I am never surprised at how deceptive those that want to take advantage of others can be. In fact, just as I was getting ready to write this article, I received an email claiming an issue with my account. It was spam with no description of an account, just an attachment to open. I wonder how many people get taken advantage of each day. The Bible reminds followers of Jesus not to be taken advantage of in a number of places.
I have recently been thinking about how many times I have comes across that phrase “do not be deceived” in my time in the Word. It reminds me of the importance of being “on our toes.” It is easier to be taken advantage of when we are not paying attention. The consequences for begin sloppy spiritually can have significant consequences. I counted at least 10 places in the New Testament that the follower of Jesus is admonished be careful about being tricked!
It is interesting how each of those passages speak to areas of life that we could easily overlook. Let me challenge you with two. First, I am reminded of one that reminds us of a common pitfall for each of us. It was written to a church that was in a similar cultural situation as ours today. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18) The warning is of the cancerous influence that our culture has upon our spiritual health. Paul is reminding us of the danger of being immersed in the cultural practices and attitudes. This is something that can easily fly under our radar. There are those things that we take for granted, many of which we enjoy that erode our spiritual foundation as a follower of Jesus. I have personally noticed how the media over the last years has gone downhill. The danger of participating in a particular sitcom is that many episodes will include activities that are off limits for the follower of Jesus Yet, what happens when we watch them is that we become desensitized to what the Bible warns us to avoid. These are just two that comes to mind. These dangers are easier to spot as you grow in your understanding of God’s Word. This could also be reflected in going to places that would cause us to be tempted to pursue activities that the Word warns us about. The point is that when we focus on these distractions, we only pollute our spiritual life.
The second warning is related to the first. Jesus’s half-brother, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem warns in the letter bearing his name. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) The challenge here is when we just go through the motions of being a follower of Jesus. He is in essence warning us about faking our Christianity. This is when we use the language, but ignore making a spiritual investment in our lives each week. We find ourselves making excuses for not reading our Bible, attending weekend services, being a part of a Bible study or not getting involved in a ministry. The bottom line is that we only hurt ourselves.
It seems like each week I have an opportunity to help those that have been deceived. I grieve over the pain in their lives. I just wish I could convince them to get serious about their relationship with the Lord and let Him work in their lives. What about you?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson