SBTS chapel live blog: Hershael York – Acts 4:32-5:11

Communications Staff — September 22, 2009

Preacher: Hershael York, associate dean of ministry and proclamation and Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary

Text/title: Acts 4:32-5:11 – Discount Devotion

I love Google earth. Using Google earth is like going on vacation for me. I read a story about a part of the world, and I immediately look it up on Google earth.

Two weeks ago, two MIT students wanted to figure out how they could send up their own cameras and take pictures from the upper stratosphere for less than $150. On Sept. 2, they launched a weather balloon, equipped with a cooler, camera, and GPS-equipped cell phone so they could track where the camera landed. The weather balloon made it 18 miles up, with the camera taking pictures all the way. You can look up the pictures online: they are fascinating.

The great thing was they were able to do this so cheaply. Less than $150. I love this! For you see, I love saving money. I am a frugal person.

Frugality is good in many areas, but not when it comes to devotion to God.

Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 4 ends on a high note. People are generous. Believers are giving money and other things and the apostles are distributing their gifts so that no one is in need. But chapter 5 begins with the word, “but.”

Ananias and Sapphira apparently saw Barnabas and how receptive other people were of him and his generosity. They say this and apparently they coveted this reception. Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property, apparently for a good sum, so good that they thought they could hold back a portion and just give part of it.

But somehow Peter saw through them. We don’t know if this was supernatural or not. But he saw through them. Peter called them out and said they lied, not to men, but to God. And they were struck dead. This is a strange story, but it has far more to do with us than we think because they same processes that we are at work in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira are at work in our hearts as well.

What drives a discounted devotion? What makes us hold back?

Comparison with others

Comparison with others is one of the greatest tools of Satan to deter us from doing the will of God. We see how many hits we get on our blog and we think, “how can we get more hits?”

Do you find yourself comparing yourself with others? I think comparison is prevalent on a seminary campus. “If I could just preach like that?” “If I could write a book that would be a best seller?” We compare ourself with others.

When you compare yourself with others, you don’t know the whole story. You don’t know what is going on in people’s lives.

God doesn’t create us to compare ourself with others. He created us to use the gifts and talents he has given us. You don’t need to preach like Adrian Rogers. You don’t need to be as smart as Albert Mohler. You don’t need to be as witty or as crafty as Dr. Moore

You just need to be who you are. Comparison with others will drive you to say, “Lord, I want to look like I am doing everything, but I am holding back.”

Concern with reputation

Concern with reputation causes us to do crazy things. Why are you in seminary? Why do you read books? What are you trying to achieve? Who are you emulating? What are you trying to become and for what purpose?

I’ll never forget a few years ago a conversation I had with a Boyce College student in my office. He said to me that he believed God had called him to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was in his 20s and he aspired to that? Jesus said to aspire to be a servant.

Have you to come to the place in your walk with Christ where you have given your reputation to the Lord? Have you come to the place where you have said I don’t have to be president, I don’t have to write books, I just need to be faithful.

Complicity with others

Luke highlights the fact that Ananias and Sapphira contrived their plan ahead of time. This can be simple. It can be as simple as someone calling for you and you saying, “tell them I am not home.” When you do that, you are making people complicit with your sin.

It is easy to go through the motions and not really give everything. To hold back. To have a plan B. To say, “If this doesn’t work out, then …” To come up with ways to disobey God.

Have you ever noticed how much energy we spend to plan our sin and over it up? If we spent as much energy toward the Kingdom of God than we did toward our own sin, we would reach the world with Christ.

In what ways have you said, “Lord I give you everything,” but then held back part for yourself?

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