We need to guard against being deceived, especially as there are so many voices coming at us over the airwaves, on the Internet and from the people we meet.
This article looks at the ways in which we can be led astray and be deceived, the subtleties of today’s lies and deceptions, some biblical guidelines on keeping safe, how to discern whether signs and wonders are right, checking for people’s fruit and having good role models.
1. Don’t be misled and stop being deceived
After Jesus had spoken about the end of the world, the disciples wanted to know when this was going to happen.
But Jesus had a surprising answer…
‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’Matthew 24:3-5 NIV
Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you.
For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.’”
The end of the world would mean more shaking, testing and persecution.
Jesus gave various teachings on how to cope with such things, which obviously help any generation in hard situations but that would also apply as the end of the world approached.
There are many ways to be deceived.
The things to watch out for are anything that:
- Isolates individuals away from friends and family.
- Emphasises some Bible verses and ignores other verses.
- Devalues Jesus as the Son of God, (e.g. no virgin birth, Jesus not in a human body, just another prophet, etc).
- Disregards civil authorities but enforces their own authority.
- Controls with restrictive authoritarian leadership.
- Adds additional laws and revelations to the Bible (e.g. Mormons).
- Strays away from the core beliefs of Christianity (see below).
The core beliefs are laid out in what is known as the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,‘The Apostles’ Creed’ The Church of England. 1
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Where it says ‘the holy catholic** Church’ it means Jesus’ church worldwide – any denomination that follows him. It does not mean solely the Roman Catholic Church.
2. As a young Christian I did not guard against being deceived
I became a Christian when I was twenty years old in 1976 and very soon after that, I came across a very slick magazine.
It was easy to read and had many coloured pictures, and it had a title that grabbed me.
It was called the ‘Plain Truth’.
Wikipedia explains what the magazine was based upon:
The Plain Truth was first published in 1934 by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of The Radio Church of God, which he later named The Worldwide Church of God (WCG)…‘The Plain Truth’ Wikipedia 2
The magazine’s messages often centered on the pseudo-scientific doctrine of British Israelism, the belief that the early inhabitants of the British Isles, and hence their descendants, were actually descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel…
After Armstrong’s death in 1986, new WCG leadership sought to change the core principles of WCG doctrine, quashed publication of Armstrong’s writings…
and embraced positions closer to those of mainstream Protestantism.”
I carried the Plain Truth magazine into our local Chapel to show off this delightful new discovery.
But a little seventy-year-old lady told me to be very careful, that this was not true Christianity.
What this magazine was teaching was a confusing mixture of truth and falsehood.
As a young Christian, I was staggered.
It just had not occurred to me that an article talking about Jesus Christ and His teachings could actually be written in such a way as to deceive people.
3. Subtle deceptions to misguide us
There have always been those who try to pollute God’s Word and who seduce people with a mixture of false teachings along with the truth.
That is why it is important for correct doctrine to be taught.
False teachings are much more dangerous to the church than those who hate Christianity and who openly speak out against it.
watch out that no-one deceives you…Matthew 24:4-5 NIV
they will deceive many.”
- Every Christian should be healthy and wealthy. Jesus, the apostles and many faithful Christians now and through history have suffered physically (see Galatians 4:13-15).
- Quick decisions to be converted, so numbers can be quoted on how many saved (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). But there is no good fruit in their lives (see Matthew 7:20-21).
- Christians can attain sinless perfection (see 1 John 1:8-10).
- Christians can claim, decree, or speak things into existence. We do not have the power to manipulate God. D. M. Lloyd-Jones taught never to use the word ‘claim’ when talking about the gifts, because the Spirit may give, or not give, just as He chooses. Desire the gifts but do not claim them (see 1 Corinthians 14:1).
- Every Christian needs to speak in tongues in order to be saved (see Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:30). This can be applied to other things like being baptised in a certain way.
- True Christians can lose their salvation (see Romans 8:28-30).
- People can get to heaven by being good and following God’s Laws (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
- To be a true Christian extra rules need to be followed, e.g. have to attend every church service, don’t watch movies or go to dances, do not have tattoos, etc (see Galatians 4:8-11).
- Christians can do whatever they like because they will always be forgiven (see Hebrews 6:4-8 and Romans 6:1-2).
- God is too loving to send anyone to hell (see 2 Thessalonians 1:9).
All these deceptions either add to or weaken the true gospel.
May we all guard against being deceived by studying what God’s Word says.
4. Protect me from being deceived!
In the Lord’s prayer, there are two things that we can pray for in regard to this:
Your will be done…Matthew 6:10 & 13 NIV
Deliver us from evil…”
In other words
‘Lord I pray that I will do Your will today, don’t let me wander and protect me from the snares of the evil one.’
To enable us to do this, we need to love the Bible.
This is another safeguard against falling into error, by having a love for the truth, which means that God’s teachings and commands become our delight.
Let’s look at some verses from the Psalms:
I have chosen the way of Truth, I have set my heart on Your Laws…Psalm 119:30, 35 & 97 NIV
Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight…
Oh, how I love Your Law! I meditate on it all day long.”
How much do we love God’s Word, His teaching, His commandments?
The Apostle Paul tells us that people perish because they refuse to love the truth.
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”2 Thessalonians 2:10 NIV
5. How to avoid being deceived by signs and wonders
If someone performed a miracle in front of you, would you be more open to what they were saying?
What about if they started to tell you a way of salvation and you began to feel that something was not quite right?
Would you say ‘Well, they did perform this miracle, so they must be right.’
The Lord warns us that if a prophet comes and performs a sign or wonder and says:
‘Let us follow other gods’, we must not listen to the words of that prophet.”Deuteronomy 13:3 NIV
We may think:
‘Well, that’s hardly likely! People performing miracles in the 21st century!’
But Jesus warns us:
For false christs and false prophets will appear and will perform great signs and miracles, to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”Matthew 24:24 NIV
Let us be wise, neither miracles nor multitudes are certain signs of a true church.
Revelation 13 proves this point when it describes one of the heads of the beast being healed of a fatal wound and:
The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.”Revelation 13:3 NIV
Here we have a miraculous healing and the whole world following someone, neither of which confirm that God is in it.
6. Look at the fruit – it stops us from being deceived
It is good to remind ourselves of Jesus′ exhortation:
Enter through the narrow gate.Matthew 7:13-16 NIV
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.
Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep′s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognise them.”
‘Their fruit’ means their way of life.
For example; are they materialistic, greedy for gain, proud and arrogant?
Does their life show godly self-control?
Do they practice what they preach?
Now, with this in mind, think of the number of new Christian books being printed.
The majority may be okay, but remember how much do we know about the author?
Is this a money spinner?
How much fruit does the author have – what is the author’s lifestyle like?
If we read these books occasionally that is okay, but if we prefer to read them instead of the Bible, then our faith may not deepen.
So, let’s return to what Jesus says:
Watch out that no one deceives you.”Matthew 24:4 NIV
It can be translated as ‘Watch out that no one causes you to wander.’ Getting God’s people to wander is a very subtle thing.
Here is a Bible teaching on various trumpet calls as the end of the world approaches.
7. Who are our role models?
What would be one way of reducing the danger of wandering off?
How about having someone (or a group of friends) to follow who is more mature than us, in other words, to have a role model?
Paul tells the Ephesian church to:
Imitate God therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”Ephesians 5:1 NIV
But Paul also says to be imitators of trusted and proven people:
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”Hebrews 6:12 NIV
But Paul did not leave it there, he told them to follow his way of living:
Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”1 Corinthians 4:16 NIV
It is good to have a mature role model, to inspire and stretch our faith.
This could be someone living near you, or it could be reading about godly men and women from the past.
It is good to hear of the failures, and the heartaches along with the good times.
Let us watch out that no one causes us to wander, from Jesus and His pure teachings.