By Nick McDowell
Don’t be deceived. When I was around 8 or 9 years old there was a group of college students from a nearby university who were putting on a special concert for our church. My parents had them all over to our house for a meal and after the meal while I was in my room playing, I heard my name being called and my parents wanted me to come into the kitchen. The whole group of students were there and one of them held a small plate with butter on it. A student next to him started telling me that when you put salt onto butter it creates heat and you can feel it. He then preceded to shake a little salt over the butter and several students put their hands over it and mentioned how they could feel the heat. He then put the plate in front of me to have me put my hand over it. I put my hand over it but didn’t feel any heat coming up. Suddenly, the student pushed my hand down in the butter, making my hand a huge mess. All the student started laughing. I started crying. Looking back on it now, I realize it was an innocent little prank, but an 8 or 9 year old kid being embarrassed in front of college students, whom you truly look up to as being “cool”, was humiliating. It also taught me a couple lessons…not everything is at it seems and you can’t trust everything out there. Don’t be deceived.
In this series of blog posts, we have unpacked distraction, discouragement, and division. Yet another approach the enemy brings to tear us down is through deception. You could argue that deception is at the root of all the others. We are deceived in our distractions, discouragement, and often when division occurs within the church world. Certainly all of the above methods that the enemy uses can be devastating, but deception is right at the core of how the enemy has operated from day one.
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV)
~ Genesis 3:2-5 ~
Don’t be deceived. Adam and Eve bought into the lie that Satan himself had bought into before and had already paid the price for; that you can be God and that you know better than Him. Boy did that backfire. Don’t be deceived. The first sin in the garden also illustrates that being deceived doesn’t just impact us individually, but it can quickly spread like a disease. Humanity will continue to experience the after effects of that first deception until Jesus returns. And when those in leadership become deceived, especially leaders in the Church, it can trickle down to those under that leadership and continue to spread.
We have to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that we are immune to this. If you’re like me, you don’t like being told you are wrong, and you certainly don’t like to find out you were wrong. But wouldn’t you rather know you are being deceived so that you can get back on the right track? Sadly there are many in the world whose pride can get in the way of receiving truth and recognizing deception when it occurs. Those who are committed to following Jesus Christ must be willing to put our pride on the altar, be honest with ourselves, and not give in to the deceptive ways of the enemy.
So how can we avoid being deceived?
1. Knowing God’s Word
If you want to know if you’re on the right path, you need to have your map with you and follow its directions. Scripture is God’s primary revelation to us and it’s vital that we know it. If we don’t know Jesus’ teachings and God’s word, how can we know if we and those around us are following it?
I remember learning about how counterfeit experts learn to spot counterfeits…it’s not how well you know the counterfeit techniques, it’s about how well you know the REAL THING.
In Matthew 7, Jesus says this about His teachings:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
~ Matthew 7:24-27 ~
Don’t be deceived.
2.Continuously seek the truth
As I mentioned above, there are some who would rather live in a lie that makes them “feel better”, then to come to an uncomfortable acceptance of the truth. Jesus was very clear HE is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6), everyone on the side of truth listens to HIM (John 18:37b), and that we know the truth by holding to His teachings and it will set us free (John 8:31-32). We should never assume that we will one day “arrive” at a point where we can’t be deceived. We have to keep our guard up and in every situation and issue that arises, keep seeking the truth. The world is very different now than it was 50 or even 10 years ago. But truth is still truth. The issues may look a little different, but truth and falsehood battle it out every day. We must filter our thoughts through Jesus and not settle. In seeking truth, keep asking questions, and if something doesn’t feel right, seek out wise counsel. And that brings me to the last thing…
3. Seek out wise people and observe the “fruit” of the lives of those around you
You want to avoid being deceived? Don’t entrust yourself to others who will be easily deceived.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
~ Proverbs 13:20 ~
When I am struggling with something I hear from a leader, whether it is a political or a church leader, I go to a handful of people whom I have found to be people who seek the Lord’s will in all things and bring a lot of wisdom to the table. How can you know if someone is wise? Well, what is the “fruit” of their lives? Are they consistent? How do they manage their finances? Do they seem to make good choices? What are the relationships in their life like? Jesus told the crowds in Matthew 7 to watch out for “false prophets” and that they would recognize them by their fruit. Even if you really like somebody, if they are someone who leaves a trail of brokenness and destruction in their relationships, finances, and decision-making, don’t be deceived…that person is not wise. Don’t trust their thoughts. Go to someone who bears good fruit in their life.
Do not be deceived. When we seek Christ, submit to His teachings and His will, confess our sins, seek wise counsel and practice humility, the enemy doesn’t have a lot of options to be able to deceive us. So when the world tells you to feel the heat coming off of the salted butter, you can say “no thanks” and quickly walk away with your hand being butter-free!