Let's Be RealSeries: Fruit Of The Spirit
LET'S BE REAL!
Sermon By Terry Siverd / September 24, 2023 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
Please open your Bible to Acts chapter five which will be the text for this morning’s sermon.
The story that is divulged in this chapter might well be the most candid and vivid in the entire book of Acts.
It demonstrates the honesty of the Scriptures. If I were Luke I might have been inclined to have deleted this account.
But the Word of God is noted for its straightforwardness. It is painfully frank at times and this is one of those times.
There is no hiding the truth. A troublesome happening is dealt with in a very open and forthright manner.
There is no sugar-coating . . . no white-washing. Acts 5 is clearly a “no spin zone”.
It is what it is, and in this case the “it” is not very pretty. In fact, it is quite U-G-L-Y.
But this is also a classic instance when we see our sovereign God causing things to work out for the good.
Drawing from today’s text reading in Acts 5, I’ve titled this morning sermon, Let's Be Real!.
Acts 4:32-27 closes with a very powerful picture of the early church standing united with one heart and soul.
Acts 5:1 opens on what sounds like a very positive note. One good deed begets another. Barnabas' sacrifice seems
to have stirred others to do something similar. But Acts 5:2f reveals that something good has gone sour.
Evidently this is a case of ulterior motives. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, kept back some of their gains from the
sale of their property. But in giving the gift they lied to the church and to God. Had they just been UP FRONT
all would have gone well. But their greed and duplicity nullified what could have been a good thing. This story
reminds us of a truth echoing throughout the Scriptures: GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART AND GOD KNOWS OUR HEARTS.
Read Acts 5:1-10
Acts 5:11 is a postscript to this sad event, noting: great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things! This was not a paralyzing fear but rather a sense of shock and awe that awakened and sharpened the early church, keenly impressing upon them the realization that they were serving an omniscient God who did
not then and does not now tolerate dishonesty and deception nor half-heartedness and hypocrisy.
The church at Jerusalem came to comprehend very early on that it was impossible to hoodwink the Almighty God.
This was an important lesson -- call it Christianity 101 -- a lesson that made it crystal clear that
following Christ is a serious undertaking requiring SINCERITY and truthfulness, and a kind of behavior that is
beyond reproach – before both a watching world and an ever-watching Creator and Sustainer.
The actions of Ananias & Sapphira were clearly noted for what they really were: sins against God (Acts 5:4b).
One writer that I have studied notes the following: Failure in diligence is sin against God …
Failure to use our talents is sin against God … Failure in speaking the truth is sin against God.
These are critical insights that we need to grasp firmly: our sins are not just against each other, but against God.
It might sound strange to say it, but I’m encouraged by this account.
It shows us that even in its heyday the church was a mixture of good and bad.
We do well to remember that if the church required a body of PERFECT PEOPLE there would be no Church at all!!
The early saints were “seized” but they were not not seized up.
There was no work stoppage. In fact, just the opposite took place –- there was a great increase.
The early Christians did not allow this incident to drive them into either hibernation or hiding.
This morning I want to speak to us about the virtue of AUTHENTICITY.
(One can be really bad, but we are aspiring to be really good).
Acts 5:12f notes three things: They worshiped openly – vs.12b …
Although some Jewish leaders feared to associate with them, the people held them in high esteem – vs.13 ...
Multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number - vs.14
Acts 5:17ff emphasizes the the tenacity of their young faith.
The apostles (Peter & John, etal.?) are imprisoned.
They resumed doing what the Jewish leaders had forwarned them not to do (Acts 4:17-18).
Subsequently and without the approval of the Jewish leaders, they are released by a messenger from God.
They are directed, Go your way, stand up and speak… And they did just that.
They were brought back to give an account before the Sanhedrin. After being reprimanded, Peter and the apostles answered saying: We must obey God rather than men…We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit
Peter’s sermon (apologia/defense) offended the Jewish leaders (vs.33).
They were cut to the quick (not cut to the heart), with every intention of slaying the apostles.
A Pharisee named Gamaliel intervened and with some anecdotal illustrations, advised them (vs.34f):
If it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you might even be found fighting against God.
They took his advice. They did not kill the apostles, but more than just flagging them as troublemakers, they had
them flogged and ordered them saying, speak no more in the name of Jesus (vs.40b). Then, they released them.
This ended up being (to borrow from the language of fishermen this was a case of “catch and release”).
This story ends not with a whimper but with a bang.
The apostles and these early Christians refused to be intimidated. The were seized by shock and awe at the actions
of Almighty God, but the threats and machinations of the Jewish leaders failed to slay them or to sway them.
These early saints had prayed for boldness and they were now acting bolder than ever. They were not going to be
strong-armed into silence. They were not going to be muzzled or muted. These first-century saints kept on keeping on.
What an inspiration to read Acts 5:41 - - So they went on their way from the presence of the Council,
REJOICING that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name!
They rejoiced because their persecution provided an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to Christ.
They rejoiced because their sufferings provided them a real occasion to share in the experience of Christ.
Peter would later write (1Pet.2:21-23) - - For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving
you an example to follow in His steps; Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, and while being reviled,
He did not revile in return; While suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…
HOW URGENTLY WE NEED TO GET THIS!
Whatever comes our way in terms of trials & tribulations ... problems & persecutions ... sorrows & sufferings …
headaches & heartaches … all of these provide us with a vehicle to witness to God’s sovereignty and our loyalty.
In the face of trials, the question for us is twofold: Will we remain loyal? (steadfast, immovable, always abounding/1Cor.15:58). Secondly, will we keep rejoicing? Will negative events and bad people steal away our joy
and rob us of our smile or will we, with GENUINE determination and devotion, keep on walking in the steps of Jesus?
Finally, this great chapter closes with these words (Acts 5:42) - -
And every day, in the temple and from house to house They kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Their faith was not simply a garment that they wore on Sundays. Their faith was a daily demonstration. It was a faith
that could be seen at Temple/at church, but it was also a faith that permeated their homes throughout the week.
There are many “out there” (in the world) who have been turned off by some of us “in here” (in the church),
Because they've seen us behave one way on Sunday, and another way on Monday or Tuesday - - throughout the week.
There's room in the family of God for weaknesses (thank God), but there is no place for insincerity and hypocrisy.
Stumble though we might from time to time, WE MUST WILL TO BE REAL!!!
To not be authentic is first and foremost to sin against God. To be disingenuous also places a stumbling
block in the eyes of some that has the potential to do some serious and sometimes irreparable harm.
We Christians are to be a reflection of Christ, but when those claiming to follow Christ are not real,
that which ought to be wafting forth as a sweet aroma can quickly because an odious stench.