Honest to God

“A religious spirit that fosters pretenders will not be tolerated.”

God wants honesty, not lip service, hearts not appearances, “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” As Jesus said.

Acts 5 starts out with a rather disturbing story, not one we expect to see in the New Testament. A man and wife in the early church, caught in a lie and apparently struck dead as a result.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:1-4

But remember, it is the same God on both sides of Matthew chapter one. Sin is still sin and God still desires hearts that are honest before him and are appreciative of the grace and mercy given. The difference is that we now have direct access to that God through his Son Jesus Christ and we are now his Temple, and the Holy Spirit now lives in us So we better pay attention to what we do with that access and what kind of condition we keep that temple in.

Ananias and Sapphira were trying to make themselves appear sacrificially generous and thereby godly in the eyes of Peter and the church. What they did not realize was that lying to the church, the body of Christ, and to those anointed to lead in that body, was tantamount to lying to God.

The Holy Spirit of Christ was leading the church through Peter, and the other apostles, thus a lie to them concerning things of the Lord was a lie to the Holy Spirit.

And this could not be allowed. Sudden death seems a harsh thing for a small crime—small to us but huge to God. The fallen nature of man makes lying all to acceptable, but with God, not so much, especially among the newly birthed church.

And if not dealt with here and now, nipped in the bud, it would be a condition that might only worsen and spread to the rest of the body. And, if this behavior is allowed to stand, the strength of character that would be such a vital part of following Jesus in their hostile world would be destroyed.

Character cannot be faked, holiness cannot be faked. Lying and deceit is the antithesis to holiness and character.

Jesus compared this condition, when he perceived it in the Pharisees, to white washed tombs. They look good on the outside but inside they are full of dead men’s bones. That pretend holiness would not be tolerated in the fledgling church. Peter, in the Spirit, deals with it immediately and decisively. A religious spirit that fosters pretenders will not be tolerated.

A religious spirit is one that pretends to be Godly. And it is from the devil himself.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? Acts 5:3

Satan mimics everything good and then perverts it, even holiness. It is his greatest deceit. Pretend holiness in the flesh to make one look good, as opposed to genuine heart surrender with no concern for one’s image, deceives others, and sometimes even yourself, into thinking you are godly. But, like the prophet Samuel had told Saul so many years earlier; “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Peter no doubt remembered the time when he became the mouthpiece of Satan when he voiced what seemed like a holy sentiment at the time as he tried to steer Jesus away from the cross. Jesus looked him straight in the eye and commanded: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

So, in that sense, it was not Ananias and Saphira who were being rebuked per se, but Satan himself, and these two were victims of his deceit, like Judas who hardened his heart to the point where he allowed himself to betray the Lord even knowing that Jesus knew he was lying to his face about his loyalty. Death became his end also.

So being honest before the Lord. Honest to God, is critical if you want to stay free of the enemy’s influences and to be in a place where you can be trusted by the Lord to be used for his purposes, to fulfill the plan he has for you and be blessed in the process with joy in your heart and a peace of mind.

Pretenders

It’s all kind of sobering if you ask me. How many times have I stretched the truth, led others to believe I was more godly, generous, obedient or committed than I really am? It’s especially tempting for someone who is prone to be codependent, as I am. I want to play by all the rules, make everyone happy and make myself praiseworthy—especially those in power.

Okay, maybe I’m not that way anymore so much. If you have been around me for a while, and especially if you read last week’s blogs, https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/blog.hopechapelredlodge.com/3424 you know I am largely over the submissive obedience thing for the sake of looking good. The Lord has fanned to flame the barbarian heart of the warrior in me so I am a recovering codependent. By the grace of God and the freedom found in Christ.

But it is still tempting to want to appear to have it all together for Christ, or appear to be suffering and giving more for Christ than you really are. Or at least make sure you are getting noticed and getting credit for all that you do.

Unfortunately it seems that is more the norm in the church than the exception. Churches are known as a place where people come together and act like they have it all together and that they are blessed into eternal bliss because of all their sacrifice and obedience, and oh yeah, faith.

You are not going to see a lot of that in my church. I won’t put up with it especially if it is being done in a way that knocks others down. People who are wanting to climb the “look at me I’m super godly” ladder often do so by stepping on others to make themselves look higher up that ladder than they really are.

That’s what I call a religious spirit. And I have tangled with those many times. I have cast more than one religious spirit out of our building. This barbarian preacher can spot a pious faker a mile away. And the spirit’s they leave behind leave a real sour taste. Just like the faces of those they deceive—sour.

But the main reason I won’t put up with those lying sour sprits, and why you don’t see a lot of pretension here, is because we foster an environment of honesty. If you’re a mess, we want to know you’re a mess, so that we can love on you and pray for you. If you are lying to the Spirit via your brothers and sisters in the church, and to the pastor, you cannot be prayed for and ministered to by those who are moving in the Spirit and in the authority of the Spirit.

We are all real people here who just happen to know an awesome God and we are all on a journey to know him better and to learn to follow him more closely. Pretension only gets in the way of that. Our eternal souls are too important to jeopardize by playing games. And life is too short to play at being perfect when the truth can set you free.

But to receive and benefit from truth you have to be truthful. There is an unalterable law in God’s creation—You reap what you sow.

We Do Not Belong

Baptized in Fire

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:2-4

And so the Holy Spirit makes His grand entrance onto the world stage and reclaims that which was lost so long ago—the hearts of men.

This passage is speaking of the birth of the church, the long awaited day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the children of God, onto those who seek his face and accept his Son.

It’s easy to get distracted by, and hung up on, the amazing events recorded here with the wind blowing, the fire showing, and the tongues flowing, but we cannot overlook the significance of what is happening here, the significance of this day.

Nothing like this has ever happened before. The Holy Spirit has made some spectacular entrances before, but He has never manifested Himself like this for the purpose of indwelling a group of people.

He makes this grand entrance to come and to not just abide for a while in someone, not just visit, not just anoint—but to take up permanent residence, to empower, enliven and radically change, not just a group of people, but to create a whole new class of people—a people who are alive in him, who are empowered in him, who are in Him period. People who are truly alive, who are more than conquerors.

The church, the bride of Christ, has been born. And she lives and thrives yet today as us—the church. We are the bride, born again, empowered, enlivened—radically changed and ready to be Jesus in a dark and dying world. A world we no longer need to fear, a world we no longer face alone—a world of which we are a part, yet to which we do not belong. We cannot belong to a broken world, because we are now whole.

We do not belong to a world of broken hearts. We do not belong to a world of shattered dreams and broken promises. We do not belong to a world of death and decay, perversion and hate. We are in this world but not of it. We belong to a Kingdom that is not subject to any of that which the world would impose on us, a Kingdom that is not at the mercy of evil. Because we belong to Jesus.

We, who have believed and received, are now one with the Father and filled with His Holy Spirit—Baptized with fire. Fire is cleansing, fire is all consuming, irrepressible, irresistible— fire is power.

And that power comes from a fire that is not like the furnaces of electrical generation plants, not like the fire that propels our trucks and trains and sends rockets to space, it is not like the fire of the sun that gives life and energy to nearly all living things in one form or another.

The fire that gives us life, that empowers us is so much greater than all of that, and in fact created all of that—our fire is the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

And we can be fully immersed, fully filled, fully enlivened, empowered— cleansed, clothed and recreated by that fire, by that Spirit. So that we can say, as Paul did, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me—I am a new creation. Or, we can choose to mock the true power and continue striving to understand and to be understood, to find our way alone and hope it’s all enough. We can accept the power, or we can deny the power.

 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Acts 2:12-13

On the day the Spirit was poured out on the first believers many mocked and derided them as drunk and disorderly—emotional chaos. But in the end they could not deny that what was happening was from God. They could see, hear and even feel the Spirit stirring their hearts.

That’s what happened on that day of Pentecost, at that Feast of Firstfruits. That’s the fire, the power that was turned loose on the earth that day. Because Jesus is Lord, because he was not left in the grave to see corruption and because he was indeed raised up.

 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Acts 2:32-33

These were the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost as he preached the first sermon of the church that is about to grow by thousands in a single day—all because the Holy Spirit came and not only got everyone’s attention, but put a fire in Peter that he could not contain and that could not be resisted.

The cornerstone had been laid, Jesus was raised up, and the church was being built. A new spiritual house to which we would belong was taking shape—in a big hurry and in a big way.

The Holy Spirit was poured out in a way that all could see and hear—there was no mistaken. The Apostles may have been born again quietly in a locked room and given new life, (John 20:22) but on this day they would have their whole lives, their whole world, radically changed. There would be no denying or hiding anymore.

Afraid to seek, receive and move in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the gifts he gives? If you are living for Christ you are going to be mocked and derided in this increasingly hostile world anyway, so why would you stop short of the power?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

We do not belong to this world, but this world desperately needs us!

Born Again and Then Some

A quick study of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

Holy Wind

Complete

It’s too easy sometimes to forget how miserable life was without Jesus—without his Holy Spirit—when we have been following for a while, serving, and perhaps getting too far ahead even, of Jesus.

We get tired, discouraged and disillusioned—even cynical. It’s often because we lost focus. We stopped focusing on Jesus, started doing things in our own power, or we just simply allowed our joy to be stolen away and allowed the lies of this world to overshadow us.

This story told in the book of Acts, especially in the opening chapters, reminds us of the stark difference of life before and after the Holy Spirit, before and after being born again and then baptized in the Spirit. Rescued from death and despair, born again into eternal life and then supercharged by an immersion from head to toe with the same Holy Spirit that has just given us new life—if we’ll accept it all.

The story of the gospels and Acts is the story of our return to oneness with our creator. It is the restoration to wholeness, to completeness for mankind—the completeness that is still available to us. There is a stark black and white difference between the people who sought to know God, who longed for truth, before Jesus’ resurrection, and after, when the Spirit became available—when they could be born again, and then empowered.

We are privileged to live as recipients of the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus, of his giving the Holy Spirit to his church, to us, so that we are again able to be the people God created us to be. We are no longer just an empty shell full of echoes of what could have been.

“Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3) We no longer have to hide, we are no longer outcasts. We have been restored.

We see that being played out in the first followers of Jesus, and it is something that is still being played out today.

Let’s talk about this born again thing before we get into the baptism of the Spirit because I believe the scripture makes a clear distinction between the two. One is life—the other is power. Life, is of course the first and perhaps most important thing.

So that has to be the starting point.

Remember when Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see the Kingdom of God?

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

. . .  “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

. . .‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. . .

John 3:3—8

That rebirth had everything to do with the Spirit.

So we see at the end of the same gospel of John, the fulfillment of that—the wind of the Spirit being blown where it wills by the mouth of God, right into the hearts of his disciples.

 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

John 20:21—22

This happened in the room where Jesus met the Apostles as they were still hiding out after the resurrection.

They had the very breath of life blown into them by Jesus. The Son of God through whom for whom and by whom all things were created (Colossians 1) was breathing life back into his beloved. Just as he had done when he created Adam so long ago, making him a living being, created in his image. That was the life that was lost when Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they had been commanded not to eat, when they disobeyed and then hid from God.

They died. God had told the; “…on the day you eat of it you shall surely die Well, they did, thus their spirits died, the breath of life from God replaced with emptiness and longing. Leaving them seeking restoration and life from there on out. Jesus, the Son of God, came to restore that.

Those who were dead inside could now be born again. All who believe in and accept that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead, who recognize the emptiness and death inside caused by their sin— those who seek him—they receive the Holy Spirit, what we often call receiving Jesus. They are born again.

And what a feeling it is. When the Spirit comes in and breathes life into our weary and lonely souls, fills our hearts and our heads with joy and peace, a feeling of invincibility—that no matter what, I am his and he is mine and will be forever!

I remember well that feeling of suddenly knowing that I knew that there was a God in Heaven who loved me, of having that nagging doubt and emptiness in me replaced with the security of knowing and feeling alive again. I was thirteen years old and just reading the gospel accounts of Jesus on my own. I believed and was born again.

It would be several years later that I would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the life that was breathed into me started me down that long, and very crooked, path to that point where I would trust the Lord enough to allow him to fill and empower me completely. But when I did get to that point, there are simply no words to describe. It is indeed power, it is so much more than just life—it is. . . —but we’ll get into that next week.

And Then Some

I just want you to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a one trick pony. The life he gives you is just the start.

It’s simple really—At the end of the gospel of John, after the resurrection, mankind is saved—they can be born again. But on the day of the feast of Pentecost—fifty days later, the church would truly be born; born of those who had been born of the Spirit, and now empowered to be the church, to be the bearers of good news, the champions, of the Kingdom of God.

And the world would never be the same.

I think it no accident of chance that John’s gospel immediately proceeds the book of Acts. Because it puts the two subsequent works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believers, one right after the other as they should be.

 “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. —John 20:21—22

He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”— Acts 1:4—5

Those same apostles who have received the breath of life, received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, are told to return to Jerusalem and wait for the power.

And the disciples of Jesus Christ, men and women both, have no idea what is about to happen to them. They are about to go from happy but timid born again believers who just want to be left alone as the gaze heavenward and wait for Jesus to return, to radical Jesus freaks who look at the Roman Empire, the entire known world for that matter, as one big revival meeting tent, and they will lead that crusade with a zeal that cannot be stopped except by pain of death, and even that, just stokes the flames of the Spirit.

Because death is no longer a factor. And if there is no fear of death, there is nothing that can stop you.

Stay tuned—it’s just getting good.

Commissioned

Last week we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, his victory over sin and death and his glorification and return to the Father. But there is so much more to the story. That was not the end of the story by any means.

It wasn’t— “Yay, Jesus is risen—let’s go to the buffet and feast in celebration of our promised salvation—then just go on with our lives, same ol’, same ol’. We’ll find out just what it all means when we die and go to heaven—we hope. Pass the deviled eggs please.”

They actually tried that, but Jesus was not done rocking their boats—literally, for some of them, as they had tried to go back to fishing—the story was far from over.

Their story was only just beginning. They were no longer to be hapless bystanders following Jesus around and marveling at his teachings and miracles. They were no longer just fishermen.

They were about to become his ambassadors and proxies, turning the world upside down, as they would soon be accused of doing. Taking on those who thought they had it all figured out already and sharing the truth of God’s love with those who thought they were far from worthy of hearing it.

But first Jesus has to get them away from the buffet table.

So he crashes their party and gives them a commission.

The empowerment to do the things Jesus speaks of here would come on the day of Pentecost, but on this day they, and we, received the marching orders.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel . . . And these signs will accompany those who believe. . . .” Mark 16

Few people have any trouble accepting that the great commission applies to all of us as far as preaching the gospel to all nations is concerned, yet many struggle with the rest of it—the signs that would accompany those who believe.

Signs that include speaking in tongues, casting out demons, laying hands on the sick, protection from deadly venoms and poisons. This was not limited here by Jesus to the apostles, He says Those who believe. ”Do you believe? —Then there you go. Expect Jesus to have your back, to work with you to confirm the word, and he will.

We see Jesus working mightily through and with the apostles and the early church again and again in the book of Acts. And the apostle Paul would confirm this in his letters to the churches, that the gifts and signs were not just for the Apostles.

 “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, . . .” 1 Corinthians 14:5

Why would Jesus send us out to share the gospel with the world, leave the sharing of the message that saves the souls of those he loves up to us to share, and not help us in that? He doesn’t. And why would we want to?

If Jesus isn’t working with me—His Holy Spirit going before me, speaking through  me, and confirming his words in my mouth to the hearts that receive—then I am wasting my breath. But I know better. Because I have seen and experienced his power working through and for me too many times to remember, confirming truth whether in the responses to my words, answers to my prayers, healings and deliverances released, and lives changed.

The Lord works through and with all of who believe and take the commission seriously.

We have been commissioned, empowered and released to share the words of Jesus with the world. And we must continue to trust and pray for more and more of his Spirit to be released and revealed in this quickly darkening world.

I pray continually for the power and love of Jesus to be evidenced in our lives and our worship services.

To see more healings, hear more heart healing words of wisdom and strength, more encouraging and fearlessly honest words of prophetic truth spoken—for the glory of God, not the speakers. To see people delivered from oppression of all kinds—for the glory of God to be seen, felt and experienced in undeniable ways that make people fall to their knees in repentance and worship.

It’s time to part the seas and lead God’s children to freedom.