I suppose that this is a very simple thought to have — don’t be deceived. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:1-2), “Now the Spirit (Holy Spirit) expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” He spoke of the time of great apostasy (the abandonment of faith in God) where one’s own mind will be set on fire and destroyed by lies and deceptions. In our key verse for today, Jesus said, “take heed that no one deceives you” – do not be deceived.
The Warning About being Deceived
Deceive: to cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage. To be deceived: means you have accepted something to be true that is false or invalid (a lie).
I tell you that I worry about the times we live in. My worry is not necessarily for myself but for all of those around me. We are living in a time where what is true is constantly attacked and distorted. There is much misinformation in our world today for the sole purpose of deceiving. So, we see an objective in what Jesus says here in my key verse: do not accept or believe in lies.
Understanding Jesus’ statement
Let us take a moment to understand why Jesus was saying this. In the prior chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus had laid woe on the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus also had lamented over Jerusalem and spoke of the desolation to come to the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39). So, in this chapter (Matt. 24), the apostles were showing Jesus the buildings of the temple, I suppose, as a way of asking how such a thing could happen.
We are given a look at future times spoken and narrated by Christ Himself. Two time periods of the future were discussed: the age of the church (Matt. 24:5-8) and the Great Tribulation (Matt.24:9-22). Some of what Jesus spoke of with the Great Tribulation period does blend over into the time of the Church – the age we reside in today. (Meaning we see some of those things in a lesser form.)
For example (Matt.24:10-12): Jesus said there would be a time when people will offend, betray, and hate one another – that certainly seems present in our world today (Matt. 24:10). We certainly live in a time where iniquity (injustice) abounds and love is growing colder and colder (Matt. 24:12). I skipped a verse there because I really want to take a closer look into what Jesus said.
Greatest warning of the time
Jesus warned of the rise of many false prophets (Matt. 24:11). Understand: we live in a time where there are no prophets, though there are many who are given the title or give themselves that title. (Nobody prophecies anything new when it comes to God and His works. We merely preach and teach older prophecies from Christ. For example: the second coming of Christ.) So, this warning is not necessarily about the time we live in, but you will find that this blends into our time.
Peter wrote something about the age of the church that I want to reference. He spoke about how the Israelites of Old Testament times had to deal with false prophets. So, in his second letter, Peter warned that like there were false prophets in Old Testament days, and that there would be false teachers in the days of the church (2 Pet. 2:1). So, we live in a time where we deal with false teachers! We must not be deceived by their misinformation nor their lies!
When we are deceived, we can be controlled and led astray from truth. This happens both in the world and spiritually. So, we can see the significance to Jesus’ warning and I believe we can all understand why Jesus would warn not to be deceived. Some of us take this warning lightly, believing that we cannot be fooled. Those who take this warning lightly should be the ones most on alert for deception. Take heed, there are many believers being deceived today by people who say that they are working on the Lord’s behalf, but they misinform, lie to, and deceive many.
So, the question that we would ask is, how do we, as believers, combat being deceived? I want to share with you four steps I believe the believer should take to better prevent themselves from being deceived.
The first thing we should all do is a spirit check. Whenever you hear me preach about spiritual discernment, I always reference scripture from John’s first epistle (1 John 4:1-4). I find that there are a couple of reasons that lead to one being deceived and it all begins in the spirit. First reason: someone’s spirit is already willing to accept or believe what it is being fed. Second reason: we do not truly meditate on a thought spiritually.
John wrote that we should not believe every spirit but test the spirits (others) because many false prophets (teachers) have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). As believers, we should test every spirit (meaning every word we hear or read) by the spirit that resides in us. Those who are of the spirit of God, I want you to understand that God’s spirit (the Holy Spirit) is what resides inside of your inner chambers (1 John 4:4)! So, all of us as believers should commune with the spirit that dwells inside! If we are meditating and communing with the Lord, how can we be led astray?
Go the source
A lot of times, we take what we hear from someone at face value. (We don’t meditate on it nor do we question it.) Many times, much of the information that we consume both in the world or even spiritually comes second hand. Oftentimes when I preach, I suggest note taking and that those who listen to me, turn in their Bible to scripture! You see, we are supposed to study diligently, always seeking to understand!
In other words, we must study and research; we cannot be lazy in doing this. This is expressed quite a bit in scripture. Paul wrote (1 Tim. 4:13), “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” He also wrote (2 Tim. 2:15), “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God […] rightly dividing the word of truth.” Peter also advised, “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2 Pet. 1:10).”
Sadly, many of us stumble (or are deceived) because we do not put time into our research and studying. We cannot simply accept everything that we hear! So, we must meditate but not only should we meditate, we should study and research! Go directly to the source! When it is something spiritual, especially be sure to open up your Bible and study!
Seek wisdom from those you trust most
The third thing I suggest is that we seek wise counsel from those we trust most. Listen to me carefully. We should surround ourselves with others who are genuine to the faith – in word and deed (Phil 2:2; Rom. 15:5). At the same time, it is of the utmost importance that you surround yourself with those who are also wise in doctrine. We all have times when we do not understand something clearly – be it something we have studied or has been revealed to us in meditation.
Instead of trying to figure things out by ourselves, there is a reason that the Lord has put those people around you! Solomon said, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety (Prov. 11:14).” Seek the counsel of the wise and then give serious consideration to what they say. A lot of times we will hear the wise, but not really listen. No, we should most definitely listen when all of those we trust are giving us the same advice – that’s most likely really good sage counsel.
One more spirit check
After all of these steps, I would suggest that you go and meditate, once again, spiritually. Reflect on that research and the wise counsel that you have received. Take these reflections and commune with the Lord once again and allow God to guide and lead you! As the proverb says, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).”
Following Your Heart
I used to give this advice to my friends all the time when I was younger – follow your heart – but I did not fully understand what that meant. That statement means a great deal to me now because of what I have learned as I have grown spiritually in the way of Christ. I believe all of us follow our heart, but what lies in your heart and what you believe in your heart is of the utmost importance. You see, what lies there and what you believe in is what we use to determine truth or lie.
Many of us get around to talking about a feeling that we had in our hearts about something we chose to believe. We certainly do go off of things based on feelings, but I say to you today to take heed – be careful about this. The devil is more than capable of making you feel things as well, especially if you entertain him. Many have been led astray because of some sign or feeling that they were looking for and it didn’t come from God.
Meditate, study (research), seek wise counsel, and meditate again. With the times we are living in, it is even more import that we work not to be deceived and fall into deceptions. We must be prudent in our ways. Solomon said that the simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps (Prov. 14:15). I will leave you also with what he said once more about the simple and the prudent. Solomon said, the simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge (Prov. 14:18).