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Deceiving The Elect

                                                                      

By John R. Funk

 

What is it that we see in the world today that is particularly disturbing?  Why am I more concerned about the current condition of the world than I have ever been before?  Do world events really mean anything in the great scheme of things or are they just events?  Did anyone ever foresee what may be happening today and provide a glimpse of its significance? 

In the 24th Chapter of Matthew in what is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus Christ was approached by His disciples and questioned about the end of time.  Apparently anticipating that the world would not continue forever, Jesus’ followers questioned the one person who could provide the answer to their most pressing concerns.

 

Matthew 24:3-8

** New International Version

King James Version

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

 

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

 

 

Starting in verse four of this passage, Jesus makes it clear that there will be those who attempt to deceive the elect.  He states that there are many who will come in His name claiming to be Him and that they will be able to deceive many.  Many will be led astray binding themselves to doctrines that tickle the ears of those who hear; unfortunately, these doctrines will only lead to destruction.

 

What doctrines was Jesus referring to when He made these statements?  What was going through His mind when He warned His disciples of those who would come after Him?  Was He referring to those belief systems classified as “cults” by the mainstream churches?  Was He talking about those religious leaders such as Jim Jones and David Koresh who led their followers down a path of death and destruction?  Was He talking about religious movements that are more concerned about the money they collect than they are about the salvation of the lost?

 

Yes, He was talking about all of them and much more.  The key to recognition of deception is not identifying and understanding what they profess but rather, it is recognizing what they do not profess.  Jesus was saying that any teaching that did not proclaim Him as (1) the Son of the Living God, (2) born of a virgin, (3) crucified on Calvary’s hill, (4) raised from physical death on the third day, (5) prophesied throughout the ages, (6) the Creator of all (John 1:1), (7) “the way, the truth and the life”,  and (8) the only path to salvation through a profession of faith was deception. 

 

How many “religions”, “denominations” or “belief systems” make no mention of Jesus Christ relying instead on man-made mechanisms to pave the path to heaven?  How many religious leaders talk about Jesus in terms of being a “good” man, a teacher or a prophet but never comment on His divinity?  Are there those who want you to believe that you will be measured by your good works and that if your good works outweigh the bad, then surely St. Peter must let you through the pearly gates?  Why do others want you to consider that possibility that all paths eventually lead to God?  Is there no absolute truth anymore?

 

All of these ideas have taken hold in today’s world.  We have become so concerned about confrontation and political correctness that most people will not take a stand when it comes to moral standards and patterns of conduct.  We are afraid that we will be criticized or worse yet, labeled as intolerant.  “Live and let live” is the cry.  No one is ultimately accountable for their actions because we do not have the right to establish limits and guidelines for conduct.  Truth is relative.  And slowly and surely we continue down the road leading to destruction. 

 

Just as damaging as these deceptions are those ideas cloaked in the guise of righteousness and faith.  Many “people of faith” are actually “wolves in sheep’s clothing” whose primary desire is to acquire riches and power on this earth while their egos are stroked by their followers.  In reality they are nothing more than false prophets who are leading their congregations astray.  Jesus warned us about these individuals; He knew that they would come with the sole intention of devouring their followers leaving destruction and brokenness in their wake. 

 

Matthew 7:15-20

** New International Version

King James Version

15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

 

 

These passages make it clear that the “wolves” can be recognized by their “fruit.”  When you see a person who professes to be called of God, you need to examine him closely to see if his life demonstrates such a calling.  I respectfully submit that a person who asserts that God will only act if you will only give out of your need is a huckster and a charlatan.  Likewise, if they contend that you must have a (fill in the blank, e.g. prayer shawl, bottle of holy water, clay pot filled with oil, miracle seeds, miracle this or  miracle that) before God will bless, then they are literally stating that God is limited in what He will and can do.  If they make financial blessing the cornerstone of their teachings predicated upon giving to God (through them of course), then you should take everything they say with a grain of salt (metaphorically speaking).  If they challenge you to “give the devil a black eye” by giving to their ministry, take a moment to examine the fruit before giving anything to their cause.  Likewise, miraculous healings that cannot be documented are deceptive and lead many of the truly desperate astray.  Ultimately, we must always question the motives of those whose lives do not demonstrate a love for God and the lost but instead evidence greed and gluttony.  Does the televangelist reach out trying to bring the lost to Jesus Christ or does he reach out trying to bring money into the storehouse (which is then used to buy a life of opulence)?

 

Jesus Christ specifically addressed these individuals in the passages following those listed above.

 

Matthew 7:21-23

** New International Version

King James Version

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

 

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

 

There are many making their living on television who fall into this category.  Turn on the television any given time of the day or night and you will find these people.  They are there hawking God’s promises for money.  They cry out to God on your behalf and claim that miracles are being performed as they speak but in the end, the only thing they want is your “seed money” or “pledge of faith.”  It is a modern-day racket, a legal way to shake down the masses.  Miracles are for sale but only if you give.  The term for this activity is “simony” and it originated in the early first century church.

 

Acts 8:9-23

** New International Version

King James Version

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.  14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19 and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

 

9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

 

 

 

In this instance Simon believed that the Holy Spirit was for sale and he apparently intended to make a profit from the laying on of his hands.  Do you see any similarities today with certain individuals who transmit their message of healing and financial blessing all over the world?  These teachings are heresy to the Word of God; however, many clamor after them, chasing a delusion instead of relying upon God’s inspired word.

 

It would take a book to explore these false teachings and the people who profess them and frankly, we do not have the time.  However, there are also websites such as the one hosted by the Trinity Foundation (http://www.trinityfi.org/)  which debunk these individuals and their teachings.

 

Deception is alive and well on Planet Earth.  There are many out there who will be more than happy to take your money and promise you that God will provide a miracle as a result.  I do not deny that God can and does act miraculously but I firmly believe that God does so according to His purpose and not according to a particular person’s promise. 

 

Before giving, it is always advisable to do your research and ask, “What fruit does this ministry exhibit in furtherance of God’s kingdom?  Are they spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ministering to the body of believers or are they simply ministering to themselves?”  The question revolves around our duty to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.  Are you being a good steward with your assets?  Or are you, in essence, buying a lottery ticket by giving to someone’s ministry hoping that your gift will obligate God to act on your behalf?  Think about it.  Then be responsible for your sake, if nothing else.

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