This example is one which will require something beyond the discernment mentioned before. This is one of the highest forms of deception and one which will stretch the very limits of our walk in God. The church has been inundated with this high and unholy expression throughout her history.
It is with a certain amount of trembling that I share this for it must bring us to a place of total dependency upon our God. There is an element here by which our standing true is based in a most profound way upon the sheer mercy of God.
Balaam’s heart was totally perverse yet the prophesies which proceeded from him were in fact the infallible word of God. They are written in the scriptures verbatim for God overruled the false prophet with His own words. We are warned in the New Testament in the Book of Jude to understand the error and perversity of these expressions.
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear…”
Jude’s heart for the people of God is to warn that these false expressions are “with us in our gatherings… feeding themselves without fear” in our very midst. Let us take heed to arm ourselves with the living Spirit of Christ to walk circumspectly in this day.
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even NOW are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time”
1 John 2:18
Excerpt from the Spiritual Discernment and False Prophets Part One Writing
“And it happened, as we went into a place of prayer, a certain girl slave having a Pythonic spirit met us, whose divining brought much gain to her lords”
Acts 16:16 (LITV, BLB)
What was this Pythonic (original Greek word used here) spirit declaring?
“…These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation”
To those who have had at least some experience with true spiritual warfare this is not surprising. The fact that these things are found in the scriptures prove that His people should have some knowledge of the deceptive nature of our enemy. In many places today such “prophesying” would be readily received to their shame and their own spiritual deception. It is imperative that we test the spirit that birth these expressions and not judge simply by the mere words of the utterance. It is here where many of God’s people are ill equipped in the discernment of things they allow in their midst. Spiritual ignorance is the product of a shallow and untutored walk with God. It is an indication of a heart which has not been open to the voice and the leading of His Spirit.
The Pythonic spirit is one of change, camouflage, deceit and is difficult to discern. The scripture describes its manner of working:
“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not… the way of a serpent upon a rock…”
Paul in addressing the Church at Corinth spoke hard words in order for them to stay true to the Gospel of God. Here Paul upbraids them for their willingness to receive false expressions over the true because they did not really want to embrace the truth of their condition.
“But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the purity which is due to Christ. For if, indeed, the one coming proclaims another Jesus, whom we have not proclaimed, or if you receive another spirit which you have not received, or another gospel which you never accepted, you might well endure these”
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (read the previous verse as well for context)
He is saying if one comes and presents another gospel or another spirit you might well endure such a one. Yet they had more trouble with Paul because he spoke the truth to them instead of nice smooth words. He actually cared for them with a godly love and jealously. It is because of these things the Church of God requires the Apostolic and Prophetic ministrations of God.
“Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside”
Excerpt from the Spiritual Discernment and False Prophets Part One Writing
“I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and Heaven without Hell”
– William Booth
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”
– 2 Timothy 4:2-4
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain”
The mystery of religion is that there exists, embedded within its own truths, an ease with which one can slip into a deep and dark deception. In this verse we are warned of a deception which is fatal in terms of our life in God; one of which I need a constant reminder. The tongue reveals our walk. It is by this member that the seemingly religious are ferreted out and fully exposed. Lately I have been struck with my own carelessness in this matter. It is easy to get caught up in the religious rhetoric of discussion rather than the expression of Christ. How blessed we are to have His word to cut through the vanity of words and bring us back to the real purpose of life.
Let us consider the power of this piercing word. If we do not bridle our tongue our religion, our profession and our hope of conveying His life to others is pointless. It matters little how much we know His Word, how often we pray or how well we can teach others; if we do not master the tongue we are walking in vain religion.
“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle…”
The tongue is merely the spout through which the inner waters of our heart flow. It takes very little to discern what kind of waters flow from an individual for they proceed from the abundance of the heart.
“…for out of the abundance of the heart
the mouth speaketh”
The tongue is like a mirror of the heart; it simply expresses what is there. The bridling of the tongue, though a good place to start, is not the cure. The real issue is the state of the heart. Salvation is all about the change and transformation of the heart. It is not about modifying our behavior; it is about the crucifixion of this unruly, unholy and untamed self. It cannot be fixed, managed or made right (Romans 8:7) other than through the inner working of the power of Christ.
The tongue then is simply the revelation of the depth and verity of our salvation. It is in the crucible of everyday life, in our most unguarded moments, that our true relationship with Christ is revealed.
Jesus is God’s spoken Word, He is the summation of God’s being and the matrix of all creation. His purpose is to bring us to the place of such abiding in Him that His words become ours by virtue of relationship. It is here where we become like Him in word and in deed.
Years ago the Lord told me that if I do not watch over my words He will not entrust me with His.
The things of God are measured out to us according to the development of our life in Him. He may give spiritual gifts without measure and without condition; however, His authority will never be given apart from Himself. He is our salvation. It is not my belief in a teaching about Him whereby I am saved. It is His presence and His person keeping me from sin and iniquity wherein lies the power and substance of my salvation.
In order for us to speak the words of life we must in fact be governed by that ONE who is the Word of life. The Words He speaks are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). To the measure we walk with Him will be a corresponding expression of the very life and power of Christ Himself.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer”
“One cause of spiritual death is self-satisfaction. A traveler lost on the prairie, with the snow falling fast and thick, with his blood coursing slowly, feels that sense of ease which the opium-eater knows. He lies down in the soft white drifts. They make an easy bed. His friends find him and try to arouse him. He would rather be left undisturbed. His self-satisfaction works his death. King George III. was satisfied with his government of the American colonies; he therefore refused to remedy its abuses, and his satisfaction cost him these colonies. Upon all who are satisfied with their standing before God the chill of spiritual death has begun to rest. They can no more draw spiritual life from themselves, than one can feed his body by sucking blood from its veins. Therefore, satisfied with their relation to God, they do not strive to gain life from Him who is the source of the life spiritual, as He is of the life physical. Their self-satisfaction works the ruin of their souls
But more frequently than by self-satisfaction is the spiritual life killed by the indulgence of some sin. Many a man has felt he could surrender his entire property to God; but when the temptation arose of making a hundred dollars by a trick of the trade, he has chosen to be dishonest. But the sin may not be one of commission. It may consist in the omission of some duty. It may consist in the refusal of some means of grace. It may consist in the preference of doing nothing to advance God’s cause. Such sins of omission deaden the spiritual life. But in general the sin consists in the choice of some other good than the good which the Christian life affords.”
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood*, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Wrestling is the reality of a life in Christ. The life of a healthy Christian is one of standing and contending for the faith. We must continually and intentionally withstand the world, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life and the subtlety of compromise and collusion. Warfare is the natural response of those who are alive in Christ. Many who call themselves by His name have no sense of the nature and intensity of this warfare. Paul is speaking from his own experience. To be alive unto Christ is to be an antagonism to the world, principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. To claim to be alive and yet not engaged in this battle makes us dead to the reality of a life in the spirit.
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”
This is the Word of the Lord to His Church located in Sardis. How few realize the enormity of this Word. This is a church where His name is used freely and there is much activity with people who are eager to build up “their” church organization or fellowship. Wherever the motive is to be popular and relevant in the eyes of the world the preaching of righteousness is forsaken. This is the environment of a dead and impotent church; it has a reputation of being alive and “current” but it has ceased to contend for the faith. The “knowledge of the holy” is so lacking that people see no reason to wrestle with the unholy alliances of flesh, spiritual powers, spiritual wickedness and the resulting compromise. They have become insensitive to the contagion of the world and are unaware of what the “normal Christian Life” is. It is a situation that brings the very judgements of God! Consider the judgement pronounced on the Church at Sardis (unless they repented) and the greatness of His promise to those who overcome the apostasy and lethargy of their condition (Revelation 3:3-5).
A modern day “gospel” which declares that God loves His church and would never bring judgement upon His people is the LIE of the Devil himself. “You shall not die” were his words to Eve to deceive her into disobedience and judgment. Those who are ignorant of the warfare are unaware of the reality of walking in the Spirit. Deception is anything that keeps us from walking in the truth.
“The reason why men do not look to the Church today is that she has destroyed her own influence by compromise”
G. Campbell Morgan
“No one serving as a soldier entangles himself in the affairs of this life, that he might please the One having enlisted him”
2 Timothy 2:4
“For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace”
In every generation false ministers speak peace and comfort when God’s desire is righteousness. There can be no true peace apart from God’s righteousness. These false comforters speak peace “when there is no peace”. They have never confronted the sin within themselves and therefore cannot and will not speak to the sins of His people. Righteousness is simply a religious term with no meaning in those who proclaim such a message. These are false and impotent expressions within His house. Words like mercy, forgiveness and grace have little value without an expression of righteousness. If sin is not understood as the evil and horror it is, then the sacrifice and shedding of Christ’s blood holds little weight in the hearts of His people.
We live in a day of tremendous obscurity as the result of a false and man-centered preaching of the gospel. While these ministrations lure His people into slumber of spirit and a false sense of peace and safety, death and destruction lie at the door.
“Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you; and they have not revealed your iniquity, to turn back your captivity”
It is in preaching the righteousness of God in Christ that His people discover the wretchedness of their ways and can avail themselves of the beauty of His grace, mercy and truth. It is in the ministration of His Holiness that we discover His power to save us and raise us up to be a flaming expression of Him. He came to save us from our sins not to leave us in them. He came to give us a peace which cannot be taken from us because it is founded in Him. It is a peace that the world cannot give. Those who speak peace when there is no peace are liars and traitors to the word of God. They seek to soothe and console when God desires conviction and repentance.
What is the end of such preaching? What does a church look like that endures such false and beguiling words? Read the next verse from the Book of Lamentations.
“All who pass by clap their hands at you. They hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city which they called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”
Men mock and scorn the very thing that should reveal the power, the love and the glory of our God. When the church as a whole listens to the falseness of this gospel His face and heart are hidden from the world around us.
The Church at Laodicea
“Because you say, I am rich, and I am made rich, and I have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked”
This is God’s church! Why did she not know her true condition? Why did she not know of her wretchedness and poverty? Her condition was the result of a false gospel which spoke peace and comfort instead of preaching the truth. Deception is anything which hides God and prevents His people from truth. Truth is the revelation of Jesus the Christ; in His piercing light we see Him and we see ourselves. It is in this ministration that men and women find powerful comforts of mercy and grace whereby we are set free from our sins and our poverty becomes the storehouse of His riches; the blind eyes see, our nakedness is clothed in the garments of His salvation and His joy becomes our strength.
Woe to those who seek to comfort His people with anything less than the living truth of God. Woe to those who would speak comfort to people who are at home in this world. Woe to those who seek out and listen to those who would lie to them.
This is a day for crying out to God for truth that we may turn from our ways and back to His ways; that the hurt and the cause of our lukewarm hearts would be discovered and healed so we may rise up in the purity and fire of a love that cannot be quenched.
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape”
1 Thessalonians 5:3
This is a word to God’s people not the politicians of the world.
“If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation*“ and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love…”
*Note: The meaning indicated here is to speak the same to all people; we do not blunt the edge of truth because of friendships, associations and people with whom we seek advantage. Calvary’s Love destroys the seeking of the approval of men for it brings us to the same heart as the One who offered Himself at Calvary. He died for Jews, Gentiles, slaves and free men. His blood is without dissimulation and so must be our ministration of Him!
“Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away”
Fruit. God’s purpose for every life is to bear fruit. His purpose in coming was to make the barren fruitful, the desert to blossom and the lame to walk.
Fig leaves represent the response of Adam and Eve to their fallen state. The religious response to man’s need for a covering. It is an inherent desire to be covered on the outside; to appear good, honest and spiritual. This leaves the life barren and unfruitful in the things of God. We may walk in an outward show of righteousness but the inward reality may be void of His Life and power.
Deception comes to those who seek to deceive. The lie of living to appear right will always result in a greater lie.
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived”
2 Timothy 3:13
Honesty and integrity are the means to Life in Him. We come as we are, transparent with Him and with those about us. This see-through living will bring us to the blood, the mercy and the covering of His garments of Salvation. In being who we are, fully reliant on all that He is, we can rest confidently in His faithfulness to bring glory to the Father.
Authenticity of Life is the fruit of integrity within and without
Fruit is not religious works. It is the means of glorifying God.
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit”
His sheep are those who follow Him. They hear His voice and they will not follow the voice of another. He leads them through green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness, valleys of great shadows and even death; but the assurance to these will always be:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble”
Belief in and of itself is not the revelation of a true heart. We live in a time when people are considered “children of God” because of their beliefs rather than the life they live. Jesus said we would know a life by its fruits, not words.
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”
A person’s beliefs will never produce the fruit of the Spirit; Faith must. Our real faith is fully summed up in the life which we now live. It cannot be any other way for faith is in itself the “substance” and the “evidence” of things hoped for.
“…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God”
Paul’s faith was revealed in the “now” of his life and as such was expressed in his earthly walk. So too our faith is expressed in our everyday life. It is imperative that we do not let our “beliefs” deceive us as to our true condition.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness…”
Without a change of heart unto righteousness the “belief” of an individual is merely an intellectual exercise in vanity. Such was the religion of the Scribes and the Pharisees and the same nature as the believing devils of which James speaks.
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour”
The central theme to which Jesus kept directing His disciples was relationship to Him. The great deception of religion is that men and women serve an organization, a doctrine, a teacher or even worse themselves. Here Jesus points to the essential cornerstone of true service unto Him: “let him follow me”. It is in following Him that we become separated unto Him. The “cross” of the individual believer is simply defined by a life of following Him. While many are willing to do strenuous religious observances, fasting, long prayer meetings, conferences and seemingly good works the issue remains one of following Him. The cross of Christ was in doing the will of the Father. In this place of true servitude the Son glorified the Father. It is in our being “yoked” with Him that our lives will in truth glorify the Son. Knowledge of the scriptures must give way to relationship with the Son. Knowledge alone of the Son will never make a person free nor bring about the true experiential knowing of Him within the human heart.
Throughout the scriptures we see that many stopped following Him because of the cost of the Way. The Scribes and Pharisees had no problem with long prayers, religious observances and the rites and rituals of the religious system but they failed to follow Him. In following Him they would have come to the crossroad of serving self or serving God. It is here that the truth of one’s heart is revealed. In this day of the great Apostasy the hearts of many are growing cold and unresponsive to Him and His Word. The forms of truth are retained but the active daily following of Him is replaced by the love of this world, by the busyness of religious programs, and in living a life of self-interest; this culminates in a life that no longer follows Him. Freedom from self with all of its wretched ways and miserable ends can only be found in the following of Him. To truly follow Him requires a forsaking of self. Religion is the “opiate of the masses”; it offers the appearance of a thing without the substance of the thing. It offers the sayings of Jesus without the required obedience to His words. It calls Him Lord but affords its adherents the means to escape actual obedience to Him by the soothing of the conscience with the very words of scripture. Early in Jesus’ life Satan came with great power and temptation by quoting the scriptures so that Jesus might seek to “save” His life supernaturally for all to see (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus refuted such temptation as He was not here to fulfill His will. His purpose was to fulfill the will of the Father.
There can be no true serving of Jesus without a life of actively following Him. It is evident that we are in the time of the great falling away. It is a very subtle and deadly affair of the heart when men and women cling to the words of Jesus without the following of Him. The subtlety of such a life is called deception and it is the way of spiritual decay and death. We remain static while He moves on in the will and the glory of the Father. We hear many say that God does not answer prayer. The wonder of His presence is lacking and in most places not even expected. We have become accustomed to the forms of religion without His presence and power. It is not because He has forsaken us; it is that we have ceased as a people to “follow Him”. He declares to the Church at Ephesus:
“But I have against you that you left your first love…”
The verse preceding this one states “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience…” The works continued but the love faded. The forsaking of their “first love” (pre-eminent love) was so critical to their place in God that His judgement upon such a people was the removal of His presence from their midst. The reason for the cooling of the heart of His people is the result of iniquity abounding.
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”
The Greek word translated iniquity here does not fully imply gross sin. It speaks of lawlessness in that instead of obeying the commandments of Jesus we subtly set them aside declaring that we are now under grace. It is through the horror of this deceptive teaching that we are seeing the fervent love of many growing cold and indifferent. It is we who have forsaken the good and right way. The church has embraced teachers who bring in damnable heresies that turn His people from following Him to the serving of self and other things. We call Him Lord yet we set aside His commandments to obey the traditions and teachings of men. WE HAVE MADE THE WORD OF GOD OF NON-EFFECT! It is our own doing and God’s remedy is repentance and the return to our primary love.
“”This people honors Me with the lips, but their heart is far away from Me; and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Isa. 29:13 8) For forsaking the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men”
God has a simple answer for this generation and this time. It is the simplicity of obeying His commandments and following Him.
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love”
The teaching of a grace that absolves His people from obedience to the commands of Jesus is a lie and deception of the devil himself! If we do not repent we will stand in the judgement of God as they who once knew the truth and turned away. This is the picture presented to us in the Parable of the Sower where the soil which grew weeds of the cares of self and this life and choked out the precious seed. This truth is presented throughout the New Testament to those who started out well yet grew cold and indifferent to Him in the end.
“For if by a full knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they have escaped the defilements of the world, and again being entangled they have been overcome by these, then their last things have become worse than the first. For it was better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness, than fully knowing to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them”
2 Peter 2:20-21 (LITV)
Let us find Grace in this day to finish the race which is set before us. Let us not grow weary in our following of Him for we shall surely reap if we faint not.