My focus on deception in the church started when God let me walk through it myself. I was involved at a church that took a wrong turn, and I went part of the way down the road with them. At a certain point, though, the hunger in my heart for God’s truth won out over my desire to be part of that church. I then went through a long process of sorting out the truth from the lies and getting my head back on straight – well, sort of straight.
I thank God for all of it, though, because it left me with what I believe is a healthy skepticism in God-related matters. I take absolutely nothing for granted. I try very hard to make no assumptions. I weigh everything. I could listen to the most godly, awe-inspiring preacher I’ve ever heard, read a book by the most learned scholar – and I will STILL test everything he says. And, yes – I even argue with my husband.
I believe that our own fleshly desires, as well as evil spirits, can interfere with our ability to hear the Holy Spirit. So I listen, but then I pray, “Show me. Help me test this idea against the Bible.” And, you know what? God always answers that prayer – and it often involves changing a mindset that I’ve held forever. (Well, He doesn’t always answer when I think He should. If anybody knows what the angels have to do with head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11:10, please let me know. That verse makes me crazy.)
So that’s my personal experience, and hopefully explains my focus on deception, at least in part. But we can’t just go by our personal experience, and you should test everything I say, also, so here are some New Testament scriptures that warn about deception in the church – not deception in the world, which certainly exists, but sneaky looks-like-an-angel-of-light deception in the church. It’s a long list, folks, and God doesn’t warn us so many times just for the fun of it. If you still think I’m whacked out, maybe you’ll believe Him.
(Matthew 7:15) Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
(Matthew 24:11) And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
(Matthew 24:24) For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
(Romans 16:18) For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
(2 Corinthians 11:3) But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:13-15) For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.
(Galatians 2:4) But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
(Ephesians 4:14-15) As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,
(Ephesians 5:6) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
(Philippians 3:2) Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
(Colossians 2:8) See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
(Colossians 2:18-19) Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
(2 Thessalonians 2:9-11) that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false,
(1 Timothy 1:3-7) As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
(1 Timothy 4:1) But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons
(2 Timothy 3:13) But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
(Titus 1:10-11) For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain.
(Hebrews 3:13) But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
(2 Peter 2:1-3) But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words;
(1 John 2:26) These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
(1 John 4:1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(2 John 1:7-8) For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.