Is it possible for Christians to be deceived? This article records different ways from the Bible in which we are prone to deception.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 2012. 2 pages.

Spiritual Deception

Deception is something we hate but something we cannot avoid, for there is deception everywhere. When sin entered the world, Eve explained: "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Gen. 3:13). Satan is called 'the deceiver of the whole world' (Rev. 12:9) — no more so than when people do not believe that he exists.

We were made for truth — what Simone Weil beautifully called "the radiant manifestation of reality". Yet somehow we are immersed in deception. Television deceives us, advertisements lead us to Vanity Fair, educators deceive us, politicians seem to be able to do little else to us, false teachers abound in the church, and, worst of all, we deceive ourselves. In Paul's testimony, even God's law can be used to deceive us: "sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me" (Rom. 7:11).

We deceive ourselves mainly because we are proud and it suits us to deceive ourselves. Paul warned the Corinthians: "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise" (1 Cor. 3:18).

How many human beings have deceived themselves that they could mingle with worldly people without doing harm to themselves? We tell ourselves: "They may indulge in folly, but I know better deep down and can handle this." But we deceive ourselves, for bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor. 15:33). We deceive ourselves that we can sow indifference and selfishness and reap all kinds of wonders, but, alas, "whatever one sows, that will he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).

Because we come into the world with a corrupt nature, and are more ready to believe falsehood than God's truth, we are prone to deception. We easily deceive ourselves regarding immorality, impurity, and covetousness, and the judgment of God, but the Word of God tells us: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 5:6).

We can profess the name of Christ, indulge in an ungodly lifestyle, and delude ourselves that we will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). Such a sad state of affairs has probably been quite common down through the ages, but at no time more so than today when trusting in Jesus as Saviour is often equated with believing that He will help me cope with life. We can hear something that sounds Christian, believe it, and carry on unchanged, as though the Holy Spirit ­the Spirit who makes holy had never come into it. Hence James tells us to "be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).

Deception can come upon us regarding events leading up to the second coming of Christ. Some Thessalonian believers had given up work, thinking that there was no point to it as the Day had come (2 Thess. 2:3). They have not been the last group in the history of Christendom to be deluded in this area. By definition, the workings of temptation deceive us. We tend to minimise it or evade our responsibility for overcoming it. Sin is just a problem in our lives, and sins are rather like mistakes. In any case, no one is perfect. However, James tells us that desire leads to sin, and sin leads to death. We ought not to be deceived regarding this (James 1:13-16).

We deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). Grace is not lawlessness. It is free, but, as Bonhoeffer said, it is not cheap. Christ did not save His people so that they could continue in unrighteousness but in order to practise righteousness (1 John 3:7). To believe otherwise is to be deceived, no matter how evangelical we try to sound.

Now we come to the most damning and beguiling aspect of deception. This may be best illustrated through recounting the conversion of Arthur Pink. Pink was raised in a Christian home, but sometime in his youth he embraced the tenets of Theosophy. By 1908, at the age of 22, he had become a medium, and practised clairvoyance, divination, and magical healing.

As was his custom, he came home from a Theosophy meeting one night, but this particular night his father greeted him with the text: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). Pink was struck, indeed convicted, and was so disturbed that he did not leave his room for three days until he could profess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour.

That is the truly terrible thing about deception. We can be deceived when we think we are doing right. And we only know we have been deceived after we have been delivered from deception. Are you deceived? Virtually nobody believes that he is, but God tells us that many are.

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