Modeling Integrity (Acts 4:32-5:11)
- let me ask you a personal question: what are you like when nobody is looking?
- a young man, a well-known Christian author, decided that he would no longer play poker
- this was at a time when generally all Christians agreed that poker wasn’t a good game for Christians to be involved with
- on a slow train trip, some friends invited him to join a game
- he hesitated only a moment before saying, “Deal me in”
- he knew he shouldn’t be play
- his conscience was bothering him the entire time
- but then nobody was going to recognize him, so why not keep playing?
- during the game, he noticed a young man who stood to watch him play for a while, and then moved on
- after the game, he came and asked, “Are you so-and-so, who writes that column in the Christian Digest?”
- “Yes, I am,” he replied. “Why? Have we met?”
- “No, we haven’t met, but I read that column all the time”
- about then the poker-playing Christian could feel the flush of embarrassment and consternation rising, he said, “with more intensity than the thrill of four aces”
- the man said, “Well, I want you to know that I’ve lost all respect for you”
- then he turned and walked away
- let me ask you again: who are you when no one is looking?
- a youth pastor was waiting for a flight at an airport far from where he lived
- as he waited, he browsed a magazine rack, where he spotted a Playboy magazine
- he turned away, but then begin to rationalize why he should look at the magazine
- “It’s not as bad as other magazines,” he thought, “and as a youth pastor I should know what my kids are reading”
- as he was coming closer and closer to picking up that magazine, he heard someone call his name and turned around to see someone who had recognized him
- who are you when nobody is looking?
- one evening a man stopped by the home of a business colleague to drop off some papers
- next to his phone was a note pad with the company logo on it
- the company policy manual stated that no office supplies were to be consumed for personal use
- from that point on, the visitor never quite felt he could trust that man as he had before
- who are you when nobody is looking?
- in the past six weeks, I’ve heard of three Fellowship Baptist Christian workers, including two pastors, who have been caught having affairs
- they weren’t who they appeared to be
- there is a crisis in Christianity
- many Christians are play-actors, claiming to be free of the faults they practice covertly
- I know of professing Christians who have literally led double lives, right up to maintaining two addresses complete with a woman in each
- I know of choir members who were arrested for bank robbery, Christian business leaders who engage in shady business practices, and employees who lie on their expense reports
- in a word, we have an integrity problem
- Acts 4:32-5:11 describes the first integrity problem to ever confront a church
- a disciple named Barnabus sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet
- a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a field they owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet
- the couple went through exactly the same motions, but there was a difference on the inside
- they lied; they were dishonest
- the ancient Greeks called an actor who spoke through a mask, “The Hypocrite”
- the word came to be used for a person who was pretending to be something he or she was not, particularly someone who pretended to be pious without really being so
- Ananias and Sapphira were hypocrites
- their sin was not withholding some of the money from the field for themselves; that was their right
- their sin was that they pretended to give the full sale price of their property
- that was a lie
- their sin was that they pretended to be one thing on the outside, while secretly engaging in another behavior on the inside
- what I want to do this morning is to turn the spotlight on you and on me
- I want to examine our inner life to find out if we really are the people we claim to be
- I want to find out who you and I are when nobody is looking
- and to do this I want to examine four principles from this passage that will guide as we examine our own personal integrity:
- ONE: TEMPTATIONS TO COMPROMISE OUR INTEGRITY ARE COMMONPLACE
- you don’t need to look very hard for opportunities to cut corners or maintain a secret agenda
- the opportunities are everywhere, and often they present themselves to us
- I imagine Ananias and Sapphira started out on the right track
- their desire to sell the field and donate the money to the church was, for all we know, sincere
- it could have been, one night, that they began to talk
- “You know, we got a good price on that field we sold”
- “I know, and our credit card bill is huge this month”
- “You know, nobody would even know if we withheld just a little bit. Things are so tight this month”
- temptations to compromise our integrity are commonplace
- if the don’t present themselves to us, our minds will often manufacture them
- when we think about hypocrisy, we usually think of gross indiscretions: cheating on taxes, stealing from a company, lying to a prospect, cheating on a wife
- but temptations to compromise are much more commonplace, and while the consequences may be different, the verdict is the same
- somebody has said that most people cut corners on the little things — running yellow lights, speeding, taking office supplies home, promising four week delivery knowing it will take six
- the truth is that we are all tempted to compromise our integrity in small ways every day
- PRINCIPLE TWO: IT ALWAYS LOOKS EASY TO VIOLATE INTEGRITY
- it’s easy to buy items at some stores, have you noticed?
- “Buy now, pay later”
- our integrity is like that — the up-front cost is very low
- a man on an airplane ordered a drink — a bourbon and Coke
- the flight attendant said she would come back for his money, which he left lying on his tray
- she passed by him a number of times
- it became obvious that she had forgotten his money
- after she had made a half-dozen trips past the man, he reached over, picked up his money, and slipped it back in his pocket
- integrity: what’s the price?
- sold for a two dollar drink
- it’s in the small things that we decide the value of our integrity
- (Luke 16:10) “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
- it’s something we could call NBD – no big deal
- when Ananias and Sapphira embarked on their plan, I’ll bet they convinced themselves that it’s no big deal
- when a man begins to entertain lustful thoughts in his mind, he convinces himself that it’s no big deal
- when a cab driver offers us a blank receipt so we can fill whatever amount for our expenses, we think in our mind that it’s no big deal
- when we pay under the table to avoid paying taxes, we tell ourselves it’s no big deal
- and when we make copies of copyrighted CD’s or computer software, we tell ourselves it’s no big deal
- at what price are you selling your integrity?
- THREE: WHEN WE LACK INTEGRITY, WE SIN AGAINST GOD
- (Acts 5:3) 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?
- (Acts 5:9) Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
- whenever we lie to someone else, we’re sinning not only against tha t person, but also God
- whenever we violate our integrity for even the smallest matter, we’ve offended God
- (Psalms 51:4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
- although we’re sinning against another person, ultimately we’re offending God, because sin in any form is rebellion against God
- it’s humbling to realize that the Lord is watching your life
- PRINCIPLE FOUR: HYPOCRISY HAS A HIGH PRICE TAG
- (Acts 5:5) When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
- (Acts 5:10) 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.
- Ananias would have gotten away with his deceit if it had just been up to people
- but the Holy Spirit told Peter what was going on
- the price tag for Ananias and Sapphira was death
- (Proverbs 14:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
- sin always carries a high price tag
- ultimately the price could be death — physical or spiritual
- and in the meantime it could be the withholding of God’s blessing, and the misery that follows
- verse 11 tells us something we all need to understand: God takes sin seriously in the church
- if God had overlooked such sin in the church at this point, dishonesty, greed, and covetousness would have become commonplace
- but the consequences of Ananias and Sapphira’s lie made people realize how seriously God regards sin in the church
- somebody has said that Satan is perfectly willing to have a person confess Christianity, as long as he or she does not practice it
- God desires people of integrity; God desires churches of integrity
- let me ask you the question I asked you before: who are you when no one is looking?
- what do you do when you think you can get away with it?
- what “garbage” are you allowing to pile up in your life, and thus pollute the church?
- what hidden sins are fouling up your life?
- God desires to cleanse you this morning
- I’m tired of hearing of pastors who have affairs
- I don’t want a church where we all harbor secret sins
- our challenge this morning is to get rid of personal garbage that pollutes God’s church
- at Wheaton College in 1995, students stood in line from early evening until 6:00 the next morning to confess and forsake the sins and gods of their lives
- this continued for a week
- they filled garbage cans with unwholesome videos, catalogs of covetousness, sports equipment that took away from worship, immodest clothing, liquor, unwholesome books and magazines, and other items the Lord nudged them to throw away
- it’s garbage day, folks
- it’s time to get rid of the garbage that is polluting your life and this church
- it’s repentance time
- God desires a clean heart
- if you have garbage you need to get rid of, this morning is the morning