Deception in Self-determination…
May 3rd, 2019
Fleetwood Mac released a song in 1976 titled “Go your own way.” The song was the band’s first top ten hit. Rolling Stone magazine regarded it as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. They went on to create a stream of other popular songs but this one seemed to brand itself to an entire generation. It became an anthem for many.
Self-determination has been embraced as a positive attribute of human behavior. “Be your own man”, “Be true to yourself”, “Doing it my way”; all were manifestations of this attitude in our language and in our music. In a time when everything was becoming digitized and accounted for by computers and technology, the desire to stand out and be recognized as unique and individual propelled the concept of self-determination to the forefront of human endeavor.
But self-determination is a lie in its purest form. No one is totally independent. Each of us is bound to something regardless of the choices we make. Those choices result in our binding.
The Apostle Paul saw this and wrote that we either are a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness…
What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Absolutely not! Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey — either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
Romans 6:15-18 (CSB)
Salvation as provided by the grace of Jesus, it frees us from the bindings of sin, but along with this freedom, we must choose which master, we will serve. Jesus would that we would choose righteousness, for that was the reason for him lowering himself to become one of us, so we might become ‘right’ with God.
We can’t approach God with sin. It is for that reason that Jesus came to become our sin sacrifice and covering us with his grace. We make a choice to repent from our sin and place our trust in this saving grace Christ Jesus provides for us through his sacrifice.
But does that grace resolve the issue of mastery? Paul when speaking to the Romans poses an interesting question. “What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” He then answers his own questions with a resounding declaration of, “Absolutely not!”
It is from this point that Paul underscores the fallacy of self-determination. You can’t have it both ways, either you are bound to Christ and his righteousness, or you are bound to self and sin.
The former leads to life and truth, but sin leads to death and darkness. There isn’t a happy medium here. We don’t get the opportunity to split the difference. Grace isn’t provisioned for us so we can willfully mitigate our condition.
Grace is provided to us so we might have a relationship with God.
There was a couple in the church outlined in the book of Acts, who tried to split the difference between righteousness and self. It was a period in church history when disciples of Jesus wanted so much to dedicate themselves to the Word and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus that they abandoned all they had, lived, worked and shared everything with each other.
Some people want to point to this early church and propose that it is God’s example of socialism. But the motivation of socialism is the supposed gratification of self; paid education, free food, health care, etc. In every implementation by man to establish this social leveling of ‘one for all and all for one’ the flaw of sin frustrates the objective and results in diminishing the human condition.
This example in the early church, was establishing a framework not to elevate self, but to raise the human condition to seek righteousness. A framework by which they could devote more time to prayer, the study of the Word, and spreading the Gospel; far from the tenets of socialism.
Ananias and Sapphira were part of that early church body. This couple saw what was going on and wanted to be a part of it. So, the scripture says they sold a ‘piece’ of property. If you are familiar with this account and haven’t considered what is written about these two, you should think about what the very first verse in chapter five of Acts suggests.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.
Acts 5:1 (CSB)
The problem apparently started right here. They sold “a piece of property”, apparently intending to appear like the rest of the church body, who was devoting everything to the effort of the church to pray, study, and spread the Gospel of Jesus.
Ananias and Sapphira sold “a piece of property”, which leads me to wonder if they had additional parcels they had opted not to sell. That was their prerogative of course if that was the case.
But the pretext was to follow in accord with what was going on in the church where everyone was selling everything and then giving that to the church so that they all could then live and work together so as to devote themselves to the ministry of the church.
The deception continues in the second verse because instead of giving all the proceeds from the sale to the church they held back a part for themselves. There is that self-thing coming into play again!
Peter immediately saw what was going on when Ananias presented the ‘cut’ he and his wife were giving to the church and responded with…
“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.”
Acts 5:3-4 (CSB)
The land was theirs to keep; it was theirs to sell. The proceeds from the sale where theirs as well. The problem was that they were setting up a ruse before the church and affectively attempting to lie to the Holy Spirit.
Deception born out of self-directed motivation was doing its work in these two.
Immediately Ananias dropped dead before Peter. The young men, the scripture says, got up and carried Ananias’ body out and buried him. About three hours later in walks Sapphira, after a leisurely afternoon of shopping, likely with the windfall of their deception.
Peter confronted Sapphira…
“Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the land for this price?”
“Yes,” she said, “for that price.”
Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
Acts 5:8-9 (CSB)
With that, she also fell dead at Peter’s feet.
The bottom line in all of this is to point out we have limited choices. We have a choice, but that choice either brings us closer to God and a fellowship with him, or it separates us from God, there is no middle ground or ‘happy medium’.
There is the self-motivated, deception of sin, or seeking the righteousness of Christ Jesus and life. Every one of us are “Followers All”.
In the Grace of Jesus!