100 years ago William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said this about the twentieth century:
“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.”
We are now living in those days. Everywhere one looks there’s a new doctrine that excuses people from living the true gospel. Praise God, there’s still a righteous remnant in the land who hasn’t bowed their knee to Baal. But still the danger is real. This was the primary thing Jesus warned us of in the end-times: “Take heed that no one deceives you (Matt 24:4).”
One of the worst things about being deceived is that you don’t know you’re deceived. You think you’re walking in the truth, when in reality, you’re not. How do we know whether we’re walking in the truth or not? How can we be sure we’re on the path that leads to life?
The simple answer is the Bible. Despite the sinking sands around us, God’s Word is truth. It has continued to be the anchor for the Church throughout the centuries. Yet even if we’re in the Bible on a regular basis there is still opportunity for deception. And this is where many believers stumble and believe a lie:
“Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” – James 1:21-25
We must do what it says. If we hear the Word but don’t obey it we deceive ourselves. Sadly, this is happening in the Church now more than ever. There are many worship leaders, pastors, and prophetic leaders who read, “take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life”, but don’t do what it says. They drink too much alcohol and give their bodies over to drunkenness. They read passages that say “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is good your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness”, but at night they binge on watching television shows and movies that grieve the Holy Spirit. They hear passages saying, “Take heed what you hear”, but they indulge in worldly music that defiles them as they listen to it.
It almost seems they are living two different lives. In the ministry they are anointed and sincere. But in their personal lives they are grieving the Holy Spirit. Their lifestyle choices are shallow which lead them to watch questionable things, listen to questionable things, and talk about questionable things. But in the ministry they are reaching for God.
How do we reconcile such things? How can we be reaching for God but still dabbling in compromise? How can we be reading the Word but not doing what it says? The answer is, we can’t. Those who listen to the Word but don’t do what it says deceive themselves. Over time, they become cynical towards the Church. They’ve “been there, done that” and so they feel relieved from the responsibility of focusing. Their lack of follow through after reading the Scriptures causes them to believe they’re walking in holiness, when they’re not. The areas in the Bible they disobey have created “blind spots” in their spiritual vision, though they don’t know it.
This is when the fellowship of believers should come in. We ALL have blind spots, every one of us. Our fellow believers are meant to see these blind spots and kindly point them out to us in love (Eph 4:14). Unfortunately now days, that’s pretty rare. We’re too kind to confront. We’d rather stay comfortable and not disturb anything. But if we all stay comfortable how will we be freed from these blind spots?
What we need is a few courageous men and women who speak up. But there’s one important thing these courageous men and women need to learn first: compassion. If we’re beating people on the head with Bibles everywhere we go, not much is going to happen. In fact, truth without mercy is a sure way to make things worse. God usually brings these courageous men and women through a refining process before He uses them to speak the truth. They must first learn their own weakness & depravity. They must first learn that without the grace of God they’re nothing. Then, once the refining process is complete they are ready to speak the truth in love.
The remedy for deception in the Church has these two components. The first component is 100% obedience. We sincerely seek to obey everything the Bible says, even the things that are difficult. This requires us to read our Bible on a regular basis. We regularly open the Word of God and then we commit to obey it.
The second component is the fellowship of believers. We make a commitment to receive and give each other the truth in love. We call each other higher. We refuse to let our friends off the hook with disobedience. We stand for holiness when it’s unpopular. And we kindly address the blind spots we see in love.
It will take a lot of courage for the Church to be freed from deception. It’s roots go a lot deeper than we realize. But it is attainable and Jesus has promised a reward for all who overcome it (Rev 2:7, 26). Let’s do this thing together.