Greg Laurie - Honest To God
What is a hypocrite? Sometimes we misunderstand it. Like, a Christian may say one thing and then contradict it. A Christian may lose their temper. A Christian may not treat their spouse the way they ought to. A Christian may do something that well, frankly, a Christian should not do. And there might be an unbeliever standing by that will point that out very quickly. "You hypocrite". Well, hold on now just for a moment, buckaroo. What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a pretender. A hypocrite is an actor. A hypocrite is someone who wants you to believe that you're deeply spiritual when, in fact, you are not at all. A hypocrite is not a person who believes and then messes up. We all do that.
Listen, we're imperfect people trying to serve a perfect God, and we're gonna have moments where we blow it. Every believer falls short. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with a sinful nature. He wrote in Romans chapter 7 and verse 15, "I don't understand myself at all. I really want to do what is right, and I don't do it. And instead, I do the very thing I hate". Sounds familiar? "I know perfectly well when I'm doing this wrong," writes Paul, "and my bad conscience shows me. And I agree that the law is good, but I can't help myself because it's sin inside me that makes me do these evil things". Now, Paul is not excusing sin. He's just saying, "I have a struggle. I fall short. I miss the mark". That was not necessarily Paul's everyday experience, but it is a candid admission on his part, don't you think? But having said that, that does not mean that, as Christians, we should be content with the state we're in. We should prayerfully and hopefully become more and more like Jesus each and every day because Paul also wrote in Philippians chapter 3, "My dear friends, I am still not all that I should be, but I'm focusing my energies on one thing, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead".
Listen to this. The further we go in the Christian life, the further we realize we need to go. Let me say that again. The further we go in the Christian life, the further we realize we need to go. There's so much to learn, so much change that still needs to happen in our life. No, we are not what we could be but thankfully, we are not what we were, right? Okay, so that's a struggling Christian, that's a functioning Christian. Every Christian has their moments of hypocrisy. They have their lapses. They do or say things they should not have done or said. Again, a hypocrite is different. A hypocrite is a man or a woman, as I said, that wears a mask. A hypocrite is someone who deliberately deceives others, pretending to be something that they are not. And ironically, hypocrites are often the most critical of all people. The hypocrite will be quick to jump down the throat of someone else, or point out an inadequacy, or point out a sin, when, in reality, they might be personally dealing with something far worse.
Well, before us here in Acts 5 is a story of two classic hypocrites who found out the hard way you can't pull the wool over God's eyes. What I love about this story is it's very honest. It's a little alarming, quite frankly, to see what happened to these two people, but it shows the honesty of the author of the Book of Acts, that's Dr. Luke. It shows the honesty of the Bible in general that this story would be recorded for us to read and to learn from. This story shows that the early church was not all about romance and righteousness. They had imposters. They had fakers and posers and phonies, just like we have today. They had people who claimed to be Christians and contradicted it by the way that they were living. They were messed up people doing messed up things, just like today.
Now, before we read our text here in Acts chapter 5, let's get the backdrop of what is happening. Of course, we're in the Book of Acts. We've already read about how God's Holy Spirit was poured out powerfully on the day of Pentecost, and the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. And Peter preached a dynamic sermon, and 3.000 people believed, and the early church was formed. They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine, and the breaking of bread, and the prayers, and of worship. And we read, "The Lord added to the church daily, those that were being saved". Then we see Peter going to the gate Beautiful, and there's a man who has been crippled from his birth there. And the Lord directs Peter to raise a man to his feet, which he does. And this man who has not been able to walk is now walking and leaping and praising God. And Peter preaches another sermon and this time, 5.000 people come to faith in Jesus.
Well, the devil is not happy, so he attacks. He attacks through persecution. The authorities clamp down on Peter and John and the church and they say, "Stop preaching in the name of Jesus". What do the believers do? They pray. They pray for more boldness to preach in the name of Jesus. And the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and the room shakes where they were praying. So first, Satan sort of comes in like a lion, trying to destroy, but now he realizes that is not working. In fact, the church is getting stronger, not weaker. So, he changes his strategy. And as we come to Acts chapter 5, we see Lucifer slithering in like a snake. And, so here the serpent comes very deceptively, sort of infiltrating the church through this couple that are identified as Ananias and Sapphira.
Before we read what happened to them, understand what was happening in the church. So, everyone was helping each other out because they were persecuted because some of them had lost their employment because of their faith. The Christians are sort of pooling their resources. It was voluntarily done. And one of the believers in the church named Barnabas had a piece of property on the island of Cyprus. So, he sold it, and he gave the money to the church. He said, "Just invest this in the ministry". And, you know, it's funny Barnabas is referred to in the Book of Acts as a son of encouragement. And whenever you read of Barnabas, he was encouraging someone. Are you a Barnabas? That's a great calling to have, to be an encourager, because there's plenty of discouragers out there, aren't there?
So, Barnabas gave this piece of property over, turned the resources over to the church. No one pressured him to do this. He didn't have to do this. He did it voluntarily because he wanted to do it. So, Ananias and Sapphira are watching this, and they're seeing how wonderful this is, and they decide they're gonna do their own version of it. And here's what happens in Acts chapter 5, starting in verse 1. And by the way, I'm reading from the New Living Translation. "There was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife agreed to this deception". So, notice, it was a deception. Verse 3, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. This property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished or not. And after selling it, that money was also yours to give away. Why would you do a thing like this? You were not lying to us but to God!'"
Check out verse 5. "As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard this was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, 'What was the price that you and your husband received for your land?' She replied, 'Yeah,' that was the price.' And Peter says, 'How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this, conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord?'" You might underline that. So, they were deceiving. They were lying to God. They were testing the Spirit of the Lord. "'And just outside the door, the young men who buried your husband, they'll carry you out, too.' Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. And when the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what happened".
I'll stop there. Okay, heavy duty story, kind of a little scary. You know, sometimes people say, "I wish we could see more miracles today like we saw back in the days of the Book of Acts". Oh, really? Do you wish God was doing this today? Because if this was happening in the church today, well, every church would have to have a full-time undertaker on staff and a morgue in the basement. People would be dropping like flies. It reminds me of a story I heard of a preacher who was moonlighting as a lifeguard to make a little extra money. And as it turned out, people were dying near his lifeguard, like every day people were drowning. They thought, "What is the problem with this preacher lifeguard? He has been trained properly". So, they went to observe him. And someone was out in the ocean drowning, and the preacher looked at him and said, "God bless you, I see that hand. God bless you, I see that hand". Get it?
You know, preachers do that sometimes. But anyway, here's the point is, let's be thankful to God this does not happen to people in the church today. This is severe, admittedly, but let's understand what the real sin was. Again, I want to emphasize no one forced Ananias and Sapphira to give anything over to the church. They could have kept their land, but they wanted to appear virtuous, and they were willing to do it in a deceptive way and lie to God and test the Holy Spirit. Look at what Peter says, verse 4. "You have not lied to men, but to God". The specific sin they committed was they lied to the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 5, verse 3, which, of course, is identified as lying to God. So, we learned something there. The Holy Spirit is God. And secondly, the Holy Spirit has a personality. You can't lie to an object or a force. Some people think the Holy Spirit is just some power out there. No, the Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he can be lied to. In fact, the Bible points out a number of sins that can be specifically committed against the Holy Spirit. We've already pointed out you can lie to him.
By the way, you can insult him. You can grieve him. You can quench him. You can resist him. And finally, you can blaspheme him. So, in this case, they were lying to the Spirit, and they were testing the Spirit. Again, they were pretending to be something that they were not. But before we condemn them, let's think about ourselves. Have you ever tried to appear more spiritual than you really are? You know, sometimes in a prayer, we're not praying to God, we're praying to impress, using a lot of flowery language or going really, really long, thinking that will make people think we're maybe more spiritual than we really are. Or we'll brag about our accomplishments. "You know, today as I was praying for two hours, and that was, of course, after I read Scripture for four hours. But anyway, the Lord spoke to"... Why are you saying that? Do you want us to think you're more spiritual than you are? Or you might say, "Well, as I was out sharing the gospel with people and 20 people came to Jesus today, and that was before breakfast". You know, be careful that you don't put on some kind of performance.
You know, we can throw verses around to impress people or to get out of things, but that's acting. That's hypocrisy. Better to be a sinner and admit it than try to pretend to be something you really are not. Now, we can condemn Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonesty, but we've all had our moments of hypocrisy. We've all had our moments of dishonesty. And if God killed religious deceivers today, how many in our ranks would actually stand? The hypocrite extraordinaire, to me, is Judas Iscariot. And I don't know why this is but whenever I type in "Iscariot" in a document, a Word document, and then I run spellcheck, it wants to change his last name to Escargot, Judas Escargot. Maybe that was this French brother, I'm not sure. But Judas Iscariot, the hypocrite extraordinaire. Because this guy fooled everyone but Jesus.
You know, we often think of Judas as so obviously the deceiver. You know, when you watch a movie about the disciples, "Oh, there's Judas. Everyone had a white robe, he wore a black leather robe. How could they not know he was the bad guy"? No, he was such a good guy, I'll put that in quotes, because on one occasion, there was a sacrificial thing done by a woman who brought very expensive perfume and anointed Jesus's feet with it, and the fragrance filled the room. And Judas Iscariot said, "This should have been sold and the money given to the poor. What a waste". And everyone probably thought, "Oh, man, Judas, he's such a righteous dude. We should all be more like Judas". But, of course, there's a little commentary there in the gospel that says, "This he said, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was stealing the money," right? That's a hypocrite. And he was such a good hypocrite, he was such a good actor that when Jesus revealed in the upper room, "One of you is going to betray me," each one of them said, "Is it me"?
If Judas was as obvious as we may think he was, everyone would have pointed in unison and said, "It's him. It's him, the guy in the black robe. We always knew it". No, no one knew it. And then here's what made matters even worse. Judas said to the religious authorities, "I will identify Jesus for you". Isn't it interesting that Judas had to identify Jesus? Because whenever you see religious art, it's always clear who Jesus is. Everyone has muted colors and dusty robes, and Jesus's robe is very white. And he has the blue sash. Where did the blue sash come from? It's not in the Bible. So, he's got that blue sash, little bit of a glow coming off of him. You can pick him out in a crowd. Well, not in real life. Judas had to tell them which one was Jesus. He says, "I'll identify him by kissing him, kissing him". How about just pointing to him? There's Jesus. "No, I'll identify him with a kiss".
So, here's Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying with the disciples, and here comes the temple guard with their torches and their shields and their spears and their swords. And here comes Judas leading the charge, and he goes to Jesus to kiss him. But Christ says to Judas, "Friend, why have you come"? Friend? Jesus called Judas friend. He should have said, "Fiend, why have you come? I know why you're here". But unbeknownst to Judas, or perhaps unnoticed by Judas Escargot, Judas Iscariot, Jesus was offering this traitor, this hypocrite, one last chance to repent. And Judas kissed him, but in the original language, it means he kissed him repeatedly. So, it wasn't a peck on the cheek. He kissed him and kissed him and kissed him again. Why? Why not just point to Jesus, as I said earlier? Because Judas wanted to appear to be really spiritual. That's the hypocrite. They want you to think they're spiritual, when they aren't. But sooner or later, you're gonna have to face the music.
Now some of you may remember this, but not all of you will. But back in the 90's there was a duo known as Milli Vanilli and Milli Vanilli had a big hit song, it sold 30 millions copies until it was determined that they actually didn't sing on their own CD's. So they would appear at live performances and on TV shows, and they would basically lipsync the song which ironically was titled, "Girl, You Know It's True". But it wasn't true. And then it was finally discovered that they had not sung and they had to give their award back. But this expression face the music is said to have originated in Japan. There was a man that was in the imperial orchestra who could not play a single note, but he was very wealthy and he wanted to have the prestige of playing in this orchestra, especially for the emperors.
So the conductor agreed to this and gave the man a flute. And this man would pull the flute up to his lips He would move his fingers but not play a single note. And this deception went on for months. But then a new conductor took over the orchestra. And he said, everybody is going to have to audition. I want to see what your skills are. And this guy was under a lot of stress because he knew he really was not a flautist. But his moment came and there he stood before the real conductor, and he couldn't play and had to admit he had been a fraud, he had been phony, he'd been a hypocrite. So he had to face the music. Maybe you fooled other people, but you haven't fooled God.
Listen to this, you can fool some of the people all of the time. You can fool all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool God any of the time. We need to be honest to God. You're not gonna pull the wool over God's eyes. He sees and knows all things. I mentioned earlier that there are specific sins you can commit against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit's purpose, according to Jesus, is to convince us of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. In other words, the Holy Spirit comes to the non believer, and he basically makes them aware of their sinful condition, not to condemn them, but to bring them to Jesus. The work and ministry and role of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to Jesus. So, when we read that we resist the Spirit, this means that we say no to it.
So, right now there might be someone watching me who senses a tugging deep in their heart saying, "This is true. I need to get right with God. I've been a hypocrite, or I've been playing some religious game". But then you say, "No, no, no, I don't want to do that". Now, you're resisting the Spirit. That's a specific sin identified in the Bible. Then the Bible talks about insulting the Spirit. What does that mean? That's the person who takes the great truth of the gospel and completely dismisses it. "I don't care that Jesus died on the cross for me," they would say. "I don't care that he laid his life down for me. I reject all of it". That's an insult. So, you're resisting him, now you're insulting him. But here's the big one, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "All kinds of sin will be forgiven, except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". Why is that the unforgivable sin? Well, it's really the completion of those other sins. You start by resisting, then you're insulting. And ultimately, you're blaspheming. To blaspheme the Spirit means you reject his Word altogether. So, let me simplify it. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit means that you say, "I don't care if Jesus is the way to the Father. I don't care that he died on the cross. And I don't want him in my life". The Bible says, "How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation"?
Maybe God has spoken to your heart and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger. He died on a cross. He rose again from the dead. Why? Because he loves you, and he wants a relationship with you. Listen, I'm not talking about religion. I don't want to be a religious person, I don't think you want to be one either. I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus, who died and rose again, stands at the door of your life and he knocks. And he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in. Question, have you asked Jesus Christ to come and live inside of you?
You might say, "Well, I think so, I'm not sure". Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would. And in the same way, if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know. And if you don't know, maybe he has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away. All you need to do is say, "Jesus, I want this relationship with you. I want you to forgive me of my sin. I want to go to heaven when I die". Would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pray this simple prayer with me? You could pray it out loud, or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart. But this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord. Pray this with me now:
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. Now come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus's name, amen.
Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know in the authority of Scripture that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. And let me be the first to say to you, congratulations and welcome to the family of God.