Sources of Deception

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The Voice of Hope
Sources of Deception
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Sources of Deception

James 4:1-10

A source is a point of origin, of initiation. A stream has a source, and we understand that as its beginning. When we hear a news report, or we’re seeking information on a certain subject we talk about “going to the source.”  By that we mean, going to the person who is closest to the report or the one with the most accurate and reliable information.

Deception is defined as “the act of deceiving; the fact or condition of being deceived.” It is the process by which you and I are led to believe things that are not true. They may appear to be true, legitimate, or even honorable, but they’re not.

So, sources of deception are things someone uses to lead you and me to believe what isn’t true. Today there are many devices Satan uses to promote deception, but there are only a few basic sources of deception. We could spend the next half hour talking about some of those devices. The problem is, we’d probably miss the specific devices that influence you.

If we focus on the tools or devices Satan uses, we will only deal with the symptoms. Instead, I want you to join me in looking at the sources of deception, so we can recognize them no matter how they present themselves to us.

If you can, open your Bible to James chapter four. I’ll begin reading verse one and read through verse ten. Let’s Read James 4:1-10.

In our text, James reveals three foundational SOURCES of deception.

The First Source of Deception is,

Our Humanity                  

Verses one through three establish a very basic truth. Our fleshly appetites are the source of much evil. The words, lust, pleasure, desire, and consume express the drive of our passions and they lead to covetousness, strife, war, and murder. The evidence of this reality begins in the Garden of Eden. The Biblical terminology for this is “the lust of the flesh,” I John 2:16. Our fallen humanity has one overarching desire – to gratify itself.

But how can that lead to deception? Think of someone you know who once walked with Christ, but no longer does. Or someone who professes to know Christ, but their lifestyle continues to move them farther and farther from God’s commands. What caused them to start down that path? Many people take their first step away from God because they want to fulfill a fleshly appetite or desire. They set their heart on something they cannot legitimately have.

It often begins with a legitimate appetite that God designed to be fulfilled within clear limits. But our flesh doesn’t want limits, it wants gratification! Think of Mother Eve, free to eat from every tree in the Garden except one! What does she do? I picture her walking around the forbidden tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, looking at it, and saying, “my that looks like it would be good to eat.” That’s the beginning of deception; we believe the lie that looking won’t hurt.

Paul says in First Corinthians 9:27; “But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Just prior to this he used a boxing metaphor and spoke of giving his flesh, knock-out punches! This battle with our humanity is not a game; it is a deadly serious business because eternity is at stake.

Years ago, I worked in a large manufacturing plant and there was an attractive young lady who worked there. My job responsibilities took me past her area on a regular basis. One day I realized I was making extra trips through the factory just to look at her; that’s called lust. I was like Mother Eve circling the tree. I realized in my spirit that I was heading down a path where I really did not want to go. My knock-out punch to those desires was to deliberately take a different way to avoid passing the area where she worked.

I share that to illustrate how our humanity, our flesh, can be a major area of deception. We are at war with our carnal desires that are aroused by our physical appetites. Name any physical appetite you want and if you are not on your guard, Satan will use it against you.

Our experience proves that our morality dictates our theology. That’s why many professing Christians reject portions of God’s Word. If the Scripture is true, they’ll need to change their lifestyle. What we accept or reject in the area of our morality will have an impact on our theology. And our morality is affected by the things we allow into our minds. 

When Mother Eve was confronted with her sin, she blamed the serpent.  But we can’t use the excuse, “the devil made me do it.” We are fully responsible for our choices and to deny that reality will lead us down the path to self-deception.

You and I must continually be on guard against allowing the desires of our flesh to be in control of our lives. I find that a daily battle. We must remember that our humanity and our physical appetites are one of the lines of attack Satan has against us.

The Next Source of Deception is,

Our Prosperity                 

Take a look at verse four. “Whoever wants to be a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” A friend of the world! To be a friend means having a fondness for something or someone. There is a relationship, there are feelings of affection.

The “world” as it’s used here refers to the world system and its way of doing things. The outstanding feature of an unbeliever’s worldview is – the material part of life is all that matters! That belief motivates the goal to accumulate. The goal to accumulate often become exclusive of all other goals. Jesus and the apostles spoke about “the deceitfulness of riches.”

Are people who live in poverty safe from deception?  First Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to be rich fall into a snare…” Satan wants to deceive all mankind. But like an experienced angler, he is smart enough to know which lure to put on the hook. Again, going back to I John 2:16, I believe this source is “the lust of the eyes.” Isn’t it true that Satan often uses our eyes to begin the process of deception? That’s what he used with Mother Eve!

James wants us to understand the seriousness of this source of deception, so he begins with words that grab our attention. Remember, James is writing to Christians. Adulterers and adulteresses! Whoa! That makes you sit up and take notice, doesn’t it? What is an adulterer or an adulteress? Isn’t it someone who has left their first love? Isn’t it someone who is deceived into believing that what they don’t have is better than what they do have?  James uses these words in a figurative sense to show the error of a Christian identifying with a materialistic worldview. True satisfaction is found in wanting what we have, not having what we want. 

What is so deceptive about prosperity? Prosperity creates an illusion of security and satisfaction. Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing…” That’s what they thought about themselves. But, Jesus said, “[you] don’t know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…”  They had been deceived! They thought they were well cared for, they thought they had it all together when in reality they were in poverty!

In Matthew 13:22, Jesus spoke about the deceitfulness of riches. “…the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word [strangle the truth] and the person becomes unfruitful.” This is a process. Here a little compromise, there a little compromise, and slowly, imperceptibly, the eyes of our understanding are blinded, and the thorns grow up and choke out our fruitfulness.

But the Holy Spirit longs jealously for our total devotion, just like a husband or wife longs for the devotion of their spouse. We are part of the body of Christ, the Church, His Bride. In I Corinthians 6:15 and 16, Paul says, “Don’t you know that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? Don’t you know that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, says he, shall be one flesh.” I know the context of these verses is a warning against immorality, but remember, James characterizes our friendship with the world as adultery!

One of the deceptions of prosperity is the development of an ungrateful spirit. When we grow accustomed to having the things we want, when we want them, it’s easy to think we deserve them. If we have that attitude, we will not be thankful. We must realize that all that we have, and all that we are, is only because of God’s mercy. Then we will be grateful for the smallest of His gifts.

If you and I are not genuinely grateful for the things God has given to us, we will not reverence Him; we will not glorify Him as we should. We will become vain in our imaginations and suppose that our might, our power, and our ability have gotten us these things. And our hearts will be lifted up in pride.

Pride is a deception that comes as the by-product of an ungrateful spirit. James mentions it here in verse six. He says God resists the proud. And incidentally, the verb tense is, that God’s resisting of the proud is a continuous action that is taking place right now.

The Word of God is clear, prosperity, prosperity and the pride that so often accompanies it is a very dangerous source of deception.

The Final Source is,

Our Philosophy

Philosophy is simply, for our purposes, the words, and concepts we use to express our fundamental beliefs. It’s the foundation for what we believe and how we communicate our core values so others can understand them. We can express this in one word: our worldview.

The Bible teaches us that the “pride of life” is dangerous because it leads to self-deception. This is often the most difficult one for us to pick out. Even though we’re warned in I Corinthians 10:12 against thinking we’re above temptation (or deception), we all have the tendency to fall into this trap. This is part of our battle with deception. Our minds become the battleground between God and Satan. By using our fleshly desires, Satan appeals to our minds and our rational thought processes.

Truth is perceived primarily with our spirit, not our mind. God appeals to our spirit by His Spirit. Satan works in our minds. Paul notes this conflict between mind and spirit in Romans 8:5-9. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So, then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” And in verse 16 of this same chapter he says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, [not our mind] that we are the children of God…”

Two phrases in our text remind me of the deception that comes through the wrong philosophy. First, we are instructed to “resist the devil.” He is the source of the wrong philosophy. It got him kicked out of heaven. He said, “I will be like God.”

Today, many set their human understanding above God’s divine revelation. They say the Bible only contains the Word of God. So, they decide what the Word of God is and what isn’t. In essence, they’re saying, “we will be like God, we will decide for ourselves what truth is.”

The second phrase is in verse eight, “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” The literal meaning is to be “two-spirited.” It is to vacillate between two opposing points of view, to be unstable. To attempt to embrace truth as defined by God’s Word and at the same time embrace man’s ideas. Those who embrace the philosophy of “theistic evolution” give evidence of double-mindedness. They attempt to reconcile two opposing philosophies regarding creation.

Why? Some want man’s approval. For others, it’s a misguided attempt to reach out to those who reject Scripture. The thinking that, maybe if we see things from their perspective, they’ll reciprocate. But is that the way it works? Hardly! What people don’t realize is that when you call into question the accuracy of a portion of God’s Word you call into question the whole scope of revelation. If we cannot accept the Genesis account of creation as accurate and literal, what other parts of the Bible are inaccurate?

When people embrace philosophies that undermine the clear teaching of God’s Word, they give a clear indication of the direction they’re headed. Without the Word, there is no clear standard of behavior, and obedience is no longer important. Truth becomes what I want it to be and I’m free to set my own standard of behavior. We’ve all seen where that mindset leads. 

As we close, I can’t leave you on a negative note. How can we avoid these sources of deception? James gives us the prescription here in our text. First, “Submit to God.” Recognize God’s authority and power and place yourself in subjection to Him. Then he says, “Draw near to God.” I was so blessed when I first discovered the word picture here! The words translated, draw near literally mean “to squeeze in the bend of the arm.” I call that a hug. A hug implies a relationship. The greatest insurance against deception is a growing relationship with the Master.

There are several further counsels. Exercise a spirit of repentance. Be willing to admit when you’ve erred or when you’ve strayed from the truth. Be humble, be approachable. None of us is immune to deception. There is tremendous value in brotherhood, in being a part of a group that will hold us accountable. A group that will chase us down and take hold of us and says, “We love you too much to let you go down that path.”

Here then are the basic sources of deception, our humanity, our prosperity, and our philosophy. The protection we need from deception is truth. So, let each of us renew our commitment to accepting, practicing, and understanding the truth. That will go a long way in helping us identify the sources of deception, and to avoid them.

The 2018 edition of this sermon can be found here.

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