14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. Acts 5:14-16

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there was a extraordinary move of the Holy Spirit on the early Believers. With that move came great responsibility. God was healing people and delivering them from evil spirits. God was changing many lives. The word got out quickly about what was happening. Peter and John and the rest of the Disciples were embarrassing the leaders as we will see shortly.

Here’s something to remember about this kind of move of God. It will draw a lot of unwanted attention from leaders. That’s why underground house churches have to be careful. If they grow too quickly, local leadership will investigate and shut down the house church quickly. Sometimes they’ll throw church leaders in jail…or worse.

How would sudden church growth affect your community, especially if it were only one church? It’s difficult for us to imagine this scenario because It doesn’t happen that often. Certainly God is saving people and He still heals people, but not with the numbers we see in this passage.

Here’s an opened ended question that only you can answer, but how do you suppose your church could get to that kind of phenomenal growth again? Can it? What would it take?

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Sticking to the Truth

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Acts 5:12-13

The early Believers met openly in the outer courts of the Temple. They were not hiding away in an upper room, away from the masses as they had done prior to the Holy Spirit coming down upon them. It took a lot of guts to meet so openly. They performed all of their healings and miracles out in the open. Yet many of the people around them were afraid. They could not deny what was happening through these Believers, even though they were not able to discern what was happening.

Peter and john and the rest of the Disciples had known that fear. And they had a distinct advantage over those they were preaching to: they had direct contact with the Messiah!

But the Believers continue to preach and teach and perform miracles. The stories may have been different in their messages, but the message was the same: repent and believe.

That’s the gist of the Gospel message, isn’t it? Two millennia have passed but the message is still the same. How we go about telling it is different, but the truth is still truth.

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More

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. Acts 5:7-11

It’s one thing to withhold the truth from someone but it’s entirely different to lie when asked about it. The significant part of this passage is in verse 11. At this point, they all had to be asking the same questions we would ask. Because of what God was doing in their midst, they seemed to be operating under a different set of rules than what we would have today. We think it’s harsh that both Ananias and Sapphira were killed because they lied. I’m sure those who heard about it felt the same way.

The lie was wrong to be sure, but it was their greed that led to the lie.

In the movie “Wall Street,” a clerk asked a stock broker, “What’s your number? What the number you need to just pack it up and leave this all behind?”

“More.”

Are we like him?

How much is enough? It’s a question we all have to ask and answer sooner or later.

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Bearing False Witness

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 just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. Acts 5:3-5

The Lord had revealed Ananias’ deception to Peter. The early Disciples were in a period of great revelation and growth. With that kind of revelation came great responsibility (and rewards). Presumably, Ananias and Sapphira knew better than to lie. In fact, they colluded in holding back a part of their proceeds. But Peter pointed out that they didn’t just lie to him, but they lied to God.

Does this mean that if we lie as Believers, God will strike us down? If that were the case, we’d be thinned out pretty quickly. But we shouldn’t take lying and deception lightly either. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God admonishes us to refrain from lying. It’s even one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

God’s grace, though, is sufficient for us.

Choose your words carefully when talking to others and about others. We get into trouble when we blurt out things that shouldn’t be said or tell that little “white lie” just to make ourselves seem better than we are.

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Just a Little Greedy

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5:1-2

Dear Ananias and Sapphira:

Why’d you do it? Why did you agree to keep back some money? You would have been well provided for. You would have had everything you needed. How much did you set apart? Unfortunately, you’ll go down in Biblical annals as two who were just a little greedy. Just a little. Well, that’s probably not true, is it? You’ve been that way all your life. You probably never went the extra mile for anybody. The fact that both of you were in on this ruse indicates you were probably cutting corners in other areas of your life. It didn’t start with this action.

Fortunately for us, though, we can learn from your petty greediness. For instance, we learned that when God demands all of us, He means all of us. Actually, we have to learn that lesson daily, and usually apart from any lesson you can teach us. We also learned God knows the heart and propensity we have towards cheating…just a little. As we will soon find out, we also know about God’s attitude towards cheating.

Oops. Don’t look now but Peter’s calling for you. I still don’t understand why you had to do it that way, but you did.

Pity.

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What’s In a Name?

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36-37

How would you like your name to mean “son of encouragement”? My name means something but unless I look it up I have no idea what it means. The names Joy, Grace, and Mercy all have a pleasant quality about them, but they are the exceptions to the rule.

More importantly, though, is what those names represent. Would having the name “son of encouragement” encourage you to be an encourager? Possibly. It couldn’t hurt. That’s one character quality that I wish I had in abundance.

You see, we all need encouragement.

All of us.

Every day.

In every possible way.

The world’s too cynical, jaded, and sarcastic. Life comes at us at breakneck speed.

Twenty years ago I read about a man who had started a ministry of encouragement. I remember thinking it was an odd ministry. Twenty years have passed, and we need it more than ever.

Take the time today to encourage one person. Think it through and make it count. It doesn’t need to be big or grandiose, just memorable.

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Quietly Lend a Hand

33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:33-35

There was a time not so long ago that the church exclusively helped the poor. Unfortunately the government has taken over that role and now helps the poor. Churches and individuals within those churches still help the poor but the bulk of the assistance comes through welfare. That is unfortunate because giving always helps the giver and the recipient.

God still calls us to help the poor and the needy, the orphans and the widows. Just because the government throws a lot of money at the problem doesn’t mean the problem goes away. There are situations all around us where we can lend a hand quietly and without making a big scene about it.

Consider one thing you can do this week to help someone less fortunate. You will be glad you did.

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Put it All Into the Kitty

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32

This is a stunning sentence so early into the early Church’s life. In order for this to work properly, those who were in had to be all in. We’ll see that Ananias and Sapphira were two who were mostly in.

Let’s face it, we are selfish. We like our possessions. So to put it all into one big “kitty” requires a lot of deep thought about the issue. I think about how such a scenario would be today. I know of mini-societies that have done this successfully, but as soon as greed enters the picture, the society falls apart.

For a few moments today think about what life would be like if you were to put all your possessions in with a group of people you know.

  • What would you be thinking about?
  • What would you care about?
  • Could you trust people who you only know to be Believers?
  • What would be the hardest part of doing this? 

    I’m not suggesting any or all of us do this, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. I think it also shows just how attached we are to the things in this life.

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The Prompting

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31

God answered the prayers of these saints immediately but not before they experienced an earthquake. I’ve personally been through four earthquakes in different parts of the world. I wouldn’t say you get bolder, but you do realize you are not in control. What these people experienced, though, right after they prayed, was a clear sign that God would be with them and on their side.

Fortunately for us, though, we don’t need an earthquake to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to speak the word of God boldly.

We ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When He fills us, we step out in faith and say and do bold things. Absolutely it’s easier said than done, but the only limitations to this is our faith.

How so? If we don’t believe that God will honor our stepping out in faith, we probably won’t step out in faith.

Let me give you an extreme example. When I was living in Chicago, we would pass by many invalid or “lame” beggars. After reading the first few chapters of Acts, I remember thinking, “What would happen if after prayer, I did the same thing as Peter and John? What would happen if I said something like ‘silver and gold I have none, but in the name of Jesus, rise and walk?'” I never said or did anything, but why not? What if God didn’t heal him, then what? I would look foolish. And that’s the bottom line.

I say that was an extreme example but there are many more doable actions we can take that require just a bit of faith on our part. Here’s an example of what I mean. The other morning I woke thinking about a co-worker I hadn’t seen in years. I had dreamed that something unpleasant had happened with his two boys. That morning I struggled about what I should do. I didn’t even know if he would respond to me because we weren’t that close. I wrote him a short email asking how things were going (not at all mentioning the odd dream). Later that afternoon he returned my email. Nothing out of the ordinary. We exchanged pleasantries and that was that.

Sometimes you just have to go with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I still don’t know why I had the dream and felt compelled to write that man. I may never know.

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