Stay Away from Deception
According to the dictionary, deception is the art of making someone believe something that is not true. So, when you are deceived, you believe a lie.
The thing about deception is that when you are deceived, you don’t know you are being deceived. Deceived people think they are believing the truth, but in fact they have been sold a lie. You see, deception always has an element of truth in it. If it was a total lie, no one would believe it. So it is usually truth mixed with error. And deception looks good and attractive. It appeals to the senses. It is what people want to hear. It tickles their ears.
It is a fact that a lie that is repeated long enough is finally accepted as truth and believed, especially if it is heard or taught early in life (or early in your Christian life). At first, you may hear something and be on your guards, but as it is repeated many times and as you see others - especially leaders - running with it, you will start believing it as well.
The Bible talks about several things that can deceive us:
- Our heart (Jer. 17:9)
- The enemy (John 8:44)
- Riches (Matt. 13:22)
- Sin & Lusts (Heb. 3:13; Eph. 4:22)
- Men (Ps. 5:6; Ps. 55:23; Prov. 14:25; Matt. 7:15; 2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Pet. 2:1…)
There is so much in God’s Word about deception. I did not realise it until I started studying it. God hates deception and He warns us many times to not be deceived. We need to take these warnings seriously.
The Bible shows us that deception is a characteristic of the last days. Let’s see what Jesus told his disciples when they asked him about what would happen in the last days…
Matt. 24:3-5 - And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
v. 11 - And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
The first thing Jesus warned his disciples about is deception, because great deception is the main characteristic of the last days.
1 Tim 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, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.
The Bible also tells us to test the spirits.
1 John 4:1-3 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Not everything that is called “spiritual” or that takes place in the church is necessarily of God. We need to exercise discernment and be on our guards; this is a mark of maturity in Christ. Some people can give us false prophecies or words of knowledge. We do not have to accept everything.
The Scriptures also mention 'another Jesus', 'another spirit' and 'another gospel'.
2 Cor. 11:3-4 - But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
False teachers will use the name of Jesus when they preach. But it is a different Jesus. There are other “Jesuses” that are different from the one described in the Bible. The message of the real Gospel is very simple. A child can understand it. We have to be careful when the Gospel becomes too complex and philosophical. And the Holy Spirit will only glorify Jesus. A spirit that glorifies itself or something/someone else is not the Holy Spirit. Also, God’s Spirit does not bring disorder and confusion.
Signs + wonders do not equal truth.
Mark 13:22 - For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
The fact that someone performs miracles or healings, or is very successful in ministry, does not mean that they are preaching the truth of God’s Word. Many people are deceived because they believe that if someone is powerful, it means that they are anointed by God. But the enemy can also give power to perform miracles. We need to especially be careful when people perform miracles or prophesize for financial profit. God's gifts are always free.
How to Avoid Deception
- Know and Love the Truth
- Stay Prayerful, Dependant on Jesus Christ
- Keep Away from Pride
- Do not Rely on your own Feelings/Understanding
- Beware of Flattery
- Guard What you See and Hear
- Be Prepared to Face Suffering and Persecution
- Get the Right Counsel
2 Thess. 2:10 - And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Our main weapon against deception is the truth. We need to know the truth from God’s Word. This means not only reading it, but studying it thoroughly, searching for the truth, for wisdom and for understanding. Finding out about the truth will make us love the truth more and more and we will come to a point where we hate lies and deceptions.
Psalm 120:1-2 - In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
We know that without Him we can do nothing, so we need to constantly ask for His grace to be kept from the lies of the enemy. No one is infallible and knows it all, except Jesus.
Oba. 1:3 - The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’
Pride will deceive you into thinking that you are strong and you can deal with the enemy’s lies, that you will see them coming. But we have to realise that it is very easy to be deceived and the enemy is very good at it. When we humble ourselves and acknowledge that we need God’s help, He will open our eyes to deception.
Prov. 3:5-7 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Our feelings and emotions are not always trustworthy. Sometimes we may “feel” good about something, but that does not mean it is right. We need to put our trust in God’s word and His voice even when it doesn’t make sense to us or when it doesn’t seem relevant to our situation.
Psalm 5:9 - For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
People that flatter others a lot usually have an ulterior motive. They will try to make us feel good about ourselves and manipulate us so we can accept what they have in mind for us. It is a form of deceit.
Psa. 101:3 - I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
What we decide to see and listen to is so important as it will penetrate into our heart and we need to guard our heart from evil influences (in tv, music, films). When we expose ourselves to unholy things, we open the door for the enemy to deceive us. TV and movies are also full of subliminal messages to influence us towards evil.
Matt. 13:20-21 - But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles [is offended].
Suffering and persecution WILL come if we are faithful to God’s Word. Jesus promised it! So when someone promises you an easy life, with no hardship or suffering, beware!
Prov. 12:5 - The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.
We need to surround ourselves with people that know God’s Word and live by it. Their good advice and wisdom will help us to make right decisions and not be deceived, as they will speak to us from their knowledge and experience of the Word of God.
As a conclusion, to help us quickly evaluate various teachings and doctrines we are being taught, we can generally ask ourselves these questions:
1. “Is Jesus Christ and the cross at the centre of what I am hearing?”
2. “Does this teaching inspire the fear (or reverence) of the Lord?”
These are 2 good guidelines to keep us from being deceived.