Monday, February 24, 2020

End Times - Deception

Rhett & Link are a couple of twenty-something internet gurus. They have a tremendous following of young people on YouTube. Many of their followers are Christian teenagers. They recently announced they no longer consider themselves Christians. In an episode earlier this year, they walked listeners through the deconstruction of their faith. As a result of that podcast, hundreds of teenagers have walked away from their faith.

At an Assembly of God church in Kyle, Texas, the lead Pastor Dan Matlock made the announcement in a sermon just two Sundays ago that the Austin-area church would now be considering LGBTQ persons for staff positions and that the church building would be available to host same-sex wedding ceremonies.

A survey came out this week that said: 46% of mainline denominational pastors support same-sex marriage. Up from 32% in 2010 – partly because of older pastors retiring.

Pop singer, Taylor Swift, both a Pro-LGBT and Pro-Abortion advocate, said in a recent documentary her brand of Christianity is the real Christianity.

One of the men running for the presidential nomination of his party has attacked Conservative Christians for not understanding what the Bible means, especially in the area of abortion and lifestyle choices. 

As much as all this distresses me, I realize these are simply symptoms of a greater problem. But because they are growing exponentially, they indicate we are in the End Times – specifically in the Apostasy: the period of Christians and the Church falling away before Jesus returns. What or who is the driving force that’s behind the falling away. The Apostasy is an all-in, last ditch effort by Satan to steal, kill and destroy as much and as many as he can before his time is up. 

Rev 20:2-3 And the angel laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; 

His mission has always been to kill our desire, steal our truth and destroy our lives. He has done so by full-frontal assaults and stealthy, subversive attacks. But during the Apostasy, he will engage his most successful weapon – deception.

Deception is how we first met him in Genesis: Gen 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 

He deceived Eve by taking something away from what God said and adding something to what God didn’t say. That’s his method. It is the basis of his work. “God doesn’t mean what He says. You can’t just take the Bible at face value. You’re free to believe whatever you choose. What do you think God means? After all it’s just a really old book.”

When Satan causes us to deny God’s word, we’re only left with the opinion of men to make our life choices. It is within those opinions Satan does his work. 

We often give Satan God’s powers like omnipresence or omnipotence. He is not equal to God nor can he be in all places at the same time. So he uses a network of evil. He manages a staff of fallen angels who are able to influence the minds and hearts of people who will assist his cause. Those who give in to his influence become his minions.

Hezekiah was an OT King who followed the Lord specifically. He told his people what God had told him and together they were ready for the Assyrians. One of Satan’s minions, the chief spokesman for the King of Assyria, came to make them doubt what God had told Hezekiah.

2Chron 32:13-16 Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the lands? Were the gods of the nations of the lands able at all to deliver their land from my hand? Who was there among all the gods of those nations which my fathers utterly destroyed who could deliver his people out of my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you like this, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?'" His servants spoke further against the LORD God and against His servant Hezekiah. 

The deceiver telling the ones being deceived that they are being deceived by the ones telling them the truth.

Paul has them in mind when he tells the Corinthians: 2Cor 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. 

To be able to deceive, Satan must disguise himself as good even though his intentions are evil. His minions do the same. How else will the people drink the cool-aid laced with the poison of his lies? He never comes in and announces: I’m Satan and I’m here to deceive you.

Satan went to church—Aren’t you afraid? No, been married to your sister for 43 years.

Satan’s evil network includes anyone who denies the truth of God’s Word and diminishes God’s authority in the life of a Christian or the Church.

1John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 

1John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 

1John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 

Both Paul and John are speaking about the same thing, that the impetus behind the falling away will be the false teaching of false teachers. These will demonstrate the spirit of the Antichrist – the one who is the embodiment of Satan’s rage against Jesus. Those who share in the lies of Satan’s deception work within that attitude to help him steal, kill and destroy. Whether they realize it or not, they are serving Satan not God.

Jesus told his Disciples of His impending death. Peter said “no way”: Matt 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 

Unwittingly, in that moment, Peter became one of Satan’s minions to tempt Jesus to deny the mission of the cross, by setting his interest over-against God’s interest. Many of Satan’s minions are obvious. Others are not.

Because Satan has so carefully concealed his message in unassuming packages, we get lazy in our defense against them. So, John said 2John 1:7-8 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 

Can someone who has been a Christian for a long time fall prey to Satan’s deception? Can I? I have been before. Years ago, in wanting more from God, I was tempted to deny Scripture for an experience at the hands (or actually the breath) of a false teacher. At the end of a service the speaker said those who wanted more from God come forward. Several of us did. He then blew his breath into our faces and said, receive the Holy Spirit. In that moment I realized the lie. I already had the Holy Spirit. I’ve fellowshipped with the Spirit. I’ve walked in the Spirit. I was gifted by the Spirit. I said to myself about this man, you are asking me to deny a truth vital to my life and absolute in Scripture to accept some false experience from you! You are a false teacher.”

Rom 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 

Smooth and flattering speech are the tools of deception. They target the tender hearts of people who want something different from God, or simply want to know what to believe in a socially changing world. And though these deceivers are passionate and sincere, they spew lies and death. How? By making us deny what God has said and believe things He never intended.

Passion and sincerity can never be the basis upon which someone’s opinion is considered right. You can sincerely believe a snake isn’t poisonous, pick it up and let it latch onto your hand. Your sincerity will not stop the venom from killing you.

Anyone can be sincere. But they can be sincerely wrong.

  • In Nazi Germany some pastors used the Bible to support Hitler, sincerely believing he was right. Others used the same Bible to denounce what he was doing.
  • In the slavery era of our nation, some pastors used the Bible to promote slavery sincerely believing it was right. Others used the same Bible to denounce it.
  • Today, in some churches, pastors use the Bible to promote a liberal agenda, sincerely believing they are right. Others use the same Bible to denounce it.

I don’t think most false teachers know they are false teachers. I don’t think they start out with: Let’s see how destructive we can be in the lives of the people today. It’s just that they have been deceived, believe the lies and are spreading those lies to others. I think most are sincere in what they teach.

That’s why God wants a reasoned response to what is being taught, not an emotional one. Why? Emotion has a shelf-life. It expires after so long, usually after the moment is over. But truth stays alive. Truth sets us free and keeps us free. Not from an emotional reaction but how it confirms Scripture. 

Act 17:10-12 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 

They didn’t believe because Paul was such a great communicator or had passionately convinced them he was right. They believed because they found the truth of what he was saying in the Word of God. The only way to resist the deception of Satan and his minions is by knowing what God has said.

Without a word from the Lord, there is no consistent voice. Why do we have so much disagreement in right and wrong? Why are Christians walking away? Why are Churches and Denominations dividing over issues? Because somewhere back upstream God and His intentions were left out of the discussion. Why is He being left out? Because when people give in to the deception that God’s voice is no longer the ultimate authority, they open the door for ungodly influence to come in and steal, kill and destroy. 

2Pet 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality [their self-satisfying messages] and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words 

2Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 

Paul knew that people were impressionable, easily deceived. And that they could be influenced by forces beyond their ability to resist, be taken captive, and be convinced to believe lies instead of truth.
So, he set the standard: Col 2:6-8 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 

Today, the spirit of antichrist is in the churches through liberal theological ideology that diminishes confidence in God’s Word. It is also in the world through an anti-God society attacking our faith, our lifestyle and our beliefs. Next week we’ll see how the church is under attack from the world.

  1. The easiest time to be deceived is when we don’t know we’re being deceived.
  2. Everyone has the capacity for deception. That’s how magicians make a living.
  3. By knowing the truth, we can prevent deception from ruining our lives.
  4. The best solution is to examine what we’re being told by what God has said.

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