Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Danger of Deception

Leslie Basham: Trevin Wax is an author and blogger. He’s noticed how many teachers are saying unbiblical things about wealth and prosperity.

Trevin Wax: I think the idea that you do the right things, you say the right things, you believe in God enough and He will bless you, is one that is so easy for Christians in our society fall to. It speaks to so many of the hopes that so many Americans have when it comes to consumerism and wealth and health and things like that.

Leslie: Even those who know better can still drift into wrong thinking.

Trevin: They still live with the mindset of God is there to help me out. God is there to make me happy. God is there to fulfill my deepest longings.

Leslie: Because it’s easy to drift into unbiblical thinking, we need to learn how to think through these things.

Trevin: We must be a people who discern our times and who are also discerning about biblical interpretation and discerning when it comes to our missionary task as God's people who are called to make disciples to the world. We can't really do that unless we listen to the people who are across from us, till we see what their objections to Christianity are, to answer them. Unless we are discerning to know how not to be taken in by some of cultural currents of our time that would so easily sweep us away.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, May 11, 2015.

Nancy’s beginning a series called “Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.”

Nancy: One of the most important events in Greek mythology was the Trojan War, which as you may recall was a legendary war that was waged by the Greeks against the legendary city of Troy.

This took place around 1200—well, it didn’t actually take place. But in Greek mythology it took place around 1200 B.C. The Greeks set a siege against the city of Troy that lasted for almost ten years, but they couldn’t conquer the city.

Finally, in exasperation, the Greeks built a huge wooden horse and left it outside the city walls. You may have seen pictures of this. It’s humongous. They left it presumably as a peace offering and then pretended to sail away. There were two mythological characters in the story who warned the Trojans against accepting the horse from the Greeks.

In fact, one of them said some lines that are where we get the saying, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” That’s where that comes from. So there were warnings, “Don’t accept the horse.” But there was a Greek spy who convinced the Trojans that the horse really was a gift.

The Trojans disregarded the warnings and dragged the horse inside the city walls, and then had this huge victory celebration. But it turned out that this horse was hollow, and there were Greek soldiers who were hidden inside.

So while this city was in this drunken stupor, thinking that they had won over the Greeks, the enemy soldiers—the Greeks—emerged from the wooden horse. They opened the city gates to the Greek armies that were sitting outside the walls and allowed the Greeks to pour in and to capture the city.

All the men were killed. The women and the children were taken into slavery. The city was burned to the ground. So the term “Trojan horse” has come to refer to something that appears to be a gift, but it really isn’t. It’s a person or thing that appears to be innocent or harmless, but in fact, has a harmful intent and is very dangerous.

I don’t have to tell you that there is a war going on in our culture, in our world today. Many of our hearts and our homes and our churches are being overrun today, ransacked in some cases by means of some Trojan horses, things that appear to be gifts but really aren’t. They carry in them the means of our destruction.

The city of Troy, as I’ve been reading about this, is a picture of many of our minds and our hearts, because the battle really is in our mind. What we think determines who we are and how we live. What some of us don’t realize is we have an enemy.

We know it intellectually, but we don’t realize how endlessly and relentlessly and tirelessly that enemy is working to capture our hearts and our minds and our relationships.

The enemy has a goal that is no less than to conquer and control our lives. That’s your life, and your life, and your life, and your life, and my life. He never stops in that effort in trying to deceive and trying to control, and he constantly lays siege. He doesn’t give up and go away.

Many times he doesn’t have to use force to conquer us. He often uses subtle, deceptive means. Because if he came in very obvious ways, we would recognize his attempts and we would resist his efforts.

So he worms his way into our lives, our thoughts, our culture, by deceptive means that are subtle, that sometimes come disguised as gifts—things we think will be good for us, things we think will be helpful, things we think will be blessings—and they turn out to be very, very dangerous, something that is harmful.

Deception is one of the primary means, primary weapons of our enemy. He uses deception as the Greeks did with the Trojans to lure us in, to ensnare us, and to gain entrance into the fortress of our hearts, and sometimes he does that without ever firing a shot.

The thing is that we open the door and let the enemy in. I’ve become very concerned in recent years as I hear from women who listen to Revive Our Hearts about the extent to which so many women today, including many women in our evangelical churches, are being deceived.

So my goal in this new series is to explore the whole issue of deception and discernment. I really shouldn’t say the whole issue, because as I’ve studied to prepare for this series, I realize this is a much bigger issue than we’re going to tackle in several days here.

So I really just am going to skim the surface. But I want to make you think. It’s made me think, to be evaluating how does the enemy work, how does deception work, how do we buy into deception, and what are some of the areas where we’re being deceived today.

There are many, many, many of them. So we won’t touch on them all, by any means. The first half of this series will be on the nature of deception and what are some of the areas of deception.

Then I want to turn the corner and talk about the whole issue of discernment. How do we recognize deception, and how do we develop discernment, so that we don’t fall prey to the deception.

There’s a story I want to have us turn to in our Bibles in just a moment here of another Trojan horse, only this story is a true story. It took place thousands of years before the legendary Trojan War. I’m referring to that passage in Genesis chapter 3. If you have your Bible, I would encourage you to turn there.

I want to look at the story of what was really the first Trojan horse. It wasn’t called that, but that’s what it was. Genesis chapter 3. This is how we get our first glimpse of how deception works and how the enemy works to sabotage and control and take captive our hearts.

Genesis 1 and 2, you know how God creates the heaven and the earth and he creates the animals and the vegetation, and then he creates man and he creates the woman and the first marriage. Everything in Genesis 1 and 2 is beautiful. It’s good. It’s blessed. You have all these really positive words about what God has done.

It’s a reflection of who He is. Then we come to chapter 3:1, and we have the entrance of something very jarring in the scene. We’ve had truth. We’ve had beauty. We’ve had life. We’ve had relationship, fellowship—so many good things, blessing in those first two chapters.

Now we come to chapter 3, and all of a sudden the whole thing goes topsy-turvy. What makes a difference is the entrance of the serpent: verse 1 of Genesis chapter 3, “Now the serpent was more crafty . . .” That word can mean cunning, crafty, subtle. “He was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.”

“He said to the woman”—now we know that there was a man and there was a woman, but who did he go after? He goes after the woman. We know from later in this passage that actually the man was there with the woman at the time. What’s he doing? We don’t know. Nothing, apparently.

The enemy is intentional in this instance and in many other instances in going after the woman, singling out the woman, having a conversation with her. “He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”

We could unpack that as to why he said that—what he was suggesting, what he was implying—but I think the obvious thing there is that he raised a question about the Word of God. “Did God actually say . . .?” Has God really said? I think of all the things about the Word of God that people question today, things that are hard to believe.

  • Has God really said that Jesus is the only way to the Father?
  • Has God really said that those who reject Christ will suffer eternal judgment in a real lake of fire?
  • Has God really said that marriage is a permanent, lifetime covenant between a man and a woman, regardless of what Supreme Courts in our states may say to the contrary?
  • Has God really said that sex is beautiful in marriage, but not to be participated in outside of marriage?

Has God really said? That seems so strange. That seems so outdated. That seems so unfair. That seems so limited. That seems so exclusive.

  • Has God really said wives reverence and submit to your husbands? What country are you from? What generation, what century are you from? This is the tweny-first century. Get a life! Has God really said?
  • Has God really said if anyone sins against you, forgive him?
  • Has God really said, don’t take your Christian brother to court, resolve it outside of the court?
  • Has God really said you can’t claim to be a Christian and hold on to your secret sin?

Has God really said? We see God’s Word and God’s authority being questioned all around us.

The woman said, verse 2, to the serpent,

We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden. [And what’s that tree called, by the way? The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil], neither shall you touch it," [which God had not said, by the way] "lest you die" [which God had said], but the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die."

Here, again, we have a contradiction to the Word of God. God may have said that, but God’s wrong. It won’t happen. You won’t die.

"For God knows [the serpent says to the woman] that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise . . ."

It makes me think of that old phrase, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?” It’s good for food. It’s a delight to the eyes. It’s desired to make one wise.

. . . she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen. 3:1–6).

So we have a situation here where this Trojan horse—it’s a gift or it appears to be a gift. It looks good. It seems so right. It seems so helpful. It seems so pleasant. It is so beautiful. It was beautiful. It seems like something that will bless you. It will bring you benefits. It will bring you knowledge. It will elevate you. You can be like God.

All the things that appeal to pride, to the lusts of our flesh and the pride of life. It seems so right. Then we hear ringing those words of Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Isn’t that what God had said? In the day that you eat, you will surely die. So what the enemy, the serpent, made to be an unreasonable restriction or prohibition, God knew was actually in the best interest of Adam and Eve. It was protective. It was for their good. It was for their blessing.

But an enemy came along and switched the price tag and challenged the Word of God and promoted what seemed to be a gift.

Of course, you know as they open that gift, they found that it was swarming with enemy troops who came in and captured their hearts and minds, their marriage, their city. It threw them out of the city, looted Eden, and caused them to be banished from the garden and to live with all the kinds of fallout of sin that we experience to the present day.

I think that’s something that’s important we remember about deception. It looks valuable. It looks good. It looks healthy. It looks wholesome. It looks like something that will make us happy. They ignored the warning of God, just as those Trojans ignored the warnings that were given to them.

They listened to the enemy. God had said you will surely die. They believed the enemy instead of God.

So verse 7 says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”

They got knowledge of good and evil, but God never intended for them to experience evil experientially, to know the knowledge of evil by tasting it. They were to take God’s word for it. Now they tasted of it, and they begin to have that sour taste in their mouth. They bite into that fruit and find out that it’s really crawling with worms. It’s a Trojan horse. It’s not a real gift. It seems to be. But it’s crawling with the enemy.

Now look at verse 13, Genesis, chapter 3:

Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Do you know that is the testimony of every woman who has ever lived from that day to this? The fact is the serpent not only deceived her, but the serpent has deceived us, and we have eaten. We thought this was a gift, and we’ve been deceived, and we’ve eaten of the fruit.

We know that the serpent is Satan, who was embodied in a serpent in that instance. He doesn’t come to us as a serpent today. But the serpent has come to be a picture, a symbol of what he was in a very real sense there, the ultimate deceiver.

Revelation chapter 12:9 makes it clear to us, in case we had any doubt, that Satan was embodied in that serpent. It talks about the great dragon, who comes to deceive the world. “The great dragon . . . that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”

He speaks the language of lying, Jesus said.

That’s his language. His native tongue is lying, deception, and he deceives the whole world.

All through the Scripture from Genesis 3 when the serpent (that is, Satan) deceived the woman, all the way through to close to the very end of the book of Revelation, where Satan deceives the nations, you have him in this role of deceiver.

He deceives. He sets up the deception, and he does it in ways that most people never recognize for what it is. He’s relentless.

In fact, in Revelation chapter 20—I’ve been meditating and memorizing in the book of Revelation, and I’ve come to these chapters at the end of the book. After deceiving millions of people throughout the great tribulation, Satan is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.

Then we read in Revelation, chapter 20, verses 7–8, “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth.”

Even after a thousand years of being bound in this bottomless pit and having to think about all that he has done and all the goodness of God that he has spurned and all the people that he has dragged into that judgment with him, he comes out and what does he do? He deceives the nations.

After that, he is quickly thrown into the lake of fire, and he’s tormented day and night for ever and ever. So he will not deceive forever, but until that point, he is a relentless, tireless—he is endlessly deceiving the people of God and the people of this world.

It would be easy to just blame Satan and say the reason we get in trouble, the reason we get deceived is because there is a deceiver. He’s Satan. But we can’t just blame Satan. He is a deceiver, and he is actively involved in deception in all of our lives, in one way or another, but the fact is we are also culpable. We have responsibility in this.

I want you to look at a passage in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 that helps us to see this. Verses 1–2, the apostle Paul says,

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

My point in bringing up this passage is not to discuss things of when all this is going to happen and future things, eschatology

The point is here that Paul was talking about doctrinal error. There was teaching abroad in his day that was false teaching about core Christian truths. And that teaching seemed to be authentic.

It’s a spirit. It’s a spoken word. It’s a letter that seems to come from the apostles. And it has the effect of shaking people’s faith. It causes them to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed. It jars them because it’s a little different than what they’ve been told before.

He goes on to say in verse 3, “Let no one deceive you in any way.” Even if it seems to be something that’s coming from us, if it’s not what we have taught you as the Word of God, then don’t be deceived by it.

What Paul is saying to the Thessalonians and to us is that we are responsible to know the truth. We are responsible to guard our hearts and our minds from deception. The way to be protected from deception is to know the truth, which is revealed in the Word of God.

You don’t learn deception by going and scouting for deception. You learn it by becoming immersed in and saturated by the Word of God, knowing the truth, so that when deception comes, you can see that it doesn’t line up to the truth.

Continuing in verse 3,

For that day will not come [the day you’ve heard has already come, the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ] unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

That’s a whole complex teaching that I’m not going to get into, but the point of his teaching is the way to be protected from deception is to know what God says. I’m going to tell you, he says, what God says. This is what has to happen before that day comes.

2 Thessalonians 2:9, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.”

Deception is powerful, and it’s often impressive. It comes with signs and wonders, seeming miracles—the supernatural, it appears to be. So it’s persuasive and it’s convincing, and many, many people follow after it because it looks so powerful.

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing [look at this] because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess. 2:9–10).

People who are perishing, who end up separated from Christ for all eternity, they can’t say, “Oh, he deceived me. I didn’t know.” The Scripture says, yes, they were deceived, but they refused to love the truth. That’s why they were deceived.

They would have been saved if they would have loved and embraced the truth, but they wouldn’t do it. They rejected the truth, and that’s why they were deceived.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (vv. 11–12).

When people reject the truth and refuse to submit to it, God judges them by turning them over to delusion to be deceived. And the deluder, the deceiver, is Satan, who is actually God’s instrument of judgment on people who say “no” to the truth.

I don’t want to believe the truth. So God says, okay, believe a lie. And He sends Satan to deceive them.

So who is responsible? Well, Satan is the deceiver, but the deceived ones are responsible because they refused to love the truth. That’s why God gave them over to deception.

The reason people don’t believe the truth is because they take pleasure in unrighteousness, as the Scripture says. Think about atheism today, which is such a widespread philosophy. These books are huge best-sellers.

There’s no God. The Scripture has said, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). That word “fool” is not somebody who is mentally deficient. It’s someone who is morally deficient.

They want to live life the way they want to live it. They want to live according to the lusts of their flesh. If they acknowledge there’s a God, then they will be accountable to that God. They don’t want to be accountable to God, so they say there’s no God.

They know in their hearts there is, but they reject the truth. They will not love the truth, and they insist on believing there is no God, so they can live the way they want to live.

So what’s the point? Yes, there is a deceiver, and we do get deceived. Our world is in deception, but the reason is that we love deception. We don’t love the truth. The world loves darkness rather than light, because its deeds are evil.

God holds those who are deceived responsible for being deceived, so no one can say, “It wasn’t my fault. God wasn’t fair.”

God says, “No. You rejected the truth. I gave you over to delusion.”

Over these next days, we want to see how that relates to us as believers in Christ and how even those of us who know and do love the truth can sometimes be deceived.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us learn to recognize deception and apply discernment to the messages we hear. This is crucial for those of us who face a swirl of messages in a typical day.

I sure want this to be more than just a radio topic I hear and forget. I need to make discernment part of my life. Nancy is here to help us do just that.

Nancy: Well, I hope that today’s program and this entire series will be just the first step in helping you know how to recognize truth and avoid false messages. To help you grow in discernment, I want to encourage you to get a copy of the book by Tim Challies called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

Tim is a good friend of Revive Our Hearts. He chose to write his first book on the topic of discernment which is so important and yet often overlooked.

Tim's book was very helpful to me in my own study and preparation for this series. It will give you a biblical understanding of discernment and help you practice it day by day, as you encounter confusing messages.

So when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you Tim’s book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

Your gift to us this month is particularly important. We’re preparing for the summer when we usually see a drop in donations. In recent months, we’ve already seen less income than we projected.

At the same time, there are huge ministry opportunities before us as more women are hungry for the truth and are accessing content online. We’re developing new messages and new ways of speaking to women on mobile devices and online. When women are seeking answers to life’s hardest problems, we want to be there with the truth.

Would you help us to move forward on new opportunities so we don't have to consider painful cuts to our outreaches over the months ahead?

If you’ve never supported Revive Our Hearts before, your gift will be doubled as part of a matching challenge here in May. So whether this is a first-time gift or you've given before, please give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and be sure to ask for the book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: One problem with false messages is that they sound so true. Nancy will address that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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