The great difficulty we face in exposing and overcoming deception, both personally and corporately, makes deception so treacherous? One of the chief ploys of the enemy is to deceive believers. Not only are we all capable of being deceived; we have already been deceived in a multitude of ways.
Yesterday, three times the topic of deception arose in three different settings, with three separate groups of people. Since my conversations rarely bend in that direction, I knew I had better pay attention.
Should we say of our world like Jeremiah did of his,
” ‘Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declare the LORD.”
Satan the Deceiver
We find satan as the original deceiver in the Garden of Eden, coming in the form of a snake, twisting God’s words and motivation. He first convinces Eve, then Adam, to outright disobedience to God’s command. He made it appear that he knew better than God and guaranteed them benefits presently hidden from them.
Deception always promises good but delivers harm.
Adam and Eve knew God, Elohim, as their Creator, in covenant relationship with all He made — fully committed to them. But God had also introduced Himself as LORD God, Jehovah (Yahweh) Elohim — righteous and just. Loving commitment required Him to judge all wrong.
Yet when the serpent spoke, he refused to acknowledge God as LORD. “Did God really say?” He enticed Eve closer.
Eve grabbed his hook like a hungry fish, “God did say, . . .” she responded.
Only after the failure of both Adam and Eve did they remember God’s fullness. Frail efforts and ridiculous coverups at overcoming deception and hiding sin have been repeated throughout the ages — by me and others. Too late we remember He is both LORD and God!
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
As “children” of Adam and Eve, we possess the same failures and disobedient nature to go beyond or around God to gain something we perceive He is withholding from us.
I’m convinced that every sin and addiction is rooted in our failure to fully acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, marriages, finances, futures, gifts, and ministries. We may have surrendered ninety percent, but there will be that one place, that one thing, we tend to grab with tight fists, denying God access.
Deception is a heart issue!
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
God alone can bring the cure we so desperately need in overcoming deception. Yet, in our hiding, we avoid the healing balm found only in the finished work of the cross.
The very nature of deception grows out of ignorance of the hidden enticement. I need others who will ask me the tough questions, challenge my motivations, and test my faithfulness to God and His Word. The deceived consistently fail to recognize the deception others see so clearly. It requires someone outside looking into our lives.
James pinpoints a key area of deception.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Only Jesus walked out obedience perfectly. The rest of us struggle to do the good we know we ought to do. Paul, concerned for the Corinthian believers, warned them that what happened to Eve happens to us all!
“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.”
2 Corinthians 11:3
It’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s craftiness. The phrase “be led astray” means “to destroy, ruin, shrivel, wither, corrupt and spoil” any “sincerity, simplicity, purity and graciousness.”
For good reason, every writer in the New Testament warns how treacherous deception is.
Winning the Battle
Just as warnings abound in the Word of God, so does encouragement and winning tactics. Paul says to the Ephesian church,
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden with the serpent’s deception, Jesus secured back through the cross. By realigning ourselves to that reality, we regain the ability to live in the image of God in “true righteousness and holiness.” Paul instructs us to resist deceitful desires, twisted serpentine thinking and lies. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds,”
Deception is a battle first for the mind, then for our devotion! Thankfully, God has equipped us with the spiritual weapons necessary in overcoming deception.
Jesus paid a heavy price for humanity’s disobedience. Every believer, through the cross, now possesses the capacity to make the devil pay for his deceptive tactics.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
What disobedience lost, obedience gained back. However, we cannot do it alone! We need Jesus Christ and other Christians in the body of Christ.
“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. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
Just like satan used a snake as a cover for his true identity, he often disguises himself behind smooth talk of others we trust. Christ is our shield. In Him is all the fullness. Wherever we lack, He is sufficient.
I will close with this solid advice from John, the Beloved:
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1
I wonder how different the scenario would have been if Eve would have sought Adam’s advice or if Adam would have spoken up, when he heard satan lie.
We walk on dangerous ground when we choose to walk alone. I have learned, though slowly, how invaluable walking in community with others is. Together we protect each other from deception by encouraging each other in the Word of God, supporting each other in prayer, and when necessary, challenging each other to walk faithful.
Though we are prone to fall, overcoming deception becomes possible through Jesus Christ. He has exposed the enemy’s tactics and given us everything we need to overcome. As we trust His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know we will stand firm, withstanding every temptation.