Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Satan's Influence

We are in the segment of our Study of the Bible that deals with Satan's control, or his right to control some believers. We are looking at bits and pieces of this vast body of Biblical information. We will take those bits and pieces, and draw a generalized picture of the subject by the close of this segment. We could have directed our attention towards many passages of Scripture as launching pads for this subject, but these are a good place to start. Notice in Luke 22:31, Satan had asked for Peter to sift him.

Asked (Greek)
to request (as a subpoena) for trial; to require or demand; to claim back; require something to be delivered up.

Satan had a legal right to ask for Peter to sift him. Later, we will see what this legal right was, and how Satan obtained it. The lack of resistance by Christ to this request is a strong indication of Satan's right. Christ expected it to happen. This is seen by the fact that He said, "when you have returned to me (from Satan)"

If there are times and circumstances when Satan has the right to ask to have a believer for sifting, we need to know when to expect those times, and what those circumstances are so we can avoid such an experience.

To establish the Biblical facts we need, we must find those facts in the Scriptures. We will do some of that today. So, if you follow the Scriptures from your own Bible, you had better get your page turning finger ready. If you are one who follows the Scriptures from the printed lesson, well, you had better clean your glasses, because there is going to be a lot of reading.

1 Peter 5:6-9 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

There are passages after passages that speak of this satanic battle with the believer, in one form or another. There are a number of Biblical illustrations showing Satan's control of believers in motive and actions.

Over and over again the Bible warns of Satan's attacks, and instructs in the proper manner of warfare against him. In the passages to follow, notice carefully the responsibility of the believer as to the actions that brought about the satanic control, or actions that fortify against such attacks. We will spend a little time on this first passage. The rest we will simply read, and I trust you will study them later.

God is sovereign and omnipotent. Yet, it is clear that the believer must meet certain requirements before God will demonstrate His omnipotence in these personal matters during time, or this aspect of the Kingdom. Note carefully the facts of Scripture in these portions and compare them with the definition of sovereignty. That definition was given in Lesson two and will be repeated in lessons to come.

Acts 5:1-6 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

Peter asks Ananias, why Satan had filled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Peter answers his own question. Peter did so, probably because Ananias did not have the slightest idea why Satan was able to fill his heart.

Filled (Greek)
to cram full, as a net with fish or as a house with perfume; to overfill or satisfy, as when a person has gorged on food or drink;
to fulfill; to complete; to accomplish; to end

In the Bible, this Greek word is used most often in the sense of the 2nd part of this definition as a fulfillment or an end. This Greek word is used about 100 times in the New Testament, and only some 20 times is it used as fill in the sense of the first aspect of this definition. If this Greek word is used in the sense of the first aspect of this definition, then it should be modified by identifying the filling agent. But what was Ananias' heart filled with?

We may never be able to prove for sure just what filled the heart of Ananias. However, I believe we can get a pretty good idea. Don't miss the fact that it is not stated that Ananias' heart was filled with, greed, anger, pride, etc., those things may also have been evident, but are not mentioned as the filling agent. Was his heart just filled with nothing? Don't think so.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,

In Ephesians 5:18, the same Greek word is used, and we are told to be filled with the Spirit. If we are filled with the Spirit there will be certain results. Look at the context. The passage goes on in v.19...

Ephesians 5:19-21 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

These are evidences of the fruit of righteousness brought about by the filling of the Holy Spirit. The NIV's translates Acts 5:3 like this...

Acts 5:3NIV 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 for the land?"

Satan had filled Ananias' heart! I don't know if that filling qualifies for the popular definition of possession or not. Whatever it is called, Ananais' heart was filled by and/or with Satan. The use of this word and the structure of the sentence indicates that Satan was the filling agent.

I believe it is pretty clear that Ananais' heart was filled with Satan, a satanic demon or at least the overpowering domination of Satan's influence. Please don't get hung up in the theological tangle as to whether this is demon possession of a believer or not.

Establishing that exact fact is non-important and impossible. There is no teaching in the Word of God concerning demon possession of a believer or the lack thereof. However, there are some very important facts taught here and elsewhere concerning the control and domination of a believer by Satan and his kingdom.

Fables vs. Godliness

If Satan can get us to spend our time looking at non-Biblical facts to the exclusion of real Biblical truths, 
then Satan has brought defeat to our lives, and replaced Biblical truth with fables. 

Please note, this whole episode of Satan filling the heart of Ananias, all started when he tried to do a spiritual act in a non-spiritual manner, or by means of a fable. Don't forget this fact! We will see it later in more detail.

In past studies, we have looked at the effect of these fables in the lives of those who give the fables, and those who receive them. We will not take time to go back over that territory again in this lesson. However, I would like to refresh our minds with some of the passages that deal with the controlling power of fables, or referred to in other places as the doctrines of men, and/or the doctrines of demons, etc.

1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
Colossians 2:20-23 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- 21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

When a person's mind is filled with these false doctrines, their actions will reflect that mind-set. When a believer has this mind-set, demons do not have to inhabit the body, to have control of the emotions, attitudes and actions. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

1 Timothy 1:3-5 As I urged you (Timothy) when I went into Macedonia -- remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than Godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

No matter how nice or moral these fables or non-biblical teachings might be, they cannot bring godliness. They only bring further disputes, or as stated in 2 Timothy 2:15-17, they produce more ungodliness.

1 Timothy 4:6-8 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself rather to godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

Notice how that passage also contrasts fables with godliness.

2 Timothy 4:2-5 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In 2 Timothy 4 it is pointed out that these people moved from the truth to fables.

Titus 1:13-14 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.

These non-biblical fables make us unstable in our walk of faith.

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,

Avoiding Control

Back to our portion in Acts.

Acts 4:36-5:2 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Selling this land was not a Biblical requirement. Nor did the Bible say that after the land was sold, the whole amount was to be brought to the church. This was a voluntary act on the part of Barnabas. He did not do this to get his name in the bulletin. Nor did he do it to get a bronze plaque at the back of the auditorium proclaiming it as Barnabas Hall. No, Barnabas did this because it was his nature to do so. He also saw a church need, and saw how he could help with that need. Evidently news of this act traveled through the church, and people were saying things like, "What a great gift!" "What a great guy!" "Truly Barnabas is the 'Son of Encouragement' like the disciples have been saying!"

Ananias and Sapphira must have also talked about this great gift. However, they did not see this gift as a service of dedication and love to God. Their concept of this act was a means to self-elevation, recognition, good self-image, power and control, etc. These self-centered areas were the same basic motivating forces behind Satan's attempt to dethrone God. Therefore, someone whose heart was filled with or by Satan would naturally exhibit some of the same aspirations and motivations. Those aspirations and motivations may be exhibited by different actions, but the root sin will be the same.

For the moment, it might be a good idea to check the quality of your personal aspirations and motives. Do you desire, or literally grasp after self-elevation and recognition? If this grasping is present in your life, you are a good candidate for having your heart filled by and/or with Satan. Don't allow the supernatural deaths of this couple to blot out important facts needed to see why Satan was in control of their lives, and could take control of yours.

These were things that Ananias did of his own volition, and not by the direction or control of God. These actions and attitudes allowed this satanic control. As a matter of fact, by these actions and attitudes Ananais invited, and gave Satan the right to fill his heart.

This story was not recorded by the Holy Spirit just for history. It is here to warn us not to fall into the same sin. If we are warned not to lust in the same manner, then that means we are able to do so, and do it by means of our volition.

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
Acts 4:36-5:5 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.

Notice the "but" in Acts 5:1. It's just a little word, yet so very important. The word but is here as a conjunctive of contrast. Outwardly what happened after the but looks a whole lot like what happened before the but. However, the two events are totally different in motive and spiritual activity.

We need to see and understand that fact, and use it as we search out the spiritual truth of the passage. Much of what we need to know will not be spelled out in the passage. This important information is seen by implication and inference of what is not spoken or written, but can be seen when we examine the contrasting facts. However, if we remember the significance of this word, our attention will be drawn to those areas of contrast that are so vital for a clear understanding of these events and the needed application to our lives.

A Closer Look at Acts

The control of Satan will be seen in the heart-attitude of this situation. Peter's statement or question should be an indicator of this truth. Peter asked, "Why has Satan filled your heart?"

Let's watch carefully the conversation of Peter with Ananias. We will see a great deal about Ananias' inner attitude that allowed Satan to fill his heart. We will learn and confirm information about God's sovereignty that is absolutely necessary for any clear understanding of why Satan has the right to sift or judge some believers while they are still in this life.

Peter reminded Ananias of his rights and obligations concerning the use of the land. He pointed out to Ananias' that before the land was sold it was his to do with it as he saw best. Peter continued by reviewing with him that after the sale, the money was in his own control, therefore he didn't have to give it at all. As a matter of fact, it would not have been wrong if he had kept the whole amount.

After clearly establishing the responsibility of his actions, Peter goes on to explain why he was about to die. This death was not the result of selling land, giving or keeping the price of the land. Notice Peter's final question "Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?" Literally, "You have conceived this thing in your heart. For what reason?"

There is much in that one statement, but let's see three of those truths.

Thing (Greek)
that which is being done; an affair; a business.

This Greek word used by Peter in Acts 5:4 to describe the sin of Ananias is used by Luke in the opening remarks of his Gospel. This thing that Ananias had conceived was a business or an affair designed to build-up his own self-image and destroy the unity of the Body of Christ -- Christ's earthly image. This was far more than a thing as we would think of it in English.

Luke 1:1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us

Luke was going to put in order the whole affair of Christ's life as it relates to the doctrines held by the early church. It was more than just a list of things. Likewise, these actions or this affair of Ananias' was more than just a gift of money.

We know, from an earlier statement, that the heart of Ananias was filled with Satan or at least Satan's essence and control. Therefore, even though this was an outwardly good thing, and the money could help accomplish many good projects, it was, none-the-less, satanic in every aspect.

Just doing some right thing in the church, does not make that thing a righteous act. If the motive comes from a Satan filled heart, the service, the gift, the sermon, the song, the Sunday School class etc., is not accepted by God as a spiritual service or sacrifice. Instead, that good thing is considered by God, as satanic in nature and performance. This fact conveniently escapes our thinking too often, or maybe never entered our thinking at all.

This thing was more than a simple act of giving an offering to the church. It was conceived or designed to be a affair or a continuing event that would bring profit to themselves. Not money profit, but ego profit.

Their concern was their own benefit, comfort, and pride. 
Their concern and motive was not the glory of God, but their own glory. 

Putting it All Together

In summary.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Devour (Greek)
to drink down i.e. to gulp down entirely
When we elevate ourselves above where we are in Christ, we become the beverage for Satan's Happy Hour! 

A very sad Biblical illustration of this fact is found in the life of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. God had sent Saul to battle with very clear instructions. But Saul thought He knew better (or elevated himself above God), and went contrary to those very clear instructions. Such an action is referred to by God as sin. However, by some Sunday School curriculum, it is known as "not following instructions". I wish we had time for the full story. Please go back and read this story in its entirety.

Because Saul sinned against God and elevated himself above where God had placed him, God sent Samuel to him with a very hard message. Let's look at some of that message, and learn from it.

1 Samuel 15:12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal."
1 Samuel 15:17 So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? 18 "Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' 19 "Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?" 20 And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 "But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal."
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king."

With the information you have, please make appropriate application to your own life. I want to close this lesson by reading a few passages dealing with satanic control and our resistance to it.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles -- that a man has his father's wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, concerning him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1 John 3:7-8 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
1 Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
James 4:6-8 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Ephesians 4:25-27 Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.
Ephesians 6:11-18 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--

These are just a few New Testament passages that deal with this subject of Satan's influence and control of the lives of some believers. However, very few believers understand the importance of the subject, nor what they can do to protect themselves in order to ward off Satan's attacks. Believers are not only to live their lives in defensive mode, but we are also to be on the attack against Satan and his kingdom.

As we started to see in Lesson one and two of this series, and will continue for the next few lessons, these actions by Satan are not directed by God, nor are these evil responses by mankind the desire of God. Those are some of the reasons it is so important to understand the sovereignty of God as spelled out in the Scriptures.