Good morning everyone. I pray that you have had a blessed week. This week has been real busy with flooding at the church and the construction project down in the fellowship hall, but our Lord always provides and I praise his name particularly in moments like these. Over the next couple of weeks we will be talking about the “significance of hypocrisy”. What it means to us believers and why it is so important to address in the life of the believer. In each of our lives, we embrace in our sinful hearts some measure of hypocrisy. The question is what hypocrisy do we hold to in our lives and what does our Lord calls us to his children to embrace freedom from this sin in our lives. In this weeks passage of scripture we will see the significance of embracing hypocrisy in our lives and the judgement that we face if we do not fail to address the sin of hypocrisy.
scripture – Acts 4:32-5:11 (ESV)
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Engaging the Word
In this passage of scripture we see as the body of Christ has come together and have begun the process of giving all that they have for the glory of God in their midst. Not only are the people of God experiencing the hand of our Lord in ways that they could never have imagined but now their hearts of being changed to the point where the significance of their worldly possessions are no longer relevant within their eternal perspective. So what do they do? They begin to get rid of the stuff that they have so that they can experience the hand of God in greater ways, providing the provisions of our Lord for the purposes of experiencing the hand of our Lord in even better ways.
So Joseph, otherwise known as Barnabas, is one of these many men and women desiring to experience the full hand of God in their midst, sells all that he has to give to the church for the purposes of experiencing God in a mighty way. So what happens here? We see here in chapter 5 of Acts, Ananias and his wife Sapphira see this moment in the life of the church and through their sinful hearts desire after the admiration of man. When one reads this passage of scripture, it is easy to consider the judgement of Ananias and Sapphira to be too harsh. That this man and women make an honest mistake before God and for that they are struck down by God before the church.
Hypocrisy – What is iT?
If we take the time to consider the significance of what they did, it is evident that this couple were not giving to God but rather embracing hypocrisy for the purposes of being looked up to. Throughout the New Testament it is evident time after time that our Lord is forgiving in so many ways? If you were a harlot our Lord forgave them. If you were a thief, God forgave them. If you were a murderer, God forgave them. The list goes on and on. Yet if you were found in the company of hypocrites, our Lord had no time for them. He would often speak words and truth and love into those who were found in sin. Yet when it came to hypocrisy, our Lord would condemn to Hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, He would tell them they were filled with dead men’s bones. This is what our Lord thought of the hypocrite. So the question for us today is; what do you and I think of hypocrisy and does our live seek to tear out any measure of hypocrisy within our hearts?
So what is hypocrisy? In the dictionary, hypocrisy is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. In other words, hypocrisy is a measure in which we try to save face, by showing those around us that which makes us comfortable. When we think of the Pharisee and religious leaders who were accused of hypocrisy it is easy for us to say or think, “thank goodness I’m not like that”. However if we really consider who we are as individuals, too often we fall within this group that we have pity upon. In the day of our Lord and early church, hypocrisy was considered within the same context of acting. People who acted during this time would put on masks to pretend that they were someone.
If I were to put on this mask that I have here today, this mask is a decoration that my daughter has been collecting because of the art within it. However if I were to put it on today, you would probably think it pretty weird, however it is a mask that tells a lie to those around us. I could be crying behind this mask and you would have no idea. I could be glaring at you in anger and you would have no idea.
You see we, whether we are non-believers or believers, all of us within the footprint of our God put on masks on in our lives. We hide our hurts, our frustrations, our lies, our sins, from those around us because we don’t want to lose face. Unfortunately, in our spiritual lives this is too often how the church is. We hear the word of God in our lives, we hear the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts and too often we fail to cry out to God for forgiveness, for help in our time of trouble, for praise in our time in victory in Christ. I recently heard a testimony about a young man who was at a youth conference where everything was going according to plan. A time of music and testimony had been scripted and one after one, the youth got up and gave a short testimony. Yet when this young man got up to give his testimony, he went 180o on the service and spoke about how his Lord had convicted him over the hypocrisy that he had allowed into his heart. It was in this moment that this young man illustrated how he had lived in sin even as a leader within the church. That he had been sleeping around, that he had explored homosexuality and that he was chained to pornography. All of this while leading ministries within the church. That day as this young man shared his testimony God moved in a mighty way freeing this man from the hypocrisy that he had embraced in his walk.
So in order for us to understand why our Lord acted in such a significant measure upon Ananias and Sapphira we need to understand what happens when hypocrisy is embraced in our hearts and how we can free ourselves from these snares within our walk with our Lord. So turn with me to Matthew 23 where we walk over the next two weeks through the seven woes spoken by our Lord upon the sin of Hypocrisy.
A Place of Honor
Our place of honor lies within the truth of our Lord. Speaking to the disciples and the crowds surrounding our Lord that day, he points out in verse 3-6 of this passage that hypocrites,
“preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and the love the place of honor….”
As we see in these three verses, hypocrites are individuals who can preach but don’t practice what they preach. They are individuals who like the position of honor. That day as Ananias and Sapphira gave to God in the church, it was not that they were giving a portion to God, but rather the underlying as to why they were giving to God. They were not giving to God out of the overflow of their hearts, rather they were giving to God so that they could receive a seat of honor. They were trying to preach to those around them that this is how a good Christian acts. Meanwhile within their hearts lay the truth of their hypocrite deception.
So what does this mean for us today? Unfortunately, too often this truth is a sad reality in the church today. We embrace what it means to look and sound like a Christian. We share with those around us the those things that we desire to impress them with. We look for opportunities to look good in front of the pastor and take measures to obtain opportunities to be looked up to. As I have entered in the ministry I have discovered that as a pastor I do not have to carry the burden by myself. That there are men and women in my life that God has given me to share my spiritual struggles with. These men and women walk with me in ministry, they pray with me and for me. They cry with me, they laugh with me and fight for me. Today, know that our Lord reveals incredible promise when you and I search after his heart with all we are. I have told you in the past that our spiritual journey is a messy one. When we experience God in a real way, without the masks that too often we carry, it is there that we will experience the tears, laughs and spiritual frustrations, but it is there that we will experience truth. When our Lord tells us to love Him, he tells us to love him with all our soul, all our strength and all our mind. This instruction does not tell us to love him with our best suit or our best smile, but it tells us to just love him with all truth and fervor that we have as his children. It is when we lose our desire of honor and inherit the desire of truth that we can experience the full love of our Lord.
Where does our Trust lie?
Trusting in the Lord reveals death to our self. In verses 13-15 of this passage we see once again as our Lord once again corrects hypocrites for “shutting the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, neither entering themselves nor allowing others to enter as well”. Once again we are reminded in the Acts 5 passage where Ananias and Sapphira only give a portion of what they have received from the sale of their property to God. Our Lord did not strike Ananias and Sapphira for giving a portion of what they had received to our Lord. Rather they wanted to lead those around them that they completely trusted in the provision of God by giving all that they had for his kingdom. In our humanity, this is a typical response from anyone. How can we live if we give everything we have to God? How can we pay our bills? How can we provide for our families?
In Proverbs 3:5 our Lord’s word tells us;
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Unfortunately in our lives we look at this passage and see it only within the context of understanding scripture. However, why don’t we trust in God in our lives?
- Maybe because we feel we can provide better for our families than he can.
- Maybe because we believe the pain killers will work better for our pain than his healing hand.
- Maybe because the programs of churches seemed to have worked for others.
- Maybe because my understanding of God’s word is more humanly logical than his truth.
There are so many reasons why we don’t trust in God, yet when it comes down to it, it is because we don’t want to give God control. That day when Ananias and Sapphira held back some of what they had been given, their hypocrisy was revealed in their unwillingness to give God control. This morning, what are we unwilling to give God control over in our life. What scares us most in our walk with our Lord and why do we hold to hypocrisy in our lives? Today our Lord desires to make our paths straight and turn our eyes away from evil if we will just lose control to his will in our lives.
A Defiled Heart
A defiled heart reveals a lie, but a pure heart reveals truth. The third and final aspect of hypocrisy that we will address today in the “defiled heart” that is revealed in a hypocrite. In Matthew 23:16, we see as our Lord points out to the religious hypocrites that they hold to the truth that swearing upon the temple is irrelevant whereas swearing upon the gold of the temple reveals the significance of oath. Here in Acts 5, our Lord gives Peter insight into the heart of Ananias and Sapphira and he reveals to them that they have allowed Satan to filled their heart to lie. In both of these illustrations our Lord illustrates for us today that if we allow Satan to fill our hearts we will reside within an existence that doesn’t know the truth from a lie.
1 Titus 1:15-16 illustrates it this way,
“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good works.”
One of the key truths that few fail to grasp in their spiritual journey is the significance of the lie that is revealed, seared into the consciences and hearts when we allow hypocrisy to fill our hearts. We become detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good works.
We think that we have got away with the untruth when we walk away today having fooled those around us with the lies that too often carry our lives. Today we might save face, but tomorrow as we face the eternal judgement before our Lord will we still be laughing all the way. Today is it worth it? Is it worth the eternal damnation to hold onto the manure of our souls so that we don’t have to lose face to those around us? God wants to free us from the lies. He desires to reveal a heart that is obedient, fit for every good work.