For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14 NIV)
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading a book I will not recommend. I’m convinced the author of the book is certain that she is communicating truth. The message sounds great on the surface, but her interpretation of scripture is very different from mine. Based on her other books I want to believe that her objective is a good one. Regardless, I think she has been deceived.
The situation in Corinth was different. In that time, teachers were very well paid if they could develop a large following. Probably the closest comparison these days are the actors and actresses in the entertainment world or the television evangelists in the religious world. The bigger the audience they draw the more money comes in. So, which is more dangerous?
I think that someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus and who has been deceived by Satan and who desires to deceive as many others as possible is far more dangerous than anything Hollywood can produce. An outright lie is much easier to defend against than an attractive twisting of the truth. How do we defend ourselves against this kind of deception?
The first line of defense is the Bible. The challenge is that there are so many different opinions on how to interpret the Bible. One of the main reasons I went back to school and studied Greek was to remove all my interpretation questions and have all the right answers. I soon discovered that Greek vocabulary was as imprecise as English. Even with the knowledge of the original language we had significant differences of opinion within the class on how to interpret specific passages. It is important to know that our differences of opinion had no impact on our common core beliefs or our desire to love and follow Jesus. I did discover some additional tools that helped with interpretation. However, I do believe that God desires for us to know the truth and to be protected against being deceived. If we are continually reading God’s word I’m confident that God will speak, and we will be protected from deceivers.
The second line of defense is the Holy Spirit. Even the order I put these two things in reveals my background and experience. I believe that the Holy Spirit is present in followers of Jesus and that He speaks to us as individuals. I believe that God is a God of order and not of confusion. The Holy Spirit will never speak something to us individually that contradicts God’s revealed word in the Bible. Learning to hear and listen are the things I struggle with. It is very hard for me to be quiet, to turn off input. It is one of the challenges of retirement. My wife prefers it quiet and since we share the same space most of the time I’m slowly learning to appreciate quiet.
I recommend two books if you want to explore the Holy Spirit more.
A Spirit for the Rest of Us by Tim Woodroof
Life in the Spirit by Robertson McQuilkin
I know there are many others, but I’ve found these two particularly helpful.
There is one more line of defense I’ll mention and that is the community of believers we belong to. The Christian life was not intended to be lived in isolation.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)
We need to be part of a community the desires to pursue sound doctrine. We need people who will speak truth to us in love when we are attempting to twist scripture to say what we want it to say. One of the things that is clear from this book I am reading is that a person can prove almost anything using words from the Bible. The is especially dangerous when the message is one we want to hear. We want life here to be comfortable and easy. I just haven’t ever seen an example of how that develops Christ-like character in us.
On March 31st Patrick McCaw was injured in a fall on the basketball court. He was wheeled off the court on a stretcher. A few days later here is what he tweeted.
This is a young man who is not deceived.
To my grandchildren:
Satan wants to deceive you. Practice reading your Bible and learning to hear God speak to you. When you have a question talk to someone you know is following Jesus. I’m very glad that you have your Mom and Dad to go to.