LWAYG: Finishing Strong – Don’t Pull an Ananias & Sapphira!

Have you ever been torn between two options and you chose the one you thought you “should” do because it would make you look good?  Maybe that option really was the right choice, but you chose it for the wrong reason: You chose it to look good, not because it was the right thing to do.

Acts 4:36-5:11 tells the story of Ananias & Sapphira. A&S were members in the Jerusalem Church while it was still brand-new, they were charter members!  There was another guy named Barnabus (we talked about him in the last lesson about John Mark too!) who sold a field he owned and donated the money to the church so that those who were in need could be provided for.  Barnabus was a really great and godly guy!

I don’t think it’s stretching it to think A&S had a conversation like this, “Hey Sapphira, doesn’t Barnabus just come off looking so good?  He sells his field, gives away the money, and then smells like roses.  Hey!  Maybe we should do the same thing, but sell a bigger field and give more money away than he did!  If we get a lot of money for our field we could probably even keep some of it for ourselves, so long as we outgive Barnabus!”  Let’s be clear: we don’t know how much each of them gave, so I’m totally shooting in the dark that A&S made it into a giving competition, but doesn’t the Bible passage make it seem like this is totally possible?

The problem, however, is that God REALLY cares about His Church and was extremely protective of it, especially in those early days!  A&S were put to death by God Himself (read the passage linked to above) because they lied to him.  Peter was clear when he said, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?…wasn’t the money at your disposal?”  God (through Peter) doesn’t fault them for keeping some of the money, He judged them for lying about it!  They wanted to look better than they really were.

So what about you?  When you have decisions to make, how do you make them?  Do you choose what to do simply based off what other people would think about you, or do you ask yourself what God’s will is?

If you live your life to LOOK like a “good Christian” when people are watching and then in private you do all sorts of things that are contradictory to your faith then there’s a problem. Don’t hide false motives behind godly behavior.

God wants you to walk wisely.  You’re not perfect, no one here expects you to be.  Don’t let that be a crutch that keeps you from pursuing godliness, but don’t be afraid of admitting that you’re a sinner… WE ALL ARE!

Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you seek out God’s will in making decisions each day:

  1. Seek Jesus Christ each day – Don’t just ask for stuff from Him, ask Him to help you know that He is with you!  Don’t only pursue Jesus when you need stuff from him… pursue him every day (because the reality is, you DO need him everyday, even if you don’t realize it!).
  2. Read your Bible – Duh, of course a youth pastor’s going to say “Read your Bible.”  But seriously, do it!  If you want to know how God wants you to live and if you want to get the most out of life, then don’t you think reading God’s Word is a good idea?
  3. Pray all the time – Remember that you don’t need to be in church to pray.  God really does hear you when you pray to Him.  When we pray, God sets our mind on Him, and that really makes a difference in how we think through our options when there are decisions to be made.
  4. Be Teachable – If you think you already know it all, then asking other people for advice isn’t going to help you at all.  But if you realize that you don’t know everything, then you’re in a great spot to learn.  God speaks to us primarily through the Bible, but I believe He also speaks to us through the counsel of other mature Christians (but what God says is ALWAYS biblical… so if a Christian tells you it’s ok for you to cheat on that test don’t believe him!).

And the Bride Wore… whatever color she felt like?

An article entitled “Brides buck tradition and ditch the white dress” on CNN.com caught my attention this morning.  The article praises women who choose to wear greens or blues or whatever color that isn’t white on their wedding day.  Check out a few quotes:

“People are starting to open up their minds a bit,” Rogers said. “It takes a certain bride — usually a second wedding. They’ve already done the white, traditional gown. They don’t want to feel like a first-time bride.”

“[White] is universally hard to wear for so many body and skin types,” she said. “And the average American bride is older now. … The whole ‘I’m a virgin and I’m wearing white’ [thing] is kind of silly now.”

Did you catch that… “The whole ‘I’m a virgin and I’m wearing white’ [thing] is kind of silly now.” Really?!  Unfortunately, that’s a statement shared by many today.

I’m not out to save white wedding dresses, so don’t misunderstand me: what I’m upset about is the disregard for purity in our culture.  Even the word “Purity” is sneered at today (or so it seems).  The white dress is about more than tradition, it’s about valuing your future spouse enough to live in a way that you can give yourself to him/her without any guilt or shame.

In the midst of a culture where second-marriages are no big deal and living together before getting married is kind of expected, the call of God in Romans 12:1-2 shouts out even more powerfully.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Two recommended resources:  “And the Bride Wore White” is a great book for young women to read about the value and importance of sexual purity.  A few of the girls in my youth group have read this and they all loved it!  “When Young Men are Tempted” is a really good, biblical, and practical book to help teenage guys work through sexual temptations and seek freedom in Christ.