Tuesday, January 30, 2018
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Somewhere back in the deep storage of your brain file, you probably remember him from World History class: the emperor Charlemagne. Actually, Charlemagne was the most powerful European ruler of the Middle Ages, leading a people he called the Franks to rule most of Europe. Under his rule, many people got baptized into the Church. It was pretty much expected of his soldiers, for example. In fact, they would go down to the river en masse and take the plunge. But one source reports that there was one thing that was a bit unusual about the baptism of those soldiers. When they would go under the water, they would hold one hand out of the water with their sword in that hand. They didn't want that hand baptized. That was the one they wanted to be free to use to kill whoever they needed to kill.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Unbaptized Hand."
You know, a lot of people still enter the Christian life with, well shall we say, one hand held out of the water. "Lord, here I am except for my ___________," yeah, you fill in the blank with what matters most to you.
This "withholding approach" to Christian commitment has a long history. It goes back at least as far as our incident in our word for today from the Word of God, beginning in Acts 5:1. "A man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property." This was at a time when many of the believers were selling their property and giving the proceeds to the work of the Lord. Ananias didn't want to be left out of this spiritual momentum.
It says, "With his wife's full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostle's feet." This kind of faith has been replicated many times over the years - talking and acting like you're totally committed, but actually withholding what you want for yourself. Not a good idea.
God's Word continues, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land?... You have not lied to men, but to God.' When he heard this, he fell down and died. Great fear seized all who heard what had happened." Later, Ananias' wife, Sapphira, met the same fate. And every believer was sobered by how seriously God takes it when you act committed but withhold for yourself. Every believer should still be sobered by it.
Figuratively, when Ananias and Sapphira waded into the Jesus-stream, they held one hand above the water. In that hand was a portion of their property money, which they were holding onto for themselves, and God did not put up with it.
Thank God we don't see the "Ananias instant judgment" take place very often today - but we do see the Ananias sin of withholding and pretending. And while we may not drop dead on the spot, God will judge that hand above the water and what we're clutching in it. Maybe your unbaptized hand is holding your checkbook; you're not going to give as God wants you to give. Or there's an important relationship in that hand, or your career, maybe your job, your house, your children, your business practices. Or maybe you've kept your eyes unbaptized so you can watch and look at what you want to. Or your ears, so you can listen to what you want to listen to. Or even your mouth, so you can talk as you want to talk.
God sees that hand above the water and what - or who - it is clutching so tightly. And He calls it an idol, something you love more than Jesus--another God. This incomplete surrender, this withholding of what you love, is costing you the indescribable joy and freedom and power of one who has surrendered it all, even the last holdout, to Jesus. Such awesome power from God flows into your life when you finally bring that unbaptized part of you under the waters of total surrender.