“The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Rev. 12:9)
When we think of the devil, we often picture the stereotypical red-faced demon with horns and a pitchfork in hand. While that may be an accurate depiction of the enemy’s true colors, we must be mindful of how the Word of God describes the mask that Satan will hide behind when the great deceiver (the prince of this world) delivers his deception. We cannot see the devil (we have an invisible enemy); therefore, we must take the scriptural warnings into account regarding the fact that the devil will “masquerade as an angel of light” to build the company that he desires to keep in hell, rather than come right out and openly display his evil intentions. (2 Cor. 11:12-15)
While deception is not a tactic unique to the devil, the very reason that deception exists is due to the devil. Satan is responsible for the Fall, and sin has been in the world ever since. We are all born of sinful flesh; therefore, it is our nature to deceive for personal gain. Even Jacob (whom God loved) was known as a deceiver — in fact, that is what the Hebrew meaning of the name, Jacob, means — “to deceive.” (Gen. 27:34-35) But the deception that I want to address in this message isn’t about the type of deception that man uses against our fellow man to gain power, or for some other selfish ambition, due to our sinful nature. I want to address the deception that exists on a spiritual level, the deception that Satan has been working into the church message from the time of its conception, and still does today.
Where are we most likely to hear Satan’s deception?
Satan desires just the opposite of what God desires. God desires that we come to a knowledge of the Truth and be saved; Satan desires to distort the Truth to ensure that what we “believe” will not result in our salvation. As a result of what the Word of God warns us that the devil will do, we should not view the church as a place where deception would not exist, rather we should understand that scripture warns us that the church is the very place that Satan will attempt to deceive through the message that is being delivered. (Matt. 16:5-12) In other words, the very place that we go to seek the Lord (and worship the Lord) is the very place where the enemy works to distort the Truth. The church may be a fine place to expect to be introduced to the One who can save, but you must consider that the “salvation message” heard within is likely being composed by the one who wants to destroy! (Matt. 23:13-15)
Which is more unlikely… that every church across this country has some components of Satan’s deception in its message, or that your church is somehow the only one that does not? The Bible tells us that Satan wasted no time in mucking up the Truth — once the Apostle Paul started a new church, he could not leave for as much as a few months before the enemy would distort the One true Gospel. (Gal. 1:6-9) Yet here we are some two-thousand years later and we are so naive to think that our church is just “nailing it!” That is rather foolish, yes? It is not as though you should consider it rare for some elements of Satan’s deception to be present in your church message, rather the reality is that it would be impossible for some of Satan’s deception not to exist in the message that you hear.
Why the church?
Understand that Satan does not need to waste his time “deceiving” the non-believer, they are those who have yet to enter the spiritual battlefield. Deception has no place where belief does not dwell; therefore, Satan’s deception is not necessary for a heart that does not believe in God. Thus, it is the believer’s heart that the devil comes to snatch away what was sown, not the non-believers. (Matt. 13:18-23) God doesn’t simply require us to believe that He exists, He requires us to believe the conditions attached to His promise for us to be included in Him. Indeed, you most certainly can be a “believer” (believing in the existence of God) but at the same time be a “rejector” of His Truth — Satan is a good example. Satan is NOT a non-believer regarding the fact that there is but One God, he knows that to be true!
So, regarding whether God exists, Satan is a believer in that sense of the word. Yet, today, we celebrate elevating one’s level of “belief” equal to that of the devil as representing salvation itself! So, again, Satan does not just “believe” that God exists, he knows that to be true; just as He knows that Jesus is the Messiah. And Satan desires to get as many believers as possible to be like him — to know that God exists but refuse to deny themselves, love the Truth, die with Christ to sin, pick up their cross and wholeheartedly follow Jesus. Therefore, the enemy’s mission is not to try and increase the number of non-believers in this world, his mission is to increase the number of believers who worship deception (Satan) over Truth (Jesus) — deceive believers into believing in a twisted version of what God said, rather than believing God Himself. (Gen. 3:1-5)
It is believing God, believing what God says (Truth), that rightly divides between “belief” and “unbelief.” Belief and unbelief are not biblically defined by whether we believe in the existence of God. Indeed, many believe in God but fail to follow Jesus — wholeheartedly obey His commands. The Bible tells us that God swears that they are those who will not enter His kingdom; God equates disobedience to “unbelief,” Satan’s deception does not. (Heb. 3:18 – 4:11) Thus, the genuine believer believes what God says (Truth) and the false believer believes what Satan says (deception). A false believer believes that they can enter by the wide gate. According to scripture, they will spend eternity along with the non-believers. So, we should not applaud when someone “steps across the line of faith,” unless we have properly prepared them for the battle that they must persevere through ‘til the end to receive the crown of Life!
Many believe that Jesus is the Christ who will fall on the side of the goats rather than the side of the sheep upon their day of judgment. (Matt. 25:31-46) Please hear me on this, it is not the “believing” that Satan has any part in, it is in the “following” that God allowed him to play a role. Satan knows that without the following, a “belief” without surrender is still one huge step away from someone receiving the Spirit of the Lord! Unless you follow Jesus, then you have yet to understand the true cost of your salvation. The “free gift” refers to the fact that no amount of money can buy your salvation, it is not to suggest that salvation does not cost you your life — your independence!
If you believe in a salvation message that does not cost your life, then you believe in a salvation message that will not bring you Life! There is no power, no freedom, and no salvation for believing in a false grace, a false gospel, or a false “jesus.” For those who do not know, that is what “a genuine repentance” is truly about — a turn from continuing to follow the spirit of the world to wholeheartedly following Jesus… repentance is giving God your life! The Bible tells us that obedience is required for salvation. That is not to suggest that salvation requires more than “belief,” it is to suggest that the biblical description as to what it means to “believe” includes the cost of following Jesus, and Satan’s deceptive description (the church’s message) does not.
In summary, with so many false Jesus’ being preached, we must beware of measuring “belief” and “unbelief” by whether someone believes in the existence of Jesus. Beware of believing that your “salvation is secure” simply because you believe the same thing that the devil knows to be true — that God exists, and Jesus is His Son! If you think that simply believing those facts will earn you your salvation, you are drowning in deception. I know that the church message today loves to promise salvation to those who “accept Christ as their Savior,” but that punch phrase is beyond simply misleading — it is a lie! Accepting the fact that Jesus is the Messiah (the Savior of the world) is AWESOME, but that is simply the start, not the finish! There is something that we must “accept,” and that is His Word (Truth). And His Word says that living according to His teaching is our salvation — not simply accepting that He is who He says He is. (John 11:25-26) Remember, He chooses us, we do not choose Him! (John 15:16)
It is wonderful when someone believes in the existence of an Almighty God (by the grace of God) in this atheistic culture that we live in today, but simply believing that He exists is not to share in the same faith as the faith of those who believe Truth over deception! The reality is, many Christians today who have accepted a false grace (false “jesus”) will be included in those who “refuse to love the Truth and be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:10b) As a result, there will be many “believers” on the outside looking in, because they are not believers of Truth. This is why Jesus refers to those who call themselves believers (Jews), but are not (Rev. 3:8-10), as those who did not keep His Word. God’s Word is Jesus; but, today, many Christians embrace a “jesus” that cannot be substantiated by scripture.
Evil as he is, the devil is “crafty” and “deceitful;” therefore, while his heart is dark and sinful and his intentions are wicked, the Word of God warns that the enemy will deceive by disguising as a messenger of “love.” Understand that the goal of the enemy is to deceive you into believing deception over Truth, which means that his mission is to tell you exactly what your flesh wants to hear. Satan’s deception will always attempt to bring comfort to your life of sin, God’s Truth will always tell you that you must turn from sin. Therefore, Satan’s deception is music to our flesh’s ears, while God’s Truth sounds like hate speech to those whose minds are still governed by the flesh! It is not God that hands out an ice cream cone to those who continue to deliberately disobey God’s commands without fear of any consequence whatsoever, but the devil!
To deny what I am saying is to deny biblical prophecy. If you believe the devil will not be successful in deceiving believers, then you make God out to be a liar. What role would Satan’s deception have played if upon Christ’s return He simply says, “Great job, Christians” and takes with Him all who performed the works and traditions created by man and gives the church His stamp of approval? That is not the way that the Word of God says that it is going to go! (Rev. 2:1 – 3:22) The reality is, Jesus is going to say the same thing to many Christians that He said to His people Israel (including the Pharisees), “you do not know Me or My Father.” (John 8:19)
Religion is the devil’s arena. It is not that one religion is right, and the rest are wrong, they are ALL wrong! Yes, even “Christianity.” And it is not as though one church is getting it right, and the rest contain deception. They ALL contain plenty of deception! But the good news is, according to God, not ALL Christians will go to hell — only those who believe the enemy’s deception over God’s Truth. It is only those on the side of Truth who will be saved. (2 Thess. 2:9-12) The only “religion” that God accepts is one whose faith manifests itself by wholeheartedly obeying the commands of God! (James 1:26-27) As for Christianity as a religion today, it holds far more to the wisdom of this world than it does to the wisdom of God. When your religion is in bed with the world, your religion can’t avoid being polluted by the world!
God’s Truth is offensive to our sinful nature; Satan’s deception is not. God’s Truth requires that we deny ourselves, fully surrender our hearts to God and agree to serve the Lord’s will to be received by Him; Satan’s deception has a MUCH wider gate (a much easier path) that enables man to simply inform God that we have decided to allow Him to forgive us (“accepted Christ as our Savior”), and therefore He must include us into His Kingdom! Asinine! (Matt. 7:13-14) God’s Truth reveals that His children are those who OBEY His commands and KEEP His Word till the end; Satan’s deception has a MUCH broader definition regarding who God’s children are, and he even created a nice little “sinner’s prayer” that you can pray if YOU desire to be included in Him!
God desires that we turn from sin and wickedness, our flesh desires to sin. God desires that we love Him with all our heart, love our neighbor above ourselves, and obey His commands; our flesh desires that we do what it takes to “secure our salvation” and then continue living for ourselves and go about our sinning (seek the world for our satisfaction). God desires that we meet His conditions to receive His Spirit (die with Christ to sin — become God’s slave); our nature is to seek the path of least resistance — look for a “wider gate” leading to His kingdom — and Satan’s deception attempts to provide that path!
I believe that most pastors are genuinely doing their best to deliver what they deem to be “truth.” But the truth is, we are not saved by any of the things that we say or do in church. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in His Son, Jesus. Period! Salvation is God’s lane, and we would have been wise to have left it there. Satan’s greatest deception is in getting us to focus on what we desire (salvation), rather than focusing on what God desires (making disciples — teaching others to obey His commands). The Great Commission was to “go and make disciples,” not “go and save souls,” because salvation is God’s lane. We cannot save souls; all we can do is preach the Word and allow God to do the saving.
But Satan knows what our sinful nature desires, and he knows that it is our nature to gravitate towards the easiest path (the wide gate) — a belief that enables us to hold onto “self,” and yet still “guarantees our salvation.” It is fitting that in these last days we are witness to the church offering the widest gate ever known to man. I am convinced that there can never be a gate offered wider than the one we hear being offered in the church today. The question for believers is, what part of what you “believe” is Truth, and what part is Satan’s deception?
The house of God does not become the synagogue of Satan because the subjects within knowingly worship the devil; the house of God becomes the synagogue of Satan because the subjects within unknowingly worship Satan’s deception rather than God’s Truth.
Seek His Truth. Get in His Word. What do you believe? Where is your heart? Fear the Lord!
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