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The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned and Am Still Learning

PRAYER OF CONSECRATION

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 5:1–11 (NIV)

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 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.

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? 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.” 

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

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

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

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.”

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. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

CONSIDER THIS

This is a tough story. This couple actually sold a piece of land in the interest of serving the growing church and helping the people of God. That’s a big deal and very commendable. He kept back some of the money for his own family. That seems like a small deal and perfectly acceptable. And they drop dead on being confronted about this? Seems like overkill; no pun intended. It seems to fall in the category of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

But this story is not about money or giving or any of that. This story is about lying. Nothing destroys a person, a relationship, a community, or church faster than lying. We must commend Ananias and Sapphira for their generous spirit in selling this land and making such a profound gift to God through the church. We can never excuse their lie, because truth be told, to the extent we excuse them, we excuse ourselves.

This story reveals the nature of a particular kind of lie. Ananias and Sapphira did not tell a bold-faced lie here. Yes, they misrepresented themselves, but it was by omission. They didn’t say anything untrue. They allowed an untruth to stand.

Their dramatic act of dropping dead startles us, but note, it does not say the Holy Spirit struck them down. No, they did it to themselves. Every time we lie to another person, no matter how small or justified or harmless it may seem, we put another nail in our own coffin. It deeply damages the person lied to, but the deepest damage of a lie is to the one propagating it. Anytime we lie to another person, we must first lie to ourselves. With every lie we tell ourselves, it makes the next one easier, until we have literally become lost to the truth. The most horrifying reality of lying is the way the liar develops such an immunity to lying, they eventually have no idea that they are doing it. This is not even the worst of it. The real tragedy is when we lie to each other we are lying to God.

You have not lied just to human beings but to God.

Growing up, my parents taught me many things, but one thing stands out for which I am eternally grateful. I can hear their voices now, “No matter what, always tell the truth!” 

The lesson of Ananias and Sapphira (in the first century, the twenty-first century, and every century in between) is precisely this one: Unswerving, unwavering, uncompromising honesty. In the smallest matters and the greatest concerns, always tell the truth, no matter what.

The good news? Because of the Holy Spirit, telling the truth is always within reach. The biggest liar, by telling the smallest truth, can start a brand new life.

Here’s the kicker. We only tell lies to the extent that we have believed lies. And the biggest lie we believe is that it’s okay to tell a small one; that it doesn’t really hurt anyone. It’s why there’s no such thing as a little lie in the end. 

THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION

Lord Jesus, I am your witness. 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness. 
I receive your love and release my selfishness. 
I receive your truthfulness and release my deceitfulness. 

Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen. 

THE QUESTION

How does lying destroy other people? How does it destroy the one who lies? Any experience with this? Which lie comes first, the lie to God, to ourselves, or to others? 

THE HYMN

Today we will sing the majestic hymn, “Come, Thou Almighty King.” It is hymn 27 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. The timing of this story is so ironic for me. Just yesterday, with my Sunday morning gathering at a local nursing home, I shared the Story of King David and his fall into temptation with Bathsheba, the attempted cover up, the confrontation from Nathan the prophet, David’s Psalm 51 of confession and repentance and the fact that while God always stands ready to forgive us our trespasses; that there are always remain consequences from sin. While it might seem that the death’s of Ananias and Sapphira were rather severe from our perspective; I believe that at this critical stage of development of the early Church this was a needed example of how spiritual purity was essential, and still is.

  2. God sees through the lies of your disguise.

    Lies, regardless of their size, are deceptive. Deception deploys darkness and destroys our ability to discern and walk in truth.

    As Christ-followers we need to be careful that we don’t deny the truth about ourselves and our behaviors, but rather embrace it and humbly cry out like Paul, “O wretched man that I am.” Attempting to spin the truth about ourselves in order to appear meritorious kills our ability to humbly surrender to and live in God’s grace. (Instead of spin, my one plea should be that Christ’s blood was shed for me.)

    Peter lied and denied Jesus three times. Then he wept. He didn’t deceive and manipulate to cover up the truth of his sin of lying. He didn’t try to justify or minimize his lying. The humiliating truth about Peter denying Jesus was part of his reputation and is still known to the entire body of Christ.

    Because Peter repented and walked in the light of humility, brokenness, and honesty, the gift of the word of knowledge was able to work in him and reveal to him the lie of Ananias and Sapphira. When confronted with the truth they didn’t weep and admit their joint lie. Instead, they held on to it and it took them to their graves.

    Even the smallest lie is a Spirit-quencher that causes a breech between us and God’s life-giving light. Dare to ask God to remind you of your lies (big and small) and when He brings them to your mind, quickly admit them, weep with sorrow, and receive God’s undeserved forgiveness, healing, and restoration. If you’ve lied to another person (or spined the truth in your favor) be courageous and humbly approach them. Tell them the whole truth and ask for their forgiveness. Then the death-grip of your lies will be washed away by the rejuvenating Spirit of God.

  3. Lying is an embedded trait of our sinful nature from the Father of Lies. The Bible doesn’t call satan the Father of Sin but of lies. We are created by the breath of righteousness and truth, but because of the Fall, we are born to lie.
    No one likes to be lied to, but everyone lies.
    We lie to save face or not to hurt another.
    We lie to manipulate and to justify.
    We lie to shift blame and to cheat.
    A half-truth is a full lie.
    Lies shackle trust, for once a lie is exposed, we ask, “What else have they lied about.”
    Lying is an evil game that no one wants to play, but everyone is signed up.
    Lying comes naturally (observe the two-year-old when being disobedient. Or the adult who’s caught), truth-telling is a conscious choice, and truth-telling becomes more natural as we live through our identity in Christ; when we walk in the spirit and not flesh.

    Galatians 5:16-17
    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

    Staying 💪’n Christ
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

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