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.

Soul Satisfaction

Is there a hole in your soul?

take nothing

I hate to keep using my own life as an example of living with a hole in your soul but it’s all I really have, that is my testimony—my story is Jesus’ story. Until I was willing to let go of my own destiny, to let go of my rebellious, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I am free to do as I choose and these are the things that give me satisfaction’, attitude I was never truly satisfied, I had no soul satisfaction.

Quite the contrary, the more I pursued the partying, the emptier I became as the feelings of camaraderie and euphoria of the first time highs continued to be just beyond my grasp.

alcohol event fun hangover
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was finally willing to trust the Lord to be my peace, to be my contentment without the drugs or drink that had just ensnared me I found out what real contentment—soul contentment was.

But it’s easy to forget that isn’t it? Throughout my life other things start to creep in promising contentment. We start getting anxious for other things worrying that we may never achieve them or be able to hang on to them if we do.

I have told many a worried young person who desperately wants to be married that God will most likely not fulfill that desire until you learn to be content with just Him. That also makes for a much healthier marriage because if you are depending on someone else to bring you contentment you will be disappointed, no one can live up to that, only God can do that.

A couple of years after giving my life fully over to the Lord and experiencing real freedom I was starting to worry that I would never get married. At 26 I had never even had a serious girlfriend; Thank the Lord for that, it no doubt saved me a lot of grief! But I was starting to think there was something wrong with me, that I was doomed to perpetual bachelorhood.

For one, I was way too shy to even really know how to pursue a relationship that may end in marriage, and there just didn’t seem to be any likely candidates crossing my path, there probably was but I was clueless as to how to pursue them. I was terminally shy and I was very intent on not getting into any relationship that God did not ordain for me or would likely not end in marriage. Dating for fun is one of the stupidest things you can ever do, especially if it’s done in the world’s model of dating, (unless of course you enjoy heartache and lifelong complications.)

Oh Lord, the world would be such a better place if everyone just lived by your standards and pursued godliness instead of just presuming on grace while letting the flesh run roughshod over their hearts. I used to be embarrassed to no end that at 26 I was a still a virgin, but the more I experience life and ministry and see the messes caused by giving away your most sacred gift willy nilly, the more grateful I am to the Lord that I was too awkward, shy and respectful of women to give in to demands of the flesh and the invitations of others.

midsection of woman making heart shape with hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But I desperately wanted to get married, I wanted to have a family, to be the dad and to yes, end my life of celibacy. But I knew I couldn’t just make it happen, there are no guarantees in this life so I had to reconcile to the fact that I might be perpetually single, and that was that.

I had to come to the place where I knew I would be okay, that I would be content if I never got married. I had Jesus, I had a mission to share him with the world, I had eternal life and the Holy Spirit residing in me and I was never truly alone. Life is good.

And then the Lord told me to court and marry my friend Donna. My eyes were opened to the one I was supposed to love and, long story short. Less than a year later we were married. It was a pursuit— which is what courting is—because even though God had told me that I was supposed to marry her, God hadn’t bothered to tell her that she was supposed to marry me.

But the point is, when I had come to the place where I decided I did not need to married to be happy, as long as I had Jesus, then he blessed me with a wife. And I am forever grateful and appreciative of, and for her, because of that.

That same principle has been repeated over and over again in my life. My first house—after striving and conniving to try to buy a house with no credit and no money I had to confess to the Lord my frustration and repent, telling him I would be happy living in a tent as long as I had him. The Lord then did a miracle and a couple weeks later (Literally) I was signing the papers for my first house.

Pastor?

For years I fought and fretted, trying to figure out how to fulfill my call of being a pastor when I could not take the time nor the money to go away to school, long before everything became available on line. And no one seemed to be willing to facilitate my desire to climb the church ladder into a pastoral position.

And then one day, at least a decade after I had decided I would never be a pastor in this lifetime, and that I was okay with that, more than okay with that actually—who in their right mind would want to be a pastor? —the Lord opened the Yellowstone Valley Bible institute which was accredited with the very Bible college I had been trying to figure out how to get to years earlier, in my own backyard, or at least in my home church.

He then told me to sign up. But Lord, I am content just being a Sunday school teacher, making hay, raising cattle and kids, and…—’no, you need to go to school.’ Okay Lord. —But if I’m going to start a church, which I knew was where he was taking me, it had better be in a big town so I can have enough people to pay me a good salary and make it all worth the effort.

Boy did I have a lot to learn.

DYDU5ywelcometoredlodge

‘Red Lodge? That’s not a big town!’ But you know what? By the time the Lord got me here, I had had more than my fill of church attitudes that took a business approach to ministry—‘How can we get more customers— I mean tithing members? How can we improve the product—I mean make the gospel more appealing?

How about you just let God be God, preach the word, the whole word, and allow the Holy Spirit to draw—or repulse—sinners and saints? Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from having fully grasped how to get away from this church marketing and growth strategy mindset but I have learned to stop stressing about it also—something that I think makes my fellow pastors worry that I have lost the vision.

No, I have just stopped listening to the lies of the enemy that keeps dangling that golden ring out there for all to chase right into his trap.

1 Tim 6:8 -And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. . . . 

temptation

I know I am where I am supposed to be, smack in the middle of His plan for me. And in that I have soul satisfaction, and that is priceless!

 

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Find your freedom in Jesus!