Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deception and The Remedy


Unless you take measures to prevent it... that will be the natural thing – the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream...
-Lewis, The Inner Ring

I would apply Lewis' words to the possibility of anyone of us falling prey to deception. Unless we take measures, conscious and continuous, we naturally fall into deception. A wise and discerning disposition comes only by effort; if we take no measures, if we drift with the stream, we will be deceived. Thus, the Bible frequently cautions us to beware, to watch, to watch out, to stay on guard, to keep vigilante. The import is: we are not safe; we should not be lulled into a false sense of security. The import is: "Best safety lies in fear." Or, to paraphrase Spurgeon, "Even when you sleep: remember, you are asleep on a battlefield."

As as apologetic side note, how strange it is that the enemies of Christianity so often accuse us of credulous belief (naive faith). In fact, the Bible, of all books, warns against "just believing," and being too quick to trust.

I. Various Calls to Watch, Take Heed, and Beware

Dt. 4.15, “Watch yourselves very carefully...”

Mk. 12.48, “Beware of the scribes, who love... 1) long clothing (showy dress), 2) salutations in the marketplace (being known, and famous), 3) the best seats (the places of public honor, 4) who devour widow’s houses (merciless), 5) and for a pretense make long prayers (very public displays of godliness).

1 Cor. 10.12, “Therefore, if anyone thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall.”

*The most dangerous position is the defenseless self-satisfied position of total confidence.

Mt .7.15: Beware of false prophets.
Mt. 10.17: Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.
Mt. 16.6: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Lk. 20.46: Beware of the scribes.
2 Peter 3.17: You know these things before; therefore, beware.
*Based on Jesus words: Jesus, “I have told you all things beforehand; therefore, be on guard.”
Phil. 3.2: Beware of Dogs. Beware of evil workers. Beware of the circumcision.

So, 4 words are constantly repeated:

1) Beware
2) Be On Guard
3) Take Heed
4) Watch Self/Others

Putting these words together: the Christian is to have watchful eyes, wide open, with feet in defensive posture, ready and waiting for danger they know will come – they know it will come, but they don’t know when; so, they are always ready. It is not a question of IF, but WHEN. The Christian is not gullible or naive, but wary, cautious, prudent, reserved. Being in a dangerous world, with dangerous enemies – they tread lightly, alertly – wise as a serpent. “For the man who is prepared, there is no emergency.” When false teachers come, the Christian says, “I have been expecting you.”

Silly, Polyanna notions about ‘good people’ lead us to be over-trusting. We gullible because we have an erroneous, optimistic, view of human nature. We need to be more realistic. Cf. Jesus, who did not entrust himself to any man, for he knew what was in the heart of men (John 2.24).

II. Especially, We Should Beware of Men

We think everyone is good; everyone means us well. Not so. We may wish it was so; we may wish for a better world where men can be trusted, a priori, to do the right thing -- but that is not the world we live in. Popular wisdom is, "People are basically good." Popular experience is just the opposite. We can sometimes suppress this reality only because we have little insight into our own, and other's hearts. It's been said, "If we knew what was in our hearts, not one of us would have three friends on the face of the earth."

Jesus knew better than to approach humanity with wishful optimism: He did not entrust himself to ANY man for he knew what was in the heart of men (John 2.24).

Ian H. Murray, The Unresolved Controversy:

Another explanation of the division has to do with difference of opinion over the depth and reality of human depravity. I do not mean that one side denied human sinfulness, but it is possible to have a correct definition of the fall of man and yet act in a way that fails to take sufficient account of Christ’s commandments, “Beware of men (Mt. 10.17)...” I believe the success of the early Graham crusades, and the new evangelical policy, was connected with a failure to give sufficient weight to the warnings of Scripture on human nature (pg. 14).

The words of Ronald Reagan remain ever relevant: “Trust, but (only after first you are able to) verify."

III. Watchfulness v. Skepticism

How is a right watchfulness different from a skeptical, cold, critical bent? I was both skeptical and gullible when I left college. So, obviously, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Being "skeptical" is often warranted. This is different from skepticism (every ISM is bad); skepticism is  a religion, and like all false religions, it both exalts and minimizes the things it worship. When we make too much of a thing, and turn it into a god, we must as a next reflex, make that thing smaller: so small that it can only answer the most limited prayers, and only on certain days. And so, we make our god useless, even for the thing it might have been good at accomplishing. Skepticism thus destroyed the benefit of being skeptical.

The skepticist is not skeptical enough. They are skeptical toward things like Scripture/absolutes, but not skeptical toward the very things they should be most skeptical: other skeptics (like Freud), themselves, and the nature of man. They have an ironically high view of their own reason (the opposite of skeptical thinking), and while they doubt most things, they do not doubt the engine of doubt (their minds), nor doubt itself. Hence, skepticists are not sufficiently skeptical. They are skeptical about in a limited scope, much too narrowly. The main feature of the modern skepticist is not a skeptical bent, but trust – an innocent, naive, childlike trust: Trust in their reasoning; Trust in themselves; Trust in science; Trust in politicians; Trust in "their heart" and whatever ‘their heart’ feels. Primarily, they trust what ought not to be trusted: their own heart, which is "deceitful beyond measure," and other skeptics. They are narrowly skeptical, and thus broadly gullible. They have an ingrained prejudice against truth, and for their own ‘heart.’

A skepticist once asked me, "Can you prove the existence of God by the scientific method?" I responded, "Can you prove the scientific method by the scientific method?" See what I mean? They trusted the scientific method, blindly, and never questioned it. If they had been more skeptical, they would have realized, "You can't prove most things by the scientific method. You can't even prove the scientific method by the scientific method."

IV. The Role Sin Plays

Jonathan Edwards, From A Spiritual Understanding Denied, On why the nature of man is not receptive to spiritual understanding:

It is from the blinding and deceitful nature of sin. The nature of sin is to blind and deceive; it is the spawn and offspring of the devil, the great deceiver, who makes it his whole business to decive. Deceit is the foundation of sin; it was throught deceit that that it was first brought into the world, and by deceit is it kept up and maintained in the world; and by sin is deceit kept up in the world: deceit is the very nature, root, stock, and branch of sin. There is nothing pertaining to sin but what would immediately fall the the ground if deceit was removed, so essential is deceit to sin. Deceit and sin live together and perish and die together. Sin, when it has got possession of the soul, immediately beclouds and bewilders it and fills it with darkness; fills it with a thousand false imaginations and conceptions, many senseless dreams and ridiculous apprehensions; makes men fools and sots and mad; makes men think that they can find happiness in earthly things; makes them think that silver is better than God himself; makes them imagine that seventy years’ happiness now is better than an eternity of happiness hereafter; makes them think that escaping eternal damnation is not worth the seeking for, nor everlasting happiness in heaven worth the praying for; makes them think that they shall be great gainers if they can get two or three thousands pounds, and lose themselves forever to pay for it; such senseless imaginations and dreams as these doth sin fill the mind with. It bewitches and strangely charms and bewilders men, fills their eyes with smoke and stops their ears, and fills their souls with a thousand confusions. Wherefore ‘tis no wonder that those cannot understand spiritual things, who have this deceitful thing remaining in their hearts (Heb. 3.13).”

cf. Jesus very logical question, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul (Mk. 8.36)?”

V. Two Basic Problems: Underestimating/Overestimating

Sun Tzu famously said, "All warfare is based on deception." He approached warfare with a realistic and wizened perspective. Several things that he says about national war apply to spiritual war.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.
The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.

Two basic problems, and probably the two chief reasons we are not more watchful. are: 1) We underestimate our enemy; 2) We overestimate ourselves.

We underestimate our enemy; instead of, as Shakespeare counseled, "In cases of defense it is best to weigh the enemy more might than he seems."

Consider our adversary, the Evil One. He is more advanced in theological knowledge than we are. He has been tempting humans for thousands of years. He succeeded in engineering the downfall of our morally spotless parents. We should not "fear" anything beside God, but this is an enemy we should respect.

We overestimate ourselves: we assume we are smarter and wiser and stronger than we are. Thus, we put ourselves in situations where we are sure to be deceived. Let's rephrase Shakespeare, "In case of defense, it is best to reckon ourselves less might than we think." We should FLEE temptation (flight, not fight: 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11). Why? Because we don't trust ourselves. We're not that strong.

GK Chesterton: In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment (Orthodoxy, 126).

VI. Remedies For Deception

1. Take Care

Hebrews 3.12-13, Take care... lest evil, unbelieving heart... (cf. Gen. 2.15: keep the garden: guard it diligently).

Carefulness over our heart! (cf. 1 Tim. "Keep a close watch over your life and doctrine). We should watch ourselves, first. That is our first priority. If we are drowning, we won't be much help to other swimmers.

Many start well in Christian life, then slacken in devotion, confession, watchfulness. They don’t take as great a care as they once did about the things of God. They become comfortable, proud; they think they have advanced to a level of godliness that cannot be assailed. Some, who looked to be very promising Christians in youth, turn into bitter religious hypocrites in old age.

For an illustration of the measures a watchful and wise person goes to, see the story of Rudy Tomjonavich: He attended Church 2 x on Sunday, and AA every day.

Be alert (Acts 20.28); Be Watchful (Acts 20.31).

2. Christian Community

Exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today = Constant, daily exhortation from our Christian (Hebrews 3.13).

Not just occasional, bi-monthly exhortation, but daily. Many do well in a Christian fellowship; they excel; they find holiness very natural. Then, they move to another city, or become busy with work, and their life starts to fall apart.

True, Church Elders are responsible to keep watch over us as those who must give an account (Hebrews 13; Acts 20.28) -- but, have we submitted ourselves to Elders? Do we let them know what is going on in our life? Further, it is the duty of every Christian to watch (after themselves) their brothers and sisters, but it is the duty of Elders to watch the flock as the responsible shepherds who take special interest in the good of the flock.

So, watch yourselves. Make sure, and encourage encourage others to watch you.

The only way this is possible: a living, loving Christian community. Christians were not made for isolation. They perish when alone. It is not good for man to be alone – especially sinful man who still has to contend with evil, unbelieving heart, and the deceitfulness of sin.

3. Recognize You Have Brutal Enemy

1 Peter 5.8, Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion hunting someone to devour.

Thus, we should be serious, sober-minded, and grave. The ‘hunted’ do not take life as a joke. We are the hunted. We must stay vigilante and serious about life and the consequences of our actions. Satan is seeking someone to devour. Thus, we should ‘be on guard’ – our adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion – seeking, always seeking – someone to pounce on and eat alive.

Be on guard against Satan and his false teachers (Mt. 24.22ff, ‘Be on guard. I have told you all things beforehand; 1 Peter 5, ‘be on guard...”). Beware (Mt. 7.15).

4. Take Life Seriously

Many treat life like a game. Nothing is serious, important, or consequential to them. We should, instead, be sober-minded (1 Peter 5.8): cf. B.B. Warfield on the decline of a serious outlook in “Religious Life Of Theological Students."

5. Do Not Automatically Trust Ourselves, Or Our Reasoning

Joshua 9.22: Why did you deceive us...

In the Gibeonite Deception, the Israelites trusted their eyes, and senses. They judged the book by the cover. The only looked on the surface: we can’t trust our 5 senses.

Watson: Do you suspect anyone?
Holmes: I suspect myself of coming to conclusions too quickly.

Good decisions require TIME + THOUGHT + COUNSEL + OBSERVATION, and most importantly:

SEEKING GOD. Ask counsel of the Lord; do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3). Leaning on our own understanding will get us deceived.

6. Avoid Deceptive People

Psalm 101.7, David, as King, purposes, "No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. Morning by morning, I will destroy all the wicked in the land."

Pr. 12.17-20: Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit...Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy...lying lips are an abomination to the Lord (on abomination see Leviticus) (cf. also Pr. 13.5).

Deception is the mark of the Kingdom of Satan; truth is the mark of the Kingdom of God.

7. Know Your Heart Is A Master Liar

Jeremiah 17.9: The heart is deceitful above all measure, and desperately wicked, who can know it?

Mk. 7.22: from within, out of the heart of man, comes... deceit, sensuality, envy, slander...

8. Know Riches Are Master Liars

Mt. 13.22 (Mk. 4.19): deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

One way riches are deceitful: they seduce us into false certainty and security – but they cannot deliver on what they seem to promise (1 Timothy 6.17, ‘set hope on uncertain riches’’ Psalm 62.10, ‘If riches increase, set not your heart on them;’ Lk. 12.13, ‘you have ample good laid up for many years...’).

Riches cannot deliver from death; you can’t bribe death (see Psalm 49).

9. Consider: deceitfulness is a sin, but all sin is deceitful

Deceitfulness is a judgment for idolatry: Rm. 1.29: Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up...They were filled... They are full of strife, deceit, maliciousness...

Being given to deception is the result of an atheistic and willful forgetfulness of God. Thus, being deceived is a punishment for sin.

Rm. 7.11: Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me (allusion to Genesis 3.13) and through it, killed me.

The commandment, all by itself, is powerless to stop sin; rather, it is the unwilling accomplice to sin’s deceitful design. Sin + law = a deadly dynamic duo.

10. Be Aware of Satan's Schemes:

2 Cor. 11.3: But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

cf. 1 Cor. 5: We are not unaware of his schemes; Paul kept on guard for the strategies of Satan; he read his playbook.

Deceived by CUNNING: the evil one is cunning (Gen. 3.1, ‘more cunning than any other animal.’)

“... the snake was indeed shrewd. He told no outright lies, merely highly suggestive half-truths. At face value they contradicted God’s warnings about the inevitability of death, but at a deeper level the latter was vindicated (Wenham, Comment on Genesis 3.1, pg. 74-75).”

Wenham notes that the evil one uses double-entendre.

2 Cor. 11.13: Deceitful workmen... disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also dsiguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

*One tactic of deceit is disguise: pretend to be something you are not – pretend to be something nice; pretend to be a friend; pretend to be a shepherd.

Mt. 7.15, Beware of false prophets who will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

Jesus, “Beware of false prophets... (7.15)... Be on guard (Mt. 24.22ff)...”

Trust by verify. Don’t be gullible. We will know them by their fruits (Jesus repeats this twice; 7.16, 20). Thus, we should pay more attention to how they live than what they say. These guys look like sheep, but inwardly... if you just trust the image, the impression – you will be deceived.

Titus 1.10

(false teachers from cirumcision group)... empty talkers and deceivers

Hb. 3.12-13

Take care, brothers, lest their be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart causing you to fall away from the living God. Exhort one another daily that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Jms. 1.22

deceiving yourself
Jms. 1.27

he deceives himself

1 Pt. 2.1
put away all malice and deceit
1 Pt. 2.22
no deceit was found in his mouth

1 Jn. 1.8

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us

2 Jn. 1.7

deceiver and anti-christ... for many deceivers have gone out...
Rv. 12.9

the deceiver of the world

cf. Ga. 6.3 and James 1.22, “deceiving yourselves...” – those who are ‘only hearers (not doers)’ are engaged in self-deception.

6.3: he deceives himself (lie to yourself so long you believe your own lies).

6.7: do not be deceived, God is not mocked...


Jeremiah 17.9: The heart is deceitful above all measure, and desperately wicked, who can know it.

Heart: mission control of the human life; the internal life of a man that no one sees; the controling factor and deciding agent. The source, the fountain, from which our whole life flows.

two things about heart: deceitful and wicked

deceitful above all measure: deceitful beyond measuring; you can’t even begin to measure the lengths of deceitfulness (but where sin increased, grace flooded world).

desperately wicked: not just wicked, but hopelessly, terribly, horribly wicked.

*This is a description of total depravity; depravity has influenced us at the core – not just a few external factors – not just our thinking every now and then, or our actions when we are not ‘at our best’ – the root has been smitten with worms; the source has been polluted.

You don’t know your heart and your don’t know yourself until you know that you don’t know. We are like blind men trying to look at ourselves in a mirror in the dead of night in the recesses of a deep cave. Our first problem is, then, that we think we know – we think we are ‘fool-proof.’ But such flattery is only proof that we are fools. We flatter ourselves with high opinions of our goodness, our wisdom, our high-minded self-knowledge. Such flattery is the ultimate proof that we are naive. There is an arrogant self-deception that masquerades as confidence. It is comical in a macabre sort of way: the sublimely confident man who has been hoodwinked.

GK Chesterton: In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment (Orthodoxy, 126).

You don’t know yourself. You don’t know your own heart.

This feature of self-deception which we have to contend with is proof of just how desperately twisted and confusing the human heart is. A step toward wisdom is to know this about ourselves, and labor to prevent the certain self-deception that will happen if we remain idle and passive. We have to labor not to be deceived; this is why the Bible commands, “Do not be deceived.” It commands it because we are very easily deceived. We have to take positive and violent steps to overcome self-deception. We, like the blind man in the cave need to be taken by the arm, given sight, and shown the true picture of ourselves. The Word of God is the only hope for the blind man in a cave. It is the only light, the only objective and true source of clear light about who we really are and who we really need to be.

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