind of contrary to church growth strategy isn’t it? 

The whole idea was that the Lord was designing a church that non-believers would not want to belong to.  I don’t know how to say that more clearly.  The Lord had designed a church that non-believers would not want to belong to because it’s so pursuing purity.  It’s a place of judgment on sin.  It’s a place of confrontation of sin that we all desire because we have holy affections and divine aspirations, and we want to honor the Christ we love and glorify Him.  But it can’t be a place where non-believers are comfortable.  None of the rest dared to associate with them.  They didn’t have a church growth strategy.  They didn’t have any model to follow.  The pastoral epistles hadn’t been written yet. 

God was designing the church His way and His way was to frighten non-believers as well as to frighten believers.  However, the people held them in high esteem.  Ah, now that does matter.  The people held them in high esteem.  They had immense respect for their purity and their morality and their virtue.  That’s what we want.  We want the world to see our unity.  We want the world to see our purity.  We want the world to see that we are a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who confess Him as Lord and Master, and we are His loving, devoted slaves.  He calls us to holiness, and we pursue that holiness.  We want heaven to come down in the church, and heaven is a place of holiness and purity.

So we want to confront sin and judge sin and remove sin and corruption and hypocrisy.  But at the same time, when the world looks at that, they don’t want to be a part of that because they don’t want the exposure.  Jesus clarified that in John 3 when He said, “Men don’t want to be exposed by the light.”  Okay?  So we understand that, but at the same time, they will respect our unity and our purity.  That’s the Lord’s design for a church, and it worked.  Verse 14, “All the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number.”  Who adds to the church?  Who does that?  The Lord.

So what do we think?  We’re going to do it by developing our own strategy.  Confronting sin, purifying the church will drive away and frighten those who love their sin.  It will make them uncomfortable, but it will attract those who hate sin, and that’s necessary to become a believer. 

This is so far away from the interest of the contemporary church of our day.  Uncalled, unfaithful pastors who try to build their churches on tolerance.  Tolerance for sin, making unbelievers feel welcome.  This is totally contrary to the very action of God Himself in the Book of Acts. 

Look at 2 Corinthians 12 for a minute.  I’ll wrap this up.  Verse 20, 2 Corinthians 12:20 Paul says, “I’m afraid that perhaps when I come – ” come back to Corinth, “ – I may find you to be not what I wish.  I may find you to be not what I wish.  Perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.  I’m actually afraid – ” verse 21 “ – that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality, sensuality.” 

He says, “I’m afraid to come back to the church and find strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, slander, gossip, arrogance, disturbances, impurity, immorality, sensuality.”  That’s what I’m afraid of.  Verse 1 of chapter 13, “This is the third time I’m coming to you – ” and I’ll tell you this, “ – every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  What does that mean?  When I get there, if I find this, I’m going to confront it, and I’m going to do what Matthew 18 says.  I’m going to speak, and if you don’t repent, I’m going to get two or three witnesses.  We’re going to do it by the book.  “I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well that if I come, I will not spare anyone.”

That’s a real pastor.  That’s a true shepherd.  I will not spare anyone.  I will do it by the book, by the plan that God has ordained.  So, verse 5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.  Examine yourselves or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail the test?”  You’d better take a look at your life.  You’d better examine whether you’re a true believer or not because when I come, it’s going to be a no-nonsense approach.  I’m going to be looking to see if any of those sins are there, and if they’re there, they’re going to be confronted, and I won’t spare anybody.  I don’t care who you are.

There’s an, “I don’t care who you are” in the Ananias story because they were wealthy, just the kind of people that leaders don’t want to offend.  This is the strategy for church growth and the church grew.  Back to the book of Acts.  “The Word of God – ” verse 7, chapter 6, “ – kept spreading; and the number of the disciples – ” chapter 6, verse 7, “ – continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem and even a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  Chapter 8, “The crowds as one accord were given attention to what was said by Philip as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing.  More crowds, more crowds.  This in the ministry of Philip. 

Chapter 9, verse 31, “The church throughout all Judea now and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up, going on in the fear of the Lord.”  There it is.  They were going on in the fear of the Lord, the kind of fear that gripped them on that very Sunday when Ananias and Sapphira were killed.  That fear of the Lord, “And as well in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”  This is the biblical plan for church growth.  Chapter 11, “The hand of the Lord was with them – ” verse 21, “ – and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.”  A large number.  The end of verse 24, “Considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.” 

The church just exploding and exploding and exploding off this base of purity and unity, unity and purity.  The apostle gives us a summary I think that’s really helpful.  In 2 Corinthians 11, “I wish that you would bear with me – ” verse 1 “ – in a little foolishness.  Indeed, you are bearing with me for I am jealous for you with a godly jealously.  I betrothed you to one husband so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”  He sees this church like a pure virgin that he has sought and found to give to Christ.  “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”  This is a real pastor.  This is a sanctifying shepherd who is concerned about the purity of his people.

You can read Revelation 2 and 3 on your own and you can read the letters to the churches, and you will notice how the Lord Himself says that when a church is impure, He may come and fight against that church with the sword out of His mouth.  Where there is an impure church, judgment is hanging like Damocles sword over its head, and the Judge will come.

This is a great message for every church in every age to know and to learn, and the motivation from this is that we would be unified in our pursuit of holiness and purity and confronting sin.  At the same time, generously and graciously forgiving others as we have been forgiven by Christ.  It’s a place of the confrontation of sin, forgiveness, grace, and restoration.  That’s for another message. 

Lord, we are grateful that we are not lost in any confusion about what you desire, what you require.  You made it crystal clear how important your holiness, your character is to be upheld by the church.  You were doing this in your church through your Spirit.  This sets the standard for us.  May we never be so brash as to lower that standard.  Keep us faithful.  Keep us one.  Keep us pure.  Keep us joyful we pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/44-20

7 Inspiring Habits for Christians with Anxiety Disorders

Cortni Marrazzo
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer Sept 12, 2019

7 Inspiring Habits for Christians with Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be a hard topic to talk about in many churches and Christian circles. Some people equate chronic anxiety with a lack of faith and trust in God. However, many Christians who have a close relationship with God—and trust Him deeply—still experience high anxiety.

If you are someone who loves and trusts God, yet still regularly face anxiety, I want to encourage you that you are not alone. Hope is not lost. It’s possible to experience the freedom of Christ in your life, even when anxiety is persistently knocking at your door. I want to share with you, based on my experience with anxiety, seven habits for living well in the midst of struggling with anxiety:

1. Focus on the true freedom of Christ.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. – Romans 8:1-2

To experience true freedom in Christ, it helps to recognize what that freedom really entails. The freedom we have in Christ is freedom from condemnation and freedom from the separation from God. If you struggle with anxiety, it’s likely you face a lot of guilt and shame from not doing enough or not being enough (or both). While this guilt and shame can easily overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that this is not how God sees you.

Experiencing freedom in Christ doesn’t necessarily mean you will ever be free from all the symptoms of anxiety on this side of heaven, but you can be free from being in bondage to that anxiety. Despite how you may feel and what you physically experience, you can always stand on the truth of God’s word that promises that God never condemns you and that you are always loved and accepted by Him.

2. Keep coming to God for help with your anxious feelings.

Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. – Hebrews 4:15-16

My own experience with anxiety has caused me to run to God a lot, because I find myself in desperate need of His peace to overcome anxious feelings. I used to try to numb my anxious thoughts with shopping, food, tv, social media…whatever I could do to temporarily drown it out. This was mostly because I felt shame about my struggles, and didn’t want to take it to God for fear of judgement.

I know in my mind that God doesn’t judge me in my weaknesses, but anxiety tries to convince you of things that aren’t true. Jesus was human and experienced anxiety Himself, so not only does He accept and love us no matter what, He can actually relate to our struggles! He was so anxious before dying on the cross that he actually sweated drops like blood (Luke 22:44).

When you are anxious, you are in need of God’s peace, and God tells you to come bravely to Him when you are in need. He promises that you will be treated with undeserved kindness and that He will help you.

Anxiety can cause us to feel ashamed when we are in need, but God actually created us to need Him!

back view of diverse group of adults linking arms around waists, walking forward together

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages

3. Embrace outside help in dealing with your anxiety.

Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. – Proverbs 11:14 MSG

It is very important to seek God’s help when struggling with anxiety, and sometimes part of that help may come from outside sources like a professional counselor. When my son was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I found myself struggling with my own anxiety in trying to navigate how to help my son.

I sought out a Christian counselor who has since helped point me back to God’s Word, while also equipping me with tools and actions to help me physically train my brain to do what God had actually made it to do.

Counselors are trained in methods of dealing with anxiety that make changes at a physical level. They can teach us how we can help our brain recover from the fight or flight reactions that kick into overdrive when anxiety shows up.

Healthy habits like journaling, deep breathing, practicing mindfulness, and many others have personally helped (and continue to help) me when I struggle to get past anxious thoughts and feelings in my life.

4. Take care of your body.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Exercise and diet are huge factors in helping anxiety. Running is something that has personally helped me immensely. I actually didn’t realize just how much until recently when my running partner went on vacation and I took a week off from running and found that I struggled with a lot more anxiety that week than I did when I was regularly running.

For me, when I run or do some other form of exercise consistently, it helps me eat less junk and eat more nutrient-dense foods. Exercise and nutrition have a big impact on your brain and can contribute to the levels of anxiety you experience in your day to day life.

5. Follow God’s leading on how best to tend to your unique anxiety needs.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

There is a wealth of information out there and a lot of people advising those struggling with anxiety. While research, knowledge, and advice are valuable, it’s important to listen to what God is specifically telling you to do. 

Prescription medicines for anxiety disorders can be a controversial choice for some people, but I believe each person should follow God’s leading on this decision. Because an anxiety disorder is a medical diagnosis that stems from the way your brain is wired—and can be genetic—it is highly possible that you may benefit from a medication to help you. This is especially applicable if you’ve found that counseling, diet, exercise, and even prayer just don’t seem to be relieving your anxiety.

If you feel like you could possibly benefit from the help of medication, pray for God’s guidance in this matter, and don’t let fear stop you from at least talking to a counselor and/or your doctor about your options. God may lead to you this resource as a way to help you.

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve taken medication to help me through some particularly rough seasons. Before making that decision, I prayed about it and when I sensed His peace about it, I continued to trust that God would help the medication work in my brain.

I continued to seek God and use other strategies to help myself while taking medication, but I believe God used the medication to help me quiet my brain down enough to make those positive choices every day. More importantly, it helped me connect with Him on a daily basis. My hope wasn’t in the medication, but my hope was in God using it for good in my life.

a woman with her eyes closed and a grateful expression

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages

6. Give yourself grace when you feel anxiety.

Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. – Colossians 1:22

One of the worst things about anxiety is the guilt and shame that often accompany it. It’s easy to blame yourself for how you feel or feel guilty about it, yet experiencing anxiety about your anxiety is very easy to slip into. Have you ever struggled with any of these thoughts?

“If I trusted God enough, I wouldn’t be anxious.”

“Why do I keep struggling with this?”

“I’m just not good enough to get past this.”

Anxiety isn’t something anyone chooses, but it is something many struggle with. There are many different reasons someone may experience more anxiety than the next person: genetics, how your brain is wired, previous trauma, perfectionism, and many others.

The point is, it’s not your fault. You are not less than others, or less than God wants you to be because you struggle with this.

You are human and your struggle is part of your humanity.

7. See the good in your struggle with anxiety.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Even though we don’t know for sure what Paul’s particular thorn was, we know it was something he struggled with. I don’t know about you, but anxiety sure feels like a thorn in the flesh to me because it’s definitely a struggle! But when I struggle, I run to God because I know He is the only one who can ultimately help me. This keeps me coming to God a lot, and as a result, I am growing closer to Him and growing in my faith.

Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy or fun, but it keeps you aware of your need for God and helps you continue to see just how much His power works through your weaknesses. And when you experience God and His strength more powerfully, you are able to share your experiences with and encourage others who are also struggling.

Truth is, even when you have to consistently face the monster of anxiety, you can still freely live out the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave: to love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)


Cortni Marrazzo is the Communication Director at ONE* Church in Spokane, WA.  She and her husband Jason have two elementary-age sons, one of which has special needs. She has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. You can contact her at Cortni.Marrazzo@gmail.com or on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CortniMarrazzo)

https://www.crosswalk.com/special-coverage/depression-suicide/inspiring-habits-for-christians-with-anxiety-disorders.html

VIDEO When Sin Entered the Church, part 1

 

Sep 21, 2014 by John MacArthur

Open your Bible to Acts chapter 4.  And we’re going to begin to look, and we’ll see how far we go, at a section of the Book of Acts that includes the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 that I’ve entitled, “The Sins of the Saints.”  This section actually records the wonderful, beautiful, loving, caring sacrificial unity of the church.  That’s in the first part.  And then when we come to chapter 5, it introduces to us the first recorded sin in the church.  We know, because we have gone through this journey of the new church born on the Day of Pentecost.  We know that the early day of the church’s history were bright days.  They were happy days.  They were joyful days.  They were blessed days.  They were days of fellowship.  They were days of teaching sound doctrine.  They were days of prayer.  They were days of breaking bread around the Lord’s Table, and eating meals from house to house with fellow believers.  The joy was really overwhelming.  The love was all-inclusive.  The fellowship was deep and rich.  The testimony of converted souls was loud and clear.  The result, of course, in the early weeks of the church, had been an explosion of believers, to the point that perhaps as many as 20,000 people have now come to faith in Christ, and gone through the waters of baptism.  Virtually every pool in the city of Jerusalem must’ve been being used for baptisms, starting on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 people were baptized, all across the city of Jerusalem.

Everything at this point in the church is joyful, and upbeat, and glorious.  In fact, when persecution broke out, as we saw last time in chapter 4, the church met it head on.  And the church was triumphant, even in the face of that persecution.  We remember the triumph of the church in the face of persecution because in the fourth chapter, the preaching of the gospel that brought about the persecution also brought about 5,000 more conversions among men, plus women, to be added to that as well.  So, persecution came, but persecution didn’t have a negative effect on the church.  The church prayed harder, preached harder, was granted more boldness by the Holy Spirit, and more and more and more people came to believe.

God was real.  Christ was alive.  The Spirit’s power surged through them.  They literally overwhelmed their persecutors with courage and boldness.  Never had the world seen days like these.  Never.  Not since the fall of Adam, ever, had there been anything like this, because never before had the Messiah come.  Never before had the atonement for sin been offered.  Never before had the resurrection of the redeemer taken place, and thus secured resurrection for all who put their trust in Him.  Never before had the provision for the forgiveness of sins been offered.  Never before had God been fully satisfied.  Never before had the Holy Spirit taken up full residence in people.  Never before had there been new natures implanted in redeemed souls.  This was all new in redemptive history.  This was the new age, the era of the new covenant.  It was glorious, and the people were literally on fire with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the sheer force of the truth of the gospel. 

But Satan was active.  His first acts against the church were returning him exactly what he didn’t want.  He fired out at the church with persecution, and persecution failed to quelch the fire.  Eternal purposes were being unfolded.  Eternal power was being unleashed.  An external pressure was like pouring gas on that fire.  Satan then knew that if he was going to do damage to the church, it wasn’t going to happen from the outside.  He was going to have to get on the inside. 

And so, as we come here to this section before us, we see Satan’s assault on the inside of the church.  It’s in this section that Satan goes to church.  We come face to face here with the first open incident of sin in the church.  This is the beginning.  And sin has had a foothold in the church ever since, ever since.  This is the heartbreaking beginning of what all generations of believers throughout all history in all places in all churches have had to face: the reality that Satan goes to church.  Jesus warned about this.  He said Satan would sow tares among the wheat.  The first instruction that our Lord ever gave to the church was that, if someone’s in sin, go to that person.  If they don’t repent, take two or three witnesses.  If they don’t repent, tell the whole church, and that’s essentially the first duty given to the church: confront sin and expel the sinner who will not repent.

Sin has plagued the church.  Moral sin.  Doctrinal sin.  It has plagued the church ever since.  It plagues the church now.  This is where Satan does his greatest damage.  History would tell us that to persecute the church externally only causes the church to become purer and more powerful and more effective.  So, Satan works inside the church. 

So we’re going to look at the inauguration, if you will, of the sins of the saints in the history of the church.  And I really pray to the Lord that as you hear this unfolded, it will find a place in your heart that makes you perhaps more alert, more wary, more thoughtful about the seriousness of sin in the church. 

This passage also is to be viewed another way.  This passage demonstrates the almost stubborn honesty of the Bible.  It would seem that the ugliness of this sin might well have been left out.  I mean, after all, it was no demand that it be placed in Scripture.  God could’ve painted the picture perfectly and left out such a gross flaw.  But God is not about to paint an untrue picture of anything, and certainly not His church.  The church is not perfect.  It wasn’t perfect in its pristine form, and it’s not perfect now.  It is not a place for perfect people.  It is a hospital for people who know they are sick and also know what the cure is.  “A hospital is not a nice, clean, refrigerator designed to keep a few select souls from spoiling,” one writer said.  The church is imperfect because people are imperfect.  There’s sin in the church because there are sinners in the church. 

Once, I remember reading some of my historical reading about Cromwell.  Cromwell, the great English leader, had hired a painter to paint his portrait.  Cromwell actually was disfigured in his face by many warts.  The painter who was hired to paint his face, hoping to please Cromwell, left all the warts off the portrait.  When Cromwell saw the painting, it is recorded he said, “Take it away and paint me, warts and all.”  Well, the Bible always does that.  It always paints its heroes and its antiheroes and its history, warts and all.

There is a reality in this, there’s a truthfulness in this, and there’s also an encouragement in this.  Because, warts and all, God took that early church with its sin, its sinners, and transformed the entire world.  We need to know that, don’t we?  The fact that the Lord, from the very beginning, had to work with sinful people, gives us hope.  When the apostle Paul talked about his ministry and the struggles of ministry in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 24 to 28, he talked about all the beatings, and whippings, and shipwrecks, and all of that.  But really, the hardest part of ministry for the apostle Paul, he says, was the care of all the churches.  He says this: “Apart from external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my being weak?  Who is led into sin without my intense concern?”  This is the burden that every pastor bears, every church leader, if not every church member bears.  Sinners are in the church.  We’re all sinners.  None of us is perfect. 

You hear people say very often, “I don’t want to go to church because there are a bunch of hypocrites there.”  My answer to that person is, “That’s right, and there’s plenty of room for another one.”  In fact, Paul is so concerned about sin in the church that he has forever identified the sinners by name.  You know how he does that.  He speaks of sinners in the Corinthian church.  He speaks specifically about those sinners that bothered him in his other churches, the Philippian church.  He speaks of people who are disruptive and heretical by name in writing to Timothy.  John even mentions a man who loved to have the preeminence, Diotrephes, for all time.  He is memorialized as a sinner having an evil influence on the church.  Just ministry in general, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “Brethren, we request of you that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.  Live in peace with one another.  We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 

So, there’s a sort of categories for members.  There are the unruly, the fainthearted, and the weak.  This is who we are.  We are unruly in the sense that we break the rules that God has ordained.  We are weak in the sense that we fail.  Those are characterizations that are accurate.  So, the Bible never backs off of that, as I said.  The Bible is almost embarrassingly blunt about the reality of the people of God.  Certainly, we would say that’s true of Israel, and the church, even true believers, are characterized legitimately as an assembly of redeemed sinners, redeemed sinners.

Here in the Book of Acts, that becomes very apparent, very public in chapter 5.  Peter has to deal with this.  I’m not surprised that Peter got the first assignment to deal with sinners in the church because Peter wouldn’t have any problem accepting the fact that that was a reality since he was a well-known sinning apostle. 

But before we get to the fifth chapter and the sins of the saints, there’s an interesting preliminary section that sets that sin into perspective starting in verse 32.  “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 

“Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

This is an amazing element of church life.  We were saying it was all beautiful and joyful and sacrificial, and loving, and unified.  Here is the great illustration of that.  Their unity and their love was genuinely sacrificial.  I mean, how far would you got to meet somebody’s need?  Are you prepared, if you own a piece of land, to sell your land, that is an appreciating commodity, to sell your land and take the money, and hand it over to the church and say, “Do whatever you want with this money to meet the needs of people?”  Are you prepared to do that? 

The early church, these have been believers for weeks, just weeks, they are so unified, verse 32 says, that “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”  I mean, this should be true of every congregation. 

Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in the manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  We all know Philippians chapter 2.  “Look not on your own things but the things of others.”  Loving unity should always mark the church. 

Well, in verses 32 to 37, we have the sharing of the saints before we have the sins of the saints.  Those who believed, please notice, indicates again that this is a true church.  They are all genuine believers.  They are all in Christ.  They are all the real thing.  This is a congregation.  This is the purest, truest church of real believers.  They have one heart and one soul.  What does that mean?  Literally, the heart and soul of those who had become believers is one.  They’re unified so that it is such a unity, not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 

This is not communism; this is simply saying no one held onto anything.  They all understood that it all belonged to the Lord, and it all was to be used for His honor and His glory and His people.  That is a perspective that should be true of every believer and how you view whatever it is that you possess.  They loved each other.  They rejoiced in each other.  They were humble before each other.  They were selfless.  They were sacrificial.  They were preoccupied with the needs of others.  This is so new and so fresh and so dynamic and so powerful and so awesome, this experience of the church, that they have no thought of preserving anything that they own or possess.  They hold it lightly in their hands, as a stewardship from the Lord Himself to be used for whoever has a need. 

Not only is there strong unity, but there’s strong preaching.  Verse 33.  “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”  They’re going out and they’re preaching the glory of the resurrection.  They’re too busy caring for each other and too busy preaching the gospel to the world to waste time over selfish bickering, personal pursuits, idle talk, gossip, backbiting, criticism, divisiveness, self-will, self-gratification, self-aggrandizement.  They had no time and no energy to spend on themselves. 

And out of that zeal and out of the sheer exhilaration of having been regenerated and constituted as the body of Christ, the church, they roar, as it were, through the city of Jerusalem with the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The apostles lead the parade, giving testimony to the resurrection, all the time, and everywhere.  And if you took the time, you would start in chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost when Peter first preaches the resurrection.  Then chapter 3 when he preaches the resurrection again.  Here, in chapter 4, the resurrection is again noted as the theme of their preaching.  When you come to chapter 5, verse 30, Peter again says, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you had put to death,” preaching the resurrection in chapter 5, and it keeps going like this through all those early chapters.

I told you last time we talked about how to face persecution, that when persecution comes, you don’t suppress the message.  You don’t alter the message.  You don’t suppress it because it offends people.  Of course it offends people.  It has to offend them.  They need to be offended.  Back in chapter 4 verse 20, “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  And I told you last time that their problem was: they couldn’t stop them from speaking.  The problem in the church today is we can’t get people started speaking. 

They also experienced special favor, spiritual favor, end of verse 33, “abundant grace was upon them all.”  When you’re that obedient, that humble, that sacrificial, that loving, that united, that zealous, that passionate to pour out the message of the gospel and be bold and courageous, even in the face of persecution, believe me, great grace will come from heaven. 

Some people think that means favor from the people.  Well, there was that.  They did have favor from the people.  People were stunned by them.  We read that at the end of chapter 2, that they did have favor with the people.  But I think far more importantly, because of their obedience, because of their priorities, because they were doing exactly what God wanted them to do, heaven unleashed grace, favor on the church, a church that has one soul, one heart, loving, joyfully, sacrificial, giving up everything, holding all possessions lightly, for whatever use some other person might have, yielding them up readily, happily, a church that is passionate and zealous to proclaim the message of the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus Christ will be flooded with divine favor.  Blessing, results, joy.  That’s a promise of God.

Now, this became very practical.  Start back in verse 32.  And no one “claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.”  They treated what they owned, and people owned things.  They owned land like Barnabas.  They owned things.  But people treated them as if they belonged to anybody who might need what they could provide.  Down to verse 34.  “For there was not a needy person among them.”  Not a needy person among them.  Wonderful.  Amazing.  How could that be?  “For all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales.”  Can you imagine that?  I mean, what would it take for you to sell your house to meet someone’s need?  This is the spiritual grace that has literally engulfed these people. 

Their perspective is so heavenly that it’s hard for us to even relate to.  Certainly, in our society, more than any society perhaps in history, we’re in the business of acquiring, and acquiring, and acquiring.  I think of that every time I drive past one of those storage places.  What?  If you can’t even reach it, why do you have it?  If you can’t use it, why do you need it?  And then there are the wacky hoarders.  I don’t comprehend that.  There is no way I can even understand that.  That is the bizarre, over the edge, all the way down to the bottom psychological reality of people who just spend their whole life attaching way to much importance to stuff. 

They didn’t even mind selling a house they lived in.  They didn’t mind selling a piece of land they lived on, or raised their animals on, or their crops.  And they didn’t need to control where it went.  So, verse 34, they would, if needed, sell their land, sell their houses, bring the proceeds of the sales, “and lay them at the apostles’ feet.”  Why did they do that?  Because they trusted the apostles to distribute them.  They didn’t want to make that decision.  That’s what you do, you know, when in a small sense, when you give to the church every Sunday, you lay that money at the feet of the elders and pastors and shepherds who make a decision as to how best that is to be used.  But just try to put yourself in a position where you know there are a whole lot of people who have need, and so you go and sell your land and sell your house, bring all the money, hand it to the apostles and say, “Do whatever you want.”  Give it to whoever needs it.

That’s a pretty staggering level of trust.  That’s a pretty amazing level of confidence.  By the way, it was all voluntary.  Some people say well no, this is communism.  Everybody sold everything, it all went into a pot, and they doled it out equal.

No.  Go down to chapter 5 verse 4.  Peter confronts Ananias about a piece of land.  “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  Even after it was sold, was it not under your control?”  They did not immediately, all of them sell everything and then dole it out in equal portions.  People continued to own things.  But whenever they recognized the need, their sacrifice was great.  Now remember, you’ve got thousands of people who came for the feast of Pentecost, and that’s when the church was born.  They don’t want to leave.  Why don’t they want to leave?  Because there’s no church in their town.  There’s only one church in the world.  This is it.  They don’t want to go.  What are they going to go back to?  Paganism?  Judaism?  So they stay.  So you have a massive crowd of thousands of people who are there with no homes, no jobs, they’re not going to get a job in this society very likely.  Why?  They have abandoned Judaism.  They’re viewed as apostates.  They’re kicked out of the synagogue.  They’re basically social pariahs and outcasts.  They have to be cared for, even the apostle Paul later, after this, travels throughout Asia Minor raising money to take back to give to the poor Jerusalem saints, many of whom never left.  Some of whom gave everything they had away, and therefore had needs that had to be met. 

What an amazing, amazing level of love, sacrifice.  Just amazing.  All voluntary, all joyful, all expressive of their love for the Lord.  The apostles then, according to verse 35, have the responsibility to do the distribution as, in chapter 6, they chose deacons to do the distribution of the food to the widows who weren’t getting a fair share of food.  Amazing attitude.  I just would stop here and say this: this is the Christian view of money, okay?  This is the Christian view of money.  This is the believer’s view of money. 

None of it really is yours.  None of it.  Okay?  It’s not 90 percent is yours and a tenth is God’s.  None of it is yours.  It is God who gives you the power to get wealth.  All of it is a stewardship of resources that, in the end, belong to God.  You belong to God.  Your children belong to God.  Your money belongs to God.  Your house belongs to God.  Your land belongs to God.  Your abilities, your talents, your resources, they all belong to God, and they are all there to be used for His honor and for His glory.  And when love was so compelling, so driving, people gave it up easily.  I will admit to you this didn’t last, because John writes much later in that first century, chapter 3 verse 17, “Whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.”  So, already when you get to the end of the century, Christians are being selfish.  They’re hanging on.  They’re clinging to what they think belongs to them. 

James 2 verse 14, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?”  In other words, faith alone without works isn’t a saving faith, ‘cause if it’s a saving faith, it produces works.  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Brother or sister, believer, go in peace.  Be warmed and be filled.”  And you don’t give him what is necessary for his body, what use is that?  That’s useless.  It’s absolutely useless. 

And who is the model for the Corinthians who are being selfish and possessive and stingy, to use an old word?  The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, and he’s very firm with them about the way they are selfish in holding onto their money.  And he reminds them of the Macedonians, the churches in Macedonia.  Second Corinthians 8:2, “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”  Poor people with nothing giving up whatever they had to meet needs. 

Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “Why can’t you be like them?”  So, admittedly, while this existed in the beginning in the church, it didn’t take long for believers to settle into the natural inclinations of living in the world, holding onto everything you have.  So it is that James has to talk about it, Paul has to talk about it, John has to talk about it.  There are many warnings in Scripture about loving money.  The apostle Paul, right?  The love of money is what?  The root of all kinds of evil. 

So we have to confess, again, that the church didn’t maintain this, but this was the pristine, pure church in its early life, in the euphoria of this incredible transformation.  There was a unity there that was just absolutely precious, precious.  And it began to die slowly through the years of that first century.  And of course, has long died in the centuries since then.  The warnings of Scripture instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. 

Why?  Storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.  Laying up treasure where?  In heaven.  So, as we look at the end of chapter 4, we see this really unparalleled unity.  First of all, the very existence of the church is unparalleled in all redemptive history.  And their life together has never seen anything that parallels it.  There’s nothing in all Scripture prior to this like this.  There’s no group of people like this.  This is stunning and staggering reality.  And the proof of their passion and joy and love is in the fact that they would, in a second, sell their long-cherished, necessary assets and give all the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to anybody who had a need. 

Then Luke, in writing this history, gives us an illustration, verse 36.  “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth,” means he was born on the island of Cyprus, “Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement).”  You probably didn’t know, if you didn’t remember that verse, that Barnabas’ real name was Joseph.  Barnabas was a nickname.  It means Son of Comfort, or Son of Consolation, or Son of Encouragement, or Son of Exhortation.  He no doubt had the gift of encouraging others, the gift of coming alongside and strengthening them.  He was from that island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean.  His name was actually Joseph.  There is a lot more about him. 

Look at the 11th chapter.  We won’t go into all this ‘cause we’ll catch it when we get there, but in chapter 11, the hand of the Lord was with them when they were in Cyprus and Cyrene, and came to Antioch.  “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.  The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”  Here’s what I want you to see: “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.”

He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of faith.  He actually became a co-pastor of the church in Antioch, over to chapter 13 verse 1.  At Antioch in the church that was there, “Prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”  He was one of the group of co-pastors.  We’ll learn more about him in the 14th chapter of the Book of Acts, and we’ll look at this in detail.  Verse 14.  Interesting.  “When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,” just to note, he actually there is called an apostle.  Now, he’s not an apostle with a capital A because he didn’t see Christ and he wasn’t personally appointed by Christ as Paul was.  But the word “apostle” is also the word for “missionary.”  Apostell is the Greek verb, to send.  He was sent as a missionary.  In this sense, both he and Paul were missionaries.  Paul was an Apostle, capital A, a chosen, called one by Christ , and an apostle, small A, in the sense that his responsibility was to be sent as a missionary. 

Barnabas comes up again in chapter 15 in an argument about whether they’re going to keep John Mark who has been a disappointment to Paul, so Barnabas becomes a very, very important figure in this Book of Acts.

Now back to chapter 4.  It says about him that he owned a tract of land, and he is a living illustration of what’s going on, and sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  This is exactly what the previous verses said, verse 35.  They would lay the money at the feet of the apostles, who would then distribute it.  Barnabas does that.  We’re talking about a piece of land, significant amount of money to meet significant need.  Amazing generosity.  Barnabas is just one out of many, and we don’t know anything about him at this point.  He was a Levite, which means he was attached to the service of the temple.  So he was Jewish, and he was significant.  He gave out of the love of a pure heart, and he was sacrificial, and is really a model of what many others did. 

So that sets the stage for chapter 5, and let’s look at it, at least to begin.  We come to chapter 5.  The first word is “but.”  “But a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.”  Well, that’s exactly what Barnabas did.  And now we meet two other people who did this.  The generous, selfless love of the saints is going on all the time in the church.  They’re meeting, remember, where did they meet?  Where did I tell you they meet?  In the temple.  They don’t have a building, so they met in the temple courtyard, maybe the porch of Solomon.  They’re there in the thousands meeting.  The apostles are teaching and preaching both to them and to the crowds concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The people are bringing their money, selling their land, selling their houses, giving they money to the apostles.  The people are being justifiably honored and thanked.  People who are making sacrifices like this are sensing the love of those who are the beneficiaries of that sacrifice.  Everybody understands the nobility of this kind of sacrifice. 

So, a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, decide that they need to get in on this.  The story of Ananias in the Book of Acts is kind of like the story of Achan in the Book of Joshua.  In both narratives, an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God.  The act of Achan interrupted it, and the act of Ananias interrupts it here.

Let’s meet him.  Ananias means, good name, but I never met anybody named Ananias for obvious reasons.  His name is, “The Lord is gracious.”  Nice name.  The Lord is gracious.  His wife, maybe not too significant.  Sapphira, take a guess.  Sapphire.  Sapphire.  Sapphire actually can mean beautiful, understandably.  So, she was kind of set in a bad course when she was a kid.  You don’t really name your daughter beautiful.  It’s a little hard to handle.  At least it’s hard to be humble.  You don’t want to name them ugly or homely either, but there’s some kind of middle ground that would work.

But she was a sapphire.  They had watched all of this going on and they wanted to get in on some of the accolades.  They wanted to get on some of the honor, so they sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price.  It says that Ananias did this for himself with his wife’s full knowledge.  And bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 

Their names, gracious and beautiful; their deed, anything but.  They are professed believers.  We could even assume they are real believers.  They are actually in conversation with the Holy Spirit, as well as being strongly influenced by Satan.  I don’t want to be dogmatic about whether they were only professing believers or genuine believers, but at this particular point, I lean on the side that they were real believers because of verse 32, “the congregation of those who believed.” 

So I see this not so much as the sin of a professor, but the sin of a possessor.  I mean, isn’t that the point of the whole thing?  It isn’t just the unbelievers in the church that sin; it’s the believers in the church that sin.  So they want to get in on this, and yet they want to do it by pretense, because they’re not really willing to sacrifice everything they have.  So they sell their property.  Obviously, they publically stated that they brought the full price of the sale, but they kept back some of it, actually, commiserating with each other, bringing only a portion, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  The pretense was: we’ve sold it all, we bring it all, it’s all here.  Just as everybody else had done, they get in line to draw attention to themselves.  The sin is not that they didn’t give.  The sin is not that they didn’t give enough.  In the New Testament, there’s no amount, there’s no percent.  The sin is in lying, lying.  God hates lying.  They lied. 

How do I know that?  Verse 3.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  Yeah, of course they lied to Peter.  They lied to John.  They lied to the apostles.  But they also lied to the Holy Spirit.  It’s like a Psalmist said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this iniquity.”  It’s the sin of lying.  They had vowed, obviously, to the Holy Spirit, and to the apostles, and to the church that they were giving the full price of the sale, and they weren’t.  They were lying. 

And secret sin on earth, by the way, is an open scandal in heaven.  The sin is lying that takes the form of hypocrisy.  It is a lie that is intended to make them look spiritual.  They sought to gain prestige, high praise for their low sin.  They thought that they would be applauded for their sacrifice.  And at the same time, they could free up a little cash and stash it away.  The lie was simply the vehicle or the method by which they attempted to carry out their covetous scheme for status, for self-elevation.  Really then, it becomes hypocrisy, doesn’t it?  That dirty sin, creating a deceptive impression of one’s spiritual character; that’s hypocrisy, creating a deceptive perception of one’s spiritual character. 

This sin, God hates above others.  God hates, first of all, liars.  First in the list in the Old Testament.  Hypocrisy is not just a lie; it is a lying life.  It is living a lie.  Yes, one should give sacrificially.  It’s wrong not to give sacrificially.  But that’s not the point here.  The point is: they lied.  But it runs deeper than that.  They not only lied, they lied to create a false perception of their spiritual condition.  I will tell you, from God’s standpoint, no one is so ugly in God’s eyes as those who paint spiritual beauty on faces where there is none. 

They are the ones who want to be elevated in the church, and they’ve been around a long time.  Long time.  They want people to think highly of them.  They put on a façade.  They put on a front.  They’re hypocrites.  Is the church full of hypocrites?  Absolutely.  None of us, truthfully, none of us lives as we ought to live.  None of us lives perfectly.  None of us lives the Christ-like life.  But neither should we pretend that we do.  Nor should we be in some kind of hurry to act as if the realities of our sin don’t even exist. 

That’s exactly what was going on here.  Yes, churches have hypocrites.  Yes, people pretend to be spiritual when they’re not.  That needs to be exposed.  What sin would you have picked to be the first sin that the Lord disciplined in the church?  Maybe you would’ve picked immorality.  Maybe you would’ve picked stealing.  Maybe you would’ve picked some form of blasphemy.  Maybe you would’ve picked some breached relationship characterized by anger, hostility, lack of forgiveness.  Those are all part of life in the church.  But the sin that the Holy Spirit places here to inaugurate our understanding of sin in the church is the sin of hypocrisy, pretending to be something you’re not. 

Well, they couldn’t get away with it.  Not at all.  Peter said, verse 3, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?  Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God.”  The first sin identified in the life of church is lying to God.  Well, lying to men, sure.  But who thinks they can get away with a lie to God?  You can’t deceive Him.  He knows your heart.  He knows your mind.  He knows your thoughts.

This is hitting the church at its most deep point.  This is why Peter says judgment must begin at the house of God, 1 Peter 4.  And that judgment begins with the spiritual integrity of the church.  If the church is to be exposed, let it first and foremost be exposed for its hypocrisy.  That deadly, hypocritical reality in a church is a kind of leaven that leavens the whole thing.

Well, we’ll say more about that next time.  Our time is gone for now.  And then we’ll see the consequences of all this.  Suffice it to say at this point that you now understand the scene and the setting and the sin.  Next time, we’ll look at the results and the impact.  Let’s pray.

Again, Lord, what a wonderful evening we’ve had, hearing testimony, singing Your praise, fellowshipping together.  And yet it’s been a very sobering evening.  When we go through things like this, we again come face to face with the fact that even the best of churches, even in our beloved church which we all love, and to which we all turn for fellowship and teaching and ministry, there’s the reality of sin.  We cannot overcome it in this life.  That’s why we wait for the redemption of our bodies, our glorification. 

But Lord, there is one sin that You have elevated and brought to our attention in bold relief, seemingly above the rest, and that is hypocrisy.  Lord, don’t let us think we can lie to each other about who we are.  Don’t let us think that we can lie to You.  You hate a lying tongue.  You hate a lying heart.  Lord, give us spiritual integrity.  Help us to be real believers.  Not perfect, but genuine, honest, seekers for truth and pursuers of holiness.  Strip out spiritual deception, fraud, hypocrisy.  May we be a church that is pure and true.  Deal with that in our church.  Expose it where it is.  Wherever that exists, Lord, expose that as You did in that first church and brought swift judgment for the sake of the purity of the testimony of the church, as well as the purity of the worship of the church.  We want to be everything that You want a church to be.  We want to be that ordinary church that we’ve talked about.  Ordinary, in the sense that we are what the Scripture says we are to be.  Purify Your church.  Deliver us from deception and lies and hypocrisy.  Make us real, true lovers of Christ and lovers of one another so that Your testimony may shine forth clearly.  What a privilege.  Give us the joy that comes out of that genuineness.  We pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/44-19

Anti-religious Group Opposes Oklahoma’s Governor Speaking at Church Event

 

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (shown), a Republican, is scheduled to speak at Guts Church in Tulsa on September 22, to a men’s group on the topic of serving God, leadership, and raising children.

The planned event has drawn the ire of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which contends that a speech by the governor of Oklahoma at a religious event constitutes a violation of the constitutional prohibition against the government from establishing a religion.

“When you speak as governor, you are speaking as the government,” Ryan Jayne, an attorney for FFRF, said in a letter to Stitt. Jayne added, “Using the office of the governor to promote a specific religious mission is unconstitutional and sends a direct message to the 30 percent of non-Christian adults who you serve that they have the wrong religion, and that only your personal god can solve Oklahoma’s problems.”

Jayne said that it was the second time in the past nine months (Stitt took office in January of this year) that the organization of “freethinkers” (which they define as atheists and agnostics) has warned Stitt not to use his position as governor to promote religion. The protests of FFRF are reminiscent of when Apollo 8 astronauts read the Creation story from the Book of Genesis while being the first humans to orbit the moon on Christmas Day, 1968. Prominent atheist and communist Madalyn Murray O’Hair promptly sued NASA, arguing that they were employees of the federal government, and therefore it was a violation of “separation of church and state.”

“We are telling Gov. Stitt, as we tell all pious politicians: ‘Get off your knees and get to work,’” added FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s not OK in Oklahoma or any other state for public officials to misuse their office to promote religion.”

In a press release, FFRF argued that Stitt was “leveraging his taxpayer-funded office to advance his personal religious goals.”

FFRF previously put Stitt on notice, Jayne recalled, when Stitt hosted an inaugural prayer service at which a pastor from Guts Church both prayed and preached a sermon. “If he continues to use his position to promote religion, we would certainly consider other legal options,” including a lawsuit, Jayne warned.

In contrast, Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, said that Stitt’s speaking to a church group raised no constitutional questions. “Just because you’re elected to public office doesn’t mean that you forfeit your religious beliefs under the First Amendment,” Hunter said. “I think that’s nonsense.”

There are several problems with the position taken by FFRF concerning Governor Stitt’s talk to a church. Taken to its logical conclusion, no person employed by any level of government or holding any elected office at any level of government could ever speak to a religious gathering, unless the person’s position in the government was hidden. To put it simply, it has never been that way in the past. For example, Guts Church previously heard from former Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops. (Although Stoops retired as the Sooners’ coach in the summer of 2017, he was still on the university payroll at the time). The legendary OU football coach Bud Wilkinson taught Sunday School in Norman in the 1950s. Was that a violation of “separation of church and state?” The reality is that it is rather impossible for a person to cease to be a governor, a football coach at a tax-supported institution, or a janitor in a court house when he lives his daily life. To be blunt, it is not any of the FFRF’s business what Stitt, or any other public official has to say about religious topics. It is not like he is using the power of his office to force anyone attend the talk.

As Hunter said, a person retains his constitutional rights, including religious liberty, upon taking office, and his free to practice his religion while in office, like any other citizen.

Beyond that, the phrase, “separation of church and state” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, including in the First Amendment. The phrase is from a letter that President Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut early in his presidency. It appears that the Baptists were concerned about a rumor they had heard that the Congress was going to make the Congregational Church the Established Church of the United States. Jefferson assured them that that was impossible as the First Amendment had “erected a wall of separation” between the federal government and the church, prohibiting federal officials from interfering in the affairs of the church.

At the time, it was understood that the First Amendment only prohibited Congress from creating a national religion. It did not keep the states from establishing their own religions, as was the case at the time in Connecticut when Jefferson penned the letter. That was the point of the Baptists’ concern — they believed they had been abused by the Congregationalists in Connecticut and did not want them to achieve the status as America’s national church.

The reality is that shortly after Jefferson wrote the Baptists, he attended church services, held in the Capitol of the United States! In contrast, Governor Stitt is simply exercising his religious liberty and his freedom of speech to talk to a church that has invited him to speak. In other words, the FFRF’s whole argument is rather lame.

Image of Kevin Stitt: Screenshot from governor.ok.gov

Steve Byas is a university instructor and author of History’s Greatest Libels. He may be contacted at byassteve@yahoo.com

https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/item/33388-atheist-group-opposes-oklahoma-s-governor-from-speaking-at-church-event

VIDEO The Immensity and Intensity of the Christian Faith – A deeper meaning to the crucifixion

SEPTEMBER 4, 2019 BY FRANCES ROGERS

Or, we might use the title, The Immensity and Intensity of the Gospel.
They are the same.

There is no Christian faith without the Gospel.

The Gospel is the means to a life of faith. It is more than just words spoken by men. The good news of Christ is more than men can ask and more than men can imagine. It is the revelation of the kingdom of God by the Spirit of God within the spirit of men.

It is meant to be experienced within the mind, the heart, and the life of men ~ beyond our own doing.

The Christian faith is different than any other faith. It is the only religion that addresses, deals with, and resolves the issues of sin and death.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ promises more than any other ~ promises we can trust ~ greater than any man could plan for himself.

Its immensity is little known because man cannot desire what he has never tasted. We do not taste unless we are drawn to and search God’s Word. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of the Christian faith to which the Gospel brings His people.

“It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.”
Luke 12:32

Who can describe such a kingdom?

The intensity of the Gospel and the Christian faith that excels through the Gospel is the working of the Gospel itself by the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of men. Yes, I am repeating myself. The Gospel bears repeating even as preachers continue to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10).

It is not puny words of men that fall to the ground, but it is the power of God for salvation to those who believe (Romans 1:16). It is power to quicken those who are dead in their trespasses and sin, awakening their senses to their sin and need of a Savior.

The power of the Gospel is the good news of Christ raising the dead to life in Him.

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead,
and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Even when we were dead in sins,
hath quickened us together with Christ,

(by grace ye are saved;) 
Ephesians 1:19-20; 2:5

No minister, worth his salt, will throw out a dry bone to his congregation. Dead men need the meat of God’s Word to live. Those who have been revived ~ made new through the new birth of the Gospel ~ need the continual Gospel to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as we wait for the promise of eternal life in Him.

The man of God digs deep into the treasury of God’s Word and presents those treasures to his hearers.

The Gospel works its immensity within the hearts of the ministers of the Gospel.

They must be overwhelmed with the greatness of God’s redeeming love.

They must know the reality of a heavenly Father who, in the covenant of redemption, planned to sacrifice His own Son to secure our place with Him for eternity and the reality of His Son, in agreement with this covenant to sacrifice Himself.

What love! What sacrifice! ~ immensity of grace greater than can be comprehended by mortal men.

This should bring forth an intensity of the Gospel which the man of God cannot keep to himself.

He should be zealous, always ready to present the Gospel wherever He is called, to whoever hears.

Are there such ministers in the world today? Yes! I would not be writing on this subject if it were not so.

Our own pastor, Chris Strevel, is such a minister of the Gospel and the Christian faith. Preaching for thirty years, he holds Christ in the center of every sermon, continuing to unfold the treasures of His kingdom. My heart is weekly quickened, opened and enabled to receive the Good News of Christ ~ His grace and His glory. You can listen or view all his sermons on Sermon Audio. He is presently preaching through the Gospel of Luke and Exodus.

Another pastor, Ryan McKee, in Northern Ireland, is younger, but also preaches the immensity of the Gospel with the intensity of Christ. I began watching these services in 2016 when we were unable to attend church for ten months. Five hours ahead, their morning worship is at seven. Their evening worship is at two. Ryan is preaching through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel.

We have one among us here on WordPress from California. Check Jim’s blog here.

I mention these who are devoted to Christ and His Gospel as they serve God’s people. The Gospel and the Christian Faith are too valuable to take for granted ~ too precious to keep hidden. If you know other local pastors, please let me know.

We should pray for a revival among the ministers of God’s Word in our local churches. Some preach to the masses in conferences, etc. but we need daily, weekly oversight of pastors who shepherd God’s people in the name and power of Christ.

Gracious heavenly Father. Lay it upon the hearts of your ministers to draw near to you ~ to seek the face of Christ as never before. By your Spirit, draw them to your Word, fill their hearts with the zeal for the power of the Gospel. Enable them to proclaim your Word to your people. Open the hearts of your people to hear and to live the Christian faith Jesus died to give. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Five Lessons for Preachers  Charles Spurgeon

The Immensity and Intensity of the Christian Faith


A deeper meaning to the crucifixion | IN HIS DEATHS | The Book of Mysteries