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Death is at the Door (Acts 4:32-5:11) | Sermon by Gray Gardner

How to Start a Fire (Acts)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Acknowledge Recent Tragedies/Pray

Lamentations 3:19–24 (ESV)
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Pray
Psalm 34:18 “18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Introduction

Opening Story: The Great Fire of London - 1666
Burned for four days. Swept through the entire city.
While it left in its wake terrible devastation in the loss of lives and the subsequent social and economic chaos, the fire was also widely believed to have finally eradicated the black plague from London.
The Black Plague killed more than 1/3 of the population of London in the previous year. By September of 1666, when the fire hit, many older buildings remained completely unsanitary, petri dishes for the germs that infected so many people, filled with rats and other vermin which carried the germs.
The fire, devastating though it was, had a redeeming quality: it purified the city, so that sickness would no longer infect the people.
Our next passage in the Book of Acts this morning tells the story of God working in a way similar to the Great Fire of London.
When the Holy Spirit descended on the little fledgling church like a fire in Acts 2, it harmed no one, and only empowered and emboldened them.
In Acts 5, the fire that birthed the church blazes wildly, this time to purify the church.
Our reading this morning will begin in Acts 4:32 and will go through Acts 5:11.
Out of reverence for the reading of God’s Word, will you please stand.

Scripture Reading

ACTS 4:32 - 5:11
4:32 Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement)j 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.
7 About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the land for this price?”
“Yes,” she said, “for that price.”
9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.

“Death Is At the Door”

If you’re a note-taker, the title of this message today is “Death is at the Door.” Here’s the main truth I want you to see today:

Every time you open the door to sin, you invite death into your life.

Let’s look at how this happens in this particular story with Ananias and Sapphira, and then we’ll talk about the ways death enters into our own lives when we choose to sin.

1. We see their temptation. Acts 4:36-37

They saw how Barnabas and others were being praised in the church for their generosity, and they wanted in.
They wanted to be praised for being the kind of generous givers that get renamed “Son of Encouragement” without the pain of true, heartfelt, sacrificial generosity.
A door of temptation appeared with sin lurking behind it. They could deceive the church, sell a field they owned, give some to the church but keep the rest, and just tell everyone they sold the field for much less than they actually did.
In other words, a lie was presented to them which appealed to their desire to be affirmed, praised, accepted. But, because of their sinful nature, they - like each of us - had disordered desires. Their flesh desired to receive the praise in the absence of experiencing the pain of sacrifice associated with true generosity.
So the lie said: You can be praised like Barnabas without actually being honest and generous like Barnabas.
Or, as my mom says, “You can have your cake and eat it, too.”
This is always how temptation presents itself to us.
There is always a lie that appeals to our flesh, or our disordered desires.
Often times this is a whisper that enters into our minds without us even expecting it. Have you ever had a thought that wasn’t yours?
The same devil that whispered in the ear of Eve in the Garden continues to whisper in our ears today; fork-tongued, causing us to doubt God’s Word and seek satisfaction apart from Him.
May I remind you that there are actual spiritual powers of darkness in this world? May I remind you that there is a spiritual war taking place all around you? May I remind you that as we sit here together right now, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour?
You have an enemy who hates you and everything about you because you are created in the image of God, and if you are a believer, you have been transferred out of the enemy’s kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. So he wants to destroy you. He wants you to think you’re seeking freedom and pleasure and self-actualization when in reality the things he promises are nothing but fake bait around a hook.
So he lies to us:
This house in this neighborhood with this car will validate your identity and finally make you feel satisfied.
My anger and cruelty towards this person on social media is justified because my beliefs are right and their’s are wrong.
You can have sexual pleasure without the cost of true intimacy. Porn, extramarital affairs, casual hook up culture.
The lie is always that you can have the benefits of righteousness without actually being righteous.
What are the benefits of righteousness? Jesus called it “abundant life.” We might describe it as peace, security, happiness, purpose, meaning, praise, affirmation, pleasure, etc. etc.
Jesus says you can have it all, but you have to die to yourself and follow Him. You have to lay down your all, but in return you get all He has — which is everything.
Sin says you don’t have to lay down anything, and you can still have it all.
Ananias and Sapphira were tempted by this lie. Sin crouched at the door of their hearts.
I’m reminded of what God says to Cain after he killed his brother Able in Gen. 4:7: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Did you know that every time you are tempted, you are presented with an opportunity to walk away — to rule over it?
1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Ananias and Sapphira had the devil knocking on the door.

2. We see their sin. Acts 5:1-4

Like a large mouth bass biting down on a delicious looking worm, they chomp down on the bait, not realizing there was hook hidden inside of it.
They sell the field for, let’s say, $1,000, but they bring $500 to the apostles feet. Rather than just saying, “Hey, we sold it for this price, kept half to pay off some debt and take a weekend trip to Gaza, and gave the other half to the church,” they lie. They tell Peter and the apostles that they sold the field for $500, because they wanted it to seem like they were more generous than they actually were.
The secret sin they fell into involved wealth and material goods, but they were not judged for keeping some of their own money. They were judged for lying about it and pretending to be something they were not.
Notice: They did a good thing. They sold a property they owned and gave some to the church. That is noble! That should be praised. And yet, because the intentions of their heart were not to genuinely assist the needy out of their own sacrifice, but rather to earn the praise of the people through a lie, they were judged.
Not about money — it was about lying, being purposefully deceitful, duplicitous.
More than that, they didn’t just lie to the church — Peter says that in their deceit, they actually lied to God .
When you sin against those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, you do not simply sin against people — you sin against God Himself.

3. We see the consequences of their sin. Acts 5:5-6, 9-10

Death is always the consequence of sin.

In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it is literal, physical death.

Every time you open the door to sin, you invite death into your life.

“For the wages of sin is death.” Rom 6:23

The death you experience when you sin probably isn’t physical. When you sin, you experience:

1. Death to community (your relationships).

It is impossible to walk in unrepentant sin and have true community.
Example: Friends who you gossip with all the time. None of you will ever be free to actually be yourselves, to be vulnerable, so long as the sin of gossip is present in your relationships. Who is going to let their walls down and be the next victim?
Sin forces you to build up walls to protect yourself in your sin so you’re found out. You can have people with you in your sin, or you wall them off and keep them at a safe distance. In either case, the people in sin with you don’t know the real you, they know the broken version of you.
Sin invites death into your relationships.

2. Death to Truth (your mind).

Paul talks about our minds being “darkened” by sins and needing “illumination” from the Holy Spirit.
The more you believe lies, the further away from the truth of God you get, the further away from reality you get.
In other words: sin makes you stupid.

3. Death to Conscience (your heart).

Paul again in Romans talks about not just our minds being darkened by sins, but also our hearts.
Later he would tell Timothy to avoid certain people who’s consciences were seared by continued disobedience and sin.
The innermost part of our being are seared by continued sin. We fail to listen to our conscience, our spirit, gently prodding us towards what is light.
Illustration: Learning guitar, callouses form after ignoring screaming nerve endings in fingertips.

4. Death to the Spirit (your soul for all eternity).

Finally, there is an eternal death. Physical death to our bodies, but also eternal death to our spirit and minds.
The Bible tells us that one day each and every one of us will be judged according to our lives. We will be held to account for all that we’ve thought, done, and said.
God is a just judge, and God must judge sin.

Two options for you:

1. You die for your own sin.

2. Jesus dies for your sin.

How?
Repentance and Faith.
Justified — no longer guilty of sin. Forgiven.

Two Groups of People in this Room:

1. People who have not trusted Christ for salvation who struggle with sin.

2. People who have trusted Christ for salvation and continue to struggle with sin.

—> The solution to both groups here today: Repent and believe.

Sanctification — the ongoing process of becoming who God says you are: sinless, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, HOLY.
There is no ongoing sanctification without ongoing repentance.
“Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” John Owen
Every single person is facing the choice of Two Doors:
The door of temptation, where sin crouches ready to invade your life with death.
The door of repentance, where Jesus stands ready to invade your life with peace.
Revelation 3:19-20 “19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
—> WHICH DOOR WILL YOU OPEN?
Don’t just try and ignore the door of temptation. Knock the freaking door down and kill it.
“Slay the dragon in its lair before he comes to your village.” Jordan Peterson
-Starve it — set yourself in different places where you can’t fall prey
-Confess - find someone who knows everything.

Why this text is here

Acts 5:11 “11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”
Do you think anybody knowingly chose to sin or tried to deceive the body after this? Not for a while.
The people realized: The God they worshiped in Jesus, the God who’s Holy Spirit had birthed the church and empowered them, was the same God of the Old Testament — the same God who had purified Israel by condemning Achan for his sin in Joshua 7.
The God of Holiness is the God of Jesus, which means that Jesus is the God of Holiness.
Which means that His body, the Church, is to be a people of Holiness.
Set apart.
Different.
Defeating sin.
Here, in this passage, the word “church” is used for the first time in Acts. The Greek is Ekklesia. The “called out” ones.
Those who have been called out of the world to gather together, to be different.

Closing

Illustration: Gathering branches and logs from the backyard, trying to light a large piece of cedar which won’t catch because it’s rotten.
—> Punchline: Rotten logs won’t light.
If you want to start a fire, set ablaze by the Spirit of God, living for the Mission of God, experiencing and pouring out the Love of God, then you have to get rid of the rot.
You have to kill the sin in your life by living in the light and repenting daily, and believing daily in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Pray to transition to response song
OPTION: Invitation during prayer
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