The Deceived And The Deceivers
Every individual in the world today can be classified as belonging to one of three groups of people: the deceived, the deceivers, or the reconciled. For the moment, we will concentrate on the first two groups. Who are the deceived and why are they deceived?
The deceived represent the majority of men who have nev- er committed their lives to Jesus Christ, and who have no desire to respond to the moral enlightenment that they do have. In our American culture, this group is typified by the average Joe Six-pack sitting in front of the T.V. set with his feet propped up on the coffee table.
It is very important to keep in mind that no man is deceived unless he wants to be deceived.
How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge? … they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:22, 29 (NASB)
But what about those remote Pacific Islands, or the recluse tribes of South America, Africa or Indonesia? What about those who have never read the Bible—who have never heard of Jesus Christ? There is a very interesting passage of scripture in the first chapter of Romans which answers this very question in great detail:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in (by) unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them … For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been dearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened … And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper. Romans 1:18–21, 28 (NASB)
To analyze what we have just read:
- God is not angry with those who have little truth, but with those who suppress or hold down the truth by unrighteousness.
- There are two major sources of moral enlightenment that all men have, regardless of where they live: a. their inner consciousness and b. nature.
- 3.) These sources of revelation concerning God are not obscure, they are “clearly seen.”
- 4.) They “knew God” but did not honor Him as God and began to speculate or explain things away.
- 5.) Thus, unrighteous men are left without excuse
Romans 8:28 tells us that “they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer.” This seems to indicate that they had “known” God in some way previously. But how? We can go a long way toward answering this question by carefully exam- ining the two universal sources of moral enlightenment men- tioned In this passage.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1–4 (RSV)
When men are committed to living for themselves su- premely, they cannot admit that the things God has made are wonderful, that they are testimonies to His wonderful character, and that they declare His glory. To do so would be tantamount to admitting disobedience and recognizing their responsibility to commit their lives to their Maker. This, then, is the basic intention behind the totally unfounded, foolish Theory of Evo- lution: The message of God’s creation must be silenced. And “they became futile In their speculations ….” (Romans 1:21).
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity (Heb.: Olam) in their heart …. Ecclesiastes 3:10–11 (NASB)
The interesting thing here is that the Hebrew word “olam” carries the connotation of a love of eternity or love of eternal things. There is an inner longing inside every human being that will never be satisfied until he comes in contact with “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity.” It is this longing, “that of an unsatisfied desire which is more desirable than any other satisfaction,” which C. S. Lewis called “joy.” In his spiritual au- tobiography, he wrote:
I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired joy itself. Joy itself considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which joy was the desiring … Last of all I had asked if joy itself was what I wanted; and labeling it ‘aesthetic experience,’ had pretended I could answer Yes. But that answer too had broken down. Inexorably joy proclaimed, ‘You want—I myself am your want of—something other, outside, not you nor any state of you.’ I did not yet ask, who is the desired … But this brought me already into the region of awe ….C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt, Brace & World, pp. 220, 221.
Who are the deceivers and why are they deceivers? The deceivers are a coalition of the religiously affiliated who know quite a lot about God but fail to relate to Him on a personal basis. They include faithful churchmen, Bible school and semi- nary graduates, fundamentalists and evangelicals. They are the people who are incredibly active doing good works under the banner of Jesus Christ, but who have never slowed down enough to get to know the One they think they are serving. Carnal theological professors, whose hearts may mutter in secret, “God has a wonderful plan for my life,” have failed to realize that Christianity, in its naked essence, is nothing less than a relationship. Whatever else may issue forth from the Christian life must be rooted in that sublime relationship—God with the soul. Jesus incisively spoke to this group.
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth [t]he will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21–23
What an eternally conclusive indictment! “I never knew you.” What chilling words to come out of the mouth of God. So utterly unexpected. These people approached God on what they thought were familiar terms. They came using His name. As I read this passage over again, I noticed something I had never seen before, and it staggered me. One solitary word—”many.” Jesus is not referring here to a small, isolated group. He says many will approach the Father on Judgment Day in this pathetic condition: spiritually barren and out of relationship. I couldn’t help asking: “But where do these people come from?” It is evident on two counts that they are not the clien- tele of local bars and brothels. First, they approached God with an air of familiarity. They assumed at least there would be some reciprocal recognition. Second, the works listed in this pas- sage seem to indicate these individuals are ardently religious. Where, then, do they come from? The answer is, of course, from the churches. These people are extremely harmful since they present a warped and incomplete rendering of the nature and character of God. Unfortunately, because of their words and deeds, it is easier for those in the world to rationalize their position. There are, of course, those who do know God. Their lives are mobile portraits of God’s character, although only miniature replicas of the one God painted on Calvary. This group has been reconciled to God. They have responded to God’s mighty efforts to repair the relationship that was ruptured. Each of these three groups have four basic concepts of God, and on the basis of these concepts their response to God is determined: intimate, religious or blasphemous.