Last Days Deception (Discernment)
Posted on 11/20/2005 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning, and blessings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Father God, we come to you this morning, gathering together in the name of Jesus, the Holy One, the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world, and who rose again from the dead and who sits at your right hand in glory; Thank you Lord for your presence here this morning, for your sweet Holy Spirit, who you promised would come and lead us into all truth.
Teach us this morning. Remove any veils from our eyes, and any blindness from our hearts. Break up the stony ground in us so that we can receive the seeds of your Word, so that we grow strong in your Word and are able to overcome the enemy in the days to come.
It's in the name of Jesus we pray.
Please click-touch the pulpit for a notecard. You'll see the message outline and will be able to take notes. Please hold all your questions and comments until after the message, when we'll have a time of fellowship and discussion.
This morning I woke up from a dream. The Lord himself had come down, and was reviewing records which were, since this was a dream, stored on a computer.
I was asked to open the calendar of events, but was unable to do so since I could not remember the password.
A voice chimed in with the password. "The password is 'me'," the voice declared. So I typed in 'me' and hit enter. The password did not seem to be incorrect, because I did not receive an error. But the schedule did not appear, nothing opened.
The title of my message this morning is, "Last Days Deception", or, "Discernment".
Let's read from the book of 1st John, the second chapter, beginning with verse 18:
"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have stayed with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
"Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
"See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.
"I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him."
Thank you, Lord, for your Word.
What is this passage telling us? Is it simply saying that a deceiving spirit will always announce to us, "Jesus is not the Messiah"? Is it saying that, since it's so simple to recognize deception, and since we are annointed, we already know the truth and cannot be deceived?
Let's read another passage, this time from the book of 1st Timothy, chapter four, beginning with the first verse:
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.
"If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
"This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe."
First we read that the deceiving spirit is the one who says Jesus is not the Messiah, and then we read the the deceiving spirit is the one who teaches against marriage, and certain foods, basically the one who teaches man-made religion.
Can you think of any religious groups, small or big, who teach things not clearly taught in the Bible, and yet they do teach that Jesus is the Messiah? I can think of many.
There are, however, a couple of things all false religions, or dead religions, have in common.
You know, there is a lot more to "confessing Jesus" than just saying, "We believe Jesus is the Messiah." Jesus said the demons even believe in him. Rather, to confess Jesus completely, we must confess him ALL THE TIME.
Confessing Jesus all the time means we confess his Lordship in everything. It means we confess his centrality in everything.
Simply put, a deceiving spirit will focus on everything and anything else, while the Spirit of God will focus on one central theme: JESUS.
If a teacher or preacher, prophet or evangelist, is promoting him or herself, beware. If a ministry is promoting YOU, run the other way!
Just as I saw in my dream this morning, the password is not 'me', and using that password, we cannot see the "schedule of events" if you will; we cannot stay in step with what God is doing, and with what God wants US to be doing.
The deceiving spirit will always turn our focus on a man, or a woman, or a ministry, or a teaching, or a ritual, or a specific church, or on ourselves.
There is one other thing on which a deceiving spirit will focus. A deceiving spirit will sometimes turn our focus and attention to .... a FALSE JESUS.
In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus is talking about the end times. He tells us, beginning with verse 23:
"At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
Now don't be fooled. Satan isn't stupid. He won't make his deceptions obvious to everyone. True, some of them are quite obvious to some of us, but what about the deceptions he's crafted especially for the more discerning?
Let's take, for example, the part of this last Scripture which mentions "false prophets." It doesn't say they will say things that we know aren't true, or that they will just use smoke and mirrors; rather, it says they will perform great signs and miracles. Not small insignificant ones, but GREAT ones.
Have you ever had someone "read your mail?" And I don't mean a hacker who breaks into your Yahoo account. I mean someone who tells you all the things about yourself that no one could possibly know. You know what they're saying is true, and so your immediate conclusion is, "Wow, this is a real prophet of God!"
And yet, Jesus warns us that there will be many FALSE prophets who APPEAR real, because they perform GREAT signs and wonders especially designed to deceive the very elect, the chosen.
When someone "reads your mail," or heals your body, or performs some other great sign or wonder, remember to ask yourself this very important question: "Where is the focus?" If their lives and words and actions and end result are not all clearly centered around Jesus, you very well might have just encountered a deceiving spirit.
In this passage, Jesus also tells us there will be "false Christs." And from seeing the many variations of "Jesus" being presented to us today, it's safe to say he was not just talking about people who stand up and say, "I'm Jesus!"
Perhaps a "false Christ" can appear in a Sunday School lesson, or a sermon, or a book, or a movie. Perhaps a "false Christ" can appear in a thought we have, or a "revelation" we receive, perhaps even during a time of prayer or Bible reading.
If we do not intimately know Jesus, we may very well fall for a "false Christ." And who knows, we may have fallen already.
Perhaps Jesus is an angel. Maybe Jesus is the brother of satan. Or perhaps Jesus is angry and wrathful and needs to be calmed down by his perfect mother. Maybe Jesus is a docile, passive hippy who will let everyone into heaven because he can't send anyone to hell.
Do we know the real Jesus? Do we really know him well enough that we will recognize any slightly-off variation?
I submit to you this morning that NONE of us know him well enough, and we ALL need to know him better. To say we completely know God is to say God is as small as our weak, human ability to grasp him.
We all have pride lurking somewhere inside of us, and probably much more of it than we would dare to imagine. That pride tells us we won't be deceived. That pride tells us we know enough about Jesus that we won't fall for a counterfeit. That pride tells us when the time of tribulation comes, if we are here for it, we will not take the mark of the beast, or deny Jesus.
And yet, we don't really know, do we? How many in this room have come face to face with the incarnation of satan? And I'm not talking about an ex-spouse or mother-in-law.
You know, Scripture tells us that satan appears as an angel of light. He can look like Jesus, and sound like the voice of God. He knows the Bible frontwards and backwards, and will tell you the truth ... for the most part.
We are not led into deception by a bold-faced lie. Rather, we are led into deception little by little, by 99.99% truths.
How much we know Jesus now is not enough. How much of the baptism in his Holy Spirit we have now is not enough. We need more of his Spirit, more of his presence, and we need to know him better.
Before Jesus was betrayed by Judas, he asked his disciples to "watch and pray." They were very tired, partly because it was night and partly because of sorrow, since they heard that Jesus was going to suffer and die. And so they fell asleep.
Jesus came back more than once and found them sleeping. He told them to "watch and pray, so you don't fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." And because he didn't spend that little bit of extra time seeking the presence of God, Peter did what he swore to himself and everyone else he would NEVER do. He denied he even knew who Jesus was.
Don't be fooled by pride. You are capable of being deceived. I am capable of being deceived. We need more of God's Word in our hearts; we need to spend more time in God's presence; we need to pray more, read more, praise and worship more; we need to know Jesus better.
One last point I would like to make before we close. In our passage from 1st John chapter 18, we read:
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have stayed with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."
A deceiving spirit, even if it promotes a false unity, will result in division. Deceiving spirits have filled our churches, which is why we have "churchES" instead of "The Church". We're all off in our own directions doing our own things, instead of working together toward a common goal.
Instead of taking hands and glorifying Jesus, the REAL Jesus, we're too busy drawing lines in the sand and glorifying our denomination, or our doctrine, or our own ministries. But according to the Scripture we just read, when we walk in that kind of division, we're walking in deception.
Churches are so busy competing that they do little or no good, while if we would work together as the Body was designed to do, we would see amazing things begin to happen.
But there's always some little teaching that creeps in; there's always some little real or imagined offense, some "new revelation" or some "new liberty in Christ."
And instead of spending our time getting to know the God of the Bible better by reading his whole Word and spending time with him and with those who love him, we put our attention on issues, and ministries, and on the cares of this world.
And perhaps this is the greatest, most powerful deception of all, that I am right, you are wrong, and therefore we cannot work together. And if I am so close-minded that I will not humbly hear what you have to say, am I not walking in pride? And pride, if you'll remember from satan's example, is the greatest deception of all.
So let's look to Jesus instead of fallible men and women.
Let's spend time getting to know the REAL Jesus and listening to his voice through Scripture and worship.
Let's not be fooled by signs and wonders performed by those whose central focus is not obviously on Jesus or is on a false Jesus.
And let's work together, not promoting our own thing, but promoting Jesus; not being proud and thinking we have all the answers, but humbling ourselves and listening to another point of view, objectively weighing everything with the Word of God.
And if we watch and pray, get to know Jesus more and more, and walk together in unity, we will stand in the time of testing, we will know the truth in the midst of great deception, we will be a light to the world that leads others to Jesus, and most of all we will be ready for his return.
Lord God, thank you for your Word. Thank you for teaching us, for loving us enough to tell us the truth. May your Word that was spoken this morning go deep into our hearts. May it take deep root and grow to maturity. Don't let the seeds of your Word be stolen by the enemy, or choked out by the business of our lives, but let it sink down into fertile soil so we will walk in step with you, knowing in the spirit man when it's time to go and when it's time to stay, because our passwords are not "me", but "Thee."
May we keep you, the REAL Jesus, central to all we do, say, and think, and may we be ready for and eagerly await your coming.
For those of us who do not yet know you, I know you are waiting for them with open arms. All they need to do is breathe your name, ask for your forgiveness, and invite you to be their Lord and Savior, and then confess you before others.
For those of us who are not walking where we should be, today is a new day, today is a day of change. Tug at our hearts, and draw us to where we should be, placing deep within us a growing hunger to be closer and closer to you.
And it's in the name of Jesus we pray.
Now let's make our way over to the fellowship room for our time of fellowship and discussion.
"The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen." (Revelation 22:20-21 NRSV)