34. Avoid Deception

Meditations in 1 John : 34 : Avoid Deception

1 John  3:7,8   Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

Again, here’s another ‘wave’ coming in yet again. There was a brief mention of deception right back at the beginning: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1:8) but the main reference prior to our present verses was, “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” (2:26) and now he turns the warning into a command: “do not let anyone lead you astray”

Now those are the main verses that are obviously about deception but actually so much of what John has been saying is about this subject. A person is ‘deceived’ when they have been led to believe something that is untruth. A con man may deceive you that he was a good, honest person with your best interests at heart, when in reality he was out to fleece you of your money. Satan deceived Eve by getting her to believe that everything would be all right if she sinned. He first challenged what God had said: “He said to the woman, “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) and then he got her to believe it would be all right if she disregarded God: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.” (Gen 3:4). By his persuasive talk he deceived here into thinking that disregarding God’s commands (sin) was all right – but it wasn’t!

Twice above, we have seen John speak about those who might “lead you astray” meaning those who try to get you to veer away from living according to God’s commands and do your own thing. That is what ‘deception’ is all about and the moment we see it in these terms – veering away from living according to God’s commands – we suddenly realise that this is what John has been on about throughout this letter.

Right back at the beginning: “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth,” (1:6) there it was!  If we say one thing but do another, we have been deceived – and we’re trying to deceive others!  He repeated it a bit later: “The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (2:4) There it is again – someone saying one thing but doing something that runs contrary to what you would expect from that thing. Deception!   He follows it up in a different form: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” (2:9)  Exactly the same: saying one thing but doing what is contrary to what you said.

After some more teaching, he varies it slightly: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (3:6) It’s more by implication here. Living in Christ and sin don’t go together so if you say you are in Christ (implied) but carry on sinning, you are deceiving yourself.

This is John’s message that comes again and again into that period in which he lived when some people said they were Christians but clearly lived lives that were not. John has recently been reminding us that if we are ‘in Christ’ then we will be like him, e.g. “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (3:3). So now he says, “He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.” (3:7). We have already noted a number of times that to be “in Christ” means that with his Holy Spirit living within us, we will start to be like him; it is a process that starts when we are born again and continues throughout our life, with the Spirit working within us. The person who now lives according to God’s commands and is led by God’s Spirit – “who does what is right” – is clearly a righteous person, a person ‘in Christ’.  We can only claim to be righteous if God has made us so.

Yet again he makes a contrast to drive home the point “He who does what is sinful is of the devil” and he explains why that is so:  “because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” It is just the same as the other side of the coin when he said those in Christ will live righteously. Now he’s pointing out that the (ongoing) sinner is like he is because he/she follows Satan and Satan has been a Sinner from the beginning when he rebelled against God.

If you like, John’s teaching is learning to distinguish between chalk and cheese, good and evil, right and wrong, and realise that they cannot both exist in the same person as a driving force. Yes, we’ve seen we make an occasional mistake, we may get it wrong from time to time, but it is the overall life-drive that he’s talking about.  You cannot be given over to self-centred and godless living at the same time as being committed to Christ. They are obviously mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter what a person says, it is what they actually do that counts. A person might be nice, might be good, and say they are a Christian, but if, essentially, the rest of their life (apart from Sunday mornings) is self-centred and godless, they are deceived and if they try to get us to agree that their lifestyle is valid and in accordance with what they say about their beliefs, they are trying to deceive us! This is the message that John is bringing again and again through his letter.

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22. Anointed

Meditations in 1 John : 22 : Anointed

1 John  2:20   But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

Observe the starting word here – ‘but’. John is now contrasting the Christians with those he has just been speaking about. He has been speaking about people he calls antichrists, people who started off with the truth, but became deceived and accepted variations of the Gospel that ended up with them being against Jesus and the Gospel. These people are deceived. You, by contrast, says John, know the truth. You know what is true, what is right. Why? Because you have an anointing from God Himself.

Now that is interesting language. We don’t usually speak about Christians generally being anointed; we do talk about leaders, preachers or ministries being anointed, but we don’t usually think about ordinary Christians as being anointed. So what does John mean when he speaks like this?

Let’s see the use of the word anoint or anointing in the Bible. Well, first of all it referred to pouring oil on a priest to consecrate them: Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head,” (Ex 29:7), but the same thing was done to consecrate a king: “The LORD said to Samuel,…You are to anoint for me the one I indicate….. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” (1 Sam 16:1,3,13)  In the Old Testament period it was a pouring of oil over the head of a leader – a priest or a king – as a sign of him being set apart to God for the task given to him, which he would fulfil with the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Note the three elements there: a) being set apart, b) for a task and c) with the enabling of God’s Holy Spirit.  Jesus was referred to as ‘the anointed one. In the prophetic Psalm 2 we find, The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.” (Psa 2:2)  The early church applied that prophecy when they prayed and then referred to Jesus – “your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” (Acts 4:26,27) Preaching to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, Peter declared, “You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:37,38)

The emphasis was not there on Jesus’ being (as the New Testament testifies to again and again) but to the fact that it was by the power of the Spirit that the human being, Jesus, who was the Son of God from before birth, actually operated. He did what he did because he was God or, if you like, because the power of God was manifested through him. In the synagogue in Nazarethtook the Isaiah scroll and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” (Lk 4:18) The whole point was to emphasise that he was sent by God, set apart by God, to perform a task and to do it in the power of the Spirit.

So now we come to us, to John saying we have been anointed. Elsewhere we are told that we are now indwelt by the Spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 3:16) but the emphasis that John now places on this is that we have received the Holy Spirit to set us apart for the task of revealing God (hence the earlier references to revealing His love through who we are and what we do), and to doing it through the enabling and power of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said a similar thing: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21,22) God has put His Holy Spirit upon us and in us. We live and stand firm by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.

John is going to say a lot more about this a bit later on in this chapter but for now he just introduces us to the idea. He does it to emphasise how different we are from the antichrists that he has spoken about. They were into deception but we are into truth because we have been anointed by and are indwelt by the Spirit of Truth (Jn 14:17, 15:26, 16:13).  Of course John had described Jesus as being “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14) and so if we are expressions of Jesus, we too will be expressions of truth, but we will see more of that in the following verses.  For now, let us remind ourselves, we have been set apart by God to represent or reveal Him and to do that by the enabling of the Spirit who he has put within us when we came to Christ. Amen? Amen!

18. Claiming Wisdom

Meditations in Romans : 18:  Claiming Wisdom

Rom 1:22,23.   Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

We started off the previous meditation by noting that so often we think our thinking is right and good, i.e. we think we are wise.  Yet we went on to note that Paul said that our thinking (without God) is futile or hopeless, and those descriptions surely cannot stand alongside wisdom! Yet part of the deception is that we think we are wise; we think we know about life and the world and so we feel confident but, sadly, it is a false confidence.  As I listen to or read the modern crusading atheists, there comes over a confidence. When I wrote an appraisal of one of these men, I found myself writing, “He gives himself the position of almost divine authority. You wonder can he possibly be wrong!” This is a man who seriously ‘claims to be wise’, and certainly wiser than those of us who hold a biblical faith!

But Paul says that these people who failed to see God in His Creation, having become futile in their thinking, have also become fools. Now my dictionary describes a fool as a person with little or no judgment, common sense, wisdom, etc.” That is what a fool is. In the Old Testament we find, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psa 14:1, 53:1). A fool, says the psalmist, is one who makes out there is no God. I also note that there is a footnote in my Bible that tells us that, “The Hebrew words rendered ‘fool’ in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.” So, a fool is one who is lacking judgment, is godless and is morally deficient. What a condemnation of one who thinks they are wise!

But this is exactly what deception is all about. The Bible speaks again and again of Eve being ‘deceived’ by Satan in the Garden of Eden (e.g. Gen 3:13, 2 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:14).  When we are deceived it simply means that we have been led into a position where we believe something false. That is what Paul is saying in these verses. People who abandon God are being deceived so that they end up with futile, hopeless thinking and yet they still think they are wise! That is classic deception!

But is it obvious, Paul goes on, you only have to see what they do. They reject the wonder and the glory of God who is eternal and they replace that with man-made idols. How stupid can you get!  Yes, if you travel around the world you will still see, in a number of countries, idols that have been made in the form of human beings or animals.  The prophets of the Old Testament were particularly good at deriding the folly of worshipping idols – wood or metal made at the hands of men – idols that are utterly powerless!

Perhaps today we may think we are more sophisticated here in the West and would never dream of making such models and bowing down before them, but the truth is an idol is anything we worship other that God, any substitute we make for God, and there are many such things in modern life. Rather than me put forward my list of such things, you think about modern life and see what things modern man considers more important than God.

If we take anything and make and use it as a substitute for God, we are being a fool. These substitutes do not bring genuine, lasting meaning to our lives. They become a temporary focus but in old age we realise they were empty and hollow and meaningless and we are left destitute when it comes to purpose and direction into eternity. These substitutes could not speak to us, guide us and help us and work good in us, for they were all the outworkings of the endeavours of man. Fame and fortune may appear alluring but at the end of life when we come face to face with God, we will realise that they were simply a means to enhance our self-centredness and godlessness and they do not last and cannot be taken with us as we pass through the doorway of death.

How bizarre and crazy is the outworking of sin sometimes! Here is almighty, wonderful, beautiful, glorious God, who offers friendship and salvation to us, offers us meaning and purpose and a wonderful life that stretches into eternity – and some of us turn down these offers and settle for temporary and transient things that do nothing more than bolster the deception that we are someone of substance who thinks well of themselves – who thinks they are wise while, in fact, their thinking is futile and foolish.

Jesus spoke of God’s work of dealing with the ungodly: He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts.” (Jn 12:40, quoting Isa 6;10) But how does God do this? He allows Satan to do it: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:3,4) Yes, it is Satan who blinds people’s eyes. He simply plays on their already godless and self-centred inclinations, that are the expression of sin, and speaks into their minds what is acceptable to them – “It’s all right, there is no God; you do what you want to do. You know best,” and they follow along until a crisis in life ploughs their lives and the Holy Spirit speaks seeds of conviction to them, to turn them to God. But until then, they are deceived and foolish in their thinking and their godless behaviour just testifies to that foolishness. May that not be true of us!  I find possibly one of the saddest expressions of this deception is seen at funerals when deceived mourners extol the virtues of their deceived loved one by playing them out to Frank Sinatra’s, “I did it my way.” THAT is deception and folly!

13. Perplexed

Today and for the next two weeks we take a break from Ephesians (which we will come back to) and continue a series we started before on “Questioning God”

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.13


Jud 21:3 O LORD, the God of Israel ,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel ? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”


Because we live in a Fallen World, there are quite often times when circumstances seem perplexing and we wonder why things should actually be happening. The question, “Why?” is not uncommon. Ultimately though, we will suggest, such things boil down to just one or two ultimate reasons. Let’s consider what was causing this cry in Israel at this particular time. To get to the root of it we have to go right back to the beginning of chapter 19 of Judges.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.” (Jud 19:1). There was, we see a man of the tribe of Levi who lived in the middle of the country in the area given to the tribe of Ephraim (Levites didn’t have their own land; they lived all over the country). He took what we would call today a second wife, and she came from further south in Judah‘s territory. As you read on we find she was unfaithful to him and returned to her home. After a while he followed her and persuaded her to return with him. Because his father-in-law kept delaying their leaving, eventually it wasn’t until early evening that they left and so it was getting dark when they decided to stop off at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. Here they were given shelter in the home of an old man. However word got out that they were there and a bunch of homosexuals banged on the door demanding that the man come out and have sex, (Not a nice story!) Instead of the man going out, to appease these men, they sent the concubine out (possibly hoping perhaps that she wouldn’t interest them) but they gang raped her and left her for dead.

So angered was the man that when he got home he cut her body into twelve and sent a part of it to each of the tribes of Israel demanding something be done. When the tribes gathered they determined to stand against Benjamin and demand justice. However, “The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? Now surrender those wicked men of Gibeah so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.” But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites.” (Jud 20:12,13). Benjamin has obviously got to such a low moral state that they tolerated blatant sin and even defended it. To cut a long story short (read Judges 20) Israel basically destroyed Benjamin in the fighting that followed, with the exception of six hundred men who fled into the desert. Suddenly Israel realized that the twelve tribes were potentially now only eleven and the awfulness of this caused them to cry out in today’s verse.

Why should such a thing happen? Ultimately the answer is sin! But more than that, it was unrestrained sin. In this low time of the Judges, there was no king, no one leader who called the nation to account, and so sin was allowed to prevail and got worse and worse, and so eventually this situation occurred. Not only was it the sin of the people of Gibeah, but it was the acceptance of it by the whole tribe of Benjamin. Sin had taken root in that part of the land. Where sin is accepted, we may accept it and allow it to get worse and worse. Unless God intervenes, sin never improves; it is always a downward spiral.

Whenever we look at grieving circumstances, the hard truth is that they are grieving because of sin. Some person or people are the cause of whatever grief there is. Linked with this always, is godlessness. Sin is one aspect of godlessness or godlessness is one aspect of sin. We sin because we have been deceived by Satan into believing that God’s not around and we will get away with it. Ultimately all our sin is because we have come into the place of mistaken thinking – God’s not here so I can do what I like. That is godless thinking and it leads to unrighteousness. Whatever the conflict, whatever the upset, whatever the perplexing situation, it is because there is sin involved and linked to that, godless attitudes.

Whenever we are seeking to be genuinely godly, there will never be anything less than peace and harmony. Now the one exception to that statement is where justice must prevail because sin has harmed. Justice is required within society and sometimes, as in the unpleasant situation we have just been considering, justice means punishment has to fall which still leaves us grieving. If you read chapter 20 of Judges you will see that the Lord was completely involved with this. This was no mere act of revenge; this was an act of justice to purge the land of sin, and as such it was heart rending.

A difficult and unpleasant part of Scripture, yet the truth is still there which needs to be heeded. Sin is waiting to rise up and spread. We must stand against it within ourselves individually and in society corporately. If we fail to do that it will grow and spread and be utterly destructive. We would really do well to heed this awful lesson.