|Recognizing Deception and Apostasy|
|Can you be Deceived ?|
Can Christians be Deceived?
Most Christians glibly think we can never be deceived. God will be faithful. He will take care of us when the time comes. He will show us before it is too late. Is this really true or just wishful thinking? Christians are deceived all the time. And this deception will be the most clever, veiled, subtle and attractive deceptions of all time. When someone is deceived, they are tricked. A magician tricks your eye and you are deceived. Do we think the great deception of the last days will be obvious? The Bible says, “even the elect will be deceived.” Satan won’t use something evil to trap us. In fact, by definition, it has to appear so “good” that we are fooled. We see one thing and something else is happening behind the scenes (just like the magician). That is why we are foolish if we take this whole last days “talk” lightly. We had better keep our eyes open and be diligent with the Lord because it won’t be that easy to detect. I can’t tell you how many Christians blithely tell me how the Lord will show them when the time comes. He may, but if you aren’t listening to Him today, what makes you think you will hear Him tomorrow?
You think you can’t be deceived? Look at the millions of Christians in cults. The average Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness comes from a traditional Christian background. I know some personally and there is no doubt they are saved. Yet, they are deceived. Look at how many dear saints innocently attend Word-Faith churches, Vineyards and thousands of other errant movements. Again, read the books by Hunt, Hannegraf and others.
These churches appear to be solid evangelical churches. I have personally attended Word-Faith churches (not just once but for several years), latter rain churches (for several years) and Vineyards. I know that most of the people are born again Christians who really love the Lord. In a “latter rain” church in Connecticut, it was very good 99 percent of the time, but there were very notable exceptions. One Sunday morning the pastor gave a message on Joel’s Army (Joel, Chapter 2) which was a blatant manifest sons of God message and then proceeded to pass out a prophecy by John and Paula Sanford who have strong “New Age” leanings and promote visualization techniques. Later, he promoted a book by Benny Hinn, another Word-Faith advocate. If you don’t know what is wrong with this, you had better do some reading. I told the pastor that to promote a person such as Hinn from the pulpit is an endorsement of Hinn and his ministry. He agreed and that was the last time I went. At the same time, he refused to read Dave Hunt’s books because “it was too negative."
The fact is, many Christians are deceived and have fallen away from sound doctrine and are involved in “unbiblical” practices. The examples are almost too numerous to mention - such as the practice of being “slain in the Spirit”, promoting “words of prophecy as if they were the “word” of God, visualization, healing of memories and many more. A good friend of mine went to a conference and a brother began prophesying over him, telling him things that a normal person would never have known about him. He was so impressed with this “word” but later it turned out that this prophet was a homosexual and a pedophile. So where does some of this prophetic information come from? God or evil spirits? Christians are attending churches such as Word-Faith churches that hold to heretical doctrines and practices. Christians are being lured into social and political action that is a waste of time for anyone whose citizenship is in heaven.
As I mentioned above, I have been intimately involved in Churches (Word-Faith, Vineyard and Latter Rain) that today I would easily recognize as being way off base. But at the time, I saw nothing wrong with them. I trusted the pastors. I enjoyed the worship and the fellowship. I was not negative or looking to find fault. If I had stayed, I may have gradually been swayed to follow their doctrines and practices. But the Lord led me out and opened my eyes. However, I was the exception. I would imagine that most are still there and being drawn further into deception. If Christians can’t guard themselves from deception today, how do they expect to do it in the future when the greatest deception of all time is upon us? So let’s get rid of the myth Christians can’t be deceived. It happens all the time. In fact, most Christians today are snared by the market-driven “mega churches.”
Deception takes place over a life time. That is why the mark of the beast is in two places: on the forehead and on the hand. In addition to being literal, this may refer to what we think and what we do. If our mind is not renewed by the Lord, but filled with the things of the world, you cannot erase a life time of bad programming. Let’s just take one example. Kids today spend three or four hours a day studying in school and then another ten hours watching TV. Not that I am totally against TV, but families today walk in the door and turn on the tube and our mental programming begins. The things that are common on TV today would have been absolutely unheard of twenty or thirty years ago. The morals of the entire world are gradually being changed. We live in a world of stimulation - signals constantly bombarding us through TV, movies, magazines and books, radio, and now, the Internet. Garbage is constantly assaulting our minds, reprogramming us. The things we read, the things we talk about, the way we spend our time - either we are being transformed to the world’s image or the Lord’s. You can’t fake it. Either we are sowing to the spirit or we to the flesh. So many are sure they would make the right choice one day if told they must take the “mark of the beast.” But if they if they haven’t been transformed - had what they think and do changed by the Lord every day year after year, they may be sadly mistaken. Transformation is a life time process sadly missing in the church today. The hand refers to what we do. Is the way we send our time and the things we do under the Lordship of Jesus? Unfortunately, there is little that distinguishes the Christian from the unbeliever in the U.S. today. Only Tribulation will separate the real Christian from the pretender.
Can a Christian “Miss Out”?
Today we talk about God’s unconditional love. We imagine this big benevolent Teddy Bear in the sky who is just dying to hug us because he loves us so unconditionally. Sorry, that just isn’t true. There are conditions. He loves us, true, but it means nothing unless we accept it, believe and obey Him. As Christians our attitude toward the Lord is sometimes cavalier - kind of like an 18 year old who feels like he will live for ever. Salvation depended upon our accepting the free gift, but once saved, we tend to take God for granted. We expect God to bless us, to take care of us and to use us. The thought that we could miss out doesn’t even enter our heads. Yet, I have been around long enough to see plenty of my brothers in Christ - brothers far more gifted than I - fall away from the Lord. I have seen others so used by the Lord when they were young, slip into disuse so that their life today counts for very little when once they were a burning fire.
I have seen best friends fall into sin, and never come back. I have seen the lights in their eyes go out as empty words came out of their mouths. I have seen the most gifted brothers throw their Christian life away for nothing - usually another woman than the wife God gave them. I have seen others fall away. One friend got into psychology and counseling deeper and deeper. He became critical of everyone, even his friends and parents. His problems became everybody’s fault but his. I’ve seen dear brothers divorce and remarry. The second wife would find the Lord, but nothing could get him back. I’ve seen saints sucked into “signs and wonders.” One had a brain tumor. He went on a pilgrimage around the country, to Toronto, Pensacola and back to California trying desperately to find healing.... and died any way. I’ve seen Christians focus on their problems until they were devoured by them. I’ve seen whole churches focus on their problems until devoured by them for without a vision, the people perish.
If you have been around long enough, you have seen Christians grow cold. A real man of God and pastor of a large church in Northern California, who is now with the Lord, was in the first graduating class from Dallas Theological Seminary. He told my friend before he died that of the thirty some original graduates, only three continued on with the Lord over the years. So we think we can’t miss out, but we can. It happens all the time. Have you ever strayed far from the Lord? I have, and it is only His grace that brought me back. I have been a Christian for fifty years and for every one I know that made it back, I have known ten that didn’t. Let’s get real and quit dreaming.
When the servant hid his talents, the Lord didn’t pat him on the head and say that’s okay, don’t worry about it. He threw him into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. LOOK UP. If God is anything, he is a judge, in fact, THE JUDGE. And he is not going to take any excuses in that day for your miserable, unprofitable life. He is going to call us to account for everything done in this body: what we did with our resources, with the gifts He gave us and with how we spent our time - every hour of every day.
We know that God wants to use every one of us. He has given us His life and spiritual gifts. But another major mistake is to think that God will “one day” use us. Time runs out. Old age and death creep up faster than any of us can imagine. Our kids are grown and gone and we are living on Social Security and we barely have the strength to get out of bed in the morning. The Lord has all the time in the world. We don’t. If we aren’t useful to the Lord today, the chances that we will be in the future are slim. A corollary to assuming we can’t miss out is to think we are indispensable - that God needs me. He really doesn’t. If I don’t praise Him, the rocks will. Who am I? If I don’t respond to the work the Lord has for me, He will raise up someone else to do it. I am a fool if I think I’m indispensable. However, if I humbly volunteer and put legs to my faith, He will use me in spite of my weakness and failings. As Jim Elliott, the famous missionary martyred by Auca Indians in Ecuador, said “What shall it profit a man if he gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose?” The time has come to make that decision and let it work through our lives in very practical ways.
I believe God is speaking to us, the last generation of saints to live on the earth before His return. He is going to need our undivided love, attention and obedience like never before in history. We are an integral part of His great plan and purpose. We are His testimony on the earth. We are living proof that the Creator came down, paid the price for our sin and rebellion, and now indwells and transforms us into a corporate testimony - as the world declares “Behold how they love one another.” Above all, we are to be His witnesses - in our personal lives, in our families and in our Christian communities. God can’t witness for Himself but needs two witnesses to try and judge the world. He needs the corporate testimony of the Church and Israel. But if Christians and Jews continue to harden their hearts to God, will He not judge both? We are dreaming if we think God will apply a lower standard to His physical and spiritual people. Most Jews and so-called Christians are in the world and in unbelief. His righteous nature demands judgment of His people before He can judge the world.
What sense do you get of the times that are approaching when you read Matthew 24? Read it now. It is not just of foreboding because of the horror, but of the glory before us. You and I are being called to the Church’s finest hour. It is time to come out of the closet as Christians, to come out of the world, to warn people, to preach the gospel, to be connected with one another. It is time to forsake all distractions and ask the Lord to purify us and free us from the power of the age. It is time to ask the Lord to open our eyes to prophecy, to our true spiritual condition and the condition of the world and the church. This is an Army you must volunteer for. God is calling you, but if you don’t respond, He will move on to someone else. In Revelation 12:11, he declares of the last days believer that “we overcame by the blood of the lamb, by the word of our testimony and we loved not our lives even unto death.” The “last days” Church will find its glory in martyrdom.
The Lord involved me in this ministry over 30 years ago and called me specifically for this ministry on the road from Hartford, Connecticut to White Plains, New York twelve years ago. I would love to have the time to tell you about it in detail some time. But I can’t begin to tell you what He has had to bring me through since then. I have lost just about everything, but the more I lose, the more I find Him, the more I am stripped down for the battle ahead. I volunteered six years ago, but since then He has really dealt with me harshly to get me to this point. At one time, I had three houses, four cars and a motor home. I made as much in one month as most make in a year. Then God blew on it and “poof” it was gone. Stripped of things, I realize how unimportant they are. And sometimes when I wonder if I can go any lower, sure enough, down I go. But the harder it gets, the more I realize it is much better to suffer the loss of all things now so there is nothing to take away, nothing to mourn for. I am so thankful for all He has brought me through because I am a very hard nut to crack. There was no other way. The Lord can only use broken vessels who fall prostrate at His feet. Brothers and sisters, the vessel is nothing. The treasure is everything. And only the mercy of the Lord brings us through those circumstances we need, tailor made for each one of us.
And if He loved me so, I know He will do the same for you. If ever there was a generation that God will demand the ultimate sacrifice from, it is ours.
Deception and apostasy are the hallmark of the final generation. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be discouraged for your salvation draws near.
Go back to Chapter 14
Go back to the beginning