Beware Of Spiritual Deception!
(By: Doy Moyer)
God warned us in His Word that spiritual deception was only going to increase in the last days. How in tune to the Holy Spirit are we in discerning deception? (Here are some scripture passages that warns us about end-time deception, for ready reference: Matthew 24:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 2 Thess. 2:9-10)
In doing an internet search on what has already been written about the topic, I felt Doy has done an excellent job; hence our linking to her writing. (Norm Rasmussen, Director, Precious Testimonies)
To be deceived is to be mislead and deluded by a false impression. It can be done through appearances, statements, or general influences. It is so dangerous because we may never realize what is happening. Deception does not come announced.
When we are deceived, we are led to believe something that is false. This, in turn, can result in destruction (2 Pet. 2:1-3). It is our own responsibility to make sure that we are not deceived. But how can we? Perhaps it will help if we are familiar with the deceptive influences around us and what we can do to overcome them.
What Can Deceive?
Many different factors may be involved in deception. Of course, behind all of it is the "father of lies," the devil (John 8:44). He is a deceiver, who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). This is why we need to be active in resisting him (vs. 9; Jas. 4:7). Note specifically some things that can deceive us:
1. Sin. According to Hebrews 3:13, it is possible to be hardened through the "deceitfulness of sin." Through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, sin looks enticing. We think that by engaging in some sinful activity that we will benefit. It looks pleasurable and fun. But then the hardness of reality sets in when we can see sin for what it really is: a monster of destruction and heartache. If we could just see through the outward appearances of sin, we would not be deceived. Eve learned the hard way that the consequences of sin were not worth it (Gen. 3).
2. Riches. In explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus said, "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22). Riches deceive us into thinking that the physical is more important than the spiritual and eternal. We think that if we have lots of money and things, then no trouble will fall on us. This deception is the downfall of many. Thus, we are warned not to trust in uncertain riches, but in God (1 Tim. 6:10, I Timothy 6:17-19; Matt. 6:19-21).
3. Error. False teachers are masters at deception (2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15). They are able to "deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:18). The Scriptures teach that those who do not love the truth will be deluded (2 Thes. 2:9-12). When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch (Matt. 15:9, 13-14). Sadly, many will follow the destructive ways of error, because they have been exploited with deceptive words (2 Pet. 2:1-3). No theory, idea, or practice should be so cherished that it destroys our honesty and leads us into deception. The yardstick of truth is God's Word (the Bible), not man or feelings.
4. Ignorance. Ignorance leads to destruction (Hos. 4:6). It opens wide the door for deception. By being ignorant of God's righteousness, we will be deceived into trying to establish our own (Rom. 10:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9). One may be deceived into thinking he is saved because of what someone else told him, when in reality, he is lost. It is the truth which makes us free (John 8:32). We cannot afford to be ignorant of it.
5. Long-standing Tradition. The Pharisees were deceived into thinking that because the "elders" passed down a practice, it was not only right, but it was law (Matt. 15:1-9). In reality, they negated the word of God for the sake of their traditions (Mark 7:9-13). People say, "That's the way we've always done it." Well, that way could be wrong! Don't be deceived into thinking that something is right just because it's been that way for a long time. Study God's word to make sure (Acts 17:11).
6. Compromise. This is the devil's narcotic. Slowly, we compromise our thinking, and begin to rationalize according to the situation. We may think we are doing good, when we are really disobeying God (1 Sam. 15:17-24). We may think, "Surely God will understand." That is deception! Sin is never right under any circumstances. "Do not be deceived..." (Gal. 6:7-8).
Deception comes from believing the wrong source. This is why we must not trust men above God. This is why we must not trust our own feelings. We must trust and accept what God says.
Who Can Be Deceived?
Obviously, anyone can be deceived. This is why we must be on guard (1 Pet. 1:13). Deceit can be a slow process, so we must watch carefully to make sure we are not deceived. But there are some who are more likely than others to be deceived. Consider some of these:
1. One who is satisfied with his own spirituality. One who thinks he knows enough, prays enough, teaches enough, and does enough will be deceived (1 Cor. 10:12). One should always recognize a continual need to keep growing.
2. One who is too involved with the world. If our concern is always with the things of the world, our lives in Christ will be choked out (Luke 8:14). When we begin missing Bible studies and assemblies in order to care for trivial, worldly things, the path is cut for deception.
3. One who considers himself better than others. The Pharisee who prayed to God while downgrading another was deceived (Luke 18:8-14). We will all stand before God with the same standard of judgment.
4. One who feels he has done better than what God requires. We can only do what our duty is (Luke 17:7-10). God expects us to do according to our ability. Let's not become puffed up, and thereby become deceived.
5. One who puts too much trust in the "system." This is the one who has more trust for tradition or church policy than the word of God. This is the one who goes by what others think rather than what God says. This is the one puts too much stock in traditional practices without examining the Scriptures to see if they are right.
6. One who thinks he lives above sin (1 Jn. 1:8). This one is already deceived.
7. One who cannot draw a line in regards to sin. This is the one who never knows if something is right or wrong. Everything becomes permitted because he does not see that anything is condemned.
How Can We Overcome Deception?
1. We must realize the possibility of being deceived. Don't trust anyone too much. A preacher, an elder, a teacher, or a friend can also be deceived and therefore lead you away. Just because a close friend or respected preacher believes something does not make it right.
2. "Do not be deceived" (Gal. 6:7). We must know that it is our responsibility to make sure we are not deceived. If I am deceived, that is my own fault, and I will be held accountable for it.
4. Love the truth (2 Thes. 2:11; Jn. 8:32). Be willing to accept the truth regardless of the circumstances it may put you in (1 Thes. 2:13). Learn to hate every false way (Ps. 119:104, 128). Go to the Scriptures to test all things. Study to make sure (1 Thes. 5:21; 1 Jn. 4:1; Acts 17:11).
5. Make sure your priorities are established and correct. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33; Luke 9:23). Don't allow yourself to compromise with the demands of the world so that your spiritual life suffers.
6. Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). Without prayer, we will be as a ship without sails. God will help us and aid us in overcoming sin. Fervent and effective prayers of the righteous accomplish much (Jas. 5:16).
7. Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). The schemes of Satan are deceptive, but God has provided armor for us in order to win the battle in which we are engaged. If we fail to put it on, we cannot win.
Deception is a very real and lurking threat. It can be overcome if we will listen to God and make a full commitment to Him. It's up to you:
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Gal. 6:7-8).
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