(See the previous parts to the series.)
Can you describe for me what a deceiver looks like? What style of clothes is he most likely to wear? How does he comb his hair? Is he clean shaven, or does he have a beard? If you can’t describe him, can you at least tell me where he lives and what sort of car he drives? Hmmm. You can’t tell me? Then it would seem pretty difficult to know who is deceiving us.
We have been discussing how to protect our families from being deceived. Here we will take a look at one possible deceiver. It would be nice if we could describe a deceiver by his outward appearance or where he lives, but unfortunately, we can’t. Frankly, we must always be on guard as anyone can be a deceiver. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). In these verses, Jesus tells us that everyone is capable of deceit.
Paul warns to, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). “Any man” means that all “men” are capable of being deceitful.
Scripture tells us that there are some deceivers that we might never suspect. Paul, in describing his ministry, says that they have “ . . . renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2). When Paul says he has renounced handling the Word of God deceitfully, it means that there are some who do handle the Word of God deceitfully. Paul was warning that believers are to be on guard against deception from the pulpit.
Can you imagine that Paul, the apostle, would instruct us that we should be suspicious of what we are being taught at church? I can picture some pastors being upset if people in their churches were encouraged not to take for granted what their pastors are preaching. However, I would be suspicious of a man who would be upset because people wanted to check out, or evaluate for themselves, what he was preaching. Everyone is fallible, and each of us should verify what we hear from the pulpit (or taught elsewhere, including this ministry) to see if the Bible agrees with it.
Would you like to receive praise from the author of Acts? Then verify what your pastor is teaching you. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11). We see that the Bereans were praised as being more noble than the Thessalonians. Why? Because the Bereans eagerly received the Word that was being taught and then searched the Scriptures daily to make sure what they were being told was true.
The Apostle Paul was there preaching, and the Bereans were verifying in Scripture what they heard Paul say to make sure he was speaking truth and not deceiving them. I find the fact that they didn’t automatically believe Paul to be shocking. I can’t help wondering today how many preachers would be offended if those listening were checking them out and asking questions about what they were hearing.
I remember a time over fifteen years ago when we were looking for a church and visited one. The pastor quoted mostly a Reader’s Digest article during his sermon. I was appalled at what I heard, and we never went back. However, that church has continued to thrive these years following. How can that be? Also, I sometimes hear snippets of popular TV preachers’ messages on Sunday mornings coming out of the residents’ rooms when I am in the hallway of our nursing-home church. What I overhear causes me to shudder. Remember what Paul said: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Families are “buying” this stuff from polished, wonderful-looking guys and not checking them out. They can’t be confirming these messages in the Bible, as evidenced by the fact that they keep coming back.
The Lord Jesus is holding us dads responsible if we allow our families to be deceived. “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8). That doesn’t just mean we aren’t to be deceived in discerning who the Christ is, because Paul, in Colossians 2:8, is also telling Christians not to be deceived.
I would encourage dads to be extra suspicious of preachers who use TV and movie clips in their messages. I remember an e-mail where a mom shared that their children were exposed to horrible, worldly knowledge of sin, sitting in their Sunday morning worship service, through movie clips used during the message. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). I can’t understand why a preacher could ever justify watching worldly movies in the first place, but it is beyond comprehension to expose one’s congregation to them. We wouldn’t be going back to a service like that if it were our family.
We were visiting a service one time by invitation and had been assured it was a very conservative church. During the message, the pastor said he couldn’t wait for the Superbowl game later that day. He said that it had been a long time since he’d seen a real game where the blood was flowing, and he was excited for this one. The message grew worse from there. My family was shocked, and even the children remember that as an example of one pastor they never would listen to again.
The writer of Acts commended those who listened to Paul and checked out what they were hearing against the truth of God’s Word. May we understand that every man has a depraved heart and is capable of being a deceiver. It is a good thing when we hold what we read and hear up to the light of God’s Word. May we be Bereans, eagerly hearing what is taught and searching the Scriptures diligently to confirm truth and reject what is error.