In Acts 5, we read about a married couple who sold some property and brought some of it to the apostles to donate for the work of the church. When they did, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit by misrepresenting what had actually happened, and after the confrontation, Ananias fell down and died. His wife, Sapphira came to the same place, and not knowing what had happened to her husband, Peter asked her about the price they had received from the land. He asked her if what was given was what they had received, and she affirmed it was. At that, she also fell down and died. Those are some tough consequences. Let’s examine what exactly was going on.
Surely, it wasn’t expected in the early church that if you sold your property, you were to give all of that money to the work of the Lord. That couldn’t have been the reason Ananias and Sapphira fell dead. The issue wasn’t that they didn’t give all of the money to the Lord’s work, but it was that they wanted to appear as if they had. Their sin was hypocrisy. There was an air of tremendous generosity or sacrifice, when in fact, that wasn’t the case. It was as if Ananias and Sapphira were using the church fellowship to promote themselves, to pretend to be something they weren’t. They lacked sincerity.
Even though they were believers, Satan somehow gained entrance into their lives. They saw a way to gain something personally by pretending to give more generously than they had. We get the sense that the Holy Spirit had prompted them to do something differently than they had done, but instead of following the Spirit’s voice, they listened to Satan’s. Don’t make this about money. If you do, you will miss the point. This isn’t about money. It is about following the leading of the Holy Spirit and living authentically and sincerely with God and others. It is about putting down pretense, about putting away hypocrisy.
A religious spirit, using Jesus to promote your own reputation, these are things that grieve the Holy Spirit. God will not tolerate being used by people who want to advance their own agenda. That is really what was at stake, here. If Ananias and Saphhira would have been given a pass and would have continued in their hypocritical and self-serving ways, it was going to compromise and harm the mission of the early church, so God removed them from the equation.
From this story, what can we make out of how the Holy Spirit wants to work in our lives?
The Spirit-filled life is a life of trust and truth.
You can absolutely trust the Holy Spirit. Many believers have trusted Christ for salvation, but are the same number of people living in trust and surrender to the Holy Spirit? The people in Acts 4 who were led by the Spirit of God to give so generously, did so with great trust that all they had was God’s to use and whatever they surrendered would become a blessing to others and that in the process, God would take care of them as well. Ananias and Sapphira didn’t trust the Spirit of God. They trusted their own instincts which opened the door for Satan to step in.
Never once in Scripture do we read that God led someone to do something that turned out to be a failure. You can trust the Spirit of God. In order to know what the Spirit wants from you, you need to set your mind on the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:5:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Get your mind off of trying to impress people. Get your mind off of advancing your reputation. Make up your mind to set your heart and mind on the things the Spirit of God wants for your life. Dare I even say that you need to get your mind off of being perfect? That may sound contrary to the Word of God or the historical teachings of the church, but I think too many people get focused on the notion that they have to be perfect in order for God to use them. Some conclude that they can’t be perfect, so they don’t try to serve the Lord. Some know they can’t be perfect, so they just pretend to be. Both will lead to the same self-centered and spiritually weak life. This may sound crazy, but don’t be focused on perfection, but be focused on cultivating a relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God will perfect you AS you trust Him and let Him lead in your life.
The Spirit-filled life is a life of trust AND truth. Here’s the truth part: God does not want you to act like you are something you aren’t. He doesn’t want you pretending. Hypocrisy has never helped to further the Kingdom of God. God just wants you to be real and responsive to Him. It is OK to be a work in progress! It is OK to be seeking. It is OK to have struggles. It is OK to not be OK!
Remember, our text says that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. To lie to someone is to overestimate your power of persuasion or to believe that the person you are lying to is quite gullible. Did Ananias really believe he could lie to the Holy Spirit and get away with it? Listen, You will never be able to pull a fast one on the Holy Spirit.
I believe the Holy Spirit attempted to deal with Ananias, to bring correction to his life, but Ananias rather than come clean and change directions, he was bent on maintaining his position and doing things his way. I think Ananias experienced the confrontation from the Spirit and instead of changing courses, instead of surrendering and being humbled, he went on with his plan to present himself in a light that was false. Are we ever guilty of the same?
The story of Ananias and Sapphira sure seems to suggest that when we pretend that all is well, but we know that God has been wanting to deal with us, we are in real spiritual danger. All God wants is access to your heart. All God desires from you is transparency before Him. He wants you to be real and honest with Him, so that He can work in you. Don’t resist the Spirit by pretending. Don’t lie to the Spirit by minimizing what you are doing or thinking about doing.
I really don’t believe that it was the sin of lying that cost Ananias and Sapphira their lives. I believe it was the sin of shutting out the Spirit of God who just wanted full control of their lives.
How about we quit lying about our struggles, our sin, our situation, our hurts and pains and disappointments? How about we quit pretending and quit refusing to let God deal with what is really going on in the deepest parts of our lives? Can we cooperate with the Spirit of God today in ways that contribute to our spiritual growth and to the health of the Body of Christ and advancement of the Kingdom of God? Can we choose the life of trust and truth this morning? Can we choose the Spirit-filled life?