GUEST ARTICLE Am I Deceived?
A certain father set his small son on the table. Walking to the other end of the table he told the little boy to come to him, promising to catch him when he got to the end. The little boy believed his daddy, so started out confidently. When he got to the end he jumped, expecting to land in his daddy’s arms. Instead, the cold-hearted father stepped back with arms folded, unmindful of the pain, injury or even worse that would befall him. Deceived – by his own father – the little lad fell to the floor. This father is like the devil who promises good things to those who listen to him, but in the end pays the wages of death.
Many people today are in a similar situation and don’t realize it. They confidently go along in life, not realizing how near the precipice they really are and expect to land in the arms of a loving Father. They hope to be saved in the end. Hope is very important in every Christian’s life, Paul lists it together with faith and love. But to hope that God will be merciful in the end, yet not seeking His forgiveness nor serving Him in this life is to deceive one’s self. The Apostle Peter refers to a lively hope. This is a hope with a basis, forgiveness of sins and the keeping power of God through faith (1 Peter 1:3-5), which strengthens the Christian’s determination to faithfully serve God.
A very popular Scripture today is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31). This is a wonderful promise of God through which He offers salvation to all men. However, the emphasis must be placed on believing as much as on how and in whom we believe. How do the Scriptures say we shall believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? The first step outlined by Jesus Himself is through true repentance, “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). John the Baptist also preached repentance as a prerequisite for believing on the Lord Jesus and entering into His Kingdom. He told the people “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. … Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his path straight” (Matthew 3:2,3). This agrees very well with the message preached by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Christ taught that self-denial will come with true faith (Matthew 16:24,25). We must die to our own will and wishes in order for Christ’s will to be born in us. To die is not pleasant, but to teach a crown without a cross or a birth without travail comes from the spirit of deception or antichrist. This spirit teaches that salvation is instantly effective for every sin the minute one believes. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that one must repent before forgiveness is received.
What is repentance? True repentance is when we realize that our sinful condition has separated us from God and we see ourselves as sinners condemned to die. We feel sorry for our sins and as we see them and ourselves in the light of God’s judgment of sin they become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13) to us. We hate our sin, yet are bound by it and in faith turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. As we believe His promises and accept Him as Lord He forgives us and frees us from the law of sin and death and we become children of God. We can then go on to chapter eight of Romans and say with the Apostle Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). [Note: This is the KJV mistranslation. RH]
The person who really believes on the Lord Jesus Christ believes on Him not only as the Redeemer and Savior, but also as Lord. To accept Him as Lord is to willingly submit to everything He asks of us. Only as we do this can we claim to really believe on and love the Lord Jesus Christ. See John 14:15, 21; 15:10.
We have been told by some that it doesn’t make too much difference how we believe or worship God or what church we belong to because it is just like a wagon wheel with all the spokes leading to the hub. The spokes are likened to the different ways of believing and living and the hub to Heaven, our final goal. Let us examine this by the Word of God.
Jesus warned that false Christs and false prophets would arise and try to deceive even the very elect (Matthew 24:24). The Apostle Paul referred to “false brethren” who were dangerous already in his time. The Apostle Peter writes of false teachers who would teach false doctrine and draw away from the way of truth because of their own evil desires, and cause them to return to the bondage of sin (2 Peter, chapter two).
Jesus did not promise many folds, but one: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). He did not offer to construct more folds for the “other sheep” but to bring them to the one true fold where they could be cared for and protected from false shepherds and the cold, deceptive winds of false doctrine.
We don’t read that each of the Apostles believed as they pleased after Jesus’ return to Heaven or that they started separate organizations for worshipping God and preaching the Gospel. Rather they “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 42-47). Later on when differences of opinion arose among them they did not decide to go their separate ways and each believe as seemed right in his own eyes, but met in Jerusalem to consider the matter and come to a conclusion that “seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them” (Acts 15). This was a great consolation and greatly strengthened the various congregations or groups of believers as the decisions were brought to them.
The Apostle Paul writes that we are as a body (not bodies) with many members (Romans 12:4), functioning together. The unity of the body and of the faith is stressed in the fourth chapter of Ephesians with verse four and five telling us that, “There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” In verse seventeen he warns not to walk as other Gentiles walk. Why would he express this concern if it made no difference what one believed (as long as he believed in Jesus) or how one lived or what baptism one was baptized with or what faith one lived by if all spokes led to the hub? It is true that all spokes lead to the hub in a wagon wheel, but this is not a valid illustration of the Body of Christ. Nowhere in the Scripture is the Church described in any way but as a unified body with one goal, one purpose, one Spirit, one Lord (head), one faith and one baptism under the one God who is above, through and in all.
Great care must be taken to be certain that the church one belongs to teaches “the whole counsel of God.” Some have been found “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Where this is the case those who are not well grounded in the Word of God may easily be led astray and deceived, especially where they have been taught to have great confidence in their leaders.
God has given various gifts, building up the Church, the body of Christ, to a position of strength and maturity. This is so we will not, like children, be “carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
All doctrines must be based on the Word of God and not on traditions. There are often traditions that are treasured and kept. These must always be weighed carefully to see if they agree with the spirit and intent of the Gospels. To base a doctrine on a tradition or a commandment of men which is unscriptural has long been one of Satan’s deceptive tactics. See Mark 7:7-9. To teach part but not all the truth can be equally as deceptive. Part of the Great Commission includes the injunction: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Upon this we can claim the promise in the remainder of the verse, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
In recent years the ecumenical movement has gained support among many Christian [sic] people. We are urged to lay down our differences and join with those of other faiths for the furtherance of the Gospel. With an organization of all Catholic and Protestant people vast wealth and political power would be available to achieve the goals which would be considered desirable. It would be more convincing and drawing to the vast non-Christian population of the world, it is pointed out.
The arguments for this movement are plausible at first glance but let us consider them carefully. First of all, what will be the requirements for membership in this super church or organization? Will it be “Ye must be born again” (Jesus’ own words in John 3:7)? Will it be faith in the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus and believing on Him as the Scriptures have said? Will it be a life cleansed through the words of Christ and abiding in Him proved by keeping His commandments? (John 15:1-10). Will it be Jesus’ words, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12)? Many more questions could be asked but perhaps these will suffice.
To ignore our differences is no basis for fellowship. They must be resolved. The prophet Amos asked, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The answer is obvious. Paul further admonishes, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Corinthians 6:14,15).
Some believe that merging of churches is the answer to greater fellowship and unity. Sometimes this has taken place where there was a difference in basic doctrines. When this is true a compromise must be worked out to get along at all. Satan is the greatest compromiser of all time, urging us to give in a little here and a little there to attain his purpose. When the Truth is lost a little at a time it may not be very noticeable, but it is lost nevertheless.
God’s call to His people is: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Also in Revelation 18:4, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” The course for God’s children to take is clearly outlined by the above Scriptures.
Jesus and the Apostles warned in many places to be careful to avoid being deceived. Jesus said, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the world; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). How often has it been seen that riches have caused people to go astray. Old mores lost their importance and new, more socially acceptable values took their place. In this age of great affluence Jesus’ warnings against the deceitfulness of riches take on new importance.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Today we see the word “love” everywhere but little of the love of God. People believe they can disobey the Word of God if they do it in the name of love. This spirit reveals itself in a permissive and indulgent attitude. If not recognized and repented of, it will lead ever farther from true love. As a result many today are not able to distinguish between love and lust.
False and erroneous teaching is flooding the world with tracts, magazines, books and in other forms besides radio and television. Care must be taken to choose our reading material wisely so it will not contain teachings and concepts that are not sound. If we open our minds to study false religions or cults, Satan will have a good chance to mislead us; then it is very difficult to find our way back. We are warned of the danger of following false prophets or teachers, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 that Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light and his ministers and deceitful workers into apostles of Christ and ministers of righteousness, but their end shall be according to their works.
How then can we know whether we are deceived ourselves or following one of the false teachers? There are ways for us to know. Have you been born again and become one of God’s children? (John 3:3). Do you find fellowship with God and His Children? “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Do you have a submissive spirit that is easily entreated or do you feel others should be more tolerant of you and your convictions, attitudes, weaknesses, and yes, even waywardness? (Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5).
Do you feel misunderstood, picked on, or persecuted when others reprove you, perhaps feeling you are being treated as Job’s friends treated him? Do you cling to your own light, or do you accept the thought that God may also be speaking to you through others?
Are you really, honestly doing what you know is right? Are you really obeying God and His Word? If so, you will have the Witness of the Holy Ghost in your heart (Acts 5:32). You will abide in Christ, the true vine and bear fruit as one of the branches. You will rejoice in the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, denying yourself of ungodliness and worldly lusts and living “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12,13).
If you allow a love for self and the world to blind your eyes to the will of God, you will develop a resistance to God’s will and grieve away the Spirit of God. Then Satan comes as an angel of light and you listen to him because it appeals to your carnal mind. Little by little you accept a broader, easier way, thinking it is God’s leading. To think you are right when you are wrong is deception.
If you keep God’s Word He is faithful to keep His. He says, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the face of the earth” (Revelation 3:10). The almighty power of Christ prevents Satan from deceiving those who keep His Word.
There are those who will be turned to the left hand at the Judgment Bar of God who expected to be among those invited in to receive the reward of eternal life. Please read Matthew 25. How terribly tragic to go through life expecting to be saved only to be rejected by the just and righteous Judge in the day when mercy will be past. These poor souls were deceived, but at one time they surely knew that they were starting down the wrong road. Paul told the idol worshipers that God “left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:17). No one will be able to stand up in the Judgment and accuse God of being unfair because they didn’t know they were being deceived. He will tell them to remember when He witnessed to them, perhaps through His Word, His Spirit, or one of His servants, warning them that they were starting down the wrong road on which Satan was finally able to deceive them.
The person who is deceived cannot rightfully claim God as his Father. Jesus said, “He that is of God heareth God’s words . . .” (John 8:47). But whoever rejects God’s Words has a different father. God will not deceive nor let His children down. If we find we have been deceived we must conclude we have the wrong father. In that case, why not turn around like the prodigal son and say, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him. Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:18,19).
When you come to Him penitently like the prodigal son did. God will forgive you and restore you as His child. Then you can rightly claim God as your Father. This loving Father will never deceive you or let you down.