A friend and I were talking the other day about the problem of living in age in which false christs and false prophets abound, of which Jesus said,
"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Matthew 24:23-24
So the question was, how do the elect guard themselves from deception? When you see pillars in the church, teachers, leaders, caught in various errors or sins which destroy them, how do the elect guard themselves when some of the pillars haven’t been able to guard themselves?
We have to understand that the adversary roams about as a roaring lion, seeking someone whom he may devour. The source of all deception is the enemy, and he has a limited arsenal, to which he resorts time and time again: lies, pride, and sin. Know the weapons your enemy will be using against you, so that you may better defend yourself from them.
Lies: we combat being deceived by lies by knowing the truth. Jesus said to the Sadducees, who were deceived into believing that the resurrection was not going to happen, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God." It is not enough to know the Scriptures, however (although knowing what the Scriptures say, from Genesis to Revelation — including Leviticus! including Habakkuk! — will go a long way and is a lot more than a lot of people have); we also have to understand them. I once had a lady at church tell me that God had told her to divorce her husband. She was much older than I, but I knew right away that God never told her that, because I knew that God had already said, "I hate divorce," and I also understood that God would never tell us today a word which contradicts a word recorded in Scripture — because God does not change, and neither does His word.
But Jesus tells us that in order to not be mistaken, we not only have to understand the Scriptures, but also the power of God. It is the Holy Spirit who breathes life into dead letters and makes them live. It is the Holy Spirit who breathes life into dead people and makes them live! We need Him teaching us, if we are to understand His word; and just as importantly, we need Him living in us and through us — every day! — in order to safeguard ourselves from deception. We cannot neglect the Scriptures for the sake of the Spirit, nor can we neglect the Spirit for the sake of the Scriptures; either extreme can get us off track. So how can we know whether the Spirit is living in us and through us? Paul covered this topic over and over and over again in his letters: I ask myself, Which is more prevalent in my life, the works of the flesh, or the works of the Spirit? It is good thing to check yourself against, all the time.
Next: pride, and the deceitfulness of sin …
Update: continued in part two