ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT THE GLORY?

An excerpt from my new book, Cleansing The Temple. Kindle discounted pre-orders coming very soon. 

Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was lying about the amount of money they contributed to the thriving church in Jerusalem. But the greater sin was the root of why they did it. There was a great move of God going on during the inception of the early Church, which compelled many believers to sell their possessions and lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-35). Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be a part of this great move but for the wrong reasons, so they conspired together to lie about the total amount they were giving.

Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last” (Acts 5:9-10).

The Church is referred to as the pillar and ground of truth. No lie could stand within it in its glorious beginnings.

“I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Have you ever thought of how the very first act of judgment in the early Church was concerning a lie? That is very significant. The lie represents a mask of religion and hypocrisy that fills many churches today and is diluting the glory of God. The early Church was cleansed and purged immediately from what Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to introduce into the local body in Jerusalem.

More than the love of money, hypocrisy was the main issue. Jesus called hypocrisy “…the leaven of the Pharisees.”

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1).

Leaven is yeast, and it has a fermenting effect on dough, which is what causes the bread to rise. And since it takes only a small amount of yeast to transform an entire lump of dough, Jesus is warning His disciples that it takes only a little bit of what the Pharisees have to ruin a person. Paul said that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:8). In Christ’s estimation, the conduct of these Pharisees had a leavening and corrupting effect upon those who followed their example. Just a tiny amount of the leaven of the Pharisees would be sufficient to turn a man into a bad and useless person.

In other words, what Ananias and Sapphira were introducing into the young body in Jerusalem had the potential to ruin what God was doing. Was there malicious intent on their part to ruin anything or hurt anyone? I don’t believe so, but the glory was so pure and white hot in the early beginnings of the Church age that even a lie without presumed malicious intent could not stand. If it was allowed to stand and not be judged, it would have spread.

A lack of accountability and righteous judgment today is a huge problem in the Church, enabling the leaven of sin to spread like a cancer. Biblical discipline is sorely lacking. First and second admonitions to correct the unrepentant are uncommon and dis-fellowshipping from such is nearly unheard of.

“A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10 — KJV).

I don’t want to excuse Ananias and Sapphira by telling you that there seemed to be no malicious intent to harm anyone. They did conspire together and agree together to tell this lie, and it was Satan that filled their heart to do this (Acts 5:3). That alone makes it evil and wicked.

Masks of religion and veils of hypocrisy are a great stumbling block to the manifestation of His glory and power. God doesn’t expect perfection, but He expects honesty and transparency. The lie, veiled in hypocrisy, that was told by Ananias and Sapphira was against the Holy Spirit, and it is representative of the leaven that fills much of the Church today.

The Greek word for hypocrite or hypocrisy is hupokrisis, which literally means “reply.” The word came to denote a theatrical performance by one who spoke in dialogue. Then it was used of play-acting, role-playing, pretending, and, hence, acting insincerely — hypocrisy. A hypocrite conceals his true motives under a cloak of make-believe.

Today we have a generation of Ananiases and Sapphiras who would lie for the honor and glory of men rather than tell the truth for the honor and glory of God (Acts 5). Layers of lies and false projections and motives have produced veils of deception and masks of religion that have caused the glory to diminish and depart. If we learn to live in the sight of God instead of the sight of man, hypocrisy will be flushed out of our lives, and the glory of God would increase personally and collectively in the Church.

The early Church had just been birthed and was localized in Jerusalem only at this time. It was yet in an embryonic stage of development. Just as doctors can often detect something wrong in the early stages of a pregnancy, so did the apostle Peter by the revelation of the Holy Spirit detect a lie in the Church.

“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” (Acts 5:1-3)

When people sell everything and come and lay the money at the feet of genuine apostles in order to distribute it among the needy, that is a major move of God. The love of money had no hold on these early believers. It was not a requirement for anyone to sell their possessions. They did it willingly. The problem was that Ananias and Sapphira lied about the amount they gave for the insidious reason of wanting to be esteemed in the eyes of man. The root of their sin was not in what they did, but in why they did it.

Ananias and Sapphira avoided financial disclosure and tried to make the records appear as if they had given a larger percentage than what they actually gave. But the real motive connected to their lie had to do with pride and wanting to be highly esteemed in the church. It is one of the first teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men” (Matt. 6:1-2).

Ananias and Sapphira touched the glory of God with the desire for the glory of men. That was the root issue. In my humble opinion, this is also the root issue in the modern Church, and in every generation, it is the one thing that dilutes and diminishes the glory of God quicker than anything else. Jesus can only build His Church on purity and truth. When there are strong moral convictions about honesty and purity in all areas of our lives, and a true humility among ministers and saints, there will be a greater glory in the Church.

Much of the glory we’ve had in the modern-day Church has been the glory of man. The reason there’s been so little judgment today like that which fell on Ananias and Sapphira is because of the absence of the true glory of God, for this level of severe judgment that produces death is always in proportion to the present level of glory.

Consecration to God in holiness and purity is vital to increasing the glory of God in the Church.

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KEY TO CLEANSING THE LATTER HOUSE: JUDGMENT AND THE FEAR OF THE LORD

I believe there is no other way the modern day Church will be cleansed from all its hypocrisy and impurities derived from the worship  of mammon, except through judgment that produces the fear of the Lord. It may come through hardship, death, or even a crisis of massive proportions such as a civil war to bring this about. The landscape of Christianity must be cleansed, so that the Church’s impact can be much more far reaching. Without widespread and deep repentance and awakening,  this may be the only solution and remedy to the current idolatrous condition of the church world. The power and glory of God may not be restored to the Church any other way. We are so far gone and numb to the true condition of the nation and the Church that this may be the only remedy to true restoration (see this recent article by my friend Michael L. Brown – How Can We Be So Numb?). A severe shaking may be our last line of hope.

Let’s take a close look at the first miracle of judgment in the early Church that cleansed it immediately of the sin and hypocrisy that was seeking entrance. This judgment kept it strong and pure and increased its power and impact.

“In hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came on all those who heard these things” (Acts 5:5).

“At once she (Sapphira) fell down at his feet and died. Upon entering, the young men found her dead and carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear came on the entire church and on all those who heard these things. Many signs and wonders were performed among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Porch. No one else dared join them, but the people respected them. Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, crowds of both men and women” (Acts 5:10-14).

Can you see how this cleansing led to increased fear and power with many believers being added to the Lord?

We often forget these portions of Scripture and how this judgment produced the component of the fear of the Lord, which stopped this lie and other impurities from having access into the early Church, thus preserving its white hot purity and keeping it from being defiled. This miracle of judgment contributed to the glory, power, and growth of the early Church. Notice also the effect it had on the people:

“No one else dared join them (the disciples), but the people respected them” (Acts 5:13).

The Message Bible says it this way: “But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both.”

Could these incidents of judgment in the early Church be a type and shadow of what we may expect in the last days Church in both the coming judgment and glory:

Could it be that preachers who have peddled the word of God for gain have their ministries judged and some even be publicly humiliated and taken out of the way?

Could churches and ministries that have been built on compromise and the wisdom of man see a mass exodus as people begin to seek pure truth and authenticity as well as the reality of the Holy Spirit and the power of God?

Could we see organizations and companies who have used their power and wealth to persecute the righteous be shaken and some big CEO’s even die? Could we also see the same type of judgement on leaders of nations who persecute the glorious Church and do not give glory to God (think of king Herod; Acts 12:23)?

I believe we will see these kind judgments again but only as the glory increases and is restored to the true Church.

POLARIZATION: ONE EFFECT OF GOD’S JUDGMENTS AND THE FEAR OF THE LORD

The judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira caused sinners to be leery of joining themselves to the apostles and the church while at the same time gaining public respect and influence. This divided or polarized those who were not interested in genuine repentance and living whole-heartedly for the Lord from the multitudes that were being genuinely converted and being added to the church. Oh how we need this work done today in this era of postmodern and so called progressive Christianity! It would root out so much complacency, carnality, and compromise.

The dividing line was very distinct in the early Church. In a day when we are trying to include everyone into our sheepfolds by toning down on the demands of the gospel, there was a certain exclusivity that the judgments of God and the fear of the Lord produced in the Church’s earliest beginnings. People couldn’t enter in with sin in their lives. In many places today, it is difficult to tell the difference between the Christian and non-Christian, but not in the early Church. God wants to restore this polarization in the Church of today.

This is an excerpt from my newest book awaiting its release, THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE, RESTORING THE GLORY TO THE LATTER DAY CHURCH. 

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