But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart
to lie to the Holy Spirit ... Why is it that you have conceived
this act [of hypocrisy and deceit] in your heart?
Most likely, you are familiar with the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, in the Book of Acts. This post will complete my discourse on how important the state of our heart is in our salvation journey. I hope to show you how our thoughts can be infected by the Enemy, pass through the filter (or gateway) of our hearts, and ultimately affect our spirits. (If you have not read the previous post, I think it will help you to see the Biblical support of this hypothesis). And I want you to notice how many times the topic of "our heart" is mentioned in this concept and in Scripture.
First, let's take a look at the backdrop of the story ... We have millions of Jews in Jerusalem. They originally arrived in celebration of the Spring Feasts; and the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth had taken place during these Feasts of the Lord. So, there would have been some buzz going on among the multitudes about the rumors that this resurrected Jesus had been seen by 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6). Then came the Feast of Pentecost, on which the nation of Israel, for over 1300 years, had celebrated the giving of the Law (Torah) to Moses. On that very day, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to write His Law (commandments) on the tablets of our heart.
This was the event for which Jesus had told the Apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait ... He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” He said, “you have heard Me speak. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized and empowered and united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now" (Acts 1:4-5). So you can imagine the uproar and enthusiasm among the crowds when those tongues of fire came down upon the Apostles. And how I wish I could have heard the supernatural sermon that Peter preached; one in which the Amplified version of the Bible says "cut to the heart" of those who heard it. Peter shared that the promise of the Holy Spirit was extended to them, too, if they would repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. "You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" was a powerful incentive to answer this invitation.
Of course the ruling class of the Jews were confounded by this event and by the response of the people. Here, they thought they were done with the rabble-rouser Jesus, and then His disciples not only begin healing in His Name, but they are stirring up the people again ... will the influence of this man, Jesus, never end? After being arrested, questioned about the miracle of healing the man who had been lame for 40 years, and then released, the new followers of the teachings of Jesus were once again moved by Peter, and thanked God in a powerful prayer that resulted in them being of one heart and soul, and full of boldness and courage for their new faith.
They were so moved by the presence of God through the Holy Spirit, that they were willing to help support those Jews who were "staying over" after Pentecost in order to hear and learn more about the Gospel Message. So the Bible tells us that people began selling land and property as the needs of the people were identified. One such man, Barnabas, received particular accolades, as he laid the proceeds from the sale of his land at the apostles feet -- a humble and generous act.
Now, the very next thing the Bible tells us happens at the beginning of Chapter 5. We read that a man named Ananias, and his wife, Sapphira, sell a piece of their property, but rather than giving the full proceeds, they decide to hold back a little for themselves --- and we need to understand that there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that with his wife’s full knowledge and complicity he lied about keeping back some of the money. Clearly, both husband and wife were partners in the deception. They both wanted the image of great generosity (like Barnabas), without actually being remarkably generous.
But Peter confronts Ananias about his lie. Once again, God apparently gave Peter supernatural knowledge of what Ananias had done, through the spiritual gift called the word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). Peter asks, Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? Peter did not accuse Ananias of lying to the church or to the apostles, but to the Holy Spirit Himself. Peter then asks Ananias, Why have YOU conceived this thing in your heart? Peter acknowledged that Satan had filled the heart of Ananias, yet Peter still needed to ask why Ananias, himself, had conceived this thing in his heart.
Various versions of the Bible have Peter asking why Ananias "contrived" or "planned" this thing in his heart. Are you beginning to see the importance that our heart plays in deciding who we will follow in this world? Satan can influence the life of a believer, even a spirit-filled believer like Ananais, but he can’t do your sinning for you. He can plant the thought in your mind (which is a powerful component of your soul, which remember is made up of your mind, emotions, and will). If your spirit is home to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, then the condition of your heart determines whether you listen to your mind or your spirit. Ananias had a decision to make and his heart ruled in favor of his mind, rather than the spirit within him. And the consequences were dire -- He dropped dead in an instant!
Remember that the parable of the Sower is about the condition of the ground in which the seed is sown. The ground represents our hearts, and the seed is the Word of God. Satan tries to mix rocks and thorns among the good soil, to stifle the growth of the seed. That's exactly what he did in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias had been saved after Peter’s supernatural preaching and the Word had been sown in his heart, but Peter correctly pronounces that Satan filled Ananias’s heart with Pride, and Ananias did not root that out and, instead, embraced the Pride and decided to lie (of his own free will; another part of his soul) – not only publicly to the apostles and the people, but more importantly to the Holy Spirit within him, who knew the Truth.
So here you have the complete picture ... THE SOUL -- the mind which can become corrupted by the lies of Satan (You, Ananias, can receive the same praise as Barnabas, just don't admit to keeping back part of it for yourself), along with our emotions (I want to feel the glow of praise from the Apostles) and our free will (I can keep part of the profit and reap the honors) -- coming into conflict with THE SPIRIT (which if you are Saved, is full of truth and grace). This conflict takes place in the heart, where both the soul and spirit battle for our allegiance.
That is why it is so imperative that we recognize what it means to "take Scripture to heart". I think 2 Corinthians 10:5 explains it best: We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. The arguments and lofty opinions are Satan's lies that come into our minds as thoughts and reasons why we shouldn't listen to the Spirit's voice, which ministers to us and gives us "the knowledge of God". And can you see how important it is to keep your heart clean and pure; cleansed of any pride or doubt and unbelief? If the heart is the filter between our flesh (the soul) and our God-filled spirits, then I want to stack the deck in favor of the Holy Spirit. If my heart is the seat of determination for who I will follow, then I need to guard it and protect it from everything other than God.
After all, isn't God seeking men and women after His own heart? He wants our hearts to be like HIS! Sadly, I am far from that saintly goal. But, hopefully, this little study has been able to help you pay more attention to the state of your own heart. I now see how important it is to God, and how easily the Enemy can infiltrate my thoughts and emotions, causing me to poison my heart and drown out the Spirit. We all need to pay attention to the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira, which clearly shows us what can happen when our hearts become deceitful.