Monday, May 1, 2017

II. False Faith and Self-Deception

 

II. False Faith and Self-Deception
 
         
After God’s confrontation through the prophet Jeremiah of the corrupted nation of Israel recorded in Jeremiah 7:1-15, God tells Jeremiah not to even pray for those to whom he was to preach (Jeremiah 7:16).  Although God was telling the children of Israel where they had failed and was calling them to repent, He knew their hearts were hardened in unbelief.  We cannot even imagine the despair of Jeremiah when God told him to preach anyway knowing the children of Israel would not even listen to what God had to say.  Here are some of the saddest words in the Bible:

Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee (Jeremiah 7:27).

          It has been said that Psalm one-hundred and nineteen is like a field of millions of acres of wisdom ripe and ready to be harvested.  The focus of those one-hundred and seventy-six verses is upon loving, reading, and knowing the Word of God.  To love the Word of God is to love the God of the Bible.

     Contradistinctively, to love the God of the Bible is to “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104 and 128) because God hates “every false way.”  If such an attitude towards false doctrine and the pagan intrusions of corruption into sanctification are not part of a professing believer’s life practices, his faith is false by that same degree.  Within this corrupt attitude towards God’s Word is the seed for the potential of apostasy.  Some of these false ways may be sanctification issues.  These things will keep a person from being used of God or from having prayer answered.  Other kinds of false ways may be salvation issues and reveal that a person’s salvational faith is false because the repentance foundation of that salvation in corrupted. 

16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Worldliness is a perspective of life diabolically opposed to what God wants for us.  Worldliness is a basic first level manifestation of corrupted faith.  Although worldliness involves practices, it is embodied in an attitude more than anything else.  Worldliness focuses our attention and consumes our time on ventures that provide no lasting, eternal benefit other than fluffing our egos and puffing ourselves up.  Worldliness wants to be entertained.  This attitude is a foundational characteristic of worldliness.  When this attitude becomes dominant, it can potentially corrupt every choice in a person’s life. 

Worldliness does not necessarily involve a person in issues of moral turpitude.  In most cases, worldliness can be simply about appearances such as “a proud look” and wanting to be accepted by a culture that is worldlyWorldliness can also involve immoral practices that have come to be acceptable by most cultures and societies while being completely unacceptable to God, such as “a lying tongue.”  The worldly person is more concerned about what his peers think about him than what God thinks about him.  Such a person will twist the truth to accomplish that goal.  Although he may talk about his concerns about God’s will, such talk is really hypocrisy.  He will walk as close to the world as his religious peers allow, seeking to give himself at least a fa├žade of acceptability with God.  This is false faith!

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

     Worldliness is being defined subjectively and narrowly within Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in present day Christianity.  This corrupted definition of worldliness creates a pseudo-Christianity.  When John says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” what exactly does he mean?  It is an important question to answer because to “love the world” reveals that God’s love “is not in” that person.  There is godly love and worldly love.  Worldly love is any emotion that is fed by the corruption of the “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16). 

“The world” that we are commanded not to love is a very broad and encompassing term.  The word “world” is translated from the Greek word kosmos (kos’-mos).  The context defines the meaning as all the satanic influences within the corruptions of religion, politics, and economics.  These influences have varied through the millennia while maintaining certain consistencies within the variations.  Religions have evolved and thousands of false religions have developed over the millennia.  Within these false religions, there is a commonality in varying degrees of paganism, syncretism, and idolatry.  Understanding these three influences helps us understand the term worldly

Paganism

Paganism is the corruption of human sexuality in numerous ways and in varying degrees.  Modern day paganism has corrupted human sexuality in degrees equal to the worst that has ever been known in the world through the corruption of our children and the inculcation of a culture that is practically given over to the pornographic.  The word “fornication” in the Bible is usually translated from the Greek word porneia (por-ni'-ah), which includes harlotry, incest, adultery, and any other corruption of human sexuality outside the marriage relationship.  
The most severe inculcation of worldly influence is the constant barrage and instruction that corrupts children into accepting these corruptions of human sexuality at the earliest ages possible.  These corruptions are taking enormous strides in the last days prior to the second coming of Christ and are characteristic of the end times.  During the last days, even the apostate churches of apostate Christianity will condone these “fornication” corruptions (Revelation 2:21 and 9:21). 

Syncretism

Syncretism is the merging, blending, and integrating of false beliefs about God into religious practices.  Syncretism is the corruption of Bible doctrine by degree through integrating false notions about God and what is acceptable and unacceptable to Him.  Syncretism is the corruption of the worship of God by introducing worldliness and commonality into the worship.  Any worldly or common practice defiles both the worshiper and the worship. 
Syncretism begins with the corruption of the Gospel and what defines a biblical faith response to the Gospel to be saved.  The span of this corruption has extended to degrees one would have thought impossible.  Yet, the span of corruption continues to expand daily.  Syncretism results in Ecumenicism and Pluralism.  Toleration is the banner under which Syncretism thrives and growths like a field of weeds strangling truth with its very contact.

Idolatry

Idolatry is exalting anyone or anything above the one true God in worship or in worship practices.  Idolatry does not need the presence of a stone, wood, or metal god to exist in the hearts of humans.  Idolatry exists when entertaining people or even catering to their fleshly desires enters into deciding what will be included in worshiping God.  Idolatry is any form of corruption of the sanctity of worship.  Idolatry steals worship from God to put it upon man.  Idolatry puts other things than God at the focus of ministry.  Idolatry accepts any form of worship and thereby extricates God from worship because God’s presence is always in the midst of holiness.  This world and all that is in it is corrupted by sin and cursed of God.  Therefore, God accepts only that which is purified of worldliness to be used in worshiping Him.
 
          In the simplest terms, worldliness is anything that caters to the carnal “flesh” of humanity.  Idolatry feeds the carnal “flesh” in worship practices.  This is what draws people to these types of religions and churches.  False teachers learn quickly that they cannot draw large crowds preaching about the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sinners.  They learn quickly to cater to human desires and to give people what they want.  They learn to make a carnival appear like a church substituting cotton candy platitudes and puppy dog moments for “thus sayeth the Lord.”  They are doomed to constantly needing to invent new carnal ways to appeal to the carnal crowd.

          There is no doubt that the majority of children of Israel were living in open rebellion against the Words of God given them in the Mosaic Covenant by which their forefathers had agreed to live.  About four hundred years before Jeremiah comes onto the scene, Samuel had prophesied God’s warning to Saul about his wicked rebellion against God.  God had commanded king Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, descendants of Esau.  Saul, in rebellion against God, spared Amalekite king Agag.  Samuel confronts the lying hypocrisy of Saul with the words “13 …Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. 14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear” (I Samuel 15-13-14)?  Then, Samuel rebukes king Saul with words that echo through the great halls of historic failures of false faith:

22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (I Samuel 15:22-23).

The great lesson of God’s many messages through the prophets to the rebels of Israel teach us a simple truth.  Since God has given humanity a free will, when humans are in rebellion, there is no power in the world that can force their wills into obedience.  The only thing anyone can do to keep the rebel from destroying everything right and good is to restrain his rebellion.  This eventually means some form of prison or early death for the rebel.  This is always the eventual destiny of the rebel – CAPTIVITY!  Hell is the ultimate captivity for false faith. 

One need only read Paul’s epistle to the Galatian churches to see how God is contrary to this whole nonsense of the so-called Church Growth Movement.  It would be difficult to even imagine one of these crowd gathering churches ever honestly dealing with any of the substance of the context of the rebuke given in the epistle to the Galatians.  In Galatians, God calls rebellion “the works of the flesh” and describes its many forms.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do {prasso; or habitually practice} such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Carnality is rebellion against God!  The words “the works of the flesh are manifest” are intended to confront all that is contrary to supernaturally produced spiritual life of the truly “born again” believer.  These few verses are simply saying, this is what carnality looks like.  Any one of these practices or attitudes reveal that the carnal nature, the “flesh,” is in control.  Look at these words carefully, because your toleration or condoning of any one of these manifestations of carnality is where your spirituality ends and your false faith begins. 

          These are the things of which God was calling Israel to repent.  We can have very little comprehension of the long-suffering of God until we read His warnings through the hundreds of years of recorded history through His prophets calling Israel to repentance.  Isaiah was given God’s message to preach to Israel to repent and returned to Him (Isaiah 1:11-17) in about B.C. 760.  Jeremiah was given God’s message to preach to Israel to repent and returned to Him in about B.C. 629.  Amos was given God’s message in about B.C. 787 to preach to the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom to repent and returned to Him even earlier than Isaiah.  The Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin had been a faithful remnant in Israel for centuries.  Faithful believers from other tribes had relocated to the south to join with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin along with the faithful priests.  This left the ten Northern tribes without any faithful priests while living under corrupted pagan Jewish kings and priests totally given over unto idolatry and the horrible practices that were part of this wickedness. 

21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. 25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves {during the wilderness wanderings under Moses, many of the children of Israel secretly maintained a portable shrine/tabernacle for their pagan Moloch the star or fire god}. 27 Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts” (Amos 5:21-24).

          James said almost the same thing as Isaiah regarding what defines “pure religion.”  True Christianity, the pure practice of the faith, must translate itself into a genuine compassion for people or it is “dead” faith.  “Dead” faith means artificial, lifeless faith.  “Dead” faith is the same as false faith. 

26 If any man among you seem to be religious {the external appearance or exercise of the faith}, and bridleth {controls} not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion {his external exercise of the faith} is vain {empty, profitless, like idolatry}. 27 Pure religion {exercise of the faith} and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction {be concerned about the needs of orphans and widows in the church}, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:26-27). 

          James is dealing with religious externalism as an manifestation of false, dead faith.  Externalism will never look at a drunkard or a drug addict with a broken heart for his soul, but you can be sure that is the way God sees him.  Externalism and self-righteousness see through the eyes of contempt, not compassion.   Externalism will never see a lost child the way God sees him.  Externalism will never see that lost kid with compassion for his soul.  Externalism will never be willing to reach out and touch his life with a consistent investment of love, time, and effort to bring him to Christ and disciple him so as to help him escape the prison of the degradation of the life patterns his parents have been building into him.  Externalism will never try to bring the life-transforming message of the Gospel into his home to try to reach his family.  Because of that, his soul will slip through the cracks of God’s hand in this world (local churches) to fall limp, broken and wasted on the hopeless and helpless heap of sin soaked, Hell bound souls. 

          God speaks to this externalism and its results in Jeremiah 2:13. This verse speaks clearly to this issue.  It speaks specifically to the false faith of religion without relationship. 

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

          In this verse, God speaks of two evils generated in the false faith within the lives of people who are more concerned with duties for God than they are about relationship with God.  The first is that they have the order backwards.  When they cultivate intimacy with God, the duties God expects will flow from that fountain of intimacy like living waters.  God is the “fountain of living waters.”  The only way for those “living waters” to flow through our lives is when we are connected to the Godhead by a living, loving, and holy relationship of intimacy to which the Bible refers as “fellowship.”  This is the Spirit-filled life.
 
          Most Christians are like a rubber garden hose that lays out in the Sun for days and days, but never gets connected to the water supply.  As a result, they end up all dried out and cracked, because they never get connected to the source of supply of “living waters.”  We forsake the potential of those “living waters” flowing through our lives when we forsake our relationship with God.  The Spirit-filled life of “fellowship” with God is the connecting link to the Christ-life flowing through us.

          The second evil of false faith was that they created their own man-made sources of fulfillment to sustain them spiritually (whatever form this takes, it is idolatry).  These were man-made sources for personal fulfillment or happiness.  This is what God calls “broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”  In other words, these man-made inventions will never be able to accomplish what people create them to do.  They are superficial and self-deceiving. 

          This is to what God is referring in Jeremiah 7:4 and 8 when He says, “ye trust in lying words.”  He is talking about this self-deception of false faith.  We are lying to ourselves when we have religion, the practice of the faith, without relationship.  Externalism is idolatry.  The works of externalism become the externalist’s god and idol.  Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:8 and applies it to the Pharisees.  How accurately this describes all religion (a word used to describe ministry) without relationship.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

          How can we escape this deadly deception that generates such a facade and sham of Christianity?  The only way to escape it is by being brutally honest with ourselves and to God.  We need to take three basic steps.  Each step takes us away from the world and closer to God.  Each step involves the believer in communicating with God and allowing God to communicate directly to that yielded believer’s heart. This is the pathway out of externalistic religion.
 
          The first step towards intimacy with God begins with prayer.  Our prayer life must be willing to communicate with God about every integral aspect of our lives.  Be sure of this, you will never shock God or surprise Him with what is going on in your life.  He already knows and is working to help you get victory.  Getting that victory begins by coming to Him and talking with Him about everything that is going on in your life.  If you do not learn to communicate with God about the intimate details of your thought life, the details of your so-called secret sin life, and the details of your struggles with temptation, do not expect intimacy with Him.

          The second step towards intimacy with God involves your devotional life.  We have devotions to cultivate being devoted to God.  Being devoted to God will not happen by accident.  Cultivation of devotion to God comes when we are driven by a genuine desire to know Him.  The Bible expresses that concept by the words hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matthew 5:6).  God’s promise to those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” is that “they shall be filled.”  Devotions are not about just reading your Bible and praying every day.  Devotions are about being consumed with knowing God intimately, personally, and seeking the intimacy of being able to look into His face.

          Lastly, when these previous two things become a reality in your life, you will naturally involve yourself in the “work of the ministry.”  If we have cultivated a love relationship with God, we will gain His heart.  His heart is burdened to reach the lost.  His heart is burdened for the recovery of sinners and their deliverance from the bondage of sin in their lives.  If we are not driven by a concern about the things God is concerned about, our Christianity and our professed faith is nothing more than dead religious externalism.  Fruitful ministry will naturally flow from a life through which God overflows (John 15:1-8).  When God finally gets a hold on your heart and you get a hold on His, He will overflow (“fruit of the Spirit”).

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

          If flowing rivers of living water is what you want to see in your life, you are going to have to seriously evaluate your priorities.  The flow of that “living water” will begin when your heart and God’s heart are one.  It will not be just a trickle.  It will be a flood.  However, first be sure your faith is real.  If you are not “born again” of the Spirit of God, there is nothing you can do to produce spiritual life from your spiritually dead carcass.

One cannot even imagine the many facets of worldliness.  Most pastors recognize worldliness as easily as one might see a painted red face in the midst of a crowd.  Worldliness is apparent in one’s mannerisms.  Worldliness is apparent in conversations, occupations, and even one’s recreation.  Worldliness is apparent in the way we dress and even in our countenance.  Worldliness is apparent by what we love and what we do not love.  Worldliness is apparent by what we do and what we do not do.  In most cases, there is very little difference between professing Christians and the lost in all of these things.  A Christian cannot love the world and love God at the same time.  Yet many worldly Christians have deceived themselves about their worldliness and about their love of God.
 
Over the years, it has been my responsibility to speak to many parents about the warning signs of worldliness apparent in the lives of their children.  In many cases, parents took offense when approached about apparent signs of worldliness in their children.  In almost every case, when warnings went unheeded, those children later abandoned church attendance, went off into the world, married unbelievers, and evidenced a reality completely foreign to that of a “born again” individual.  What are some of the signs of worldliness in the lives of the children of believing parents? 

1. They constantly bicker with their siblings. 
2. They come to church, but do not listen or hear what is being said. 
3. They have no burden for holiness in their own lives and they have no burden for the lost with which they come in contact.  They have no real ministry in life that is motivated by their love for God. 
4. They love what the world loves and have secret, hidden lives known only by them.  Their friends know nothing of their professed Christianity.  They do not want their friends to know because they are ashamed of Christ. 
5. They have no real interest in spiritual things, in building a relationship with Christ, and no thoughts of ministering to anyone.  They have no fear of God (Romans 3:18).

As a pastor, the lack of parental concern about worldliness in children troubles me greatly.  Worldly children grow to be worldly adults.  Sadly, many Christian homes are fertile greenhouses seemingly intent upon nurturing worldliness.  Our local churches and godly homes must focus attention upon the abrogation of worldliness.  Pagan and materialistic cultures cultivate worldliness.  We are bombarded with worldliness at every turn in life.  Our Hedonistic cultures teach worldliness through frequent repetitions and admonitions.  The answer is not isolation, but education.  We must warn of the subtle influences of worldliness.  We must teach that the only solution to worldliness is complete repentance that then seeks to live in fellowship with Jesus.
 
It is important that we understand that worldliness must be replaced with the kind of spirituality that expresses itself through ministry.  Worldliness expresses itself through carnality and selfishness.  Spirituality always expresses itself through compassion, self-sacrifice, and ministering the truths of the Word of God to others.  Replacing worldliness with spirituality is difficult in that spirituality can come forth in an artificial form of worldliness known as self-righteousness.  This expresses itself through contempt towards those that do not measure up.  All these artificial means for self-fulfillment must be replaced with genuine, compassionate ministry.  This is known as the Replacement Phenomena

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind {empty of knowing God and His will}, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling {corrupted conscience} have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:17-32).          

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.