So, can you honestly say you're enjoying your experience at church? Do you find the relationships authentic and the worship engaging? Sometimes we find ourselves showing up on Sunday morning just going through the motions.
Well, today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his signature series called The Church Awakening. Today we're looking at the Book of Acts where we find the church in its Infancy. As we observe the human struggles and as we witness God's divine intervention, we discover the purpose of the local church and how to engage at a deeper level. Let's go from today's church back to the first century. You see, it's an early church.
It's a first century church, but depravity is alive and well within it. So what we find in chapter 5 is a husband-wife team who hypocritically act like they are giving all of the prophets in the sale of the land to the work of God, when in fact they held some back for themselves. Nothing wrong with having property, nothing wrong with selling property, and may I add, there's nothing wrong with holding back some of the prophet for yourself. Something's wrong when you act like you're giving all the prophet. That's called hypocrisy. That's called a lack of integrity.
Watch how it is exposed. Verse 1 chapter 5, a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price for himself with his wife's full knowledge and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. Peter says to Ananias, verse 3, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?
Now folks, before we go any further, that's what I call a confrontation. Why has Satan filled your heart so that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and in fact to the people of this assembly? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?
And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You've not lied to men, but to God. You see, to Peter, the most significant presence was the Lord's presence. That's the way it is in the church. It is the Lord we magnify. It is the Lord we exalt. It is the Lord we serve. It's the Lord to whom we answer. You've not lied to men, but to God.
How dare you do that? Look further, as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last and great fear came over all who heard of it. And out buried him.
Now watch closely. There elapsed an interval of about three hours and his wife came in not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her.
Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price. She said yes, that was the price. Peter said to her, why is it you've agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out as well. And she breathed her last.
The young men came in, found her dead, and they carried her out, buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church and over all who heard these things. You know what the problem was? Lack of integrity.
You know why that's such a big problem? Because so many people were counting on so few to walk in integrity. Without affecting the church. We can't play fast and loose with our morals. Our lives are in his hands. How could we live a lie and stand and tell you to be holy? It's a serious business folks. God holds his own seriously accountable.
They operated under a heightened fear of God. How healthy is that? I'll tell you that'll hold you pure. You play fast and loose with God. You can watch whatever channel you want to on a television set.
You can go wherever you want to on the internet. You can carry on however you like, but when you trust in a holy God with fear, and trembling, you're very, very fragile. As you think through your lifestyle and realize you're hanging very heavy weights on very thin wires. And we demand that you become silent. Verse 29, Peter and the apostles answered, chapter 5, 29, we must obey God rather than men. Verse 33, when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they intended to kill them. Gamaliel steps in and says, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute.
Let's think this through. So they listened to Gamaliel and then verse 40, they took his advice. After calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus.
And then said, get out of here. So they went on their way from the presence of the council, verse 41, what? What does it say? Rejoicing. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. What an honor to suffer for His name's sake. That's what verse 41 is all about. They considered themselves grateful, considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
What enormous stature. Every day in the temple from house to house, don't you love it? They kept right on preaching, teaching that Jesus is the Christ. I'll tell you, I love this kind of preaching. I love this kind of story. I got to tell you, it reminds me of J. Vernon McGee at one point. He was talking about Daniel.
He said the reason the lions didn't need him is he was three fourths backbone and the rest gristle. That's what Peter and John are. You're not going to intimidate them.
You threaten them and beat them. But they're there. You know why? Because they answer to the living God. And they're not afraid of men. And they're not afraid of the authorities. They're afraid of the world system.
Now, wouldn't you know it, the enemy even comes and attacks them on the inside. At this time, verse one of chapter six, at this time, while all of this other stuff is going on, while the disciples were increasing in numbers, are there more people, more people to take care of? They might come up to this cultural conflict.
Quick explanation. In Jerusalem, which is deeply rooted in the in the Jewish lifestyle and culture, there had come in Hellenists who were Jews in roots, but they were Greek speaking and of Greek culture. Not the native Hebrews who speak Aramaic living and serving and worshiping alongside the the Greek speaking Jews who are of a Greek culture. Now, because they all have needs, some of them with widows that can't support themselves, they need to find food from as well as financial assistance from the church. And so there is a preferential treatment given to the native Hebrews. Jerusalem being, you know, of that culture, probably they took better care of those widows than the Hellenistic widows.
That's what we find as we read about it. There arose a complaint in that church. See the word complaint, gogudzo. Now, you heard Dr. Toussaint a few moments ago.
He taught me this great language of Greek. He used to say some words sound like the verb itself, gogudzo. When you complain, you gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo.
Can't you just see? I remember he'd say in class, gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo, gogudzo. It means a lot to me. It means nothing to you. It's a complaint.
The gogudzo means to murmur, to murmur. There's another word for it we use in the core, but I am not going to use it here. It's not appropriate. They're complaining. They're whining. The Hellenistic Jews aren't being treated as well as the Hebrew widows. They're being overlooked in the daily serving of food. Now watch closely. It's a valid complaint. So the twelve, that would be the apostles, summoned the congregation of the disciples and said it's not desirable for us to neglect the word of God nor the served tables.
Praise God. Does it mean they were better than that? Of course not. They're all servants.
Nobody's better than anybody else. It's just there are priorities. I mean, other people can do this while we do what we're called to do.
It's a matter of calling. So the table of food and financial assistance needs to be carried out correctly. We need to distribute the food. And in light of that, we have an idea.
Brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. If they had been a professional ministry, they would have hired distributors or us, whose motto would be we specialize in cultural conflicts, murmuring Christians and whining widows. But they don't do that. You know why?
Because they're a family. And when you're not slick, you don't hire everything done. You say to the flock, we have a need. Some of you can help us with the need. And you say, in this case, we need the right kind of people. We need people that are filled with the Spirit because they don't steal when they're filled with the Spirit. We need people who are wise.
They won't be prejudiced if they're wise. Not just any seven, but let's pick seven. Interestingly, they're all of the Hellenistic roots, if you check their names.
Smart decision. Congregation. Look at verse five. One wag I read said it's the first time and the last time in all of history that the entire congregation found approval in one decision. Statement found approval with the whole congregation. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith, Philip, Perchorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicholas.
Proselyte from Antioch. You know what's interesting? You never heard of five of them. Couple of them you read about later. You know why that's great?
Because you don't have to hear about them. They're servants. Can you imagine how politically it would be incorrect, how it would be in the place where you work to say, this is my executive assistant. She's my slave. Oh. And you're also the recipient of a pink slip that evening before the day is over in the family of God.
We're all slaves. Don't ever forget that. You're no big deal. I'm no big deal. Get away from the big deal stuff. Get away from the status stuff. Get away from titles.
Always bothers me when people are worried about what title they're going to have. Well, how slave? How about assistant to the slave? These are servants.
That's what some have said. These are the first deacons. We can't say that just because the verb to serve or to serve tables. Verse two into the verse is diakonos or diakonia from which we get our word diakonot or deacon. These maybe weren't an official deacon.
Deacons were never on a board. We've done all of that in the time that's passed because we look like a corporation. We've got to give people a sense of feeling significant.
Since when? Why do we have to make anybody feel significant? That's God's job. You're not to you're not here to make me feel significant. What a strange assignment.
How skewed that is. These these men are servants and they serve the widows. But, you know, they have to have a lot of grace. Some of the widows would say, well, it's about time.
You know, she got hers. You know, you just serve. You just serve. You just serve. You just serve. If it weren't for people at church, it'd be easy. Congregation brought these people to the apostles and after praying, they laid their hands on them. Oh, it's so good.
The word of God kept on spreading and the number of the disciples continued. Isn't that great? That's the way it is in the family. Whose turn is it to do the dishes? That's mine.
Well, come on, do them. Are you going to help your sister? Yeah, I'll help a sister. That's great. Get in there and do the dishes. Who's going to clean your room? Yeah, I'm going to clean my room.
That's good. That's what family members do. Clean your room.
Just clean up after yourself. It's no big deal. It's just stuff. And the world watches and says, how do they how do they do that?
I mean, they got something we don't have. We got all these layers of assignments and salaries and specific details. We're so professional.
Great. We're servants. I love the way Jim Elliott put it.
We're a bunch of nobodies trying to please somebody. Don't you love it? They'll never forget that. Word of God kept on spreading. The number of the disciples continued to increase and great many of the priest, the priest, old hotshot who's been throwing rocks at them now says, hmm, and they got stuff I don't have. How could we threaten Peter and John and not frighten them?
What is it that makes them different? There's something contagious about this spreading flame. Magnificent. Two things to remember.
We're through. One is about the adversary. One is about our Lord. Number one, the adversary will stop at nothing to disrupt and if possible, destroy the church. The adversary will stop at nothing to disrupt and if possible, add enough chaos to destroy the church. Now, he can't do it.
Gates of hell will not prevail against it, but he'll go right to the edge. He's disrupted many a one. A married couple tried to disrupt the church through hypocrisy. Squabbling widows tried to disrupt things because they weren't being taken care of. It's a valid reason, but they murmured about it rather than saying we have a need. Could you help us?
Here's the second. The Lord will honor and bless any plan that upholds prayer and promotes his word. The Lord will honor any plan that upholds prayer and promotes his word. Oh, Lord, don't let us get far from that, please. Please guard us from processing people. Please remind us that we are all in the, you know, just clay pots, moldy. Steadman used to say just some are moldier than others.
Lord, guard us from making this complicated, from turning this into a slick operation. Eugene Peterson writes this of the church. When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders on observing this conclude there is nothing to the religion business except perhaps business and dishonest business of that. Outsiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners.
Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It's similar with sinners outside the church. So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.
They are rather places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with. Wise words to which I would add, and doing both requires a knowledge of the word and prevailing prayer. I have to catch you up briefly here on how we're coming along with our small gathering of individuals who are meeting, thinking through and talking through our church and its future.
It's wonderful. We met our last time last Tuesday at a room at the seminary. Let me tell you how it went. Our Bibles were open start to finish. We prayed before and following. On one occasion in the middle of it, I wanted to pause for prayer, but it got so interesting I forgot.
And I later on thought I needed to have prayed right then. Insights were brought from the scriptures. We went through some of the very same passages we looked at today. It was invigorating. We were all taking notes and learning from one another. It was healthy.
It was rich. And the best part of it, it reminded me we have not lost our value. We have not lost our value. By the grace of God, we are in good hands. The future is wonderfully bright. And admittedly, where the Lord leads in this is a discovery we will enjoy on tiptoe.
No one has an agenda. I love that. We come around the word with open hearts to seek his mind. And the fellowship is enriching. Enriching.
I, as your shepherd, long for you to have a life that is enriching. For you to take time away from the demands of your work to be still. To open his word to pray. To seek his mind.
To offer yourself a change agent, first to be changed, then to be a helpful person in the life of another who needs to be changed. If you take your cues from the world, you'll never slow down and do that. Just be still. Listen to him. Ask him to guide you.
Bow your heads with me, please. My heart goes out to any of you who may have never trusted in the Savior. I realize the message today has been for believers, but perhaps you realize what you've been missing. Maybe you're a little confused. You'd like to know what to do now.
If you've never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, come today. Father, in the hectic pace of life, it's often easy to feel like a cage full of mice. Busily about the stuff of life and moving in our own direction and often even forgetting our young. Pursuing what we want, what would give us comfort, significance. Today we've learned of another lifestyle.
I pray that we might more and more model it. Staying out of step with the world, but not aloof from those in the world. And give us a distinctive identity that we belong to Christ. To the point where others are amazed, realizing that without letters and without training, here we are, your representatives. So Father, use us in special ways in the lives of those whom we touch this week. And continue to guide this ministry by your grace and for your glory. Father, thank you for the role prayer plays, a radical interference of the status quo.
Thank you for the power of your word that cuts true life like a hot knife through butter. Keep us on our knees. Keep our fingers on the page of scripture.
Guard us from trying to ape the world system. Help us to keep it simple, keep it spiritual. So that you get all the glory, just as you will have it someday in Emmanuel's land. The Lamb is all the glory. We pray in your powerful name for your glory.
All His people said, Amen. For more information on Chuck Swindoll and this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. In addition to hearing these daily programs, remember that every single sermon in this series is paired with an interactive study tool that Chuck calls Searching the Scriptures. It's interactive because you can jot down your personal notes online or print out the PDF for safekeeping. It's designed to help you truly engage with the Bible and its application.
Take a look and discover how to learn more about the Church Awakening by going to insight.org slash studies. Well, most of us have heard the desperate cries that are prevalent in Ukraine and surrounding regions. You'll be encouraged to hear that our regional offices in Poland and Romania have worked tirelessly to care for the needs of the refugees that are pouring into their cities. Our office in the United States, along with our other international offices, are allocating funds as able to our Polish and Romanian offices to help ease what physical suffering we can and to help offer spiritual comfort in the love and power of Christ. And these ministries are made possible in part when you give a much needed donation to Insight for Living. To give a gift today, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. You can also give online at insight.org slash donate.
I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called The Church Awakening on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities, was copyrighted in 2008, 2010, and 2022. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-27 21:37:07 / 2023-04-27 21:45:49 / 9