Flirting with Deception
The prevalence of deception in our world today is analogous to a fish swimming in toxic water. The fish has to process that water through its gills extracting the life sustaining oxygen while passing the remainder of the substances on through. We too live in a toxic environment—a data or information environment loaded with misinformation, lies, misleadings, innuendos, misconceptions, false pretenses, deceptions and all manner of mendacity. We, like the fish, must process what we are taking in and extract the life sustaining truth from all the data made available to us.
The consequences in discerning truth can run the gamut from the innocuous to meaning the difference between life and death. The Federal Trade Commission oversees what we call “Truth in Advertising.” It is supposed to help ensure that what you see is what you get. The agency is mostly impotent in myriads of situations we encounter every day. For example, the food you are served at most fast food restaurants seldom matches the pictures portrayed in their menus. Most breakfast cereals are packaged in boxes at least 25% larger than the contents inside.
Although these things are minor and mostly inconsequential, there are other matters where false, misleading and deceptive information leads to destructive ends. A case in point would be the gulf war with Iraq. The US built up a military coalition and prosecuted this war based entirely on false prefabricated data. The purported motivation was the existence of weapons of mass destruction. We now know that true military intelligence at the time disavowed any such weapons existed in Iraq. The American people were wholesale duped into following our esteemed leaders in taking utter destruction to a land and people totally on the basis of false pretenses—in other words, outright lies. We were completely deceived. The consequences of this deception meant literal death for thousands of Iraqis, destruction of their infrastructure, displacement of hundreds of thousands and complete disruption of their economy.
As Christians, our discerning of and heeding truth has everything to do with how we walk out our lives in Christ. Hearing and obeying the voice of God is a major theme throughout the entire Bible. Ignorance of truth will never constitute a defense in God’s court. We are enjoined to pursue truth persistently and must learn to employ whatever tools are necessary to do that. This is so imperative with God that he told Jeremiah to run through the streets of Jerusalem promising to pardon the city from its impending destruction if he could find one person who sought truth (Jer 5:1). Jesus defined disciples as those who continued (sojourned, tarried, abode) in his word because therein they would know the truth. Becoming protégés of the master, attaching ourselves to Christ, following Jesus, has everything to do with our pursuit in the Word of God and steeping ourselves in truth. Truth is the very antithesis of and counter to deception.
Deception has its roots in the Garden of Eden manifested through the serpents temptation of Adam and Eve. The Bible tells us that Satan was a liar from the beginning and the father of lies. In this life, as long as there is fallen humanity and uncrucified flesh, we are always going to have to contend with deception. How we address this issue can have everything to do with our relationship with God and our pilgrimage unto the full stature life in Christ. I want to suggest that our first step should be coming to that place in our hearts where we truly hate deception. In the book of Psalms, there is a grouping called the Psalms or Songs of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). It is believed that these hymns were sung as pilgrims made their way to the temple in Jerusalem for the three major feasts of Israel. They were “ascending” up to Zion, to the place of sacrifice and worship, to the dwelling place of God. In the very first of these ascension Psalms, the author cries out to God to be delivered from all deception:
Rescue me, O LORD, from liars
and from all deceitful people. Ps 120:2 NLT
Here is the emotional plea of one who is ascending into the presence of God and the first cry of his heart is to be utterly delivered from and cleansed of all that is antithetical to God’s very being. Remember, Jesus is the very personification of truth. If we are going to be authentic disciples of Christ, if we are pilgrims ascending into the presence of God, if we are emphatically pursuing the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, we must despise the deceptions which necessarily contaminate our relationship with God.
Speaking of the spirit of lawlessness Paul warns the believers in Thessalonica…
This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth (2 Th 2:9-12 NLT).
The obvious corollary to hating deception is of course the love of the truth. The eternal consequences for ignoring these principles are formidable. The question for all of us now is, are we really aware of where in our lives we may be blindly embracing deception and ignoring truth? The sources in our lives for potential deception are myriad. However, I would like to highlight two very overarching categories which probably intrude to some degree in every one of our lives—that being amusements and mass media.
Please hold in mind that all deception of whatever form is the antithesis of truth, the antithesis of Jesus. The category of amusement takes in a wide varied range of possibilities including sports, games, videos, movies, etc. Few believers really see any harm in kicking back and relaxing with any of a bevy of entertainment offerings readily available today. I just want to make to salient points regarding this category.
The first has to do with our hearts. What is it that we are attempting to do, or find, or accomplish through assuaging ourselves with entertainments? Are we attempting to fill a need in our lives or salve a wound or maybe find temporary flight from reality? The concern is that we may be trying to substitute the world’s solution for God. The Lord said something to Abram when he covenanted with him that I believe is a universal principle meant for every believer. God said, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” It is God’s desire to fully fill and satisfy every need in our lives with his awesome presence. If we substitute the world’s amusements for the life of Christ within, we are in essence rejecting God himself. When Israel accepted the pejorative report of the ten spies, choosing to forfeit the treasures of the Promised Land and opt for the life back in Egypt, God said to Moses, “How long will this people reject me?”
The second point concerning amusements, most of what comes out of Hollywood is pregnant with ulterior motives, pernicious agendas and pure evil in general. Most movies are designed to persuade you to adopt a particular point of view. They are meant to break down your resistance to all manner of evil by subtly mixing good and evil and portraying “good” people doing sinful activities. It is meant to persuade you to accept as normal that which God has forbidden. For example, one of the oldest and best loved seemingly family westerns of all time, Shane, has embedded messages that most completely overlook. One is the underlying relationship between Shane, the hero, and the farmer’s wife. Another is the subtle attack on the Second Amendment. Woven through the entire movie is the hidden message that guns are what’s evil, not the people. One of the last lines spoken by Shane goes something like this, “Tell your mother there are no more guns in the valley.” The message is very clear when you sort it out; it’s not the hate and violence in the hearts of the people but the inanimate object which is evil.
It is fascinating that the original definition of “amuse” is: to direct the attention so as to deceive; beguile; delude. The Greek word for “actor” is where we derive our words hypocrite, hypocrisy.
There was a time in the history of our nation when journalism was a noble and honored profession. In fact, news media took very seriously their role as watchdogs over politics and politicians sensing a very real responsibility to its readership. Today most mainstream media are the lapdogs of the powers that be obediently heralding their corrupt agendas. Our most recent examples of this profane activity are clearly seen in how all the so called Covid virus “pandemic” has been reported and how the rioting in the cities has been virtually justified. If one really wants to discover the truth in these matters it is necessary to diligently search out the Internet prayerfully discerning all one reads. The mainstream media is complicit in surreptitiously setting up innocent but gullible American people for a great fall. To fall back on a couple adages, things are seldom what they seem to be and the first story out of the gate rarely portrays the true picture.
I recently discovered what I thought to be a vital principle in 2 John. Interestingly, the word “truth” is found six times in 13 verses in John’s letter to the church.
If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work (2 Jn 10,11 NLT).
Second John is a fairly late canonical addition so reflects a time when the early church had a little history under its belt. Already in the church there were problems with false teachers and false prophets. John in this letter was particularly addressing the heresy of those who denied Jesus came in the flesh. He advised and warned the believers not to salute or fellowship with such persons.
It occurs to me that a great principle can be derived from this great passage. I believe that when we expose ourselves to corrupt, dishonest and deceitful material of any medium we are violating exactly what John was warning against. When we take in, accept through watching and listening, that which is false and deceptive, we are fellowshipping, partnering with the essence of antichrist. For most, correcting this dilemma would mean making some radical choices. However, that is what it takes to press intentionally into the kingdom of God. We can’t progress in the kingdom by entertaining a mixture of lies and truth…
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live (Deut 30:19 NLT).