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Keeping the Unity in the Community

His Old House; Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Who Drives?

We all have control issues.
When you go out, who drives?
We are control freaks anonymous.
My grandparents? My grandmother did all the driving.
Maybe b/c my g-father had a volatile temper and a hair-trigger.
How much control do we really have?
I can remember him yelling at drivers that did unfortunate things that may or may not have adversely affected him as he drove.
When it’s me and Sara, I drive.
You and your spouse?
You and your friends?
When it’s me and Sara, I drive.
Except when it’s in the RZR.
You realize when you let someone drive you you place your life and well-being in their hands.
Whosever hands are on the wheel are in control of your life.
W/out saying it out loud, who won’t you ride w/ anymore?
You don’t trust them w/ control of your life.
You don’t trust them w/ control of your life.
There’s the C-word.
Who of us in here is willing to admit we have control issues?
Welcome to the weekly meeting of control-freaks anonymous.
This question is bigger than just who drives the car.
The question is, “Who drives your life?”
Who do you let have control of the steering wheel of your life?
Do you keep a grip on your own steering wheel?
Do your really?
All of us have control over who we let control our life.
We are early in the book of Acts. The first church has been established and God is charting the course of the membership.
This is their course and the course of every single gathering that follows.
This is the Old House that God is still remodeling and adding on to.
Here they are addressing their first internal issue.
Persecution from the outside had already begun.
This is the first time they have to face a serious issue w/ a fellow believer.
Church, ekklesia, as Jesus defines it and has established it , is a unified bunch.
A gathering of ppl who share a common purpose.
Fundamental to this concept is that the gathering remain unified.
Common purpose, goals.
Maintaining unity in a community requires humility and generosity.
A collection of individuals who are arrogant and tight-fisted will remain a collection of individuals.
Individualism is defined w/ self-centered people.
A community is made up of people who represent themselves honestly, they don’t tear others down nor build themselves up, and are generous w/ their time, energy, and money.
Maintaining unity in our community requires humility and generosity.
And, the only way we can meet these requirements is by turning the steering wheel of our lives over to God and giving complete control to the Holy Spirit.
2 weeks ago we ended w/ this verse
Acts 4:31 NIV
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Filled = controlled by. Same Greek word.
Surrendering complete control.
When we do that we realize the amount of grace required by God to save us is much more than we think.
There is a huge gap between how we live our lives and the standard God set to earn being saved by Him.
Impossible.
Then, when we realize the amount of grace that was needed to span the gap between who we are and what God expects, we then are able t/b more gracious w/ the ppl around us who don’t measure up to our expectations.
Humility to realize how gracious God has had to be w/ us.
Generous to be just as gracious w/ everyone around us.
Maintaining unity in our community requires humility and generosity.
And, the only way we can meet these requirements is by turning the steering wheel of our lives over to God and giving complete control to the Holy Spirit.
Generally, this is what’s happening in the first church.
Filled w/, controlled by, the HS.
There were two notable exceptions, however.
This is the story about how God dealt with these exceptions.

Community

Acts 4:32–37 NIV
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
A biblical community
An attractive community; it attracts people.
The one, or one of the few organizations where members genuinely care for one another.
So much conflict in our lives is there a place we can go where there is minimal conflict and mutual support?
This should be it.

Shared care

Acts 4:32–35 NIV
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
God’s grace was so powerfully at work.
They realized and experienced God’s grace for their own lives and they shared God’s grace.
Tangibly, generously.
They were unified spiritually and materially.
They voluntarily sold their extra stuff and donated it to the church and the leaders distributed it according to need.
Grace, by def. undeserved favor.
We all struggle w/ this at least a little bit.
Should we help that person. Why are they in need.
Do they deserve their situation? Have they earned it?
Then, do they deserve t/b helped out of it?
I have to experience grace t/b able to share it. Appreciate the amount of grace God has shown me before I can be extremely gracious w/ anybody else.
If I’m not that bad, didn’t require much grace from God, then you can perform better too. Then, I’ll help you the rest of the way.
I’m holding ppl to inappropriate standards.
God had answered their prayer for boldness. W/ power they testified about Jesus’ resurrection and the new life they had that God had graciously given them.
It’s not my stuff anyway, It’s God’s. He graciously shared w/ me so that I can share w/ you.
Community life is not a collection of individuals. Real friendship. Family.
There would have to be a significant connection to give such a significant gift.
What makes someone worthy of such a compassionate gift?
If they didn’t earn themselves then it’s b/c of the relationship we all have. Grace.
c.1, the middle class owned houses and land.
About 10% of the general population.
Upper class was about 5%.
Upper class was about 5%.
The church probably reflected the general population.
So, a minority of ppl, were gradually selling their extra property voluntarily.
It added up to a lot of money.
Given for the use to meet anyone’s needs.
They gave w/out expecting anything in return.
The ppl who sold their property didn’t get to decide who rec’d help. The leadership did.
The passage implies that this was a more powerful witness than miracles. It was certainly more common to help a needy person financially than heal a paralyzed person.
But, the outside community was noticing.
And, those who were selling their property and giving generously were seen in a favorable way.
Luke introduces us to one such person who will play a larger role later in the book.
Here is a man who is a role model for more reasons than just his financial generosity.
Meet Barnabas.

A role model

Acts 4:36–37 NIV
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Barnabas
Joseph, his given name.
Became Barnabas, son of encouragement, given as he emerged as a man who was generous w/ his time and words.
People liked him. His words were genuine.
He was not a schmoozer.
He came from Cyprus, a gentile region. So a prominent, middle class Jew, who could relate to Gentiles and encourage everyone in their walk w/ Jesus.
He would be a perfect companion to Paul on a journey into Gentile regions to plant churches.
Luke, a Gentile himself, would have respected Barnabas a great deal for his service outside Jewish and Christian areas.
As the operation grew they had to get better organized and issues arose.
Ch. 6, the Greek-speaking widows were being neglected so they created a mid-level leadership committee; deacon.
And, another issue arose. Obviously, those who were wealthy and giving generously were viewed favorably by the organization.
And, it figures, someone who would be seen favorably anyway wanted to be seen more favorably than they really were; and they knew it.
A problem of pride and individualism crept into the community and it needed to be dealt w/.
B/C individualism breaks up unity.
And, it was. Severely.

Individualism

Individualism

A strong witness. Personal testimonies of the people who are involved are genuine and positive.
Luke just gave us a good example in Barnabas.
Now, he gives us a poor example.
If a healthy community is attractive, it draws people, then a collection of individuals is repulsive, it pushes people away.
Not perfect individuals. And, not every individual is in a good spiritual health as the majority. There are e
The most dangerous situations are the ones where there is a lot of truth, but just a little lie.

A little lie

Acts 5:1–2 NIV
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Dog-poop brownies. We used it w/ our kids with TV shows and movies. It’s true of cults. And, other situations that seem mostly harmless.
Just like we’ve always made them, just one added special secret ingredient.
Just a little dog poop. No big deal. What harm can a little doo, do?
The situation w/ Ananias and Sapphira. Mostly, the same.
But, motivated by wanting ppl to believe they are more generous than they really were.
Seeking the praise of people ahead of honoring God.
They lied. It was just a little lie. What’s the harm?
Ananias said that he gave 100% of the proceeds of the sale of his land.
But, it wasn’t. Doesn’t say how much he kept back.
Irrelevant. He lied.
He was the instigator. Sapphira was the enabler, a co-conspirator. She had full knowledge of the scheme and approved.
A conspirator is just as guilty as the perpetrator.
If you’re in on the plan to rob the bank but stay back in the hide out you will receive the same penalty as those who went to the bank and perpetrated the crime.
They were filled and unfaithful which led them to perpetrate a financial fraud.

Filled and unfaithful

Acts 5:3–4 NIV
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
Filled. Same word from v.31 describing the believers filled by the HS. That is, controlled by the HS.
Important to understand, Ananias is a believer.
Thinking he was steering his own life, he had given the wheel to Satan.
It is possible for a believer to give the steering wheel of their life to Satan giving Him complete control as He gives the impression that the believer has control.
The result was a lie. A fraud. He didn’t just lie to the ppl, he lied to himself and he lied to God.
Motivated by the desire for self-enhancement, arrogance. Wanting to make himself look better to the rest of the ppl.
Better than he knew he was.
This is the type of activity that destroys unity and breaks up a community.
One of the sad ironies is he would have already been looked at favorably, as a generous man.
Peter said, it was his property, he didn’t have to sell it and he would have been fine, in good standing w/ the rest.
This was not socialism or a commune where everyone was compelled to sell.
Everyone was free to sell or not. You were not looked down upon if you didn’t sell your mountain retreat and donate the proceeds.
In fact, he wasn’t even compelled to give 100% of the proceeds. He could have kept some back for himself and been okay.
It was all his to do whatever he wanted.
Just don’t lie about it.
The working belief at the time was Jesus was going to return in their lifetime so they weren’t concerned about giving up assets they may need later in life.
Like cashing in an IRA. They just weren’t concerned about the long-term.
How did Peter know? Don’t know. Maybe someone tipped him off. Maybe, the HS just gave him a sense.
This type of unfaithfulness will destroy a community. It is adultery.
God will lift you up and give you a legitimate sense of worth.
When you lift yourself up and inflate your worth you have made yourself god thinking it’s your own responsibility.
That takes us back to the Garden of Eden.
You can know everything God does.
Then, you won’t need Him.
You’ll be in control of your own life.
Not really, but that’s what Satan wants us to believe.
Ananias had no excuse. He let it happen.
Premeditated. How could he?
He had control over his land and the proceeds after the sale.
But, then he let Satan take control where once God had control.
No one is free from sin in this new community
The consequences were devastating.
If nothing had been done, the consequences would have been devastating to this new community. So, something had to be done and the consequences were devastating to Ananias and Sapphira.

Consequence

Acts 5:5–11 NIV
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Acts 5:
No one was completely free from sin in this new community, but most didn’t let sin control their lives.
God made an example of Ananias and Sapphira.
A tangible example for all of us to understand that God takes our sin seriously.
Even as forgiven believers there are consequences.
It was important enough for Jesus to die for.
It’s important enough to make every effort to not do it.
Much like the miracles we studies last year. And, the miracle God performed thru Peter to immediately heal the 40-year old man who had been a paraplegic since birth.
God doesn’t heal every paraplegic but he healed that one for a reason.
Here was a man who was physically crippled that Jesus freed and gave him a new life when he believed and reached out his hand to Peter.
That, just as Peter was encountering a crowd who were spiritually crippled. Any one of them could be freed from their burden if they would believe and reach out and take Jesus’ hand. He would give them a new life.
God doesn’t strike us down the first time we lie to Him or anyone else.
This room would be empty if he did.
But, He struck Ananias and Sapphira down as a tangible example of the seriousness of our sin.
It cost Jesus His life.
Don’t cheapen His life by leading in a lifestyle you have the strength and self-discipline to leave.
Sapphira rec’d the same penalty as a co-conspirator. About 3 hours later, w/out knowledge of what had happened to her husband it happened to her.
This new church must have been in shock.
It accomplished it’s intended purpose.
She could have come clean and avoided death. But she continued the lie.
The HS knows everything that happens in this community.
Character is who you are when nobody is watching.
Except, God is.
God knows your integrity. Does your public life match your private life?
Jesus has given each of us value, worth, an ID that needs no augmentation.
God’s ppl are called to holiness and are accountable for it.
Humble yourself before God humbles you. Deal w/ any sin in your life.
Own it, apologize for it, Stop it.
Turn away before God has to turn you.
Jesus dealt with all of it at the cross.
We’ve already been forgiven. We just have to own it and recognize the chasm that God’s grace covers so that we can be saved.
Realize the grace that is required to save you.
Have the humility to realize how gracious God has had to be w/ you to save you.
Then, be as generous to everyone else as God has been gracious to you.

Applications

Character

Make sure who you are publicly is also who you are privately.
You’re not fooling God.
If there is something you’re doing outside this community that you know you shouldn’t be doing inside then stop doing it.
If there is something you are doing inside this community that you should also be doing outside then start doing it.
Be consistent.

Control

The most important thing that each one of us in fully in control of is who we let control our lives.
Satan’s first lie to Adam and Eve was they could take control b/c they’d know as much as God if they would just eat the fruit from the one tree God said not to.
In reality, they chose to give Satan control.
That we control our own lives is a lie.
Either Satan does, or the HS does.
Stop trying to lead God leading you. Follow.
Study His word. Listen in prayer.
Let God have complete control.

Humility & Generosity

I don’t want to burst your bubble but you may not be as good as you think you are.
The bible is pretty clear that we’re all pretty equal.
Equally in need of a generous portion of God’s grace.
Lean in to God. Compare yourself, not to anyone else, but to God. B/C only God is good enough to earn His way into heaven.
The rest of us need help. A lot of help.
We are spiritually needy.
So, once we fully grasp the amount of grace God has generously bestowed on us to get us to heaven, then we can’t help but be more generous with those in need around us.
Be generous w/ your time, energy, and money.
Be anonymous w/ all of it, too.
Maintaining unity in our community requires humility and generosity.
And, the only way we can meet these requirements is by turning the steering wheel of our lives over to God and giving complete control to the Holy Spirit.
These are the keys to keeping the unity in the community.
Have the humility to realize how gracious God has had to be w/ you.
Be as generous w/ the rest of us as God has been gracious w/ you.
Maintaining unity in our community requires humility and generosity.
And, the only way we can meet these requirements is by turning the steering wheel of our lives over to God and giving complete control to the Holy Spirit.
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