By Mike Willis
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12-13).
The Lord warned mankind to beware of the “deceitfulness of sin.” The devil promises more than he delivers and other than he delivers. To Eve, the serpent promised, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Believing the serpent, Eve ate of the fruit. But the devil lied to Eve. Sin promised what it did not deliver. Sin brought physical and spiritual death, pain, heartache and sorrow.
Sin has not changed in its nature nor has the devil quit deceiving men. Sin’s allurements still promise what it cannot deliver. Consider some examples of the deceitfulness of sin.
Sin Promises Liberty But Gives Bondage
Under the guise of personal liberty and freedom, sin enslaves men. Peter warned of false teachers saying, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19). Much of modern sin’s defense is under the guise of liberty. Abortion is defended as the woman’s right of free choice; homosexuality is advocated as the liberty to choose one’s sexual preference; pornography is advanced as freedom of expression (speech). The devil is still deceiving people by promising them liberty but bringing them into slavery. Here are some examples for us to guard against:
1. The use of alcoholic beverages. Those who defend drinking decry the days of prohibition as days in which personal liberties were restrained by right-wing radicals. Consequently, our society has virtually no restraints on drinking. Even when drunks kill someone while driving under the influence of alcohol, the judges frequently give them a “slap on the wrist” and release them to commit their crimes again.
In the presence of a society reeling to and fro from the problem of drunkenness, some brethren defend the right of Christians to drink alcoholic beverages, using such passages as John 2:1-11 and 1 Timothy 5:23. 1 Timothy 5:23 teaches that one may use “wine” for one’s physical infirmities; nevertheless, the context implies that young Timothy shunned drinking to such a degree that he would not even use wine for medicinal purposes without an apostolic injunction to condone it. The interpretation given to John 2:1-11 by modem defenders of drinking states that Jesus gave a party of people, who had already been drinking intoxicating beverages, 150-180 additional gallons of intoxicating drink to party with. That interpretation makes the drunken orgies at the fraternity houses of the state universities rather mild parties by comparison. A much more logical interpretation of John 2:1-11 recognizes that the Greek word oinos can be used to described unfermented grape juice.
The devil encourages men to use wine. He describes those who oppose its use as those who are trying to restrain one’s liberties. He advertises the product of the brewer’s art using glamourous men and women enjoying the best of life. He persuades men to believe that using alcohol is harmless.
However, he deceives men. Using wine makes drunkards of men. Men become enslaved to drink. They drink for relaxation, when under stress, and to escape reality. Even those who are not full fledged gutter drunks frequently drink and drive, making their automobiles as dangerous as a loaded pistol. Homes are broken under the influence of drunkenness. When one calculates the harm which has come to man because of drinking, he stands amazed at how many people have been seduced by the deceitfulness of sin.
2. Smoking. The Scriptures forbid being enslaved to anything (1 Cor. 6:12 – “I will not be brought under the power of any”). Cigarettes contain a drug which is habituating, just like cocaine, heroine and other addictive drugs. Smoking also contributes to cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other physical ailments. Nevertheless, some (even among our brethren) resent the implication that smoking is sinful and argue that smoking is a liberty which man has. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.” They are addicted to the cigarette, being unable to face the day to day circumstances of life without leaning on their crutch – the cigarette. Without concern for the other person, cigarette smokers blow their smoke in the faces of other people. Can you imagine a man eating an onion and blowing his stinking breath in your face?
Yet notice how attractively Satan has packaged his product. He shows two beautiful people at one of nature’s most beautiful settings holding hands and sharing a cigarette. He makes smoking the “manly” activity for young men (“you’re in Marlboro country”), the sophisticated activity of liberated women (“you’ve come a long way, baby”), and non-threatening to one’s health (“the lowest in tar and nicotine”). He promises what he cannot deliver. Smoking destroys the health, makes beautiful women speak with a raspy voice and the victim of lung cancer, and makes strongwilled men the slaves to their cigarette addiction. Indeed, the devil has entrapped men with the deceitfulness of sin.
Sin Is Attractively Adorned
The devil makes sure that he does not describe sin as it really is. He disguises it to deceive the hearts of men. Perhaps there is no better example of how the serpent deceives mankind than with reference to sexual immorality. The devil portrays fornication as the innocent sexual experiment of budding adolescents, the accepted behavior of the macho man and liberated woman, the normal expression of marital dissatisfaction, and the accepted solution to people in a boring marriage.
Fornication is not so beautiful. I have recently witnessed its impact on the family. A teenager has created absolute chaos in her home by her repeated acts of fornication. Her immorality has led to rebellion against her parents, runrung away from home, and arrest by the police. Fornication is no less painful to older participants. A father has broken his marriage vows, divorced his wife, emotionally seared his children, disassociated himself from his parents and friends to satisfy his sensual lusts. Indeed, such people are “slaves of corruption.”
Sin Deceives One Into Thinking He Can Quit Its Practice Whenever He So Desires
The devil permits man to think that he can quit the practice of his sin whenever he so chooses. While man is thinking that he can cease his sin anytime he pleases, Satan is connecting the strands of his rope to completely entrap his victim. The cigarette smoker realizes he has been deceived when he tries to lay down the cigarette but does not possess the power to quit. The fornicator watches the devil’s ropes tighten about him when he uses a child born out of wedlock to persuade his victim to enter an adulterous marriage. Deeper and deeper the victim goes into sin until his heart is so hardened by sin that he cannot be brought to repentance (Heb. 6:4-6).
Sin Deceives One Into Looking At Sin’s Pleasures Without Thought To Sin’s Consequences
The devil’s deception also emphasizes the “pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25) without thought to sin’s consequences. The devil never speaks to us about hell, eternal damnation from the presence of the Lord. The devil never reminds us of the Lord’s second coming. The devil never encourages us to think about the results of our choices on the later development of our life. Rather, the devil persuades us to concentrate on sin’s temporal pleasures for the present.
When one looks at Paul’s choice to give up earthly power, prestige, and position to become a Christian, suffering persecution at the hands of both Jew and Gentile and culminating in his being put to death for being a Christian, his choice to become a Christian was a foolish choice. However, when viewed from eternity’s vantage point, his choice was the only logical choice to make. Sin never makes sense from eternity’s vantage point; consequently, the devil will ever concentrate on the immediate pleasures which sin can bring.
Preventatives To Sin
The writer of the warning in Hebrews 3 exhorts us to overcome sin’s deceitfulness in these ways:
1. Take heed. The Christian must constantly be on guard to avoid the temptation to sin. He needs to be “sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). Anything which lulls us into a false sense of security,dulls our senses, or otherwise allows us to take down our guard should be avoided.
2. Exhort one another. Christians need each other’s support and encouragement. We need to watch for those who are becoming weak so that we might rush to their aid. Paul exhorted, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). When we see a brother missing services, rush to his aid; don’t wait until he is so ensnared by sin that he cannot be reclaimed for the Lord.
We have a cunning adversary whose craftiness and deceit should not be underestimated. We need to become aware of the devices which he uses to destroy men’s souls, instruct men in the dangers which they pose to the soul, and become equipped to resist his assaults. The deceitfulness of sin is one of Satan’s tools to destroy men’s soul. Take heed and beware!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 23, pp. 706, 726-727
December 1, 1988