September 26, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 5:1-11

The Cost of Hypocrisy

What is a hypocrite?  The dictionary defines a hypocrite as a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess – a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

As you may know, this word comes from a Greek word hypokrit, which was a stage actor.  Someone who was pretending to be something they were not.  That’s exactly what happened in Acts 5 with a man named Ananias and Sapphira his wife.

Everyone in the early church agreed to sell their possessions and pool all of their resources so that each one might be equal.  Ananias and Sapphira, a part of that congregation agreed as well.  But after they sold their things, they kept part of the money.  It was theirs to keep of course – but they were hypocrites – they lead everyone to believe that they were bringing the whole amount.  Peter said that Satan filled their hearts and they lied to the Holy Spirit.  That never works!  In that early church they dropped dead – both of them!  I wonder how our lives would change if that happened at our church?  Verse 11 says that great fear gripped the entire church.  I’ll bet!   That’s the understatement of the year…

I wonder how you and I act like that… how are we hypocrites?

  • What are the ways in which we say one thing and do another?
  • Do we lead people to believe something about us that simply isn’t true in order to be accepted or to have the praise of man?
  • Have we even gotten to the place that we’ve convinced ourselves that something is OK when we KNOW that God says it isn’t?

The most important thing is to have a pure heart.  The opposite of being a hypocrite is to have integrity.  Integrity is truly being what you say you are.  There’s protection and peace in that!

What needs to change in your life this week?  In what ways are you living a life of hypocrisy?  How can you begin to live with integrity?

Posted by: Tim Parsons

September 25, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 4:23-37

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. ~ James 2:14-26

James speaks to believers about the relationship of faith and works. His basic message is that whatever you believe in or trust in is what you will do. It is easy for us to claim faith in Christ but it is not until that faith is tested by the struggles of this world that we show our real faith by our reaction to the trials. Today’s passage is a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of how the apostles demonstrated true faith in Christ by their reaction to a difficult situation. If you remember from your reading yesterday, Peter and John were brought before the high priests to be questioned about healing a lame beggar. The high priests questioned their authority and they proclaimed Christ with boldness. After hearing the message of Peter and John the high priests charged them not to proclaim Christ any longer.

So what do they do? These are the same men who had Jesus crucified for the same message. Do they obey these priests for fear of the same result? What would you do if you knew that proclaiming the gospel might mean being tortured or losing your life? The answer is Peter and John reacted in faith. So what does this look like practically?

  1. They went to God for wisdom (v.24; James 1:5)
  2. They remembered the scriptures (v.25) We must remember that the Holy Spirit guides us to agree with God’s Word. If you think God is calling you to something but it does not agree with the scriptures then it is not God.
  3. Their goal for their prayer was for God’s name to be glorified and his purposes to be fulfilled (v.27-30)
  4. They banded together as the church to care for one another.

It is inevitable that we will face trials throughout the course of our lives and those trials are opportunities to see our true faith. God does not put trials in our lives because he is unsure about how we will react. Rather, they are there so that we can see what we truly believe. If our reaction is to run to God, then that strengthens us and produces endurance (James 1:2-4). However, if our reaction is to run from God and avoid the church then can we really say that we have faith? That may be a question that needs to be answered for some of you.

Posted by: Chad Wiles

September 24, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 4:1-22

Becky and I were on a mission trip to Uzbekistan during the summer of 2004 for five weeks.  The spiritual soil is hard there.  Many of the people there are culturally Muslim, much like many Americans are culturally Christians. Before we left America, I began to pray that someone in Uzbekistan would look at me and say, “There is something different about you.  Why are you different?”  I prayed that someone would recognize me as having been with Jesus.

In Acts 3 Peter and John encountered a crippled beggar who was asking them for alms.  Instead of giving alms, Peter asked God to heal the man and he got up and walked.  The people who witnessed the miracle began glorifying God.  Peter and John saw this as an opportunity to proclaim Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection and many people believed.  That is where Acts 4 begins.

In Acts 4:1-22, the priests and the temple guard, as well as the Sadducees were greatly disturbed about what Peter and John were proclaiming.  (Cheesy joke alert:  The Sadducees were Sad-You-See because they didn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ.)  So, they threw Peter and John in jail overnight.  On the next day, the officials began to question Peter and John about how the lame man was healed.  Peter responded to their inquiry in verses 8-12.

I want to point something out that is really interesting.  Look at the connection between verses 8 and 13.

vs. 8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,”…

When he finished speaking, the officials responded in verse 13.

vs. 13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

Those officials couldn’t help but recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus.  There was no other explanation.  Yes, they had been with Jesus, but I believe what verse 8 says is a huge reason why the officials recognized them as having been with Jesus.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit.

To be filled with the Spirit means to be directed and empowered by Him.  It’s a moment-by-moment dependence upon the Spirit as the power source to live the Christian life.  Another way to think about it is to be living with Him in the driver’s seat of your life.  When a person is filled with the Spirit, then he/she is going to be recognized as having been with Jesus!

I want people to notice something different about me.  That will only happen if I am filled with the Spirit.  I want to confess all known sin, surrender all to Him, and trust that He will direct and empower me.

How about you?  Do you desire for people to recognize Christ in you so that He will be glorified?

While in Uzbekistan, I was keenly aware of the need to be filled with the Spirit.  One day, I was walking down the street with two Uzbek college students.  There was a lady selling ice cream on the sidewalk, and surprisingly, she blurted out that she wanted to talk about religion.  At first, she was expressing all sorts of interesting ideologies.  Then all of a sudden, her tone and ideologies completely switched.  She looked at the two students and said, “There is something different about this person.  I think he has come from America to tell you something.”

My prayer was answered!  Both guys accepted Christ the next day!

Posted by: Rich Duffield

September 22, 2012

Today you should read: Acts 3:1-26

When I read this passage, one thing really jumps out to me and here is the thought I want you to get from this reading today:
Seize the opportunities you have in life to share the gospel!

The progression of events here makes that very clear:

1. Peter heals a lame man right outside the temple.

2. They go in together and everyone is in awe.

3. All the people gather together to see what has happened.

Then, in verse 12 we see a very interesting phrase that many of us would just look past most times. :

“Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.”

What a huge statement that could be so easily missed in reading this passage. Peter did not do something great so he could be great or just because he could, he had a purpose behind it and that purpose comes to fruition in verse 12 and on through the rest of the passage. Peter’s actions that day and every day had a goal behind them, to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul encourages us in this same thought in Ephesians 5:16-17:

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

So what does the Lord want us to do? (See Matthew 28:19-20)

Today, remember to live with purpose and not just any purpose but to:

Seize the opportunities you have in life to share the gospel!

Posted by: Robbie Byrd