Source of Deception
As I mentioned yesterday, I started a new Bible study this week called Twisting the Truth, written by Andy Stanley. Yesterday we talked about the purpose of the study as a whole, and we discussed how the Bible teaches that a realm exists outside of our physical perception that influences us greatly. The evil forces that act on us from this realm do so through deception – they lace our path with snares and traps that lead us to make bad decisions. And it’s these decisions that ruin our lives – physically, emotionally, and relationally.
I never served in the military, but I’ve watched enough movies (that count’s, right??) to know that one of the most important things you need to have before you go into battle is a good understanding of your enemy. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, your enemy is Satan. You may not have much interest in fighting him, but he has a lot of interest in fighting you. But his fighting against us isn’t always easy to detect. Andy Stanley writes “…there’s a twistedness all around us — a distortion of truth, twisted just enough to draw us into trouble, but not quite enough to scare us away. And the ones behind this twist will never tip their hands. If they became too obvious, we’d see them for who they are — and we’d run.”
Fortunately, God has given us insight into the actions of our enemy in His Word. Satan hopes to harm us, both in our day-to-day lives and the decisions we make (the routine of life), as well as in our Christian walks (our Christ-life). In the routine of life, whether you are a Christian or not, Satan deceives us through temptation to make wrong decisions. His lies are sugar-coated, though – we often think we’re doing what is best for us, and only after the damage is done do we realize that we’ve ruined our life. As for the Christ-life, Satan’s method of fighting against us is to blind us from a full understanding of the Gospel. Regardless of what aspect of our life his is attacking, his methods come in one of three packages:
For Christians and non-Christians alike, Satan acts to distract us from the truth. The truth may be something like don’t invest in that business, because it has no future, but Satan deceives us, using our own greed against us, into thinking yes, invest in that business, and you’ll make lots of money! Satan also distract people from the Gospel. The Gospel’s centerpiece is Christ himself. Satan knows that Jesus “…disarmed the powers and authorities [Satan and his cohorts]…triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15). In the end, Satan knows he’s been beaten. So in the mean time, he works hard to distract people from seeing Christ in the first place. Jesus identified this very phenomenon when He spoke to the religious leaders in John 8:42-44:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan had distracted the religious leaders from seeing that Jesus was from God. He did so through deception, since “he is a liar and the father of lies.” As for Christians, Satan distracts them from understanding the entire Gospel (more on this in the next section).
Many Christians (myself included) don’t have a full understanding of the Gospel. To most of us, the Gospel is just the “good news” that our sins have been wiped clean, that we’ve been given a new start with God. But the Gospel has a whole other facet that deals with the rest of our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
The Gospel, summed up here, is more than just getting rid of the old – it’s also bringing in the new! When we are saved, we have a new life in Christ, and the Holy Spirit works out our salvation in our daily lives. The Spirit enables us to overcome sin, transforms us to become more like Jesus, and empowers us to witness to those around us. Satan reduces the Gospel when he convinces us that, although we have been saved, we are on our own for the rest of our lives. He deceives us into thinking we have no more benefits to seek from God.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Paul was careful not to add his own words of human wisdom and eloquence to the Gospel when he preached, because adding to the Gospel empties it of it’s power. Satan knows this. He deceives people into adding to the Gospel, and in turn, causes them to preach a Gospel which is really no Gospel at all (see Galatians 1:6-7). I can’t help but think of the so-called “prosperity gospel” that states that God wants us to be rich – this is far from true, and is really no Gospel at all.
So, we can see that Satan is a formidable opponent, because he is quite good at deceiving us. He uses deception to tempt us into making bad decisions, to distract us from Christ, to reduce the Gospel into something less than what it truly is, and to convince us to add to the Gospel, all of which are devastating to our lives. We must realize that our opponent is no weakling, but with a slightly better understanding of him, we are better prepared to fight his attacks.
How do you think our culture portrays the devil? Is it accurate? How does this affect day-to-day decisions, as well as our Christian lives?