Do Not Be Deceived

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Tonight I have what might be a heavy topic. I guess I like to do that on our Wednesday nights because I know I’m talking mostly to the core of our church, the true believers.
It is a topic that has been weighing on my heart for some time. Honestly, it’s been the background to my studying and preaching since I stepped into this role, and even before.
It is a topic that is so important to God that it is mentioned in almost every book of the New Testament. It is a warning to believers at every stage of maturity, because we are all susceptible to it.
It’s the warning of James 1:16 – Do not be deceived.
This phrase, or something like it, occurs several dozen times in Scripture.
Do not be deceived.
Do not deceive yourselves.
Do not let yourself be deceived.
Do not believe the lies.
It’s important. No, it’s more than important, it’s crucial.
Do you know why it is so vital that we do not get drawn into the lies?
Because our savior IS THE TRUTH! 
And if you are deceived and following lies, you cannot be following the truth. They are diametrically opposed to each other.
John 14:6
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Those are only’s – Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life.
Just like he says in
Matthew 7
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
There is only one way, and it is narrow. All other ways fall into the broad way that leads to destruction, and the majority will take that road.
And that narrow way is Jesus himself, the only way, the only life, and the only truth.
Jesus was concerned that his future disciples – us – would know the truth.  That is why he prayed for his disciples and he prayed for us in John 17. And in that prayer he said something profound. He’s talking to the Father:
John 17:17
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Your word is truth. God’s Word is truth. And the Greek here is an emphatic second person possessive pronoun, meaning it’s not just that Jesus is saying, “Father, your world is truth.” He’s saying Father, your very own word, your word alone, and wholly your word IS TRUTH.
God’s word is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The ULTIMATE TRUTH.
Jesus was saying that God’s Word is true to the exclusion of everything and anything else.
As Paul says in Romans 3:4 – Let God be true and every man a liar.
So, according to Jesus, God’s word it the ultimate, absolute, and exclusive truth. But it’s more than a bunch of stories. It’s our training manual.
1 Timothy 3
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
It is useful not just to teach us what is right, but to also rebuke us and correct us when we are wrong. The full package for training us to be what God wants us to be – righteous.
And in this glorious book, or rather collection of books and letters, we are warned several times not to be deceived, not to be led astray, not to be fooled.
So, tonight, we are going to look at some of those statements and see what specific things we need to watch out for as we cling to the truth.
Let’s start with an easy one:
1 Corinthians 3 (NIV)  
18  Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.
It was true in Paul’s day and it is true now. The wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight and the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. Which would you rather be? A fool to the world and inline with God? Or a fool to God and inline with the world?
How can you know if it’s worldly wisdom and not godly wisdom? That’s easy. Anything that does not line up exactly with God’s Word is not godly wisdom and thus, by default, worldly wisdom.
The Greek word used here is ἐξαπατάω (deceive thoroughly), He’s saying you are deceived thoroughly if you think you are wise and your wisdom only comes from the world. The TRUTH is that you are a fool in God’s eyes.
This is why you have to know your Bible intimately. Or you will be easy to fool.
That Greek word appears a few other places, like:
2 Corinthians 11
3  But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 
13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
This is Paul again, and he’s concerned for this church and writing them a second time.  He’s concerned that they will fall for every wind of new teaching, every false prophet masquerading as apostles of Christ. He is concerned they will be fooled just as Eve was in the Garden.
Let’s take a look back at that…
Genesis 3:13 (NIV)
13  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
In other words, she sinned because she was deceived. When you believe a lie, you will sin because of it, because all of our actions result from what we really believe.  Paul talks of this in Romans with the same Greek word we’ve been looking at…
Romans 7:11 (NIV) 
11  For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.
That’s part of that “I don’t do what I want to do because of the sin living in me” passage. And he’s saying here that the main thing that the sin inside of us does is deceive us, causing us to sin, and the wages of sin is death.
All of our sins are a result of believing a lie. Because all of our actions are based on what we really believe – not what we say we believe – but what we really believe. It comes back to if you really trust God it will be shown in your actions, in your commitment to obedience and truth. If you don’t, then it will be shown in a life of sin as you follow the lies you believe instead.
So, we see so far that the warnings against being deceived are so that we do not fall into sin like Eve did.  But how does that happen?  How are we so easily fooled? Well, Paul talks about that in
Colossians 2 
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
How are we deceived? By fine-sounding arguments, by hollow and deceptive philosophy depending on human tradition rather than on Christ. Basically we are deceived by the foolishness of the world when we don’t stay rooted in the wisdom of God – His Word.
The Greek word in verse 4 is παραλογίζομαι, which if you recall, λογίζομαι, is where we get our word logic from. παραλογίζομαι, means away from logic, misleading, false reason. Paul is saying don’t let anyone trick you with false reasoning. With logical fallacies.
Reminds me of Ephesians 4, the passages we base our membership here at Reality on.
Ephesians 4
13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Because that is what they are. They are not obvious lies (unless you’re head is truly saturated with God’s Word, then the lies are pretty obvious) but for most they are not obvious, and the world makes them sound so reasonable, even believable, that many are duped. 
And it’s not because you are not smart. It’s not because you don’t care. It’s not because you aren’t trying. It’s because the cards are seriously stacked against us, and there is an enemy aggressively doing what he can to keep you in the dark.  So, the only way to sift through the trash heap of lies and know that what you are believing is truth rather than a clever deception is to know the Word of God, which IS TRUTH, so intimately well. 
It’s like how can you tell a forgery from the real thing? You have to know the real thing very, very well.
This is why I harp on EATING GOD so much!
We must be like the Bereans of
Acts 17
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Don’t just take some preacher’s word for it. Examine the Scriptures to see if what is said is true. I always hope and encourage all of you to do that.  I would hope that over time that you all become so well versed in God’s Word that you can catch it if I ever mess it up, or that you can teach me something!
How do you get there? EAT GOD!!  Fill your head with His Word instead of the World’s Poison.

Ok, so maybe you get it that we should not believe the lies. But maybe you’re wondering if I could be a bit more specific. Which lies? 
Glad you asked, because Scripture is not without specifics. And there are a few rather specific things that God wants us to be sure not to be deceived about.
Ephesians 5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Don’t be deceived by empty words that make you think all those things are OK for believers. That make you think God is not serious about this stuff. They are fine for the lost. They can’t help themselves. We can’t stop it from taking over the world, but we ourselves must not be fooled into thinking that God is OK with his children behaving like the world. Same thing we just covered in James 4 about being a friend of the world. Not all sins are equal. There are some things that God detests and specifically commands his children not to be a part of. Do not be deceived.
But how can he make this distinction? No one is perfect. What if some of us have been guilty of those things in the past? Does that mean we can never go to heaven?
He continues…
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
We, who have received Christ’s forgiveness and accepted His lordship are no longer children of darkness. We are children of light. And we are to live that way. We are to chase what is good and abhor what is evil. And we are not to try to mix light and darkness and call it GRAY…there is no such thing as a gray area. That’s only what we call things we don’t want to do fully God’s way. 
Another one along the same vein…
1 Corinthians 6
9  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
God is saying not to believe the lie that you can be a homosexual and a Christ follower. They are going in two different directions. That is serving two different masters. That’s trying to serve the Flesh and the Spirit at the same time. Impossible.
He’s saying you can’t be a thief or greedy or a drunkard or a slanderer or a swindler AND a Christ Follower because they are headed in two different directions. They are mutually exclusive. Jesus is going through the narrow gate where all these behaviors are not allowed. Don’t be deceived. Don’t believe the lies that they are OK for believers.
Because for believers, any of those activities should only be in their past life before Christ and stay there….
Paul continues…
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Once you are a new creation in Christ, you are no longer to live in the darkness. If you stay in the darkness, it means you never actually joined the light. And it doesn’t matter what kind of fine-sounding arguments, or deceptive philosophy, or empty words you use to try to justify how you can call yourself a Christian but live completely contrary to God’s Word. Scripture is very clear about what is expected of so-called Christ Followers, and what happens to people who try to keep a foot in both camps. 
Galatians 6
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 
Salvation is not a free pass on life. It’s not a license to sin. Salvation is a commitment to follow Jesus, to follow the Spirit, and not your selfish desires. And when you make that commitment for real, you reap eternal life. If you think otherwise, beware! God will not be mocked. We reap what we sow.
Do you see why this is so important? Do you see why this weighs heavy on my heart all the time? Because I look out at the people God has placed in my charge and I fear as Paul feared for his churches that many of you will be deceived. That many of you believe the news more than you believe your Bible. That you will fall victim to the lies so clever they sound like the truth, that you will be duped by the “wise” philosophies of the world. I hear it in conversations, and I see it in your Facebook posts, and it grieves me.
My brothers and sisters, my friends, my fellow Christ Followers, listen to the Word of God and do not let yourselves be deceived by the world. Fill your minds with the knowledge of God and turn off the torrent of lies that you are feeding yourself from the world. This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is serious stuff and it’s only going to get more serious as we move forward. You can see it coming.
Paul saw it coming a long time ago…
Timothy 3
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 
We see it happening all around us. The whole world it seems is deceived, and it’s only getting worse and worse to the point that no one can even tell left from right anymore. Perhaps we will outlaw that as well. Wouldn’t want anyone to feel hurt because they’d rather call left right and right left. And if you think that is ludicrous, don’t we already see it? Did not God make us male and female? Why do you think the enemy is trying to attack one of the most basic truths of our existence?  Because it’s an all out war on TRUTH!  Don’t fall victim.  Don’t be deceived.
I believe we are living in those last days that Paul is talking about. It’s hard not to think so.  Our culture fits that description to a T.

Do not be deceived by the world. Don’t be deceived by yourself.
There are two major ways that Scripture tells us that we deceive ourselves. It’s not only that the world deceives us, it’s that we basically lie to ourselves and believe it.
One I’ve talked about at length during this series we’ve been going through, so I won’t belabor it:
James 1:22
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
The Greek there is that παραλογίζομαι. Basically we fool our own selves with false reasoning. Somehow we talk ourselves into believing it’s enough to just show up and listen, that perhaps the feeling of conviction is enough, that it’s not quite time to start doing that thing you know God is calling you to. Don’t be fooled. Do what God says. Don’t delay. Anything different is sin.
And that’s the other place we fool ourselves. Listen to what John says…
1 John 1 (NIV) πλανάω
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
That passage is rich. It is full of warning and full of hope. Again and again we see that God is not interested in what we claim to be or do, but interested only in what we really are and do. We can’t claim to be in the light while walking in darkness. It’s just not true.
And if we try to claim that we’re not sinning when we do that, or just not sinful in general, we are deceiving ourselves.  Living in a lie. Far far from the truth – Jesus.
You can’t claim to be following Jesus, the truth, when you are living in a lie.  It’s that simple, and that brutal.
But there is great hope in here.  If we pull our heads out of the sand of deception and actually recognize and embrace the truth and confess our sins, confess our wrong thinking, confess the lies we’ve been believing and spreading. If we humble ourselves before our God and throw up our hands in despair asking for his help, his deliverance, his mercy…
then He is faithful, and just to forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.
That, my friends is the good news, that’s the great news. That’s the truth we should cling to.
When we confess, when we fess up, when we admit all of our wrong thinking and repent – change our mind. God is faithful – He will never fail to keep this promise – He is just – the price has been paid. He’s not just sweeping it under the rug. Justice has been served on Jesus on that cross – therefore he will forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from head to toe.
Not so that we can go back into the mud pit, into the darkness, but so that we can walk in the light as He is in the light. The light of TRUTH. And he expects us to stay there. To rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness. And woe to anyone who calls evil good or good evil. Who calls darkness light or light darkness.

Those are most of the passages that specifically say “do not be deceived.” But, if you read the New Testament, and especially the letters, you will see that is effectively what every single verse is saying. Because what those letters are doing is trying to get the people who read it to see God’s truth in contrast to the lies they are either already believing or are exposed to in their culture. The letters are persuasive and instructive. Just as Paul told Timothy, all of the Word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – in right living, as opposed to wrong living.
My friends, we live in a world that is saturated with lies. Absolutely saturated with deception that is broadcast in high definition and surround sound into the eyes and ears of everyone of us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is inescapable. And it’s not accidental. 
In Revelation 12, a scene is described that occurs sometime during the great tribulation (which I’ll be covering in detail this fall as I do a series on the end of time).
Revelation 12
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
I’m not going to get into the eschatology tonight, but notice what John says of Satan. He leads the whole world astray. In the Greek it uses a present active participle of the word deceive. It literally says “the one deceiving the whole world.” The present tense indicates a continuous and ongoing action. In other words, Satan, the Devil has been deceiving the WHOLE WORLD since he was cast out of heaven the first time. And that includes right now as we speak.
Do not be deceived into thinking it’s all just innocent fun. There is determined intentionality behind everything happening in our world, and a huge majority of it is aimed at deceiving you and me and every other human who has ever lived. Because he hates us with a fury you can’t even imagine and he wants to drag as many of us to hell with him as he can.
And our only hope of not being fooled and sucked right in, is to hold oh so tightly to the one and only truth that never changes: God’s Word.
Jesus prayed to the Father for US: Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
It’s a powerful and fascinating statement Jesus makes there. Talking to the Father: YOUR WORD IS TRUTH.  The Greek for word there is “LOGOS”. It shows up in many places in the NT, but one place really makes interesting use of it and adds a whole new dimension to the statement of Jesus to the Father – Your LOGOS is truth.
John 1
In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Oh the mysteries of God. The LOGOS. The Word. Refers both to the words of God, our bible. And it refers to Jesus himself. And just as Jesus points out that God’s Word is Truth. He also claims to be the only truth himself.
While being questioned by Pilate before his crucifixion, Jesus said something else remarkable..
John 18:37
“…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
The ultimate reason Jesus became a man and came to earth was to show us THE TRUTH.  Why? Because the Adversary deceives the whole world. He covers the whole world with the darkness of his lies. But Christ, the Word, is the light that has come into the darkness  and darkness has not overcome.
So, I don’t tell you all of this so you will be afraid and wonder who and what you can trust. I tell you all of this to make you aware, but also give you hope that it’s not all darkness. We hold the only light, the only way, the only life, the only truth.
And I’ll close with how Jesus says we hold onto it.
John 8
“If you abide in my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
That word, abide, is the Greek word μένω
It means to stay and never leave, to remain and never wander, to hold and never let go of Christ’s teaching. Christ is the Word. The Word of God.
Turn off the lies. Keep your nose in the book. Study it day and night. And do what it says.
Then you will know the TRUTH. And the truth will set you free.
And you will not be deceived.