As I approach the end of Acts chapter 4, the disciple Peter (known as Simon in the gospel who Jesus renamed Peter) is continuing to astound me mostly because of the effect the Holy Spirit has had on him. I can’t forget who Peter was before the Holy Spirit came. What was happening in the church was incredible but how God was using Peter ….is challenging me on a personal level. As we reach the end of chapter 4… there are a few people Luke highlights but the one I am watching at the moment is Peter and how he deals with people…how he deals with the Jewish leaders, the needy, the belviers, and the other leaders. In Acts chapter 5 Luke describes an encounter Peter has with a couple of nice geraniums folk who want to donate the funds from the property they sold to meet the needs of the people who were coming to know Jesus. We find ourselves in the middle of a crazy revival where so many are being added to the church….so many are gathering to be taught by the apostles… so many are having their needs met….so many are generously meeting the needs of those around them…so many miracles ar happening …..so many and signs and wonders are being reported. People are literally being healed when Peter’s shadow touches them. There are so many miracles that Luke simply hand picks just a few stories to help us see what is going on around him. At the end of chapter 4 just as we read at the end of chapter 3, so many people are belvieing the message and being touched by Jesus. So many good things are happening BUT the midst of the many miracles, Luke includes a story that is confronting and real. First he gives us an example of one of the many, mentioning a man named Barnabas, as an example of what many others were also doing…selling property and giving the proceeds to the church, but he is mentioned only in passing here because another story is about to unfold that speaks to my heart as a believer, as a leader, as a seeker, as a pastor….Luke uses this story of Barnabas as a prelude to a story about Ananias and Saphira and couple in the church.
They both amongst many other have sold some property and bring the money to the apstoles. We are not told the motive behind why this couple amongst so many others choose to tell a lie about what they were giving. We don’t know why this couple agreed together on this, intentionally seeking to deceive the leaders but I am sure they thought they could get away with it. I like that we don’t know the motive or what their story is because it helps us write our own motives and our own agenda into the story and it helps us see how easy it is the be this couple. In a culture that doesn’t seem to mind pretence and deception and the appearance of being better than we are even in church contexts, it is a story that speaks to all of us. We feel almost sorry for them that they got caught and feel a sense of injustice that they should have to die for something so many do every day… we all want to appear more righteous than we are, more perfect than we are and our need to be seen a perfect outworks itself in many ways. We see it in others but not always in ourselves. If they hadn’t died we could easily trivialise something that really is just another part of our culture.
This couple may not have had an Instagram account but everyone would have ntoiced their generosity instead they get splashed across social media wiht a story of tragedy. In thier attempt to project an image that wasn’t real, they are confronted by the power of the Holy Spirit and a human lie sector called Peter. They are doing what we see people do every day…creating an image that is a distortion and a projection of what they want others to see rather than what is real.
The Jewish culture was built on outward appearances and outward show. This couple wanted to appear as if they were more generous than they were. Were they trying to impress people? Were they trying to impress the leaders? Were they trying to gain favour? Were they trying to trick the leadership? Were they simply naive? Had they been living like this and this was just another arena of dishonesty and a lack of integrity? How easy it is to create a church culture that is about looking good and keeping up appearances instead of being asnparent and letting his spirit bring things to light that are hidden in secret so that can be dealt with.
I am finding myself asking God to check my own heart and reveal to me areas where I may be hiding truth and not being transparent; are there habits I have gotten into where I have given myself permission to be not entirely honest wiht myself and with others? Are areas where I want to appear more righteous or perfect or impressive than I actually am…as a mum, as a wife, as a freind, as a leader and as a Christian…why do we feel the need to present our lives as something different to our reality.
There is tension and angst in this story…how does my theology of grace align with what a God did in this NT story where God deals with a ‘white’ lie so severely …..
How do I reconcile his grace with his expectation of righteousness…
But again I am drawn to the character of Peter in this story…….
Peter has been moving in power and an anointing that brings healing, restoration, freedom..but in this story the Holy Spirit gives him discernment …something every one of us need if we want a church that is going to be what God intended it to be. There is no room for hypocrisy, deception, half truths, and mixed values anda lack of integrity. Church history is rife with stories where leaders did not confront sin and deal with deception and lies…right from the beginning of the church …the Bible shows us hwo a leader should deal with sin and deception…bring it to light, expose it and deal with it.
So many leaders turn a blind eye to issues of deceit and unrighteousness either because they don’t see it or they have not got the courage to call it out. As a leader I want to be liked, I want to be noticed for the freedom that God wants to bring and the grace he wants to pour out but I struggle with the courage to call out what I see when I see it….Peter does what is in the interests of the church and bears witness to who God is …righteous and holy and just. Peter’s gift of discernment carries through to action and two people die instantly. The power of God to take life away life not just give it is confronting, and a holy fear grips the people.
We don’t see Peter deliberating over this with the other leaders.
We don’t see Peter deliberating over this while trying to go to sleep.
He calls it out and deals with it in the moment.
Peter’s courage to deal with sin and use the power of God to deal with it is inspiring and scarey at the same time. The Holy Spirit has not just been given to me to show people the power of God to set free, but also the power of God to deal with sin. The demonisation of the power to God is to bear witness to the full character of God. All these people had known was the law. This story shows us that The law has a place and Jesus came to fulfill it.
The Holy Spirit is able to help me discern what is wrong and how to deal with it with power and courage.
The Holy Spirit will help me recognise sin for what it is but also give me wisdom in dealing with it.
I may think I can get away with sin but God sees and will bring to light.
The Holy Spirit showed the people what he thought about deception and a lack of integrity.
The Holy Spirit is not some nice little dove that helps us feel peace…he brings heaven and all the power of heaven to EVERY situation.
As a Pastor I want to courage to call out sin but also give the opportunity to to come clean.
Imagine what the story would have looked like if either the husband or the wife had confessed and come clean. At least one of em may not have died is such a tragic way.
The name Ananias literally means the mercy to God. I am grateful for God’s mercy but never want to take it for granted.
I want to get to a place where I have the courage to use my gift of discernment and extend grace and confront sin without deliberating and second guessing myself or how people will respond.