Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Acts 4:32-37, Acts 5:1-42, Acts 6:1-7 Downloads & Resources Revolutionary Leaders Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/2/2004 Acts 4:32-33 (NIV) says, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostle’s feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." The early Church was growing dramatically in terms of power and in influence. There was unprecedented unity. Extreme acts of generosity and benevolence were abounding everywhere. The apostles' powerful and persuasive testimony about the resurrection of Christ was prevailing. Evidence of God’s grace was commonplace. Thousands were accepting Christ through faith and being baptized. A revolution of epic proportions was rapidly gaining steam. But things were not what they seemed. The great antagonist, Satan, was at work behind the scenes, subverting the advancement of Christ’s reign in the hearts of men. Fortunately for us, the early Church was vigilant and discerning. Her leaders responded aggressively to prevent what might have been a disaster for the fledgling Church! Unfortunately, I don’t think the Church today is quite as vigilant and discerning. The mention of Satan hardly causes us to raise an eyebrow. Yet Satan continues to work as hard as ever behind the scenes to subvert the advancement of Christ’s reign. And all too often we are slow to respond. We allow Satan to get an ever increasing foothold in our lives and in our church’s ministry until he owns them both. This morning I want to talk about three of Satan’s most deadly temptations. We can find examples of these three temptations at work in Acts 5 and Acts 6. Satan's first temptation- the temptation toward compromise. In Acts 4:36-37 we read about a man named Joseph, who sold a field he owned and put the money at the feet of the apostles. His sacrifice inspired the early Church and he became known as Barnabas which means, "Son of Encouragement." He gave with complete integrity. Acts 4:36-37 says, "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet." In Acts 5 a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira come forward. They too had sold some property and claimed to be giving the whole amount to the Church. But Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to hold part of the money back for themselves. Acts 5:1-11 (NIV) says, "Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 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? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.' When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, 'Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?' 'Yes,' she said, 'that is the price.' 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.' 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. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." Their act of deception was quickly apparent to the apostles. The apostles were confronted with a choice. "Do we confront the deception? Or do we let it go?" One of the greatest temptations facing the Church today concerns compromise. Churches and Christians seem more than willing to compromise on about everything. We have this aversion about confronting sin and rebuking even the most blatant acts. We want to be liked. We want to be "nice Christians." We don’t want to judge. So we smooth over everything. We rationalize bad behavior. We leave ungodly and immoral behavior unchallenged. The result is that the Church today is badly compromised on just about every moral and spiritual front. The early Church could not allow her integrity to be compromised with deception. In Acts 5:3-4 (NIV) the apostle Peter confronts 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? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." In Acts 5:8 (NIV) Peter also confronts Sapphira, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" Ananias and Sapphira immediately fell under the judgment of God. They each fell down and immediately died at the feet of the apostles. When you consider what is eternally at stake when the Church compromises her integrity, you will not be surprised by the sudden judgment of God on this couple. There can be no room for moral and spiritual compromise in the Church, period. A leader’s responsibility is to confront and challenge sin lest it discredit the Church’s witness. As a result of confronting Ananias and Sapphira, the Church flourished. Acts 5:12-16 (NIV) says, "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed." Satan's second temptation- the temptation toward complacency. This second temptation is of a different nature than the first. Acts 5:17 (NIV) says, "Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail." After the Holy Spirit busts the apostles out of jail, in Acts 5:28 (NIV) they are again arrested and interrogated, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's [Jesus Christ’s] blood." Once again the apostles were confronted with a choice. "Do we obey God, advance the cause of Christ and risk death? Or do we play it safe and keep silent?" Another great temptation confronting the Church today is complacency. Complacency is allowing our culture to push back the cause of Christ. For years now our secular culture has been telling us to keep quiet about Jesus Christ. We are constantly told, "Put your Bible away. Don’t pray in Christ’s name. Don’t mention the name of Jesus in the public arena. Don’t speak of him in public schools or in the workplace. Keep your religion to yourself." For the early Church complacency was a matter of life or death. But for us complacency is mostly a matter of acceptance. Our greatest fear is being rejected socially. We want to be popular and cool and maintain our "image". We don’t want Christ to be part of our identity. We value friendship with the world more than our friendship with God. So we obey our culture and we allow culture to push us back between these four walls where everything is safe and there is virtually no risk in professing the name of Christ. Acts 5:29-33 (NIV) reveals the early Church did not allow itself to be threatened by culture. "Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.' " In Acts 5:40 (NIV) we are told, "They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go." But guess what happened next? Acts 5:41-42 (NIV) says, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." The early Church would not allow herself to be compromised spiritually or morally. The early Church refused to be complacent about the cause of Christ. On both fronts they resisted Satan’s efforts to discredit and threaten them. Satan's third temptation- the temptation toward co-dependency. This last temptation has one of Satan’s most clever ploys ever since the beginning of time. Acts 6:1 describes how in the early days the number of disciples was increasing. You may remember back in Acts 2:41 (NIV) that we were told that in just one day about, "three thousand were added to their number." In Acts 4:4 (NIV) we're told that, "the number of men grew to about five thousand." That doesn't include the number of women and children. So in Acts 6:1 we have still another increase! The dramatic increase in the number of people brought about a dramatic increase in need. The apostles quickly found themselves inundated with the overwhelming needs of thousands of new believers. How would they meet all these needs? In Acts 6:2 (NIV) things reach a boiling point. "The Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." I can hear them now, "Hey guys. We have hungry mouths to feed here! Get up off your knees. Put those old dusty scrolls away. You can preach later and pray all you want. But right now we need you in the kitchen! Put on your aprons. Get these tables set. Light the ovens. Bake the bread. Squeeze some grapes juice." Instead of the Church taking responsibility for one another’s needs, the Church began projecting their needs to the apostles. "Feed us! Wait on our tables. Serve us!" Again the apostles were confronted with a choice. A difficult choice. "Do we devote ourselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer? Or do we wait on tables?" The choice seems obvious enough. But it doesn’t always work out that simply! One of the greatest temptations facing Churches these days is toward co-dependency. Co-dependency means shifting the responsibilities that the whole body of Christ should share, onto a few naïve, but willing souls. It's relying on too few to cover most all bases of ministry. That’s what the early Church tried to do with the apostles. Instead of taking responsibility, they were trying to shift responsibility. They were setting themselves up with unrealistic expectations about the what the apostles could reasonably manage. In Acts 6:2-7 (NIV) the twelve apostles gather the disciples together and draw some boundaries. " 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our full attention to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a covert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." I don’t know if you noticed that last line in Acts 6:7. It says a large number of priests (clergy) became obedient to the faith. That is the first mention of this in Acts. The Jewish clergy were holding out. They wanted to see if the whole church was going to roll up her sleeves and share in the responsibility of ministry. They didn’t want five thousand people knocking on their doors every night with their needs! Honestly, I started out having a lot of friends in ministry. Friends who had their hearts seton preaching the gospel, praying for changed lives, and investing deeply in people’s lives. These guys are still my friends, but most of them aren’t in ministry anymore. Most all of them have been used and expended by church after church. They signed up for prayer and ministry of the word, but ended up waiting on tables. There was very little time left for prayer and God’s word after an exhausting week of doing bulletins, typing newsletters, sorting mail, returning phone calls, organizing schedules, visiting hospitals, doing weddings and funerals, recruiting volunteers, attending meetings, responding to criticism, filling the baptistry, and about every other imaginable duty as assigned. I'll let you in on a little secret. We pastors have a very hard time saying "no". We feel obligated to answer the phone every time. We feel obligated to be at the church office all during the week, on weekends, on holidays, and even on our days off. We feel obligated to be at every hospital bed, at every church meeting, in every home, making valiant attempts to keep all the plates of ministry spinning. We feel obligated to pick up those responsibilities that are undesirable and inconvenient and time consuming and thankless in nature. The solution, according to Acts 6 is first to have pastors who just say "no" to the addictive pressures of covering all the basis of ministry. But the solution is also, second, servants who just say "yes" to accepting responsibility for waiting on tables and keeping all the plates of ministry spinning. There is nothing glamorous about being a servant. There is no clever sales pitch that can be given to get people involved waiting on tables, setting up chairs, changing diapers, scrubbing floors, mowing lawns, or taking care of any of the thousands of details that go into helping a church of this size function. It comes down to one thing. Will you be a servant? I am intentionally spending extra time on this third temptation this morning. You have paid me to be the lead minister of this congregation. I suppose that means it is my job to keep us focused on what hill we are supposed to be taking. This church is placing too much expectation on too few servants. We need servants to step forward in every area of our ministry so that the leadership of this church can focus on prayer and on the ministry of the word. In no particular order we need servants to staff our nursery, set up chairs, greet guests, usher, prepare refreshments, help in the office, answer telephones, prepare mailings, type newsletters, bathe our workers with notes of encouragement, lend a hand with cleaning, beautify our property, call on shut-ins, supervise events, lock and unlock the building, water plants, straighten rooms, pick up trash, be on call when the alarm goes off at 4 AM, visit hospital beds, call on newcomers, serve in our children and youth ministries, respond to benevolence needs, handle missions requests and updates, and run powerpoint and sound. You get my drift. Satan’s temptation is for the responsibility of the whole church to be shifted on to a few. His temptation is to distract our leaders so that they choose what's good over what's great. Satan used three temptations to subvert the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. He tempted the church to compromise her integrity by allowing sin to go unchallenged. He tempted the church to become complacent, seeking the culture’s friendship instead of obeying God. He tempted the church to become co-dependent, shifting the responsibility of the whole church onto a few willing servants. But the leaders of the early Church responded aggressively. They rebuked Ananias and Sapphira for their sin and preserved their witness. They obeyed God and filled their city with the good news of Jesus Christ. They said "no" to taking on needs that only the whole church cold possibly meet. They called upon the Church to appoint servants and take responsibility. As a result, the word of God spread and the number of disciples increased rapidly. I think this is what everyone in this room wants. It's important that all of us understand what it will take to become the revolutionary movement that Christ intended us to be. We must be vigilant about challenging the sin in our lives and in our church, lest our witness be destroyed in this community. We must be vigilant about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ even at the risk of facing rejection or persecution. You must be willing to own this ministry. You must be willing to roll up your sleeves and serve one another. You must become willing to hear your pastors say "no" to the good things you want so that they can say "yes" to great things that will have the greatest impact on the overall health of the church.