Sermon 06 - Acts 4,32 - 5,11 - Beware of the Snake - 07-18-04
1. ((illlus)) This past month a new family moved into our neighborhood. In talking with them about their move from New York to Florida, it was easy to see their enthusiasm over all the plants and wild life they were experiencing in their new location.
When my wife and I met them, they were in the middle of cutting back some of the plant growth from around their house which the previous owners had left. One word of warning I had for them was to BEWARE OF THE SNAKES. When you reach behind a bush or plant, look before you reach and grab. The best surprise is no surprise.
2. Now that’s not only good advise for someone living in SW Florida, but that’s also good advise for every Christian.
a. Beware of the snake!
i) Look before you leap.
ii) If you are a Christian, you have a spiritual enemy and he is called a snake.
b. Twice in Revelation, (12:9;20:2) Satan is called that “old serpent.”
i) That is the form he used in the Garden of
Eden to tempt and mislead Adam and Eve.
ii) Genesis 3:1 (NIV) - Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made….
iii) Peter uses a different picture in 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.
c. Joining the emphasis of the two pictures together, Satan, the snake, looks for every opportunity to strike you and me and to destroy us.
i) John 10:10 (NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
3. No where is that seen more graphically than in the text before us this morning.
Acts 4:32-5:11 (NLT) (page 928)
32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.
33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all.
34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them
35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.
37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
1 There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.
2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.
6 Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”
9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this—conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too.”
10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened
4. The Bible is brutally honest in its recording of redemptive history.
a. It records the blemishes and faults of God’s people as well as their strengths.
b. Noah, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, etc.
5. So far in Acts, Luke’s portrayal of the church has been totally positive.
a. From its dramatic birth on the Day of Pentecost to its joyous, dynamic fellowship and explosive growth, the faithful writer has portrayed the church in all its pristine beauty, freshness, and vitality.
b. Even Satan’s attempt to thwart the church through the external pressure applied to its leaders (persecution) was a failure.
6. Such a picture is not complete, however.
a. No church is perfect, since all are made up of sinners, and the early church was no exception.
b. This section of Acts chronicles a negative milestone in the church’s history: the first recorded instance of sin in the church.
i) And it’s not even considered one of the BIGGIES
ii) ((illus)) A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
c. Of all the firsts in Acts, this is certainly the saddest.
7. Don’t forget that Acts is a book transitions.
a. Many “firsts” are taking place.
b. As is often the case in redemptive history, as a new era is coming in, God often established at the beginning of these, the seriousness of sin and a pure relationship with Him.
i) Achan in the book of Joshua – stoned.
ii) Nahab and Abihu who offered a wrong sacrifice and died.
iii) Uzzah who reached out and touched God’s ark and was struck dead.
iv) Here – Ananias and Sapphira
8. Dr. Luke sets up this story by way of contrast:
a. He again, shows the beautiful unity among God’s people – strengthened by persecution.
b. Now believers are sharing in significant ways.
i) Many believe much of this was brought on by those who chose to stay in Jerusalem after Pentecost and wait for the Lord’s coming.
ii) Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 25) and this happened in 70 AD
iii) There were those motivated to sell there possessions and use them in Christ’s kingdom because when the predicted destruction took place, these possessions would not do them any good.
c. Even Joseph, sold land, probably in his home country of Cyprus and freely gave it to service.
i) From this act, he is noted and given the nickname of Barnabas – son of encouragement.
9. SADLY, SITTING OVER TWO THE SIDE is this couple who thinks it would be nice to have this recognition.
a. They were of a different character than Barnabas and longed for the same kind of treatment.
b. They sold their property and then decided to keep back part of the money for themselves.
c. But when presenting the gift to the church, they indicated they were giving all, not part.
d. They lied! They misrepresented the truth.
10. ((illus)) Is anyone thinking Martha Stewart at this point?
a. A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing to God.
11. Beginning with :3 of Acts 5 we have Peter’s reply to Ananias.
a. It is significant.
b. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
c. Here Peter addresses 3 important concerns:
BEWARE OF THE SNAKE
1. THE RIGHT OF OWNERSHIP
a. The right of owning private property.
i) This first time is not the first that Peter mentions but I mention it first because it is the least important.
ii) When Peter says to Ananias 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away, he is not promoting communism or some permanent ideal for all Christians to share as here at this time.
iii) ((illus)) High School teacher who said this was a good example of communism and it was from the “Good Book.”
b. Peter is not inventing the right of private property.
i) That was already true in the OT.
ii) Even the 10 commandments warned against stealing.
c. But more than just the right of ownership.
i) Someday we are going to die, and the good we can do with our possessions will end then.
ii) Doesn’t it make sense to take care how we use our possessions and use them well now?
¨ We should make them count.
¨ I do not say sell all you have.
¨ Normally that would be an unwise thing to do.
¨ But make sure you use your possessions for the Lord.
d. Here, in essence Peter is saying that Ananias “You had a right to your property. You didn’t have to sell it and after you did, you didn’t have to give all of it or even part of it.”
i) The problem with Ananias is not that he kept part of the money for himself, but that both he and Mrs. Ananias pretended to give all of their proceeds from the sale when in reality they kept part for themselves.
ii) This is commonly called hypocrisy and lying.
iii) They were a part of the church
iv) And the snake strikes through this falsehood destroys fellowship.
THE RIGHT OF OWNERSHIP
2. THE ROLE OF SATAN
a. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
b. Let’s be honest, there are times when we aren’t very serious about Satan.
i) ((illus)) Flip Wilson – “The devil made me do it.”
ii) Now the devil is not God so he is not everywhere at once and he is not all powerful.
iii) But he has his demons and they cover the earth, and even their power is limited.
c. He hated the spirit of generosity and unity among the Christians.
i) Here in our text, God has blessed and empowered the early church and Satan is furious.
ii) ((illus)) Unity is powerful. In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus.
"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"
iii) So with devilish wisdom he said, “I’ll turn this around. I’ll use this very spirit of sharing to break down the very generosity it is supposed to expressing. I’ll get them to lie and introduce chaos to the church.”
d. Put it down - The truth of the matter is when we go through times of special blessing, Satan and his demons are going to attack us.
i) Now if you’re just going through the motions of being a Christian, Satan will not be too concerned.
ii) But it you are seeking God with all of your heart – if you are not being double minded, you seek to apply His word consistently
¨ You seek to be a witness
¨ You pray
¨ You desire to be an encouragement to the body
¨ Satan will attack you.
e. How do we overcome His attacks?
i) James 4:7 (NLT) So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
ii) Satan tries to run over us like a tank and we can only stand if we first submit to God.
iii) God is bigger than Satan and Satan will flee.
iv) We submit to God by prayer and an intimate relationship that is maintained through prayer, Bible reading and fellowship with God’s people.
v) Read how Jesus did it after His forty days of fasting – Matt. 4.
THE RIGHT OF OWNERSHIP
THE ROLE OF SATAN
3. THE RESULT OF SIN
a. :4 - … You weren’t lying to us but to God.
b. Peter takes the results of this sin to the highest level – God
i) This simply affirms the fact that the sin committed by Ananias was of great concern to God.
ii) Positively, no matter what you do, it matters to God – and to other people as well.
c. What do people say and think in today’s world about bad actions and toilet talk.
i) “It really doesn’t matter.”
ii) “It doesn’t matter that much.”
iii) When I find myself drifting in that direction, I am reminded of the words of C.S. Lewis:
d. We are eternal beings.
i) If not, if only creatures of this life, then our deception and lying really do not matter.
ii) On the other hand, if we are eternal beings, then the choices we make matter eternally and they matter to God.
1. The last par of this story concerns Sapphira, Ananias’s wife.
2. It is significant in this day and time to remember her.
a. She bore the full measure of guilt and responsibility because :2 - she knew and agreed to the deception.
b. And :8 – she repeated the lie.
3. When you and I do something wrong or when our culture does something wrong,
a. we tend to work hard at shunning our responsibility,
b. usually by what is called “determinism.”
c. Determinism means that some outside factor has made us do what we did and therefore we are not responsible.
4. Environmental determinism
a. “I am what I am because this is how my parents raise me.”
b. “It is because I grew up in a particular neighborhood.”
c. “When I went to preschool, someone beat up on me.”
5. Genetic environmentalism – more personal:
a. “I’m just made like that. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
i) This way we can excuse our temper, lying, or whatever
ii) Of course we allow this in ourselves but not in others.
b. ((illus)) A little boy once said to his mother, “Mother, why is it that whenever I do something wrong, it’s because I’m a bad boy; but whenever you do something wrong, it’s your nerves?”
i) One he on hand the mother is recognizing that her son was a creature made in the image of God and was responsible for what he did.
ii) But in her case, she excuse her bad behavior by her genes.
6. When we blame someone else for our conduct, in the final analysis the person we are really blaming is God.
a. If you try to excuse yourself on the basis of your environment, well, God is ultimately responsible for our environment – isn’t He?
b. If we appeal to internal factors, God also created those.
7. That will not do.
a. Maybe we are not responsible for certain factors, but:
i) We are responsible for ourselves
ii) From this day, forward.
b. We have the Holy Spirit living in us.
c. We choose to life for him
i) And we watch out for the snake
ii) He will not leave us alone.
d. Sin is sin because of God’s character.
e. Numbers 32:23 – “be sure your sin will find you out”
f. The church is imperfect – don’t try to make it perfect
i) Be real
ii) Be responsible
iii) Be truthful
iv) Be loving
g. Realize that sin is not singular in its effect – everybody gets hurt.
h. God loves you and cares for you.
i) He is not indifferent to your sins.
ii) 1 Peter 4:17 (NLT) - For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin first among God’s own children. And if even we Christians must be judged, what terrible fate awaits those who have never believed God’s Good News?
8. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened.
a. First time the word “church” is used in Acts.
b. Fear = not crawling around on all 4’s
c. There was respectful honest living before God.