Deception through Definition
Yesterday I was once again approached by someone who noticed me being occupied with studying. This usually prompts curiosity in others which usually leads to the typical question, "What are you studying?" Even at my age most people still make the assumption that I'm busy doing some form of homework, and to a degree that is true. I'm studying the heart of my Maker and searching out His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life and His Ekklesia.
As of late, my heart has been drawn to the obvious trend these days among those professing Christ to either misuse terms or purposefully re-define what God has actually said in the scriptures. This is no small matter as God uses specific words and terms that have precise definitions on purpose. He wants us to be absolutely sure we hear His voice accurately and understand His will for our individual and interconnected lives.
Considering the many verses in the scriptures that warn us about deception and being deceived, it would seem that the use of words and their terms would be an obvious avenue in which deception could be introduced either in ignorance or purposefully. Consider these examples where men acted in ignorance towards God:
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an alter with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" [Acts 17:22, 23]
"Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them (his Jewish countrymen) that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." [Romans 10:1-3]
In the first instance we find Gentiles who although religious were neither worshipping properly nor were they worshipping the one true God. In the second example we also have religious people, this time Jews who although they were claiming to know the real God were attempting to earn their own righteousness before Him. In both instances these individuals were attempting to worship God but due to their ignorance they were approaching God upon the wrong basis and therefore their actions were unacceptable. Paul's desire was for their salvation and so attempted to show them the errors of their ways and direct them accordingly.
In our day, millions upon millions of people have assumed that their approach to God as they have chosen to describe and approach Him is acceptable. Despite their basis for their "belief" in God, they seem unconcerned that all around them are others who disagree with them. They seem more than content with some religious leader, a few friends or family in their church or denomination agreeing with them. It seems to escape their notice that much of what these people believe directly conflicts with what the Bible teaches and in many cases is the polar opposite of what Jesus Himself taught. How can this be? Deception.
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" [Proverbs 14:12]
Two verses later we read this:
"The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps"
The two verses go hand in hand. The very people who think they know what is right are often the very people who are wrong in their beliefs. The reason for this is obvious: They fail to investigate thoroughly the path in which they walk and whether those who are leading them are embracing what is true.
Truth in Definition
Many people discount "the truth" as if it has very little bearing upon their lives. Some like to live in a dream world where every individual has their own version of the truth- that their truth can differ from your truth etc. If that's your stand these days, I'd like you to consider one or more of the following scenarios. I aim to answer the question, "Just how dependent are we as human beings upon truth?"
1. Let's say a teenager wants to stay out late on a particular night but needs permission from their parents. The parents decision will be based upon many things, the primary one being convinced their son or daughter is being truthful to them. If not, or even if the parents doubt the childs sincerity the desired result will not be accomodated for them. The parent or authority needs the facts to make a rationale decision.
2. Your car or truck needs immediate mechanical help. The decision to take your vehicle to a particular auto shop will be based upon many things to include pricing, location, the speed of the repair etc. The prior concerns matter little if trust is not or has not been previously established.
3. What we do with the money we control is a concern for all of us. Whether we choose to invest it in the stock market, a business or place it in a particular financial institution involves many decisions. The interest, the risk and the penalties for withdrawal are just a few. As important as these are, they matter little until we trust those who promise to trust us with our money.
4. Are you married? Out of all of the concerns you may have taken prior to getting married I'm sure one ruled over the rest. Trust. You can't hope to spend the remainder of your life with someone you might be able to trust. That goes for both of you.
5. You are facing a serious medical emergency that threatens your life. There are numerous opinions and suggestions as to your best chance for survival. Although you may trust your present doctor you likely will invest other options available. This is predominately due to the seriousness of the situation. You want more than someone's opinion and likely will do some extra searching and studying the particular ailment you have been diagnosed with. It is absolutely imperative that you make the right decision for your life depends upon it. You likely won't settle for the common cure until you have all the facts in hand. Once you have the facts and apply them to your specific situation you can then seek out a professional doctor to perform the desired procedure.
The five examples above are only a few of the hundred scenarios I could have listed. Take the trust factor out out of the equation and life becomes instantaneously chaotic and uncertain. The wisest decisions any human being can make are those based upon fact and coinciding with what we know to be true. That is always the safest place.
In each situation above the truth can be skirted. What does stay out late mean? (1) What does it mean if a mechanic tells says you have an oil leak? (2) What is a financial advantage?(3) What defines a marriage? (4) What characterizes a life threatening situation? (5) Until the specific terms are defined no one can know where they stand in relation to the specific situation at hand. Terms must be defined if the truth is to be ascertained. We cannot properly interpret what is not clearly defined.
Lines of demarcation/specific character traits
The more precise a definition, the more visible are the parameters that define it. For example, money denotes a whole host of things from a 2010 Lincoln penney to Monopoly money. A Federal Reserve Note is known as one of several types of bills used in American currency. The bills are found in denominations of hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens, fives, ones etc. This noted, there are only two types of 1943 Lincoln pennies, one steel, one copper. The steel coins are worth little, the copper coins valued near $100,000 each. There are only twelve known to be in circulation. They have specific characteristics that the other likeminded pennies do not have.
The results of improper diagnosis
Most mechanics if honest will tell you that diagnosing a vehicle's trouble is the hardest part of fixing the problem. That's because the trouble can be an individual issue or a combination of problems. It's also due to having little or no idea how the owner of a vehicle has maintained it or how it may have been abused in the past. The origin of the vehicle and the number of owners and miles also contribute. It takes a seasoned veteran, often one familiar with the type of trouble and the make of vehicle to quickly discover what the issues actually are and fix them properly. If the problem is not diagnosed properly or effectively many adverse things can result including added troubles and additional expense and time without your ride.
Improper diagnosis leads to ineffective solutions
I thank God I've been quite healthy most of my life thus far. I know others who have battled many physical ailments over the years- ailments which if misdiagnosed prolong the problems and at times compound them. Nobody likes a mechanic playing guessing games with our vehicle for we know that almost always means being that much more inconvenienced. How much more troubling is this if our health is on the line. There is a certain degree of guesswork in any field I suppose, though each of us would just assume avoid as much of that as possible. We want a right diagnosis of our problem and want it fixed as soon as absolutely possible.
Suffering from another's ignorance
Earlier I offered a couple of examples in relation to people worshipping in ignorance. In a very similar manner as these folks did, your neighborhood mechanic as well as your local doctor can and do at times act with a similar ignorance when it comes to dealing with your particular problems. Although this is not always intentional, at times there are simply others factors that enter the equation (state and federal regulations, the availability of resources, the cost of those resources, time restraints, amounts of expertise, operational standards etc). Because someone else owns that particular business they retain the right to serve you in the manner they desire and at times these and other factors will cause you harm. If that happens you're very likely going to want to blame someone for your additional suffering.
Suffering from another's deception
No one likes to admit that they have been taken advantage of by someone else in their time of need. We would just assume everyone out there has a good heart and proper motives and would never do us wrong- never purposely take advantage of us. We know better don't we?
The fact is, where mankind can gain an advantage over someone else he or she is going to take that means of advantage. Like it or not, that's just human nature. We are by nature consumed with ourselves and everything we do is driven by a love for self. Don't think for a minute that doesn't include your neighborhood mechanic or your family physician- it absolutely does.
At times the deception above may be as minor as trying to convince you to buy something you don't really need. At other times it will be failing to inform you of a service you need but cannot afford. At it's worst, your trusted "friend" will outright lie to you for one reason or another. Kinda like our wonderful government not telling us what "they know" we don't need to hear. The deception goes on, most people entirely oblivious to the fact, prefering to remain ignorant themselves verses face the truth. That's exactly how and why an oil leak becomes a engine repair and a common cold turns into a hospital stay.
The greatest deception of all
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! [Isaiah 5:20, 21]
Notice the above verses closely. Who are those who substitute good with evil? It is those who think they are wise!
Now we know who the author of all deception is and how he and his deceivers operate from 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not suprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds"
This verse make it quite obvious that those individuals who are purposefully deceiving others, those calling good evil and evil good are those professing faith in God! Not only, but calling themselves leaders at that! That is a bold claim for a false apostle but it also makes it that much easier for the true saints to spot these people. As deceivers their goal would be to deceive as many as possible and they would therefore need to infiltrate as far into Christiandom as possible, preferably into leadership positions where they would have a voice.
The reason I call this the greatest deception is simple. Jesus Himself claims to be the truth in John 14:6 and has come to testift to the truth. The latter was through numerous testimonies (John 5:30-40) and even before Pilate here:
"You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" [John 18:37]
False apostles and prophets also claim to be testifying to the truth. They also talk of God, claim to represent Him, claim to be leaders in the church, claim to perform miracles and quote the Bible. Like real believers they read scripture, talk of fellowship, offer up prayers and encourage others to share the word with others and yet…..one very noticeable trait persists throughout their actions….. that of substitution.
What deceivers attempt to substitute
- The false gospel (intellectual belief) verses trust in Christ through faith and repentance
- Man centered messages verses cross-centered truth/deny self
- Decisional regeneration verses God's sovereignty in election
- Fleshly manifestations verses real Spirit led actions.
- Earthly church verses a heavenly spiritual ekklesia
We could do a complete study upon any of the above substitutions but for now I'd like to focus upon this one here:
Deception through definition
Many examples could be offered but let's use one common to man- church. Is it possible that despite the majority of those professing faith in Jesus Christ worldwide who think that Christianity revolves around church, that this might not be true? That this might in fact be a substitute of the devil himself?
If all we have to do was prove that the word church did not exist in the 1st century that would be easy. The English language didn't even exist then. Most religious leaders and all scholars will agree that the word "church" was translated from the Greek word "ekklesia." Knowing that this Greek word was translated into an English word we should attempt to define the two words in order to make sure they mean the same thing. As I've already shown in an article called "What is the Church, really?" I've already proven they do not mean the same thing and in fact are almost complete opposites. Furthermore, a couple of the definitions for "church" (there are several) are even prohibited by God; namely religious hierarchy and denominationalism. Both the hierarchal authority found in religions as well as the sectarian nature of denominations are scripturally forbidden. Just these two problems alone should be of great concern to anyone who claims to be a Christian.
Obvious concerns overlooked
When we attempt to discover what God is saying or has actually said, how do we diagnose that problem? How can we know for sure whether "church" is an acceptable substitute for "ekklesia?"
In the opening paragraph I mentioned how someone approached me last night as I was studying. The discussion eventually went to what I was writing for my internet site and a comparison between church and ekklesia. Although they listened, I could discern that they wern't exactly agreeing with my explanation. Even when I explained that nothing "churchlike" can even be found within New Testament Christianity it didn't faze them at all. In the end I got the typical response from the average church goer toward my comparison, "Well, I like church." That's sad, that's tragic. In other words, despite mountains of evidence that ekklesia was wrongly translated into church, the fact that Christians never built buildings for over two hundred years after Jesus' incarnation and the traditions of men cancelling out many of God's commandments through church, they still say things like, "Well, it does so much good." Really? Seriously? This response and attitude my friends, may be the greatest evidence of all.
An improper diagnosis
Although not an adequate excuse, you average Christian is not aware that the word church was wrongly translated from the word ekklesia, nor that the words have opposing definitions. Most have never known anything other than church as a means for them to grow as a believer. They just assume, ignorantly, that those who are leaders in the church have things figured out and will explain to them what they need to know. For the most part the majority of professing believers think their Christian lives should revolve around church and that God expects them to be part of one.
Similar to those who blindly believe the neighborhood auto mechanic, these naaive ones are also blindly trusting in others who haven't earned that trust. They are making a most serious mistake in assuming that those calling themselves "experts" or "religious professionals" know what they are talking about and will therefore always tell them the truth. Anyone who does this should read the opening two bible verses in this study at least twice daily- maybe more. Jesus has never once called any believer to blidly follow any man but actually does say about Himself, "Follow Me."
Whoever assumes that "church" is an adequate substitute for "ekklesia" does not take God nor His words seriously. How can any man accurately know what God is speaking or desires if they redefine God's own words or definitions? Answer: you can't. 1 Timothy 3:15 states that Jesus' Ekklesia is the pillar and support (foundation) of the truth. In other words, the people who compose His family are together the pillar and support of the truth. Note what also comprises this verse….so that you will know how to conduct yourself in the household of God. This part of this verse makes it obvious that His family does not operate by "anything goes" or what "we like or prefer." There is a specific manner in which God's people are to express His truth…..a common confession if you will. (vs.16) I may even need to remind some of you that the word household here has nothing to do with any location or building where the saints choose to meet but rather the expression of the totality of the saints together.
Improper diagnosis leads to ineffective solutions
Ever heard this statement in church in relation to people not getting along, "Well, nobody's perfect." I want to scream everytime I hear that. Well of course that's true- but that's not the issue! That's an excuse for bad behavior!
Let me ask a few questions to those still attending church. Then I'll give you your answer.
1. How do you make sure adultery and immorality are not among the saints? Your answer: You can't.
2. How do you keep the teenagers regularly seeking God faithfully? Your answer: You can't.
3. How do the saints powerfully impact their neighbors and communities? Your answer: You don't.
Sure, you probably won't admit to all this, nonetheless, I know it's true. It you don't believe it, then you're simply a liar or in denial. The reason is simple: You cannot reap the benefits and promises of God if you refuse to acknowledge what God actually says! If you're intent upon doing things you're own way you will reap the consequences of what you do. That's exactly what is happening through every single church. Whether in ignorance or in willful rebellion makes little difference- you will, you do reap what you are sowing. God promises that too.
Everyone who attends a church is aware of the many problems that exist. But the solutions that are created to deal with the problems are only superficial- they never address the root of the problem. Jeremiah states something along these lines in relation to the prophets and priests of his day;
"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace"
Just a few verses prior we find one of the reasons for this lack of concern for the people;
"To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it" [vs10]
Exactly. Where those who claim to lead fail to acknowledge the words of God the people merely follow. In the absence of God's word something will have to fill that void and what better thing than something (anything actually) that caters to man's sinful and selfish nature? Welcome to the Church Growth Movement, Emergent Church, Word Faith Doctrines, New Apostolic Reformation or any other "ministry" entirely absent of the centrality of the cross of Jesus Christ. That goes for your church as well- especially if you refuse to tell people they must deny their carnal natures and selfish desires to even be a true Christian. Is that the message you're proclaiming?
Our church isn't like that
The above refrain sounds familiar doesn't it? Maybe like this:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like the other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' [Luke 18:10-12]
What was this Pharisees problem? First, he compared himself to other people. He judged himself as better than other people. See Matthew 7:1-6. It was the spirit of his judgment that was wrong. Secondly, he boasted in his own righteous acts. He failed to understand that his own standard of righteousness wasn't adequate before God. He was far more interested in the humble spirit that was exhibited by the person this Pharisee was quick to condemn. Lastly, this Pharisee failed to see his own self righteousness. Instead of seeing all men as helpless sinners in need of mercy, he categorized himself as being different than "them."
We exercize this very same judgmental spirit through "our" and "my" church. The very fact that men choose names to describe themselves proves they arn't like "those other christians" and don't want to be. It doesn't matter that the bible only recognizes one ekklesia in a given locale- they conveniently ignore that fact and multiply the sectartian spirit among believers that much more. They fail to discern the local body of believers.
It is certainly true that the manner some churches function is closer to the New Testament pattern than others. But again, is that the issue? If their is no scriptural warrant for any place called church whatsoever, especially one which is named and divides the local body through sectarianism, does it really matter what comes after? Does it matter to God if we proclaim and advance something that is not and was not ever part of His heart and intentions for His people- that derives from a mistranslated definition of what He desires? You are seriously deceived if you think that is in any way acceptable to the God who pays strict attention to the little details we so often ignore.
Suffering from another's ignorance
The majority of what comprises Christiandom these days has become so commonplace it is rarely if ever questioned. Consider the ease in which we send our children to become professional Christian leaders, musicians or even magicians. For the most part if someone has done it before that almost always means a green light and full speed ahead. One in a thousand will stand and confront today's religious status quo, especially all things church.
Consider the ease and frequency of those wanting to start "a church," "a ministry" or a "christian organization" these days. Would it be fair to assume a few new one's daily, a hundred monthly or thousands each year? What are these amounting to? Is their really justification for all this building we're doing in Jesus' name or might this just be ignorance on our part.
Just this morning I talked with a friend who said the church he attends recently built an addition onto their building that cost over one million dollars. When all was said and done, the addition only added approximately forty seats for those who attend religious services once a week. Now that's ignorance.
Suffering from another's deception
For some strange reason most human beings think that their religious leaders have their best interests in mind. I really wonder at times how they can possibly come to such a conclusion. Could it be because they have a high position within the churches hierarchy that God Himself forbids. Might it be because they consume the majority of speaking and teaching functions in opposition to the interactive fellowships of the 1st century? Could it be because they receive a paid salary which makes them a target as to the real reasons behind why they preach and teach? Might it be because they stand before and over the other saints despite God calling all believers equal? Could it be the continual redefining of terms and neglect to speak to you the real truth that keeps you deceived and subserviant to their selfish desires? Could it be that in every way their lives don't characterize an individual who is dying unto themself as Jesus requires?
The truth be told, religious leaders in formal institutions are almost always self serving.
- If they choreograph your meetings they are self serving.
- If they make decisions for you they are self serving.
- If they encourage you to build buildings, name them and disseminate that name they are self serving.
- If they call themselves by some title they are self serving.
- If they have a religious office they are self serving.
- If they require you to tithe they are self serving.
- If they rule over you in any fashion they are self serving.
- If they are preeminent more that Jesus they are self serving.
- If they fail to remind you that you must carry the cross of Jesus Christ daily they are self serving.
- If anyone claiming to be a religious leader is not laying their life down for you they are self serving.
Many people who practice the above are ignorant and many more using you for their own selfish aims. ALL OF THEM ARE DECEIVED. If any Christian practices the opposite of what the Bible characterizes as New Testament Christianity those people are deceiving you.
An interesting verse is found in 1 Corinthians 4:6;
"Now these things, brethren, (that we are servants, stewards and trustworthy) I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other"
What is Paul saying here? Remember earlier in chapter 1-3 Paul was correcting them for forming allegiances with men that divided them one from another. Chapter 2 makes clear that this was a result of relying upon their own man-made wisdom instead of upon God. In this verse we find one result of these sectarian divisions in that certain individual believers were becoming arrogant in behalf of one against another (person or group of believers). A comparison today would be any believer defending one group of Christians against another. How were they doing this? By exceeding what is written. By failing to remain within the framework of what constitutes proper beliefs and actions as the people of God. What were these things? Paul sums them up in the last verse of this chapter by saying this:
"For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every ekklesia" [1 Corinthians 4:17]
When the professing people of God refuse to remain within the proper framework of what constitutes proper biblical Christianity (what Paul calls my ways) they will replace those ways with their own ways. When those proper ways are substituted for man's ways those ways will breed animosity from one religious sect against another. It is not a matter of which sect is right and which is wrong (which is the war they fight) but rather whether each or all of them have abandoned the "my ways" of apostolic tradition. That is the issue. Paul makes it very clear by using himself and Apollos as an example who the people are who exemplify proper service, stewardship and trustworthiness- those who remain within the framework of what is written. The opposite would also be true: Those who exceed what is written are not exercizing proper service, stewardship or trustworthiness!
Notice what also characterized (defined) these people who exceeded what is written.
- They consider themselves superior to others. (either through beliefs or practice) (vs.7)
- They failed to recognize that all abilities come from God. (vs.7)
- They boasted as if they didn't receive from God (vs.7) which amounts to relying upon their own resources and wisdom (we mentioned this earlier).
- They boasted as if they had everything they needed (vs.8) See: Revelation 3:14-19. Who were these Nicolations? They were those leaders among God's people who were ruling over the saints.
When we consider the example of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-17 this cannot be remotely compared with those who claim to be our leaders in churches today. They have absolutely nothing in common, just as those within this passage to whom he was referring had nothing in common with him. This was not to be considered acceptable which is why he admonished them with, "Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me." (vs.16) and sent Timothy to them to show them what that actually entailed. (vs.17).
As professing believers in Christ, we like to fancy ourselves in performing certain ministry pursuits that align with our own dreams and desires. We would convince ourselves that because we are sincere that God will with certainty accept our various offerings. This isn't even remotely true. The fact is, that whether before or after one confesses Christ unto salvation, man's works are all still considered filthy rags. God's judgments upon our sinful selfish nature don't change after conversion. We still have absolutely nothing to offer Him. The decree still goes forth: There is NONE righteous, not even one, not even you. It's long past due that these "professors" start to take God and His words much more seriously as the day draweth nearer.
The apostle John spoke these sobering words in Revelation 22:18, 19;
"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophesy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues of this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book"
Only one question remains and it's addressed to everyone who continues to redefine God's words unabated. In light of the antonyms most closely associated with the term definition being ambiguity, vagueness and nonsense, "Do you actually believe God is going to overlook your careless use of what He actually says, or will you rather be the recipient of His judgments above?"
May you reap what you sow.