Deception 4

There are many people in both evangelical and reformed churches today who are self-deceived. This self-deception is at the deepest level and in the most important area of life—their eternal soul. The people I am talking about are not the open hypocrites, but those who seem to be very religious. They may be church members, some of the most regular attendees, elders, and even pastors. These are people who, by outward appearance, seem to be godly, but they are not genuinely converted. They have never been deeply convicted of their sins or humbled in any way; their pride has not been broken, nor have they submitted to the true demands of the gospel. Quite simply, they are religious people who are on their way to hell and they do not realize it (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein, from the Intro by William C. Nichols)

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.

Ephesians 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

The horrors of the souls that wake up in hell cannot be expressed by words. It is one thing for us to think of souls lifting up their eyes in hell and because of their open hatred of God they are not surprised, but imagine the souls that lift up their eyes in hell and they were greatly deceived. Imagine the surprise and anguish of souls in hell when they realize that their very religion itself deceived them. Imagine the utter shock of preachers and seminary professors when they realize that the religion that they spoke eloquently on in fact was nothing but the externals of religion and that their very knowledge puffed up their hearts and blinded them.

We live in a day where it seems that true and living Christianity has virtually disappeared. The life of Christ in His people has now been replaced with intellectualism, rationalism, outward morality, and religious rites. This includes both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. This includes what we think of as Arminianism and Calvinism. The Scriptures do not tell us that unless a person is religious that person will perish, but that unless a person is truly converted that person will perish. The Scriptures do not tell us that unless a person has the right religion that the person cannot enter the kingdom, but that a person must be born from above (again) to enter the kingdom.

A little prayer is not enough to enter the kingdom. A nod of the head is not enough to enter the kingdom. A religious profession is not enough to enter the kingdom. An outward repentance is not enough to enter the kingdom. A walk up the aisle is not enough to enter the kingdom. Adherence to a confession of faith, even if it is orthodox, is not enough to enter the kingdom. Being sober and moral is not enough to enter the kingdom. A good citizen doing a lot of good works (in appearance) is not enough to enter the kingdom. Good theology is not enough to enter the kingdom. Being a popular preacher and even a good preacher is not enough to enter the kingdom. Helping children and helping older people is not enough to enter the kingdom.

The Scriptures, though they can be twisted to a person’s destruction, are quite clear and they teach us that there is nothing that a sinner can do that can contribute to his or her salvation. Anything else is a deceptive teaching. The Gospel is a Gospel of grace alone and that means no works contribute to salvation at all. But here is where the deception enters. We are told that we must do certain things to be saved, though indeed the sermon continues on to say that it is by grace alone, but legalism (in this sense) creeps in when we are told what we must do in order for grace to come to us. It is not that we must come up with faith on our own so that God will save us, but quite the opposite. We must have God regenerate us and give us faith so that we will have faith.

It is also true that faith must work, but the deception is so sneaky at this point. We think that we believe something and then we have works so we are saved. What we must know, however, is that faith always looks to Christ rather than self and rather than works. It is true that true faith in Christ (also Christ in the believer) will produce good works, but what that really means is that Christ in us will produce fruit. We cannot have works of the flesh as a result of a belief we have and think of that as true faith. Deception abounds and appears to be in many professing churches. We must beware!

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