When external persecution didn’t stop the church’s growth (Acts 4:4) Satan tried attacking from within. He wanted to contaminate the spiritual life of the church members, as seen in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). God revealed to Peter that Satan had filled their heart so that they lied to the Holy Spirit by not being honest about the amount of money for which they sold their land (Acts 5:3).
The sin was not in keeping some of the money for themselves, that would have been fine. The sin was lying and saying they gave all the money to the church in order to impress their fellow believers. They did this despite the Holy Spirit convicting them that such a statement was wrong. To set an example of the importance of holiness, God took the lives of these two carnal believers (Acts 5:3-11). They still went to heaven, but lost opportunity to serve and grow in this life. Again, God took the work of Satan and used it instead for His own glory. The Christians were taught vividly of the importance of holiness, and as a consequence, unbelievers were attracted to Jesus (Acts 5:42 – 6:1).
LESSON FOR TODAY: Our pride often keeps us from sharing with others the areas in life where we are struggling. As a result they stay hidden in the dark and we don’t have encouragement and support. If Ananias or Sapphira would have shared their struggle with greed with someone it would have brought the work of the enemy against them into the light and weakened it. Prayer support and accountability would also have occurred. We play into the enemies’ hands when we allow our pride to keep us from sharing our struggles with others.
LESSON FOR TODAY: Satan still uses this strategy today. He causes more damage to the church from within than he does through attacks from without. Christians hurting other Christians, churches hurting Christians, Christians hurting churches – this is a very common and successful approach of Satan even today. It can be more dangerous because when we are attacked from without we recognize the hand of the enemy and pull together in unity. When it is from within, though, we often fail to recognize it for the attack that it is. Instead of joining together against it we allow divisions to come among God’s people. And again it is our pride that feeds this, wanting to be first and be right. It is our pride that keeps us from humbling ourselves and confessing our sins to God and others (when the sins have hurt others). Keeping our sin in the darkness allows it to grow, bringing it into the light exposes it and weakens it.
LESSON FOR TODAY: “Satan filled your heart” (Acts 5:3) is Peter’s appraisal of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. “Fill” (Greek ‘pieroo’) means “to fill to the full” and is the same word used for the filling of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. There is no way of knowing to what extent they were demonized or exactly what Satan did. Surely he helped them go in the direction they themselves chose and gave them opportunity to believe his lies so as to deceive themselves as to what they were really doing. He may have fed their greed or even encouraged fearful thoughts of not having enough money. He did this to counter the conviction of sin in them by the Holy Spirit. We do know they always had a free will to resist and are totally responsible for their thoughts and actions. We don’t know today, either, where human responsibility ends and demonic influence takes over, but we know both are often present. Whatever the balance, the cause, symptoms, results and cure are the same. Don’t waste time trying to figure out details about what demons do and how they do it. Focus on the solution, not the problem! And the solution starts with the person who is demonized admitting and confessing the sin in his life that has allowed the demons to work. They don’t cause a sin, they enhance a sin that is already there, so it must be removed and stopped so the demons stop as well. As it has been said, if you want to keep the rats away, get rid of the garbage!
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)