The Process of Deception
The Process of Deception — Jay Zinn
I move on now from the topic of end-times because no matter your persuasion or convictions on the subject, we can all agree that the devil is a liar and uses deception every day as a preemptive weapon against us. To be ready for the intensified deceit of the last days, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge of God’s Word. We can’t ignore the biblical warnings of how easily saints can be misled from the daily barrage of lies from the world, about Christ, and about ourselves.
We must know the truth, not subjective truth (i.e., “your” truth versus “my” truth), but truth aligned with God and his Word. Subjective truth is born out of our own musings fashioned to suit or fit a personal, emotional, conclusion about God, rather than what the Bible reveals about Him. Why is this important to address? Because the day will come when the antichrist (and his false prophet) will use scripture to deceive people into believing he is God, the true Messiah. We must know the truth about God to discern the counterfeit.
In this week’s blog, I want to show you the process of deception by which the brother I’ve told you about deceived me. This process is always prevalent in life in some way, shape, or form. Here’s the order of how it went, and the devil’s playbook used to deceive me hasn’t changed since the time he deceived Eve.
I had zeal without knowledge (see Romans 10:2).
Paul testified that the Israelites were zealous for God but without knowledge. Religious people can be devoted, heartfelt, and passionate about their beliefs, and yet sincerely wrong. I was enthusiastic as a young Christian but lacked much in my knowledge of the scriptures. I became an easy target for my deceiver because he knew the Bible better, and my zeal and ignorance gave him the leverage he needed to mislead me (perhaps not intentionally since he was self-deceived).
He came to me as an angel of light (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Paul warned the church at Corinth about false apostles and deceitful workers who pretended to be self-appointed apostles of Christ. And since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light, it’s no surprise that his false apostles posed as servants of righteousness. My deceiver initially came to me like an angel of light, a servant of God (corresponding to the beliefs he had about himself). God’s love seemed to pour out of him.
He “secretly” whispered in my ear (see John 18:20 and 2 Peter 2:1).
Jesus told the high priest who questioned him about his teachings that he spoke openly to the world and had said nothing in secret. Deceivers do the opposite. They gather people by whispering into the ears of the unsuspecting. They don’t talk openly around the discerning; they speak privately in secret places. At our church services, my deceiver had me sit with him in the back pew while he critiqued the message, even more so after church, to add more commentary so that he could show me the way more perfectly.
Deceivers will be in a church body, pulling people aside, sowing doubt and confusion (Did God really say that?), and slander and gossip in opposition to what is preached and taught by the church leaders. Deceivers can be charming, charismatic, appear genuine and sincere (because they sincerely believe what they believe), but whisper in your ear things that make you feel more knowledgeable about what God is really doing and how everyone else is wrong.
He separated me from the flock (see Matthew 7:15-16).
Sheep that stray toward the edge of the woods become vulnerable to wolves and other predators. Their only defense is to stay near the flock. When danger approaches, the shepherd signals to his flock to huddle-up tight with their backs to the outside. This keeps the wolf from reaching their throats. Sheep are the most vulnerable when they are scattered and isolated from the flock and the shepherd.
Just like sheep separated from the others, isolated Christians are vulnerable. They have no checks and balances and can turn Jesus into whoever they want him to be to justify their actions. It is the same way with deceivers. While they turn Jesus into a figment of their own beliefs, they look for weak and vulnerable sheep to join their club of the “elite saints.” This happened to me. He deceived me into believing I didn’t need my church family and lured me away from them to a so-called deeper path. Once no one else was around to challenge this brother’s doctrine, he became my mentor and filled me with his false doctrine for several months.
He prophesied to me (see 1 Corinthians 14:29).
Prophecy serves to strengthen, encourage, and comfort us (1 Corinthians 14:2). Not to manipulate people toward the agenda of the person prophesying. This is what my deceiver did. The Bible says that we “know in part and prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). Prophecy must be weighed carefully by others who are discerning saints (1 Corinthians 14:29).
My deceiver prophesied to me in secret. I was too inexperienced to know that it would have been wise to show his prophetic words to the elders in that church for evaluation. It is also essential to understand that prophecy is subject to time and timing. Years may go by before a legitimate prophecy is fulfilled. If it confirms nothing (God is saying to you now), file it away and don’t strive to make it happen. Hold it with open hands. If it came from God and you walk in obedience to him, it will one day come to pass—if it lines up with God’s Word.
He appealed to my ego (see Ezekiel 28:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3).
When Satan tempted Eve, he appealed to her ego and pride. He promised that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would become like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5-6). She liked the idea of becoming a god with wisdom, and so ate it. My deceiver said he was the “manchild” of Revelation 12:5 and that I was one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3. My name would be Solomon, which was the name of the wisest king in David’s lineage. Solomon wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, two books about wisdom. I loved those books. Notice the similarities? Satan tempted Eve by promising the Wisdom of God. I was lured in by my deceiver’s promise that I would have the Wisdom of Solomon.
He carried a “religious spirit” and infected me with it (see Colossians 2:18-23).
Satan is not concerned about “religious” people. He loves hard-core, legalistic, religious zealots. The flesh loves being religious—following rules and ceremonies that make being a Christian all about working our way into heaven or onto the lap of God’s pleasure. But legalism kills. It snuffs the life out of those who are deceived by it. Legalism is the “other gospel,” the “other Jesus” that Paul was concerned about getting into the church (see Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 11:4).
According to my deceiver’s teachings, I could only please Jesus by extreme fasting (averaging five days a week), long sessions of prayer every day, and denying myself any shred of ordinary living to please God. Besides hungry, this made me pious and proud as an elite saint with God and his manchild, pursuing my destiny to be one of the two witnesses. Though convinced I was doing God’s will in all this, it made me feel more religious but no closer to Jesus. My relationship with the Lord became stale and suppressed by works of piety and a monastic lifestyle.
He fed me false doctrine that exalted himself (see 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
When a person uses scriptures to exalt themselves above the Lordship of Christ—that is the spirit of antichrist. Deceivers boast about their credentials to justify their right to speak into your life and influence it with the doctrine they pull out of context from scriptures. My deceiver did this to me, which I believed in at the time.
He enhanced his authority by undermining the credibility and influence of the elders (see 2 Peter 2:1-3, 10; 3 John 9-10; Jude 4, 10, 12-13).
I have planted and pastored churches for forty years and have witnessed a repeated pattern by every wolf in sheep’s clothing I came across. They do their best to undermine the voice and credibility of spiritual leaders. They will slander, gossip, or criticize the teachings, philosophy, or direction of the church in contrast to their superior understanding of how things really should be done. They use this tactic to change your allegiance and submission to local church authority to their authority.
In his letter, Jude refers to them as “certain men who have secretly slipped in among you. They speak abusively against whatever they don’t understand. They are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest hesitation—[false] shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown about by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 4, 10, 12-13). A true shepherd will lead you to Christ and show respect for spiritual authority in the church. A false shepherd leads you to himself and away from the elders of the church.
In his parting words to the eldership body of the church in Ephesus, Paul said this, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (Acts 20:28-31).”
He controlled my life (see 3 John 9-10).
The apostle John wrote to a church that had a leader (Diotrephes) who controlled the church by not allowing John or others to visit and influence the congregation. John promised that, if he came, he would call attention to it and the malicious gossip. To maintain the status of influence over a person’s life, the deceiver will create all sorts of rules and regulations for his followers to live by in order to keep you in line and in check. They will allow no other legitimate influence to come along, and will jealously guard their territory. Theirs must be the only voice, and they’ll put down all others. They will create an extreme environment of codependency to avoid losing any followers under their control. The young man who deceived me had me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually under his control. This is what deceivers do. The apostle John not only exposed the man but revealed that the root of this type of control is in those who “loves to be first.” Such will be the nature of the antichrist.
Grace and Peace!