When The Boy was still in single digits, he bugged us to buy a particular vehicle. Over and over, he would tell us we needed to buy this vehicle. Finally, we asked him why. “Because it has a plug in it. That way I can play video games, er, do homeschool (yeah, right!) while we are traveling.” His dad drove him to Radio Shack and showed him a plug that could go in the cigarette lighter to solve his kid-sized problem. All for less than $20. Quite a difference from the $30,000 vehicle he had wanted us to purchase. Thus, began the lesson: Don’t be deceived.
Life is full of deception. Magazines are filled with air-brushed, photo shopped models. The news spins and twists stories to favor their political candidate or their pet issue. Entertainment sources portray fictional stories as the way things should be. Even “reality” television programs are scripted to some degree and edited in such a way as to deceive the viewer into believing things occurred as depicted rather than as they actually did.
Sadly, church is another area where increasing deception is taking place. 2 Timothy 3:13 tells us that in the last days “…evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Therefore, we should not be surprised. We should, however, be prepared, be watchful, be on guard.
Who is susceptible to deception?
- New believers. Because new believers do not have a firm foundation yet on which to stand, they are especially vulnerable to someone distorting God’s Word.
- Immature believers. An immature believer is someone who has made a profession of faith, but who has not established a firm foundation. Pieces of doctrine are missing. Biblical principles are missed. Immature believers are probably the most dangerous because not only are they easily deceived, they also may become deceivers themselves. Notice 2 Timothy 3:13 states deceiving and being deceived.
- Seasoned believers. As difficult as this is to understand, even those who have a long, intimate relationship with the Lord may also be deceived. Unsure about this? Let’s look at Eve.
Eve had an intimate relationship with the Lord. Although it does not specifically say in Scripture, because Adam and Eve were one, we can assume that Eve walked along with Adam and the Lord when the Lord visited them in the Garden. Yet, she still was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14) by the serpent (Satan).
How did Satan do it? (Genesis 3:1-6)
- He was subtil (Genesis 3:1). In the Hebrew, this word means crafty, shrewd, sensible. His speech was such that he was being practical. He established himself in such a way that the conversation was to prey on Eve’s emotions, her practical side. What he was going to say was going to seem to make sense to Eve. Deceivers prey on our emotions. They convince us that what they are teaching or doing is merely practical, that it is the sensible thing to do in spite of the fact that it is in contrast to God’s Word or His principles.
- He got Eve to question God. The question: What was it that God said about eating the trees? On the surface it does not seem like a terrible question but simply more of a question for clarification. We don’t know the circumstances of this interaction. Perhaps Eve was gathering food for dinner. Maybe she was not near where they typically dwelled. Satan’s question planted a seed of doubt about what God said. Deceivers cause us to doubt God’s Word and those who God has placed in biblical authority positions (husbands, parents, pastors).
- He got Eve to add to God’s Word. When God first spoke to Adam about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God told Adam he could eat of any other tree except for this one lest he die. (Genesis 2:15-17) Eve’s answer started and ended correctly but she added “neither shall ye touch it” (Genesis 3:2). Deceivers either slightly alter God’s Word themselves or get us to alter it in our thinking. One drop of poison still makes the water unfit to drink. The same with God’s Word. Altering God’s Word in any way corrupts this life giving resource.
- He disagreed with God’s Word. There was no pretense. He flat out said that what God said would happen would not happen. Deceivers will often disagree with God’s Word. Sometimes this disagreement is subtle, sometimes it is blatant. Deceivers do not believe that when they distort God’s Word in their own words or deeds that they will be judged. And they will argue (aka: be offended) when someone confronts them with God’s Word regarding their actions.
- He convinced Eve that God was holding out on her. He told Eve that God knew that if they ate of the tree that they would become like gods. Deceivers will convince their victims that they are missing out on something. That someone is keeping them from something or something from them.
- He convinced Eve that it was a good substitute. The final nail in the coffin of Eve’s deception was that she was convinced that it was good food, not only that but it was pleasant and would make her wise. Deceivers substitute good for best. Best means that there might be difficulty. Good means it will be easy. Deceivers convince their devotees that circumventing God’s plan and His ways is better than following God’s plan and His ways.
How could Eve have protected herself from this deception? Eve was in the perfect place, a place created by God, a place where God visited regularly. Today, we might compare the Garden with the church. Yet, she did not have her guard up. She was deceived.
Paul tells us about the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. Why are we to put on this armor? Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
Each piece of the armor is important but I want to focus on the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We cannot detect a deceiver, a counterfeit, a hypocrite, a wolf in sheep’s clothing without knowing and understanding the Bible intimately. I have heard the illustration many times and it bears repeating here. Those who are tasked with the job of identifying counterfeit money do not initially study fake money. Instead, they study the real thing. They are immersed into the world of real money. They count it. They study the ink and the imprinting. They examine the paper. They know its smell. To know if a federal agent can truly be on the counterfeit task force they are given a stack of money to count. If they have studied properly, if they are so intimately acquainted with the real thing, it does not take long for them to identify the one counterfeit in a stack of bills.
This is how we are to be with God’s Word. We need to know God’s Word intimately. We need it to seep into our hearts, our minds, our words, our actions. We tend to put our radar up in places where we think God’s Word might be distorted. However, we drop our guard when we attend a Christian conference or listen to Christian radio or entertainment. Paul warned the early church that false teachers and deceivers would enter their own individual houses of worship. So it is worse when we take our armor off when enter our Sunday school class, church, ladies meeting or other home church outreach. This is when we need our armor, our sword, the most. Satan is subtle. To pull away Christians, to cause division, to harm the cause of Christ, all he has to do is send a wolf into the sheepfold to ever so slightly twist God’s Word. We are told to put on the armor of God. We are never told to take it off… anywhere.
There are many verses throughout Scripture regarding false teachers. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Ephesians 5:11, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:5, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 2:26-27, 1 John 4:1-6, 2 Peter 2:1, Jude 1:4) When we fail to recognize and rebuke false teachers (wolves) we risk the sheep being scattered or, worse, devoured.
Have you been or are you being deceived? Unfortunately, those who are deceived do not even realize it has/is happening. But ignorance is no excuse. As much as the deceiver is guilty, the deceived are equally guilty because they have not prepared themselves for battle.
Put on your armor. Pick up your sword. The battle is on. We must prepare.
original photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/77334245@N00/9548516587″>Smoke On The Water</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo editing: Melissa Woltmann