The Fruits of Deception
In last week’s teaching, we looked at three basic sources of deception: our humanity (the lust of the flesh), our prosperity (the lust of the eyes), and our philosophy (the pride of life). We’re warned in I John 2:16 and 17 that these things are not of the Father but pertain to the world and are only temporary. The body with its desires will pass away, but those who do the will of the Father will abide forever. The warning is clear.
But what if we don’t heed this warning? What will happen? What if we just gratify the flesh a little bit? What are the consequences, or the fruit, of our being deceived? How can we discern whether or not we’re being deceived? Is there such a thing as minor deception? Is this something we can pass off lightly, thinking it’s no big deal?
Today we want to examine “The Fruits of Deception.” Under normal conditions, seeds that are planted will bring a harvest. And as you well know, the reaping is always proportionately greater than the sowing. While many people understand and benefit from this principle in the world of nature, somehow, they fail to see that it works in the choices we make in life. I suppose that blindness is a form of deception.
As I think about the fruits of deception, as they’re outlined in the Scriptures, I can think of no better place to begin than at the beginning; the beginning of the human race, that is.
If you can, turn in your Bible to Genesis 3:8-21 and listen carefully as I read.
Together, let’s observe some of the FRUITS of deception revealed in this text.
The First Fruit of Deception is,
Alienation from God
When Adam and Eve were deceived, immediately, there was alienation and separation from God. Instead of the intimate, personal relationship they had with God, now, there was fear and hostility. Trust had been violated. Now it seemed God was “out to get them.” So, they hid.
The alienation we experience is more subtle. When we refuse the truth, we begin to believe the devil’s lies. There’s a growing distance in our relationship with God. And the process is deceptive, as we’re reminded by Jesus’ message to the church of Laodicea in Revelation three. It can appear like, and we can think that everything is OK, but in reality, we are far from God.
One significant effect of this alienation from God is the tendency to focus on externals. Notice Adam and Eve’s response when they experienced guilt. Did they attempt to remedy the alienation at the spirit level, at the core of who they were? No, they dressed up the outside. They took fig leaves and sewed them together in order to cover the effects of their alienation. But God saw right through their outward appearance to the condition of their hearts.
This is a fruit of deception that we must be wary of. If we emphasize the holiness of life and separation from the world (and we should) we must be on our guard that we don’t attempt to cover alienation from God with the respectable “fig leaves” of a pious outward appearance.
Lest you think that I have a negative view of biblical separation I assure you that I do not. Jesus made it clear that our loving obedience is the key to an intimate relationship with Him. We cannot claim to keep his commandments if we do not make practical applications to daily living.
After Adam and Eve sinned, they were banished from the presence of God, never again to enjoy intimacy with God in their physical lifetime. We can only imagine the magnitude of their loss. We have no further record in the Scripture of God communicating directly with Adam. Sin had broken the relationship and left them only with a promise; that God would someday provide a way for that relationship to be restored. As children of God, we are the beneficiaries of that promise, realized in Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can remove both the source and the effects of our alienation from God.
It is significant that all three of the sources of deception we mentioned in our previous teaching came together in the sin of our first parents. More accurately, it was Eve who was deceived, Adam transgressed willfully. Eve saw that the tree was good for food, a natural, but fleshly appetite. She noticed that it was pleasant to look at, the appeal to the eyes, the lack of contentment with that which she already had. And she believed Satan’s lie, his philosophy that it would make her wise. Eve was in a perfect environment and yet was deceived. Each source of deception brought with it, its own fruits.
The Second Fruit of Deception is,
Estranged From Each Other
Deception not only affects our relationship with God, but it also affects our human relationships too. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve’s relationship was changed. They lost their intimacy with God and their intimacy with each other. The relationship they enjoyed before was perfectly balanced by the equality of each one. How do we know that? Because part of the curse was that Eve would be controlled by her desire for her husband.
Adam now had the desire to rule over his wife. She would be in a position of subjection. His newly acquired sinful nature would lead to selfishness and a desire to exploit his position. We already know he blamed his wife for their predicament. Now, God had to give specific instructions in His Word in order to protect women from being exploited by men! That’s why we need verses like Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”
The sources of deception we looked at can have a tremendous impact on the marriage relationship. God has given men a natural attraction to a woman’s beauty. The deception of the lust of the flesh predisposes us to a lack of self-control in thought and action. We have a continual battle to maintain purity. Like Job, we must make “a covenant with our eyes.”
God has given women a desire for security, for a man who will be a leader. If your husband is weak in this area, the tendency can be for you to criticize him, privately, and God forbid, publicly. Somehow you have the idea that you can shame him into doing a better job. That will not work; it is a deception of the enemy.
The deceptions arising from the lust of the flesh bring fruit in the lives of our children too. Was Cain’s bitterness a reaction to the failure of his parents? Abel had an altogether different response. It is both unfair and unscriptural to hold parents responsible for the wrong choices of their adult children, but our sins definitely affect our children. We have the biblical examples of Eli, Samuel, David, and others to remind us of these deceptions.
If we fall prey to these deceptions in our homes, they will bring consequences to our local churches. The older I get, the more I’m convinced that many problems the church faces are problems that should have been resolved in the home. Far too many fathers exercise authoritarian control rather than loving leadership and set up a problem for church leadership.
Mothers can undermine the leadership of their husbands by questioning their judgment to the children and those outside the home. Children can use the weaknesses and failures of their parents to excuse their own disobedience of God’s Word. And the church suffers.
Moving on, what are the fruits of the lust of the eyes, what I referenced earlier as our prosperity? This deception has tremendous implications for our relationships. Adam and Eve had everything; except one tree they could not eat from. And what did Satan use to get them? Discontent, the feeling that they were missing something they should have.
If a father falls for the deception of prosperity in any of its forms, it will have a huge impact on his marriage and family. As men, God has given us a responsibility to provide for the needs of our families. But too often we major on providing for physical needs. We’re warned about this error in Psalm 127:2.
Many men try to satisfy the emotional needs of their wives and children by providing things when what is really needed is time together. Many selfishly pursue their own agenda and then try to salve their consciences by spending generously on their families. Many a wife would gladly be willing to live with less stuff and have a husband who takes time to listen and tries his best to understand her needs. Many a young person is willing to do the same if they could just have some of their dad’s time and attention.
We come to our final point, the fruits of the wrong philosophy; “the pride of life.” Remember, we said that philosophy is the foundation for what we believe and how we communicate that belief so others can understand it. All the information we receive passes through this filter, and we decide how it fits in relation to our lives. If our foundational beliefs are not grounded with confidence in God’s Word, we cannot have a truly biblical worldview.
The Bible warns us over and over to avoid or reject false philosophies because of their spiritual danger. The root of deception in philosophy lies in Satan’s question to Eve, “Did God really say that?” An unwillingness to accept the truth, as God has revealed it to us in His Word and by His Spirit, will lead us to build our lives on false premises, and unstable foundations. That’s why it is so important that we apply a proper hermeneutic in our handling of God’s Word.
Don’t let that big word, hermeneutic, scare you. It simply means the methods and principles of interpretation we use to guide our study of the Bible. The fruits of deception in this area are evident all across the church today. We don’t have time to look at all the false doctrines and questionable practices that come from the wrong philosophy but suffice it to say, that the mishandling of Scripture is responsible for the vast majority. I appreciate so much the words of the late J. B. Smith, who said with reference to understanding the Bible; “When the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Any other sense is usually nonsense.”
All of us, especially ministers of the Gospel, have a solemn duty to be careful handlers of the Word. II Timothy 2:15 reminds us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And Paul reminds us in II Corinthians 4:1 and 2, not to be” handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” I remember well the words of my mentor, J. Otis Yoder, “A text without a context is a pretext.”
We dare not be among those who choose a particular lifestyle and then choose a variety of isolated Scripture verses to support it. Rather, we must go to the Word with a prayerful attitude, receptive hearts, and a spirit of willing obedience.
Because of the deception of false philosophies in our day, we must be extremely vigilant about accepting things that have the name “Christian” associated with them. I fear we are much too gullible. We need a healthy skepticism of new and novel interpretations of Scripture. We must learn how to think critically and teach our children to do the same. Their natural tendency to question everything drives us back to the Word for answers. Our children need that kind of guidance from us.
In conclusion, we’ve looked at only some of the fruits of deception; they are many and we see their effects all around us. Perhaps we’ve even experienced some of them ourselves. But we can avoid experiencing many of these if we will daily commit ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit and instant obedience to His prompting. We must be people of the Book. In our “instant” everything age, there is no substitute for the regular reading of the Bible and times of serious study and meditation. As we cultivate these disciplines, we will be better equipped to detect and avoid the deceptions all around us.
I hope and pray the Lord has challenged you through our study of His Word together. If God has revealed the fruits of deception in your life, or if you see yourself headed down that path, cry out to God in repentance. Share your struggle with another brother or sister and make yourself accountable to the body of Christ for a change of direction in your life. God will reward a humble and obedient spirit. Remember, the fruits of deception will be a bitter harvest.
The 2018 edition of this sermon can be found here. https://heraldsofhope.org/the-voice-of-hope/the-fruits-of-deception/