Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Self Deception of the Fallen Nature and Lying to the Holy Spirit

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Self Deception of the Fallen Nature and Lying to the Holy Spirit

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:1-11).

How easily we slip into the façade of pretense for purposes of self-promotion. How quickly we enable ourselves to justify deception for self-aggrandizing. How often we use pseudo-spirituality to exalt ourselves in the eyes of others for the purposes of stealing glory. This mentality promotes a secret sin life and an idolatrous promotion of self worship and glory seeking. However, the lies we manufacture in the hidden darkness of the corruption of our own fallen natures to deceive others cannot deceive God. There are no sinful actions, thoughts, emotions, or motives to which He is not aware. The wise Christian will also maintain his awareness of God’s awareness and be constantly guarding his motives and his thought life before God.

Perhaps there is no greater manifestation of pretense Christianity and its accompanying manifestation of unbelief than to somehow, in any way, think we can pull a fast one and deceive God. Pretense Christianity always is accompanied with a secret sin-life. Why would anyone live in this kind of pretense before others while having a secret sin-life that walks in pursuit of the fulfillment of the lusts of their flesh? This is carnality at its highest level of existence! Paul deals with this in his second epistle to the Corinthian church after they had dealt with the externals of their carnality. In his second epistle, Paul deals with the internal issues of carnality. The carnal man wants to think of himself more “highly than he ought” (Rom. 12:3) and he wants others to hold the same, false high opinion. In that motivation, the carnal man is willing to manufacture his own spirituality, but manufactured spirituality will always be empty of any real spiritual fruit.

1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: 2 But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. 7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance” (II Corinthians 10:1-7)?

The concluding question of II Corinthians 10:7 is critical to our evaluation of the reality of our own filling of the Spirit and our own spirituality. “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?That is how carnal people measure their own spirituality. Of course, the externals can all look great and a person can be doing all the religious stuff that mere religion without relationship asks of us and that person can still be as carnal as carnal can be. The only way anyone would ever know that such a person has merely manufactured spirituality is when their secret sin life is exposed in some way. The expose of the secret sin life in merely a manifestation of this deep seated carnality and the façade of religiosity. However, merely dealing with the symptoms of an externalistic, manufactured religiosity, without dealing with the façade of pretense that lies at the heart of the lie, will just create a continuum of externalism and reinforce the pretense with more pretense.

Paul’s admonition to the carnal believers at Corinth is a basic rebuke. It is GET REAL! Why did they need the rebuke? They needed the rebuke because they were measuring spirituality by “the outward appearance.” Christ challenges the façade of the religious externalism in the religious leaders of the Jews by telling them to stop looking at how beautiful the tree is and start looking at the fruit the tree produces.

15 Beware of false prophets {pseudoprophetes; a pretending prophet or religious imposter}, which come to you in sheep’s clothing {outward appearance of genuineness}, but inwardly they are ravening wolves {pursuing the selfish satisfaction of their own appetites}. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns {do you gather grapes from a thorn bush}, or figs of thistles {do you gather figs from a thistle bush}? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Notice the unity of the Spirit that existed in the local church at Jerusalem into which Satan introduces this defiling selfishness of glory seeking in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira his wife. If this defiling corruption would have been left unexposed, it would have defiled the whole church and the miraculous work of the ministry of the Holy Spirit through their lives and the spiritual revival, along with the fruit produced through this revival, would have immediately ceased.

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).

Notice in Acts 5:3-4 where this self-deception of Ananias and Sapphira originated. It was a purely selfish acts of self-aggrandizing motivation that originated by the suggestion of the king of selfishness; Satan himself. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” Although Satan sowed the seed of selfishness in their hearts, conception and birth of sin did not happen until they consented and allowed the seed of selfishness to join with their own carnal lust. We cannot correct serious heart issues by merely changing eternal circumstances. We MUST deal with the corrupting issues of the heart!

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down {is coming down} from the Father of lights {illumination}, with whom is no variableness {God is constant}, neither shadow of turning (not even a shade of variation in His character and attributes}. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:13-18).

Another sad aspect of the story of Ananias and Sapphira is that they enabled each other to conspire to deceive. Instead of one of them say to the other, “this is not right,” they consented together to raise the opinions about themselves in the minds of others through deception in order to get themselves spiritual status. God addresses this kind of thinking in Proverbs 4:14-27 and refers to it as entering “into the path of the wicked.” What is the subtle form of self-deception? It is the desire to get something of value, such as a good testimony or a good reputation, without really doing what is necessary to deserve what will be given to you. They saw the praise, admiration, and gratefulness given to many others for their sacrificial giving as recorded in Acts 4:32-37 and decided they would get some of that for themselves and conceived a plan of deception whereby they could get it all at a discount price. There is no such thing in the eyes of God as discount spirituality. It will always cost more than we can afford.

The issues of the heart refers to what issues, or flows, from the heart. The heart refers to the seat of the human will or the spirit of man. The human will is corrupt, deceitful, defiled, and wicked. That is what will come from our lives if we do not guard the heart against its own corruption and the outcomes of that corruption.

14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. 16 For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. 18 But the path {the direction and purpose of life existence as a testimony to the Truth} of the just {the justified or saved} is as the shining light, that shineth more and more {as the sunrise fills the morning with increasing light} unto the perfect day. 19 The way {the direction and purpose of life existence} of the wicked is as darkness {as the sunset that begins to fill the night with increasing darkness due to the absence of light}: they know not at what they stumble. 20 My son, attend {prick up your ears; listen up} to my words; incline {lean towards} thine ear unto my sayings. 21 Let them {God’s Words} not depart from thine eyes; keep them {God’s Words} in the midst of thine heart. 22 For they {God’s Words} are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. 23 Keep {guard or protect} thy heart {against outward temptations and against attack by inward corruption} with all diligence; for out of it {the heart or inward man} are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth {distortion of God’s Word}, and perverse lips {language of departure from God’s Word} put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes {of inward desires that lead you in outward pursuits} look right on {straight ahead with the same unchanging consistency manifested of God in God’s Word} , and let thine eyelids {every time you open your eyes to see anything} look straight before thee. 26 Ponder {prepare or roll out flat} the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways {chosen pathways of life} be established {fixed or anchored; i.e., to the Words of God}. 27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:14-27).

As we can see from Acts chapter 5 in God’s response to Ananias’ and Sapphira’s attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit by trying to deceive the local church about their spirituality, God will not tolerate this kind of sin in the church. Perhaps the reason why God acts so promptly and severely upon this secret, covert attempt at spiritual deception is the consequences of such deception upon His blessing upon the whole of work of the ministry in the filling and overflow of the Spirit. The sin had to be dealt with, just like the sin of Achan in Joshua chapter 7, before God’s overflowing presence could go before them in the many, many spiritual battles that lay before them. God cannot, and will not, bless pretense. Christ spoke to the hypocrisy of externalism over and over again as recorded in the Gospels (especially in Matthew chapter 23).

What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? Yes, the sin conceived in their hearts came forth, or was born, as a lie to the Holy Spirit and to the local church, but the sin itself was the sin of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is manufactured spirituality. True spirituality is a supernatural act of ongoing creation that progressively transfigures the outward life of a believer by the inward “renewing” of the mind (Rom. 12:2). It is like the little child that dresses up in daddy’s or mommy’s cloth and shoes and pretends to be daddy or mommy. That is pretending. However living in the pretense of hypocrisy is the deception of trying to actually present yourself as the person you are pretending to be for personal gain. That was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.

The sin of pretentious hypocrisy is a sin each of us needs to confront in our lives. Although God may not kill us on the spot for such wickedness today, we need to understand that the outcome, or fruit, of such hypocrisy is always death. Living fruit cannot be born from the womb of dead hypocrisy.

11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain {selfishness}, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward {selfishness}, and perished in the gainsaying of Core {selfishness}. 12 These are {defiling} spots in your feasts of charity {the Lord’s Supper}, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:11-13).

The vanity of hypocrisy is always trying to make God into our own image in order to transfer worship that belongs only to God to ourselves. That is a wickedness that encompasses the very essence of the sin of selfishness itself in that it seeks to establish a false image of God with our name on it. Oh, what covert wickedness! Perhaps the greater trespass is justifying such an abominable act. Herein we see the moral depravation of the fallen nature of humankind in trying to get a discount good testimony before men through deception while not considering that the only testimony that really matters is our testimony before an omniscient God, manifesting that we really do not believe in Him.

10 He that is faithful in that which is least {Mammon} is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches {spiritual responsibilities regarding unlimited spiritual resources}? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15 And he {Jesus} said unto them {the self-righteous Pharisees}, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men {for the hypocrisy of self-righteousness} is abomination {as idolatry is detested by God} in the sight of God” (Luke 16:10-15).

We can be quite sure that Ananias and Sapphira enabled one another in this deception by justifying themselves to one another. We can almost hear their conversation; “After all, who is it going to hurt? No one will ever know. It is not a big deal. We are giving a lot, no one needs to know how much we got for the property. What others think is their problem, not ours.” Oh, the subtlety of self-deception.

Those who pursue a genuine testimony understand that it will be expensive and in ways they will not be able to anticipate. King David understood this, especially after he had destroyed his testimony before God, his family, and the nation of Israel. We find king David individual in Psalm 19 communicating truths that reveal to us why it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. It was not in pursuit of god’s love for him. He already had that. David wanted his heart to be genuinely like God’s heart, because David genuinely loved the Lord and genuinely regretted his own human failures and frailties. David was primarily concerned about his testimony in God’s eyes.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. 12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. 13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:7-14).

Seldom is there a household where degrees of worldliness are tolerated where the husband and wife are not also complicit in the sin of tempting God similar to that of Ananias and Sapphira. They just never consider that God would care about something they deem to be a small thing or a little lie. Christian households all around the world are guilty of the same sin that Ananias and Sapphira committed. They have one life they live before the church and another secret life, that they somehow have convinced themselves, that no one will ever know about. What does this self-deception reveal about these people and what are they cultivating in the lives of their children who live with them in their secret sin? The answer is they are cultivating UNBELIEF and husbands and wives are being complicit in this wickedness!

Granted, God’s response to the sin of Ananias and Sapphira is one of those instances of something that was transitional in nature in the early beginnings of the Church Age. If it were not a temporal response to the duplicity that is so apparent in the lives of so many who profess Christ as Savior and Lord, we would not see the foolishness of the pragmatism of the carnival nature of the Emerging Church movement advance in its deception of people in these last days.

What we would see if God’s immediate judgment fell upon hypocrisy, as it did upon Ananias and Sapphira, is that most people who profess Christ as Lord would start getting real serious about the reality of their spiritual relationship with the Lord. In God’s immediate judgment upon the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, we simply see God’s attitude towards this kind of thinking and self-deception.

This kind of thinking and self-deception is impregnated with the curse of death upon any potential for glory to God and a hopelessness towards the production of any real spiritual fruit. However, if you are living this kind of life and are still breathing air, do not fool yourself into think that God does not care and that you got by with it. You did not get by with it. This is the reason your life is fruitless. Remember, the Judgment Seat still lies before you in your near future.

1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation {exhibition or living expression} of the truth commending {standing beside as a living testimony} ourselves to every man’s conscience {moral consciousness of what is morally right and morally wrong} in the sight of {lit.; before the face of} God” (II Corinthians 4:1-2).

This was where Ananias and Sapphira failed and where many Christians continue to fail daily. We live our little secrets as if God is imaginary. Real faith always lives in the light of understanding that our lives are lived before the face of God. He knows! He sees! You will not get by with sin. God hates double mindedness. When people put the word little before any sin, they have just said there is some degree of corruption that God will tolerate. In doing so, they have just created a false god!

Anonymous comments will not be allowed.
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at:

Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

No comments: