By Weldon E. Warnock
We are warned in the Scriptures of being deceived. Paul wrote the Corinthians and the Galatians, “Be not deceived” (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7). John and Paul wrote, “Let no man deceive you . . .” (1 Jn. 3:7; 2 Thess. 2:3). Hence, these passages, as well as others, tell us we need to be alert, lest we be deluded and misled. Hence, we’d better watch it! There are many ways by which man can be deceived. Let us notice briefly several of them.
Thinking God Can Be Mocked
Some are deceived by thinking God can be mocked. Paul writes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). No one can fool or outwit God. Men may fool themselves, but they cannot fool God. All will reap what they sow when God brings in the harvest.
Those who think they can walk in the ways of the world, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, and still go to heaven are deceiving themselves. God will not allow such profligates to enter heaven. God’s spiritual law is just as inflexible as his physical law. We reap what we sow, whether spiritually or physically.
Paul plainly states, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). We cannot live in adultery or drunkenness or covetous or any other sin, and go to heaven. Sowing to the flesh will produce corruption (Gal. 6:8).
Deceived By Sin
Sin is deceiving multitudes. The inspired writer stated, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). Sin offers happiness, but gives misery. It promises success but produces failure. Heartaches, disappointments, disease, wars, death, and eternal damnation are the results of sin. Yet, in spite of its tragic and devastating effects, mankind tolerates, courts, glamorizes, euphemizes and condones sin.
The reason for man’s fascination of sin is because of its deceptive nature. It does not come clothed in rags of suffering and shame, but rather adorned in satin of pleasure and honor. But sin is a “snake in the grass,” a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Beware of sin!
Deceived By Riches
In the parables of the sower, Jesus said the thorny-ground hearer becomes unfruitful because the word is choked out by the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22). Riches are deceitful and many who have striven after them have pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim. 6:10).
Money and material possessions give many people a sense of security. They think if they have a large bank account and possess a good home with all of its luxuries, they are set for life. But there could be a depression and the rich could become paupers overnight. Sickness could wipe out one’s life savings. The government could collapse or be overthrown and our money would be worthless.
Furthermore, money cannot buy life. The rich will die as well as the poor. The parable of the rich farmer (Lk. 12:16-21) shows this. His wealth did not enable him to buy a lease on life. God said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (v. 20). Jesus said for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15). There are more important things in life than money. Good health is one. Happiness is another. Salvation of the soul is another. Let’s not be deceived into thinking that material things are the summun bonum of life. J.D. Tant said, “You can’t take your money with you when you die. If you could it probably would get burned up the first night.”
Deceived By Hearing Only
James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas. 1:22). Some think that if they just attend the services and attentively hear the word preached, they have fulfilled their responsibility. They are deluded! The word of God must be obeyed. Commenting on this verse in James, A.T. Robertson wrote, “The ‘hearers only’ did nothing else but listen. They were true Isermon tasters’ who fed upon the ministry of the Word, or the written word, only to fatten into sloth and spiritual inertia. They got the hookworm disease in religion and belonged to the shirkers, not the workers” (Studies in the Epistle of James). Someone said, “Too many Christians mark their Bible but their Bible never marks them.”
Brethren will listen to a sermon on attendance but never do anything about their negligence in coming to the meetings of the church. Others will listen to what the Bible teaches on modest apparel and shamefastness, but do nothing about their scanty attire. Such brethren are deceiving themselves into thinking they can serve God while failing to obey Him.
Jesus said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man” (Matt. 7:24). Those who hear and do not are likened unto a foolish man (7:26). James tells us that to hear and do not is like beholding our face in a natural glass (mirror) and then go away and forget what we looked like (Jas. 1-23-24).
Deceived By False Doctrines
False teachers, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple or unsuspecting (Rom. 16:17-18). Paul said to mark or watch them closely and avoid them. To the Ephesians, Paul declared, “Let no man deceive you with vain words” (Eph. 5:6).
Satan uses every form of trickery and craftiness to delude our minds and capture our souls. Paul says, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He comes to us in a pious, sanctimonious manner. His preachers call themselves “preachers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11: 15). They appear humble, loving and consecrated to the Lord, but they are pretentious, and ” with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet. 2:3). They speak lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2). Their “piety” is more like putty, a cover-up.
To prevent deception, we should search the Scriptures to see if the things we hear are so (Acts 17:11). John says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). Let’s be cautious about what doctrine we hear.
Deceived By Our Lives
Some of us may think we are better than we are. There are those who think they have no sin. They are deceived. John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). No man livesabove sin. The best of us is going to sin. When we do sin, however, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus the Christ (1 Jn. 2: 1). A “holier-than-thou” attitude is self-deceiving snobbery.
Too, Paul wrote, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Gal. 6:3). The person who believes he is so strong that he does not have to be concerned about being overcome of sin, is deceived. Paul is attacking overconfidence, such as Peter manifested in saying that he would never deny Jesus (Matt. 26:33-35). This type of person does not even think he needs the help of other brethren to help bear his burdens. He can bear his own burdens, he thinks. Paul says he deceiveth himself.
In conclusion, we quote the words of Jesus to His disciples when He spoke to them about the destruction of Jerusalem: “Take heed that ye be not deceived” (Lk. 21:8). This adice is just as timely today. Yes, we’d better watch it!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 9, pp. 263-264
May 3, 1984