Too many times we are consumed with perception. Don’t get me wrong. The way people perceive us is important. After all, as Christ followers we are the ambassadors of Christ and His representatives to a lost and sin sick world. Therefore, it is important to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (see Matthew 5:14-16).
However, there is a difference between letting our light shine through our good works and putting on a show. If we are really surrendered to Christ and are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) there will be a natural overflow of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). When we walk by faith and in humility, surrendered to God’s Word, then what God is doing in us will be reflected through us!
We need to keep in mind that even in the Christian the flesh is still driven to perform. The flesh produces jealously (Galatians 5:17-20) and pride. As a matter of fact Paul asks the Galatians in chapter three “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). Sometimes we are erroneously convinced that God’s power saves us by grace through faith, but somehow we then are to live the victorious Christian life through our flesh and “trying harder.” Our flesh may be jealous of the Spirit’s power and capability and the great deceiver plays upon that weakness, encouraging us to live the Christian life in our own power. After all we’ve got to keep up the perception that we are good Christians.
This is exactly what we see happening in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were very interested in being perceived as dedicated, sacrificial Christ followers. They obviously had close ties to the church because they were aware that others were selling their possessions and giving to the church and others in need (see Acts 4:34-37). They decided to come up with a scheme to be perceived as a part of this generous group. They decided they would sell a portion of their property, bring a portion of it to the church and secretly keep a portion for themselves. They did not have to sell their land (Acts 5:4a). The problem was not they kept a portion for themselves (Acts 5:4b). The problem was they wanted to be perceived as a Christ follower who had given it all even though they had not!
Christians still have a battle with the flesh. We no longer have to be controlled by the flesh and we can reckon our flesh to be dead through the power of Christ, but if we are not extremely careful it will raise its ugly head time and time again to trip us up. It will even lead us to do the right thing for the wrong reason or seek to get us to try to do the right thing in our own power and energy. The enemy knows this leads to failure and frustration and may eventually lead us down a road of such despondent failure that we just walk out on the possibility of living in victory at all.
Yes, we should want to be perceived as people who bring God the glory. However, we all need to understand how God is brought the glory! He is not brought the glory by anything we can accomplish in the power and the energy of the flesh. Our righteousness adds up to nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We bring God the glory when we let His supernatural power work in and through us to do things that point others to how awesome He is!
Jesus went on to remind His followers in John 15:5 that the key to producing fruit was not in “trying harder” or “doing better” but rather was simply found in abiding in Him. If we want to give the perception that we are Christ followers, then through His grace and power of the Holy Spirit we must simply follow Him. If we want to produce fruit, then we must simply through His grace rest in and abide in Him and His power. If we want to be perceived as Spirit-filled people then we must through His grace walk in His Spirit step by step.
Your flesh will always be there to try to trip you up. It will always seek to get you to live the Christian life in your own strength. It will lead you to depend upon the arm of the flesh, but the arm of the flesh will always fail!
I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit would have led Ananias and Sapphira to do had they been following His leadership. But whatever it was, it would have been something that glorified God, not Ananias and Sapphira! It would have been something that said, “Look at what GOD is doing in and through their life,” rather than, “Look at what they are doing for God.”
Yes, perception is important. But the right perception can only be produced through following and being surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit working within.