Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the proceeds from the land? (Acts 5:3)
The event in the verses of Act 5, is the historical narrative of a family in the early church. The couple had a parcel of land which they sold with the intention of giving the proceeds to the Church. Unfortunately, they thought they could eat their cake and have it also. They kept a part for themselves and brought a part to the church.
Giving part to the church was not the issue there but the motive in the heart. The land belongs to them and they have full control over it. Once they decided to contend with the Holy Spirit out of selfish motive, it became a sin to them. Thus any degree of self-indulgence that is inconsistent with life, and health, and piety, contend with the Holy Spirit. Some make a god of their belly, and it is astonishing and lamentable to see to what an extent the flesh is indulged to the ruin of the soul. Ananias and his wife made themselves slaves to appetite, they were not able to mortify the flesh, or to exercise that dominion over their appetites, lusts, and passions.
Just in like manner, Some men use tobacco and complain that the habit is so fixed and overpowering that they cannot abstain from its use. Others use alcohol in some of its forms, and others still indulge in the use of tea and coffee and fashionable narcotics, to the permanent injury of their health, and still persuade themselves that these things are essential to their health. And if they feel languid, and debilitated, and experience a temporary diminution of appetite when they have attempted to abstain from them, they imagine that they cannot do without them.
It is very common to see persons racking their ingenuity to find excuses for their sins. Some are pleading inability to do any better than they do. Others plead their peculiar circumstances, and others still their dependence on the Spirit of God. In short, there is scarcely any plea to which a proud heart can resort to evade the force of truth, which is not resorted to by many, to appease their consciences, and get away from breaking down their hearts before the Lord.
Now it should be understood and remembered forever that a spirit that apologizes for sin is not only one of the most odious forms of iniquity in the sight of God, but is the most hardening and self-destroying process that can be pursued. And in just as far as you resort to any excuses and apologies for your sins you confirm yourselves in those sins. Saphira was given another chance to confess her sin to receive mercy but rather she preferred to cover it. The result was her destruction without remedy.
God requires you now to humble yourself before him. And every attitude you take that defers obedience to a future time, is direct disobedience and most provoking to God. It is truly wonderful to see to what extent this spirit is cherished. Many pretend to be waiting God’s time, as if he, notwithstanding all his requirements, was not really ready to have them do their duty.
One of the greatest delusions under which men labor, is that at some future time it will be more convenient for them to attend to the claims of God, than at the present. Could you visit hell today, and inquire among all the groaning millions of its inhabitants, how they came there, the answer in almost every case would be; procrastination ruined my soul. I never intended to die in my sins; but on the contrary always intended, at a future but not far distant time, to repent. Millions will tell you that they had purposed from time to time to attend to the salvation of their souls, but had continued to defer it until death plunged his arrow into their hearts and they went to hell.