Deception is as old as the human race. Right from the Garden of Eden to the present time deception has been a part of the human experience. Sometimes we are deceived, other times we deceive others and sometimes we deceive ourselves. To deceive means to mislead by a false appearance or statement, and the goal is to mislead others to take an action they would otherwise not take if they had true knowledge. In order words, deception is the opposite of truth.
We are first introduced to the concept in Genesis 3:1, where we read “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
That was a false statement made with the intention to mislead, because the original command from God read, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16 & 17)
God had given man everything, yet the devil made it seem as though God was stingy and had withheld everything. That was the first deception, and it was orchestrated by the devil. Hence, the reason why Jesus calls him the father of lies in John 8:44.
As you read the account in Genesis, there is the tendency to have sympathy for Eve, she was naïve and unsuspecting. She blamed the devil for her disobedience and that is clear in her response to God, “…”The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” However, as much as Eve would want us to believe that it wasn’t her fault, God did not let her off the hook. Throughout the Bible God lays the responsibility of making sure that we are not deceived on the deceived. This is emphasized by the many commands of “do not be deceived” (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33, Eph. 5:6, Gal. 6:7, Jas. 1:16, 1 Jn. 3:7), which means we can only be deceived if we allow it. As Christians we need to guard ourselves against deception. We must examine ourselves constantly, to see whether we are living in deception. In this article I outline six areas where we must constantly evaluate ourselves.
Living in Sin
In Ephesians 5:6 &7, Paul warned his readers, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [sexual immorality, impurity & covetousness] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not become partners with them” (emphasis added). It is very possible to live in sin and still think that you are a Christian. The Bible says you are deluding yourself. God is holy and anyone who claims to be a part of God must be holy (Lev. 19:1)
There are many today in the Church who presume on the grace of God and go on living in sin, but the Bible teaches that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and the truth is not in us” (1 John1:5&6). Again we are taught that without holiness no one can see God. You will not enjoy heaven if you are not striving to live a holy life now because heaven will only be filled with holy people.
Discipline in Christian Living
Paul tell us in Galatians 6:7&8 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life”
Natural experience itself teaches us that you reap what you sow, it is therefore strange that we don’t apply the same principle in our walk with the Lord. Some Christians mock God with the way they live their lives. There are many who claim they want to know the will of God for their lives, yet never read their Bibles nor spend time in prayer. There are others who claim they desire to live holy lives, yet spend their days indulging in worldly pursuit which predisposes them to sin. You cannot indulge your flesh and expect to live a holy life.
For some people, it will mean putting a stop to that relationship with the guy who keeps pressurizing you to have sex before marriage. Or if you are married, it will mean putting a stop to that flirtatious behaviour which can lead you into adultery.
The Company We Keep
One of the greatest weaknesses of the human species is our inability to judge ourselves rightly. We often overestimate our strength and underestimate our vulnerabilities. This has been the cause of many a Christian fall. One of the areas we can be complicit is in the area of the friendship we keep. We can be deceived into thinking that we can throw our lot with evil people and somehow remain unstained. Paul writes to the saints in Corinth “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
We also read in Psalm 1, that “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” We need to be careful of the company we keep, because they have more influence on our lives than we are prepared to admit. Do not be deceived!
Doubting God’s Goodness
This form of deception seems so unlikely but when it comes to deception, nothing is off limits. Yes, it is possible for a Christian to charge God with evil. There are Christians who blame God for their “difficult lives”. They haven’t denied God, yet deep down in their hearts they harbour bitterness toward God. They blame him for the death of their loved ones, their singleness, joblessness, etc. That is the greatest deception of all. The devil would want us to believe that God is not good, that he is somehow responsible for the evil that happens in our lives. When he is able to sow doubt in our minds about God, it becomes easy for him to lead us into sin. He has been using this plot since the beginning.
But James tells us “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:16 & 17). God is good, and we must never be deceived into thinking otherwise.
Living in Pride
We are proud because we are deceived. No human being who knows his true condition can be proud. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asks, “…What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” In other words, our very lives give evidence against the attitude of pride. We therefore must be very deceived to be filled with pride.
The scary part is that there are Christians who think they are infallible and beyond fall. Ì have met Christians who are of the view that once they become saved, they are beyond sin and do not think it appropriate to even confess their sin to God. John says “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The Christian life is a repenting walk, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he falls.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Living in Light of Jesus’ Return
There are those who mock and scoff at the idea that Jesus will return (2 Pet. 3:9-12), in most cases these are non-Christians and so it is easy to disregard them. What is frightening is when a Christian lives as though Jesus will never return. Living a life that prioritizes material and earthly wealth above spiritual priorities is a sign of bad spiritual health. The over-emphasis on material prosperity and physical healing in some Christian circles today is anti-Christian. Contrary to what many pastors would have us believe, health and wealth are not necessarily signs of faithfulness.
Before leaving this earth Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).
Therefore the call to Christians to live their best life now, is anti-Christ. If I can live my best life now, why would I long for heaven? Don’t be deceived, for our citizenship is not in this world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.