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Faithlife

Death At the Hands of Heaven

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On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.
Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God's gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage.
Churches continue to recognize the third Sunday in January as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. In 2018, the date will be January 21.
Acts 5:1–11 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. 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.” 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.
Churches continue to recognize the third Sunday in January as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
Ananias and Sapphira
In 2018, the date is today.
1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With 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.
Acts 5:1–11 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. 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.” 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.
INTRO: Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, struggle with the question, “Why did Ananias and Sapphira have to die in this account from scripture?”
3Then 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? 4Didn'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 to men but to God."
5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price."
9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."
10At 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. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
INTRO: Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, struggle with the question, “Why did Ananias and Sapphira have to die in this account from scripture?”
· Some struggle because it seems unlike the loving, Santa-type God that we use as the draw card for salvation.
· Some think that the infraction wasn’t all that major; we have all lied, right? So, why did they have to die for it?
· Why couldn’t they have just been kicked-out of the church, made an example of that way instead of the radical death sentence they received?
· Some think this passage goes completely against the grace of God.
· They sinned! So what! We’ve all done it!
· Why are they dead and I’m still living?
· It just seems too harsh!
I hope I can answer some of those questions for you today.
· And, I hope I can explain why I think this is a topic that is very important to us at this time in our history.
· Our understanding of the reasons behind the punishment in this story, I hope, will make us all better prepared to do what I think needs to be done at this point in our world’s history.
· Melodrama aside, lives depend on it.

First, here's one thing this account doesn't mean.

· This account, along with its Old Testament "twin" -- the account of Achan's death in response to his retaining for private use what had been dedicated to God () have been widely used, within Christendom, as clubs and hammers.
· They have been preached to wide-eyed audiences, with the message that if you lie and deceive and don't tell the truth, then you too may suffer the same fate as Achan in the book of Joshua, and Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts.
· I do know that these two passages have often been "preached" as attempts to soften up groups before some kind of inquisition takes place on the part of religious leaders -- attempting to find out who did what, when, where and why.
· I know that...

These two accounts do not appear in the Bible so that they may be used to beat people into submission.

2) Back to and what it does mean.
· Back to Ananias and Sapphira -- and Peter of course, who is at the center of this account.
· I know and believe that this Peter was not the brash-and-relentless-before-Pentecost Peter -- he is not the same Peter that denied Jesus -- but this is a transformed Peter, who has received God's forgiveness, a man acutely aware of his own sin.
o Until we become, also, acutely aware of our own sin we will never get passed the pre-Pentecost-type Peter in our own characters.
o That Peter was selfish, arrogant and full of pride.
o That Peter wanted to be recognized as better than others.
o He didn’t understand grace, mercy nor just about any other useful concept that Christ tried to teach in those days.
o And, he was virtually useless to the Kingdom as are all who are full of worldly pride.
· So we are not dealing with a fire-breathing hell-fire and brimstone fear-based fulminating judge who cannot be touched with the sins of human beings -- but a different Peter, one in whom Jesus lives out his risen life.
· So it is not for us to judge Peter as being some heartless man, who condemns people to death arbitrarily.
3) We are dealing with deceit!
· We are dealing with a husband and wife who conspired -- who agreed to "get their stories straight" -- in an attempt that their lie would not be discovered.
· But this kind of thing happens all the time.
· It happens with siblings, who agree to "help each other" so that mom and dad will not find out the truth.
· It happens in the home, it happens in the work place.
· If death were to happen as quickly and as absolutely, for the same apparent, outward reasons, then the population of every part of this world would not be anywhere near what it is today.
· So why these two?
4) What is the primary teaching that appears to be the back story of this story?
· For me, the story is the reality of God the Holy Spirit -- the reality of His presence and his work in the church at that time.
· Let's follow that thought.
· Some commentators have suggested that this account appears, and this account happened, directed by God, because the church was growing -- and that it was having some of the same problems churches have had since that time.
· Folks were having difficulties distinguishing between the invisible church and the visible church.
· Folks were being captivated by the social and outward functions, features and distinctions of the church.
· Folks wanted to be seen as involved, contributing, giving and serving -- and, as it always does, the outward appearance soon began to have more importance than the inner reality.
clearly identifies the sin of Ananias and Sapphira -- it was not deception, lying, and failing to give the money they said they had.
· The sin was of buying into and promoting the emptiness of religious hypocrisy.
· The sin was the religious show.
· The sin was their complicity in trying to deceive not just their fellow Christians and church goers and members -- but more than that, in actually thinking they could deceive God -- God the Holy Spirit.
o Sin blinds us to the true nature of the offense: that our sin is against God.
o Sin also blinds us so that we choose short-term gains in this life, thinking not of the long-term loss in the next.
Luke 9:24–25 NIV
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
· God determined, in his mercy and grace that this whole pretense had to be stopped -- cold -- in its tracks.
· The body of Christ, as young as it was, was taking a serious turn.
· It seems to me that God determined that many people were becoming impressed with the church as a carnival, a show, a smoke and mirrors (think of many TV presentations of Christianity today!).
One commentator notes that there may well have been a superstition that had grown up within the church (and does this ever strike home for many churches and many denominational traditions today).
· The tradition could have been, notes one commentator, that since Jesus had defied death, he had overcome it, so too would all Christians.
· These might have been the first deaths in that early New Testament Jerusalem church -- and might have, on that basis alone, served to decisively deal with pagan superstitions and expectations (that humans would never experience physical death) that may have been working their way into the body of Christ at that time.
5) What was God doing?
· He was being God.
· He was leading the body of Christ on earth, as the Holy Spirit.
· He was teaching, informing and directing his people toward those things that really matter -- the spiritual -- over against those things that really impress us -- our spiritual status, how righteous other people think we are, our special unique powers (even over life and death) that we may assure ourselves that we have, as opposed to the Master, who alone is unique and special.
· God was moving the spotlight from the temporal and mundane, from pride and vanity -- to the real basis of our faith.
6) Why isn't God consistent?
· Why doesn't he do such things all the time?
· Was it "fair" for him to be so arbitrary with Ananias and Sapphira, and spare others who had been guilty of similar or worse things?
· Before we assume the right to judge God, let us proceed with caution.
· God does not tell us why he did what he did.
· He does not pretend to seek our permission.
· He does not attempt to lay out his case so that we will judge his actions to have been fair.
· In fact, he doesn't do such a thing in our lives at all, does he?
· He is not accountable to us!!
· His ways are above us -- he doesn't ever tell us, in the pages of the Bible, that everything about him and his ways will be understandable to us.
· Instead, we often read of the mystery of God. He reveals his essential characteristics and attributes and nature to us -- essential for us in the relationship he offers to us now.
· He doesn't reveal all that he is.
· We cannot plumb the depth of his wisdom, his mercy, his love or his grace.
· He doesn't ask us to, he doesn't give us the tools we would need to do so.
7) In summary,...

What can we learn from this account of Ananias and Sapphira?

A. We can learn that it is not presented to us as a law, as a "this-will-happen-to-you-too-if-you-don't-shape-up."
· Human commentators and preachers have done this, in their zeal to accomplish their mission to keep the church "sin-free."
· This is the book of Acts -- it's a history of how the early church grew.
B. We can learn that the church -- even that idealized early church we so often yearn for -- was far from perfect.
· Human beings inhabited the body of Christ then, just as they do now.
C. We can learn that we need to get our priorities straight.
· Our relationship with God is not about how much we give, it's not predicated on how impressed others are with our zeal and works.
· God desires that our relationship with Him should be as religious-free as possible -- our relationship with him is all about authenticity, reality, truth -- he knows who we are-- he loves us because of his love -- we must not attempt to diminish his love or even reject it by, of all things, convincing ourselves that we can deceive him and manipulate him into doing what he already has done -- loving us and accepting us.
Ananias and Sapphira is a story, for me, of the judgment of God against Christ-less religion, and all of the silly and empty attempts we can be deceived into thinking actually please and impress God.
· For Christians today this is still a temptation: to so luxuriate in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning.
· But God will not be mocked.
Galatians 6:7–8 NIV
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
· The message of this for the Christian and non-Christian alike should be very clear.
· Christians must realize that the selfless, transparent fellowship of the church must never be violated by selfish hypocrisy.
There is something else from this story we should also consider for the health of the Church; it is proper to employ discipline to guard the church's integrity, unity and purity.
· For the non-Christian, this account is a warning: Think twice before joining this holy fellowship.
· Are you willing to pay the price--fully renouncing wicked ways and with all of your heart embrace Christ and other believers in his body, the church?
We need to be an authentic people!
· But, the problem with that, like Ananias and Sapphira, our hypocrisy has rendered us impotent.
o We cannot pick and chose the precepts of God like we were in a shopping mall only stopping in those places that suit us personally.
o We can’t get on our high horses about abortion, homosexual marriage, God being taken out of public life, while all the time cheating on our taxes, our spouses, our children and God Himself.
o It is a mockery to God!
o Every time you pray His name while secretly embracing your sin you have done it in vain, and blasphemed Him.
In many churches today Ananias and Sapphira would be promoted to Deacon and Women’s Ministry Leader based on nothing more than appearance, and, indeed in many, people just like them have.
CLOSE: If I were to gloss over the importance of staying away from feel-good, look-good, sound-good religion, I would be condoning the actions of two people God thought worthy of putting to death.
· There is nothing as powerful as authentic, God-led, Spirit-indwelt religion.
· But, there is nothing more damaging than false, flimsy, powerless, man-led, hypocritical religion of the type that is still present in the church today.
Lt’s make sure we are a part of the former – the God-led, Spirit-indwelt-type.
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