Thursday, July 19, 2018

Expressions of Faith. Acts Ch 5. Nevertheless

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.”
10 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. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 
Acts 5:1-13*
8. Nevertheless

Chapter 5 opens with the grisly story of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.

This husband and wife wanted to be part of the dynamic, rapidly growing church in Jerusalem.
There are no rules reported about conduct required for membership.
Some people sold possessions and brought their proceeds as offerings to fund the ministry.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a field.
They brought money to the disciples as others did.
Remember: there were no rules about whether to sell, what to sell, or what to give if you sold something.

It’s implied in Acts 4:34 that people who sold property donated all the proceeds to the church.
By the way, the word church is first used in Acts 5:11.

Read verses 1-12. 
Ananias and Sapphira conspire to defraud God.
They bring their gift and say they were donating the full sale price.
Because of their deceit, God strikes down first Ananias, then Sapphira.

Verse 11 reports the fear of people in Jerusalem.
This is from the footnote on verse 13 from my NIV Study Bible.
Because of the fate of Ananias and his wife, no pretenders or halfhearted followers risked identification with the believers.
 (Page 1652)
Verse 14 reveals the power of the Holy Spirit.
14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

Are you living a lie?

If so, this nevertheless is for you!

My next Expression of Faith is Acts Chapter 5. Angelic Irony

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Timeless Truths. The Miracle Tree. Fruit of the Spirit. #7 Faithfulness

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindnessgoodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:19-23
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith, even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them...
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Hebrews 11:1-16, 39-40

7. Faithfulness

Probably the result of my lack of organized filing system for my sermon notes, I'm missing Pastor Peterson's sermons on Patience and Faithfulness. This blog contains unedited text from Adult Bible Fellowship Study Book - Volume 26 Number 3. WordAction Publishing Company. (2003)

The Life of Faithfulness (Hebrews 11:1-3)

Faith and faithfulness are two ways of expressing the same thing. In fact, the same word translated "faithfulness" in Galatians 5:22 is translated "faith" in Hebrews 11:1. It doesn't really alter the meaning being expressed. Faithfulness is faith-living. It is a way of living that emerges out of our faith. In Hebrews, the writer describes lives that reflect the faithful-ness the Spirit wants to produce in us.

"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6)

Do you think faithfulness is in better shape than the proverb above implies or is faithfulness generally in short supply today? 
What support would you give for your response?

Who I Am (Hebrews 11: 13-16)

Faith and faithfulness begin with who I am, not with what I do. Faithfulness defines a way of living that is grounded in identity. For most people, identity is defined by what they can see. My values, priorities, and decisive lifestyle characteristics are shaped by things I can see. Comfort, success, power, prestige, and pleasure are some of the visible values that play important roles in people's lives. What I do and how I live are determined by those chosen values. I make decisions about my life because I can observe how these things work out in our world. I can earn a lot of money if I learn certain skills. I can enjoy a certain quality of acceptance and esteem if I act in certain ways. I will be safe from harm if I practice certain patterns of living. That's how our actions, goals, and priorities take on meaning. They are consistent with observable values and realities in our world.

Faithful living is about living a life that is consistent with another world, a different value system and reality. That's what the writer to the Hebrews is referring to when he talks about the heroes of the life of faith being "aliens and strangers on earth" (Hebrews 11:13). They looked to a different home, "a better country" (v. 16). They lived their lives by faith, according to the values and priorities (the reality) of God's kingdom, the place He had prepared for them. Unlike the observable world that shapes our values and living, this Kingdom cannot be seen except with the eyes of faith.

Because their eyes were focused on God's heavenly kingdom, these heroes of faith acted in ways that don't make sense from a human, earthly perspective. But they make perfect sense from the perspective of faith. The writer to the Hebrews calls us to a different way of living. He wants us to live like we don't really belong here on earth at all.

What did the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 have faith in?
What was this faith founded on?

Faith Math (Hebrews 11:4)

In the kingdom of God, math works differently than it does in our world. I was never a great math student, but I know that if you add to what you have, you have more. If you give away what you have, you have less. If you give away the best you have, you are left with less than the best. Cain understood that. It made perfect sense. And he made his offering to God in the sensible way. But Cain failed faith math. Abel, on the other hand, was a student of kingdom math. You give God your best in faith, and you are better off than you were before. God understood that and gave His approval (see Genesis 4:4).

Faithfulness means living according to God's math. When our stewardship is shaped by earthly logic, even if it is generous, it will not truly be faithful. When we give according to God's terms (whether they seem to make sense or not) and because His kingdom calls for it, we are living by faith.

What did being faithful cost these faith heroes?
Does faithfulness always cost us something?
Is it always worth the cost?

Faith-full Living (Hebrews 11:5-6)

Enoch (Genesis 5:22-24) lived the life of faith. He didn't accomplish any great deeds (that we know of). Scripture just says he "walked with God" ( v. 22). But this walk was outstanding enough that God just took Enoch away-he never died. Hebrews says that this happened by faith. In Enoch's case, it doesn't mean he believed so strongly that his believing overpowered death. It means that in the day-to-day conduct of his life, Enoch lived like a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom. He raised his family and handled his affairs according to the values and priorities of God's kingdom. Apparently, he did that so thoroughly that God just decided to go ahead and move him directly to the place where he had already been living: His heavenly kingdom.

We sometimes assume that heroes of faith became heroes by doing some great deed, some bold expression of courage. But Enoch was simply faithful. He lived his life the way God wants us to live in His kingdom. That means that he was probably careful Lo honor his commitments. He could be depended on. If he were a Sunday School teacher, he would have been on time and prepared. He would have been consistent in his giving. He would have treated people with the respect God attributes to them.

You would have known that you could count on Enoch. His spirit, priorities, and attitude would have been right. Some of the other heroes of Hebrews 11 had more dramatic achievements. But Enoch's achievement--the consistent faithfulness of his life--was so pleasing that God simply took him without his experiencing death. No other hero of Hebrews 11 was honored like that. The quality of simply living faithfully may seem unimpressive to us, but not to God.

How did Jesus show His faith and faithfulness during His ministry years?
How did He show His faith and faithfulness during the last week of His earthly life?

Faith at Risk (Hebrews 11: 7 -10)

Noah and Abraham made bold decisions by faith. Noah risked public scorn and ridicule by building an ark where there wasn't any water. Abraham packed his bags and left his home at God's call without knowing where he was going. Both of those decisions were foolish, even dangerous, by any earthly risk assessment. But Noah and Abraham made their risk assessment by faith. Their criterion for judgment was drawn from the reality of the Kingdom. Their safety net wasn't visible to the human eye; it was only visible with the eyes of faith that looked to a better hope.

I know that both Noah and Abraham had to have been courageous men. But what really set them apart wasn't courage. It was vision. They had the ability-by faith-to see God's reality. What looked ridiculous or hazardous with earthly sight appeared entirely reasonable through eyes that could see God's reality.

How does Jesus' faithfulness impact our faithfulness?

Faith's Potential (Hebrews 11:11-12)

Abraham's story of faith in leaving his home is followed by another expression of his faith. This was a different sort, however. Abraham simply lived in trust, believing God would be faithful to do what He had promised to give him a son. Abraham trusted in His promise. Of course, all the earthly evidence argued the contrary. Abraham had grown old and so had Sarah, his wife. As anyone knows, 90-year-old women do not get pregnant and have babies. But Abraham's eyes were on another country where different rules apply. In that country; if God says 90-year-old women get pregnant, you can count on it being true.

So, by faith, Abraham lived his life trusting God. Because he did, he "was enabled to become a father" (Hebrews 11:11) and Sarah was enabled to become a mother. In God's world that makes perfect sense.

Sometimes faithfulness means just "keeping on keeping on." It is life lived by faith for the long haul. We sometimes get in a hurry. Like Sarah (Genesis 16), we want to help things along. We want to see results. But faithfulness may mean just hanging in there until God's timing is right. It may not seem reasonable by the world's standards, but faith lives by different rules and trusts God that they are right.

Fruitless Faith (Hebrews 11:39-40)

Hebrews says that although these and other heroes recounted in chapter 11 were "commended for their faith, yet none of them received what they had been promised" (Hebrews 11:39). This summary assessment, reflecting on the lives of the exemplary faithful, is a challenging conclusion. But perhaps that is because we have not yet really grasped the full meaning of living the life of faith. We move toward faithful living, willing to temporarily live as citizens of another place. We are willing to use kingdom math and live at risk.

But we look for resolution or vindication on this world's terms. I'm willing to give sacrificially while anticipating a tangible reward in the foreseeable future. I'm willing to take a risk because I expect God to make sure I come out of this a winner. Our natural tendency is to look for kingdom blessings on this world's terms and timing. But what if the benefit of success, of our sacrifice, and of our service never appear on this world's terms in our time? What if the results of my (faithful) kingdom living can only be found in the Kingdom?

Faithful living, as we can see in the lives of the heroes recounted in Hebrews 11, is about living on kingdom terms, both in our actions and expectations. This is not my final home. It does not-it cannot-speak the final word.

Living by Faith

Faithfulness is the quality of living on God's terms. It is living faithfully: a citizen of another Kingdom. It means living by the values, priorities, and reality of that Kingdom even though they cannot be seen or verified in this present kingdom. We take our cues for living and dying from God's eternal kingdom. The decisions we make and the way we live may not make sense from this world's perspective. But they make perfect sense from the only perspective that really matters to us: faith.

Faithfulness is most often shown in the small things of life.

What small thing do you need to be faithful in this week?

    The next Timeless Truths is The Miracle Tree – Fruit of the Spirit. #8 Gentleness

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