Elsewhere in Mark 13:6-7, Jesus told His disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Now if you’re like me the idea of being deceived by someone attempting to take the place of Jesus…claiming to be His counterpart yet actually being His antithesis is hard to imagine. But yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:24, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.” And according to I John 2:18 they exist and are among us right now, for it reads, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come…” So how can we heed this warning from Jesus not to be deceived? The first thing is to know the truth…the Word of God, so when we hear lies or warped, twisted truths we will recognize them immediately. The other is to listen carefully… “If there is denial that Jesus is the Christ from such a man, he is the Antichrist – for he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; for whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23)
Before you can correctly spot something that’s a fake or counterfeit…you need to be able to readily identify what’s genuine and authentic. That’s because, if you can easily recognize the real thing, a phony one won’t get past you. In this verse Jesus is warning us of impostors…people claiming to come in His name, but instead speaking delusional and deceptive words. Jesus cautions us here that this is how many will be deceived…with empty words… coming from a worldly viewpoint… clothed in a spirit of falsehood. How can this happen you ask? Very easily, for if people don’t know the true nature and character of Jesus…if they’ve never heard the Good News of the Gospel and experienced Jesus in their own life… they won’t be able to recognize a fraud.
So why is it that the world is not attracted to the things of God? Instead of being drawn to Him, they’d rather say, “Go away!” The answer can be found in Jeremiah 9:6 where it says, “You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge Me, declares the Lord.” Our carnal nature tells us we are independent self-made people who don’t need anybody’s help. Couple that with all the world’s misleading and deceptive ideas and it’s no wonder we would have no desire to worship God. Deception tells me I’m the center of the universe…the Truth bears witness that I’m not…and I don’t want to admit that.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to not go along with the crowd. Sure, the peer pressure is strong, and we want to fit in and not seem odd…but we also realize what the crowd is about to do is just plain wrong. Deuteronomy 13:8 tells us to not yield to or even listen to the enticements from those who are sinning. And the old excuse of, “Everybody’s doing it!” can’t stand up to the truth if it goes against the word of God. For any words of persuasion, guilt, or deception we hear will never change wrong into right.
Queen Jezebel brought her false religion and idols with her and tried to force it on Israel. She was extremely intelligent, cunning, evil…and ruthless in destroying anyone who stood up to her…killing off many of the Lord’s prophets. This Jezebel spirit seeks to infiltrate, and once in, tries to attack, undermine and destroy people, marriages, Churches, and Ministries. This critical spirit worms its way in with charisma and manipulation slowly taking control only then to turn…causing major dissension, strife, in-fighting, and malicious gossip. Those in Leadership positions are especially in their sights to destroy. Even strong Christians can be brought down by this Jezebel spirit…look at Elijah. Even though he had just defeated 400 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel…when Jezebel threatened him…he ran. Elijah was so distraught and depressed he wanted to quit and just walk away from God…until God strengthened him and gave him a Word.
Over the course of history there hasn’t been anything made by man that could take the place of Jesus Christ. From the wooden statues overlaid with gold to the modern-day idols we chase after today…they are and will always be fraudulent, deceitful, and totally worthless. I Samuel 12:21 warns us, “Do not turn away after useless idols.” For anytime we take God off His throne and place a man-made object there instead, we’re putting our trust in ourselves. And no man-made idol has or will ever have the power to save our souls…only Jesus can do that.
Anytime we put a “thing” between us and God…that’s an idol. Anytime we take God off the throne of our heart and put that “thing” in His place…it’s an idol. We’d all vehemently deny that we engage in idol worship…but let’s stop and think about for a moment. An IDOL is – Iconoclastic Ideology that causes Deception Over Our Lives. An idol is something that attacks and opposes cherished beliefs and doctrines in a very misleading and crafty way…slowly and deceptively worming its way into our lives over time…until that idol has become firmly established on the throne of our heart. We may say we’re not into idol worship…but who’s sitting on that throne today? The newest smart phone…an addiction…unforgiveness? Anything can become an idol when it comes between and causes discord between God and you.
The Old Testament prophets warned the people of those who would come telling them what they wanted to hear, and not always the whole truth. They led the people astray with deception and lies, by making excuses, and hiding or muddling the facts. The world hasn’t changed much – in that we call it spinning the truth now a days. Any story can be spun to the negative or to the positive, depending on the audience listening. The truth can be covered over by differing points of view or even the interpretation of the reporter. Sadly, we have become accustomed to having the truth distorted in some way to make it more palatable to the masses…and in doing so, the world wanders farther and farther from God.
The Apostle John was addressing the Church in Laodicea, a city known as a great banking center for the region. In this Scripture, John was reprimanding the Church for its misplaced trust. Rather than relying on the Lord, they were boasting in their own wealth and independence… and he was exhorting them to realize just how deceived they were putting their faith in money, and not God. Therefore, anytime we rely totally on ourselves and our own abilities…we’re essentially telling God, “I can do it myself, I don’t need You!” And this can be a very dangerous situation to be in…for it’s a place of self-deception, pride, and potential falling away.
Time was short for the elderly Joshua when he warned the Jewish leaders about being enticed by foreign gods. He wanted them to be fully aware of what the allure and deception of foreign gods could do to the Jewish people. He urged them to remain faithful to the Word of God…persevering with self-discipline in their walk…guarding their hearts and minds from deceit…veering neither to the right nor to the left but always keeping on the straight and narrow. Joshua’s words ring true for God’s people today…Be courageous, keep guard, remain faithful.