It is regrettable that internet search engines don’t come with discernment filters. Even when we readily avoid bad language, inappropriate sexual content, and violence online, we sometimes find ourselves wondering what is acceptable for us, as Christians. We are equipped to steer clear of glorified sin that seeks to entrap us. There are other traps, though, that require discernment. These traps can be equally dangerous.
Proverbs 5:22 explains that “The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.” Those who wisely avoid such traps should be in the clear. The reality is that Scripture is full of warnings against less-obvious threats. It is sobering to understand that every one of us is vulnerable to believe the lies of the enemy. It is our responsibility to stand guard against deception.
Once we think deception is truth, we tend to not just accept it. We begin to defend it and change our behaviors to match it.
Studies in social science show that we change our behaviors to match what we say about ourselves. Marketers know this. This is why we get phone calls before elections where we are asked if we will vote. They ask us “Can I get your commitment that you will vote on Tuesday?” If we say yes, studies show that we are much more likely to do so than if we had never given our word that we would. Apparently, deep inside, we don’t want to say one thing and do another.
Proverbs 23:7 documents this truth; “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” So, when we are already deceived, it’s hard to understand it, because we act in ways that support our belief, embracing the untruth. For this reason, it is extra important to see the lie ahead of time. We must be discerning about new things that lure us, and we must be introspective and honest as we assess things that we already believe.
Matthew tells us that none of us are above deception.
We must never make the mistake of thinking that to avoid signs and wonders altogether is to avoid deception. Remember that Jesus told us that they would be part of our ministry. John 14:12 says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” The apostles operated in signs and wonders and The New Testament teaches extensively about them. To embrace all of Scripture is to embrace Jesus’ ways and to emulate them.
We must never make the mistake of thinking that to avoid signs and wonders altogether is to avoid deception.
In his book Protection from Deception, Derek Prince titles a list of characteristics in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 as “18 Moral Blemishes.” Here is that list;
“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God“
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
It is also important to understand that long-standing doctrines can enslave us. Just because people have believed it a long time does not mean it is true. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says,“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” According to this verse, a lot of deception that appears new and enlightened is just repackaged for current trends and popular culture.
Colossians 4:8 talks about these “fruitless” doctrines. Remember Jesus’ above warning about fruit?;
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow
and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and
the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
All people can stray from the truth. Pride itself can deceive people into believing that they know too much to be deceived. Or that they are too close to God to not heed His warnings. Pride can blind us. There are no safe zones where we can let our discernment down. History shows that it is possible to fall into sin and deception, even if you lead a church full of devoted Christians, have best-selling books, lead amazing worship or really love God. We can learn from these tragedies.
Pride itself can deceive people into believing that they know too much to be deceived.
These Berian Christians became skillful at testing and approving Truth.
In Romans 12:2 , Paul tells us to renew our minds and to personally test God’s will; “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It is essential that we never leave this testing to just our church leaders. When we are told that we can’t do something that the Bible tells us to do, or that we must do something that the Bible tells us clearly not to do, then we must assert ourselves and resist these leadings. We are warned to test and approve things.
The same is true when extra-Biblical rules are given to us as essentials that must be obeyed, “or else.” This is another reason that we should test everything. Deception often takes the form of unnecessary enslavement. People who start with good intentions can still seek to control us. We must not be sheep that blindly follow our shepherds. Deceived people are sometimes people who are seeking man’s approval (see Galatians 1:10) or have not matured spiritually enough to know something is not Biblical. To live deception-free requires that we seek God’s approval alone and endeavor to know His Word well.
We must not be sheep that blindly follow our shepherds.
The Holy Spirit is available to help us live lives free of deception. Sometimes He will nudge us to say “no” to something and will wait to reveal why. Listen to when He nudges you. John 8:31-32 says, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” The Holy Spirit will help us stay on the path of Truth.
It is wise to do a deception check regularly. Be warned that any one of us may be believing lies, big or small, even things that we were taught as children. Be open to His prompting and wisdom. An unveiled lie can lead us to increased freedom if we repent for believing it and reject it. Then where the lie was, freedom with be; “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) God bless you as He guides you to walk in Truth.