It’s kind of a scary time, wouldn’t you say? A time of demented dictators, wacky weather, an erratic world economy, the unprecedented obsession with personal pleasure, and a rapidly increasing trend toward the deification of man. Mankind is heading towards a showdown with the Almighty; a time commonly known as The Great Tribulation.
It’s also a time some of the prophets of old referred to as days of deception, or apostasy.
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the coming of the Lord) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB)
Whether you believe it or not, it is quite possible for you and I to be deceived. If it wasn’t possible, the writer of Hebrews wouldn’t have included this:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)
“Take care”, he says. In other words, pay attention. It’s a little like the verse where Jesus said, “The hour that you think not, the Son of Man comes.” He’ll come when you least expect Him. And in the case of deception, it will take place because you believe it isn’t possible.
People who believe they have reached the pinnacle in their walk with God where it’s IMPOSSIBLE for them to be deceived, have made one of the gravest mistakes of their lives.
They’ve allowed the spirit of deception to cloud their thinking, and veil their understanding of the truth of the Word. Their heart has become calloused, or hardened, and they have lost the ability to ACCURATELY hear the voice of the Spirit of God.
I’ve seen it happen over and over. I’ve had it happen to me, as well.
But how does a person become deceived? How can people who know the Word, quote the Word, teach the Word, all their lives suddenly end up in a mess?
Maybe they go off into some goofy, man-made doctrine, like snake handling. Or a misinterpretation of some single verse. Perhaps they fall by having an adulterous fling. It could be they love the feeling of authority, so they demand obedience to their every word. Or they become so possessive of THEIR disciples, they end up like Jim Jones.
One thing is certain; the change isn’t a sudden one. It is a gradual move from truth to error. And because it’s gradual, it CAN be stopped IF one will recognize the steps leading up to it.
A quick note, though. Don’t expect those around you to jump up and down, shouting glory hallelujah because you try and help them pull out of deception before it’s too late.
I know from experience.
But, whether you’re honored as a hero or touted as some nosy, legalistic fool, the Body of Christ is being attacked as never before; and you are desperately needed.
Here are some things to watch for in your own life, and in the lives of others. An unbelieving heart, then deceitful lusts, and finally inappropriately handling the word of God (or teaching the deception as truth).
You can see it in Romans 1:18-32. They knew God, but didn’t glorify Him as God…their foolish hearts were darkened. Next came the fleshly cravings, and finally, rejoicing when others agreed with their lifestyle (or deception).
1. An evil, unbelieving heart. As the writer of Hebrews said, “…leading you to fall away from the living God.” How does one recognize an evil, unbelieving heart?
There are some specific signs. For instance, what value is placed upon hearing AND DOING the Word of God? Are there “exceptions” allowed, where some verses apply to others but not to oneself? Are excuses made to cover up, or allow for unbelief?
I know someone who, because they were becoming enamored by (or infatuated with) the attention of someone other than their spouse, began to change what they believed about tithing and giving because their “friend” didn’t believe in tithing. Setting aside one set of scriptures for convenience’ sake is an open door for more of the same.
Compromise breeds more compromise, and is a next door to deception.
Delusion isn’t an overnight sensation, but it needs to be stopped as soon as it is recognized.
Unbelief sets in when faith in God AND His Word isn’t kept razor sharp. Allowing for an alternate interpretation is one thing, providing scripture is being compared with scripture.
But EVERY time scripture is weighed against human experience and feelings, and scripture ends up being tossed aside, there is a HUGE problem.
James tells us, “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only; deceiving yourselves.” Many times deception isn’t so much the work of the devil, but rather a simple shunning of the Word of God. “I know what it says, but it’s not what I’m going to do.” Self-deceived.
2. Deceitful lusts. “…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” (Ephesians 4:22 NKJV)
Desire for the forbidden. Yearnings of the flesh, cravings which, though they’re real, lie about their ability to satisfy.
Sure, sin can satisfy temporarily, but it cannot replace the Shalom that comes only from God. The peace which passes all understanding will never be experienced by someone who trades the truth of God’s ways to satisfy the desires of their flesh.
And understand this: anyone who will compromise one part of the scripture, will compromise another.
3. Inappropriate handling of the word of God. This is a very dangerous place to be, if someone has gone this far into deception.
“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV)
Through the years there have been a number of people who have allowed themselves to reach this degree of deception. Many of this country’s old colleges and universities began as training institutes for men and women entering the ministry. But through the years…
Because the “last days” are also known as days of deception, let’s diligently watch out for ourselves and others.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV)
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
The kingdom of God needs people who refuse to compromise God’s Word, who will flee the various lusts of the flesh, and who will handle the Word of God with integrity AND humility. These are deceptive days, but they’re ALSO days in which God says He’ll pour out His Spirit upon all flesh!
Amen, Lord! Pour it out on us!