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June 3, 2018 Satanic Deception

 

Scripture reading: Genesis 3:1-6.

 

[I. Introduction] In 2002 a movie was released entitled Catch Me if You Can starring Leonardo De Caprio and Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg. It tells the true story of Frank Abagnale, a teenager from New York who, in 1963, ran away from home because of a bad situation in his family. When he runs out of money he begins impersonating people to get money to live on. He eventually impersonates a Pan Am airline pilot and forges and cashes $2.8 million in Pan Am payroll checks. Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), an FBI bank fraud agent tracks Frank and meets him at a hotel. But Frank convinces him that he is Barry Allen of the Secret Service who is also after Frank for fraud. After Frank leaves Carl realizes that he has been taken. He also impersonates a doctor and a lawyer and gets away with it…for a while.

 

Frank Abagnale was an expert at deception. He was caught, convicted, and served 5 years in prison. His story turns out good, though. He would work for the FBI in helping them uncover fraud and still lectures at the FBI Academy today. He has his own private firm that does fraud detection consulting.

 

As good as Frank was at deception, Satan is far better. He is the master deceiver. He has deceived the whole world and he also deceives the elect. In Matthew 24 we read:

 

And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. [1]

In this passage our Lord speaks of the Great Tribulation within which there will be pretenders who try to deceive the elect. One could understand this passage to mean that God’s true children cannot be deceived into believing that a false Christ or a false prophet are the real thing in the context of great and extensive trouble. This, indeed, may be what our Lord is teaching. But, it must be clear from an even cursory reading of Scripture that God’s elect are deceived and even deceived often!

 

Satanic activity and satanic deception are real. We must be on the alert.

 

Let us see four kinds of deception that the Devil carries out against the elect.

 

[II.] Satan deceives the followers of Christ to doubt His word, to doubt the Bible.

 

Consider our passage. It begins:

 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. [2]

 

You must know that Satan is crafty. “Crafty” means that he is cunning, deceitful, and sly. He is able to devise plans and schemes that take into account a person’s weaknesses and shortcomings. He is able to hide what he is doing so the person being deceived is unaware of it.

 

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”[3]

 

First, he tries to change what God actually said. God did not say that our first parents could not eat of any tree. Eve did not fall for this part of his scheme.

 

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,[4]

 

Eve remembered what God had said and she recognized that the Lord desired that they enjoy the fruit that he had made.

 

3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

 

Eve begins to go astray. First, God did not say they could not touch the tree. He only commanded that man could not eat of the tree (2:17). Eve makes the prohibition more strict than it is. This is humankind’s tendency even before the fall! Man wants to make rules that God did not. Churches and religious movements are infamous for this. Don’t fall for it. God has given us much freedom and those things that he has prohibited he has done so for our own good and happiness. He has created us and he knows us better than we know ourselves.

 

But there is something even more fundamentally wrong with what Eve is doing. She is carrying on a conversation with a tempter on a spiritual matter. She has stepped away from the headship of her husband. She had assumed headship. Headship has to do with spiritual authority.

 

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.[5]

 

And,

 

8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. [6]

 

Eve was not allowing her husband to function as her head. The devil knew that she was the weaker vessel (I Peter 3:7) so he deceived her, not Adam. Now, it may be that Adam would have fallen for the same deception but we do not know that. That is not what happened. Eve was deceived, not Adam (I Tim 2:14). Satan knew Adam’s weakness, too. His weakness was Eve. When Eve gave him the fruit he ate of it. We can speculate on why he ate of the fruit but we will not know the reason until we get to heaven. Maybe he knew that Eve was going to be judged by God and he didn’t want to be without her. Maybe she told him how wise she had become and he could have the same wisdom. However it happened, Adam was tempted through Eve (vs. 6). A man is still tempted through a woman and a woman is still tempted through a man. Oh! This is why, young people, you must choose your potential husbands and wives carefully! If their character is lacking they will be an agent of temptation for you! Place the utmost importance upon their character, not upon their beauty, handsomeness, athletic prowess, nor even intellect. Look at their character! And, the best test of character is to observe how they treat and interact with their parents. Avoid relationships that do not involve family togetherness. Anyone can behave well for even months at a time when only the two people are around or even peers of the same age. Family interactions reveal much! Spend time with the families of the person you like.

 

So, Eve took the headship upon herself and fell.

 

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [7]

 

Here, the devil outright lies to Eve. God said that she would die and the devil said that she would not. Rather than believing God, Eve decided to put God to the test. She would be the determiner of who was right, God or Satan.

 

Here then is Satan’s first strategy in deception: he seeks to get God’s people to doubt God’s word. We must presuppose God’s word, the Holy Scriptures, to be true. We do not become the arbiter of whether it is true – this was Eve’s tragic example – we receive it as the word of God because, as God’s word, it has authority over us. It will pass every test because it is true (Things that are true can be shown to be true.), but we should never seek to test God’s word as a precondition of acceptance.

 

[III.] Satan’s second strategy of deception is lying. We saw this in verse 4. He not only lies, he is the father of lies (John 8:44). What does it mean to say that he is the father of lies? It means that he inseminates lies. He not only lies himself but he persuades people, including God’s own people, to lie.

 

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?[8]

 

Satan is the one who filled the heart of Ananias to lie to the apostles. But he didn’t just lie to the apostles. Because they represented the Holy Spirit, he lied to the Holy Spirit.

 

Whenever you think to lie you must know that it is a satanic influence. Speak the truth! Love the truth! Even when it causes you embarrassment speak the truth. Do not join the demons in their strategy.

 

[IV.] Satan’s other strategy is to destroy God’s house which is the church (I Tim 3:15). He will do this by diminishing a Christian’s support for the church (both financially and in joyful labor in the church), by neglecting the church, by counting it unimportant, and by lukewarmness towards the church. But the main way that he seeks to destroy the church is through unforgiveness and offense.

 

There was a believer in the church in Corinth who was guilty of a very vile sin. He slept with his step-mother while his father was still alive, committing both adultery and incest. But he repented. After his repentance he was not being accepted back by the church, at least not with open arms.

 

5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. [9]

 

Note verse 9: the Corinthians were being outwitted by Satan because they would not fully forgive this man. This is Satan’s scheme: to foster unforgiveness. It appears that they forgave him in words only. They still harbored unforgiveness in their hearts.

During the Revolutionary War there lived in Pennsylvania a pastor by the name of Peter Miller. Although Miller was greatly loved by everyone in the community, there was one man, a neighbor, who hated him and had earned an unenviable reputation for his abuse of the minister. This man was not only a hater of the church, but it also turned out that he was a traitor to his country, and was convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

The trial was conducted in Philadelphia, and no sooner did Miller hear of it than he set out on foot to visit General Washington and interceded for the man’s life. But Washington told him, “I’m sorry that I cannot grant your request for your friend.”

“Friend!” Miller cried. “Why, that man is the worst enemy I have in the world!”

“What?” the general exclaimed in surprise. “Have you walked sixty miles to save the life of an enemy? That, in my judgment, puts the matter in a different light. I will grant him a pardon for your sake.”

The pardon was made out and signed by General Washington, and Miller proceeded at once on foot to a place fifteen miles distant where the execution was scheduled to take place that afternoon. He arrived just as the man was being carried to the scaffold, and when he saw Miller hurrying toward the place, remarked, “There is old Peter Miller. He has walked all the way from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today by seeing me hung.” But scarcely had he spoken the words when Miller pushed his way through to the condemned man and handed him the pardon that saved his life.

 

That is forgiveness. We must forgive one another in the same way. Few of us have been treated as badly as Peter Miller was. Do not let Satan cultivate offense and unforgiveness in your heart.

 

[V.] The last strategy of Satan’s deception is the most dangerous because it is the most difficult to discern. When we question God’s word it can be demonstrated to us. A brother or sister may show us in the Bible where our ideas or actions are in opposition to revelation. The Spirit can use that knowledge to bring repentance. However, when one is completely unaware of the deception how difficult it is to be made free!

 

The last strategy of beguilement is self-deception. It is where Satan uses our own fallen nature to fool us. When we are self-deceived we are unaware of it. It is a terrible condition to be in!

 

6 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7 “Thus says the Lord, God of Israel: Thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me, ‘Behold, Pharaoh’s army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt, to its own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. 9 Thus says the Lord, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away. [10]

 

The Israelites were under the judgment of God because of their disobedience. Note in verse 8 that the Lord had spoken that Jerusalem would be captured and burned with fire. But the Lord also anticipates what their reaction would be when Jeremiah tells them this. They would deceive themselves. They would think that the Chaldeans would leave them alone.

 

Brothers and sisters! This is a common reaction to bad news both among the lost and among God’s people. The lost, by and large, refuse to believe that there is even such a place as hell and, if they do believe there is such a place, there are few who will believe that they might end up there. They deceive themselves. But, God’s people do the same thing! Here we see the Israelites deceiving themselves or at least that is what the Lord said they would do. Why? Because it is something their natural man did not wish to hear!

 

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:

We have heard a report from the Lord,

and a messenger has been sent among the nations:

“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”

2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations;

you shall be utterly despised.

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,

you who live in the clefts of the rock,

in your lofty dwelling,

who say in your heart,

“Who will bring me down to the ground?” [11]

 

Edom was the nation that sprang from Abraham’s son, Esau. It was located where modern-day southern Israel and Jordan are today. When Obadiah wrote this prophecy Edom was a prosperous nation and well fortified. Seemingly, they had nothing to worry about. But God was going to judge them for their sins against his people. Even though they were warned of coming judgment they were self-deceived. What they thought of themselves blinded them to what the Lord thought of them.

 

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [12]

 

We must always ascertain the original audience to whom the biblical authors addressed their letters and books. It is a common mistake to assume that some passages of Scripture refer to the lost, to unbelievers, when they do not. Why is this a common error? I will tell you. It is for no other reason except that they contain unpleasant news. Sometimes very unpleasant. This was the same reason the Israelites and the Edomites did not wish to believe the reports that came to them. Oh! The proclivities of our fallen nature are still with us even after being born anew. Christians often behave in the same way as did the Old Testament saints and even those outside of God’s covenant.

 

Christians can be self-deceived! Note what Paul writes to the saints at Corinth (1:2). He is not writing to the lost, nor is he referring to the lost. He is writing to the church. He admonishes them not to be deceived (6:9). He is saying that if a believer is sexually immoral (i.e., a fornicator, NKJV) or an idolater or greedy or gets drunk then he or she will not inherit the kingdom of God.[13]

 

We must, then, be on guard against self-deception. We must be on guard against not believing the warnings in Scripture simply because they are unpleasant.

 

[VI. Conclusion] Satan is alive and active. He is a master at the art of deception and he applies his wares upon us.

 

  • He seeks to persuade us to doubt God’s word.
  • He lies to us and he seeks to get us to lie.
  • He seeks to weaken the local church. His main strategy here is to stir up offense and unforgiveness.
  • He uses our own pride to bring about self-deception. It is so easy to justify our own misdeeds and sins because it is painful to face our own failures.

 

He has come to steal and rob us of our glorious future. Don’t fall for it! Let us have discernment and let us be open to our own failures so that we can turn to the Lord in our time of need.

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 24:22–24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 3:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Ibid

[4] verse 2

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 11:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 11:8–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 3:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 5:1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:5–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Je 37:6–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ob 1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 6:9–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[13] This truth is not antithetical to the doctrine of eternal security. The genuine follower of Christ is saved eternally from the lake of fire and will not be in danger of it. However, his entrance into and participation in the coming kingdom can be in jeopardy. The kingdom of God in this passage and many others refers to the next age.