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Striving for a Clear Conscience

Striving for a Clear Conscience

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Striving for a Clear Conscience

Acts 5

Big Idea:

The Lord knows everything we do, So we strive to honor him in everything we do.

(and we cannot hide from or fool him)

Prov 5:21 “For all a mans ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all their paths.” 

If your mom asks if you cleaned your room or not, you better tell the truth.

Pop quiz. You never know when you might have it so you always prepare for it. We never know when the Lord might call us to account, so we prepare *strive* everyday like it could be today.

We are reading about a couple people who thought they could trick God, and we are going to see that you cannot do that. 


But a man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. 7 There was an interval of about three hours; then his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the field for this price?” “Yes,” she said, “for that price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree 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!” 10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things. (Acts 5:1-11 CSB)

The Unvarnished Truth

Did this really happen? How could a God of love allow it to? Others have said why would this be included, especially right after the end of chapter 4. 

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. 36 Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, whom the apostles named Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37 CSB)

God does not hide the blemishes of his people. God did not suppress this disturbing episode. It was not all romance and righteousness. Sometimes people want to polish the church like a piece of silver to display how great it is. The Bible speaks highly of the church. It is the center of his activity in the world and central place he is revealing himself. But it never hides from the fact that his people do not always live up to the calling they have received.  

People may also have a hard time with this because how could God do this? How could he punish his people so severely? People who say God of the Old Testament is a God of vengeance, but the new testament God is a God of love, or some version of that, have to ignore this passage. 

This is consistent with the God of the Bible. We see his holiness and justice. It is very similar to 

  • the story of Achan Josh 7 where Achan keeps a cloak and gold and silver for himself, and is judged for it. 
  • The priests Nadab and Abihu were struck down in the temple for offering unauthroized fire (Lev 10). 
  • Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day 23,000 people fell dead. (1Co 10:8 CSB). Paul told the people there are many who are sick and have died because they have eaten the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner. 

Jesus preached woe to people who rejected God. He told people they were like whitewashed tombs, great on the outside but full of dead bones on the inside. Matt 23:27

This passage teaches us that in following Jesus there is a:

  1. Call to Holiness

The Holy Spirit is one of the central figures in the book of Acts. Some have called the book of Acts the Acts of the Apostles. It is more appropriately the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The spirit is the one who is lied to and the spirit is the one who acts. The spirit is God, ie “have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). The spirit is known as the Holy Spirit (5:3)

Holy: brought near or into God’s presence holy; (1) of things set apart for God’s purpose dedicated, sacred, holy (MT 4.5), opposite common, unconsecrated); (2) of persons holy, pure, consecrated to God . Represents who God is and what he wants of his people. No impurity. 

God is holy and demands his people be holy. If God did not have mercy on us no one would be left. Sometimes Christians think God’s mercy gets us in the front door and then we can do the rest on our own. We need his mercy every day. We experience every day. Don’t grow cold to it!

So what did they do wrong?

Scripture speaks about honoring God with your finances. We see a practice in the early church of doing this. 

Here it says they [“kept back part of the proceeds” (v2,3). Were they obligated to give all the proceeds? No, they were not. 

[Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart?  (Act 5:4 CSB)

They could have done what they wanted with these proceeds. They could have given all or part. 

Now the word kept back (V3) means to steal, to misappropriate. This word to steal or misappropriate is used in Joshua 7 about the sin of Achan

It’s possible that they told a price to Peter and then changed their minds. They may have committed to the principal of giving everything in advance and then changed their minds. Either way they said they would give everything, they didn’t do that, and they lied saying they did do it. They were struck down for something we might consider a little white lie. This reminds us how holy God is. It also shows the hypocrisy they lived in.  

They were trying to do the same thing Barnabas did. Barnabas sold a piece of land and brought  it to the apostles’ feet to do with as they pleased, whatever is best for the community. Barnabas received a place in the Bible for that act. He was esteemed

*Ananias wants the recognition but not the sacrifice. *

[*They wanted the credit and prestige for sacrificial generosity without the sacrifice of it. Stott. 

Are you interested in truly serving God or are you just interested in the recognition that goes with it? A good person, a good son, a good member of society. 

God hates hypocrisy. God wants truth in the inward places of our lives. People can be comfortable lying so that they appear one thing when they are actually something else. 

Their sin is not primarily against Peter. They have lied to the Holy Spirit. Remember that. But what about this and what about that. He did this. He did that. You don’t base your actions on others but on God’s standard. 

God is holy and holds us to the standard of his holiness.

The best thing that can happen to us is we get caught and deal with it now. Me getting away with things. Not getting caught. Get caught deal with consequences. People who are one way in church and another way when they get home. Can do the church talk with their church friends and then the real them comes out. Lying. Cheating. Stealing. Smoking marijuana. Getting drunk. Sleeping around. You can hide from people, for a while. They are usually smarter than you give them credit for. They typically know. But they may not. But God knows everything. 

Don’t tell my pastor I’m …. That hypocrisy. 

People who would show up at family’s house in dress clothes to appear they went to church, but they didn’t. 

You may know that last week one of the most prominent apologists of the last generation, Ravi Zacharias, who passed away several years ago, was discovered to be engrossed in a lifestyle that took advantage of women, sexual. Let me tell you something. You never get away with sin. God knows everything. Don’t mock him by continuing in it. 

People come to me struggling with assurance, how can I know I am saved. Can be very easy to go straight to Jesus loves you and he will care for you. I used to do that. Now I ask, why you so unsure? Is there anything you have done that you believe is contrary to what God calls you to do. If I am assuring someone who is in blatant rebellion to God that is not wrong! You can be forgiven, but the Lord calls you to repent first, confess your sins. There is no sin greater than the blood of Christ. 

People have said we are in a trust crisis as a nation. People don’t trust anything they see or hear. I give an amen to that. I’m weary of it all. If you are looking for how to be a trustworthy person, then know it begins here. It begins with knowing everything you say and do is in plain view of God, and he will bring you to account. A man who believes that is a man you can trust, that you want to marry, a person you want to trust in business. God’s holiness calls us to account.

God’s holiness teaches to have a …

  1. Redeeming Fear

In verse 5 and verse 11 it is mentioned that great fear fell on the people. In a negative sense fear is dread, alarm but in a positive sense respect, reverence, awe, (wholesome), respect for those in authority (Romans 13).

We should fear God. We should fear him when people see us and when they don’t. He always sees us. We will stand before him in judgement. 

Judgement. The Bible teaches there will be a day of Judgement. An account of our lives will be demanded of us. Every careless word. Every penny spent.

We are saved by grace, but has grace become the motto we use to live in sin. To misuse God’s money, to misrepresent ourselves in God’s church, to waste away in complete indifference to those who don’t know Jesus. 

So why doesn’t God strike down everyone now. Augustine said, because then there would be no need for future judgment. This is a time of grace. Don’t misuse God’s grace.*

I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Act 24:16 NIV) Are we doing this. 

An eskimo was estranged with only a small knife and had a wolf threatening him. How could he kill it? Hand to hand would not go well. He took the knife and cut open a fish, poured the blood into the snow. He then took the knife, tied it to the end of a large stick, wedged it in the ground, and began to pack the bloody snow on the tip of the knife. The wolf came and found the blood and started to eat. As it ate the ice, the tongue became numb, and it didn’t realize it began to slice its tongue on the knife. It could no longer drink water or eat, and it died. It became numb to the danger it was doing. 

Many Christians are numb today. 

Go through motions. Passive and indifferent. You don’t act. You repeatedly watch things on TV that are contrary to God’s design. You are not shocked by it. You are comfortable. You no longer burn with passion for God or against the things he calls you to. You are numb all around. 

Pull away. People give up and turn away from the church/God’s people because it’s not perfect. Is that the way Jesus told us to love his church and his people. I don’t think so. We show how small our love for him really is when we are not willing to bear with the failing of others. How many people might turn away from the church for this. We are to see the love and holiness of God in this. 

When we know that God knows all our inward thoughts we want to be sincere in all of life. We want integrity in who we are on Sunday and who you are on Tuesday morning, and on Friday night. 

Need to do what God said. Don’t change his word. Don’t make excuses for pulling away. Don’t make excuses for not giving, not following, not finding out what he calls you to do. 

Let me say this. Many people are disappointed with God, but it’s not God they are really disappointed with, it’s people. People will always let you down. I think this passage is here to remind us that as wonderful as the church is, it is not what we put our hope in. Ananias and Sapphira failed, but it didn’t cause the church to doubt. I see many people struggling mightily because of things that have happened in the church. It doesn’t cause me to doubt. Often their actions are clear. People want judgment for others but grace for themselves

“A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.” (Pro 19:3 NIV)

The Lord judges. No one escapes. It is he who does it. We have a role, but we are limited. Yes, we want to speak up for people and doing what’s right. We want to foster it where we can. We don’t wear ourselves out. Fear him. 

Some of you want judgement for others and you are wearing yourself out to see it happen. You need to rest. God will make it right. There are things you can do to bring it out, pray for that person. You are going to see many people do wrong things. Hardest thing is when you see people doing wrong and you pray for it to stop and it continues. Realize it is necessary for that to happen in order for them to experience God’s mercy. And they will give an account for that. You will too. 

*No one will get away with rebellion to God. That should encourage you when you are wronged. It also causes you to fall on your knees to forgive those who offend you. It grounds you when it appear others have gotten away with something.*

I have no doubt there are people here who are anxious worried and sick, because God’s judgment is upon you. You run but you can’t get away. The more you try to convince yourself you will get away with it, or talk down your actions, the easier it is to do it the next time. You need to come clean before the Lord calls you to stand before him.


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