We live in a world where spiritual deception is on the increase. 2 Timothy 3:13 says that evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Therefore with many deceptive teachings that have gradually crept into the church such as the prosperity gospel, spiritual covering theology, seed-faith teachings, word of faith theology, and many others, it is imperative that people understand both the nature of deception and how to avoid spiritual deception. It is not only false teachings and philosophies that are being used to deceive people, but false prophets are also performing false miracles, magic illusions and using satanic power to deceive the masses.
The Bible warns us that spiritual deception will not only increase but it warns us of a great deception or a “strong delusion” which will occur before the antichrist appears (and during his brief reign), and before Jesus Christ returns (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 says: And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
When we read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 we learn that there is a type of spiritual deception that has the following characteristics:
- This deception is performed through the activity or strategies of Satan
- This deception involves satanic power and false signs and wonders
- This deception affects those who refuse to love the truth
- This deception also affects those who have pleasure in sin or unrighteousness
In Matthew 24:24, Jesus says: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
Here Jesus is warning of the fact that there will be false believers / teachers who will perform miraculous signs in order to deceive or lead people astray including genuine Christian believers if possible.
The Bible also warns us many times to avoid being deceived by strange teachings, philosophies and doctrines.
For example, Paul says in Colossians 2:8: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 11:4 it says: 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.
It is therefore important to understand the meaning of deception; how people are deceived and how a Christian can avoid being led astray by the many false prophets and false teachings that plague our world today.
WHAT IS DECEPTION?
Deception can be defined as the manipulation of appearances such that they convey a false reality or a false belief system.
When studying deception, you will discover that with deception, there is always the deceiver and then there is the deceived / victim.
Deception generally depends for its success on keeping intended victims unaware that deception is actually taking place in their life or situation.
Deception may involve a lifestyle, a teaching, philosophy or doctrine sounding good and sounding as if it is logical and practical – but it does not always mean that the teaching is Biblical or that it is true according to God’s word. Ultimately most spiritual deception will be a mixture or aspects of both truth and lies so that the deception is not easily recognizable.
Spurgeon once said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right”
• Therefore deception includes concealing and disguising one’s true nature and motives from the intended victim. This is why it’s important for false teachers to “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” just as the devil conceals his true identity by disguising himself as an angel of light according to 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.
• Deception includes hypocrisy or pretentious behavior. For example, in Matthew 23:1-39, Jesus exposed the hypocrisy and deception of the Pharisees.
• Deception involves information control. This includes both dissimulation (hiding or withholding information) and simulation (putting out wrong or misleading information). Deception also involves true information being mixed with false information. Therefore truth can be mixed with a lie so that the deception is difficult to immediately discern. In Galatians 5:9 Paul says “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
• Deception may involve the deceiver imitating or appearing as a type of saviour / hero / spiritual covering to the intended victim or victims. This is why the Bible warns of false christs (Matthew 24:24).
• Deception also includes the deceiver imitating the nature and characteristics of the intended victims so that the victim is unaware of how dangerous the deceiver is or of what kind of danger lies ahead for the intended victim. When the deceiver imitates the victims, the victims assume that they are in good company. An example is when Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
HOW TO DISCERN & AVOID SPIRITUAL DECEPTION
The only way we can discern and avoid spiritual deception is in the following ways:
- We Must Be Genuinely Born Again & Have A Relationship With Jesus Christ
Jesus said that He knows those who belong to Him and that His sheep hear His voice and that no one can steal His sheep (John 10:27-28).
It is therefore imperative for a person to be born again and have a genuine relationship with God in order to avoid deception.
Those who hear and obey the voice of Christ spoken in the Bible are able to discern between the voice of the enemy and the voice of God. However, such discernment is only possible through having a relationship with God.
- We Must Love The Truth Found in the Word of God
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 mentions the fact that victims of deception can be those people who do not love the truth but instead they love falsehoods. They do not love the word of God nor do they rightly interpret or divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says that there is a time when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.
This scripture gives us some insight that there are situations in life where deception is not always involuntary or due to ignorance. Instead deception is sometimes a matter of choice. In other words, people choose to be deceived. People choose to follow darkness instead of light.
Therefore people love falsehoods because it suits their inner sinful passions and they hate the truth because the truth may speak against their sins or sinful desires.
- We Must Love Righteousness & Hate Evil
Romans 12:9 says that we must “… hate what is evil; cling to what is good”.
In John 3:19, Jesus spoke of people who loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Avoiding deception in our life, means that we must love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates. We love light and not darkness. We must therefore pursue righteousness and seek to bear good fruit in our daily life. We must no longer cling to our old sin nature but we must walk in the fear of the Lord.
Colossians 3:5-10 says: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.
- We Must Hate The World & The Philosophies of this World
James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world means enmity with God. Therefore we must not love the world and its ideologies.
Romans 12:2 says that we should not be conformed to the standards of this world? But why!?
It is because the world’s systems, values, principles and practices are against God and His written word.
The world’s philosophies and ideologies can easily lead people into deception. Therefore hating the world’s philosophies enables us to avoid spiritual deception and being deceived by those who follow the world.
1 John 2:15-17 says: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
- We Must Walk in the Spirit
In John 16:13, Jesus says that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit in our life is to guide us into all truth. Therefore the Holy Spirit is essential towards helping us avoid living in deception or being led astray.
The Holy Spirit will help us discern between the truth and falsehoods through the standard of the Scriptures and not the traditions or philosophies of men.
Walking in the Spirit of God enables us walk in God’s truth but living according to the flesh or sin nature leads us into spiritual deception. How do we walk in the Spirit? By obeying God’s word and trusting in His word.
Galatians 5:16-17 says: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
- Imitate the Bereans
If we are to discern and avoid spiritual deception, then we must imitate the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11.
The Berean Christians were said to be noble and they did not accept a culture of being spiritually spoon-fed. Instead the Bereans would study the scriptures for themselves and crosscheck anyone who preached to them. They examined Paul’s message in Acts 17:11 because they wanted to make sure that what he preached was the truth and not a lie.
1 John 4:1 says: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Therefore to avoid being deceived by false prophets and false teachings, it is essential that we learn to test and verify all things through the word of God and discern which spirit is really behind the teachings.
Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 that the Holy Spirit warns us of deceiving spirits that will teach people doctrines of demons and will cause people to depart from the true faith by causing them to follow demonic teachings.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 says: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
GOD’S WORD IS OUR STANDARD
The Bible is the ultimate standard for our Christian walk. It is therefore important that all teachings be measured against the word of God. Jesus Christ Himself used the Scriptures to avoid being deceived by the devils temptations and suggestions (Matthew 4:1-11).
DO YOU WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN or A GENUINE FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST???
- ACKNOWLEDGE: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
This means that we have all broken God’s laws and God’s 10 Commandments like those mentioned in Exodus 20:1-17. For example, if you have told a lie; if you have stolen something; if you have lusted after somebody or if you have coveted. This means you are guilty of breaking at least one or more of God’s 10 Commandments. Breaking God’s commandments makes us sinners. The fact that we are sinners who have broken God’s law means that we are accountable to God who is the Lawgiver. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
You must acknowledge that you are a sinner who has broken God’s commandments and that you therefore need Jesus in your life.
- REPENT: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), “Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)
Repenting means: to change your mind; a sincere turning away, in heart, mind and action;
Therefore God wants you to repent of sinful values and of sinful living. God wants you to decide to
follow Him and to make Jesus the Lord of your life.
- CONFESSION: “If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)
God is a forgiving God. God will forgive any sin that you have done because Jesus died for ALL your sins and to set you free from the bondage of all types of sin in your life.
- BELIEVE: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
You must believe that ONLY Jesus can save you and restore your relationship with God. You must believe that Jesus is the ONLY way by which you can have everlasting life and escape from eternal separation from God. You must believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and resurrected from the grave.
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive him, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:11-12)
By faith, You must receive Jesus as Your Lord & Savior and therefore; you become a child of God; you become born again; you become a Christian; you restore your broken relationship with God
Why Not Make Your Eternal Decision NOW?
We become born again Christians by GRACE through FAITH or TOTAL TRUST in Jesus Christ as our Lord & Savior (Galatians 3:26) & (Ephesians 2:8,9). Salvation is a FREE gift received through FAITH in Christ.
PLEASE NOTE: You can choose to pray in your own words. This prayer is a sample prayer and it is only an EXPRESSION of your faith, belief & trust in Jesus. Salvation is by GRACE through FAITH or BELIEVING in Christ Jesus as your Lord & Saviour.
“Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your love. I thank You that You died on the cross for me and resurrected so that I may have life through You.
I confess Lord that I have sinned against You and today I ask You to forgive me of all of my sins, past present and future.
Today I repent and have decided to follow you. Thank you for forgiving all my sins.
From this moment, come into my life Lord Jesus & take full control of my life. I want to follow You Jesus and I want to follow Your ways. Save me and from today, make me the person You want me to be.
I receive You Lord Jesus right now by faith. I trust You as my Lord and Savior – Amen”
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