Discernment (Part 3) -Falling Away

       We have been considering discernment. In a world where deception abounds, counterfeits seem to rule unabated, and truth is becoming scarce, discernment is greatly needed. Jesus and many of the New Testament writers warned of such counterfeits, especially in the end days, but in today’s world it seems that Christians are not concerned about the many warnings surrounding the end days. They act as if they could never be deceived; therefore, in their mind, the warning is always directed at the other guy.

         The problem is that people who are casual about end-day warnings have already fallen into the trap of deception, or are about to be deceived. The reason is because they do not soberly apply the Scriptural warnings to their own life. They not only walk in denial about being in deception, but in unbelief towards the  warnings in Scripture about the strong delusion that will be present in the end days (2 Thessalonians 2:11). This delusion will test Christians as to their attitude towards truth.

          I was saved out of a cult and I know how easy it is to fall into some type of deception. Due to our fallen state we are bent towards a reality that will easily fit into our narrative about God, life, and the judgment to come. The Apostle Paul actually describes the state that will be evident in the last days in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

          When Jeannette and I were ministering in the Seattle area we encountered many fables being presented as truth to Christians. In fact, it was like a spiritual smorgasbord where Christians had a variety of foods to choose from, but some of it was clearly laced with heretical poison.

          The problem is that most Christians partaking of the smorgasbord are not concerned about the quality of it or whether it was laced with death. If they didn’t like a particular doctrine, then they could continue on down the line and find something that would tickle their fancy. They could do their religious duty as they partook of the wretched food, while holding onto some fanciful notion about God without realizing that if truth is perverted, twisted, and tainted, a person will ultimately come out believing a fable in the end, and think it to be the truth.

          The question is why do people prefer deception over truth? There are a couple of reasons. The first one is people are bent towards the darkness of deception because it hides their real preference for that which serves their selfishness (John 3:19-21). Everything in fallen man is motivated by selfishness, which is self-serving, prideful, clever or tyrannical about getting its way, and is just plain spoiled about demanding its so-called “rights” to have life on its terms. The problem is a person cannot really discern anything when he or she is making a matter about how it will affect self. Selfishness can be easily bribed, perverting any real sound judgment. It swings from the heights of unfounded suspicion about a matter only to land on the deceptive runway of presumption to confirm its foolish notions. It is always watching out for its own interests. As long as something makes self feel and look good, moral rightness and clarity will not be the determining factor where it is concerned. Devoid of moral clarity(righteousness), self can only judge a matter based on the impression that is being made on its fragile ego; therefore, it is incapable of being able to discern something for what it is.

          In Christians, unabated selfishness will produce half-heartedness towards God. This half-heartedness is the basis for treason in the kingdom of God. Self-centered Christians will play around with religion while watching for any “ship” of worldly options that will offer them a better deal down the line, at which time, some like Demas, will naturally jump ship to pursue their selfish, worldly desires (2 Timothy 4:10).

          Selfishness also does not care about what is true, and is ever ready to feed, cater to, or play with the selfishness of others to come out on top. It wants its pride worshipped, its fears bowed down to, its insecurities catered to, its standards honored, and its ways and demands served. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul made it clear in Romans 7:18 that there is no good thing in the flesh; in other words, works and activities that originate from the flesh are unclean and unacceptable to God.

          Behind selfishness is the natural spirit of man (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those who have a spirit of discernment will be able to discern if the natural spirit is trying to run or oversee spiritual matters. It’s for this reason that Christians who have discernment are not appreciated by the church in general. They will either put up a mirror to the natural spirit or throw a wrench into the waters where the spirit of the world is in operation, causing a disturbance that is resented. Stirring the water or shaking the tree will most likely wake up any “sleeping dogs” that are content with matters remaining in the grey areas of worldly compromise. These Christians who desire peace more than truth also fail to realize that some “sleeping dogs” are wolves in sheep’s clothing and they are lying in wait as they watch for the opportunity to undermine the true work of God and promote their own personal causes (Matthew 7:20; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Ephesians 4:14).

          This brings us to the second reason why people prefer deception. The apostle Paul talked about the falling away from the truth in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. It is also referred to as becoming apostate. A big debate always follows when the word “apostate” is mentioned in regard to whether a Christian can fall away from the truth after knowing it. My concern is not who is right in the debate but whether a person is truly born again and understands the seriousness behind God’s warnings. After all, the Apostle John gave this warning to the early Christians who were contending with the false gospel of Gnosticism in 1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”   If a person is truly born again, he or she will not walk in sin without great conviction nor will he or she easily buy a lie because the spirit in him or her will be alarmed or vexed.

          When it comes to whether a Christian can become apostate, arguing over such a matter never changes the spiritual status of a person, and for me there are only two ways I can respond to such vain activity: God knows the hearts of people and He knows who are His heirs and how to preserve them in such grave times. Meanwhile, His Word in 2 Thessalonians 2 clearly warns its readers that to fall away from the truth simply means a person did not love or prefer it in the first place.

          It is clear that we must choose to love the truth. It doesn’t matter if it goes against the grain of what we think, believe, or feel, if we truly love the truth it is because we love the Living Word, Jesus, and we want to do that which pleases Him and not fulfill our own selfish designs and claims.

          In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the Apostle Paul stated this concern, “But I fear, least by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preacheth another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

         The apostle was clear that Christians can easily be taken captive by delusion. The reason why Christians can be taken captive is because Satan is behind all deception. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). Since Satan is behind delusion, the first thing we as believers must recognize is that the battle over truth and for our minds is a spiritual battle, not an educational battle where logic, degrees, religious knowledge, and intelligence are involved in assessing and overcoming a conflicting spiritual debate, issue, or matter.

          We are told to discern or test the spirit behind all matters (1 John 4:1). It is important to remind Christians that the letters in the New Testament are not written to unbelievers but to believers. They are there for our edification, which involves instructions, encouragement, warnings, and exhortation. The Apostle Paul is very clear that Satan can beguile us as he did Eve in the Garden of Eden. If you look up the word “beguile,” in the Strong’s Concordance, it means to “seduce wholly.”

          To seduce one means that the victim’s reality is being completely turned upside down. In such a seduction, the person may know something is not right, but he or she finds self being pulled into some vortex the individual has no power over. Even though the person may be struggling to keep his or her sense of reality, the individual will find him or herself eventually succumbing to the all-consuming deceptive idea or image that has been created by the seduction.

          For example, in Genesis 3, it appeared that Eve had ignored the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but at the right time her attention was drawn to it. The serpent was patiently waiting for the right opportunity to tempt her. One day when she was innocently walking by the tree, it provided the opportunity for the serpent to beguile her. Through subtlety, the cunning intrusion of doubt, the crafty denial about the consequences, and the trickery of bringing accusation against God’s true intention, the tree became magnified in her eyes. It was no longer just the forbidden tree; rather, it became THE TREE that could honor the desire that had suddenly been awakened in her curiosity and erected in her being. The fruit which probably at first appeared like the other fruit in the garden, suddenly became more beautiful to her and the possibilities it offered were enormous, causing all remaining sensibility and reason to fly out the window.

          The truth about the tree was replaced with a false reality, but to Eve the lie was the absolute truth. Her mind was convinced of it, her will primed to replace all reason with presumption, and her emotions were heightened to euphoric proportions as she considered the possibilities of knowing what God knows. There was no aspect of her soul that had not been seduced and taken captive, and it all started with a small doubt that gave Satan the opening to confuse the real issue by dousing all concerns about possible consequences in her mind, while opening her up to partake of the deadly fruit to satisfy the deep hole of expectation that had been dug by his lies.

          Because of seduction Eve ended up viewing God’s commands, warning, and promise from the premise of Satan’s lies. The Apostle Paul stated the end result of Eve’s seduction in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Eve’s mind was corrupted by the seduction. With the simplicity of God’s command clouded over, Eve’s mind found itself in major confusion. After all, God only entrusted man with one command, but the real issue of obedience became lost to Eve in the seduction as the idea of gaining divine insight was magnified.

          This is the problem with the mind that is corrupt. It filters things through a worldly perspective and judges matters according to personal standards. Such a mind ends up being confused and plagued by perverted conclusions that are devoid of Spirit and truth.

          Satan is the master of deception and seduction, yet man thinks that he has the ability to reason with the doubts the enemy plants according to his understanding, silence his clever lies with carnal logic, and outsmart Satan with his own trickery. However, Satan is greater when it comes to man’s ability to confront and overcome him. Man will always be on the losing end no matter how smart or clever he thinks he is.

          To overcome Satan one must understand how he works. Seduction is a type of blanket that is thrown over the mind so that it cannot clearly view a matter. For example, Satan went after Eve’s reasoning by planting a doubt right in the middle of it, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Consider the question. He was not pointing the tree out up front, but he was weaving a trap that would put confusion in her mind about what she understood to be true.

          It you consider Eve’s response you will realize she tried to set the record straight. This was her first error, she did not have to explain or defend what God commanded; she simply needed to obey it. Instead of trying to reason with the devil, she should have fled the devil. This is true for Christians. Christians must not give the devil audience, and they do not need to defend the Word when it comes to Satan because he knows the Word better than most Christians. He knows it so well he can cleverly twist it, but what Christians need to do is believe what they know is true and separate themselves from any environment that promotes or declares otherwise.

          At first Eve’s reasoning was clear as she stated that they could eat of all of the trees in the garden except the tree in the midst of the garden, but she went on to say they were not to even touch it. The last statement is a bit of addition to God’s command. He never commanded them not to touch the tree. Any addition to a command of God will end in confusion, which serves as an open door for the deceiver to sow doubt in regard to what is true. Those who know how to discern will always come back to what God said in the first place, allowing the simplicity of God’s truth to establish a matter as being so.

          Each lie led Eve further away from the center of truth. As she backslid into greater seduction, she was unable to discern what was happening to her. Satan’s lies started with a question, but the ultimate lie that she could be like God, became a possiblity in her mind, corrupting what was happening, and ending with the lie becoming her reality. As the Apostle Paul pointed out 1 Timothy 2:14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

          God’s simple but profound truths lie at the center of all true discernment. Because of lies people slide away from the truth as their minds become corrupt with deception, while others fall away from the truth because they desire to have life and reality on their terms. Those who slide away from the truth are backsliders, but those who fall away from the truth because they prefer their desired reality over the truth are the ones who end up going apostate.

          I have met many backsliders lurking in the darkness of guilt and despair over their life and I have read about and met a few apostates who walked away from the truth because they were not anchored to the Rock and they did not love the truth. One such man was Karl Marx.

          As Christians we need to recognize the devices that Satan used on Eve in the garden. They havn’t changed, but we need to decide to love the truth, love God with everything in us, and possess Him regardless of what it will cost us. We need to know how to stand on the true foundation of Jesus, withstand the affronts of Satan in the Spirit of God, and continue to stand against all lies with God’s Word, remembering that the battle has already been won on the cross.

          The Bible is clear; we need to know those who labor among us. If there is one who possesses discernment, we need to soberly listen to that person, test what the person says, and if it lines up to both the Spirit of God and His Word, we need to heed his or her words of instruction, warning, and exhortation for our protection and spiritual well-being.