Keeping Back from God

Keeping Back from God


Acts 5:1-11 (ESV) ~ But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.


Keeping back from Deception and also a sin. We see in the verses above Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, were professing believers, members of the early church. They professed Christ, professed . . .

  • To deny self, all they were and had
  • To take up the cross daily
  • To follow Christ


They had some property which they did not personally need for their own necessities. They were professing to follow Christ, to take Him at His Word. Therefore, they sold their property in order to help those who were desperately needing food, shelter, clothing, and the gospel. But their profession was just that, profession only, a false profession. It was hypocritical, deceptive, a lie. They tried to fake their commitment. They tried to deceive the church. Their sin, holding back, was fivefold.


  • Keeping back is partial commitment. Ananias and Sapphira refused to give everything beyond their own necessities. They kept back part of the money that so many desperately needed, kept back that which was the difference between life and death for so many. They hoarded, chose to hang on to part of the world.
  • Keeping back is deception: it is deceiving the church. Ananias and Sapphira wanted the church to think they were fellow believers. They wanted the privilege and the honor, the acceptance and the fellowship of believers without paying the price of commitment and loyalty to Christ and His church. They did not want to be left out. They wanted to be included and to become part of the church fellowship. But they did not want it enough to totally commit themselves to Christ and His mission. So they tried to deceive the church. They became pretenders (hypocrites, liars).
  • Keeping back is allowing Satan to fill the heart instead of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Person who stirs sin; He is not the Person who arouses a person to hoard and keep back. The Holy Spirit stirs love—love that cares and ministers (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is not a murderer, not the one who tempts men to keep back that which would keep others alive (whether food or safety from freezing weather, or whether life in Christ). Keeping back is of Satan; it is allowing one’s heart to be filled with Satan’s lies…
    • The lies that the challenge to give all one is and has is too much to ask.
    • The lies that to lose oneself completely in the cause of Christ, to give up the world, is too unreasonable.
    • The lies that what is important is to secure more and more in order to be acceptable, to have position and promotion, esteem and the comfort of the world.
    • The lies that one is justified in keeping back some because no one knows the future and after all, everyone else does it.
    • The lies that one can give some and keep back some and still be acceptable to God.
  • Keeping back is lying to the Holy Spirit. There are several ways this is true:
    • A person says that he is surrendering his life or goods to Christ, but he does not give all
    • A person says that he wants the Spirit’s presence and power when he is really unwilling to surrender all
    • A person says that he is committed to walk as a brother with other believers (who are indwelt by the Spirit) when he is not willing to pay the full price of discipleship
    • A person says that he wants the fulness of God’s Spirit when the acceptance and approval of men is more important
  • Keeping back is acting against and lying to God Himself. This, of course, is very serious.
    • Keeping back mocks God. A person mocks God’s Word when he says that he is giving his life to God (which means all he is and has), but he does not do it. The person who keeps back is saying that he does not have to be honest with God, that he can lie to God. Pretending always mocks God and His Word. Pretending damages the name of God and causes the world to mock and scoff God, to deny Him and His power. The pretender actually does more harm and damage to the name of Christ than the greatest sinner. How? A pretender shows and proclaims something—his life cries out to the world: “The power of God’s Son is…
      • Not attractive enough to draw me.”
      • Not challenging enough to captivate me.”
      • Not important enough for me to give up everything.”
      • Not powerful enough to change me.”
      • Not loving enough to demand my loyalty.”
      • Not beneficial enough to pull me out of the world.”
    • Keeping back cuts the heart of God. God loves the pretender (hypocrite, deceiver, liar). As long as the pretender’s heart has enough softness to respond to the gospel, God reaches out to him. He wants the pretender, the man who keeps back, to be saved. As long as he is lost, God’s heart aches, longs, hurts for the man to come home.
    • Keeping back is distrusting God.
      • Keeping back is not letting go of what one has beyond his necessities.
      • Keeping back is feeling that one has to keep back just in case.
      • Keeping back is being apprehensive that what one has might not be enough when it is needed.
      • Keeping back is believing that securing mammon is what life is all about.
      • Keeping back is trust in mammon and the world for one’s security.
      • Keeping back is thinking one can serve God and mammon.
      • Keeping back is not trusting God.


Keeping back is not trusting God’s Word.


  • Luke 9:23 (ESV) ~ And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
  • Matthew 6:33 (ESV) ~ But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • Matthew 7:7 (ESV) ~ Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Pastor Andy Lambert

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