As a child, I went to the county fair with my uncle. The rides spun around with screaming teenagers while children held tightly to their parents’ hand with one and a cone filled with sticky cotton candy with the other. Whiffs of roasted peanuts, funnel cakes, and sawdust filled the air.
Fun houses perplexed me. I think I’ve only been through one once because it terrified me. The fun house effect: illusions, smoke screens, mazes, glass tunnel that spun around, floor that was at an angle, and mirrors that make your head the size of a watermelon and your feet the size of peas freaked me out. I stumbled out of if it feeling confused, befuddled, deceived.
Why in the world do people like that ride? Yet the line was always long with people anxiously waiting to get turned upside down, have their senses deceived into an alternate reality. I guess it was a way of escape from this one. But for me, funhouses were never fun.
I was raised as a good little Baptist pastor’s kid, so the Word of God was real to me. I heard it preached every Sunday, and it filled many conversations. Yet, because my father was an abuser and much of the doctrine twisted, my view of God was, at best, skewed, and the Word of God, in many instances, was used as a tool to condemn and control rather than bring life and light. Because of being raised in this environment, anything deceptive makes my stomach turn. I really hate feeling deceived, lied to. I have a need for explanation, to know what’s behind the curtain in Oz.
Please hear me say I am not sitting in a place of judgment on any one doctrine or ministry for that matter. I simply see some danger ahead if we don’t slow down and discern what we are being led into. It’s out of love and compassion that I share this, not judgment, nor do I have all the answers. If it rocks your boat, please know I wasn’t specifically targeting you, but I do hope this will at least help us to stop and pray, seeking out God and His Word.
Let’s see what the Word of God says about some things first.
Later, when they arrived at the Mount of Olives, his disciples came privately to where he was sitting and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what supernatural sign should we expect to signal your coming and the completion of this age?”
Jesus answered, “At that time deception will run rampant. So beware that you are not fooled! 5 For many will appear on the scene claiming my authority or saying about themselves, ‘I am God’s Anointed,’ and they will lead many astray (Matt. 24:3-5, TPT).
So then, we may no longer be children, tossed [like ships] to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, [gamblers engaged] in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead.
Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Eph. 4:14–15, AMP).
I’m not claiming to be a Bible scholar, and those who know me also know that I often experience things in God that are out of the box, sometimes way of the box, and by that, I mainly mean, when I experience the glorious presence of God, my senses get very engaged in that. I’m what some call a feeler. I can walk in a room and know if it’s filled with God’s presence, the presence of evil, or even a false religion.
For example, when we were looking at houses to buy several years ago, our realtor opened the door to a cute home, but before we even stepped over the threshold, I knew it was owned by Hindus. Sure enough, as we walked through the home, there was much evidence it was. My very stable-footed husband helps keep me grounded, but sometimes, he has a difficult job. LOL!
Obviously, from Scripture, as it grows closer to the end of time, there will be stronger and stronger deception. That’s pretty clear. So how can we allow God the freedom to take us to new places in Him yet not fall into deception?
Well, this is in no way conclusive, but these are some of my guidelines.
- Does it line up with Scripture in context?
You can use the Bible to say pretty much anything you want it to if you take Scripture out of context. This is how false doctrines develop.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Moonies Cult, taught college students to hate their father and mother, leave their families, and come follow him based on the Scripture that Jesus taught, “Leave your father and mother. Come follow me.” And many did. Scripture taken out of context can be used to deceive and manipulate.
I remember the example that a suicidal person let the Bible fall open and randomly pointed to the Scripture “And Judas hanged himself.” Stunned, he did it again, his finger landing on the verse “Go and do likewise.” Now, that’s a sad example, I know, but that’s how many people treat the Word of God.
If there is no context, anyone can a pull out of a verse to say what they want to say. Going back to the original Hebrew also helps with context. Our western worldview often skews our view of Scripture as well. There are times I let my Bible randomly fall open and it really ministers to me, but I still need to read around the Scripture to see what the context of the verse is in.
- What’s the fruit?
Is the teaching and the person teaching it producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control – the fruit of the Spirit? Always check the fruit. Good trees always produce good fruit.
If the message seems right (and there truly may be truth in the message that you can glean from) but the messenger has stinky fruit, then I probably won’t submit myself to that person’s teaching for long.
Is the person who is teaching willing to be confronted, or do they cut off people who disagree with them, sometimes hiding behind the “Don’t touch the man of God” mantra? If a man or woman is shepherding people, meaning a flock of people are following him or her, he or she should exemplify the Good Shepherd’s heart and character (that would be the character of Jesus). If they don’t welcome conversation and questions, run.
- Does what they teach in any way nullify what Jesus did on the cross in His redemptive work for us? In other words, does our salvation depend on our works or on His?
There are several popular teachers being widely listened to that point to our “suffering” or “works” to make us righteous. We need to be really careful here because our salvation comes through Jesus and what He has done, not through our works or putting down our flesh through suffering. To accept this deception is to put Christianity on the level of every other religion.
Christianity is the only religion not based on what man can do but on the grace of God through what Jesus has done to reconcile us to the Father. It is a priceless gift freely given to us because God wants His family back. He wants to reconcile us to Himself. This is the heart of the “Good News,” and this will never change.
2 Peter 2:1-3, TPT
[Warning about False Teachers] In the past there arose false prophets among God’s people, just as there will continue to be false teachers who will secretly infiltrate in your midst to divide you, bringing with them their destructive heresies. They will even deny the Master, who paid the price for them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow immoral lifestyles. Because of these corrupt false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. They are only out for themselves, ready to exploit you for their own gain through their cunning arguments. Their condemnation has been a long time coming. But their destruction does not slumber or sit idly by, for it is sure to come. …
- Is it divisive?
Does it promote the Kingdom of God, or is it promoting a man’s kingdom? On this one, often I think this is just immaturity and not necessarily deception, though the line is kind of hard to draw on some of this.
One church thinks they have got the corner on the kingdom like they are in the “know” and everyone else is, well, “not.” All I will say here is be careful when placing judgment on someone whose walk has been different from yours. I know I’m sounding like I’m contradicting myself based on what I’ve already said, but hang in there with me just for a minute more.
Jesus is coming for all His bride; He loves us all. He will pour His Spirit out on anyone who is willing. He really loves to do that with children and outcasts in fact. He likes stumping the wise and gives grace to the humble.
I used to think, “God is going to pour out His move at my church, and that’s where it will begin.” But I was wrong. It is not about any one local body. It’s about THE BODY, THE BRIDE, THE CHURCH, and what He longs do to and through us.
The other thing that I’ve seen that is divisive is judging others’ experiences as invalid because it doesn’t fit in your box. Now, again, if it violates the Word in context or what Jesus did on the cross, proceed with caution.
For example, God, for whatever reason, has chosen to take me on an inner healing journey with Him, meaning He has shown me memories of my past that were toxic, and then, He has rewritten them with His love, truth, etc. It is basically rewriting your identity in Jesus Christ from the deepest parts of your being.
The Word says out of your inmost being will flow rivers of living water. If the well is polluted, contaminated water will flow, but when it has been cleaned out, the water is pure and delicious to drink.
There are many different types of inner healing ministry that I believe are valid, and sometimes, people are instantly delivered from bondages. I’m not the healer. He is. But when someone says that inner healing is demonic, that God doesn’t heal like that, in my opinion, this is also a level of deception because it is limiting God in the way He can minister to people and because it demonizes those who have received healing in a different way.
I have known people that I personally have been praying for, unprompted by me or anyone else, were taken by God to the source of pain in their heart or, in other words, the memory, and then God showed them where He was and the truth of who He really was in the pain for them. It brought great healing and release to the person.
It’s immature and hurtful to not validate such an experience of a precious child of God. It causes division when there’s no need for it. Love brings unity. Again, be a fruit inspector. If it’s the work of Jesus, it will bring life, peace, joy, and love.
- Lastly, we MUST, MUST have a relationship with the Truth-giver, the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, He is the one who leads us into all truth. Our eyes must be fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. If we fix our eyes on any man, we will stumble and fall, but if we fix our eyes on Jesus, trusting His Holy Spirit to guide us, He promises us that He will lead us into all truth. It’s a trust walk with Him. The only way we will truly make it through this life is in walking in close communion and relationship with Him.
Our God is an amazingly diverse, creative healer, redeemer, and lover of our hearts. Let’s never put Him in a box but allow Him to set us free however He chooses to do so. May we fix our eyes on Him in a close relationship with Him, stewarding His Word well so we aren’t caught up in a web of deception, lost in a funhouse that turns out to be not so much fun. Let’s not miss all that He has in store for us in this hour.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on wholeheartedwomen.org
Featured Image by Lea Fabienne