Archive for the ‘Deception’ Category

Deception 12

November 20, 2016

II Cor 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

False teachers do in their hearts dignify, and in their words magnify, extol, and exhort with legal arguments a preposterous sanctification, repentance, mortification, grace, and graces, popishly and falsely understood; new life, holy and righteous walking, universal obedience to all God’s commandments, sincerity, humiliation, uprightness, fastings, regeneration, popishly also and falsely understood; and such like works exhorted with legal arguments, or a hope of rewards and blessings well, if we do them; and with fear of punishments and blessings ill, if we possess them not; which how much the more they are thus preposterously exacted and legally exhorted, so much the more under terms and titles of the Gospel, such preachers teach but the light of nature, the pride of works, and the vain glory of man; and so do withdraw people from Christ to hang upon their own works and doings; by resting upon the popish rotten pillar that God accepts {whereby their own sincerity is trusted to instead of Christ} the will for the deed, and so do drown Christ’s glory, free justification; do destroy faith, waste and consume the Church of Christ, teach a false bastard sanctification, and are those dangerous seducers of souls, that the faithful are commanded {as they will continue chaste virgins to Christ, and not to be beguiled with Eve by the subtlety of the serpent, and seduced from the simplicity of their faith that is in Christ} to discern and take notice of, as they are described; {II Cor.11:13-15;} where the Apostle fore-warns and thereby sufficiently fore-arms all the children of wisdom by thus plainly describing these seducers.

They profess themselves apostles; that is, sent forth of God; but they are false apostles, and they are great workers, but deceitful workers. How deceitful? Transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; that is, as if they were the true ministers of Christ, and taught the true Gospel of Christ; and no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into a messenger of light, and therefore it is no great thing if his ministers transform themselves, as though they were the ministers of righteousness; that is, calling earnestly for all works of righteousness, and their end shall be according to their works and righteousness; that is, though they seem to be the principal men that shall be saved, yet the same Apostle threatens to them certain destruction; which he warns on purpose that we may not believe every spirit, but rather try the spirits whether they be of God. {I Jn.4:1}

Seeing these are the wolves whereof Paul gave warning, {Acts 20:29, 30,} that should arise up out of the very midst of them, and should teach not seeming false things, but only preposterous things, or true things out of order, setting the cart before the horse; that is, caring more to call for works and a good life, than they care whether the people have assurance of the sound faith of their free and perfect justification; whereby, although the people bear them record, and applaud them, that they have the zeal of God; yet it is not according to the knowledge of free justification in Christ, because {by a carnal understanding of justification} they being ignorant of the righteousness of God, must needs go about to establish and set up the golden calf of their own and the people’s own righteousness, of their supposed sanctification, works, and well doings; and by thinking secretly in their heart with the Papist that justification is easily learned and is ready to open the gate to the people to live wickedly and loosely, they seldom and slightly preach justification, and thereby show that they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God (Rom.10:2,3). (John Eaton, Discovery of a most Dangerous Dead Faith, 1641)

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Deception 11

November 17, 2016

Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity of careless indifference…Many are deceived by mistaking the mere dictates of the understanding for the gracious affections of the heart. This class of persons may be distinguished by the correctness of their sentiments and their opposition to error. Early instructed in the principles of christianity, their minds have become stored with evangelical truth, and they will, perhaps, even “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The doctrines of entire depravity, of a vicarious atonement, of justification by faith, of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and of an eternal state of retribution, have their unqualified assent, and constitute most essential articles in their creed. It may be that their speculative acquaintance with these doctrines is superior to that of many humble believers, and instances are not wanting in which unsanctified men have written in defence of doctrines with great ability and effect. (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

Since deception of the soul is spread throughout the professing Church, it would be vital for each local church to remind people of these things and to help people search their own hearts. It would also be vital for each person to engage in self-examination as Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5. We can know with certainty that Paul did not engage in statements like that for no reason, but that he thought that people should examine themselves. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were faithful in their attendance at church. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they read the Bible and said prayers more often than not. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they had joined a church. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were doctrinally correct. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were moral.

What Paul said that they should do is to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith and to see if Jesus Christ was in them. Here is the real issue and all else can contribute to self-deception. All the things listed in the previous paragraph can be used as self-deception, but the real issue is whether Christ dwells in the person or not. Being religious, and even religious to the extreme, can be a way of self-deception. Religious exercises can be ways of self-deception. What we must know is if Christ really and actually lives in us or not.

What is clear or should be clear is that many are deceived by the information they have in their heads. Paul also taught us that knowledge puffs up, so great amounts of religious information can puff us up as well. The soul that is puffed up is also a soul that is blinded by being puffed up. Pride does lead to a fall and the more pride the greater the fall. The soul that is puffed up with religious information and religious activity is the soul that is deceived and will be in for a great shock on judgment day. It is utterly no evidence at all that a person has a lot of information about Christianity stocked in the brain, but what is needed is Christ in the heart.

This is so vital. It is not that having a creed is wrong or that teaching a catechism is wrong, but when people learn those things and only store up the information in the brain and do not have a changed heart, that very information can be a way of self-deception. Some of the Dutch branches of the professing Church are required to teach through the Heidelberg every year. That may or may not be a good plan, but those things do not in and of themselves produce spiritual fruit. They can be ways of puffing up the soul with pride as any other method. It is not the information that we have in our heads, it is the Christ we must have as the life of our soul. While knowledge of Scripture is important, it may only be used as a way of self-deception if we don’t have Christ truly.

Deception 10

November 16, 2016

Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity of careless indifference…Many are deceived by mistaking the mere dictates of the understanding for the gracious affections of the heart. This class of persons may be distinguished by the correctness of their sentiments and their opposition to error. Early instructed in the principles of christianity, their minds have become stored with evangelical truth, and they will, perhaps, even “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The doctrines of entire depravity, of a vicarious atonement, of justification by faith, of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and of an eternal state of retribution, have their unqualified assent, and constitute most essential articles in their creed. It may be that their speculative acquaintance with these doctrines is superior to that of many humble believers, and instances are not wanting in which unsanctified men have written in defence of doctrines with great ability and effect. (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

It would stand to reason that if nothing was more common and nothing more fatal than self-deception, then people would be very, very concerned if not approaching panic as they searched their own hearts. We know that if people contracted a disease that would kill their bodies (natural life) and it was common and fatal, then these people would go to extreme lengths not to contract that disease. However, if people had any spiritual concerns you would think that the knowledge that so many people were self-deceived regarding eternal things it would awaken even greater alarm. The truth of the matter, however, is that people are dead or fast asleep regarding spiritual things and so this great calamity does not even seem to disturb them.

We must pray and seek the Lord to open our eyes to the facts of the matter. Jesus was very clear in Matthew 7 that many had entered the wide gate and are on the broad road to destruction, but only few had entered through the narrow gate and were on the narrow road that led to life. This should drive us to the conclusion that perhaps even the vast majority of those who attend religious services and think that they are on the road to heaven are in fact on the road to everlasting destruction. This means that perhaps many of our own families and friends and those we attend “church” with are self-deceived. Even more, it may mean that “I” am self-deceived. Our hearts that are so sure about “me” and those around “me” need to realize that the vast majority on that broad road may indeed have the same self-confidence.

The biblical teaching on the depravity of man has much to teach us on this point. Because men are fallen and depraved, they are blinded to spiritual things and don’t see themselves as sinners or at least as very bad ones. They think of themselves as those who make mistakes or make choices that are not the best, but they don’t see themselves as vile, wretched, and obnoxious in the sight of God. They are blinded by pride and self and cannot see their evil nature. They are puffed up with pride which serves as blinders on the eyes to sin and anything which might humble a person.

As the body has reflexes that allow the body to escape harm in certain situations, so the soul is full of self which blinds it from perceived harm. The self simply cannot imagine that it deserves hell and that it deserves hell. The religious person uses religion to convince it that it is okay. The religious person will trust in its creeds and in its religion and morality to convince itself that it is okay. Even those who are orthodox in their external religion have false views of Christianity that blinds them to the reality of Christ. It is not the orthodox teaching of Christ that saves. It is not the orthodox teaching about the Gospel that saves. It is not the faith of the sinner that saves. It is God in Christ by the Spirit who saves. It is God who must really and actually shine Himself and His glory into the hearts of sinners and sinners will only behold that in the face (presence) of Christ. It is not the teaching about regeneration that gives a new heart; it is the Holy Spirit who must actually give a new heart. We must seek the Lord to open our eyes and hearts in fact and reality and not just hear about it.

Deception 9

November 15, 2016

Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity of careless indifference…Many are deceived by mistaking the mere dictates of the understanding for the gracious affections of the heart. This class of persons may be distinguished by the correctness of their sentiments and their opposition to error. Early instructed in the principles of christianity, their minds have become stored with evangelical truth, and they will, perhaps, even “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The doctrines of entire depravity, of a vicarious atonement, of justification by faith, of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and of an eternal state of retribution, have their unqualified assent, and constitute most essential articles in their creed. It may be that their speculative acquaintance with these doctrines is superior to that of many humble believers, and instances are not wanting in which unsanctified men have written in defence of doctrines with great ability and effect. (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

Once again the quote from a man who was quite famous in his own day and to some degree an experienced minister and evangelist hits with power. Could it be that a day (at least in appearance) that was far better in terms of Christianity could still have said about it that “Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception” and that have nothing to do with us? Was self-deception really a common thing in the 1800’s? Is it common in our day as well?

When we view things from the eternal perspective, being ruined is not just losing all of our financial resources or personal property, it is our soul being lost and ruined for eternity. This type of “lostness” means that our soul would never know the slightest joy again as it would be under the wrath of God. This means that there is nothing of more importance than seeking the Lord and having Him find us. It means that should give our whole beings and efforts at seeking the Lord that we would not be deceived. It means that many (even multitudes) around us are deceived and that of those who are orthodox, conservative, and quite moral. It means that perhaps many in our churches are deceived.

If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing among even the most religious people to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing for ministers to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing for committed church people and those around “me” to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then when little or nothing is said about it then myriads of people will remain in their self-deception. Those who are deceived need to see that they are deceived and how they are deceived.

When Helffenstein says that there is a great number of people who are ruined by false views of religion, he is not speaking of intellectual views or doctrines alone. He is speaking of the nature of the heart. People are ruined by false doctrines, yes, but many are also ruined by trusting in true doctrines and not taking into account what it means to have a changed heart. It does no good to have perfect doctrine (in an academic sense) if our hearts are not changed by the free-grace of God.

It does no good to have perfect church order if the hearts of the people are not changed by the free-grace of God. It does no good to focus on the externals when the souls of people are fast asleep in the grips of self-deception. They are asleep to the idea that they are dead in their sins and so they go on in their false views and false hearts while listening to orthodox sermons in an orthodox church. They are not saved by their Reformed denomination and their Reformed doctrines. Christ alone can save sinners and it is not the intellectual doctrine that saves. It is the true Christ who truly saves. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

Deception 8

November 14, 2016

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)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

Throughout the Old Testament it appears that many were deceived about the nature of true religion. The nation of Israel would fall over and over into sin and idolatry and did not appear to know that it was wicked and sinful. The nation of Israel (as a whole) was quite deceived when the people continually appeared to think that when they did their external duties that God was pleased. The natural and fleshly heart appears to be captured into the bondage of thinking that external duties pleased God even when the heart was given over to idols. They were deceived by their own hearts, the lusts of their own deceit, and those who tried to deceive them. Whatever else one can attribute their falling from the true way to, they were deceived.

In the New Testament we see how deceived that the Pharisees were. They were in bondage to a system of thought that appeared to them as orthodoxy and they held on to that tenaciously even when Jesus demonstrated that system to be false. The Pharisees were also in bondage to a religious system that had them trusting in their own works and righteousness. The Old Testament people were deceived by true religion and the New Testament people were deceived in many ways by what was true religion. After all, the religious leaders in both Testaments built their beliefs from the Bible, or at least they thought they did.

“There are many people in both evangelical and reformed churches today who are self-deceived.” This statement, if true, is a statement that should shake people to the very depths of their souls. I would argue that it is quite evident and cannot possibly be false, though there may be room for disagreement on the extent of this self-deception. If Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans were right about the true nature of justification by grace alone through faith alone, then very few are hearing the Gospel today. If it is a fact as Luther and Calvin asserted that the church rises and falls on what it believes about justification, then there has been a huge fall in our day.

Even when the confessions are orthodox, the Gospel may not be preached. Even if the ministers are orthodox that is no guarantee that they are preaching the Gospel. When the leaders and ministers of denominations and churches are deceived themselves, regardless of their sincerity they are not preaching the true Gospel and as such the deceived have become deceivers. John Warwick Montgomery wrote a book by the name of “Damned through the Church.” That certainly appears to be happening today, though we might think of it as “Deceived through the Church.” Practicing the externals of a version of Christianity does not guarantee that those practitioners are indeed Christians, but perhaps may just be evidence that the people are deceived.

The weight of the quotes above (of Scripture and the human authors) must be taken seriously, yet if they are taken seriously then we may arrive at the conclusion that the things of religion can be used to deceive people as well as enlighten them. The teaching of the Bible is that God alone can enlighten and illuminate the understandings of people. When people read the Bible or preach without that illumination, therefore, they may be preaching and teaching in a way that deceives people. This should cause us to seek the Lord for humility in all the religious things we do. It is not enough to do the things that religion requires as God alone can give us new hearts and love in those new hearts to do the things of Christ out of love for Him, which is to say that they are not just our works but that they are our lives. Christ is to be each person’s life and not just be imitated. He cannot be imitated in truth until He is our life.

Deception 7

November 11, 2016

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)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

It is hard to imagine the depth of the disappointment of those who run for high office and do not get it. Far worse, however, is trying to imagine the depths of despair in the soul that thought it was on the road to life and yet lifted up the eyes in hell. We cannot imagine the depths of despair of the soul that lifted up its eyes in hell and the stark realization that it was there for eternity. That soul would with the greatest of horror realize that it had been deceived. It would remember all the deception of the people who deceived him or her with heresy about God and the awful deceptions of sin. The soul that lifts up its eyes in hell will know as it is known, which is to say that God will open the eyes of that poor soul and show it how utterly despicable it is in His sight.

The soul that lifts up its eyes in hell will know with utter horror that it was not only deceived by sin and by others, but it was self-deceived. This soul, in the light of God showing it the truth about itself, will see how it was deceived by its own pride and self-love. This soul will see that it wanted to blind itself and it wanted to be deceived. This soul will sink into the depths of despair and it will have utterly no hope as it recognizes that it was deceived, but it was also self-deceived. While God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of His people, He will open the eyes of sinners to their own sin and their own guilt and they will weep and gnash their teeth at the sight of their own filthy souls.

Let us not think of deception as in intellectual topic alone. This deception is very, very real and it has eternal consequences. We cannot approach this as just another topic with the goal of scratching our intellectual itches. Every soul on this planet is being deceived to some degree or another and all unbelievers live in a state of perpetual deception. They are being perpetually deceived by their religion, their preachers, their sins, and their own hearts. Yes, they are deceived by Satan. Their wicked hearts are also hardened by God and they are turned over to sin and that is also being turned over to a deceptive heart as well.

In an effort to be as clear as I can be, which is still not going to be very clear at all if anyone is deceived, the professing Church and the professing ministry of our day is being used to deceive sinners. This is not to say that each and every local church and that each and every minister is an agent of deception to eternal souls, but it is to say that this vast deception is spread very widely throughout our land. The professing Church is asleep and is content to give nice little lectures or nice little talks about what it thinks is the gospel, but it is not. The people in the pews are being deceived by those nice little talks and the little speeches that pump them up to go out and evangelize, though indeed the Gospel is going begging.

The people in the pews strive for an outward form of holiness by the strength of their flesh and they may even strive to control their thoughts and desires by the strength of the flesh. Religion will save no one though it is being used to deceive multitudes into the pit of hell. All of the nice little religious stories and holidays are being used to deceive people into thinking that they are surely converted, but that deception leads to a great fall. We must plead for the Lord to remove the scales from our eyes and give us a true sense of the weight of eternity. We must plead with the Lord not to give us hardness of heart but to give us a true desire for Him and the true Gospel. We must plead with the Lord to show us the reality (truth) that will pierce the clouds of our deceptions. We must plead with the Lord to show us our inability to do one spiritual thing apart from His grace. Deception is a horrible thing when our religion (even true religion in the sense of the theology of it) is being used to blind and deceive us.

Deception 6

November 10, 2016

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)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us that there would be many on the broad road and but few would enter the narrow gate and be on the narrow road. This should teach us that perhaps the road of religious duties and morality which are obtained by self-effort and can be done simply by the pride of the heart may not in fact be the way that leads to life. If there are so many on that broad road and they believe that they are on the road to life, then that alone should teach us that many, many religious people are deceived. Their minds are on what they think are heavenly things and yet it is coming from the evil one by way of their own fleshly desires of the flesh and mind.

If this analysis is correct, and I am not sure how it can be far from wrong if we take in the biblical witness, then the professing churches are full of professing believers who are on the broad path to destruction. It appears that professing preachers (even conservative ones) are more interested in getting people to make professions, get them baptized, and then on the church rolls than they are true conversions. It may be that the professing preachers are deceived themselves as to what true conversion is, but the end result is the same. People are talked into making a profession and joining the church and by that they think they are converted.

Jesus said that a person must be born from above to enter the kingdom. Professing preachers tell us that people must make a wise choice or walk the aisle or sign a card to enter the kingdom. There is a huge confusion between the visible church and the nature of the true Church. It seems to be an underlying thought, whether one states that as a belief or not, that joining a local church makes one a member of the true Church (the body of Christ). While people may accept it as true that one is not necessarily a true believer if one is a member of a local church, they still have that concept in their hearts. Church membership can be a dangerous thing unless it is approached and practiced with great care, and we can see that if we take the above quotes, verses, and the Sermon on the Mount seriously.

We simply must take these things to heart. The devil himself uses religion to deceive people regarding their eternal destinies. The devil himself will use preaching to soothe people into staying on the broad road that leads to destruction. The devil himself will use an orthodox creed to deceive people into thinking that they believe in Christ and His truth. The devil himself will use religious rites (even if true) to deceive people into thinking that they have Christ. The devil can use strict moralism to deceive people into thinking that they are holy. The devil can use outwardly good things to convince people that they have true love in their hearts. The devil is the master of deception and he can and does use anything to keep people from Christ. He will even use the truths of Christ to deceive people into thinking that they have Christ. There are many, many conservative Christian people in name who are deceived and on their way to hell and they are clueless to that.

Deception 5

November 9, 2016

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)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

We live in a world that is far different than our senses tell us. We are attacked and set on by deceptions from all places, even in our own hearts and minds. While men and women go on glibly living what they think of as good lives and even as religious lives, they are under a great deception. People speak of the “good” that they are doing, as indeed they think of it as good, and are completely unaware that they are not following Christ. They are doing nothing but what comes from the self and their own pride.

As noted in the second quote above, the most deceived person is one who thinks that s/he is under the influence and even power of the Holy Spirit and yet that person is really under the power of the evil spirit. The evil spirit is not opposed to working with morality and religion in order to deceive people by that, and indeed he does seem to deceive a lot of people by it. The evil spirit does not seem opposed to and perhaps even works through professing churches and even professing preaching. It would seem that gullible people who are deceived are deceived even more by the religion they are practicing and the “preaching” that they are hearing.

We can easily see the great dangers of attending a place where a conservative religion is taught and a conservative morality is taught and yet the Gospel of free-grace alone is not taught in reality. It may be that this place will teach and preach what they think is justification by faith alone, but the content of that preaching and teaching is quite far removed from what the Reformers taught and of what the Bible teaches. Those who were involved in that would think that the Holy Spirit was moving and teaching and yet it could be nothing more than the evil spirit deceiving. This is perhaps more common than we think. After all, the Pharisees were very religious and they were conservative. The Pharisees were very moral and even strictly moral. However, despite all of their orthodoxy and despite all of their seeming holiness, they were the enemies of God and were very deceived.

Paul told us very clearly that we were to examine ourselves to see if Christ was indeed in us. He did not ask people if they had prayed a prayer or walked down the aisle, he asked them to see if Christ was in them. He did not ask people if they believed some facts, he told them to examine themselves to see if Christ was in them. He did not ask them how often they attended church or how often they read the Scriptures and prayed, he asked them if they had examined themselves to see if Christ was in them. People can do all of the outward things and do them strictly and do them well (in a sense), but they can do them in the power of the flesh rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. How utterly deceptive it is to think that we are so religious and so prepared for eternity when the very things we trust in are being used to deceive us.

Deception 4

November 8, 2016

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!

Deception 3

November 7, 2016

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,

As human beings we are fallen and as such we tend to look at things from a fallen perspective, which is to say that we look at things from our own self-absorbed and self-centered perspective. We think of things as good if they bring good to us and bad if they make us uncomfortable or bring what we think of as bad to us. A religious person can think very highly of self and yet be deceived about the nature of pride and sin. When we think of religion in terms of the Pharisees, it is clear that their wicked hearts used religion to deceive themselves.

We have to fight our own hearts and keep the true issues of depravity before our own eyes. The true issue of depravity is not just acting in an immoral way in the externals, but it has to do with pride and self. The heart that is controlled and driven by self and pride (whether those things are recognized or not) and be very sinful externally or very religious externally. The very pride and self that will drive one person to external sin will drive another to religion. Jesus Christ did not come to save the righteous, He came to save sinners. This is to say that He not only did He come to save sinners, He came to save sinners that He reveals the truth of God to them and makes them feel the weight and burden of sin. A person that is very religious but has never been deeply convicted of sin by the Spirit and broken from pride and self is simply a religious person.

A proud person is an unconverted person whether that person is very religious or an open sinner. The pride is the problem in either case and both ways of living for self is still living for self. The Great Command is to love God with all of our beings, but self is what we live for and our pride blinds us to that until God works in the heart to deliver us from that pride (not completely of course) and give Christ as our life. It is Christ who must be our life or all things will come from that hideous and idolatrous self. Instead of having the love of God in us through Christ by the Spirit, the proud heart full of self will do all it does out of love for self.

In other words, as the quote above says, “quite simply, they are religious people who are on their way to hell and they do not realize it.” This is a profound statement and yet one that if read would still be ignored. If we think through this statement even for a moment, it is precisely the same thing that the Pharisees did. They were very religious men who were on their way to hell and they did not realize it. Their proud hearts used their religion to blind them and deceive themselves. Pastors and preachers and seminary professors can use their knowledge of religion to blind themselves to the truth of religion. Paul tells us ( I Cor 8) that knowledge makes arrogant or knowledge puffs up. The more a person knows about Christianity the prouder that person gets whether that person has a lot of external or even natural humility or not. Religion, even the externals of Christianity, blinds people to the truth and is used to deceive. The religion about Christ cannot save, only Christ Himself can save. We must learn this distinction or we will be deceived.