Be Not Deceived

For almost as long as truth has existed, there has also been the reality and danger of deception. Deception was how sin entered into this world, and as long as this world exists, our spiritual adversary will be doing his worst to deceive as many people as possible, leading lost souls to eternal punishment and destruction. For this reason, God's word warns against deceptions and deceivers, often admonishing the reader to “not be deceived” by people and things that will lead us away from truth.

      Deception can come in different forms and by different means, too, so caution in one area does not mean we are safe from deception; watching for deceivers who come from the outside does not mean we cannot be deceived by those who are already among us! Let us not overlook the fact infiltration is one of our enemy's most successful tactics; if he can get faithful believers to trust one of his servants and start following him, rather than the truth, then he will revel in his success, though outsiders have been successfully repelled. The point is, caution should be exercised at all times and in all situations because deception is often used because it is successful in convincing others they are safe when they are actually in danger, or in convincing others they are following truth when, in reality, they are following a lie. The whole success of deception lies in the fact someone falsely believes that what they believe is acceptable to God, or that what they are doing is acceptable to God. Sometimes, that deception can be so strongly believed that when one plainly sees the truth, they will reject it as the lie!

      So, if this is such a dangerous thing [and it is], shouldn't we be prepared to guard against it? Shouldn't we know as many different means of deception as we can so we may readily identify it and reject it? Well, yes we should! Let's take a look at a few things the Bible warns against as deceptions that hinder many from ever accepting the truth and obeying it, and which may lead God's people astray.

      The Deceitfulness of Riches. In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said the seed that fell on thorny ground represented the one “who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). There is some wise advice here! In this case, it was “the deceitfulness of riches” that caused a man to turn away from the truth and back into the world, where he would be lost once again. But what is it about riches that are so deceitful, and would cause someone to do this?

      The danger in riches is, as we have noted already, convincing some to put their trust and faith in it as that which will provide what they seek: comfort and safety. Jesus exposed that idea as false, reminding us it is earthly riches that can be corrupted, lost, or stolen (cf. Matt. 6:19). But, over and over, man puts his trust in money and in riches and continues to pursue them as if they were the answers to all our problems, rather than acknowledging they are the cause of so many problems. Recall that Jesus once said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24); it is not impossible, but it is difficult.

      Paul touches on this danger when he instructed Timothy to warn against the desire to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9), which causes many to “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” This love of money, he would say, had caused many to have “strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). His final admonition was clear: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

      The Deception of Our Own Desires. The apostle Paul admonished the disciples of Ephesus to shun to ways of the worldly Gentiles (Eph. 4:17), reminding them that they had learned a better way of life where they were to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). Let us note here the mention of “deceitful lusts”; what, exactly, is he saying, and why are these “lusts” deceitful?

      First, let us note that the Greek word translated as “lusts”simply means desire; it is not exclusively sensual and/or sexual in nature, but any earthly, fleshly, material desire for something that we believe will bring us pleasure, happiness, or fulfillment. But that, in itself, reveals the folly of desire, for there is nothing of this world that can bring true and lasting satisfaction. The wise writer tried that path and came to the conclusion “all is vanity” — it's useless!

      Far too often, it is our personal desires that lead us astray, deceiving us into thinking it is "what God wants for me" when, in reality, it is what I want for me! How many times do we hear of people talking about how "God led" them to some activity or location? How many preachers talk about how God "led them" to a certain city or church or program? Quite often [if not always] it is those “deceitful lusts” that were moving them to act or speak, and not God. God has already revealed what He wants us to do — in the Bible! Don't be deceived by your own personal desires, for it is those desires that often lead to sin (cf. Jas. 1:13-15).

      The Deception of Sin. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who had already suffered persecution because of their faith, but that persecution had led some to apparently believe they could abandon Christ and go back to the Old Law and simultaneously eliminate the persecutions and still be pleasing to God. The writer presented numerous reasons why that would be a bad idea, but at one point he urged them, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12, 13). Let us note here his mention and warning against “the deceitfulness of sin.”

      The lure of sin is that it will offer pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment. It is clearly appealing, else no one would be practicing it! But the appeal to pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment is in itself deceiving, for it is never true and lasting, and seldom [if ever] are the negatives and the destructive consequences ever mentioned. Sin calls to the one who desires and tells him he will enjoy it; it tells him others will be his friends if he does it; it tells him life will be so much better if he just gives in. The deceitfulness of sin is that while all those things may be true to some degree, it does not mention “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23); it does not mention that unforgiven sin will result in eternal condemnation. This deception has literally led all men to fall for the appeal!

            These are but a few of the things that may deceive us and lead us away from the truth by convincing us we are right when, sadly, we are not. Be watchful for yourselves, and make regular, honest, and thorough examinations of self to make sure you are on the right path.      — Steven Harper