Knowing and Trusting God Amid Spiritual Deception

WalkOnWater

Spiritual deception

Recently I was asked to speak on an international prayer line about trusting God. I thought to myself: how interesting! Here I am, someone who has suffered so much spiritual deception is asked to speak about trust. When I had my spiritual awakening (I was living in France at the time) I was such an innocent and sincere seeker of higher truths and spiritual light. But I was deceived by New Age false prophets, false teachings, and false practices. Then I came to Christ and was again deceived by false prayer warriors and false deliverances.

More recently I experienced another episode of deception, even though I was already a student and teacher of God’s Word and walking in His ways. It completely shook my world and led me to ask: Who can you trust? How can you know with certainty that it’s the voice of the one true God that you’re hearing? How can you know if a teacher, or a pastor, or a church friend brother or sister, is deceiving you? Your spouse can deceive you with another partner, your children or your friends can lie to you and even betray you, but nothing hurts more or is more dangerous than spiritual deception. Not only is your heart grieving and possibly your life torn apart, but spiritual deception can cause you to lose your soul and never get to see God.

You might ask yourself why you should go on reading about trusting God versus spiritual deception. You may feel that you’ve never been deceived before in your spiritual journey. Why is this relevant to you?

The rise of the anti-christ spirit

It’s because we’re witnessing the rising of the anti-christ spirit, which already was working in the days of Paul and of John the Revelator, but is soon to be revealed to our generation. Let us read from 2 Thessalonians 2:7-11. Where it says “the lawless one” it’s referring to the anti-christ, it’s another name for the anti-christ:

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie…”

In Matthew 24:24 Jesus warned His disciples: For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” It behooves all of us to get really smart about knowing the true God and how to recognize Him when the lawless one starts performing signs and lying wonders to deceive God’s elect.

So we’ll try to look at two important questions, both of which are closely related:

  • How can we trust God when we can’t see Him, when we can’t see Him working? How can we increase our faith in Him?
  • How can we be sure it’s really God that we’re following?

We can’t trust someone we don’t know

We can’t trust someone we don’t know. The only SAFE, RELIABLE AND ACCURATE way to know God is through the study of His Word, the Holy Bible. Anything else could lead us astray.

  • Jesus studied the scriptures daily. That in itself says a lot. He knew by heart the numerous scriptures that prophesied of Him, and He made sure that He fulfilled every one of them.
  • Satan also knows the scriptures, especially those that pertain to His destruction starting with Genesis 3:15 (where God put enmity between the woman’s seed and the seed of the serpent) and all through to the Book of Revelation when the devil will be cast into the lake of fire. Satan is such a deceiver that he has even deceived himself into believing that he can prevent God’s Word from being fulfilled. He’s deluded that he can win this war, even though he’s read the end of the story in the Bible.
  • Our senses can lead us astray, our impressions also, and our feelings are completely unreliable. We have to measure everything against the Word of God. If we’re told something inconsistent with scripture, it’s because we’re dealing with a false prophet, a counterfeit spirit or a deceptive teaching. “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

We can’t base our trust in God on signs and wonders

We can’t base our trust in God on signs and wonders, for a couple of reasons:

  • We read earlier (in 2 Thessalonians and Matthew 24) that the anti-christ will deceive by signs and wonders.
  • In 1 Corinthians 10:11 the Bible tells us that “these things happened unto them for examples, and were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”. As we look back to the history of the children of Israel we notice that despite the amazing signs and wonders that God did for them – the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, the fire that would come down from heaven onto the altar of sacrifice – they still broke the covenant numerous times, they still were unfaithful and disobedient, and they still distrusted God. This is why Jesus said to them “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). The lesson we can learn from the people of ancient Israel is that signs don’t build our faith or our trust in God, therefore we shouldn’t ask for signs.

Our trust in God should be based on His Word, because His Word is truth

We should base our trust in God on His Word and the power of His Word. We have to accept God’s Word as truth, believe it and act on it. Remember, Jesus is the Word, and Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. In the same way that in math if a=b and b=c then a=c, we can say that if Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and if Jesus is the Word, then the Word is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus declared He is “the bread of life” (John 6:35), therefore God’s Word is the bread of life.

What else does God say about His Word?

  • “Man does not live by word alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”(Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).
  • “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thingfor which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
  • “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

We can rely on God’s Word and His promises. Even if we don’t see immediate results, we have to believe and continue to claim the promises. In Malachi 3 God asks us to put Him to the test, to see if He won’t do what He said He will do. He tells Jeremiah “I am ready to perform My Word” (Jeremiah 1:12).“For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed” (Ezekiel 12:25). God says what He means and He means what He says.

In John 17:17 Jesus says something very important about God’s Word: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”. There are two important points in this scripture:

  1. It’s telling us that we can trust God because what He says is true. Another scripture confirms this: “God’s not a man that He would lie” (Numbers 23:19).
  2. This scripture is also telling us that God’s Word can sanctify us. We’ll come back to this shortly.

Recap

We can’t trust someone we don’t know.

To trust God we need to know Him.

To know Him we go to His Word, we don’t seek any other source but the Bible.

To know Him we don’t seek after signs and wonders.

We take God at His Word and believe what He says. We have to be patient: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

How can we increase our faith in God?

Our entry into Heaven depends on us following a path that has been laid out in God’s Sanctuary: justification (Outer Court), sanctification (Holy Place), and glorification (Most Holy Place). Let’s focus on the first two, justification and sanctification. Justification is by faith. Sanctification is dependent on our study of the Word of God.

First, let’s look at justification, which takes place in the Outer Court of the Sanctuary. The Bible says that we’re justified by faith (Romans 5:1). We read in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Another scripture says: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

If we displease God, trust me, He won’t want us around Him for all eternity! He decides who He’ll spend eternity with. Developing our faith is incredibly important for us, it’s the only guarantee of our salvation. How do we develop our faith? The answer is in Romans 10:17: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”.

God’s Word sanctifies

Now, let’s look at sanctification, which takes place in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary. Jesus gives us the key in John 17:17 that we read earlier when He says to the Father: “Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy Word is truth”.

Anything that’s important will be confirmed in other scriptures, so we read confirming statements in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In other words, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped to become a saint, to become like Jesus.

The Bible also says “He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them of their destructions” (Psalm 107:20). Our destructions are our sins and the consequences of our sins. This particular scripture encouraged me and gave me hope when I felt overcome by my own mistakes.

Thanks to God’s Word we go from Step 1 justification, which is being saved, to Step 2 sanctification, which is resembling Jesus. We have seen that sanctification is heavily dependent on our study of God’s Word, and that in fact, the study of God’s Word is designed to sanctify us.

The central theme of the Bible is the plan of redemption

We’ve looked at the Biblical foundations for trusting God even when we can’t see Him working, for knowing that His plans for us are “for good and not evil, to bring us to an intended outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11). I want to add one more beautiful perspective to this conversation. It’s taken from the book “Education”, pages 125-126. Ellen White says:

“The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden, to that last glorious promise in the Revelation, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads,’ the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme—man’s uplifting, the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field of study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure-house of God’s word.”

Let’s bring this all together now. We read earlier that God’s Word never returns to Him void, that it always accomplishes that for which it’s sent forth. We said we need to believe God, we need to take Him at His Word, because He says what He does and He does what He says. So if the prophet says that “the burden of every passage of scripture is the plan of redemption”, the goal of which is to restore God’s image in us, you can be sure that God will do it. This means that every passage of scripture is charged with this intent, it is the purpose for which God sent forth His Word and inspired men and women who penned it. We’ve learned that His Word never fails, it always accomplishes that for which He sent it forth. If He sent His Word forth to redeem us, and if we study and spend time in His Word, it will redeem us. It can’t fail.

God sent His Word forth to restore the image and likeness of Him in us, that we should become sanctified and ultimately glorified, with no trace of corruption in our minds or bodies. All we need to do is trust in that Word, submit ourselves to its sanctifying power, and He shall bring to pass His purpose in our lives. “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Romans 14:4 tells us that God is able to make a man to stand. We read in Jude 1:24: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our savior who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forevermore”.

Study to win

Let me finish with this thought. All of us who are seeking God in prayer need to make it a priority to spend more time in His Word. It isn’t enough to pray. As we’ve seen, without the Word we don’t have enough spiritual power. Our prayers alone don’t have enough power to make us to stand in the time of trouble. We need the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God to keep us from falling in the evil day.

We can all win or lose isolated battles against the devil. If the devil has thrown you off balance and you lost a battle, be assured that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We have all lost certain battles, but by the grace of God we’re going to win the war. The ultimate victory in this warfare is obtaining eternal life and going to heaven. We can all get the victory through faith: faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). I pray that we all will be determined from now on to study the Bible more diligently so that we may show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the word of truth, and have power to stand in the evil day.

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Psalm 37:5-6). This is the ultimate purpose of the plan of redemption.

The biggest miracle is NOT that fire come down from heaven. It’s that God can change sinful beings like us into the likeness of Christ. He will do it IF WE LET HIM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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