April 8, 2021
How do we know someone is who they claim to be? It has never been easy, but it seems to get more difficult every day. A photograph was once almost as good as evidence as an eyewitness, but that is not true anymore. We know that it is possible to create a realistic image of anything out of nothing. This capability makes for amazing movies and it means we cannot believe what we see.
This has always been true of people. We want to assume that people are good yet finding a person of integrity who is who they appear to be is a challenge. We are all actors to some extent. Unfortunately, many are actors with evil intent. Their desire is to convince us they are looking out for our best interest while they are seeking to supply their self-interest.
This passage raised several questions for me. Why does God allow evil to masquerade as an angel of light? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in identifying deception? How do we pursue truth? What is truth? What does Paul’s defense teach us about God?
5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6 I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. 7 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:5-15 NIV)
Is it possible that the angel of light reveals our desires? We desire pleasure and comfort, and the angel of light promises that we can have them. We desire escape from our circumstances and the angel of light promises us an easy way out. When we desire God instead of pleasure and comfort, we find peace amid our circumstances which often include pain and suffering. The angel of light tells us we can be whatever we want to be while those desiring God find that they want to be like Him and that requires change.
I think the Holy Spirit has an important role in helping us to identify deception. He certainly speaks through God’s word, but I am also convinced that He speaks to us directly. The angel of light shouts and demands attention. His message is designed to appeal to our selfish desires. We are staying at my mother-in-law’s house for the week. One of the pleasures of being here is that I get to watch Food Network shows on television. Every time I sit down to watch television I am amazed at the commercials. They assault the eyes and ears to convince us that what they are selling is necessary for life. The Holy Spirit is different. He does not demand attention. He is always available but hearing Him requires a desire to listen and the quiet that comes from shutting off all the noise that surrounds us.
Paul pleads with the church in Corinth and through him I hear God pleading with them as well. God desires our desire for Him. Desire cannot be coerced. God’s power and might are reassuring when we are part of His family, but it is God’s love that draws us into His family.