Reliance

The church in Jerusalem begins to struggle from within (Ananias and Sapphira) and from without (Sanhedrin). It also faces some racial tension.

Topics: Nature of the Church | Hypocrisy Scripture: Acts 4:36-5:11

Transcript | Week 4: Group Study | Audio

Transcript

[Video]

Female: In Jerusalem, AD 30, Jesus died on the cross, resurrected on the third day, and then ascended into heaven. Before his ascension, Jesus appeared to his disciples to prepare them for the work to come. He told the twelve apostles about the coming power they would receive, and with that, their mission began. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles, causing them to speak in tongues. The Spirit gave them power, purpose, and a plan. Out of joy, the church was born.

Empowered by the Spirit, Peter then gave his first sermon to the people gathered there, and 3,000 hearts were transformed. Hearing, receiving, and repenting, they walked in unity and garnered praise. Out of joy, the gospel creates community. Then, as Peter and John began to spread the gospel through preaching and miracles, they were arrested and commanded not to teach about Jesus. But they refused, and when the people began to praise God in the city streets, the Sadducees had no choice but to let them go.

Through this, the church multiplied by 5,000, and out of joy, the church continues to multiply today. In every day and age, the church faces both persecution and praise, yet God’s hand is always at work. We will be misunderstood, misrepresented, and maligned, but it should not shock us or confuse us. His plan prevails. Out of joy, the church multiplies.

[End of video]

If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab them. Let’s go to Acts, chapter 5, although I will back up and read a little bit in chapter 4. I want you to be patient with me tonight. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so we’ll probably go shorter than I normally do, but I want us to dig in here and look at what I believe becomes extremely important for us to grasp and get as we continue to pursue the Lord and his will for us as a church and for us as individuals.

I said last week what we were going to do last week and this week was really look at some things that are true about the church in any given age. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first century or today; we’re going to look at things that are just true about the church always. Last week we looked very simply at the fact that where the gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully proclaimed, there will always be a group that praises God for that.

As God tells them the truth about themselves, they receive that as good news. They understand there’s hope in being read by God. There will also be those who are offended by the message of the gospel. Again, I tried to tease out that not just our moral positions, but rather just the gospel itself is offensive to them. Then they seek to marginalize, to mock, or eventually even destroy, in some cases, those who know and love Jesus Christ.

This week what I want to do is pull inside of the church, because at this point, what we’ve looked at is the church in Jerusalem seems to be beyond legit. I mean, they have everything in common. They’re sharing everything. They’re glad-hearted. They’re marked by gratitude. They’re marked by praise. They’re marked, according to Acts 2 and again in Acts 5, by gladness. That would be awesome if an adjective used to describe me was glad. “He’s just always glad.” This is a group of people who, up until this point, seem as happy in the Lord as you could imagine.

But one of the things I’ve learned over the last 20 years (it’s a heartbreaking lesson, but it’s one we probably need to talk about more than we do) is that there are places the Lord has established that were meant to be safe, were meant to be life-giving, were meant to be encouraging, but our experiences in those institutions that were created for our flourishing, for our protection, for our joy, actually, because of the fallenness of man, because of sin, has been the exact opposite of that. They have been painful. We have been betrayed. We have been harmed. We have been abused.

One of those is the home itself. We have several of our members (in fact, a large group of our members) who do foster care, and the stories you hear about children being pulled away from their parents and placed in foster care almost always revolve around some horrific situation and scenario that’s heartbreaking to hear that a child was anywhere near it.

We’ve heard testimonies even in our baptistery here of those who were abused by their mothers, abused by their fathers, neglected by their mothers, neglected by their fathers. So the family is one institution that was created by God to nurture, support, love, and encourage little souls that because of sin doesn’t go that way; it goes bad. That’s not all of our stories, but some of us have experienced that.

The other institution God has given to us for our growth, for our protection, for guidance, is the church. If you can be honest… Maybe you can’t. Our reality is if we’re just looking at the church in Jerusalem and we’re looking at the fact they have all things together in common, that they’re a glad congregation, there’s very little disunity, no backbiting, everybody seems to be sharing and getting along very well, nobody has been put in time-out yet, if we have to be honest, that’s not most of our experiences in church.

If you could in honesty say, “My church background involves me being in a church where I feel like I was wounded, betrayed, not cared for, neglected, and I saw some stuff that made me question whether or not God was real,” would you just lift your hand? “I’ve been a part of some nasty things.” Just look around. Just keep it up. We’ve been doing this for years. You don’t have to be shy about this. We’re learning from one another. It’s called testimony. Since you won’t talk back to me, you’re going to have to raise your hands a lot.

If you looked around, there are a whole bunch of us in here who just said, “What was meant to encourage me in my relationship with the Lord, what was meant to build me up in the Lord, what was meant to remind me of God’s goodness, what was God’s good grace to protect me and to lead me and to guide me, actually turned out to be an extremely difficult thing that made me question God’s love, that made me question whether or not I believed this, and ultimately left me feeling betrayed, broken, dirty, and empty.”

I’ve tried to say on repeat some of the same things on purpose. Let me say one of those little sentences again. There are no perfect churches ever. Ever. If you would have been pointing to Jerusalem and going, “I don’t know, man; First Baptist Jerusalem looked like they were nailing it,” well, I would say yes. They had a pretty good couple of months. Here’s what I’ll throw out to you. If you’re a first timer with us tonight, give us a couple of months. You won’t be too disappointed the first couple of months. Just hang out long enough. We’ll fail you. We’ll let you down.

I want to point out two pretty consistent issues that creep up in the life of a covenant community of faith as they seek to pursue the Lord with one another and be obedient to the things God has called a church to be. Let’s pick it up in Acts, chapter 4, verse 36. I want you to see something here. If you’ll remember, this is the verse I left off of chapter 4 last week. We were closing out how to be bold but compassionate last week; how we weren’t to waver in the face of those who wish to marginalize us.

We don’t soften the message of the gospel in order to gain converts. It’s not what we do. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We’re not ashamed of that message. We read about how they had all things in common and they were committed to one another. We’ll pick it up in verse 36. “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But a man named Ananias…”

That was what was going on that was good and right. It was being celebrated among the church. They had all things in common. If they saw people in need, they would sell their own goods and give it to the apostles, and the apostles would divvy it out. So Barnabas sells this plot of land. He takes the lump sum of that money and lays it at the apostles’ feet, and everybody praises God. “How amazing is that.” Ananias notices it. Let’s read about our boy Ananias.

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ’Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.’

When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, ’Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ’Yes, for so much.’

But Peter said to her, ’How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”

I would guess so. I would guess there would be great fear when God is just killing people for lying. There are all sorts of different things we can pull from this text. Let me tell you the thing I want us to dial in on in our time together here. There’s something happening in this text, sans the death of Ananias and Sapphira, that I think becomes very important for us to understand and grasp and do battle against.

One of the drifts that befalls the church of Jesus Christ on repeat is the drift toward hypocrisy, the drift and desire to pretend to look more mature than we actually are, to look farther along than we actually are, to seek and be hungry for the praise that other people get as they pursue obedience to the Lord.

The first thing that will always be true about the church until the return of Christ is among the people of God there will always be hypocrites. There will be good hypocrites and bad hypocrites. We’ll talk more about that in a second. Let me give you the definition of hypocrisy. It’s a pretense of having a virtuous character. It is moral or religious beliefs or principles, etcetera, that one does not really possess.

What you saw happening in this text is Ananias noticed Barnabas sold a plot of land and gave the money to the apostles, and instead of going, “God, give me a heart that is generous; give me a heart that can walk openhanded with what you have given me,” he instead craved the applause of men, not of God, and sought glory for himself rather than the glory of God.

According to the text, he schemed. It’s Peter’s accusation against him. “Why did you scheme like this?” Then to the wife: “Why did you agree to this scheme?” He schemed and said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll fake sell, keep some of the money for myself, and then I’ll act like I gave it all,” and God takes his life for it.

Here are a couple of things on hypocrisy. How does it happen? How do we become hypocrites? I think there are two primary ways a Christian begins to walk in the type of hypocrisy that is damaging to the name of Jesus Christ and to the witness of a local congregation.

First, if there’s a given moment in which you’re walking in hypocrisy, chances are that what you have forgotten is what the gospel teaches about you and your relationship to the Lord. If you think back on the last couple of weeks, what I’ve tried to say on repeat is the gospel meets us where we are and tells us the truth about ourselves, and the truth about ourselves is not that we’re awesome.

That’s good news, as we’ve already covered. If God shows up and tells me I’m awesome, I’m in a lot of trouble, because I know me. What ends up happening is we start with this baseline understanding that we are sinners in need of grace and then all of a sudden move past that and now begin to pretend we’re no longer sinners who need grace.

What ends up happening over and over again, throughout Christian history and even in this place today, is there are those who have come and heard the Word of God, they have received the Word of God, and then as they began to look around and watch other people they’ve gone, “Oh, okay. This is what they wear.” So you put on the clothes of the church you go to.

If you actually hear me say “clothes,” that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying there’s a way we talk here. There are phrases that have purposefully been introduced and reinforced in the life of this congregation. You can finish some of my sentences. “It’s okay to…not be okay. You just can’t stay there.” On and on I could go. There are dozens of purposeful sentences we’ve asked the Holy Spirit to root into your heart so you could preach them to yourselves; so you could believe them and grab on to them in difficult days.

What happens to the hypocrite is they grab hold of the language when their heart isn’t there. The hypocrite grabs hold of the action and doesn’t understand the heart of the matter. The hypocrite forgets the gospel says we have been rescued out of our depravity and that we are now in process. The gospel teaches that you and I are in process. This is so freeing. You’re not perfect yet. Breathe.

Now are you positionally holy? Yes. When the God of the universe looks at those of you who are in Christ… The Bible is clear. You would not be able to argue against the right, good position of justification by faith alone and grace alone. That’s where you are. When God looks at you, he sees you as perfect, spotless, and blameless. He has more for you than simple positional holiness but actually desires and actually will make you more and more like Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is at work inside you, doing the work of sanctification with you to make you more and more like Jesus. When you forget these two things are true about you…first, that you’re a sinner in need of grace and, second, that you are in process…you will turn your back on the very freeing reality that God has already outed you as not being there yet. You’ll begin to pretend, and you’ll play the game of whatever church you’re in.

So if The Village Church was big on “This is what Christian maturity looks like: it looks like journaling during a sermon,” then you would buy a journal and start to journal. Or if we were big on “Homeschool is the only way to go; if you don’t homeschool you hate your kids,” then you’d be like, “Well, we’d better homeschool. I don’t know why. I think that’s dumb. Most homeschooled kids I don’t care for, but I’ll homeschool the kids.”

You begin to do actions, but your heart is so far from the truth. Again, in this case, Ananias didn’t go, “Gosh, I have a greedy heart. I don’t want a greedy heart, God. Free up my hands on my wealth like Barnabas.” He just said, “Oh, I’ll do what Barnabas did.” But then his greed reveals in the fact he pulls some back and then lies. “Here’s all of it.”

“That’s all of it?”

“Yeah, that’s all of it.”

“You think you’re lying to me? What am I?” That’s Peter’s rebuttal. “Why are you lying to me? Why would you lie at all?”

In fact, Peter’s questions are lights-out. “Wasn’t the land yours? After you sold the land and you had the money, wasn’t it yours then? Why Ananias? Why are you lying? Why are you pretending to be more than you are? You’re enslaving yourself. Why?” We tend to walk in hypocrisy when we forget what the gospel has already said about us. To walk in hypocrisy is to forget God has met us where we are, that he has pulled us out of the muck and the mire, and that we are all in process.

If you’re looking forward to the day you no longer repent and have the Holy Spirit through the Word of God or through relationships expose areas of your life you have not submitted fully to him, that day doesn’t come before glory or until you quit breathing what you now call oxygen. It’s a part of who we are as believers. I’ve taught it this way: it’s an ongoing ethic. Confession, repentance. Hypocrisy flourishes where the gospel isn’t preached consistently, if not constantly.

Think about it. If it’s a checklist, can’t you just do the checklist? If it’s just “Do these nine things and you’re going to be great,” can’t you just do the nine things and have no heart transformation whatsoever, have no real joy in your life, just check the things off the list? What leads people out of hypocrisy is an ongoing reminder that they’re in need of grace, that they have no secrets, that God already knows, and that sanctification is a process.

Now the second reason I think hypocrisy flourishes is that you and I are rarely willing to have the type of relationships that will expose where we’re blind. I put it like this in my notes: “A failure to walk in community in a way that reveals what is really going on in our hearts, minds, and lives.” My son and I were having this conversation at dinner the other night. I was talking about how secrets don’t help anybody, that secrets aren’t really a good thing.

Reid said, “Well, Dad, a friend of mine… His name is Zack. He told me a secret, but I don’t think I should tell you because I told him I wouldn’t tell you.” I said, “Okay, buddy, but I’m your dad. Do I have to call the cops if you tell me what this 8-year-old friend of yours has been doing?” He was like, “No, it’s not a secret like that.” I was like, “Well, you can trust me.”

This is why this kid and I are going to rumble later on in life. He was like, “But you said part of being a man is keeping your word.” So good. I didn’t even see it coming. It was like chess. He just got me. I said, “Okay. Well, just let me ask you this, Reid. Is the secret Zack has harmful to him, harmful to his family, or harmful in any way? Would his parents be angry or upset if they knew the secret?” He was like, “No. His mom knows the secret too.” I was like, “Okay. Never mind, then.”

In this idea, what I’m trying to convey to my children is that secrets are unhelpful. There’s not really an avenue in which you being privatized in your faith is going to be beneficial to you. One of my first deconstructions here at The Village and one of the things I’m going to pound and hound on the rest of my life is that doubt and struggle should not be viewed as weakness among the people of God; they should be viewed as part of the journey.

You should be freed up to go, “I’m struggling with doubt. I don’t get this. I don’t know how he’s good in here. I don’t know what to do with this situation.” Doubt isn’t weakness. Quit trying to carry it on your own. If the disciples had to say, “Help my unbelief,” what makes you think you’re stronger than they are? What a prayer from the people. “Help my unbelief. I’m trying to believe. Help me.”

When we refuse to walk in the type of community that can support us, hear us, and encourage us, hypocrisy will flourish. There’s a phrase we use that I started using awhile and the staff is picking up now. A lot of people here at the church and in this area… We call it “Camelot.” What I mean by “Camelot” is everybody around here just looks so pretty. Marriages look so pretty.

I can’t tell you how often I have my heart destroyed by those of you who come in here every week and sit next to your spouse. You have your arm around her, and you’re taking notes. When we sing you have your hand up. It just takes a little bit to find out actually one of you is cheating, but that didn’t stop you from sitting down, hearing the Word of God, and doing nothing about repenting, wrestling with the Lord.

God help us. Might we always be people who don’t get to that point before we start going, “Hey, I have an issue here.” Nobody falls off the cliff of belief out of nowhere. No one. It’s, “Huh. I wonder what I should do with that. I don’t quite know what to make of that. I just feel like the Lord is so distant right now. I can’t figure these two things out,” but never saying anything out loud.

You never go to group and go, “Hey, there’s a man flirting with me at work, and I like it. I don’t want to like it, but I like it. Hey, things at home aren’t the way I would like them to be. Will someone pray with me? Will someone help me?” The Bible has so much to say about how we’re to walk with one another in our doubts. I’ll start with ones you’ll like; then we’ll get to ones you probably won’t. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

This is Solomon’s way of saying there should always be someone in the trench of life with you. There should be at least one who knows everything about you; at least one who knows what you’re thinking, what you’re currently wrestling with, what you currently have on your plate, where you feel you currently are in regard to margin. There should always be at least one.

Let’s get practical. Do you have the one? Do you have that man or woman with whom you have no secrets? They know exactly where you are, where you’re struggling right now, what you’re longing for in regard to the Lord, what your hopes are in regard to your life. Are you walking with one like that? “Can that be my spouse?” I hope that would be a one. I think you need more than just your spouse. At least one.

I’ve used this one before. Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I like this one in regard to relationships, because I think the relationships I have grown the most in are the relationships where walking with that person has caused some sparks, and I don’t mean romantic sparks.

If you think about how it actually plays out in your life, deep biblical community that’s built around and focused on maturation in Christ is hard to find, isn’t it? I mean, relationships with others that are built around knowing, walking with, and following hard after Jesus Christ are difficult to find. They just are.

Now finding a group to get together and watch a game and eat some guacamole with is easy in the Bible Belt. Fellowshipping? Man, we’ll fellowship like bosses. But actually having relationships that are built around our weaknesses, having relationships where we’ve invited people in to speak into our lives in ways we don’t want everybody speaking into our lives…

I was in my office this week. One of our staff guys was in the office. There had been this accusation made against him by someone who was close to him, and he just said, “Hey man, do you see this in me? Do you see any evidence of this in me at all? I want to learn. I need to know these kinds of things.” We got to have this great talk about his heart and where things were and how he was being viewed by this person.

We need to have those kinds of people who are saying, “Please tell me the truth. Tell me the truth about me.” As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. That’s fire, hammer, sparks. That’s how iron sharpens iron. May the myth of romantic, frolicking community die on the bedrock of the reality that this will be fought for or never had.

I’ll give you one more verse. Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ’today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” You can see how these things start to connect with one another. We already said nobody just falls off the cliff of belief. They wrestle. They’re quiet about it. They don’t let anyone in.

The text here says we should know one another to the point that we’re able to exhort one another, encourage one another, as long as it’s called “today.” Why? Because there is a very real chance we’ll be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. How can we be encouraged in our weaknesses if no one knows we’re weak? And how can we be exhorted in our doubts if no one knows we’re wrestling with doubt? “Well, Chandler, what you’re talking about is dangerous. People could take that information and use it against me.” Yeah, they can. Absolutely they can. It has happened to me.

In fact, if anybody has been doing this in the long run, it has probably happened to them too. Hear me as one who has taken this path and has been betrayed. It was worth it. The betrayal was awful. In fact, that’s where I first stumbled across that last chapter of Nehemiah when that dude was ripping out beards and hitting people with sticks, and I had to wrestle with whether or not that was a legitimate ministry I could enter into in that season. It was awful.

But the benefits I’ve reaped over the last 20 years by having men know me, not having any secrets, not ever having to worry about how you’re going to bust me, has just outweighed the other option by so much I think it’s foolish in any way to choose, “I’ll just be quiet about my struggles, lest somebody learn I actually struggle like everyone does and tell someone else about it.”

So what do we do with hypocrisy? Well, I think you have to be on your guard, and I think you have to learn to preach the gospel to yourself. This is another phrase I try to use a lot: God has already outed you on the cross. When I’m looking at us, I’m thinking, “How gracious is God that he has done this with those of us he has done this with.”

I mean, who are we that the Lord would move like this among us? We’re not the Yankees around here. God has decided to display himself through the weaknesses of men and women in this place. He has already outed us. Just walk in what he has already said is true about you. You’re a sinner in need of grace. Don’t try to be more than you are.

You’re never going to grow in your knowledge of the Word of God if you pretend you already know the Word of God and become too proud to seek help for it. You’re never going to walk in victory over your wrestle with lust if you continue to pretend you don’t have an issue with lust. You hem yourself in. You’re never going to be able to grow in boldness for evangelism if you keep pretending you are bold when you’re not. You’re never going to develop a robust, intimate prayer life with the Father if you keep pretending you have one when you don’t.

It becomes a necessity that we be honest. It becomes a necessity that we say, “I need help.” We need to repent of the veneer. We need to repent of pretending we’re more than we are. We just need to repent of it. It’s nonsense. Remember Peter’s accusation against Ananias. “You’ve lied to God; you haven’t lied to me.” You’re not lying to us; you’re lying to God. That’s who the offense is against. Your hypocrisy, your lying, your pretending to be more than you are… You might have fooled us, but you most definitely have not fooled God.

The second issue that will always occur in the church can be found in Acts 6:1-7. By the way, what we just skipped over is a lot of what we covered last week. You’re going to see that the Sadducees are super angry that miracles and signs and the church continue to grow, so that’s the same thing we covered last week…outside pressure, marginalization…except it’s growing more heated. That’ll come to a head next weekend.

Acts, chapter 6, starting in verse 1: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists…” Those are Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem. “…arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution [of food]. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ’It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen…” You’re going to hear a lot about him over the next couple of weeks.

“…a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

Let me explain to you culturally what has gone on here. The Jews were scattered after they were taken away into exile. What was happening around the ancient world was as Jewish couples grew old, they would move back to the Holy Land so they could die in the Holy Land, but when the husbands died, that left their widowed wives far away from family and friends and in a situation where they could not work and provide for themselves.

So these are Jews, but they’re Greek-speaking Jews, Hellenized Jews, who, according to this text, were being neglected when food was being distributed in favor of the first-century Jewish Jews. When I got into studying this text, it didn’t say what I wanted it to say. Has that ever happened to anybody else? I wanted it to say something else, and it’s just not what it says. So I’m going to have to tell you what it says.

What I thought was going on here, having read it before but never really dug into the text, was it seemed like there was some homogenization going on, that there was some sort of oppression going on, that there were cliques developing in the church at Jerusalem. Has that not been a lot of our experiences in church? There were these cliques formed we just couldn’t get into. That’s what I wanted to talk about. I was like, “This is it.”

But I got onto it, and here’s what’s actually happening. There’s no rebuke in this text. There’s no repentance in this text. As far as we can see, as far as the text drives what we see, there’s nothing like that. There is an accusation made in a very fast-growing church that something was being neglected. The apostles heard that, received it, and restructured how Jerusalem was running in order to meet that need.

So the second thing I think always occurs in church dynamics is that when you’re dealing with an organism and an organization simultaneously, you’re always going to be looking at things that are tweaked and changed along the way to meet the needs of the people who are there. The church doesn’t change just to change, but she does, at times, modify how she is operating in order to make disciples in a more holistic, healthy way.

One of the things that happens with church folk (I am one) is that things become sacred very quickly. Like when I arrived at Highland Village First Baptist Church, we had many of the components that were historic Baptist church components. They were good and right components. We had Sunday school. I love Sunday school. We had vacation Bible school for the kids. I love vacation Bible school.

Yet when we began to look at some things, it became apparent that neither one of those was actually serving the function they started out to serve years ago when the church was a lot smaller. Legitimate questions began to arise. “We have 1,000 people now attending Highland Village First Baptist Church, and we have Sunday school space for 40 of them. Will this be the primary model by which we disciple people?”

For me, I’m going, “It can’t be.” Yet there were some who were like, “We’ve done it this way our whole lives.” For them it all of a sudden became sacred. It wasn’t a tool; it was sacred. I wasn’t angry about that. I totally get it. If God meets you somewhere in a profound way, you become protective of that thing. It’s not a bad thing.

When I hear young guys railing against old systems I’m like, “You have to understand, you 23-year-old moron. These things you’re trying to dismantle and these things you believe are problematic to the mission were at one point used powerfully by God to draw people to himself.” I get it, but here’s the thing that has to always be held in check on sacred cows.

First, the job of the church is to make disciples. That’s what God has tasked us with as elders: to bring glory to God by making disciples. That’s the end goal. We feel like we work toward that, and what needs to happen in any healthy church is when those who are members of the church feel like they aren’t maturing and growing, they need to say something.

We provide feedback loops here at The Village. Do you want to know why we do covenant renewal? We’re doing covenant renewal so we can hear from you. Do you know why we do town halls, why we have member meetings? Because we want to hear from you. Then from there, the elders and leaders of the church must be free to tweak and change in order to best take advantage of the context and the time to make disciples who will follow hard after Jesus.

The church is not static. She’s a living, breathing organism. As in all things, the rule is open hands. On repeat, I will ask you to do some of the very similar things I ask myself to do, which is lay down my personal preferences in the hope that God might accomplish mightier things by me laying my personal preferences down than he could and would if I held on to my personal preferences and acted like those were biblical as opposed to just preferential.

Our conviction is God saves. Our conviction is the gospel is the way God saves. Our conviction is we stand on the Word of God, and our conviction is our theology informs our philosophy, which informs our practice so we’re built completely on the Word of God. Every once in a while you move around your furniture, don’t you? In fact, sometimes you even bust out a wall. But unless it’s broken, you don’t touch your foundation. If you’re built on the Word, your foundation is not busted.

May we be men and women fighting the fight against hypocrisy, walking in the type of community that can point out our blind spots, learning to preach the gospel all the more to ourselves as we feel the need and desire to hide things about ourselves, to hide attitudes, to hide addictions, to hide actions.

May we be men and women, particularly those of you who are members of this church, who are so passionate about our own maturation that where we feel like we see blind spots and chinks in the armor and places and areas in which disciples aren’t being fully made, we might graciously say something in glad submission to the authority God has put in place to lead his bride in this covenant community. May we be known by our deep love for one another. Let’s pray.

Father, I just pray specifically for those who are living a bit of a duplicitous life. I pray that you would be quick and mighty to save those who are heading down a path where pretending to know the Bible will keep them from ever really knowing it and pretending to be good at prayer will keep them from ever actually being good at praying.

I pray that you would walk us into the light tonight. Where we have secret struggles, things no one knows, I pray we’d lay those down and confess those to others. I pray that our time in home groups this week would be rich. Father, I pray that you would give us the courage to walk in the flexibility that’s necessary to change directions, to change philosophies, to change practices, for the end goal to see you glorified in making disciples. Help us. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.

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