How does Satan deceive the world? How does our human nature deceive us? What can we do to resist Satan’s deception?
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In Revelation 12:9 a scripture that most of us have memorized, it describes Satan's activity. Let me read this scripture to you to refresh your memory. It says:
Revelation 12:9 - "...the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast out with him." How is it possible, as Revelation 12:9 describes that the devil has been able to accomplish this - the deception of the whole world? How has he been able to carry that out? We know that verse 9 states that he's done it. But how has he accomplished that? Well, one thing we find in I Timothy 2:14, that from the very beginning, this great dragon, as he's described here, this snake of old has deceived mankind. He's been able to spin his web of deceit over mankind. Notice:
I Timothy 2:14 - "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into (the) transgression." Now I'm not here to debate on who's easier to deceive. The principle was from the very beginning, Satan the devil was able to deceive Eve and then later on as we find out, all of mankind. The word means that she was misled, deluded or led astray. He led her astray from the way that God had ordained. Both Adam and Eve, as we know, were driven out of the garden. They were cut off from the tree of life. They were cut off from access to the Holy Spirit at that time. And they now sat under the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil." They began to decide for themselves right and wrong, but it was right and wrong influenced by Satan the devil, because he now became the predominate influence in their lives instead of God being there to influence and guide and to direct them. Ephesians 2:1-3 summarizes what has taken place from that time down to today. Let's notice in:
Ephesians 2:1 - It says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Verse 2 - "in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to..." the society of the cosmos, the age of this world. "...according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." So we find from this verse that he is a very powerful spirit. He is called "the prince of the power of the air." He is able to influence the children of the "sons of disobedience,"
Verse 3 - "among whom also we all, (notice that,) we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our (the) flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as others. So you find that Satan, in spinning his web of deceit, cast that web over everyone, and he's cast it over all of us in the past. We have all been deceived. NowRevelation 18:3 adds a very interesting point to this that I'd like to focus on, and we'll take time to stop and look at what Satan has done. Let's notice here beginning in verse 3, talking about Babylon, it says -
Revelation 18:3 - "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." So here we find it states that all "nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth that committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." Now if you'll go over to verse 23, it says -
Verse 23 - "And the light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore. And the voice of (the) bridegroom and (the) bride shall not be heard in you anymore." Talking about Babylon here. "For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery..." your trickery, your magical arts, your sorcery, your medications or whatever; however you want to translate this. It says, "...all of the nations were deceived."
Now what we find here in the book of Revelation; God makes it clear that Babylon is used in several different ways when the term Babylon is used. It describes a great city, a city that rules over the nations. It is also described as a great political, economic system, as well as a religious system or approach. Now we find in the Bible that God has worked through Israel. He worked in the "Old Testament" through what we would call the ten tribes, or they were called the "congregation of Israel," the "church of Israel" as well as in the "New Testament" through "spiritual Israel."
Satan has a system that the Bible labels as Babylon. That is his system, that is his approach and he's operated through this "Babylonian" approach, and he has influenced everything that man has done by this approach. When you look at man's governments, you look at man's politics, at education, at philosophy, at religion, economic systems; everything that you can think of has been influenced by him through Babylon.
Now as we read back in Ephesians 2, he's also worked on man's weaknesses because man has certain weaknesses: the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life." He works to influence mankind in these ways, and one of the greatest lies that he's been able to deceive man into thinking is that man can solve his own problems; that man can handle his own problems without revelation. This is called humanism today. And when mankind does practice religion, it's is a perpetuation of the ancient Babylonian mystery religion or at least it's philosophies and approach. It's a mixture of truth and error.
Now when God begins to call all of us as He has; when He begins to work with our minds, begins to draw us, begins to enlighten us and open our mind to the truth, He begins to call us to have an opportunity for salvation. And one of the first things that we begin to realize at that time; we begin to recognize the deception of Satan, the devil and the world and society at large. As you begin to learn the truth, you begin to study the Bible. God opens your mind; you begin to understand that.
We also acknowledge that we have been deceived, for as we individually have likewise been deceived. Isn't part of repentance that when you and I repent of our sins, isn't that an acknowledgment of that deception? We realize that we have been deceived, and that we need to completely depend upon God and not upon ourselves. In a sense, when God calls us, we begin to become "undeceived," if there is such a word. We begin to be enlightened. But with this enlightenment comes a pitfall if we're not careful, and that's what I would like to address today.
Yes, just because we see much of the deception of Satan does not mean that we see everything that he has done. He is very clever. Satan, the devil rolls out ideas and philosophies in layers. You peel back one layer, and you think you know what he's up to, and there's another layer. And the more you dig, the more you peel back another layer, the more you'll find how he has truly deceived mankind. The pitfall is simply this; that once we understand the truth we can begin to become comfortable with our state and still not fully understand the deception that Satan has perpetrated. We can sometimes continue to be deceived, not just by Satan, but by our own nature. We have to watch deceiving ourselves.
Do you know that it's possible that you and I can deceive ourselves? I want us to take a look today at how it is possible for a human being to deceive himself, how I can deceive myself, how you can deceive yourselves. We need to legitimately look at how, you know, this operates and what the Bible says and recognize how easy it is to be deceived.
When I use the word deception, what am I talking about? What do we mean? Well, one definition of deception is simply this, "the cause to accept as truth, or valid, what is false or misleading." So, you think it's right, you think it's true, you think it's honest; but it's false and it's misleading. Webster's says this: "To make a person believe what is not true." So, you have the truth, and we know -
John 17:17 says, "...Thy word is truth." So, the Word of God, the Bible is the basis of truth, and yet we are deluded or misled. In the Greek, one of the major words for this means to "cause to stray, to lead astray, to lead aside from the right way." So you find somebody who is deceived has been led astray; they've been misled. Metaphorically it means to lead from the truth and to lead into error, to deceive. And so all of these give a feeling for what the word deception means.
Now let's notice in Titus 3:3 - I want you to notice what the Bible and what Paul very clearly tells us. It says,
Titus 3:3 - "For we ourselves were also once foolish...." So he's talking here about those who are now converted, those who have God's Spirit, those who are striving to obey God, to do what is right. So "... we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived," notice, very clearly - he says that we have been deceived. "...serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice (and) envy, hateful (and) hating one another." Now what we find here in the next few verses is that the Apostle Paul begins to describe to us the process that we all go through to come out of deception, to help loosen its grip on us, or to break its control on us. Beginning in Verse 4 it says:
Verse 4 - "...when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
Verse 5 - "not by works of righteousness which we have done," not because of our goodness, "but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of (the) regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." So, we've been cleaned up by the Word of God. We've received the Spirit of God -
Verse 6 - "Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Verse 7 - "that having been justified by His grace" so we've been justified, we've been made right with God by His grace, by His unmerited pardon "we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." And there it describes the process that we go through. It is God's calling. It is God who initiates the process and works with us to bring us to repentance and then to give us His Holy Spirit.
Now how is it possible for a human being to deceive himself? I think most of us already know probably the key scripture dealing with this. Let's turn back, and we will look at Jeremiah 17:9-10. We find that Jeremiah; under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says this:
Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things," so, the human heart, the natural mind of man is deceitful, "and (it is)desperately wicked." The margin says, "or it is incurably sick." It's like having cancer, incurable sickness. "Who can know it?"Who understands it? Who fully realizes this? Well, God says -
Verse 10 - "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, And according to the fruit(s) of his doings." So God knows our hearts and our minds. He knows our motives. He knows what we think. Human beings tend to look on the outward appearance; God looks on the heart. He looks on the mind. He sees what goes on inside of us. So, when God calls us we begin to find out what our heart truly is like, don't we? We begin to see what our nature is like.
I want you to notice today as we go through this; I want us to take a look at the ways, and we'll see many that the scriptures clearly state that we deceive ourselves. And how the heart can mislead us if we don't stay close to God. In James 1:23 we'll take a look at some of these ways. It says,
James 1:23 - "... if anyone is a hearer of the word;" OK, so we all hear God's word expounded, or we read it; we study it. "... he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
Verse 24 - "... (and) he observes himself, (and) goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was." So, maybe he goes away, and he thinks, "I'm tall, dark and handsome," or a girl thinks, "I'm beautiful, blonde, and sexy," or whatever a woman might think. And yet the mirror, in looking into the mirror reveals something quite different. That's true for most of us, most of us men, not the ladies. But you'll find that the word here for "get" means neglecting, no longer caring for, forgotten. So it says, we can look into the Word of God into the mirror and we could forget; we can neglect; we no longer care for what we saw there.
Now God is concerned that when we look into the scriptures that we take great care of what we see there, what it reveals to us, what it shows us about our characters. You see, many times as we study, the Scriptures reveal our shortcomings, our faults, our sins or mistakes. Now sometimes we can read over those and quickly pick ourselves up and run and keep going. We forget what was revealed to us. God's Spirit works with us to reveal where we need to change, where we need to take action, lest we forget. As verse 25 goes on to say -
Verse 25 - "...he who looks into the perfect law of liberty," so again it's the law of God that we're looking into, "and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." So if we expect God to bless us, to look after us, to help us, then we need to be doers and not just hearers. Verse 21 summarizes this for us.
Verse 21 - "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Verse 22 - "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." So notice how we deceive ourselves. We hear and don't do. We know what God requires, we know what He says, and we forget it; we neglect it. We don't have enough care about our spiritual development, our growth, making it into God's kingdom, that it just becomes something that we don't care about. Let me read this out of the "NIV" translation, verse 21-22. It says,
Verse 21 - "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." God takes His word, and He plants it in our mind. Now Hebrews talks about how God does what? He writes His law in our hearts and in our minds, so God plants it in our minds. And verse 22 -
Verse 22 - "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." So we have to be doers. God through the Holy Spirit implants; we begin to have a softened conscience. We begin to feel guilty about what we do, and God can then work with us to change as we respond to His Spirit. Notice verse 26 -
Verse 26 - "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue (does not control what he says,) but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless." So notice another way that we actually deceive ourselves, and that is by not controlling our tongue, what we say. Now as verse 26 very clearly brings out, if anyone thinks he's religious, of course this is our own estimation of ourselves, how we think we are. We think we're religious.
Hatch's "Essays of the Biblical Greek" has an interesting point on this, concerning religious; I mean what do you mean, religious; somebody thinks he's religious. It says, "It shows that it refers to the external observance of public worship such as church, attendance, almsgiving, prayer and fasting." We can appear to do what is right. And so it's showing that we can appear religious. We can appear to have all the trappings. You know we tell people we pray, we study, we might even fast, we come to church, you know we get involved, but are we changing inside? Are we doing what we know that we should do? If we don't control our tongue, our religion is vain.
It's interesting that the word vain means devoid of force, devoid of truth, success, useless, of no purpose. We can do all of these things but they come to no purpose. It will lack the spiritual force that should be there. I think sometimes maybe we need to stop and ask ourselves, "Do we have the spiritual power of God, the force of God, the energy of God through His Spirit in us and in our lives to accomplish, to grow and to help us? Because, if we hear, we don't do as it says here, "Our religion is in vain." So we deceive ourselves.
Here's another way we deceive ourselves, so it behooves all of us to be careful about what we say, how we use our tongues. And of course, we could go off on this topic; there are hundreds of scriptures that deal with the tongue and the proper use of it, but let's move on to Galations 6:7. We find here another interesting scripture, a warning to us. We're told here:
Galations 6:7 - "Do not be deceived." So why would he even say this unless it's possible to be deceived? So he says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, (that) he will (also) reap." So another way that we can deceive ourselves is thinking that we can sow one thing and reap another; that doesn't happen. Many of us have grown up on a farm. If you sow beans you're not going to harvest carrots. You put seeds in the ground that are beans. If the conditions are right you'll grow beans, if you want carrots you have to plant carrot seed. So what you sow you reap. I think we all understand that, it's clear principle, but let's notice verse 8 and how it applies to us and why he says, don't be deceived.
Verse 8 - "For he who sows to his flesh will of the (his) flesh reap corruption." So sowing to the flesh will bring about corruption, "but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." So it is important for us to sow to the Spirit. You have to plant the proper spiritual crop if you want the proper results. There's a contrast here - Sowing to the flesh, sowing to the spirit. How do we sow? What does it mean to sow to the flesh, sow to the spirit? How do you know when you're doing one and not doing the other? Romans 8, I believe sheds some light on this.
Romans 8:1 - Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." We're not motivated by the fleshly motivations, the fleshly desires but according to the Spirit. The Spirit of God is guiding us, directing us.
Verse 2 - "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." Remember back inverse 24, the previous chapter?
Romans 7:24 - "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? And he says,
Verse 25 - "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Now in chapter 8 we go on to find out how this is accomplished. So we walk, or we live according to the Spirit. The Spirit of God has to be in us, the force; the power of God has to be the main motivation in our lives. And verse 4 says -
Romans 8:4 - "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Verse 5 - "For those who live according to the flesh," what does it mean to live according to the flesh? Well, here's a definition:"set their minds on the things of the flesh," their minds are always just about the carnal, physical fleshly thing, "but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." Now this doesn't mean that you don't think of your job; you don't think about food, clothing and shelter - all of this, but we're talking about motivation. What motivates us in doing all of these things? It's like Matthew 6:33 says -
Matthew 6:33 - "...seek (you) first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and (then) all these things will be added...." So if we put God first, then God will take care of the other. But verse 6 says -
Romans 8:6 - (But) "For to be carnally minded is death," fleshly minded, physically minded, "but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Verse 7 - "Because why? Well, the carnal mind, the fleshly mind is enmity against God." This is the mind cut off from God, the natural mind; it's not motivated by the Spirit of God. "... the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." So how to know if we have a natural carnal mind dominating us, or God's mind? Well, what is our attitude toward God's law? What is our attitude toward obeying God's law and its motivation, not only just the physical aspects of it but the spiritual? In other words, we cannot continue in our old way. Going on, it says -
Verse 8 - "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Verse 9 - "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." So God's Spirit is dwelling in us and leading us. It says, "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." He is not a Christian.
Verse 10 - "And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." You see, the old man, the old way is dead. Why? Well, you were baptized. When you were baptized you bury the old, and you rise up to live a new way of life.
Verse 11 - "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." And so, we find -
Verse 13 - "If we live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." So God, through His Spirit helps us to put to death the deeds of the body.
Now in Galations 5:16-21, (I won't read it, but you're all familiar with this.) the works of the flesh are mentioned. They're are explained in great detail. These are what must be put to death. What do we mean to put them to death? That means to kill them, get rid of them, begin to overcome them. We don't do that overnight; we don't do it immediately; we all understand that. It's a lifelong struggle. But in our heart and our mind our desire is to always obey God, do what is right, and when we fall short we repent, and we turn to God.
In fact, I Corinthians 6:9 describes here the works of the flesh. Notice here; this is a sort of a two to three verse summary of what we're talking about. It says -
I Corinthians 6:9 - "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" - not going to be in God's kingdom? "Do not be deceived." Here again we're warned, don't be deceived. "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
Verse 10 - "nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." So anyone who practices these things as a way of life is deceiving himself. If we still live this way, the wrong way, we're deceiving ourselves. Now verse 11 says -
Verse 11 - "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified..." So we've been cleansed by God. We've been forgiven. We've been set apart. We have been reconciled, made right with God. So you'll find this wrong lifestyle is a way that we have to repent of, we have to change from. So brethren, God has called us to be a different people. Now I want to come back to this because I think today in our society you find that anyone who's willing to stand up for God, for His way of life is ridiculed, made fun of and really put down.
Turn on over to Chapter 15 and let's notice another application of how sometimes we might deceive ourselves. You'll find there are a number of warnings in the scriptures that deal with this topic. We read in -
I Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be deceived: So here's another way we can be deceived. How? "Evil company corrupts good habits." Bad company can corrupt good habits, or as the "NIV" translation says: "Bad company corrupts good character," or the"New Revised Standard Version" says: "Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."
We have to realize that many times we are known by the company we keep, by those we associate with. Our friends can have a positive effect upon us,or they can have a negative effect upon us. Now we need to stop and ask ourselves; what kind of a friend are we to others? Are we an encourager? Do we exhort? Do we build them up? Do we strengthen them? Do we help them, or do we tear them down? You see we have an opportunity to really effect other's principles.
I think this is especially a principle that many of our young people need to remember in making friends and those that you're going to spend most of your time with. Character, attitude and morals are qualities that we need to consider in our friends and in marriage. When you get ready to marry, you want somebody who has high moral standards, who has values, someone who is going to build you up, who is going to encourage you. And which you can do the same thing, not somebody who's going to pull you down. So this is extremely important.
Now let's notice in I Peter 4:1. There was a time when we ran with the wrong crowd, many of us. I realize we have a lot of young people here and it's a blessing. Many of our young people who grew up in the church did not get out into the world and society like many of us had before we came into the church. Now let's notice here -
I Peter 4:1 - "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
Verse 2 - "that he no longer should live the rest of his time (life) in the flesh for the lusts of men (man), but for the will of God." See here again is a difference, living according to the lusts of man or for the will of God.
Verse 3 - "For we (have) spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness(licentiousness), lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries." Now, what happens when you stop doing these things, and you say, "Nope, I've lived that way, but I'm no longer going to live that way. I'm going to change. I'm going to be converted." Well,
Verse 4 - "In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you." You and I cannot continue to run with the old crowd. We cannot hang out and do some of the things that many maybe did in the past. Hang out at bars, read sexually explicit material, you know, go to who knows what as far as what they watch and read. We have to become different, don't we? We have to be a different people.
What happens today with those who claim to have religious values? Are they not called extremists? In fact, in the political circles they're referred to as "right wing" extremists. For anyone who might seem to be conservative, have values, believe in the sanctity of marriage, believe that marriage should be between a male and a female, believe that you should keep the Ten Commandments.
As I heard on a talk program the other day, there was a woman in Boston who said, "the thing that really bugs me," she used a term similar to that, "was these moral people trying to impose their values on us." And she was quite adamant that she didn't want anybody who was "moral" imposing his values upon them. Today people are called religious nuts if they hold to these values. Well I'm looking at an audience full of "nuts" here by some people's standards. Now obviously, that's not true. God has called us to live His way of life, and it is a way that produces the right results.
We need to realize there is a culture war going on in this country and in the western world for the soul of the nation, and it is slowly but surely being undermined. Maybe not slowly now, it's sort of like a snowball. The more it rolls downhill the bigger it gets and the more momentum it picks up and pretty soon it's a crescendo that's very difficult. You try to stand in its path to stop it, and it's like an avalanche; it just sort of rolls over the top of you and engulfs everything in its way, and that's exactly what is happening in society today.
And so we find that it's very important for us to maintain the right example and make sure that we have those as our friends who are going to set ...and encourage us in the right way. Ephesians 5:1 certainly ties in with this also. We're told here that we can be deceived by wrong actions. It says -
Ephesians 5:1 - "Therefore be imitators (followers) of God as dear children.
Verse 2 - "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given (gave) Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Verse 3 - "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as (it) is fitting for (the)saints;
Verse 4 - "neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Verse 5 - "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Verse 6 - "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." So people can come along, and they can deceive you, they can say, "This isn't too bad, this isn't so wrong." And yet you'll find as it says in the next few verses that we are children of light and not the children of darkness. Being children of light pictures the blinders being removed from our eyes, the deception being removed and our ability to see and to understand the truth and to come out of darkness into the light. You have to realize that the influence of society and Satan is there from our youth. We need the influence of God daily in our lives. What do we think about most? What dominates our minds? What determines our outlook, our approach, and our attitude?
You see, we have to be very careful about what we read, what we see, how we speak, the example we set. We need the influence of other Christians in our lives. That's why it's absolutely important not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We need the strength that we can draw from one another. We need the encouragement that we receive from each other, and we deceive ourselves if we dabble in the world and not think that it won't bother us or won't influence us. You can't keep one foot in the cesspool and one foot over here in the clean water and expect not to get hurt. The Bible is very clear on that.
In II Timothy 3:12, let's notice a very interesting scripture here again about deception:
II Timothy 3:12 - "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." So we will be persecuted for standing up for what is right.
Verse 13 - " But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." So as we get closer to the end deceivers will be there, and they will be deceived and they'll turn around and deceive others.
Verse 14 - "But (as for you) you (must) continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them." So Paul told Timothy, the young evangelist, "Look, remember who taught you, where you learned the truth and don't go away from it."
I think we've lived to see this scripture fulfilled today. Many have been deceived by false teaching, false doctrine and have gone away from the truth of God. We deceive ourselves if we do not continue in doctrine as we have been taught. Where did we learn the truth? From whom did we learn it? I think we all have to acknowledge that our roots go back to a time when we learned the fundamental truth, many of them from Mr. Herbert Armstrong and through God's Church, and they've been perpetuated.
Let me explain how you and I could be deceived, and I think one of the easiest ways today. It's something we're very aware of, but maybe we don't stop and think about and, that is today one of the things that I see is that everyone sets himself up as an authority on doctrine. The word doctrine simply means teaching. Everybody today thinks that he is the final authority on doctrine, and so what you will have is that people will come up with some strange belief, and if you don't accept it they're going to go off, and they'll find somebody who will accept it, or they'll go off and start their own little group. Romans 16:17 tells again to beware of this. Let's take note, he says:
Romans 16:17 - "... I urge you, brethren, note those (take note of those) who cause divisions and offenses, (those who create divisions within the church and offenses especially) contrary to the doctrine which you (have) learned," the basic, fundamental teachings that we have learned, "and (he says,) avoid them." Why? Well so they don't influence you; that's why. You hang around, you listen to, and eventually you can become corrupted by it.
Verse 18 - "For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple." Brethren, I think today many have forgotten some of these basic scriptures that we find written in the Bible and what they say, and what God says about avoiding those who do create division and those who will come along and teach doctrines or teachings that are opposite.
We deceive ourselves if we don't continue in what we have been taught, as I've said. Actually I find today that sometimes people become so broadminded and what I mean by that they think, "well, I should listen to everybody," and so they read everything they see out there. They listen to everybody, and they become so broadminded that they become extremely shallow in their understanding, because they're listening to everyone.
Everyone can't be right. We learned that fundamental principle years ago. Everyone can't be right if they're teaching things that are different. In fact, in Titus 1, notice the instruction and this is something that we have emphasized especially to the ministry and to those in the ministerial candidate program. Notice what Titus 1:10 says here:
Titus 1:10 - "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision," they had a problem back at that time with these. Notice what he says,
Verse 11 - "whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, (or they lead whole households astray) teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain." Then he goes on talking about the Cretans.
Brethren, we have been told in the scripture, "prove all things, hold fast to that which is true" but again it seems that today anyone who has his own ideas doctrinally could be a little off. They have their own ideas about the calendar; they have their own ideas about when the Passover should be observed, when to keep Pentecost, you could go on and on. You could list a whole number of things. We should all be willing to subject our teachings to review and testing.
What happens when I come up with an idea, or I have a thought that I think is contrary to what the church has taught or teaches? Well, there's a process that's set up. United has a doctrinal process: You write it up; you state your case; you give it to the doctrinal committee; its reviewed by a subcommittee and the doctrinal committee, and if its got merit it comes on to the council; then its given to all of the ministry to take a look at, and if we're wrong, we want it changed. You know if I'm wrong, I want to change. But what you'll find is that people are not willing to subject what they believe if it's something different to a doctrinal review and testing.
And what is the result of this? Well, it's led to untold splits and divisions within the church, many setting themselves up as the final authority. And I find that too often when people leave the first thing you begin to find is they deviate a little. They start going this direction, maybe it's not much but over a period of time - they don't have a host of senior pastors, ministers who can review, who've been around for forty, fifty years who are going to review what they've come up with. They are the only ones. They become the final authority. I would hate to think that I'm the final authority on doctrine. I feel much more comfortable having it subjected to many, many individuals who can take a look at it because I might overlook something, and I find that this is exactly what happens.
What is the main problem? Well I believe Paul focuses on what the main problem that some have when it comes to doctrine. That's in Galatians 6:3. Now this isn't specifically talking about doctrine, but it gives the principle:
Galatians 6:3 - "For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." I think too often itÕs a matter of lack of humility, too much ego, and that's a problem, that's a human tendency that we all fall into. Remember inMatthew 24:4-5 that Jesus Christ said, - I'll just sort of summarize this - (Beware)
Matthew 24:4 - "Take heed that no (one) man deceive you,
Verse 5 - "For many shall (will) come in my name, saying, (that) I am (the) Christ; and shall (will) deceive many." It says at the end time -
Verse 11 - "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
Verse 24 - "... false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders... " You know, this is prophesied at the end time, so you find that we're told that we need to be careful about what we read, what we see.
II Thessalonians 2:1 certainly ties in with this. You know, anytime you talk about being careful about what you read and study some people have red flags going off. They say, "Censorship, censorship, I should be able to read and study anything." And yes, you can, but you have to realize that you've got to be extremely careful. Nobody's trying to just censor, but we're trying to say what the Bible says here. Notice:
II Thessalonians 2:1 - "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
Verse 2 - "not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter," word being spoken, letter being written or revelation, "as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
Verse 3 - "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition." One of the easiest ways to be misled is in the area of prophecy, isn't it, to be misled with prophecy. There are those who feel that God has revealed to them when the return of Christ is going to take place. And they get little groups together, and they go out in the desert somewhere and they're waiting for Christ to come back, or where the place of safety is. There's a group who says it's in Texas. Where's Matt Fenchel? Matt would argue with that as being in Texas. There are those who think it's over somewhere over around Utah and those areas. Amos 3:7 we're all familiar with. It says -
Amos 3:7 - "Surely the Lord God does (will do) nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." And so God says that he will reveal it to His church, to His people.
Many claim that they have a special insight into prophecy, or that they are God's chosen messengers. Would not God reveal this to His church so that we could all profit from it, so that we would all know? You've got to realize that it's easy to be misled and deceived when it comes to prophecy. We've all recognized that the fundamental time flow, I should say story flow of prophecy is clearly outlined in the Bible, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven last plagues, but exactly when that takes place is a different story and that's something that God has to show us.
So what we need to realize is that this was a problem in the first century and it's been a problem throughout the history of God's church. II John 7 says -
II John 7 - "...many deceivers have gone (out) into the world who do not confess (that) Jesus Christ as (is) coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." And so,
Verse 9 - "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." So he says -
Verse 10 - "If anyone comes to you and does not (they don't) bring this doctrine, (the teaching of Christ, what He says,) do not receive him into your house nor greet him," (or give them Godspeed.) So there were corrupters, imposters, and false teachers, deceivers at that time.
This is one of the shortest books in the Bible. Why would God inspire it to be placed here? Well, the heart and core of it talks about this issue, and God certainly was very concerned for His people.
Well, what we find - you know I could go on and on - we're warned in I Corinthians 3 to not be deceived by the wisdom of this world. It's easy to be deceived by the world's philosophy and wisdom, by the psychology of this world. And I think that has had a profound effect in our day and age upon the approach to marriage, approach to childrearing, approach to any number of topics where we have tended to get away from what the Bible says, the scriptures say.
We tend to look at sometimes what the psychologist says. The one definition in the Greek language of deception means to be mistaken in one's judgment, and sometimes it is very easy to become mistaken in our judgment. Brethren, we have, in the past, all been deceived.
Let me finish by reading a scripture back in II Kings 18:28. I want you to notice the example here of Hezekiah of Judah; and the reason I want to read this final example is because I think it shows exactly how Satan tries to deceive us and work on us. What is the one area that he tries to his utmost to undermine within God's people? It's the same thing that we find back here. You'll notice here it says -
II Kings 18:28 - "Then Rabshakeh stood and cried (called) with a loud voice in (Hebrew) the Jews' language, and spake, saying, Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria:" Listen to what he has to say.
Verse 29 - "... Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: Thus says the king: 'Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, (don't let them deceive you) for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand;
Verse 30 - " nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, "The Lord will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria."' So he says, don't believe what Hezekiah has to say, that God will intervene. What is it that Satan tries to undermine among God's people? It is our faith and confidence in God; our faith and confidence in the word of God and what God tells us, what God says about the future, what God holds out for us.
Notice II Kings 19:10 - again you'll find this general or ambassador for the Assyrians speaking out, saying,
II Kings 19:10 - "Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: 'Do not let your God, in whom you trust deceive you,' " so notice, the shoe's put on the other foot. "Don't let God deceive you," he says. "...saying, 'Jerusalem shall not be given into (unto) the hand of the king of Assyria.' "
Verse 11 - "Look, you know (have heard) what the King of Assyria has done to all the land by utterly destroying them and shall you be delivered?
Verse 12 - "...the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, and he goes on to list them. Notice what Hezekiah did, and brethren this is what we as a church need to be doing constantly. Notice here, it says -
Verse 14 - "...Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord." You and I today are the temple of God; we can go to God in prayer as the book of Hebrews shows. We can go approach to the very throne of God "and spread it before the Lord.
Verse 15 - " Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.
Verse 16 - "Incline your ears." Please deliver us if I could summarize what he said. If there's ever a time in the history of God's church when we need God's help, God's direction, God's inspiration, God's help; it's now, and you know that's not to say that we don't need it at any other time. I'm just saying that we need God's direction as we get closer and closer to the end time, and we need to be able to go to God just like Hezekiah did, kneel down and realize that we have access to the throne of God in heaven through our High Priest, that we can pray to God. That He will hear us and have the utter confidence just like Hezekiah did. Total confidence that we worship the true God. We don't worship a false god like all of the other nations. We know God, and He has called us, and He has opened our mind, and so as Verse 19 says here -
Verse 19 - "Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone." That you're God; that you're with us, you guide us.
Verse 20 - "...Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, ... the Lord God of Israel" told me that he's heard your prayer, and he will answer your prayer. And you remember Verses 35 - 37 -
An angel of God went out and killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand men at night; and when the rest awoke in the morning, all these dead bodies out there. And the king went back to Assyria in disgrace; went into the temple to worship his god; it was not the true God, and his sons came and killed him. And the so the one who made the mighty boast before God saying, "Look, we will destroy you." God destroyed him.
So brethren, that's the God that we worship. He intervened on Israel's behalf, and we need to realize that Satan wants to destroy us today as a church, as a body from doing a work, from proclaiming the gospel, from accomplishing His purpose here at the end time. He wants to undermine our faith. We need to stand strong, and the only way that we can do that is the same way that Hezekiah did, and that's on our knees. If we're going to be strong, it's through prayer and fasting and staying close to God.
So, as I've said, "We've all been deceived spiritually in the past." God has removed the spiritual blinders; we can now see. We're no longer deceived in the sense of being misled by false doctrine. We've acknowledged that we believed falsehoods in the past, but I think, as I tried to show you today, that it is possible for us still to be deceived, to deceive ourselves if we're not careful. And certainly Satan can continue to work on us, to influence us in the wrong way.
Conversion is a lifelong process of coming out of error, of learning the truth, of learning to live the right way. God tells us to constantly examine ourselves; we need to ask God to reveal to us where we fall short, and how we fall short. Let's make sure that we're responsive to God and to the working of His Spirit in our lives.