Today our message is about “How to Avoid Deception.” What is deception? Deception is being misled by a false appearance or statement. In other words, to be deceived is to believe a falsehood or a lie. Deception has a very long history, going back to the garden of Eden.
2 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV) But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
In the garden of Eden, the serpent, Satan, deceived Eve with a lie. He got her to believe that what God had said was not true. Because of that deception, first Eve and then Adam disobeyed God and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. We can learn some important principles from that first deception. Every sin is a result of being deceived and believing a lie. Sin is the inevitable result of thinking that something is true when it is not. Jesus warned us about being deceived in …
Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV2011) Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
As the time of Jesus’ return draws closer, the amount of deception will increase. Notice that Jesus puts the responsibility on each one of us to watch out so that we are not deceived. We must be able to distinguish between the truth of God and the lies of Satan. Not only must we be careful to not be deceived, we must also help others to avoid deception.
1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV2011) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
When a person is deceived, behind that deception are deceiving spirits and demons. In order for a person to be deceived, the deception must sound like it is true. Let’s take a few minutes to look at a series of statements that many people believe. They sound true, but they are deceptions if you understand what God’s Word says.
And there are many, many other things that most people believe that are deceptions. So, how can you and I avoid being deceived? We must build our relationship with Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life. This morning, we’re going to return to the life of the prophet Jeremiah. He spoke the truth of God’s Word when those around him were being deceived.
Jeremiah 26:2 (ESV) “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.
These were the instructions that the Lord gave to Jeremiah about speaking to the people of Judah. As people came to worship at the temple, Jeremiah would prophesy to them. His message was one of doom and destruction if the people did not turn to God.
Jeremiah 26:3 (ESV) It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.
Jeremiah’s message was designed to wake the people up to the disaster that was coming if they did not repent. The disaster would be the invasion of the Babylonian army to destroy and carry captives back to Babylon. Who was Jeremiah speaking to? He was speaking to the people coming to worship at the temple. Even though they were outwardly coming to worship, their hearts were filled with evil. Not only did they worship at the temple, when they went home, they continued to worship idols. Jeremiah knew that his message would not be popular, but he continued to speak what the Lord had given him to say.
Jeremiah 26:8 (ESV) And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die!
Jeremiah certainly did not get a warm reception to his call for repentance. It appears that no one liked what he had to say. They wanted to kill him. Certainly not the attitude of God-fearing people. What were they upset about?
Jeremiah 26:9 (ESV) Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
Shiloh had previously been the center of worship for all Israel for three hundred years. Yet, it had been destroyed and was not longer in existence. Jeremiah was prophesying that Jerusalem would be destroyed, just like Shiloh, unless the people turned back to God. The people were in unity that Jeremiah must be stopped from preaching the depressing message that God’s judgement was coming.
The false prophets and teachers who were teaching that nothing bad was coming did not like their words contradicted. Jeremiah explained to all the people that he was simply proclaiming God’s Word, not his own. God intervened and Jeremiah’s life was spared, even though the people of Judah were self-deceived.
What is the danger of self-deception? Self-deception is when you choose to only hear the things that you want to hear. You shut out the truth and listen only to lies that make you feel good. 2 Timothy 4:3 summarizes how self-deception occurs.
2 Timothy 4:3 (NLT2) For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
There are two aspects of self-deception in this verse. We see both of them in the account of Jeremiah we’ve just discussed. First all, people stop listening to the truth, described as sound teaching. Secondly, they look for teachers that will tell them whatever they want to hear. And the things that people want to hear are the deceiving lies of the enemy.
What is the difference between this self-deception and the truth? The truth will always call on you to change and so grow closer to God. Yet, many people do not want to change, so they embrace falsehood. Self-deception is simply listening to what you want to hear. Self-deception calls for no change in your life and pulls you away from God.
Don’t fall for the false reassurances of teaching that denies that doesn’t call for change in your life. God calls us to become more and more like Jesus, which takes great change. We must be alert to the danger of self-deception.
Jeremiah 28:10-11 (NLT2) Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces. And Hananiah said again to the crowd that had gathered, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Just as this yoke has been broken, within two years I will break the yoke of oppression from all the nations now subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.’” With that, Jeremiah left the Temple area.
Jeremiah had been wearing a yoke on his neck at God’s direction. The yoke signified the captivity that was coming from Babylon if they people did not repent. Hananiah took off Jeremiah’s yoke and broke it to pieces. He proclaimed that within two years, Babylon would be defeated and would no longer threaten Judah. Hananiah’s message directly contradicted what God was saying through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 28:15 (ESV) And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie.
You can imagine that Hananiah’s message was very popular and encouraging. However, Jeremiah spoke directly to him and called him out for telling a lie. Notice that the people believed and were trusting this false prophet’s deception. Jeremiah continued.
Jeremiah 28:16 (ESV) Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.’”
Now we see that the Lord was with Jeremiah as he gave a very stern rebuke of the false prophet. Because Hananiah had spoken rebellion and lied about what the Lord was saying, he would lose his life. In fact, Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord would cause him do die within a year. The Scripture records that two months later, Hananiah died. The Lord had revealed who was the true prophet and who was the false prophet. It is important that we learn to discern false teachers and prophets.
So, how can you learn to discern false teachers today? Where might you encounter false teachers or false teaching? The answer is just about everywhere. False teaching is teaching that contradicts God’s Word. There is false teaching in every type of media that exists today. Because of the internet, false teaching is everywhere.
False teaching is found in the secular world and in the religious world. One of the best ways to grow in your discernment of false teaching is to be part of a church family like Life Church. We are not just an isolated church in St. Louis. We are part of a large fellowship of over 70 million people and hundreds of thousands of churches around the world in the Assemblies of God. Our biblical beliefs do not change by the year and are carefully documented on the ag.org website. You can find position papers based on the Bible on every topic you may have questions about.
Right here at Life Church, you will receive the truth of God’s Word every Sunday. We encourage everyone to get involved in other times during the week. In the Sunday growth class before the service or in the small groups we have meeting. There you can talk to other believers and grow in the truth of God.
Jeremiah 29:19 (ESV) because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the LORD, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the LORD.’
Many of the Jews had already been exiled to Babylon. Even in Babylon false prophets were giving deceptive messages regarding the return of the people to Judah. These deceptive messages were giving the people false hope and contradicting what the Lord was saying through Jeremiah. So, Jeremiah wrote and sent a letter to these exiles in Babylon. God was saying to them that they hadn’t been and still weren’t listening to his words being spoken through true prophets, like Jeremiah. Jeremiah prophesied that the captivity in Babylon would last not just for a few years but for seventy years. There were a number of false prophets in Babylon including one named Shemaiah.
Jeremiah 29:30-31 (ESV) Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie,
Again, God spoke through Jeremiah concerning these deceptive messages. They were causing the people to trust in a lie, rather than the truth of God.
Jeremiah 29:32 (ESV) therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the LORD, for he has spoken rebellion against the LORD.’”
God does not take deceptive messages or those who give them lightly. He would punish this false prophet and his descendants for his rebellion against the Lord. Those who promote deceptive messages refuse to hear and acknowledge God’s truth. We must beware of deceptive messages and messengers.
How can we discern what is true and what is false? We have the Bible, God’s inspired word which is totally true with no falsehood. Besides being part of a Bible believing church, each believer needs to be reading and studying God’s Word on a daily basis. The more you immerse yourself in God’s truth, the more you will immediately be able to detect false messages wherever they come from.
As you read the Bible and pray, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand and apply what you read to your life. As you grow in your understanding the Bible, it will become easier and easier to detect the false messages that are all around us. As you grow closer to Jesus, His Spirit will guide you into more truth. Then you will be able to help others who have been deceived to learn the truth. Many churches are straying further and further from the truth of God’s Word. We need to learn how to encourage people away from deception and towards the truth. Beware of deceptive messages.
Through the life of the prophet Jeremiah, we’ve learned about the danger of self-deception. The human desire to only hear good news and not that we need to change. Yet, God’s message, that we saw through Jeremiah is one of repentance. Not just to be saved, but throughout our lives. Leaving the lies of the enemy behind and pressing forward into God’s truth.
God desires for us to grow at discerning false teachers and the false messages they give. God wants to guide us to helping others that have trusted in lies. As we draw closer to the Lord in our church family and in His Word, He will help us to help others pursue His truth.