Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse found in Luke 21, Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, answers His disciple’s question of when He was returning and what the signs that preceded His return would be. Those signs would include religious deception, world wide natural disasters, and the persecution of Christians, starting with the apostles themselves.
In this message, I want to warn, especially those who have had a solid Biblical background from childhood, of the possibility of our being deceived by Satan.
THE REALITY OF RELIGIOUS DECEPTION
While the true church grows and make progress against the Kingdom of Satan in this world, as Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18; the false church is growing even faster, deceiving the world. God’s judgment of that false church is described in Revelation 17 and in Revelation 18:4 we are warned to flee from it before we end up sharing in it’s violent destruction during the Tribulation, described in Revelations 6-19,
Deception is something Jesus warned about in Luke 21:8. He had also warned of it three years earlier in His Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Note Jesus’ warning of deception in Matthew 7:15-23.
Later in Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus warned pf the reality of the danger of genuine and phony Christians growing up together in the same families and in the same churches. He likened the phonies to tares in a wheat field. Tares are imitations of wheat. They look like wheat, but they are empty, lacking any grain. When asked what should be done with the tares, Jesus advised that they be left alone to grow together with the wheat. By trying to separate them from the wheat as it was growing and developing, there was the danger of uprooting the genuine wheat also. Rather, the tares were to be left alone. At the harvest the true wheat would be manifest and the separation would take place at that time.
This truth is not contradicting the Biblical imperative of parental discipline or church discipline.
Parents should warn and punish the disobedience of their children. I encourage you to go to the FAMILY link for more instruction on raising and disciplining your children.
I Corinthians 5 requires churches to remove from their fellowship Christians who flagrantly despise and disobey God’s Word by living in sin after being warned by their brothers and sisters in Christ. Read Acts 5 to learn how seriously God takes such behavior. Read Matthew 18:15-20 for detailed instructions for carrying out church discipline. Note that the spirit in which we carry it out is as important as the action itself. Our desire must be for the restoration of our fallen brother or sister.
HOW CAN WE AVOID BEING DECEIVED?
Cleave to Christ!
In Acts 11:21-23 Barnabas warned the young believers to “cleave to Christ”. Get to know Him through reading the Word of God and through listening to the sound preaching of the Word. Church is more than enjoying exciting worship experiences and hearing positive moralisms on how to be successful in life. Only as we are saturated in the Word of God are we going to be strong enough spiritually to avoid deception.
To cleave to Christ involves much more than simply learning intellectually the deep things of God. It involves much more than simply seeking giddy emotional experiences with what we believe to be with Christ or the Holy Spirit that result in our feeling self-righteous and superior to other Christians.
The right kind of preaching connected to the right kind of listening are going to result in a deep growing love for Jesus. True Christianity results in a deepening love for Jesus.
As a man stops dating other women to cleave only to his wife, so we Christians leave the attractions and the worthless values of this Satanic inspired world system to give our attention and allegiance and our love and loyalty to Christ alone. “Not only are we challenged to cleave to Christ.” but we are also challenged to
Take heed to the doctrine!
“Take heed to the doctrine” Paul warns young Timothy in I Timothy 4:16. and he expands on that in I Timothy 6:3-5 by challenging Timothy to make sure that the doctrine he preaches leads to practical godliness; not simply an academic exercise that leads to futility and strife and pride in a religious vocabulary. What a waste of time it is to sit under such preaching!
Only preaching that grounds us in the doctrines of The Christian Faith and warns us of going in the wrong direction is going to keep us on the right track. Many people avoid preaching that deals with sin because they don’t want to feel guilty.
I thank God for preaching that has made me feel guilty. Guilt is not a bad thing. It’s not something you have to live with. Guilt is the easiest thing in the world to get rid of. Just confess your sin to God. Admit to Him that you are guilty of that sin that is brought to your attention through sound preaching. The moment that sin is confessed as sin, instantly the guilt is gone. Christ’s blood that was shed two thousand years ago on the cross, cleanses you from that sin and removes the guilt. Read about this in I John 1:5-10.
By avoiding such preaching, sin continues to take its toll on your life. and blinds you to false teachers. You are an easy target for the devil and he keeps you defeated and miserable.
A third way to be protected from Satanic deception and oppression is to be filled with the Spirit.
Be filled with the Spirit!
Since the Spirit of God lives in you if you are a Christian, as is taught in I Corinthians 12:13, when you cleave to Christ and take heed to sound doctrine, you are automatically filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not some emotional experience you must seek, as is taught by false teachers. Rather it is accomplished by surrendering to Christ and taking heed to His Word. Any obedient Christian filling himself with the Word of God is automatically filled with the Spirit. The two are one and the same and they bring about the same results. Compare Ephesians 5:17-33 with Colossians 3:16-25 and note the correlation to being filled with the Spirit to being filled with the Word of God.
So it is only as we cleave to Christ by taking heed to the preaching of God’s Word and are filled with Christ’s Spirit; that we are protected from Satanic deception. Those who allow themselves to follow their own inclinations and ignore the Word, are easy pickings for Satan’s deception.
Are we living in the latter days?
Every generation of Christians since the days of the Apostles and the early church find themselves living in the latter days. These warnings for each succeeding generation become more relevant, more pertinent and more urgent than for any past generation.
Paul’s warning to young Timothy in II Timothy 4:1-4 is even more relevant to us today than it was to Timothy 2000 years ago. We are closer to Christ’s return today than at any time in church history.
In addition to the warnings from I Timothy that we have covered in this message, let me encourage you to read the following warnings concerning the dangers we face in these very evil days. Read and mediate on them and grow in spiritual strength so you can resist the devil.
II Timothy 3:1-7 and 4:1-5
II Peter 2:1-22 and 3:3-15
I John 2:18-19, and 4:1-6
II John 7-11
Read Christ’s warnings to the Seven churches of Asia Minor found in Revelation chapter 2 and 3. These seven churches are pictures of the churches down through Church history, even to our present day. We ignore these warnings to our own peril.
May God help you, whether you are a new or a mature Christian, to take these warnings to heart and at the same time rest in the doxology of Jude 24-25 “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and forever Amen.”
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