‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.’” Matthew 24:3-5 (NIV)
I became a Christian when I was twenty years old, and very soon after that I came across a very slick magazine. It was easy to read, and had many coloured pictures, and it had a title that grabbed me. It was called the ‘Plain Truth’.
I carried it into our local Chapel, to show off this delightful new magazine. But a little seventy year old lady, told me to be very careful, that this was not true Christianity. What this magazine was teaching was a confusing mixture of truth and falsehood.
As a young Christian I was staggered. It just had not occurred to me that an article talking about Jesus Christ, and His teachings, could actually be written in such a way as to deceive people. *
There have always be those who try to pollute God′s Word, and who seduce people with a mixture of false teaching along with the truth, and they are much more dangerous to the church than those who hate Christianity and who openly speak out against it.
“..watch out that no-one deceives you, .. they will deceive many.” (verses 4-5)
In the Lord′s prayer there are two things that we can pray for, in regard to this. Firstly,
“Your will be done.” And secondly, “Deliver us from evil.”
There is another safeguard against falling into error, by having a love for the truth. That means that God′s teachings and commands become our delight.
Let′s look at some verses from Psalm 119
“I have chosen the way of Truth, I have set my heart on Your Laws..
Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight..
Oh, how I love Your Law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Verses 30, 35 and 97)
How much do we love God′s Word, His teaching, His commandments? The Apostle Paul tells us that people perish because they refuse to love the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2)
But we need to be aware of other things, if we are not to be lead astray.
If someone performed a miracle in front of you, would you be more open to what they were saying?
What about if they started to tell you a way of salvation, and you began to feel that something was not quiet right?
Would you say ‘Well, they did perform this miracle, so they must be right.’
The Lord warns us that if a prophet comes and performs a sign or wonder and says:
“‘Let us follow other gods’, we must not listen to the words of that prophet.” (Deuteronomy 13)
We may think: well that′s hardly likely, people performing miracles in the 21st century. But Jesus warns us:(Matthew 24:24)
“For false christs and false prophets will appear and will perform great signs and miracles, to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”
Let us be wise, neither miracles, nor multitudes, are certain signs of a true church.
Revelation 13:3 proves this point, when it describes one of the heads of the beast being healed of a fatal wound and:
“The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.”
Here we have a miraculous healing, and the whole world following someone, neither of which confirm that God is in it.
It is good to remind ourselves of Jesus′ exhortation:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep′s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:13-16)
‘Their fruit’ means their way of life. For example are they materialistic, greedy for gain, proud and arrogant? Does their life show a godly discipline? Do they practice what they preach?
Now, with this in mind, think of the number of new Christian books being printed. The majority may be okay, but remember, how much do we know about the author? Is this a money spinner? How much fruit does the author have – what is the author’s life style like?
If we read these books occasionally that is okay, but if we prefer to read them instead of the Bible, then our faith may not deepen.
So, let′s return to where Jesus says:
“Watch out that no one deceives you.”
It can be translated as ‘Watch out that no one causes you to wander.’ Getting God′s people to wander is a very subtle thing.
What would be one way of reducing the danger of wandering off?
How about having someone to follow, who is more mature than us, in other words, to have a role model.
Paul in Ephesians (5:1) tells us to be imitators of God. But in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, Paul says twice to be imitators of himself.
It is good to have a mature role model, to inspire and stretch our faith.
This could be someone living near you, or it could be reading about godly men and women from the past. It is good to hear of the failures, the heartaches, etc, along with the good times.
Let′s watch out that no one causes us to wander, from Jesus and His pure teachings.
* (There have been some reports indicating that this magazine is now ‘Christian’. But I haven′t seen it for years, and I am unable to comment on the situation now).
Images: thanks to GSP 100,000 clipart CD