“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)
In the early chapters of Acts, we find an honest look at the early church with all it’s joys and struggles. We leave chapter 4 on a high note of joy and fellowship. Ten verses into chapter 5, two people have lied to God and died because of it. This story is admittedly startling. I encourage you to read Acts 5 on your own to get the full story, but here’s a quick recap. In Acts 4, a man named Barnabas sold a field he owned and gave all the proceeds from that field to the church. This was extremely generous and a true act of sacrificial devotion to God. It appears that a couple named Ananias and Sapphira sitting a few rows back in the pews (cause they totally had pews), saw the attention Barnabas got for his generosity and wanted in on it. So they sold a field too. Only, while they told everyone that they gave all the money to the church, in reality they kept a bit back for themselves. The result is sobering. Peter confronts them about their deceit, and God takes both of their lives.
There are a few nuggets of truth we can learn from this short passage. I want to highlight one this morning. When Peter confronts Ananias, he offers these clarifying words: “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:4b ESV) Here’s the truth I want us to see: Sin is always from the heart and against God.
This is why, no matter how small an issue may seem to us, it matters to God. Proverbs 4 says to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” In other words, your life, your actions, flow forth from your heart. Those actions are either in loving surrender to God or in rebellion against him. Peter makes it clear, Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was not about the amount of money they gave, it was about the lie they told in pursuit of self exaltation. Not only that, they showed a profound lack of love for God. Imagine a husband went around telling everyone he bought his wife diamonds for Christmas, and yet he actually bought her a coffee mug. The wife would be rightfully insulted, not by the coffee mug, but by the realization that he cared more about what others thought of him than about her. Our sin is a direct insult to a holy God who created us and loves us.
Our small, moment by moment decisions both reveal and shape our hearts. In our culture of long forgotten moral absolutes, we come to a story like Ananias and Sapphira and are tempted to think that they were killed over a trivial sin like a little white lie. Yet God sees sin for what it is: rebellion and self destruction. God enacted the punishment, but these two chose death when they chose self glorification over God.
CS Lewis offers a helpful correction for us when we think our choices don’t or shouldn’t matter to God:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war with and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.
One great beauty of the gospel is that Christ gives us a new heart. A heart inclined towards harmony with God. We want to choose these God given desires and remember that our gracious God is also a consuming fire. He is worthy of our worship and justified in his discipline.
Grace & Peace.
Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 5.