Lesson 9: How to recognize and work through deception
Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls is not content to stand by and watch as we encourage other believers from the Word of God. He doesn’t want us to exalt and worship Jesus or talk about all Jesus has done to redeem us. Satan does not let us do these things unopposed and his primary weapon is deception. He has no real power to separate us from the love of Christ, but Satan can and does deceive us with lies. (John 8:31-39; John 8:44)
This deception can (and will) show up in a variety of ways in your small group discussions. As a leader, it is important to be able to recognize and manage deception when it arises. Otherwise, much of the good which is being accomplished can be undone. Instead of being encouraged as they walk in the light and freedom of the Gospel, people end up getting bogged down in the darkness and bondage of the enemy.
Here are some common examples of deception:
• Someone in your discussion group claims something that is not true about Jesus or what He has done for us. For example: “Jesus did His part, but we have to do our part in living a good life or we can lose our salvation.” Or here is another common deception: “Jesus didn’t really do all those miracles. The disciples just made up that stuff to create a bigger-than-life hero that people would want to follow.” And another big lie: “Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead. The disciples stole His body so people would think He was.”
• Another common type of deception is the claim that God doesn’t really care about the Old Testament moral decrees, such as the Ten Commandments,. After all, Jesus has canceled the requirements of the Old Testament law and we can now ignore them. So, it is okay if I sleep around because I am under Grace and not under the Law.
• Or you may have someone in your discussion group who begins to advocate for a cult. This could be a Latter Day Saint (Mormon) who begins to extol the virtues of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. Or a Jehovah’s witness who begins to claim that only 144,000 people will actually get into heaven. Or a Hari Krishna who claims that all religions are equally valid ways to reach God and who says we should be more tolerant of diversity in religious views.
• Occasionally, a person in your discussion group may make a sensational claim that seems to give them special status. An example would be: “God appeared to me in a dream last night and told me that the world will be ending next month. He commanded that we sell all our possessions and give the money to a charity for the poor that He told me to start.”
• There are many other types of deceptions that can creep into the discussion. These can easily distract and confuse people about the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for those who trust in Him.
So, what should you do as a group leader when these sorts of distracting deceptions come up in your discussion group?
First, understand that this is spiritual warfare. From the beginning, Satan has been trying to spread lies and bring darkness into the places where Jesus is revealing the truth that brings light into our souls. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, so don’t be upset with the people the enemy uses to channel his lies. They are deceived. They need to be loved and they need to understand the Gospel so they can be saved just like you. (Eph 6:10-12, John 8:44, 2 Thess 3:14-15, 1 Tim 5:1-2)
Second, it is important to understand what weapons are at your disposal as you engage in spiritual warfare. They are outlined for us in Ephesians 6:10-20 in the metaphor of a Roman soldier preparing himself for battle.
Always fasten the belt of truth securely about your waist. This is the first and most important weapon in the Christian’s arsenal. The belt holds everything else in its proper place. It brings balance and wholeness. How? By making sure you have the truth. And where do you get the truth? God reveals it to us, His Church (and you), through His Word–which is the Bible.. God has given us great resources to dig deep into His Word. Answers to specific questions can be found using the references in a study Bible. Some people also use a good search engine on the Web to find Bible verses that talk to an issue.
You must spend time studying and searching the Word of God. This needs to become a primary activity in your daily life. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!” When someone in your group says something and you are unsure whether or not it is true, search the Scriptures to discover what God says about it. Everything you do and say depends on you speaking the truth, so make sure you know what God says about it in His Word.
And remember that Jesus said He is the truth. Truth is not just a concept, it is a person! When you are seeing the truth clearly, you are looking into the character and person of Jesus Christ. So, knowing the Truth is central to the Christian faith!
Following the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protected a soldier from the enemies attempts at inflicting a mortal wound into the heart or another vital organ. An important thing for a soldier to defend in battle..
Righteousness is “right standing with God” and it only comes through Jesus Christ. It is when God looks at you and He sees Jesus. When others are speaking lies that attack our good standing with God, we are to remind ourselves (and Satan and others who might speak for him) that we have been given the full righteousness of Jesus Christ. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our Sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” ESV Do not let someone convince you are unqualified to share in the riches of Christ because of your sin. Yes, we all have sinned, but Jesus has taken your sin and exchanged it for His righteousness. So, you are now fully righteous in Christ and all that He deserves is yours in Him. You must trust in this truth when someone tries to disqualify you or themselves because of sin.
After the breastplate, the Holy Spirit tells us “as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” We must remember that we are Christ’s representatives, appointed by Him to take His message of reconciliation through Christ to the world. Jesus has provided the only way for us to have peace with God—and we should never forget that this is our primary message. When you start straying from that as your primary message, you have wandered into dangerous territory. Continually remind yourself: “My message is a message of how to find peace with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ!”
Next this passage tells us to “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” The “flaming darts of the evil one” are those lies his servants keep shooting at us. Our defense to hide in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He is our shield. When doubts arise, take refuge in the simple truth that Jesus has accomplished and provides all for us. You may find it helpful to remind yourself, “All that you say seems confusing and complicated, but what I know is that Jesus already paid the full price for my sins and He has given me righteousness and full standing in the presence of the almighty and perfectly holy God. By His work, not mine, I am a child of the King of all creation. I take refuge in that truth and His protection.” This is what it means to be protected by the shield of faith.
We are told to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” God’s word is a powerful weapon, quite sufficient to silence the enemy. There is no argument in all of time and history that can overrule, or even stand in the light of, the proclamations of God in His Word. This is why it is so important to be daily immersed in the Word of God. It is your primary and most powerful means of both defense and attack against the deceptions of the enemy. If you try to resort to the logic and experiences of the great philosophers, you will fail in your attempts to oppose Satan and his arguments. But if you wield the Word of God, the enemy has no defense against that!
Lastly, DO NOT FORGET TO PRAY!!! Prayer is a powerful provision God has given us. Use it! You should pray about every aspect of your ministry, and for those you are discipling. But in the context of this passage, it seems the emphasis is to be praying that God would give you a proper understanding of His word, and the wisdom to use it properly in the spiritual battles you face. So, pray for that as you search the Bible for the answers to the questions you have.
So, to summarize the main points of this lesson:
1. You will encounter deception. This is the nature of the spiritual warfare you face as you take the truths of God into the world.
2. God has given us several defenses and weapons to use in this spiritual warfare—a battle of thoughts and ideas.
3. The truth of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us should be the focus of all you teach and discuss with your discipleship group.
4. Remember that Jesus’s accomplishments, not your works (actions or behaviors), is where your righteousness is found.
5. Remember that your message is a message of reconciliation, which is that we, sinners, can have peace with God through trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord.
6. Take up the shield of faith. Trust that Christ, and not anything else, is your protection against all the lies of the enemy.
7. Learn to wield the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. God will teach you how to understand and wield this weapon wisely as you pray and ask Him to do that.
Seasoned spiritual warriors will tell you the secret to being victorious in spiritual battles is to use, practice, and not forget this great battle plan laid out for us in Ephesians 6. Satan is powerful when he is deceiving us, but these defensive and offensive weapons will make you more than adequate to successfully combat him and win these spiritual battles. You are destined to be a great spiritual warrior for Christ, but not if you try to do it in your own strength or according to your own best judgments. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have a better battle plan that the one God has given us.