Saturday, March 12, 2016

Don't be deceived!

"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way." - 2 Thessalonians 2:3

I spent too many years of my life believing lies, being deceived and deceiving myself. As God drew me to Himself and opened up His Word to me, I began to fall in love with Truth. As a result, it is so disheartening to watch people be deceived. Sometimes the reason for the deception is obvious; other times it is harder to understand. This political season has been harder than usual. When people swarm around someone despite logic, despite the person's own words and actions. When people are sucked in to the "cult of personality". When people think their hope is in a person.

We've seen this before. It isn't isolated to a political party or even to a democracy. The world is full of despots who convinced people they were the answer. History is littered with leaders who went into office on a wave of support and ended up revealing ugliness and evil previously unimagined.

What we, the church, have to realize is that all of this is just a foreshadowing. There is a greater deception yet to come, a great apostasy that will strike at the heart of what we believe. There is a leader yet to come whose smooth talk and deceitful, evil schemes are unparalleled. Whatever you believe about the antichrist and the Rapture, one thing is sure: A study of all the passages where he is mentioned in any way yields an understanding that he will be very smooth, persuasive, dynamic. He won't be saying wild and crazy things; people will follow him because they think he actually makes sense.

We have no assurance that his deception won't start while we're still here. So what is our protection? How can we follow Paul's admonition not to be deceived in any way? The answer is that we start now to train ourselves to be discerning (Hebrews 5:14).
  • Know the character of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels. Every action the anti-Christ takes will be contrary to the heart and character of Jesus. Everything about the "spirit of antichrist" that is already at work in the world is contrary to Him. He had no special looks or standing that drew people's attention; He lived a poor and humble lifestyle; He said things to test his followers and even push them away if they weren't serious (see John 6 and Luke 4). He glorified God at every step and refused to let the people crown Him king. Constantly getting to know Him in the Gospels is a great protection!
  • Be steeped in truth and regularly proclaim God as true over man's lies. Be THAT PERSON who always points out the lies media feeds us. We don't have to isolate ourselves from the world, from movies or TV or newspapers. But we need to be aware the worldviews and philosophies that are raised up against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We need to call them what they are, even if it's just to ourselves or those watching with us. We have to practice not being deceived. We don't do this by focusing on the lies, but as we are steeped in God's Word we will find ourselves increasingly aware when something doesn't line up with that truth. Gently, lovingly point that out when you have opportunity.
  • Be part of the church. Be in a local church that is in close enough relationship to give and receive correction when we get "off". Have someone to bounce things off of if you aren't sure where it lines up with the Word. The command not to forsake gathering isn't so that we can have friends to hang out with - it's so that we will be encouraged and built up to do the right thing, even as things get hard. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Let yourself be "preached to." Specifically, sit under sound preaching that teaches correct views of God and protects you from every wind of doctrine. This is the purpose of the teaching and preaching gifts (Eph. 4:11-16). Don't choose a church based on a preacher's style but on the truth he proclaims. As someone posted recently - hopefully those who want a politician who "tells it like it is" attends a church where the preacher does the same (speaking the truth in love, of course - not treating Scripture like a hammer).  
The witness of Scripture is clear: we have to be radical about truth and love or we'll be deceived. We have to learn now to avoid deception, in order to be prepared for the greater deceptions yet to come.

"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way." Love Truth. Know what - and Who - you believe.