"When people are deceived, they don't know it." This is a common statement that, logically and biblically, is true. After all, "The heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). We are very good at deceiving ourselves. Yet James says, "Do not be deceived," (James 1:16).
The effort we expend to avoid deception is critical because if we are deceived we will end up deceiving others (2 Timothy 3:13)and God calls that evil. Plus, as we can see from Genesis 3:14 and Jeremiah 48:10, deception carries a curse. Yikes! So, how can we avoid deception? Or can we?
Yes, we can rise above deception and walk in truth. But again, how, exactly, can we do that? It doesn't take a genius to discern that we do not automatically know all truth the moment we are saved. Just a cursory look around many churches reveals deep divisions theologically, politically and morally. Yet everyone feels that whatever they believe is right and true. How can that be when we've been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)? What we often don't like to acknowledge is that the full and free use of His mind (as opposed to our mind) takes time, knowledge and spiritual maturity to acquire. So, once again, how can we recognize, avoid or prevent being deceived?
Many articles and even books have been written on this subject. However, before I study a matter, I always turn to the Word of God to see what it has to say before I turn to anything connected to man's mind because Jesus (who is Truth personified) said the Word of God was Truth, (John 17:17). He also promised that we could know the Truth and it would make us free, (John 8:32). Free from what? Well, all kinds of things but mainly free from deception. Yeah!
So let's begin with a short definition of deception taken from scripture. My approach here may seem simplistic to some but this approach comes out of my firm belief that the Bible is the Word of God and that I do not have the right to pick and choose what I can accept and what I can ignore. Therefore, here are some scriptures that show us God's definition of deception:
· Deception began with Satan in the Garden of Eden. Eve accused him of deceiving her (Genesis 3:13). The Hebrew word for deceived that is used here means to lead astray mentally, to delude, to seduce morally, to beguile. Eve elaborated on what God instructed which led to her deception. Not listening to, trusting in and obeying the words of God is what deception is. The Word of the Lord comes to us personally from our heart and from the written Word of God - the Bible.
· Deception is not letting someone know you are doing something against them. Jacob against Esau is a prime example as seen in Genesis 27:35. So is Laban against Jacob (Genesis 31:7).
· Failure to expose sin is deception (Lamentations 2:14).
What will cause us to be deceived?
· When our minds are corrupted and we abandon our full and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3), and lose our "first love" (Revelation 2:4).
· Pride will deceive us (Jeremiah 49:16, Obadiah 1:3).
· Sin will deceive us from God's commands (Romans 7:11, Hebrews 3:13).
· Ignorance makes us vulnerable to deception (Exodus 1:6-8).
An explanation of what deception is and how we are deceived can be found in 2 Corinthians 11:3. Read this expanded translation over slowly.
I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived/beguiled/seduced/led astray Eve by his craftiness/subtility/adroitness/trickery/cunning, so your minds may be corrupted/shriveled/withered/spoiled/ruined/depraved/ defiled/destroyed from the simplicity/singleness/sincerity without self-seeking/generosity/bountifulness/liberality that is in Christ.
An example of how ignorance can open us up to deception can be found in the first chapter of Exodus. "And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation" (verse 6). All those who died were the ones who had firsthand knowledge of their real status as the chosen people of God and had personal memories of the Land God promised them. The people left were ignorant of who they were. This made them vulnerable to deception. When there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph" (verse 8) he used his ignorance to bully and dominate the people. Unfortunately, they allowed themselves to be deceived to the point that they knew not their God.
The king eventually abused them with pseudo-grace in that he used the trusted midwives to do the killing and "graciously" allowed the little girls to live. That's deception. Fortunately, there were four people who were not deceived because they were paying attention to what the king was actually trying to do. Alert and watching, they stood against the king's command. Scripture tells us that the midwives "feared God" (Exodus 1:17) and Moses' parents "were not afraid of the king's command"(Hebrews 11:23).
These two characteristics are fundamental to avoiding deception. They also point us to another fundamental point: they were paying attention to the bigger picture. Watching with eyes wide open. Deception is sneaky, clever, underhanded. It's probably why the word "watch" is used 61 times in scripture. Watches were faithfully kept over the temple, the kings and over the people in the Old Testament. Moving the command up a notch or two, Jesus specifically told us to watch 10 times, the most famous of which is when He said, "Could you not watch with Me one hour?" (Matthew 26:40) The Apostle Paul admonished us to watch five times. Peter wrote, ""The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers" (1 Peter 4:7).
Revelation 3:3 is the final kicker. To the church in Sardis, Jesus said, "Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." Fully translated, He's telling them to wake up. You can't watch if you're not awake. And that's exactly what prophets, teachers and preachers have been telling the church in America for a decade or more. Some people are awake but not all. Why not? Well, that's a subject for another lesson but basically it's because of bad theology. Christians are not told that the minute they come into the family of God, they are drafted into His army. Therefore, they are not trained (discipled) as to what that means and how they need to fulfill their particular role in the army.
What are we to watch for? When you look at the 61 times the word watch is used, the answer is obvious. We're to find out about, pay attention to, and watch what God is doing in our day. We're also to watch for the enemy by being aware of his tactics and what his goal is in each situation we're assigned to watch. This means searching for, paying attention to and learning what is happening in the world. This can be a general watch, as well as, a specific focus on an area like business, education, entertainment or government. Watching in America is a hard job because we've become so polarized in every area. This polarization is combined with strife, arrogance, disrespect and "fake news" put out by all sides; even sides that claim to be neutral. So it takes a lot of digging for facts, study and then prayer and seeking the mind of Christ about what we've learned. According to Christ's warning to the church of Sardis, failure to do this can be devastating. The church of Sardis didn't wake up; they didn't watch. The result? Twice in their history the city fell to enemies because they weren't alert and watching. It was conquered in 549 BC by Cyrus of Persia and in 214 BC by Antiochus the Great. Do we want that to happen here?
Watching is so intricately interwoven in any attempt to avoid deception that we can't afford to ignore Jesus' command. But watching by itself can and often does lead to arrogance and pride because of the knowledge we gain when we search out a matter. And pride is one of the things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-17). The Apostle Paul wrote, "Let no one deceive himself" by trying to appear wise to the world (1 Corinthians 3:18). To avoid such a sin, we would do well to keep in mind the other things pointed out in this lesson. We need to . . .
· Develop the fear of the Lord like the midwives did.
· Not fear man as Moses' parents did.
· Develop our personal relationship with the Lord so that we recognize His voice.
· Listen carefully and exactly to God's instructions as found in the written Word and from where He lives in our heart. (What God speaks to our heart will never contradict the written Word.)
· Take care not to add to what God says, even if it doesn't seem like it would matter. Adding to God's word results in a slippery slide in the spiritual realm. It's how we can "fall" into deception like Eve did.
· Be precise in our obedience. Nit-picky even.
· Be open, honest and transparent with others. Being deceptive or manipulative will block God's blessings and limit God's use of us in Kingdom work.
· Avoid sin! Especially pride.
· Humility is a must. We must expose our sin to the Lord and be willing to admit our faults without excuse to others if, when and how God directs.
· Be careful not to lose our first love. We absolutely need to do whatever we need to do to grow in love and passion for the Lord.
Jesus said that false Christs and prophets would try to deceive even the true believers (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:6). That's probably why He told us twice to take heed that no one deceive us (Matthew 24:4, Mark 13:5).
Now is the time to take a good look at our lives. Check out the scriptures given in this lesson and begin to work on safeguarding your life against deception. As you do, remember the first verse given in this lesson and the admonitions of the Apostles Paul and James.
"The heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9).
"Do not be deceived," (James 1:16).
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does righteousness is righteous,
even as that One is righteous (1 John 3:7).