Holiness Over Everything

Examining The Question, "How Can I Live A Holy Life?".

Randle Bishop
Mar 20, 2022    39m
This message taught out of Acts chapter five reminds us that God's greatest desire is for us to live a holy life that brings Him glory. We know we are not perfect in our righteousness, and we all sin, but we can all go before God and repent and receive His mercy. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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121 Community - Holiness Over Everything
Randle Bishop: [00:00:04] Hello, 121 Church, how are y'all doing? All right, okay, y'all up. Y'all are up. You got your caffeine, you're up. Good morning. Good to see y'all. My name is Randall Bishop, again, I'm here representing Trinity Gospel Church. We are in the throes of church planting in the South Dallas, South Oak Cliff neighborhood. We are meeting at my home right now, and doing Bible studies and whatnot, and it is a privilege to be here and to come in the name of the Lord to bring God's word to you. My assignment this morning is to come from Acts 5.

Randle Bishop: [00:00:39] As you heard in the scripture reading this morning, my wife and children will be here at the 11:00, so sorry you didn't get to see the beautiful half of my family, you're stuck with me, and that's fine. Yeah, they'll be here, my wife and I have been married twelve years, we have five children, my daughter is the oldest, so Emily is eleven, Jeremiah is eight as Azariah is six, Micah is five, and Josiah is nine months old. And so we are happily married, and happily parenting, and grateful to God for His many, many blessings.

Randle Bishop: [00:01:18] Ross and David and Janette are good friends, and some others that are here as well, that we've had the opportunity to befriend. I just got a whoop from Michelle, but we have a number of you that are becoming friends to us as we set out on this endeavor to do a gospel work in Dallas, and we're grateful for all of you, encouraged by your support, your prayers, and again, friendship and the Gospel. So we're glad to be here and partner with you to that end.

Randle Bishop: [00:01:48] As you heard the Scripture read this morning, I thought they were going to read 1 through 11, and it's all good, they read Sephiroth being killed and that's kind of tragic, I was like, man, somebody's got it in for the women this morning. But we will be looking at 1 through 11 as we look at God's word this morning. And before we do that, let me pray for us and we'll spend some time here in Acts 5:1-11.

Randle Bishop: [00:02:16] Let's pray together, beloved. Our father in heaven, we thank you for your word this morning, your word is what we need, your word is what we need. Jesus in his prayer, Father, said, sanctify them in the truth. your word is truth. Sanctify our hearts, Lord, as we turn our attention to you and hear what you have for us this morning. Remove the distractions, remove the angst, and may we fix our eyes on you, O Lord. Holy Spirit, come minister to us, your people, and teach us your ways. We prayed it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Randle Bishop: [00:03:14] So this morning, the current series that I am jumping into along with you all, and I think it's a good one to be in, Bold Faith. Since our Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection, there's been so much that has transpired in the early church, and that now comes full-fledged to us today in the church. So many things that we can read in Scripture, and actually learn from the early church, and this is no less one of those stories.

Randle Bishop: [00:03:49] At the beginning of the church, the Lord is resurrected, and He goes to be seated at the right hand of the Father. And as a result of his going to the Father, we now are invested with the Holy Spirit of God. And again, I believe that if we're going to be thinking about what it means to have a bold faith, there was no doubt in my mind that this series that you are in, with God's gracious help, is is a wonderful series to be in because it syncs with the heartbeat of the early church.

Randle Bishop: [00:04:22] As you've just finished up chapter 4, you'll remember the prayer that followed the unjust jailing of Peter and John, and the corporate prayer went this way. It says, "Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And then after they prayed that prayer, the text goes on to show us that God answered the prayer, and the place that they were praying in was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And then God, the text says, granted them boldness to keep speaking the Word of God to those around them. And so that's my prayer for you all this morning, that as you continue in your series, that God would grant each and every one of you, beloved of God in Christ, bold faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You're going to need it.

Randle Bishop: [00:05:27] And if you, as Christians, are going to have a bold faith, and if you're going to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord, you're going to need a faith that can endure and withstand the challenges of a broken world, the sinfulness that surrounds us. And as we come to the Scriptures this morning, we find ourselves moving through this riveting story of the early church. You recall Luke, writing in Acts chapter 1 of Jesus' Ascension, and then in chapter two, you see the historical and sacred prayer meeting on the day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit filled the early believers and empowered them to live a life on mission, being sent out to evangelize and make much of Jesus. And then in chapter 3, you read of the miraculous healing of a paralyzed beggar, and then Peter preaching in the temple and clarifying the meaning of Old Testament prophecy and how those prophecies found their fulfillment in who Jesus Christ was. And then similar to chapter 3 and chapter 4, we see the public witnessing of the early church right there in the temple, making much of Jesus, proclaiming the Gospel, evangelizing so that all who heard and responded to the message in faith, turning from sin and turning to Jesus would experience eternal life. And then chapter 4 ends just as Jermaine preached last Sunday, with the grace of God being poured out all over the early church.

Randle Bishop: [00:07:04] And you know what I see, beloved? I see God's hand through all of this narrative text, and I see this is a disclosing of a legacy of bold faith. But what are we to make of all of it? What are we to make of a king ascending into heaven and ordering the early church? What are we to make of the powerful unfolding of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit? What are we to make of that clarification of Old Testament prophecy? Witnessing the outbreak of evangelism in a downpour of grace from the Holy Spirit. What is it all about? I would contend that what we have in the Book of Acts is a codifying of God's redemptive story that God, through the Holy Spirit, is systematically laying out circumstances in Providence in order to teach His Church what his divine and holy purposes are. God predetermined, in eternity past, that time would unfold in a particular way, and to bring about a particular end, so each person and each story is pointing to an ultimate God-centered purpose. And many of our Bibles, this is called the Acts of the Apostles, it could also easily be entitled The Acts of the Early Church. It could also be entitled The Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Early Church. Again, I want to contend that the next step that the Holy Spirit wants the reader to understand is that the early church, and we are today, to understand this about God's nature, that He is glorious and holy, and that He desires our holiness over everything. If you're a note-taker, you want to put a tag on it. That's the tag God desires our holiness over everything.

Randle Bishop: [00:09:04] And we're also going to be walking through a couple of points here, I won't give them to you now. I would give you my Baptist tradition, you know, but I won't do it just not right now in my three points, you know, so I'll save them in my hymn at the end, I'll save all of that. But God's desire is for our holiness, and that's the main point, that is the main point. And someone sitting here, you might be saying, well, wait a minute, I thought God's desire was that he would be glorified. Well, yes, absolutely, absolutely. There is no contradiction between God's desire for our holiness over everything and His glory. I know that the Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is that we would glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and that is true, but why is that? It's because our holiness is to be to the end of God's glory, do you see? That our holiness brings God glory, and so, therefore, God's desire is that for each of you, 121 church believers, is that you would be holy.

Randle Bishop: [00:10:17] And just as the Apostle Paul reminded the persecuted church that he was caring for and pastoring, he reminded them, he says, "But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy." This is God speaking, and this is why God desires our holiness over everything, because He is holy. And therefore God will spare no cost, either guarding his glory, or seeing us become holy. Are you tracking with me?

Randle Bishop: [00:11:02] This brings us to the story of Ananias and Sapphira. So in this progression from chapter 1 to chapter 4, there is an unfolding in God's careful providence and overseeing of circumstances, this concerted effort of God to bring about His glory and our holiness. At the end of chapter 4, we see Barnabas, the son of encouragement, selling his field and giving all the proceeds, the profit, to the Apostles. The text says that he comes in and lays it at their feet. And in all of this, in all of this glory, this downpouring of grace, the Holy Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost, the ordering of the Church, the miraculous healings, the Gospel being proclaimed, even to the extent that they would continue to raise the name of Jesus Christ in a context of persecution, in all of this, the situation goes bleak, there's a great cloud coming.

Randle Bishop: [00:12:05] And next, in chapter 5, we read about Ananias and Sapphira. And what do we read about? Well, quite frankly, what we read about is their sin. Before the resurrection and the ascension, while the Lord Jesus walked the Earth, He taught His disciples about a kingdom ethic, a true righteousness, he taught them how to live it out accordingly. He taught them how to live righteously, and however, he also told them how to avoid particular sins. And you'll notice this, because, in Matthew chapter 6, he proactively addresses what we see in Acts 5. In Matthew 6, he did that on the Sermon on the Mount, listen, you'll remember this. He taught his disciples, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1).

Randle Bishop: [00:13:16] So then this act of laying money at the Apostle's feet was only a manifestation of a deep sense of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. That is what you see in Acts 5:1-2, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Beloved, Ananias did not want to please God, but rather he wanted to please others, and furthermore, he wanted to please himself. Who knew that man pleasing could be so deathly serious? The scene unveils the lack of spiritual integrity in both Ananias and Sapphira. We don't know if they are believers or not, but that is not the point, the text doesn't tell us if they're believers, it just says, "But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira." But what we see here is that this is the point, that this couple, not unlike many couples sitting here, this couple in unrighteous and sinful agreement, sinned against God. How many relationships are like that, where there is not strong accountability for integrity, and there is sin found as a consequence?

Randle Bishop: [00:14:51] But hold on just a second, let's not be too hard on Ananias and Sapphira's sin, because it's really easy to shift the gaze of accountability to others, isn't it? What about ourselves? It's very easy to get at the speck in the brother or sister's eye and forget the redwood hanging out of yours. We need God to address our sins. And so here's a quick question. What does relational and spiritual accountability look like for you? And if you cannot answer that question, then you need to figure it out, beloved, because it's a way that God wants to guard you and keep you growing and holiness. And if you don't have an answer to that question, I'm sure there are many brothers and sisters sitting around you who would love to sit, get coffee with you, get a meal, hear how they can provide that kind of accountability for you. Being a couple, is it a couple that is struggling with accountability within the marriage itself? Perhaps there's another godly couple who is saying, man, we are willing to sit with both of you to help you walk through it, to understand what good accountability would look like for the two of you, we love you. Let's sit and talk that through. And beloved, that's what the church is all about, that we are those who are children of light, we are not the children of darkness. So what does marital accountability look like? What does relational accountability look like?

Randle Bishop: [00:16:45] And not only was this a point of accountability between Ananias and Sapphira, but this was also a sin of deception and lying, man-pleasing, this is multilayered sin. Do you know that sin is never just one sin in and of itself? It's always multilayered, it's always nuanced and complex, and there's a sin, behind a sin, behind that sin, and that's why we need God, that's why we need one another. So let me ask another question, in what context do you feel most apt to lie and deceive? Let me say it a different way, when you get around certain people, who are those people that you feel like you can't give the whole truth, you feel less inclined to disclose it all? Or what group of people are you trying to please?

Randle Bishop: [00:17:49] I remember when I was a youngster, I used to wear the baggy pants, and, you know, the long, big baggy shirts, nothing fit, you know? But why was I trying to do that? I was trying to do that because it made me fit in, I was trying to please people. Or perhaps you're not wearing baggy jeans and, you know, non-fitting shirts, or growing your hair out long, or whatever it might have been for you in your day, but perhaps you're sitting in a board meeting, and you don't want to disclose what you know, but it needs to be disclosed. Perhaps there is a relationship where the truth, even spoken in love, you know, will hurt a bit, but you hold it back even though it's going to help this person grow, you hold it back. And those are less intense kinds of sins, but nonetheless sins because there's a fear of man rather than a fear of God.

Randle Bishop: [00:19:07] You have to be mindful that even though we are looking at an Ananias and Sapphira, the Bible is very good at doing this to us, because we can read about Ananias and Sapphira and never consider us in the text. But that's what the Spirit of God does, it turns God's word back on to us. And so let's be mindful to do that, let's not just be considering the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, but what are those things that the Holy Spirit is addressing in you? Because he desires to not leave you in your sin, just as we sang that song, that he is our holiness, he desires to bring you along and to experience greater freedom, which is what we also sang about. God wants you to experience that, and to grow in holiness is to do that.

Randle Bishop: [00:20:07] And now look at this second point here, I told you I was going to walk you through points. In Acts 5:3-4, we see the seduction of Satan, the world, and the flesh, it's very not so subtle. Look at verse 3, Peter says to Antonius, why has Satan filled your heart? That is amazing because the text doesn't tell us how Peter knew it was Satan, but we do know that unrighteous and wicked deeds are always influenced by the demonic. There is no neutrality with sin, you are either siding with the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Light, or you are siding with the kingdom of darkness and the prince of the power of the air, there is no neutral ground, and so God calls us to not be seduced.

Randle Bishop: [00:21:03] Look at this, this influence of Satan, it's pronounced by the sinful desires of Ananias's heart to be seen by the apostles, that's what's happening here. Peter asked him the question, Why is Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? How was this all working out? How is Satan filling his heart to lie? It's his heart, and Satan is filling it. I think Ephesians 2 helps us, because it says, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world." Listen, beloved, it says, "Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." That's Ephesians 2:1-2. This is staggering, that when our desires follow into the realm of darkness, into the realm of unrighteousness, we are indeed following the prince of the power of the air.

Randle Bishop: [00:22:16] I like what John Piper says in his book, Spectacular Sins. He says that Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. That's really good, that's a good paraphrase of what is happening right here in Acts 5. Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. So then again, as you consider whether you are tempted to sin and where you do sin, that is where the spiritual warfare wages, beloved. That is where holiness is being waged war against because the spirit sets its desires against the flesh and the flesh against the, what? The spirit. And beloved, according to Ephesians 4:27, Ananias and Sapphira have actually given opportunity to Satan due to their sinful desires. Another translation says this, it says, don't give the devil a foothold. So that is what has happened here, their desire, their hypocrisy, their wanting to please the apostles, and the early church, has now given opportunity for Satan to hold sway. Beloved, this is how churches dissolve.

Randle Bishop: [00:23:47] Perhaps, and I watched Jermaine's sermon, too, so I appreciate his paper illustration. Do y'all remember that? I watched his sermon. So, consider this, in the spiritual warfare as well, that if one is sinning, that's pretty dangerous. But then, what if you get all sinning, and God is not there because God will not abide sinful behavior? Oh, man, that's like the power team, the devil is going to rip right through all of those, right through them. And so what I want to do is encourage you to not allow Satan to get a foothold, to hold sway over you, your friendships, your business, your marriage, your kids. If we are able to deal with the seduction of Satan, if we are able to deal with our own desires that are not godly and righteous, to push back against the world's influence, to not love those things, then we put ourselves in a good place to be growing in the holiness that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Randle Bishop: [00:25:04] There's a good Psalm here that could be some help to you, I gave it to the earlier service, it's Psalm 139. And at the end of Psalm 139, there's this nugget of truth, because our hearts are actually quite deceptive. Even as we are in Christ, we need Christ to illuminate our hearts, to show us where we are and what our true desires are. And so we cry out to God with Psalm 139, verse 23. What do we say? We say this to God, we say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24And see if there be any grievous way in me." And this is not being the sin police, this is not always looking for sin under each rock because the verse ends stating, "And lead me in the everlasting way!". This is a psalm that ends with hopefulness, and so as we are asking God to search us, it's not just so that we can wallow in what we have found there if it's unrighteousness and sin. It is to say, God, now that is the mess, now lead me into green pastures, lead me in the ways that are good and righteous and holy.

Randle Bishop: [00:26:40] Look at Peter speaking to Ananias in verse 4 of chapter 5, which says, "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?". It's almost like Peter is coming to him and saying, you fool. One of my mentors, he says this, he's got this little phrase, maybe some of you have heard it as well, he says sin will make you stupid. Sin will make you stupid. I mean, look at the illogic of his sin, you didn't have to do this Ananias. Sapphira, you didn't have to do this, was it not your own? You could have done whatever you wanted to with this.

Randle Bishop: [00:27:31] And then Peter goes on and challenges not only his illogic but then his warped way of thinking because he says, "You have not lied to man but to God.” So this is showing us that Ananias and Sapphira are thinking that as they are laying this money, this portion of the money at the apostle's feet, that they are doing it against man, they are thinking that only people are seeing what we're doing here. And we know that this is not true, we know that every sin that is sinned, every unwholesome word of unrighteousness that is spoken to another, every hurtful, bitter, grievous word, is a word that is accounted for in the books and the analogs of heaven. That God recounts all those things, all that behavior, all the heart's intent, and it is a sin against God, and then it is a sin against neighbor. This is why it is so important to know how to walk with God, and how to experience the grace of God. And it is a yielding up to God and submitting ourselves to Him.

Randle Bishop: [00:28:59] Let me move quickly through our next section, Acts 5:5-11, we now come after we see this, and we see the Holy Spirit's discipline. We see Ananias falling dead, breathing his last, and then we see his wife coming in, not knowing what happened, but then she also, breathing her last. This is interesting because there is potential here for this text to allude to the creation narrative. Because God is the one who wants to give life, and when he created Adam and Eve in the beginning, what did he do? He breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. And in some distorted kind of way, they are thinking that this sin is going to get them more life, and tragically, ironically enough, it gets them death.

Randle Bishop: [00:30:10] Is there a sexual sin of some sort, that one might entertain to think that this will give me life, satisfaction, only, in the end, to bring about death, to bring about the death of a relationship, to bring about the death of a spiritual engagement with God? Or whatever kind of sin that one could fill in the blank with, to know that when it is committed and when it has been done, it will be your last breath, so to speak. Here, it's quite literally their last physical breath. And this is amazing because, again, we don't know if they are believers, but the Bible is quite clear that when believers sin, that God is even willing to take his own children home to be with him through his discipline.

Randle Bishop: [00:31:19] If you don't believe me, First Corinthians chapter 5 verse 5 says this, of a story in the early church in Corinth, there was a man sinning all kinds of sexual sins, and there were all sorts of sins in Corinth. But this one in particular, in verse 5 of First Corinthians 5, it says this, Paul is speaking to them, and giving them instruction on how to handle this person who was a believer. He says, "You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh." What for, Paul? "So that his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord. Whoa, that God would have Satan destroy the flesh in order so that the spirit would be saved.

Randle Bishop: [00:32:14] Listen to me, beloved, we talked about Ananias and Sapphira's sin, we've had some time even to reflect, even on where we might fill in the blank. We've even thought about what it means to be seduced into those things through Satan's influence and are giving in to the world's kind of distorted discipleship of us, if you will, and then even our own hearts desires. But then when we consider this notion that the Spirit of God disciplines those that sin, we need to pause because this is a very serious matter. Again, all of this had been going on in the early church, you know, grace and bounty being poured out on them, and then all of a sudden, they come to the apostles and then they're dropping dead because of their sin. What am I saying with this point here? I am saying that beloved, all of us, from the moment we left our garage to the point that you drove to this parking lot, you've experienced nothing but the mercy of God. We are not perfect in our righteousness, and we have all experienced the mercy of God. The discipline of God can be severe, but it is the discipline of God that we need to be careful of.

Randle Bishop: [00:33:49] Another Psalm, I love the Psalms. You are like, man, why did y'all bring him here? He's supposed to be preaching Acts, and he's in the Psalms. Just bear with me. Psalm 76 says this, that when God is aroused, it says in verse 6, "At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned." So God, at his rebuke, is able to take care of a whole army, and then if he were to turn his holy gaze upon one person, can you imagine? Verse 7 says, "But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?". That is the pause that Ananias and Sapphira should have considered. That is the pause that we are to consider, if we are to be about holiness over everything, then we need to consider who we are reckoning with, that this is testing the Spirit of the Lord, that the one in whom is no darkness at all. Now, if you were to consider our hearts, I mean, yes, you're going to find darkness in me, you're going to find darkness in yourself. But the Bible is clear, and God is true, that in Him there is no darkness at all, He is holy, and he draws us into that holiness, He draws us into it, beloved. And this is for our good, it is for our good.

Randle Bishop: [00:35:36] Another verse highlights this kind of discipline for us, who are God's children. I love this verse, and it's from Hebrews chapter 12, some of you know it well, some of you who are parents know it well. And it says this about God's discipline toward us, he talks about how our earthly parents disciplined us for a short time, and then it goes on and says, "It seemed best to them to do it in a particular way, but he, God, disciplines us for our good." Here's the end of the verse, "That we may share His Holiness." That's good, beloved, that's good because we couldn't work our way there, we would continue in our Ananias and Sapphira like sins until our destruction. But praise be to God, that he calls us into himself so that we can share his Holiness unto his glory, and that's good news.

Randle Bishop: [00:36:53] So now as we sit here, we consider Jesus Christ who came and wrapped himself in flesh, lived the life, sinless. Went to the cross, innocent. Bore our guilty burdens, all of them. And said, all that is needed is your repentance and faith, turning from sin to Christ, and receiving his good gift of eternal life. Perhaps this is ringing true with somebody right now and you're like, man, let me in on his holiness, grab a brother or a sister that is sitting next to you. We love to share. We love to share. Or perhaps you have more questions, and that's fine, too, and we will engage you in that way, we'd love to have a conversation about our God who calls us into holiness, who calls you into holiness?

Randle Bishop: [00:37:59] We look at Ananias and Sapphira and we learn a great lesson, we learn that God is holy, that we are called into this holiness. We learn that God does not play with sin. And beloved, God's purpose and end, is that we would experience holiness over everything. Holiness over everything, may you carry that refrain in your heart throughout the rest of this week as it begins.

Randle Bishop: [00:38:32] Let's pray together. Our Father, Oh, Lord, we need you right now, to settle your truth in our hearts, sanctify us in your truth, your word is truth. That the story of Ananias and Sapphira, it's not a myth, it's not a fairy tale, they actually died because they sinned. Oh, Lord, would you guard our hearts this week? Help us to double down in calling out to you for grace because we know that in you there is forgiveness, but apart from you, we can do nothing. So, Lord, give us the people in our lives that we can confess to. And give us, Lord, hearts that turn to you at the moment we are tempted, and we cry out, God, we want to share in your holiness, Lord, deliver us. Father, would you do that in 121 Church, to the glory of your name? And all God's people said, Amen.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051