02/05/16 ~ Midweek Meditation
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)
Can I save my cake and still eat it? Can I have everything that everyone else has and just a little more? Can I do something to make myself just a little bit better than everyone else? Then I’d be happy, then I’d be held in high esteem by everyone around me, then people would honor me above everyone else and look to me for their joy and inspiration.
On Sunday we took a quick flight through Acts 4:32-7:60 and contrasted the lives and actions of Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Stephen (Acts 7) to the lives and actions of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 6). Barnabas gave all of the proceeds of the property he sold to the Church, Stephen gave an amazing sermon and in the end his life for the Gospel, but right in the middle of these two stories is the story of a couple who imitated Barnabas' generosity (giving the proceeds from selling property) but held back some of the proceeds secretly, and in the end they lost their lives like Stephen, but not for an honorable purpose, because of the sin in their hearts. Ananias and Sapphira wanted what everyone else had (see Acts 4:32) and they wanted that little bit more. They wanted all the honor of Barnabas, without the sacrifice that Barnabas made. They wanted their cake, and to eat it too.
Can you see yourself in Ananias and Sapphira? Do you quiver at the thought of their temptation, knowing that you could have fallen into the same trap? I do. I care a lot about my reputation, I want to be well liked, and I want what everyone else has plus a little something extra – BUT that doesn’t mean that I should pad my resume or work with my own power to deceive and manipulate people in order to gain their respect. Instead, I/we should be honest about our shortcomings, and reach out to a friend when feeling tempted or when in need of advice. Can you imagine how differently things might have turned out for Ananias and Sapphira, had they have asked Peter for his advice first? Peter said that they didn’t have to give anything; they could have kept every penny. What if they would have given the same amount (a generous gift I am sure) and just not lied about it. They might have been around to see Stephen’s martyrdom and truly been inspired to give all for the Gospel’s cause.
So what was the difference between Barnabas and Stephen, and Ananias and Sapphira? Grace. I hate to be cliché here but grace is – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Barnabas and Stephen understood the amazing gift that they had been given, a perfect reputation before the only one who really counts. Grace changed the hearts of these men, and that at no cost to them. There is pain in this grace however, and there is bitterness in this cake; our King and the lover of our souls died in our place. He died that we might live to righteousness. He died that we might live as ambassadors of his kingdom, a kingdom of love and sacrifice.
How is God calling you to love and sacrifice today, and what temptation or sin is holding you back from serving him with your whole heart? Ananias and Sapphira didn’t have to give anything, and you don’t either, but the Gospel should move us to love and sacrifice. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says this, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Now while this text is speaking directly of money, the same principal should be applied to our everyday service. That said, what do you want to do for Jesus today?
Hark! the voice of Jesus crying,
"Who will go and work today?
Fields are white and harvests waiting,
Who will bear the sheave away?"
Loud and long the Master calleth,
Rich reward He offers thee;
Who will answer, gladly saying,
"Here am I, send me, send me"?
(Hark the voice of Jesus Crying, Daniel March)