“But when he came to his senses, he said…’I will get up and go to my father.’” (Luke 15:17-18)
“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13-14)
The famous story of the Prodigal Son features a boy, in rebellion to his father’s wishes, who takes his inheritance before it’s due him, leaves his family, and goes out spending it on worldly desires. Is that the same concept as one tied closely to it in many ways, deception? The Greek word for “rebellion” means to be disobedient, insubordinate, or unruly. The dictionary also defines it as defiant, resistant, and dissentious. People, like the Prodigal, who are rebellious have made an internal decision to do what they do. They may be wrong in their thinking and what they are doing, but they know exactly what it is they are doing and why. They have made a conscious choice to be disobedient. The Prodigal had a plan: he went to his father, got his inheritance, and went on a journey. If this were a murder story and the Prodigal killed the father to gain his inheritance, the police would call his actions “premeditated.”
The word for “deception,” on the other hand, means to be seduced, deluded, wandering, etc. The dictionary also defines it as duplicitous, fraudulent, and deviant. People who are deceived are as the ones Paul called “impostors” in the passage from 2nd Timothy above. Unlike rebellion, the Greek definition for deception implies outside forces acting on the unsuspecting to “seduce” them. It is for this reason Revelation 12 describes Satan as the one who “deceives the whole world.” He plies his trade upon the unsuspecting, the naïve, and the foolish who will grant him space in their souls. Furthermore, deception is a downward spiral that features “going from bad to worse,” as people first are deceived and then go out deceiving others.
Judas is a prime example of one deceived. He lived with Jesus every day like the rest of the disciples, and during that time acted no differently than they did. Imagine that! Living with God incarnate, watching His life of wisdom, love, grace, and powerful miracles, spending years following His commands, and then being able to betray Him! Did Judas just wake up one morning and say to himself, “I think I will go out and betray my Master and friend, have him crucified, and then go hang myself?” No, Judas had been deceived by the Devil, and then deceived himself in to thinking he could somehow bring peace between Jesus and those who hated Him by forcing them to meet together. Would a logically thinking human being, having witnessed the animosity between the two Judas had no doubt seen, then magically think he could pull something like this off? Most would say that would be crazy. If this was our murder story, his defense would be “not guilty by means of diminished capacity or insanity.”
In 2nd Corinthians 11, Paul is fearing for the deceived in Corinth, describing their condition as “their minds being led astray.” In Colossians 2, he says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” Again, we see the element of outside influence on naïve minds. Someone or something “led” them off the righteous path. Some other examples of deceived people in the Bible would be the ones who thought they were serving Jesus, but were not, in Matthew 7:21-23, and the church at Laodicea who thought they “were rich and had everything” when Jesus had quite a different spin on it. In all of these cases, false teaching upon the gullible comes in to play. Gullible and naïve people don’t really have minds of their own like the rebellious. They either think they are right when they’re not, or don’t care to or are incapable of individual thought, so they become seduced by “other” thought.
What is similar about rebelliousness and deception is rebellion can often be a path to deception. Likewise, deception will always lead to rebellion. The difference, as with all things God, is He examines the motives and intentions of the heart, and in this the two differ.
Deception can begin as rebellion, that then becomes a “practice.” Rebellious deeds, which become a practice because they are not repented of, will eventually result in numbness to repentance, and then deception. Our ability to repent will be lost in the numbness and the damning state of “lawlessness” will overtake us. Practice, according to Hebrews 5-6, determines whether we remain milk-sucking babes in the Spirit, or meat-eating mature adults. As Satan turns up the heat in these times where “kingdom is arising against kingdom,” deception will be his primary weapon of choice. Practice will determine whether have the discernment of good and evil that will allow us to face him down, or babes rendered hapless cannon fodder for his deceptions. Are babes capable of rational thought, or of defending themselves from a theological standpoint? Of course not!
The Prodigal was not deceived, he was rebellious, and there is a big difference where motivation and intent are concerned. The person who is merely rebellious has made a choice and can make another one to “return to his senses,” as he did. Nowhere in this story do we find anyone whispering in the Prodigal’s ear, to either cause him to rebel or cause him to repent. In both cases he made his own choice. Many times, choices do not exist for the deceived person. We do not find the people in Matthew 7 or Revelations 3 coming to their senses. Choice does not exist because they do not think they are doing anything wrong, and thus there is no reason to look for another way.
Is there, then, no hope for those who are deceived? Jesus’ message to the church of Laodicea says, “Yes!” But unlike the rebellious who can make their own decision to repent, folks who are deceived need the help of someone more mature to help open their eyes. Jesus gave the church at Laodicea specific instructions as to what to do to get back on the right track. The Bible is full of stories of people helping people climb out of the clutches of deception. This is why it is so wrong to take an “I have so many flaws myself, who am I to point out the faults of another?” approach, or a “don’t rock the boat” philosophy as a Christian. Jesus addresses this in the parable of the log and the speck, also in Matthew 7. Notice He doesn’t end this parable by saying, “You are not worthy or competent to help your brother get the speck out of his eye because of the log that is in yours, so don’t bother.” No, He says, “Stop being a hypocrite to your claims of faith, get the log out of your own eye, and go help your brother who cannot help himself!”
In my book, The Lost Supper, I strive to make the point God has given us a divinely-anointed ceremony specifically tailored to help us root out denied, rebellious sin patterns in our lives so they don’t morph in to numbness and deception. It’s a place and time where Paul commands us to “examine ourselves,” more importantly to let God examine us for the purposes of repentance, and to get back on the path of obedience. It is called Communion, but it has become “lost” through our temple practices of taking it out of its biblically-prescribed setting and making it, along with everything else, solely about grace. I hope you will check it out [https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+lost+supper+by+wolff&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss], for it can give you and your small group a path back from what may be the brink of deception, to holiness and togetherness with both man and God.
Do you know someone who is caught in the grip of deception? I beg you, act now before it is too late. Rebellious people could certainly use a hand in being restored to God, but like the Prodigal are capable of seeing that themselves. However, Jesus said of the deceived, “If the light in you has become darkness, how great is the darkness!” Deceived people desperately need someone to help them battle the forces that have played upon them, and this to restore the light that has become darkened. They are, by definition, incapable of pulling themselves out of the condition of “minds that have been led astray.” They need another voice to lead them back to the paths of righteousness. Be that voice, regardless of your own struggles. If God has put you in a place of knowing them, and given you eyes to see their dilemma, then you are the one to be that voice.