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Devotional by Ray Stedman for May 14-The Prince of Pretense

Topic:The Prince of Pretense

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.
Acts 5:10-11

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Why did this occur? Why was the Holy Spirit so severe? Is this what he always does with his church? Someone says, Thank God this doesn’t happen any more; if it did, we’d have to put a morgue into every church. This is a picture of what happens in a life when pretense is indulged in. The moment you or I pretend to be something that we really are not, the second I assume before you a stance of spiritual impeccability which I do not possess, that moment death enters in. I am immediately cut off from the flow of the life of Christ. It does not mean I am no longer a Christian, but it means that the life of the body is no longer flowing through me. Instead of being part of a living, vital movement, I become a dead and unresponsive cell in that body.

That is what is wrong with the church today. It is the tragic sickness of the church in any age — pretense, sham, hypocrisy — to pretend to be something we are not. The most astonishing thing about this is that it is unconscious hypocrisy, for the most part. I seldom meet deliberate hypocrites. I am guilty of it frequently, and so are you — thus being an unconscious hypocrite. We think it is somehow religious, or Christian, not to show what we really are.

That is what this story of Ananias and Sapphira underscores for us. The minute they pretended to be something they were not — death! When we come to church we put on a mask of adequacy, but inside we are inadequate, and we know it. We are struggling with problems in our homes, but we don’t want to tell anyone about them. We can’t get along with our children, but we’ll never admit it to anyone. The pride that doesn’t want anyone else to know what is going on between husbands and wives, and between parents and children, keeps us from sharing. We come to church and put on a mask that says everything’s fine! Everything’s wonderful! Somebody asks us how are things going. Great, great! Fine! How’s everything at home? Oh, wonderful! We’re having a wonderful time! The minute we say that and its not true, we die. Death sets in. Soon that death pervades the whole church. That is why dishonesty is the primary characteristic of the church today.

How do we deal with this problem within ourselves? In Scripture the way to cure a spiritual disease is always the same: Repent and believe. Repent means to acknowledge that you have been doing it wrong. It means to face the fact that it has not been right. Then believe means to understand that God has already given you, in Jesus Christ, all that it takes to do what you should. Then start doing it! Start opening up and sharing your burdens. You will start in a rather small way, perhaps, and it will be difficult at first. But it is the sharing of lives that makes power and grace to flow through the body.

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Father, Forgive me for my own pretense, and teach me to open up with my brothers and sisters in Christ so that when people look at us they might say, My, how these Christians love one another.

Life Application
Am I personally contributing to the serious issue of hypocrisy? What steps must I take to address this threat to the very life of Christ in me and through me?

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