“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you’” (Matthew 24:3-4 NKJV).
One evening, during the week that would end with Jesus’ crucifixion, He was leaving the temple, and some of His disciples remarked at how beautiful it was. He stunned them by informing them that the temple would one day be destroyed. This prompted them to approach him privately to ascertain when they could expect this terrible tragedy. The two verses quoted at the beginning of this article, what biblical scholars have named “The Olivet Discourse,” begin Jesus’ response. During this discourse, Jesus lists a number of signs to watch for as the Day of the LORD draws near. The very first thing He mentions is the danger of deception. Deception is dangerous because we rarely know we have been or are deceived until it’s too late. After we are finally confronted by/with the Truth, we realize the deception, but it is often too late to do anything about it. If the deception involves a life-or-death matter, we very well may lose our lives as a result.
Jesus warns us not to allow ourselves to be deceived, but how, exactly, are we supposed to do that? In order to avoid deception, we must first know the Truth. So, where do we find the Truth? Jesus reveals this to us in His prayer to the Father for His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NKJV, emphasis added). Truth is whatever God says, because “. . . it is impossible for God to lie, . . .” (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2 NKJV). Thus, anything which contradicts God’s Word is a lie and not the truth.
Now, how can we protect ourselves from deception? The best and most effective way to separate truth from falsehood is by filling our minds with God’s Word. This can be done ONLY by the frequent reading, studying and memorizing of God’s Word, the Bible. If we compare everything we hear and read with what God says in the Bible, it will be much easier to identify falsehood. It will also be much easier to know what God expects of every one of us as we live out our lives.
In those instances when what is being said is not necessarily something being contrasted directly with God’s Word, we must use spiritual discernment and refrain from accepting it until we have determined whether it is actually true. In most cases, we should begin with a suspicious mind, simply because of the source of what we’re hearing/reading. A source that has a history of lying is not to be trusted until it can establish a new history of truth-telling. On the other hand, a source that has a history of truth-telling can be more readily believed because of its history of truth-telling. Any source which outright rejects any part of the Bible as God’s Word of Truth, however, should never be trusted.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about “fake news.” This term has come to mean a deliberately slanted or falsified news story. I remember when that was defined as propaganda or out-and-out lying. As Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, a thing is what it is, regardless of what we call it. Fake news, propaganda, whatever we may call it, is still lying, and lying is sin. There are numerous sins listed frequently in the Bible as abominable acts, and lying is very often included on that list. For only a few of these references, read Proverbs 6:16-19 (lying is actually included twice on this list), 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and Revelation 21:8. Note that these lists are about people who are not on God’s “good list.” This is why deception is so dangerous–it can actually cost us our soul.
Since we are bombarded with so much propaganda–er, fake news–and other outright falsehood nowadays, we truly need to be on our guard against embracing a lie and rejecting the truth. Filling our minds with God’s Truth has, perhaps, never been more urgent than it is now because of the prevalence of lying in our society. Whereas, not so long ago, we used to be able to trust our journalists (for the most part) in both print and broadcast media, we find now that every story must be vetted before we can believe it. A journalist and renowned author from around 150 years ago once remarked that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” (Mark Twain). In the age of satellite TV, the Internet and social media, a lie can now loop the globe multiple times before the truth even starts.
There are all kinds of lies for us to be wary of, including political, cultural, and theological or religious, but perhaps the ones we most need to be concerned about are theological/religious. Without a right understanding of God and His requirements of humanity, we are doomed to deception. God Himself has said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. . .” (Hosea 4:6 NKJV). Furthermore, there are many liars standing behind pulpits and lecterns in churches, colleges, and governmental agencies who are more than willing to spread their deceptions to anyone who will listen. Don’t trust a speaker’s word simply because he/she wears a robe or clerical collar or affiliates with a particular religious denomination or parachurch group, or because he/she dresses up in an expensive outfit, or because he/she is famous, or because he/she looks just like you or tries to imitate you in as many ways as possible. Like the adage says, “In God we trust. All others must be verified.”
Where does all this deception come from? Why, Satan, of course! Jesus said Satan is “. . . a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NKJV). Therefore, whenever we discover a pattern of deception–whether in the Church or in the world–we can rest assured Satan is behind it. If you don’t want to be a participant in Satan’s schemes, take special care who and what you trust for your source(s) of information. Before we click on the “Send” button in our email or social media, and before we pass along that shocking or incendiary bit of opinion or news, take a moment to consider: “Is this really true, or could someone have an agenda here?” If we can’t be sure, it’s best not to pass it on. Naturally, I am including myself in this admonition every bit as much as anyone else.
If you want to make sure you know and embrace the Truth, read, study and memorize God’s Word, the Bible. Fill, renew, and transform your mind with it. Make time for it in your every day schedule. Time is the one commodity we all have the same amount of in every given day. Not only will knowing God’s Truth save you from embarassment, it will save you from eternal damnation.