Three Warnings Against Deception

From Matthew 7:15-27, Jesus presents to His disciples three pictures with three warnings.

The first picture is of the false prophets who will come to them in sheep’s clothing (verses 15-20). This warning is addressed to Christians to be not deceived by these false prophets (teachers) who will look just like any other Christian teacher.

The second picture is of the judgment day when a professing Christian is surprised that Jesus has rejected him as a Christian and says to him, “I never knew you” (verses 21-23). This warning is addressed to the professing Christian—who is not a Christian at all. The warning is to be not self-deceived into thinking that you are a Christian.

These two (above) scenarios I have already posted, so I won’t write any more on them.

The third picture is of two men who build their houses. The houses look the same, but one is built with a good foundation and the other skips that part (verses 24-27). The warning is addressed again to the professing Christian who is seeking the benefits of salvation without the commitment of salvation. The warning is not to deceive yourself into thinking that salvation needs no commitment to Christ. Here is the teaching:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

So, in this teaching we have the wise man and the foolish man. And “these words” are referring to Jesus’ entire sermon. And the one who acts upon them will become a Christian and a wise man, and the one who does not act upon them will remain a pagan and a foolish man.

But the thing that is so deceptive in this picture is the fact that the two houses look the same, except for the foundation—which you never see, because it is underground. So, one house will stand and the other will fall. And one man is proved to be wise and the other a fool.

In the illustration, the fool, who is not a Christian at all, is in a hurry to get all the benefits of his house (of salvation), without putting in the work of salvation. The other man is wise. He hears Jesus and responds to His words of truth.

Here are a few more implications about these two men:

  • The two men are both church goers and members.
  • The two men both desire forgiveness and peace; one of them has a genuine forgiveness and peace, the other has a false sense of forgiveness and a false peace—because he is not a true believer.
  • Both men desire to live a good life; but one has a selfish motive, the other desires to glorify God.
  • Both men are highly moral men, but one is not a Christian. He is living a pure life just for himself to put on a good front before others.

Ten Signs of Self-Deception

I have been following the sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In the last few posts, particularly on Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has told us straight out that at the judgment day many will be surprised when He tells them, “I never knew you.” Hence, they have been self-deceived probably their entire life. They believed they were Christians but were not. What makes a person think he is a real Christian when he is not? What are the signs of self-deception in this matter? Lloyd-Jones gives us ten signs. I will abbreviate them in my own words.

1. When a person counts on attending church meetings. I don’t understand this point, but I suppose some may think that attending meetings will give them good standing with God.

2. When a person takes an interest in his denomination or fellowship. For some reason a person may think that to be interested in the church in this way, this will make him a Christian, that it puts him high on the totem pole so to speak.

3. When one is caught up in the phenomena of exalted feelings, guidance, physical healing, and so on. One may regard these things as a sign of being Spirit filled, and therefore a Christian; however, even the demon possessed have experienced some of these things.

4. When one is caught up in the social events of the church. I have personally witnessed people who take great pride in certain social activities, and even very worthwhile things, but that in itself does not make you a Christian.

5. When one is caught up in apologetics—the defense of the faith. This is a worthwhile interest and it may for some seem to be a sign of a Christian; but again, this interest will not make you a Christian; it will do nothing for the saving of your soul.

6. To have an interest in theology. The grave danger here is that a person may become so engaged in his studies that he forgets about a need for a personal relationship with God.

7. To have an over interest in prophetic teaching. This is one of my interests, and so, I can see that if one is not a Christian already, it may deceive you. That is, if you have become a student of bible prophecy, it may so build you up in bible knowledge that you may take on a self-pride in yourself where it may be impossible to find true salvation.

8. A person that becomes a student of the bible, but his knowledge is only an intellectual pursuit. One who is highly knowledgeable in the bible may not even be a Christian. In fact, his knowledge may do more damage than good; as his pride is built up, he may at some point turn against true Christianity.

9. A person who has a great interest in various bible translations and in choosing one over another. This is another case of one building up in himself a sort of intellectual bible pride, which may be very damaging to the soul, and in the end, if he is not a Christian he may never be.

10. One who is only interested in grace. This may be a sign that one is not a Christian and is fooling himself. For a true Christian, sin is a serious matter and one’s reaction to it should be of deep penitence. If a person seems always to be restored quickly by grace, his love of the Lord and salvation is questionable.

Those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord”

The narrow way and the broad way

The Bible says that on the judgment day it will be revealed that some who think they are Christians are really not. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

This may seem to you to be a very strange thing, that some people will be so self-deceived, that they think they are Christians when they are not. How can this happen? How does someone not know that he is not a Christian? How does he or she live so much of a life thinking that they are Christians when they are not?

The only answer is that they haven’t really known what a Christian is. They evidently have allowed false prophets to influence them; and they, at the beginning, entered not at the narrow gate but at the broad gate and went down and lived in the broad way—the way of the world. And all along in their journey, they never at any point got to know the Lord and to be changed by Him. What a tragic deception.

But how is it that they are so deceived?  And also, how is it that true Christians are also deceived into thinking that some false Christians are true Christians? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Knowing Him does not mean saying the right words. It is possible for a person to say all the right words, to have a very holy and righteous speech, and yet not be a Christian. A changed language does not mean that there is a changed heart.
  • Some unbelievers may use Scripture and Scriptural teaching as a kind of philosophy, but they don’t really know Christ or are converted.
  • Some may speak and even preach the Scriptures fervently, but it may be entirely of the flesh and not for the sake of Christ.

The test of course is whether a person has the fruit of the Spirt, and also whether they know Him or not. Do they pray and read their bible regularly? Do they have a growing love relationship with Him?