All Christians are determined to never be deceived. We happily tell ourselves and others that we don’t have any ‘other gods‘, that we love Jesus only. But is this really true? Whilst none of us purpose to be deceived, it clearly happens a great deal. Many Christians actually believe that it is impossible for them to be deceived because they ‘have‘ the Holy Spirit. If they believe that, then they are already deceived. Y’shua (Jesus), when talking to His disciples, who were the last persons you would expect to be fooled by wrong thinking, warned them not to be deceived.
“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.” [Matthew 24:24-25 NIV]
Here, in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Y’shua is talking about what will be the signs of the end of the age. The age He is referring to is the Age of the Gentiles, which began at Pentecost and will shortly come to an end. Before the Age of the Gentiles, it was the Age of the Hebrews. From the creation of the nation of Isra’el (read about it in Genesis 25) until the crucifixion is approximately 2000 years, give or take a decade or so (see * below). I suspect that God will give around the same amount of time to the Gentiles to accept His message, just to be fair.
I’m not trying to predict times or dates, I just think we need to understand something of the way God works. If He allowed around 2000 years for Isra’el to believe, it is likely (but not certain) that He will do something of a similar nature for the Gentiles. Which means we could well already be in the sticky end of the Age of the Gentiles. Pretty soon He will shut the door on any new recruits, (see Luke 13:25; Matthew 25:10).
That Y’shua said there will be false Christs and false prophets, not only talks about the person of the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet as mentioned in the Book of Revelation, chapter 13 especially. He spoke of multiple persons, who will be able to perform signs and wonders. The purpose of such miracles will be to try to deceive the elect – God’s chosen. In other words, the true church. It is a warning about now, from Y’shua Himself. We need to take heed. He was clearly saying that if we aren’t careful, even those amongst us who believe that we are strong, could be deceived.
As we start off doing what we believe God wants us to do; that is to be willing and trusting enough to allow Him to work through us, we too are determined not to be deceived. However, I can tell you, that the moment you truly purpose to do God’s will, or rather allow Him to do His will through you, you will encounter spiritual forces who will try to persuade you otherwise. These spiritual forces will come to you as thoughts and ideas that just appear, or as people who are already influenced by them. If you encounter people who try to steer you off track, remember that Paul said that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (Ephesians 6). They won’t realise what they are doing. They will even say that God sent them to help you. But our experience is that God simply doesn’t work like that. Not with us anyway.
Recently, after a year of making some simple rookie errors, we understood that all God really wanted from us was surrender. That is the place in which He can work with us. He wants to do the work. It is His church and He will build it. Anything that man tries to build is to the glorification of man, and not God, no matter how grounded their intentions might be. So, as we started to explore what surrendering might actually mean, we found that doing what we thought God wanted us to do is not the same as God doing what He wants to do. We stopped. We let what we had created out of our own strength fall to the ground and die. Like a seed, (see John 12:24).
We had been deceived. We were made to think that we, ourselves, had to do the work by those around us. The churches that we had previously been a part of all tell us this. They say you have to do it this way or that way. A formula. Worse still, a franchise. Don’t get me wrong, there is always hard work involved, but, if we approach the things of God from a worldly standpoint – as if we are starting a business, then God simply withdraws and lets us get on with it, just as any good father would.
Somebody recently accused me of being ‘anti-church’. I was taken aback by the statement for I know it not to be true. I am absolutely pro-church. But I am against the prevailing attitude of today’s charismatic or modern church that they have some kind of monopoly on how things should be done, simply because they are growing in numbers. They possess a conventional wisdom that is based entirely upon worldly business models. They think God has called them to do the work. They forget that the church belongs to God and He is the one to build it. You see, these slick preachers teach from Matthew 16:18 as if it doesn’t say that it is Y’shua who will do the building of His church. The church belongs to God, and He wants it back.
No, I’m not anti-church. I am simply looking to do it the way that Y’shua showed us – by submission to the Father. There can be no other way. The example that Y’shua showed us in His own walk on this planet, was one of only doing what His Father had showed Him. Have you ever stopped and considered what that really means? It means that Y’shua had no agenda of His own. That He chose to serve God when He could have served Himself. He set the standard for us to follow:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” [Philippians 2:5-8 NIV]
So, that’s the standard…but what’s the reality?
Few find their way to the place of humility that the text above promotes. Y’shua warned us that it is a struggle to get to this place. We all start off with good intentions but get easily distracted along the way. The message of grace preached in many churches tells us that it’s ok to get distracted, it doesn’t matter; God forgives. True, He does forgive. But we still need to be faithful and practice faithfulness at all times, just as we would to our husbands or wives. The grace only message fools people into thinking that anything goes. It says nothing of repentance. It says nothing of faithfulness or servitude as a response to our deliverance. It says nothing of the struggle.
“Someone asked Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ ” ” [Luke 13:23-25 NIV]
Make every effort. Some translations render that as ‘fight your way to the narrow door‘.
The trouble is, much of today’s church is deceived into thinking that God has given them a formula on how to do this stuff. There is no formula. Everything is entirely based upon our individual relationship with Y’shua. Nothing else matters. He is the fulfilment of everything we need for a right relationship with God. Anything else that we chase after outside of the person of Christ is counterfeit.
People are, however, seeking to connect with God in a way that they don’t really understand. They want it to ‘feel’ supernatural. I can tell you that feelings come entirely from the flesh. It is the fleshy part of us that desires such experiences, not the spirit. If you enjoy the ‘worship bit‘ in a service because it leaves you with a nice warm, fuzzy feeling, it might not be God doing that. If you get all hooked up on feverish, lively worship with a self-promoting Christian band, remember that the world gets that same buzz at football matches, or at any rock concert. The spirit craves intimacy with God. Those that haven’t learnt that what lies through the narrow door isn’t things of the flesh, are in for a shock. But, still they pursue the tingly feelings. They are so desperate to see a move of God that when anything supernatural occurs anywhere in the world they flock just to stand in the shadow of the latest supernatural pastor or evangelist. If Y’shua Himself warned His own disciples, those who had spent three years living with Him, walking with Him, eating with Him, not to be deceived, what makes us think we are exempt from deception?
Last year, we allowed ourselves to be deceived by someone who claimed that God had sent them to us. We had no confirmation of this, and because we were rookies, we accepted blindly what was said. It was clear after a while that this was no divine appointment. In fact, now we can see that it was an attempt to derail what God wanted to do through us. And we allowed it in. We yielded to a spirit other that the Holy Spirit. How do we know that? Because we have learned to test the spirits. I will come on to the practical method of testing the spirits as found in John’s first letter a little further on. First, let me outline what went on.
We had a pretty clear idea of what God wanted at Cornerstone, although at that stage we had no idea that we were to simply let Him do it. This particular person charmed their way in by offering experience and knowledge and insight into all things to do with planting a church. After a while, we realised that there was something not quite right and started to seek God on what to do. We found that we had been railroaded; led into a cul-de-sac.
Let me be clear; this person fervently believed that they had heard from God and was telling us this stuff with God’s authority. They were convinced of themselves. But, when you start to seek God and keep on seeking Him, He will be found by you. And when He is found, He will show you the way. What I believe had happened in this circumstance is that this well meaning individual in the course of their own journey had accepted a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. It was as if they would prophesy completely out of their own imagination, or make claims of God that simply didn’t hold up to the light of scripture. So, if they had yielded to another spirit other than that of God, what did this mean? And just how widespread is this?
The truth is that anything that cannot stand the full light of the scripture of God is simply not of God. Just read the gospels to see what Y’shua said on the subject. You are either for God or against Him (Matthew 12:30); a divided house cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). In other words if you yield and accept the influence of any spirit other than the Holy Spirit you are no longer working for God but against Him.
Let us examine how this might work in practice. Imagine you hear of a preacher or evangelist that is claiming supernatural signs and wonders, healings and other miracles. Imagine he is claiming a new message from God and a new anointing. Imagine you go to one of his meetings and he lays hands on you and you receive not only his teachings of a new message from God but this new anointing – a nice sensation, perhaps you are ‘slain in the spirit‘ or some other manifestation that they claim is God. And imagine that you then, feeling empowered by this supernatural ‘feeling‘, you go back to your own church and start anointing others. Then imagine how you would feel when this preacher or evangelist turns out to be a fraud, or an adulterer, or when you examine his teaching you find nothing in scripture to support it. But, instead of repenting, you continue in this anointing because the numbers in your church are growing and you like the way you feel when the anointing comes. Your pride will kick in, and the moment you give into it, you are yielding to it. Sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7b). Imagine that. That is what happens. Do some research. Google ‘apologetics websites’ or ‘deception in the church’, and see the evidence that people have painstakingly collected on these so-called revivals that break out and diminish. Do not be deceived is what our Master said. And yet, it scares me to think that much of today’s church is deceived by false doctrine. If you thought you were immune to it because you ‘have’ the Holy Spirit, think again. The moment you yield to a spirit other than the Holy Spirit, you have done exactly the same as Eve when she yielded to what the serpent was saying, instead of what God had already said. Satan has no new tricks. And yet, he continues to deceive the elect, just as Y’shua warned he could.
And so, with Cornerstone, we let the seed drop to the ground. We gave up (it took a while) all that we were doing in order to let God show us the way. We had fallen for deception from within the church of Christ. Once we had repented and promised once more to be faithful to God, we started to struggle back to the narrow door; that ancient pathway (Jeremiah 6:16); that Highway to Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). And do you know what happened once we started walking right with God again? The enemy sent more of his subjects, those loyal to his false teaching, people well-respected in small church circles, to us to steer us off the path once more. The same old tricks. But, this time we were ready. We knew to test the spirits.
And, if you are thinking that we have gone crazy or that it can’t be as black and white as that, then read the gospels again. Read what Paul wrote to the fledging churches of Galatia or Ephesus. The warnings are throughout the entire New Testament – the warnings of not being deceived.
This latest episode of attempted derailment came out of the blue. We hadn’t told anyone what we felt God wanted to do after we had shut down Cornerstone and waited on God (it wasn’t anything new – we just needed to do what He had originally said). But no sooner did we start again, than two individuals turned up who clearly felt that we needed their guidance. One of them even declared that God had told them to come and gave us a ‘picture‘ that we needed to take note of. These people, I am sure, are convinced that God did send them. But I am now as equally as convinced that it wasn’t the God I know. It was another god.
All the way through the Old Testament we see God charge the Hebrews, His chosen people, with harlotry, adultery, and general unfaithfulness. God, today, could level the same accusations at His church. Isra’el, as a nation, were consistent in one thing only – their active pursuit of other gods. Look at Moses up the mountain and his coming down with the Ten Commandments, only to find that, in his absence, the people had produced a golden calf to worship (see Exodus 32). Or what about in the book of Joshua when the defeat by Ai was found to be because someone had taken articles of significance to other gods from Jericho (see Joshua 7). Or what about in the Book of Judges when a young Levite is lured away from God’s way by the promise of silver, clothing and food and is eventually fooled into wrong thinking by the tribe of Dan, who have lost their inheritance and whose name doesn’t appear in Revelation chapter 7 amongst the tribes of Isra’el sealed as servants of God. The list goes on and on. All God asked from them in return for the promised land and eternal salvation was faithfulness.
And it is the same that He asks of us today. To believe in Y’shua is more than just believing in Him. It is to be faithful to everything that He taught, did and showed us by example. It is to hold to His teachings as if they are all that there is to save our lives (it is true – there is nothing else). It is to accept that He is the total fulfilment of God Himself and that there is nothing to be added to what has already been revealed. He is the fullness of God. And our job is to walk in child-like trust of Him in every aspect of our lives. The moment we start to accept any teaching that isn’t in line with His teaching, words or deeds then we are deceived.
No matter how supernatural something might feel, it doesn’t mean that it is of God. Many will come in His name and deceive even the elect. We are entering the final phase of the Age of the Gentiles. If you look at the New Testament it is clear that deception was rife back then. Use your intelligence to realise that it must be even worse now. The deception is everywhere. People claim to hear God; to prophesy in His name and yet none of what they profess from their mouth holds water in light of the gospel or ever comes to pass. I was told to watch a YouTube video the other day of a woman prophet – the next big thing in the modern church. I was told this by someone whom I respect for their faith. But when I started watching it I quickly realised that it was unbiblical heresy. I couldn’t believe that my friend had been drawn into believing it. There was no substance to anything she said; everything was deliberately vague. And all of it was focused upon money and prosperity. Not what Y’shua taught. Look at the false prophets in the days of Ezekiel or Jeremiah. The punishment reserved for them will visit on today’s false prophets. Those who twist the gospel by taking a single verse of scripture out of context and form doctrines upon it will face God and suffer the consequences. Do not be deceived.
It is time to start taking seriously not only the warnings of Y’shua and His early apostles, but also what the entire Bible says. We need to be faithful to God and to His Word, who is personified in the person of Y’shua. He said:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:31b-32 NIV]
I know one thing that I am certain of – I would rather stick exclusively to what the Bible says than to run the risk of accepting a new gospel or some addendum to scripture on the word of a man, who could like me easily get deceived. If we don’t keep fixed to what the Bible says, who’s to say where that all stops?
The Roman Catholic Church have decided to alter the words of the Bible. In particular the Ten Commandments. This is dangerous. But they have done it in order to add strength to their manmade rituals and practices. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a book that sums up the beliefs and views of the Catholic Church. It was produced for Pope John Paul II, with his blessing and agreement. Check out this link and read the entry. The Catholic Church has removed what is known as the 2nd Commandment –
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God…” [Exodus 20:4-5 NIV]
Read it for yourself. Compare their Ten Commandments to what your Bible says. Of course, they have good reason for removing the 2nd Commandment. They worship idols. That means not only are they themselves deceived, but they are actively deceiving others.
Testing The Spirits
There appears to be much confusion as to what is meant, in practice, to the following verses. I have typed it out in a couple of different translations to highlight the misunderstanding.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” [1 John 4:1-3a NIV]
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” [NJKV]
Firstly, note that there is a clear relationship between spirits and false prophets. False prophets are people; real human beings, but John is explaining that the spirit that is feeding them the prophecies is not of God. Throughout the Old Testament we can see examples of this. They are sometimes called lying prophets.
Note also that John uses the name Jesus Christ. In Aramaic this is Y’shua Mashiyach. This is His true name and it means YHWH is Salvation and this person is the one chosen to bring it about. John also refers to Y’shua as coming in the flesh. Those of you who are familiar with John’s gospel will remember in chapter 1 that he reveals Y’shua as being God’s Word who was there with God at the beginning, as being made into flesh. In other words, everything that God had ever spoken was made into the person of Y’shua. The Word made flesh.
False prophets do not acknowledge that Y’shua is the completion of all that God has said. They want you to believe that God has not finished speaking; that Y’shua coming in the flesh was not the fulfilment that the gospel says it is. They want to convince you there is more – that the signs and wonders that they perform are of God. That there are great mysteries to be revealed. They let you think that they have been made aware of these secrets. They haven’t. They’re lying.
But, if we accept that the Word was made Flesh, then we have to accept that all we need to know about God is revealed in the person of Y’shua. Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse empathises this wonderfully. Read it. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9a). Without that foundation stone, that cornerstone of our faith, we are open to believing anything at all that we hear with our ears or see with our eyes. We have to have a fixed reference point, and that can only be Y’shua.
John is saying that if a prophet is failing to accept that Y’shua is God and His Word in all fullness then the spirit that is influencing the prophet is false. That is the test. If what the prophets says or does is in direct contradiction of anything in the life or person or words or deeds of Y’shua then it is simply not of God.
We know that the Holy Spirit only does or says things that glorify or point us to Y’shua. He has no other remit. Any spirit that doesn’t glorify Y’shua is false.
This is really all about faithfulness and the need to not turn to other gods. We have The God. The I AM. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And His fullness was made into flesh in the person of Y’shua that we might follow His example in staying faithful and not turning aside to other gods.
Today, other gods can take many forms. Of course, Catholics still worship statues and idols. But we have made images of our own to worship. Often that can be found in our lifestyles or some material items that we possess and that we believe will make us look good to others. This is typical fleshy thinking. We need to start living in the spirit and not the flesh. We need to follow in the very footsteps of Y’shua and not let our eyes stray from him like unfaithful spouses. We are engaged to be married to Him. Faithfulness is all that is required.
Learn to test the spirits. They come with people attached. The people aren’t the problem. They don’t even know that they are being influenced in most cases. If what you hear from a prophet or see as any kind of manifestation by their hand doesn’t line up totally in the person of Y’shua, then do not be deceived. The purpose of a false prophet is to get you to turn from the Living God to any other gods.
*= This is based upon Jacob being declared a nation whilst still in the womb. He lived until he was 147 (Genesis 47:28). He was in Egypt for 17 years before he died (Genesis 47:9; 47:28). So that makes 130 years between God declaring Jacob to be the nation of Isra’el and Isra’el going down into Egypt. We also know that the Hebrews were in Egypt for 430 years in total (Exodus 12:41). We know from various historical records that the Exodus from Egypt took place around 1446 BC. We know that Y’shua was born around 4 BC because contemporary records show that King Herod died that year and Y’shua was already born then (Matthew 2:13-15). We also know that Y’shua was crucified in AD 29 (See my Timeline in an earlier post ‘Lost in Translation‘). We need to add in two years to allow for the fact that there was no 0 BC nor AD 0. So that gives us 130+430+1446+2+29 which equals 2037. Whichever way you look at it – solar years or lunar years – it is around two millennia.