The pastor of a church we attended many years ago had a saying, “The thing about deception is that it’s so deceptive.” This seems obvious, like a “Yogi-ism”, (for my younger readers, Yogi Berra was a professional baseball player, famous for stating insightful comments simply) but what he was communicating was that when we are deceived, we cannot see it because that deception has clouded our perspective. The prophet Jeremiah echoes the same idea.
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Let’s consider some examples. Peter, after walking with the Lord for three years, still came under a deceptive influence and was rebuked by the Lord for trying to keep him from his destiny with the cross Math. 16:21. Later, Peter was again deceived and rebuked by Paul for pulling away from eating with “Gentile sinners” Gal. 2:11+
While it’s true that as believers we have been given new hearts, is there any doubt that it often takes years to align our thoughts and desires with the new heart we’ve been given? This is the work of transformation, sanctification or spiritual growth that Paul discusses in his letters. The thing to remember is that our life is a transformational journey. We do not suddenly “arrive” when we are born again. During the journey it is critical for us to walk in humility, wisdom and grace. The world is a hostile place seeking to lead us astray, but overcoming deceit is possible and it is essential as we walk out our calling here on the earth.
Have you noticed that the battle is waged on two fronts; both inside and outside?
…but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.
You may also wish to study the following verses:
2 Thessalonians 2:3; 10-11; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 1:8
If deception is so pervasive and if I am susceptible to its poison, what hope do we possibly have? First and foremost, it is critical to have an objective standard outside of ourselves by which we evaluate things. This external standard is the scripture, James calls it a mirror by which we can accurately see ourselves and the world. Secondly, we are told over and over again to walk in humility, circumspectly, examining ourselves lest we fall.
The “weeds of deception” are growing right alongside us and will affect us if we are unaware. Do we not continually see this in the media, politics, economics, schools and dare I say even in our churches. Recall that first deception in the garden, which was the habitation of Yahweh on earth. It was a lie or misrepresentation of the “word of God”. The enemy twisted the word of God and lied to our first parents – presenting a half truth.
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
That first lie took place in the very house of God (the garden) and dare I say that we are susceptible to this same type of deception if we are not careful to consider the whole counsel of God.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
2 Corinthians 11:3
When specific verses are extracted to support a pre-conceived agenda, some text is exalted while others are ignored, or the Old Testament is no longer taught, spiritual deception is knocking at the door. We should wisely consider the example of the Bereans; they listened to what was taught and then verified it with the written word. See Acts 17:11.
What is the takeaway? First of all, be respectful in your manner, walk in wisdom, question things, ask the Holy Spirit for discernment, look beyond the surface, be a critical thinker, look for patterns and most importantly verify everything with scripture. People who have nothing to hide will appreciate your questions and cautious attitude. Those with hidden motives…..well, you know.
- Study the scriptures (Old and New Testaments) on a regular basis.
- Walk in humility, circumspectly.
- Listen to and consider people’s opinions who see things differently than you do.
- Admit that you are not above being deceived.
- Realize that the world in which you live is a hostile environment to the Christian faith and getting more so by the day.
- And for all my charismatic friends (of which I am one) – just because someone demonstrates signs, wonders or miracles, it is not a guarantee of God’s blessing on that ministry. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:9)
- And finally, follow the Berean example of checking everything you are being taught – Acts 17:11.
In summary, keep your eyes and ears open both naturally and in the Spirit, understanding the days in which we live because they are evil indeed. Since we began by referencing a “Yogi-ism”, let me close with one.
“You can observe a lot by watching”Yogi Berra