I am actually so excited to write this post I pray the message comes across and not my giddy joy of freedom! Why am I like this for a post? I believe so much of our life in Christ is breaking down the walls of fallen human wisdom. Jesus calls it the world. That same “wisdom” is so pervasive it finds its way into our churches and becomes a tool of religion. In our fallen human nature it is normal to have a wrong interpretation of God’s nature. Adam hid from love. Adam ran away from his Father and friend. Instead of seeking God in his time of need he hid in the bushes, starting making his fig leaf covering and cowered in shame. God on the other hand came to rescue him, deliver him from shame and cover him with his provision. If we could only “see” our Father again like Adam did before the fall.
But we can. This is why Jesus came. This is who He reveals. When we “believe in the name of Jesus” we are believing that Jesus shows us the Father. His name means “God saves.” As a fallen human we just don’t see that. We insist on taking our dysfunction and applying to the very source of love. God is love. That should be enough for us to use as a filter for the garbage but…? Let me just list a few verses about the love of God and fear:
Luk 12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)
Luk 12:32 “ Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father ‘s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (ESV)
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “ Abba! Father!” (ESV)
2Ti 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self- control. (ESV)
1Jo 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (ESV)
We should never be motivated by an irrational fear or terror of our Father in Heaven. I wrote a few posts about that. Check out What about the fear of man?, Fearfully Remade, We need more “fear of the Lord” and Relationship not Religion (Fear of the Lord) if you want to know more.
Jesus is the truth. He reveals the true nature of God. Jesus is also our example of what it looks like to live as a man free from a fallen nature. So when Jesus tells us stuff He is showing us the Father and showing us who we should be. It isn’t a goal to strive for but an identity to live from. As a born again believer in Jesus we are a new creation. Jesus sets us free from the power of sin, death, the devil and our fallen human nature. We have the mind of Christ and are being transformed into His image. Our minds are being renewed to “see” the goodness of God. So Jesus says stuff like this:
Mat 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. ’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool! ’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESVST)
Mat 5:40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ (ESVST)
So let me ask you a very simple question. Does God hold us to a higher standard than His own? This may sound silly but many will say “well He is God so He can do whatever He wants.” Very true. I want to suggest that God can’t do something against His nature because it is His nature. Even the law is an expression of His nature to love. When He says don’t murder it is because in His goodness there is no murder. God says don’t steal because He wouldn’t ever steal. Get the idea?
OK, one more input before the “big reveal.” Check out these verses:
Heb 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (ESVST)
Jn 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father ‘s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (ESVST)
1Jo 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESVST)
So who is the murder? Who has the power of death?
Ready? Set. Go!
Ananias and Sapphira….
I’ve always heard it taught that God killed Ananias and Sapphira. In my own heart I wondered why we didn’t ask the real question: Who killed Ananias and Sapphira? Instead we assumed it was God and then proceeded to fill people’s hearts with fear and dread and terror of a God who DIDN’T KILL THEM. The devil’s master plan was to infiltrate the believers. When he got found out he killed them and let us blame God for their deaths. Wow what a creative plan of deception. It worked. Try to find a commentary that doesn’t say God killed them. I love busting down walls of lies. The devil did it, not God. There it is. Don’t worry I am not afraid of the devil. He should be very very afraid of me.
OK, don’t believe me? My intent with all the background is for you to “see” that God wouldn’t kill them. I would pray you see that the way of Jesus is death on a cross not murder for a sinner. He saves us not condemns us. He tells us to forgive over and over. That is His nature. That is our Father. We need to “see.” The devil kills steals and destroys, not God.
In this story the believers were like this:
Act 4:32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (ESVST)
These people were in love. They were in love with God and each other. They were the perfect family as God intended it. They were dedicated to each other. This was a really good thing. They were all filled with the Spirit and walking in power. The Holy Spirit had just shown up again in such a dramatic way that people were being healed by shadows. OK, with that as a background can you imagine who is really mad? The devil is. He doesn’t make stuff but mutates it or manipulates it or uses a truth to make a lie. That is what he does here. Barnabas, who is a no-kidding, believing, born-again lover of God does this:
Act 4:36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles ‘feet. (ESVST)
So the devil uses this example and…
Act 5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife ‘s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (ESVST)
Don’t miss the obvious. Luke does not call these two believers or followers or disciples or people of the “way.” So I contend they are not believers. I believe the devil is using them as imitators to get into the group. As infiltrators they can spread lies and division and all the bad stuff he does. OK, still don’t believe me?
Act 5:3 But Peter said, “ Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? (ESVST)
Once they are revealed they “drop dead.” I believe the devil killed them. Once the plan was uncovered, he chose another course. Satan, knowing our fallen nature, knowing our tendency to blame God and run from God and hide in fear of God, uses this opportunity to do exactly what is preached from the pulpits today…cast fear in the wrong direction.
Act 5:11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (ESVST)
Let me suggest that the misdirection is in our churches as we teach it today. I believe these people of their early church were not afraid (terror of punishment) of God. I am sure that they saw what happened for what it was. They saw that the devil came knocking at their door and tried to get into their group and failed. Their fear would be a “wow that was a close one” kind of fear. For the other people I have no clue. I expect someone who doesn’t know perfect love would be afraid of God’s punishment and would likely blame God for the event. Just saying.
So there you go. Long post, sorry. Good story, not sorry. Revelation of a good God, really really not sorry. God is that good. Let’s stop looking for proof that He is mean and bad and angry and all the stuff the devil does. Instead let’s find Jesus. He is the Word of God. Let’s stop casting terror into the hearts of His children but use the Word (Jesus) to reveal our Father in Heaven. That was His plan.