To me, one of the scariest words that I come across in the Bible is “deceive” and all its variations and synonyms. We understand this word to mean being tricked or fooled into doing or believing something. The more unaware and unprepared the mind is, the easier it is to be deceived. Growing up, I used to love when my dad did his invisible ball trick. He’d grab a paper sack, throw up this “ball,” and “catch” it in the sack. Now I clearly heard it fall into the sack but when I looked inside, there was nothing there! I couldn’t understand where this ball came from, but I thought my dad to be the coolest to be in possession of such a rare artifact. You can say I was deceived. Now that I’m older, that’s about the only trick that I can do.
The idea behind deception, and what makes it incredibly dangerous and scary, is the fact that we don’t usually intend to be deceived. Just ask the victims of those who were conned out of their life savings. Unless we go to a magic show, we don’t expect to be duped or fooled. We don’t like to be deceived, and because of this, we are usually on our guards when making trades, deals, and investments. If the possibility of being deceived keeps us on our toes in regards to our physical welfare, how much more important is it to keep watch when it comes to our spiritual welfare?
Perhaps we have our perspectives fixated on the wrong view. If the things in this life are temporary, and the things in the next life are eternal, where should our priorities be? But here’s the really scary part about spiritual deception: just because we never intend to be wrong, doesn’t mean that we aren’t wrong. Furthermore, if we are basing your spiritual condition on how sincere we are, then I’m afraid we’ve already been deceived. You see, the greatest deceiver is our very own heart! The reason I know this is because God said it: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Self-deception is the tool we unknowingly use to justify our actions that we know are wrong. It causes us to think we are saved when we actually aren’t (Matthew 7:21-23). It causes us to think too much of the philosophies and traditions of men, rather than Christ (Colossians 2:8). It causes us to mock the idea of sin and applaud those who take a stand against righteousness (2Peter 2:12-15). Deception isn’t easy to see; otherwise it would not be called deception. In fact, it so closely resembles righteousness that one cannot tell it apart from the truth, that is unless one learns to love God’s truth.
In 2Thessalonians 2, Paul spoke of the “lawless one…whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth” (v. 8). This lawless one works in harmony with Satan (v. 9) and uses “all the deception of wickedness for those who perish” (v. 10). But why would they be deceived? “Because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (v. 10). The result is that “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (v. 11), not because God is being cruel or unjust, but because He lets you believe whatever your heart wants to believe. God simply allows deception to happen to those whose hearts didn’t love His truth.
If the heart that loves its own will is the sickness, then the heart that loves the Will of God is the cure. If “he who trusts in his own heart is a fool,” then “he who walks wisely” according to God’s wisdom will be kept safe from deception (Proverbs 28:26). A love for God’s truth is the remedy to deception that will cause us to search for truth, learn it, and live by its solution. The word of God is like our spiritual mirror that shows us our true self. It shows us what needs to be corrected by exposing our motives, our thoughts, and our weaknesses. It shows us where we fall short and what we need to change, but it will NOT make the changes for us! Once we see the problem, whether it’s something we believe to be true but isn’t or if it’s something we’re doing that needs to stop, we must decide if we’re going to correct it or not. We can sweep the knowledge under the rug of our minds or we can clean up what went wrong and live like God wants us to live.
We must be aware, however, that if we aren’t ready to change anything or willing to be corrected, then we might be guilty of building our spiritual foundation on something that is inferior to God’s Word, our own heart. Let’s put ourselves to the test: If the Bible told us to change our religion and become a ________________ would we actually do it? Sadly, most people cannot accept the idea of change even if the Bible gave the instructions to change! We must ask ourselves if the current spiritual positions we hold are a result of loving the truth that prompted us to study diligently and reach conclusions based on the evidence of Scripture, or, if we hold our current spiritual positions because that’s what we have always been taught or maybe we just like them.
We must remember, confidence, zeal, and sincerity are NOT proofs of truth! Truth is only established by objectively evaluating, and following, the evidence of Scripture. Anything less than this results in something very serious: we will sincerely believe a delusion and be lost. The only hope for salvation is to change and acquire an honest and sincere love of God’s truth, demonstrated by obedience to His standard of living. Deception may be deadly and more powerful than us, but it stands no chance against the very Word of God. When was the last time we checked ourselves in God’s mirror?