The Biggest Threat to the Move of God
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a part of a community where selfishness does not control the environment and everyone's needs are met in abundance?
The book of Acts 4:32 - 35 states, "All believers were in one mind and heart. Selfishness was not a part of their community, for they shared everything they had with another. The apostles gave powerful testimonies about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great measures of grace rested upon them all. Some who owned houses or land sold them and brought the proceeds before the apostles to distribute to those without. Not a single person among them was needy."
Until 2020, American Christian churches have been self-serving. Church attendance was a choice governed by convenience and pleasure. Most attendants have the attitude of "I go when I feel like and I only get involved if it does something for me".
Since the fallout of 2020, the church is in a tailspin trying to survive.
Pockets of revival give us hope that the church will rise. America will be saved and fulfill its destiny, but we have a lot of work to do to get there. It does not just happen. In the places where there is a move of God taking place, there is a devotion to prayer.
Throughout the history of the modern-day church, the responsibility for running the church has fallen on a few faithful. 20% of the congregation does 80% of the work. The early church did NOT have that problem. Everyone carried their weight and devoted themselves to prayer and sacrificially taking care of the others for the sake of the Kingdom.
There were no victims. There was no selfishness. People were not competing for control.
They were not compelled or coerced into giving their time, talent, money, or resources.
They were led by the Spirit to give their all. They willingly committed to support one another and stand with each other. They invested in the health and life of others within the community. This was a beautiful, organic movement of people doing life together on the deepest level.
Barnabas, meaning "encourager", was named after his devotion to encouraging others. He sold his farmland and laid the offering at the apostles' feet. He gave the apostles full price from the sale of a property he owned. (Acts 4:36-37)
Another spirit surfaced that threatened the move of God. Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to pretend to do the same thing as Barnabas. Except for giving all of their profits, they withheld a portion of the proceeds of the sale of their land for themselves. They wanted the full blessing of the movement, but they were trying to deceive the apostles with a half-hearted offering. It was wrong of them to pretend that they were giving the full amount of proceeds to the apostles. This was the seducing spirit. The great sin was lying about what they withheld. (Acts 5:1-11)
They hypocritically acted like they were "all-in", but they were lying. God revealed their secret to Peter. In Acts 5:3, Peter confronts Ananias challenging him to look at the door he opened in his soul to satan saying, "Why did you let Satan fill your heart with this lie?" Ananias is blind to the severity of his actions. He is trying to fool Peter and the apostles into believing he made a huge sacrifice. When he actually withheld the best part of himself.
I propose that Ananias was promoting himself, taking care of his needs, and had no real interest in advancing the move of God. He was acting like he was a good Christian, but inwardly he was filled with the agenda of Satan: self-promotion.
The Greatest Threat to the modern-day church is WILLFUL WITHHOLDING!!!
The great sin of our generation will not be our wrongdoing, but our willful withholding! It will be our withholding from the Lord. How are we any different from Ananias? We are "all-in", but we are lying! Ananias thought he was doing a good thing. It looked like he was doing the right thing, but inwardly Satan was controlling him like a puppet.
Hours later, Ananias' wife, Sapphira, was questioned about the transaction and she presents the same narrative. Her heart is given over to the lie. The lie that says they are going to cheat the Holy Spirit for personal gain. Amidst her lie, she falls dead.
The community of believers was shocked. Did you hear what happened? The couple who looked so good and did the right thing, fell over dead after they lied to Peter. How could this happen?
Ananias and Sapphira were not bad people filled with immorality. They were not known for being wild, demon-possessed, or having a reputation for being cheaters. They were common people seeking the same thing as many others during that period; a place to belong and connect with God.
Here's the problem: Satan sucked them into believing they were deserving of something that did not belong to them. The property and earnings from the sale were 100% theirs, but the favor of God, the blessing of the apostles, and the integrity of the move of God were not "for sale". It was a fatal decision to a human mistake.
Mistakes, errors, and boo-boos are unintentional. Decisions are agreements fueled by motives. They did not fall into this. They conspired together and brought the consequences on themselves. Peter gave Ananias and Sapphira a window to repent, but they pressed on into the lie without regard for the consequences.
The modern-day church is built on the same foundation. It is centered on human wants and driven by our ego needs. We preach the gospel of reward and punishment. What do I get to have? What do I get to avoid? How little do I have to do to get it?
The goal is to preach a happy gospel and give people false security based on the fantasy of perfection. Presenting a message like a Disney movie: where fantasies become reality. We use a business model to create church growth. It is all about creating a warm and fuzzy environment. We want our leaders to be sweet, sympathetic, and humorous. If people are happy then they will give financially to support what we are doing.
The burden of organizing and operating the church falls on a few. We expect them to work as slaves and to dedicate their lives to keeping the church operating. We treat pastors like professional athletes. If they can't produce championships then we trade them for another.
But then 2020 happened.
The happy gospel we preached was not enough to soothe the anxiety of the pandemic, the eruption of violence over inflamed racial tension, or the highjacking of the most important presidential race in our lifetime. We were not ready for the reality of the end times. All of the sudden, we stop listening to the pretend gospel of prosperity and happiness. We started chasing after prophets filled with fire. We wanted someone to lead us out of the oppression of an invisible enemy that was kicking our butts.
Where is the Old Testament God that defended his people? I don't want to hear any more messages about sweet, baby Jesus. Give me the truth! Give me the real! Give me the raw!
We look at the consequences of Ananias and Sapphira and we say that was too harsh. The reality is their deaths although tragic was necessary to preserve the move of God. Peter stands up and protects the move of God like it was his wife. He discerns their motives. They wanted blessing without investment in a relationship. God didn't kill them. They fell over dead under the weight of their sin.
The church was birthed in the power, the presence, and the glory of the Holy Spirit. It was pure. God was not going to allow two hypocrites to high jack it.
We need to reexamine our understanding of the nature of God. We need to recognize that God is both forgiving and HOLY. He is gracious to forgive us but is also expecting us to live a pure life as we fulfill our purpose in life. We don't come into the church or the presence of God demanding to needs be met. We must first submit to the move of God, surrender to Him, and try not to manipulate Him.
How do we do that? By serving God's agenda, ordering our lives around His presence, making sacrifices for His glory, and laying down our lives for others.
The Lord recently convicted me. This past year I gave up my house and income, but the Lord said to me, "you are withholding. you are scared to go "all-in" because of what you experienced in the past when you were part of a major church crash". This made me look at how I was spending my time, talent, and resources. I then realized you can tell a lot about people observing how they spend their time, talent, and resources.
This is NOT the gospel of me, but the gospel of HIM.
If we are going to advance the Kingdom through the church then we must examine our hearts. What are we withholding? Repent for our selfishness and submit to the active movement of God. It's important that each one of us takes the "All-in" attitude as we work to restore the church and advance the kingdom.