Struggling today to make a start here, to open the gates for the torrent of pent-up words that circle and gather and stream through my thoughts these days. I’m crazy about truth and that it exists and that it matters and that following someone, anyone, who is not walking in truth is foolish, dangerous, even deadly.
The Mormons came to our door this week, espousing their Christian-ese, speaking Jesus name in vain, deceived and bent on persuading others to come along down this path to godhood. They name the Name but haven’t the relationship. They claim to be genuine Christians but deny the very God-head they espouse. To them God is not one person but three. God is not spirit, but a physical flesh, blood and bone body. Satan did not lie to Eve in the garden that she would be as a god if she ate that appealing fruit…They are young and zealous. They have testimonies. They believe what they proclaim. And they are offended, indignant, and tremble with frustrated anger when Jim tells them they are deceived. And that they are wrong.
I woke early one morning, unusually early, my mind engaged with the implications of Jesus being the Way, the Truth and the Life. No other leader will do. No other way to God is feasible. There are absolutes. There is truth. We can know it. We can know Him who is the Truth. But knowledge of Him comes through knowledge of His Word. He is the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life. The two cannot be separated. We do not see Him now but He has not left us without a guide. We have His Word on that, and His Spirit, the Spirit of TRUTH that resides in His followers, reminding of the things that are true–the things He has said, and bringing life to the sacred writings that are written for our benefit (I Cor.10:11) The Word of God is the sword we wield against the Devil’s schemes! (Eph.6:17) To claim to operate by the Spirit and act in Jesus’ name but disparage the value of the written Word of God is perilous.
“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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Mt.7:22,23
Doctrine does matter. By it we verify that our connection with the Head is true. Subjective signs are not enough. But why this truth burning in my heart today? It wasn’t the Mormons. But rather a conversation I had had the day previous, a halting ‘speaking of the truth in love’, a timid warning to a friend. All that glitters is not gold. All that seems right is not good. All that offers up what we long for is not safe…Be careful. Be warned. I tried to say it winsomely. I tried to spit out the tongue-tied gist of my conviction based on the Word after I had listened to her point of view. I listened restless to the reasons it does seem ok to dabble in teaching not overtly based on the Word, teaching that claims the name of Jesus and portends to imitate his life (though picking and choosing the red letters it abides by).
Is it ok? Is it enough to have passion and like-minded fellowship and a sincere heart to impact one’s community together? Just so long as the words it’s based on seem good and right? Just so long as the teaching claims to be about building the Kingdom of God? Could there be any harm in it? Does good doctrine really matter?
The young missionaries at my door were zealous too. They too have found a formula that makes for good community, that gives them a significant role in building a kingdom, (but whose?) that seems right ‘though the end thereof is death’. Their testimonies speak of a burning knowing in their hearts that what they’ve been taught is true. They’re convinced. They urge us to read it and see… To feel is to believe. And they are fed a twisted lie, twisted round with Scripture and with Jesus name, with talk of salvation and immortality…and eternal sex and becoming gods! The ‘details’ further along don’t sound quite so Biblical as the “Jesus talk” at the door.
And that’s how deception works. Not just for Mormons. We wouldn’t believe it if there were no appeal. Often the drawing card is the appeal to our heart’s desires. Unfulfilled desires, cherished hopes, and faulty expectations…all leave us vulnerable to tantalizing half-truths that promise to deliver life. I woke the morning after that heart to heart conversation with my friend provoked to pray for mercy and to gain greater understanding of how deception makes its inroads and how to avert its advance in my own life.
What I’ve concluded, so far, I will try to share in a smattering here…
Deception so often makes its inroads because it’s just what we want to hear— a gratifying teaching, a self-exalting doctrine, a solution at last! ‘You will be as gods’ for instance. Is this not the deepest desire of our depraved natural hearts? (Compare II Timothy 4:3,4)
Pursuing something false often starts with wanting something that God has not provided for us (yet). Wanting it so badly that we crave it, must have it, are sure God wants us to have it, and at last, determine it is up to us to get it! Scripture is twisted or put to the side as we head off to find something that works! Something that will bring relief, or answers, or results. Rationalizing that our will is God’s too, we unwittingly fall prey to our own notions of truth: “going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by he sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head...” (Col.2:18,19).
Discontentment, even ‘spiritual’ discontent makes us vulnerable to deception. Whether the seemingly legitimate longings are those of a mother’s heart, or the angst of a soul-winner not seeing souls saved and the kingdom come, or the craving for like-minded fellowship, we are in trouble when we allow desperation to usurp contentment with God’s present provision, when we determine that we must take action to make things happen rather than submitting to God’s sovereign hand.
Abraham is both a positive and negative role model in this regard. Rushing into intimacy with Hagar to help God provide him an heir contrasts starkly with the record we are encouraged to emulate: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Rom.4: 20,21
I find too, deception waits round the bend for peacemakers who want so badly to find common ground with another, to think the best of them, to find some way to agree—that inadvertently a blind eye is turned to mistruths and rationalizing covers half-truths. The motive seems right but the end result is deception. In the name of love and unity, false teaching is tolerated and ultimately advanced. I’ve stood in this place, caught unawares.
The antidote of course for all deception is truth—a floodlight turned on our path to make our paths clear (Ps.119:105). Our really desperate need is to cultivate a love of the truth, no matter how it cuts across the grain of our desires or our preconceptions. In an age where truth is fast becoming ‘unknowable’ and the church dabbles in rejecting classic creeds, we must be students of the Word! This Word is living and powerful (Heb.4:12) It cuts to the heart, right through our self-deception. It labels truth and lies for what they are. It proclaims who God is and who we are. It reproves, corrects and trains us in God’s ways, equipping us with everything we need for life and godliness (II Tim.3:16).
To slight attention to the Word of God, or consider it an out-of-date relic in favor of pragmatic results or more contemporary words is to invite deception. In a sobering letter to the Thessalonians Paul describes those deluded by the Anti-Christ’s false signs and wonders as having been sent a strong delusion ‘because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.’ (2Thess.2:10,11) Even as saints we have an urgent need to renew our minds in the Word in order to avoid being shaped by the world’s false premises (Rom.12:1,2) and its prophets’ false proclamations.
And that brings me to the verse that’s been sticking to my ribs all week: “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” Wait. To wait is to rest in His Word and trust in His perfect timing for its fulfillment. To wait is to be saved from the temptation to panic, to run ahead, to look for alternative answers to felt needs. To wait is to be freed from the lure of sensational promises or guaranteed strategies other than His for me.
To wait is to quiet my soul’s penchant for ‘more’ and abide with eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.
He is our way, our truth and our life. Let’s hang on to Him, for dear life!…”until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph.4:13-16)
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)
Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed….knowing form whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. II Tim.4:14-16
————–And as I conclude the ‘tweaking’ of this page, a song I need to hear plays; I commend it to you: God is in Control
No matter how the deception may fly
There is one thing that has always been true
It will be true forever
God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, God is in control.