Last Sunday at church the sermon was taken from Acts chapter 5--the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Our community church here in Daejeon is in a pastoral transition and each week we are having one of the board of elders share the morning message. The church is moving through a study of the book of Acts. The elder assigned to Sunday morning's passage did a nice job on a tough passage. Acts 5 pulls no punches as Ananias and Sapphira both drop dead and are buried right before our eyes.
Sunday's message focused upon two points drawn from the scripture:
1. The God of the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament. God is the same--yesterday, today and forever.
2. God is to be feared and revered.
The previous points are true but......I see the Acts 5 passage a little differently.
It all begins with how we see and receive the Word of God. The Bible can be viewed as a book of information and instruction that must be applied to our lives or the Word can be considered and approached as something that is living and active--piercing to the deepest part of our hearts, lives and beings. The Bible is the story of God and we are not outside observers of the story but rather we are a part of the story of God--because God's story is all about us.
In the beginning--way back--before the Garden, the Fall, and even Creation--we find God--the Trinity, we find Love...therein is the beginning of the Story. We find God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in communion, in community, in a relationship--creating the universe, our solar system, the earth and humankind for one reason--relationship.
This is the lens through which I read the Word and let it act upon my life. This is the lens through which I read Acts 5. Is God the same yesterday, today and forever? Yes. God created us for relationship with Himself and even though things took a wrong "free moral choice" turn at the corner of Broad Street, God is forever present in the Story, doing all he can do to restore and have relationship with humankind.
Should we fear and revere God? Yes. A quick review of God's questions to Job in Job 38 puts me in my place. God is God, I am not. I do fear and revere the One who holds my life and all of creation in His hands, but my real fear and reverence comes from His love. God sent His only Son to die in my place upon a cross?......that is a love for which I have no words.......it is so amazing it is scary. So, yes, I fear God.
It is through all of this that I read Acts 5. If you read the passage (which you should) you will read about the early church, selling all they have and sharing with one another--and all in the name of Jesus Christ. In Acts 5 we see Ananias and Sapphira selling all--yet giving only just a "part" to the church whereas giving "all" is part and parcel of being a follower of God. Peter confronts them--they fall down dead--it is not a pretty scene.
I could look at this passage and see an angry God who strikes people dead and who is to be feared and try to apply this to my life or....I can see a God who loves me intensely and who wants to have a deep and real relationship with me. I find Acts 5:3-4 very interesting,
(3) "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? (4) 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 to men but to God." (NIV)
Peter is saying--"Why did you do this? No one pressured you to sell all--it was your choice. This isn't about how you look to us--it is and always has been about you and God."
This account is not a message about giving money to God--this is a lesson about how each of us are to relate to God. He loves us! He is a jealous lover! He wants all of us! When I read this passage my mind goes to a marriage relationship. In a TRUE marriage relationship there are no hold outs--no side relationships--no affairs. There is no husband, wife, or fiancee for that matter, that would ever entertain or tolerate that type of compromised relationship. In a marriage it is all of one for the other. Are there warts, stumbles, arguments, struggles, mistakes in a marriage? Yes, but when it is all of one for the other those things can be weathered, worked out and grown through. But a divided loyalty?.....a side relationship?......another love?......never. In this situation there can be no love, no trust--no relationship.
God, the one who pursued us through parted seas and the prophets' words is the same one who sent his only son to die on the cross for our sins and He loves us and wants all of us. A life dedicated to God is not an add-on, it is not a new program or a New Year's Resolution. It is an all or nothing kind of deal--no hold outs, no fence riding. It is a relationship of deepest essence--a relationship where the all of one is given for the other.
Jesus, our bridegroom, doesn't want just a "part" of us, he wants all of us. In him and his amazing love is found the way, the truth, and the LIFE.
Part and parcel?....ask Ananias and Sapphira.