Monthly Archives: April 2015

PLEASING GOD INSTEAD OF PLEASING MEN

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PLEASING GOD INSTEAD OF MEN
1 THESS 2: 1-12

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
INTRODUCTION:
I honestly believe that we should not lower the expectations for following Christ because it’s costly…but we should expect…and encourage genuine followers of Christ to grow…reach new levels of maturity…
And those of us who are in leadership have the scary proposition of saying, “Follow me…Imitate Me as I follow Jesus” As I reach for those new levels.
The reason that’s so difficult for us in leadership is we feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 many times…”I do not understand what I do…for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate…I do” (v 15).
Maybe that’s why the two characteristics of humility and teach ability are so essential for those who would dare say.
“We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.”
How can the Apostle Paul make both those claims…first, “I struggle myself in this body I live in” and second “I am a man approved by God and entrusted with the gospel?”
There is a test…and it’s a spiritual heart cath…and God is the Cardiologist…
GOD REVEALS THE TRUE CONDITION OF OUR HEARTS
[Most of you know I had a heart attack when I was 34….they did angioplasty surgery….they used a balloon to open the blockage…then last year I blew out my knee…Again, went in for surgery on my knee, but before they would do the surgery I had a stress test on my heart…they injected me with Nuclear stuff..I was on the treadmill, got my heart rate up to 170 and thought I did O.K….Nope, they scheduled me for a cath…another time where they put a camera through the veins in your groin and snake it up to your heart…during this the doctor found the 3 major arteries were almost severed they were so blocked, the result…no knee surgery but 3 stints…they could not have made this decision to save my life without this test]
The apostle Paul says God has a test…especially for those who would be your leader. Paul’s opponents had accused him of several things…first
1) Having a criminal record…He’s been in jail…you can’t trust a crook!!! Paul says, you know that our visit with you was not a failure…we had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition (v12)
What happened in Philippi? Well Lydia, a business woman there accepted Christ and she and her entire household were baptized. And Paul stayed at her house with Silas and Timothy…
But real trouble erupted in Philippi when a slave girl, who was possessed by a spirit that enabled her to predict the future and make a ton of money for her master was released from this spirit through Paul’s ministry. And because her master knew that Paul had ended their money train they brought him up on charges…threw the crowd into a frenzy and had Paul and Silas severely beaten and thrown in jail…listen to what happens that night…
Acts 16: 23 – 34 

23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Even Paul’s criminal record results in salvation for others…that is his motive…he answers the charges with this truth…
He’s accused of being greedy of having impure motives, and of trying to trick the Thessalonians to follow his message.
Read 1 Thess. 2: 3-6 (SEE ABOVE)
How can we know the motives of a leader’s heart…God will test it…He’ll put that heart under the microscope of a spiritual catheterization…God will reveal what springs from that heart according to the Apostle Paul.
Is the purpose of that heart to share the gospel no matter what, to help those who accept the message to grow, even under opposition or…
Is it to promote yourself and your agenda?
1) Do you tell people what they want to hear…or what they need to hear…”Flattery is the first test, for a godly leader’s heart…when you lead people the temptations always exists…to let their opinion become the guide instead of God’s word…If you do that you’ll treat the people with money and power different than you do others..
And the second test…
2) Do you hide behind a mask…to cover up greed, to cover up your real life, your real motives…?
[The word hypocrite… (and the world loves to label the church as a place full of them) comes from the Greek word” (Hypokrisis) it means “play acting”….”wearing a mask” …In the Greek theater when someone would perform a tragedy they would wear a giant crying mask…and when laughter was called for…a great laughing mask…you still see them and symbols for the theater in places…the actor, the hypocrite) was the man behind the mask)]
Why is that so tempting for all of us…but especially for those in leadership? Because if I take off the mask you’ll see my struggles, my failures, my sin….
And if my nature is to please you instead of the God who sees everything and “there is nothing in all creation hidden from His sight, but everything is naked and laid bare” (Heb 4:13)
I’ll create distance…I’ll make an occasional select appearance, but I’m going to wear a mask so you don’t see my pimples and flaws.
The question for this heart exam is “who are you trying to please…God? Or People?
The fish bowl is a difficult place to swim, because people stand on the outside and look in… My contention is…we’re all fish swimming together…and God is the only one who looks in.
If you want to judge me or my family that’s fine…I’ll let you see my heart…wide open and under the Great Cardiologists hands.
..but it’s funny that people who judge so severely usually wear a mask so that you can’t judge them…
My son would never do that? Really—my daughter would never do that? Yeah…and when they do, and when your family struggles because you’ve judged…you get to hide behind a mask and pretend it didn’t happen…that’s a horrible place to be…listen to the Apostle Paul’s transparency…He says, “As Apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, (An apostle…A witness of the resurrected Lord, and sent with His authority.
1 Thess. 2: 7-12 (SEE ABOVE)
Man I love that scripture…it makes my heart glad…filled with joy…Because it lets me see what a real minister looks like, what real leadership in the church resembles…it’s a reminder….
THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY NOT A BUSINESS.
How does the Apostle Paul shepherd and lead…
1) Gently like a mother caring for her little children…
[When I watch Cyndi with Kanaan or Lori with Landon…there is a tenderness and joy beyond description…
Whether its discipline or playing ball…love is the overriding characteristic…this is my child…my son…my daughter…I’ve got to lead them in the right way.
2) Sharing not only the gospel, but sharing life
“We love you so much that we were delighted to share with you, not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us”
Does anyone remember how long Paul had to make this happen for him, Silas and Timothy?
That’s right 3 weeks.
But during those three weeks they shared life…they worked alongside the Thessalonians…they showed integrity and honesty and love in the fishbowl…Paul says….We’re family, “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children..
Encouraging you….comforting you…and encouraging you to keep growing up.
I was blessed to have a Dad that did that for me….He cheered me on from the stands…and comforted me when I got hurt or my heart was broken, and he wanted me to do better, so he urged me on, helped pay for my college…sacrificed his wants so he could help me be better…His job was to help me grow up.
Spiritually speaking the Apostle Paul regards himself as the Thessalonians Dad…
The opposition Paul speaks about treated people like possession and thought of the bottom line before he cared about the broken heart. Remember the slave girl I mentioned to you earlier.
She was possessed by a Spirit that led her to places she didn’t want to go…and used her in ways she didn’t want to be used…Her Master didn’t give a “Hoot” about the girl…but they loved the money her fortune talking brought in…listen
Acts 16: 16-22 

1Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
This is the story that proceeded Paul, Silas and Timothy’s entrance into Thessalonians…A story his opposition and his enemies twisted but the truth would be revealed to the Thessalonians, not from the 3 times at the pulpit…but the 3 weeks lived among them.
This girl was still a slave to her owners…but she was set free from the evil that resided in her…”In the Name of Jesus Christ”
Those that abused Paul, insulted him…beat him severely did so because e they’d lost their money maker…Paul says,
“But with the help of God we dared to tell you his gospel, in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives nor on the contrary are we trying to trick you” (v2, 3)
In verse 10 he says “You are witnesses, and so is God of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believe…verse 11 says: We treated you like a Dad treats his children.”
[If you’re a Boss…even a good one that likes his employees…and treats them fairly…they’re still your employees…you might have some get together, but after the whistle blows at 5:00 you go home and so do they…and your accountable to your Board..your stockholders…so if one or even several have to go…even if you like them…they’ll go.
But it’s impossible for a Father to stop loving his child, or maybe even more impossible for the mother who gave him life…that cannot be severed if their child chooses horrible things, rejects them, rebels against their teachings…
Every Apostle, even Paul the least of the apostles in his own words…has one mission…”Go an make disciples…baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit teach them everything I’ve taught you…and Jesus said, “I’ll be with you to the end of the world.”
Making disciples is much more like giving birth to a child than adding an employee to the business. Ask Paul, Ask anyone who’s ever really done it…God always reveals the true condition of our heart…especially when we are part of His forever family!

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THE DECEPTION OF BELIEF

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THE DECEPTION OF BELIEF
Matt 7: 21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’
23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

INTRODUCTION:
I was just 26 years old when I went to Haiti for the first time….I went to an orphanage called “Christianville, about 6 miles outside of Port-Au-Prince (that six miles took over an hour). I took five adult sponsors and 16 students…And we were working with a Johnson Bible College couple named Paul & Rachel Ronk. We stayed in the compound, worked with the children…I got to preach at a pig give-away…part of Christianville’s ministry was agricultural…they were teaching methods of recovery and farming to the people…to receive a pig…you came and listened to a sermon, took part in worship…and then got your piglet…any preacher that thinks it’s hard to communicate the gospel with crying babies…try to preach, with an interpreter, with 30 squealing piglets as your choir.
I met Maxwell John Baptist early on….He was 16….and he had made a decision to follow Christ as his Lord and Savior….He was loving, helpful, genuine…I connected with Maxwell almost from the start…His story was remarkable…His father was a Voodoo High Priest, His mother a priestess…His entire family, like many others in Haiti practiced this dark religion…A religion of death, a religion that delved into the dark spiritual world…In Haiti it had assimilated parts from other religious, part catholic, part Voodoo, part alcohol…I remember seeing one alter that had a shot class….filled…a deck of cards…and other worldly trinkets laid before their helpful spirits…Voodoo believes that all nature is controlled by the Spirit world…so you evolve spells or rituals to bring mostly good…but sometimes harm…
When Maxwell heard the good news that Jesus died for his sin, that he rose again to bring him life, his heart was cut…He surrender in baptism…He gave his life…and his father and mother immediately said they would kill him…16 and a contract on your head for your faith…He gave up his home…his family in his life.
You see you could have told Maxwell a lie…like Jesus ask Jesus into your heart with a prayer…or just get baptized and you become a Christian…or
You could tell him the truth…God is calling you to die…to die to his life, to die to his family to die to his friends…to die to his future….and in dying, to live…to conquer new life, new hope, a new purpose and mission…Maxwell was one of the most effective Gospel sharers in the Christianville Community and surrounding areas…why? I don’t think you even need to ask…Jesus doesn’t ask you to take that risk…to answer His call without providing the power to impact your world…
It’s been true since the beginning of Christianity. Staring with…
FOUR FISHERMAN BY THE SEA
Immediately after Jesus is baptized by John the Spirit sent Him into the desert…for 40 days he fasted, and was tempted by Satan…After John the Baptist was put in prison by Herod Antipas Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God…listen
Mark 1: 15-20
Four fishermen, by the Sea of Galilee….Casting their nets…or fixing them after a day’s work…It’s the life they knew…it’s their father’s life…it’s the family business…and Jesus calls them from it…FOLLOW ME
“Leave behind your profession, your possessions, dreams, ambitious, family, friends, safety and security….Abandon everything.
Follow me and I will make you fishers of men…
His call is one to abandon everything…He’s clear when he says, “If anyone [male, female, young, old, rich, poor] is going to follow me, he must “deny himself”…”Jesus said over and over again take up your cross” …there is no other way for that to be understood than “Slay Self” in a world where everything revolves around pleasing self, protecting self, entertaining, comforting self, promoting self, taking care of self…Jesus says, “KILL SELF” .
And that’s exactly what happened to these 4 fishermen according to scripture and tradition…they paid a steep price for following Jesus…Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified in Creel, James had his head cut off, and John was exiled.
Yet they believed it was worth the cost…these 4 men found someone worth losing everything for…Jesus showed them a love beyond comprehension, a satisfaction that did not depend on circumstance, and a purpose that was so enormous it transcended every other pursuit in the world.
They willingly, eagerly and gladly lost themselves, their lives to follow in his footstep and proclaim the “good news”…His Gospel.
So, has the church wondered from that path 2000 years later, and if so…how far? Somewhere along the way…it seems the church has minimized Jesus call of abandonment…and churches are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have a casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity –Although a countless number of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a Christian simply involves acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words, or doing certain things…it’s not true…Disciples like Peter, Andrew, James & John and Maxwell show us that the call to follow Jesus is not simply to say a pray or “get baptized”, it’s a summons to lose our lives.
The question isn’t just what we let go of, but also who we hold onto…what does it really means to die to ourselves and to live in Christ.
You see if we seriously take a look at what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me!” We will experience something much more powerful than the offer of a onetime experience of salvation…we’ll experience the same things that those four followers and Maxwell experienced…in eagerness, willingness to gladly lose our lives so we can know and proclaim Jesus.
You see….
CHRISTIANITY ISN’T ABOUT DOING OR SAYING SOMETHING
I had a woman with 2 of her children show up one evening here at the church building terrified.
she wanted to be baptized and she wanted her 9 year old and 12 year old to be baptized…why was she terrified, because she sincerely believed something bad was going to happen to her, and her family….Neither of the Kids had any idea about what Christianity really meant…So for the next hour or 2 I tried to teach what this commitment to Christ was all about…That baptism wasn’t the “get out of hell free” bath…it was only part of the process in scriptural obedience, an important part, but only a bath if you were not truly surrendering your life, your all for repentance and renewal through forgiveness and the gift of the Holy spirit…after the teaching time I said, do you understand and if you really do I’ll baptize you into Christ, but I’ll see you and the children Sunday for your growth….I baptized her…I’ve never seen her or the children again…I just have this great fear that culturally people believes if I do this or say this I’m saved!
Scores of people around the world culturally think they are Christians when biblically they are not… because they’ve said something or have done something at one time in their lives….A relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord is essential.
Jesus said,
I NEVER KNEW YOU!
This scripture rips my heart apart…It’s not spoken to irreligious, atheistic, agnostic people…it’s spoken to believers, who do a lot of ministry stuff, but although they assume that their eternity is safe and one day they will go to heave…they will be shocked to discover…Jesus sends them “away, as evil doers.”
David Platt in Follow Me expressed this truth: “There is a pandemic problem across contemporary Christianity. Masses of men, women and children around the world put themselves comfortably under the banner of Christianity but have never counted the cost of following Christ.”
Many never desire or commit themselves to entering through the small gate (Jesus) and walking with Him on…
THE NARROW ROAD
It’s critical we hear Jesus’ words in Matt 7. He exposes the human tendency to gravitate toward that which is easy and popular. Hear His warning.
Matt 7:13, 14
In other words, there is a broad road that is inviting and all-inclusive…it’s nice, it’s comfortable, and it’s attractive and accommodating. (It’s dressed up…nice and pretty)…the only thing that’s required of you is a onetime decision for Christ. You don’t have to worry about His comments, His purposes for saving you, His glory or living for Him, after making the decision…Your sin will be tolerated, along the road because you said and did the right thing onetime in your life.
The cross isn’t easy, gently, or comfortable…But it’s the only thing we should brag about in Christ…
[Do you remember when Peter confessed that Jesus was “The Christ, the Son of the living God!!!(Matt 16:16)…He saying, “Jesus your are God’s Messiah!”
But right after that Jesus rebukes Peter for missing the magnitude of what that meant like many people today…Peter wanted a Messiah without a Cross.. He wanted a Savior without suffering…So Jesus looks at Peter and the others…and us and says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me…For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it .” (Matt 16: 24, 25)
Shortly before Jesus went to the Cross Jesus told his disciples “You will be handed over to be persecuted: and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
The teaching is clear…”WALK on the narrow road with me and be prepared to die.”
There is power and joy on this road, but I have experienced anger, hatred, and persecution in opposition to this message…”Being a disciple, of Jesus isn’t a onetime event…it’s a lifetime journey!
It’s costly, hard and sometimes painful…you cannot follow Jesus and yourself at the same time…listen to these words…
Luke 14: 26-27, 33
That’s crazy right? At least the world would say so. But we as Christians know they are the words of life! The call to follow Jesus above all others and beyond all things…no matter the cost…Give up everything.
Let me end this morning by challenging scripturally.
THE DANGEROUS DECEPTION OF BELIEF
An intellectual belief that Jesus is truly the Son of God doesn’t save you…
But doesn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus…”God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
Paul and Silas told the Philippians jailer…”Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”.
And according to the book of Romans “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) piece of Cake, huh….that’s all it takes to get your ticket to heaven punched huh? But Biblical belief is much more than intellectual acknowledgment…
For Nicodemus, the Pharisee to be born again—it would spiritually involve an entering new life…when the Philippians jailer makes this commitment he knows he and his family are joining a community of Christians who has been beaten, flogged and put in prison for their faith.
Paul tells the Roman Christians that to believe in the living resurrection of Jesus from the dead is to confess his sovereign Lordship over their lives!
The Bible teaches over and over again that belief in Jesus for salvation involves far more than mere intellectual assent …even demons “believe” that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected son of God, and clearly that belief doesn’t save them. (James 2: 19)
Matt 7 has dammed people…Many shouting Lord, Lord, and Jesus says “Not everyone who confesses that enters the Kingdom of Heaven, but only He who does the will of my father in heaven”…Claims don’t save..Obedience saves.
[4 out of 5 Americans identify themselves as Christians. Less than half of this group are involved in church on a weekly basis…Less than half belief the Bible is accurate, and the overwhelming majority do not have a Biblical world view…half of this group identify themselves as…”Born-Again Christians ( I didn’t know there was any other kind!)…But within this group who say they have made a public profession that Jesus Christ is their Savior…many believe both Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that Jesus sinned while he was here on earth, and that they have earned their way into heaven through good works.  Truth that doesn’t impact your soul…is still truth, but having it in your head without applying it to your heart and hands is deception…and it saves no one.

LOVE THAT IS SINCERE

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LOVE THAT IS SINCERE
Romans 12: 9-21

I know I’ve shared this with many of you, and some of our biblical scholars know this already…but during the first century pottery was absolutely essential has everyday life….you cooked with it, you carried water in it, you stored things in it…pottery was so prevalent in every family, and every location its one of the largest discoveries when archaeologist dig…pieces and portions of pottery are found in abundance.
Pottery merchants had a steady flow of customers…supply and demand was in their favor. The market place was as you’d imagine…a place of ruckus haggling…sellers and buyers arguing over prices, deals being made products begin exchanged…
There are a couple of words you might have heard….One was “Tetelestai”…it’s the word that means “Paid in full”, “Your bill is paid completely.”
But at the potters booth you might have seen, and heard the word…..”Sine Cera”, “without Wax”…dishonest merchants would try to hide the cracks in cheap or defective pottery with WAX…in order to pass it off as being worth more than it actually was…Quality products were often stamped or labeled “Sine Cera” to show they hadn’t been doctored. Somewhat like we label products today “100% pure”…or “All Natural”…Paul is telling us…love in this way…let your love be real, genuine…pure!
The Greek word translated “Sincere” is “Anupokritos”…the last part of that word is what we translate as “Hypocrite”…the Greek word literally means one who wears a mask”…like someone in a play or in the theater…the word in our text means “Without Hypocrisy”, “Paul is saying real believers should love without a mask…Our love should be real, not pretend…Our love should have no hidden agenda or motive.
Why?
BECAUSE WE ARE MUCH BETTER AT PRETENDING THAN ACTUALLY LOVING.
(v10) says “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”
You know why we’re better at pretending than actually loving…? Real love takes time. Devotion can’t be accomplished with a handshake and a smile on Sunday…
Devotion and honor are strong words….In Acts 2 the earliest Christians “Devoted” themselves to “The apostles teaching, and to the fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Verse 44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common…verse 45 says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… (No way…on their hearts…No mask covering their hearts)
Almost all biblical scholars believe “ The first breaking of bread refers to communion, the Lord’s Supper” Acts 20:7 say, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. So, the earliest Christian…Devoted, committed themselves to “Learning what Jesus taught, creating a connection with other believers, remembering the Lord’s death until He comes back, and praying together…but on the heels of those essentials is a picture that goes beyond the walls…they ate together, laughed together, shared life together openly and joyfully…In a nutshell they had experienced salvation…forgiveness…rebirth…renewal…there was a sense of Aw…and God was doing miraculous things…Romans 12: 9-21 was being lived out in Jerusalem…and because of that…God added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Christianity wasn’t something they did on the weekend, or occasionally…their devotion to Christ and following him wasn’t a part of their lives…it was their lives….Love, purity, unselfishness, spiritual excitement, services, forgiveness, meekness, peace, sacrifice…The Holy Spirit is actively at work.
But be aware…Satan is the God of pretending….he is the God of the wax and the God of the mask…He loves to substitute lies for truth, pills for joy…a handshake and a smile for real connection…read….
Acts 4:32-5:11
They are united in focus and purpose…The apostles share their testimony’s about a resurrected Jesus…Much grace is upon them…(It’s all about Grace) Commitment to this cause brought extreme sacrifices…Joseph, “Barnabas” sold a field…brought what he made and surrendered it for the Apostles to use…Sincere, Sacrificial, unselfish…LOVE.
So Ananias and Sapphira, together…as a unit…sold a piece of property…. (Maybe they got a lot more than expected.”)…and they pretended before Peter, the other Apostles, the church, and before God…that they gave it all…”They didn’t just lie to me…they lied to God”
And the consequence is “Death”…for both…because they pretended to do something that wasn’t the truth, and they said it was, before God. “Why such severe consequences…consequences that caused “Great fear to siege the Church?’ Could it be that God was protecting the early church from wearing WAX or a mask? That his people aren’t about what appears to be real, but they are about what is real!!!
And for each of us who are born again, spirit filled, and lead followers of Jesus that should be a “Gilt check”. This happened after the resurrection…after the gift of the Holy Spirit, after Pentecost…in the midst of a spiritual revival bigger than anything the world has ever seen…The New Covenant of Grace has surpassed the Old Covenant of the Law…But pretending to God, lying to the Holy Spirit…had some immediate consequences…
Why?
Well, could it be that Jesus was protecting His church from the cancer that ate away at the Jews religion….Pretending to do or be something your not was practiced with expertise by the Pharisees…I personally think the best description was from Jesus in Matt. 23: 25,26.
“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees’, you hypocrites: (People who wear a mask)! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean.”
Ananias and Sapphira, both with full knowledge pretended to be like Barnabas. Their lie, this cancer might have gone undiscovered, except the Holy spirit would not allow the inside of the cup to be hidden…nothing kills the spiritual growth of a person or a revered more quickly than this…In Ananias and Sapphire case, with the church of Jesus in its infancy…It cost them their lives…
It shouldn’t surprise us that Satan uses the same ploy today…its easier (well at least initially) to pretend…to deny self, take up your cross and follow Jesus…sincere love, His love in reality is much harder…hating what is evil and clinging to what is really good….is hard in a world that does the opposite…In a world where many of us are so busy doing our stuff…its tempting” to pretend…
So,
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF THE MASK IS REMOVED?
“Man, that’s a good question!” But Paul answers it in Romans 13: 8-10,
Christ’s love is more than an emotion…It’s a faith-action…what I mean by that is…Many times I would rather wear the mask…many times I’d rather pass by on the other side…many times I’d rather just Love my “easy to love people” and many times “I DO”…I feel like one of my very good friends that said, “I hope I don’t drop over dead Sunday!”…Paul lists many of the 10 commandments and then says…”all those commands and many others exist for one reason…”Love your neighbor as yourself…love doesn’t harm it’s neighbor…Love is the fulfillment of the law…It almost seems Paul describes living without the mask…living Love out loud in two contexts…verses 9-13 seem to focus more on the context of the church community….Love among and for other Jesus followers…but then he “quits preaching and goes to meddling” as one of my past elders use to kid one about…verses 14-21 describe Love without WAX in the real world.
It starts out “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
If you’ve ever been persecuted, even in the littleness’ way when you know its unjust…then you know real love isn’t about feelings…because if you respond in the natural man or woman way…”You greet hate with hate…you repay evil with evil…you plot revenge…you could care less if they’re hungry or thirsty…in fact you hope they are….and the burning goals you want to heap on their heads is literal…not figurative!
Or like most of us…you let it stew in your thoughts and heart… (Sometimes you can’t even help it) but you don’t really do much except hope that they get theirs! And after awhile you don’t think about it as much…only when you can give them the “cold shoulder”…
[Here’s what I’ve discovered…every single living person…and those who have died) wants to be first. We are naturally (sinful nature within) proud, conceited, vengeful,….I instantly put myself in the high position and you in the low position… and you do the same…and because of this truth I must pretend at times, fill the cracks in my life with WAX…Put on the mask….
But if I am to sincerely love…(and only one person did that…) if I am to really fulfill the purpose of the law…I have to choose His love…when I feel like it, but as I grow to be like Him…when I really really don’t, it’s hard to live “without WAX” . It’s hard to live “without the mask”….
“If anyone would be my disciple, Jesus said, He or She must deny themselves…take up their cross daily (Luke makes this point) and follow me.”
There will be a lots of people who remind me and you how poorly we do this…Some inside the Kingdom and some in the world….Making harmony difficult…making living at peace a struggle….some might even set themselves up as “your enemy”….the only time they speak to you…is to hurt you….focusing on your scars…your cracks…your failures….Why? Because they’re afraid someone will really see behind their mask…behind that mask is a face controlled with fear and hurt and pain.
[When I was 11, 12, 13 years old I hated to be around crowds because of the scars I had from being burned badly at 10…eventually someone would say, “What happened to your face”. Sometimes other kids who first didn’t know better, but sometimes Adults that did…I’d say “I was burned” (If you want to know the whole story listen to my testimony http://www.gardensidecc.org/The fire that burns away the clutter) The scars were always …they’ve faded in the past 42 years, but even today I see them clearly every morning when I shave. I can’t hide them, can’t grow a beard to cover them…I can cover my arms, chest and stomach…but not the scars on my face…what has made that not really important… WHAT HAS MADE that something I really don’t think about most days….KARI….She has convinced me of a Love that knows they are there, but doesn’t see them anymore…and as they fade…I live without a mask because of her love…
Love that is sincere helps people reveal their scars…some will fade over time, some not so much…but Jesus first, and then those people who love like Him will speak this truth…over and over again…Isaiah foretold it 800 years before it become reality…
ISAIAH 53: 3-6
Every scar, every sin, every wound…He bore …”Like one from whom people hide their faces.” In the presence of Jesus…In the presence of the Savior…Our Lord…No outward beauty…nothing in his appearance…but He is so beautiful everyone else wants to hide their scars.
He lived, He died, He rose again…never having to wear a mask…or disguise a crack in the jar…All for us…that is a Love that overcomes SCARS.