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Watch Your Heart

29/11/2019

Watch Your Heart

Text: Acts 5:1-11

The church is under attack from outside its own ranks, and that’s to be expected. But the devil is very subtle. Very often he uses and manipulates Christians to attack the church from within. That’s the essence of this passage.

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Hypocrisy – Christians hiding behind a mask of religion.  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

1 I Surrender All? Verse 1-2
In Chapter 2 we learned that it was common practice for the many in the Christian community to sell their individual possessions, and live together, sharing everything. Acts 2:44 cf Acts 4:32f. No-one went without, no Christian had to beg on the streets for everyone was cared for. 3:34  It was a practical outworking of Christian love for one another. But it wasn’t compulsory! You didn’t HAVE to do this, – it was something that people did in response to Christ’s saving love. In Chapter 4, we have an example of this in Barnabas. Acts 4:36  What an encouragement that would have been!

  • Ananias and Sapphira make a decision! There is a direct link between the gift of Barnabas and the decision of Ananias and Sapphira. The chapter begins with a conjunction – BUT. Inspired by, or maybe jealous of Barnabas, perhaps of the joy which welcomed his unselfish gift, they decide that they too would sell ‘a possession’ and give it to the church. 5:1
  • Ananias and Sapphira miscalculate. Acts 5:2 A They announced to the church that their property was up for sale, and that the church and the needy would benefit from the proceeds, but surreptitiously, behind closed doors, they were being dishonest, they were telling lies, for they intended to keep a portion of the sale for themselves.

Now, what would YOU have done? It’s easy to be critical of Ananias and Saphhira. But I think lots of Christians have done exactly the same thing, and – strangely – sometimes even for the best of motives!

2 God Sees Behind the Facade of Superficial Religion. V3-4
I wonder what Ananias was expecting to happen that day, as he brought his offering to the front of the church to lay it at the feet of Peter and John? Did Ananias think he would be applauded, or praised for his great sacrifice. What a shock he must have had! Yet here we see some important foundational aspects of our Christian life and walk…

  • Deceit begins in the heart. V3-4 The greatest enemy of the believer is his or her own heart. Genesis 6:5 Jeremiah 17:9 “ Now Christians have a renewed heart – but we are simultaneously saints and yet sinners, we remain as sinners until we die – and our hearts, and the evil therein tugs against our renewed nature. Like Paul, in Romans 7. Yet…
  • God sees right into the inner life of us all. Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? How did Peter know? Because God knew! There is nothing that we concoct in our hearts that God does not know. Psalm 7:9
  • Every sin is against God. You have not lied to men but to God. Ananias and Sapphira must have known that they were lying to the church, to the leaders, to their fellow believers, – but did they not know that they were really lying to God? How can they think that they will get away with it? to lie to the Holy Spirit. When we lie to each other, we lie to God.

Ananias’ great sin was to pretend that he was more spiritual than he really was. In despair we ask, ‘Why could Ananias not just have been honest? And we’ve already discovered the answer. His heart is wicked.

 

3 Sin Always has Earthly Consequences. V5.
Sin always leads to death. Spiritual, Physical and Eternal death. Paul reminds us ‘the wages of sin is death…’. Death is often preceded by sickness and physical and mental deterioration, but, in the case of Ananias, this was instantly, literally and physically the case 5:5  Ananias got justice, – he was recompensed according to his sin. He sinned and he died. But:-

  • Why was God so severe with Ananias. Because the infant church was at stake! Acts 5:5 The church was to be founded upon these early Christians – not upon lies and hypocrisy and deceit! Ephesians 4:25
  • Why did God not give him time to repent? Lying and cheating and deceit are commonplace among the children of the world, but Christians should not act like the world – they should be different. He had done what was wrong, and there is a greater responsibility to act rightly upon those who know better! James 4:17

So Ananias was dead, and the young, strong men of the church, lifted his body and removed him to a burial place. 5:6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. The first miracle and the first persecution were followed by the first funeral in the new church. The funeral of a hypocrite! The same fate awaited his wife. It was around three hours before she turned up, but she had been complicit in the lies and deception perpetrated by her husband. Acts 5:7

 

What can we learn from this passage?
There are some very important principles for every single Christian here.

  • Watch your heart! We should examine our hearts very often, – every day if possible. Don’t make excuses for yourself. Am I truthful? Do I exaggerate? Do I try to make myself look something better or more spiritual than I really am? Do I live a life of pretence?
  • Bring the condition of the heart before the Lord. Confess our sins. Bring whatever sin we find within us to God in humble confession, relying only on his mercy and grace.
  • Pray that God will forgive us and take away our hearts of deception and make us truthful in our inward parts, as God wants us to be. Psalm 51:6
    Agree with God that with his help, I will henceforth strive to live my life in an open and honest manner, and that when I fail I will immediately and unreservedly turn from my sin and repent. The BCP in the General Confession: “And grant o most merciful father, for His sake, that I may hereafter, live a godly, righteous and sober life, to the glory of thy Holy Name.

So the church has been attacked yet again – this time from within, from unfaithful, deceitful believers. It is a pattern that will continue until the end of this age. Let us be careful that we don’t fall pray to satan’s plan. Guard your heart.

Bob McEvoy © December 2019

From → Acts, Bible Study

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