Don't Be Deceived

Four times within the Scriptures, we are warned. “Do not be deceived,” with the clear implication in those warnings that it is possible — maybe even likely — that we can be deceived. In spiritual matters, particularly, we must recognize that deception is not only possible, but certain, and prepare ourselves accordingly. If we are deceived in spiritual matters, it can cost us the eternal reward and guarantee eternal punishment. It is that important.

      Before we get to the warnings, let us note that there are various ways we may be deceived, and none of us is exempt from the possibility of being deceived by one or more of these methods. First, we may deceive ourselves; unfortunately, this type of deception is one of the hardest to overcome for the simple fact no one likes to admit it. To guard against this type of deception requires that we make regular self-examinations, and that we be completely honest with ourselves with what we find. It will also require an occasional evaluation from an outsider because, let’s face it, we sometimes have “blind spots” that we somehow seem to miss or purposefully overlook. Do whatever we must because it isn’t worth the risk of missing something that could affect us eternally.

      Secondly, we may be deceived by others. The Scriptures warn against the possibility of being deceived by “smooth words” (Rom. 16:16), “empty words” (Eph. 5:6), or “persuasive words” (Col. 2:4), so we see from these warnings that words play a big part in deceptions that lead to eternal destruction. It is here we must acknowledge the only way to prevent deception by words is to know the truth — God’s word (cf. John 17:17). It is when we are ignorant of the truth that these “smooth words” can make us feel good about ourselves when we really should move with urgency to obey God’s will, that we will swallow the “empty words” that cannot fill our spiritual needs, and believe the “persuasive words” that convince us a lie is the truth and the truth is a lie.

      And let us not overlook the fact our emotions and feelings quite often play a big part in our deceptions. Whether it is of self or from outsiders, we sometimes make decisions based on feelings, rather than on God’s word, because it is someone near and dear to us, because it is something our families have believed and practiced, or because the speaker is presented as an “expert” or a “scholar” or simply as one speaking from God.

      With these things said, let us get to the warnings found in Scripture. The warning, again, is, “Do not be deceived” — but what is it that we can believe to be true that is actually a lie?

      Practicing Sinners Will Be A Part of God’s Kingdom. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth, he wrote of some sinful behavior that some of these brethren had practiced in the past, but no longer could or should because they had been “washed,…sanctified,…[and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” To these brethren, Paul warned, “Do not be deceived,” because ones who continued in these things would not “inherit the kingdom of God.”

      A few years ago, a man quoted this passage almost verbatim and was then severely chastised in the public arena because, as the critics charged, he equated homosexuality with other, less ‘socially-acceptable’ behavior that would keep people from heaven. He did not single out homosexuality, but simply noted it amongst the other sinful actions included in that passage; he was condemned for saying such “bigoted” and “hateful” things but, friends and brethren, such criticisms only demonstrate that many have, in fact, been deceived. Regardless of what the world may say, we cannot “continue in sin that grace may abound,” for Christians must put that old way of life behind them and live for God (cf. Rom. 6:1-14).

      God Will Overlook Sin. (Gal. 6:7). As Paul closed out his letter to the Christians of Galatia, he warned, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” The point made here is one may of us know well: You reap what you sow. If anyone thinks otherwise, he is fooling himself, and maybe many others.

      Unfortunately, this is another point where many have been fooled by self or by others, for many think [and live as if] they can live however they want and still be rewarded eternal life by God, in the end. But, as Paul stated, “God is not mocked”; we cannot ridicule or make light of God’s serious warnings that we should be “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” and, instead, living “soberly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 2:11, 12). To say that it doesn’t matter is to make mockery of God’s judgment, and of God Himself. Don’t be deceived!

      God Is the Source of Evil. James confronted the erroneous concept that temptations come from God, writing, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (Jas. 1:13, 14). To emphasize how wrong this thinking was, he went on to write, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:16, 17). Simply put: God only grants to us what is good; evil is not of God.

      Think about it: What sense would it make to have God demonstrate such a measure of love as He has in sending His Son to die for us, reveal to us His plan for our salvation, forgive us when we obey, and then send temptations to us that might cause us to sin and be eternally condemned? No, friends, and brethren, God is not the source of evil; not in regard to spiritual matters, and not in the ills and evils of life. We are looking in the wrong place when we seek to place blame. Try looking at the father of all lies and deception (cf. John 8:44) who, apparently, has had great success in deceiving many by getting them to blame God! Don’t be deceived!

      Ungodly, Worldly Friends Won’t Affect Me. (1 Cor. 15:33). Paul’s warning to the early disciples was simple: “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” It seems the warnings our parents have all given us about choosing our friends wisely is not just one for this generation or even just this century; it has always been necessary because there has always been a danger of being influenced negatively by those with whom we associate. And, let’s be honest, this will always be a danger.

      The wise writer noted about 3000 years ago, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26; NKJV). If we think we will somehow be exempted from this possibility, then we are deceiving ourselves, and putting our souls in danger. There is always a danger of being influenced negatively by others. Even within the Lord’s church, it is true “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). Don’t think that one “bad apple” won’t spoil the barrel; it will, if left unchecked. Don’t be deceived!

            There are many other deceptions out there, and many more deceivers just waiting to lead others astray, if given the opportunity. Don’t be that one who is deceived; your soul is not worth believing the lie. Test everything against the truth.        — Steven Harper