By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times, International
If our battle is not against flesh and blood, then why is it that when we are in conflicts here on this earth that flesh and blood always show up? What are the reasons for this? Is it possible for believers to be agents for darkness and not even know it? Is it possible for entire organizations to be misled because they have not kept their focus on Jesus Christ and His Word? How is it possible for believers and even leaders to believe they are following Jesus, when instead they are following man? These and other questions intrigue me. Only the Bible has the answers. And though, I am sure, not all of these questions will be answered fully in this life, we can gain the vital insights that we need from the Word of God. The book of Revelation, which has often been ignored for a lack of understanding, will prove to be more and more insightful in these last days before Jesus returns.
For example, the letters to the seven churches have much to say about churches going apostate. In Revelation, it foretells how the whole world will be wrapped up in vast delusion and apostasy. We are seeing that happening right now. And just as God used His humble servant, John, to warn the churches to get their houses in order, God is sounding out a warning again to the churches that will listen. Repentance has always been the trademark of those who are His. They know that God will come back for a church “not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). It has been said that the church has a lot of washing and ironing to do before Jesus returns if we are to be without “spot or wrinkle.”
But just as the churches in Revelation were given opportunity to repent, so is that invitation going out today. The Bible warns:
[F]or the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
This is a very sober warning, and as we hear the voices of many scoffers throughout the land, we can hear the thunderings of judgment, in the distance, approaching closer by the day.
One thing the Bible is very clear on, we cannot serve man and God at the same time.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
Most believers start out right and have a desire to follow Jesus Christ, not man. I know this was my case, and it is also the heartfelt desire of many others whom I have known. When we become born-again followers of Jesus and servants enlisted in the army of God, the Bible says God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). We have crossed the bridge from one side to another. But we must remember that Satan knows it, and so do his agents described in the Bible as demons, principalities, and powers.
While Satan has lost his grip on those written in the Book of Life, meaning he will not be spending eternity with us, his focus now changes to making us ineffective in the service of God. As the wiles of the Devil are subtle, he is able to cleverly change or manipulate our focus and alter God-given goals. In some cases, the Devil is able to turn someone around one hundred and eighty degrees and put him back on the same team he was originally part of before his conversion to Jesus Christ. “How is that possible?” you ask. This is hard to fathom, but I have seen it with my own eyes. “Perhaps that person was never saved in the first place,” you say. Maybe so. Only God knows the heart of each person, and the Bible says He knows who are His, and they hear His voice (John 10:4).
For anyone who might argue that spiritual deception cannot happen to the Christian, just consider how often the New Testament warns against spiritual deception. Listen to just a few of these verses:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (Matthew 24:4, and see Mark 13:5)
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:5)
And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived. (Luke 21:8)
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)
Also see Romans 7:11 and 16:18, 1 Corinthians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Galatians 6:7, Ephesians 5:6, 2 Timothy 3:13, Titus 1:10. And there are more. I list these to demonstrate that spiritual deception is real and is frequently discussed in the Bible. No doubt, it is a recurring theme from Genesis where Eve was deceived by the serpent all the way to Revelation, where it says the day will come when Satan will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
I have heard many pastors say, “I don’t need to talk about spiritual deception as long as I teach the Bible verse by verse.” And I have heard many others say, “I don’t want to be negative; I just want to focus on what I am for, not what I am against.” But I say to these pastors, to ignore the topic of spiritual deception is to ignore a biblical principle. How can one teach the Bible verse by verse, yet never have anything to say about spiritual deception? And when reading these passages (of which there are many), would it not be negligent to overlook their relevancy to what is happening in the church today? Going through the Bible verse by verse is good, but it takes more than just reading what happened in the past; through the Holy Spirit, the Bible is to instruct, exhort, teach, and warn us about the present and the future. To ignore the Bible’s warnings, to dismiss them, to minimize their importance for today is just downright irresponsible and so dangerous for the sheep.
It is highly likely that we will become deceived if we are prone to following men rather than Jesus Christ and His Word. Many new believers have been led astray early in their walk by following a man. This man may appear godly and may even seem to be a good teacher of the Word. Behind the pulpit, he may even be anointed because he teaches the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word, and God anoints His Word.
However, there is more. Not all men who seem to be anointed behind the pulpit are anointed behind their desk or in their business dealings. Some may abuse the Word of God by their style of leadership. Some may even use the Scriptures to manipulate people in order to exhibit power. Such mind control is extremely damaging.
Such leadership by a pastor would be confusing, at best, for a young Christian growing up in this environment. That young believer would wonder how a man of God can also be a carnal man all at the same time. Is that even possible? This would certainly be a paradox. By the way, history shows that there have been many men looked up to as great leaders who led multitudes astray.
Another thing new Christians (and old ones too) run into is being taught to unquestionably follow the teachings of their pastors and elders. They are told they lack the spiritual maturity to decipher spiritual matters on their own, and that by obeying their leaders, they are obeying God. Put another way, they are told that their leaders serve as their spiritual covering, and therefore, they are always safe and obedient to God when they follow the teachings of their leaders. One such leader told a friend of mine, “You aren’t qualified to spot spiritual deception.”
When a group or organization gets to this point, things can get very dangerous. In essence, a cult -like environment has formed, and those in it do not know it. It is possible that the leaders may not even know it. Soon the “cult” members are quoting the leaders and their sayings. They now wait for the leaders to make announcements and edicts. If the leaders say nothing about apostasy, then it must be OK. If they say something about apostasy, then they say, ay.
I have seen this over and over where believers no longer think for themselves nor check out the Word of God for themselves. They have enveloped themselves with a false sense of security by relying solely on their pastors and elders. This is not the way Christianity should function according to the Bible. Jesus said to go out and make disciples, not children. The followers have followed leaders who have been like pied-pipers heading to the jagged and perilous cliffs. By following men, their methods, and their movements, danger awaits, and eventually those movements will implode.
With many of these movements today, the leaders have issues that have not been dealt with. When this happens to a movement, the movement takes on the look of the leadership model, and the unresolved mistakes and sins are handed down.
I have been surprised at how many people I have known over the years who would tell me, “I’ll never go to another conference by that group again—they are so compromised.” But then I would learn that he or she would attend again. It just seemed so hard to break away from “going with the flow.”
Satan does not care how one is deceived, just as long as deception occurs. If he can get your attention off the Word of God and back to the world, then he has been successful. There have been many who have fallen away like this. The lures of the world are very enticing for the flesh. Why not, the mind ponders, indulge in the things of the world? It could be through what we take in our mouths that we indulge. It could be even more sensual and sexual. It could be intellectual, as Satan wants us to believe that the Bible is not the infallible Word of God. If he can put seeds of doubt into our minds, those seeds can fester and grow like a body overtaken with disease.
One of the greatest attacks in history against Bible-believing Christianity has been underway for over five hundred years. Most Christians, including most pastors and most denominations, are not aware this is even happening. The Pope and, in particularly, the Jesuit Order author a vigorous effort to bring Christian believers into the Roman Catholic Church, whatever means it takes. The objective? That the world will worship the Pope in the manner they worship God. The plan is to make God’s Word into the word of man and the Pope’s word into the word of God.
Throughout history, there have been many who have run into the wrath of the Pope’s men. This agenda is still very active in the world today and is impacting many churches and organizations, through avenues such as the emerging church, and the Purpose Driven movement.
Many Christians don’t see themselves in a battle—perhaps they feel secure and safe in their large lively churches week after week. They may take their Bibles to church and even give regular offerings. But if their loyalty is toward a man, a movement, or a denomination, God is not impressed. God is looking for hearts “after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), wholly devoted and loyal to Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. (Romans 13:12)
(An excerpt from Let There Be Light by Roger Oakland, chapter 22)