Fatal Deception: Are We Kidding Ourselves?
From the series Uncovering Counterfeit Christianity
Deception is tricky! If we're deceived, we don't KNOW it - or do we? Chip challenges us to stop kidding ourselves and understand the true nature of what we're up against.
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About this series
Uncovering Counterfeit Christianity
The Pursuit of Authentic Christianity
What is authentic Christianity? Is there more to being a Christian than knowing a set of facts? Is it just an emotional feeling? How does a person know if he's truly in Christ? This series, from the book of James, helps each of us discover the biblical foundation of our faith and provides clear-cut tests for knowing if our faith is genuine.More from this series
We’re starting a new series. It’s called, Counterfeit Christianity. And the question we want to ask and answer: Is your faith for real? In other words, is your belief system, your relationship with God, is it the real deal?
We’re going to do a three-part series on this out of the book of James. And you think, We’re a church! We’re an evangelical church! We’re a Bible-believing church. Where are you going with this thing, Chip? Seventy-one point six million people, listen carefully, seventy-one point six million people claim to be born again, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. Media Research Group did that statistic.
Gallup and Barna polls tell us, of that group, when polled, that seventy-one point six million people – lifestyle, ethics, morals, divorce rate, integrity, cheating, lying, and stealing – is almost exactly the same as the rest of Americans.
Jesus said, “You build your house on two kinds of things: rock or sand. They look good on the outside but you don’t know what is for real until you look underneath.” And He said, “You’ll know people, ultimately, by their fruit.” It’s obvious, of those seventy-one point six million.
The Barna research says only about one out of ten people who say they are Christians, only about one out of ten does it really impact how they live, their priorities, their relationships, their time, their finances. So it would seem that there might be a counterfeit Christianity floating around, don’t you think?
We’re going to spend three weeks and talk about it and it would be good for you to lean back and just say, Lord, is there something You might want to say to me? Maybe not that I’m not in the faith but maybe the faith that I have in You isn’t exactly what You would consider the kind of faith I ought to have.
I want to start with a story. It’s a true story. I don’t even know if I should share it, if I share it tonight and you all tell me, “That is so inappropriate, don’t ever do that again,” then I won’t share it tomorrow. But I’m going to share it tonight.
It’s racially sensitive, very racially sensitive. It could condemn certain regions of the country. It’s a very offensive, it’s a very offensive story. It makes me very angry when I think back on what happened. But it’s extremely instructive. Very instructive for us tonight about this issue of authentic faith.
I was in another part of the country that I won’t mention. And I found myself being introduced to a businessman. It’s in the heart of the Bible Belt. That’s pretty broad. And I was introduced new in town and so he did, as they do in the Bible Belt, sort of the spiritual dance and asked me a few questions about this and about that.
And he was trying to figure out: what pigeonhole could he stick me in? Are you one of this group or that group or this group? And so he was having trouble. Non-denominational, like, what is that? Is that cult?
And so finally he thought, Well, I’ll figure it out. He says, “Well, what version of the Bible do you use?” And, “This is the one we use,” and I told him, “Well I kind of use this one for this and this one for that,” and we are doing the spiritual dance, trying to feel each other out. And the phone rings.
He says, “Excuse me.” Fine. So he picks up the phone. “Yeah. Yeah. No, no. No, no. Go ahead. Go ahead.” And I’m just sitting there. He knows I’m a pastor. We just did the little spiritual deal. He tells me how wonderful his church is. He’s on the phone.
“Huh-uh. No, no, no. What?! That guy is just a _____! I said, ‘He’s just a _____!’ We don’t have to keep our promises. Hey, you tell him, ‘Forget it.’ We make promises to some people, we made it to a ____, we’re not keeping it. You got it? Okay.”
He puts the phone down, looks right up at me, and says, “Now, we use this version of the Bible, could you tell me about the one you use and why?”
I’m telling you, we didn’t skip a beat. I’m telling you, there was no sense of offense, there was no sense of even mild dichotomy between talking to a pastor, talking about a version of the Bible, talking about his relationship with God, and in my presence, not even unashamed, it didn’t come up on his radar screen, to outwardly say, “We’re not going to keep a commitment to any human being,” but then to racially slur and condemn someone and categorize a person on the basis of their race, and then turn right around to me and, by the way, this guy held an official position in his church.
It’s the incredible power of deception.
Now, this guy is a nice guy, in a relative sense of the word. He earns a paycheck, he’s trying to be a good dad, he goes to church regularly, he reads his Bible because I know what translation he is in!
What has the power, tell me, what in the world could have the power to have someone be so clear and say, “I love God, the Bible is important, I hold an office in the church,” and step out of that and live such an inconsistent life? What could have that kind of power? The answer is: deception.
To deceive means: an illusion, fraud, trickery; to be ensnared, seduced, to counterfeit, to lie; to fool someone so completely that what is false is accepted to be true. Wow.
Now, it can happen to anyone. To be seduced, to be fooled, to be tricked to such an extent that what is false actually is believed to be true.
Now, before we go on, let’s play this out instead of in this person in this region of the country. What about you? What about me? At some level, in some way, we are deceived.
You see, deception is not only powerful, it’s dangerous. Do you realize the greatest problem you will ever face in your life, is the problem that you have that you’re not aware of? Right?
Ask someone who found out way too late that they have cancer. See, most cancer, detected very early – what? Almost any kind of cancer detected very, very early, you have a pretty good shot. But if you’re deceived, if you’re deceived into thinking, I’m healthy, I’m healthy, I’m healthy, but you’re not, then you don’t respond to it and terrible things happen.
But deception is not only powerful, it’s dangerous. We’re never more vulnerable than when we are unaware and deceived and blind.
A young man, early thirties – good job, bright, technical job in another city, had a small child about six years old, married about nine years, things looked good. Thought everything was fine. They had gone to a party just a couple of nights before. No major problems, they had never been to marriage counseling, they hadn’t had a series of arguments, just life seemed pretty good. He was happy. He thought he had a good relationship. He was making good money, she was making good money.
And one day he got home from work, he got home in the early afternoon, went in early, worked at a place in a technical job where he could work his own hours. And there was a note on the refrigerator, in fact, he shared with me what it said. And the note said, I don’t love you. I never have loved you. I am leaving and I took our daughter. In ninety seconds, this man’s world fell apart. He never saw it coming, he thought all was well, he never saw any anger, he didn’t see the hurt, he didn’t see the telltale signs, he never heard about problems, he never felt any pain she was going through. He was deceived.
That kind of stuff in another person’s life just doesn’t happen immediately. There had to be some symptoms. Deceived.
You see, deception is not only powerful, it can be lethal. When you’re deceived about a thing, it’s dangerous. When you’re deceived about a relationship, it’s devastating. Now, listen carefully, if we’re deceived about our relationship with God, it can be deadly.
With that, I’d like you to open your teaching handout and open to the book of James. And what I would like to do tonight is talk about how we can defend ourselves, how we can prepare ourselves, what is the antidote for spiritual deception?
How can we make sure, regular people like us, just ordinary, Santa Cruz Bible Church people, coming in here tonight, as far as we know, thinking, I’m okay. Things are okay with God, things are okay with people, things are okay with myself. As far as I know! But what if you are deceived? What if I am deceived?
It’s powerful, it’s dangerous, and with regard to God, it can be deadly. And so James chapter 1, verses 21 to 27, he is going to say, “There is a spiritual antidote to deception.” He’s going to give us two steps, very simple steps, to understand, a little tough to do.
So by way of overview, follow along with me and I’m just going to read the passage and then I’m going to come back and I’ll give you the two steps out of the passage and let’s see if we can apply ourselves to the hearing and the teaching of God’s Word and ask Him to cause our hearts to be tender so that if there is any deception, we will learn about it.
He says in verse 21, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the Word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves as doers, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in the mirror; and for once he looked himself and then he has gone away, he immediately has forgotten what kind of person he was. By contrast, there is one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and he abides by it, not becoming a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man, this woman, will be blessed in whatever he does.
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious,” right with God is the idea, “and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s worship or religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Now, that is the overview. Let’s break it down together; let’s look at it. He says that step number one, flowing out of verse 21, is that you must receive God’s Word or the truth objectively. You must receive God’s Word objectively.
In other words, you have to, in a certain way, get the truth of God’s Word where it is not what you think it means, it’s not what you want it to mean, it’s what it really is and it’s what it really is to you. You follow me?
It’s the first antidote, it’s the first step not to be deceived. You must get yourself in a position that when you read the Bible, when you hear the teaching of God’s Word, when you hear truth through the life or the tongue of another person who loves God, you have to get yourself in a position where it is objective, where you can actually receive it as, This is true, instead of warping it, reframing it, rationalizing it, thinking of having it bounce off you like a BB: It’s for someone else, somewhere else.
And in verse 21, he gives you two conditions. Very clear conditions about how to get the Word of God in your life objectively. Notice what he says.
The first one he is going to talk about is a radical act of getting clean. He is going to say when there is habitual, known sin in your life, it becomes like a steel wall against God’s truth, and God’s truth can’t get through.
He says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.” And then he is going to give us, that’s the negative, now here is the positive. The second condition. “And humbly accept the Word planted,” or literally, “implanted, which can save you.”
The idea of, “Save your soul,” is the King James. This is the saving work of deliverance. This is not salvation. He is already speaking to believers. It has the idea of, This can restore you, this can put you in position and get your life rightly aligned to God so His blessing and His power works through you. And so he says there are two things that have to happen in you, and two things that have to happen in me if, when I read or hear God’s Word, I can get it truly and objective so I can respond in that way.
The first one is: I have to put aside all moral filth. The word put aside – put a little circle around that, will you? It’s in a tense of the verb that means it’s a decisive act. You don’t sort of glide into putting aside sin, okay? It means at a point in time, you see this relationship is wrong, you turn from it. This habit is wrong, you turn from it. This thought is wrong, you turn from it.
There is a decisive act. “Therefore, get rid of,” the word literally meant, in the ancient times, to take off clothes. It’s the picture of someone having dirty, muddy clothes on and taking them off. Get rid of the dirt. All moral filth. That’s pretty broad.
And this concept of moral filth, it’s the soil in your soul. It’s any impurity. The root word is rhypos, which originally meant, wax in the ears. It’s quite a word picture, isn’t it?
See, what happens when you get wax built up in your ears? It starts out just a little, right? And if you never clean your ears it builds up and it builds up and it builds up and it builds up. You hear some things, but there is a lot you miss. And when little sins and little attitudes and lack of forgiveness and playing around and a little bit of flirting and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, little by little, your heart gets hard. Little by little you get desensitized to the Holy Spirit’s conviction ministry.
And pretty soon, you can hear God’s truth and it’s like a BB that bounces off of a tank. And he said the only way to position yourself to hear God’s Word, His truth objectively, “Get rid of all moral filth.” That’s a look at the internal and did you notice? “And the evil that is so prevalent.” Any residue.
I remember years ago, this was really not very smart. In fact, it was really stupid. But fortunately it rained and I didn’t get killed.
This was five or six years ago, I could still run some. And my boys were back from college, “Dad,” it was Thanksgiving break, “we’re going to play tackle football,” and it had rained, “in the mud. Why don’t you come?”
And I’m thinking, These guys are really big, these guys are really fast, these guys are going to kill me, “Yes, I’ll go!” And so I went and fortunately, it was so muddy, they couldn’t get a good, clean shot on you and you would slide and every play I thought, Oh, good, I didn’t get hurt really badly.
And so finally, I don’t know how we got home in that car, but when I got home, I was, just mud everywhere. And so I’m thinking, Well, I’m going to come inside, and Theresa caught us at the garage. And it was like, “Hey, guys? Hose off. And then in the garage, take off your clothes before you come in.” Do a radical, humbling thing before you get in this house and get in the shower.
That is exactly what God is saying. If there is any evil in your life, if there is any known sin, if there is any habitual issue, if there a problem with your tongue, if there is resentment in your heart toward another person, if you’re harboring evil in your heart or your mind, if you’re dabbling around on the Internet, if you’re doing things you know are wrong, that habitual practice does this to you hearing God’s Word. And that means you’re setting yourself up for deception.
The second thing is a positive. But notice it says, “But humbly receive.” One translation says, “with meekness.” The idea really is teachability. Or humbly accept, the word means, to welcome as a stranger. The word implanted. It has already been implanted when you trusted Christ, which can save you.
And so two things have to happen. If you’re not going to be deceived, you have to deal. You see, what we do, I do it too, It’s just a small sin. This isn’t a big deal, right? I’ll deal with that later. I mean, I see a lot of other Christians doing this. It can’t be that big a deal. In fact, there are some Christians I really respect and they do this.
And so what we make is we make what the body of Christ does in general and my observation is, we always slide to the lowest common denominator. And once we find someone who we semi-respect and they start doing some things that, in our conscience, we didn’t feel was good or right, then we start doing some stuff.
I’ll guarantee this, if you were time warped just ten years, if ten years ago you were frozen and you were just you walking with God, and then ten years we unthawed you and you came and sat in one of our homes, and you watched what is on the TV of the average Christian family, you would go, “I’m sorry, I have to leave. This is offensive.”
If you would go to a movie with one of the average Christians, if you had not been around, if you hadn’t been seduced by our culture like the little frog that they scientifically put in the pan and if it’s real hot, he jumps right out. But if you warmed him up real slow, he’ll boil to death. That’s happened to evangelical Christians. We have put up with sin, we have put up with immorality, we do things that, if we were frozen in time ten years ago, we would be shocked at what we saw ourselves doing.
And he says, “If you want to hear from God, if you are willing to accept how dangerous and lethal it can be to be deceived, get rid of all moral filth, number one. And then with a humble spirit, accept God’s truth that has been implanted to you with a teachable spirit.” And what a teachable spirit is is, God, whatever You show me, I’ll do it.
See, a lot of us, we put our hands on our hips and we don’t mean to do it this way but it’s a habit. And we hear God’s truth and we put our hands on our hips and we say, I like this, I like that, I like that, you know what? I’m not doing that. My lifestyle would have to change. I would have to rearrange my whole finances. That is too fanatical, radical. I’m just not going to do that.
You know what that is called? An unteachable spirit. And so we do it in a little area and then it grows and then it grows and then pretty soon, we have spiritual wax in our ears, there are little habitual sins. And, by the way, when your heart starts to get hard, it doesn’t bother you anymore. The Bible is really clear about four different states that your conscience can be in.
You can actually get to the point where your conscience can be seared and you can just sin. In fact, who of us has not heard some of those classic stories of that pastor or the missionary or the Christian leader who has fallen in adultery and has done it for years and years and gets up and preaches on weekends and is in a hotel with some other woman? And they have convinced themselves they have found the wrong person.
I know a personal story of a guy who was having devotional time with the woman he was having an affair with! That’s how lethal deception is.
Step number one, it’s radical. You must, I must get rid of all moral filth and the evil, any residue, anything that doesn’t draw me close to God. And then receive God’s Word with a teachable spirit, a humble heart, which is able to deliver me or restore me. Step number one.
“Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Put a little line under: merely listen. The word literally, it means audit. Anybody audited a class before? Do you get as much out of a class you audit as a class you pay two or three hundred dollars an hour for? You know, it’s a sunny day, I’m auditing it. They’re taking the test, I’m going to blow off the test.
He says there are a lot of people, James is saying, the reason they are deceived, they are auditing the Christian life. Just auditing it. I just listen. Just, kind of, you know. He says, “Don’t audit, don’t merely listen to the Word and so,” here is our word, “deceive yourself.” It’s a compound word. Para – meaning “alongside,” logizomai – “logic” or “reasoning.”
Don’t deceive yourself. To reason amiss; to think about something in a way that is untrue. The French word for deceive is a compound word from tu and joues, and if that is pronounced right, you tell me, I have no idea.
But it means, literally from, “to play.” To be deceived means, I am going to play. I don’t want to deal with reality, I’m just going to listen and I am playing at. I am reasoning amiss. And he says, by contrast, “Don’t do that, but do what it says. Be a doer.”
Now, in case you didn’t get it, notice the illustration he gives us in verses 23 and 25. What does it look like? He says, “Well, anyone who listens to the Word, audits, but doesn’t do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after he looks at himself, he goes away immediately and forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law,” that’s God’s Word, because it gives freedom, “and he continues to do,” he abides, he acts on it, “not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it,” notice the result, “he or she will be blessed in what he does.”
I would like you to circle two words, because they are different words. Notice it says, “A man who looks,” circle that word. The idea of that word, it means glances. He takes a quick look. “Looks intently,” circle that word. It means to gaze and meditate upon.
In the ancient world, they didn’t use glass for mirrors. They would use metal. And they would get tin or copper and they would get it really, really shiny and, in most houses, it would be on a table and it would be setting, leaning against a wall on the table.
And so when they came in you could, first word, you could just take a quick glance and go. Or the second word means you come to the mirror and you stoop down, you stop, you stoop down, you want to get a good look at what is really going on so that you can act on it. Do you see the difference?
There are two kinds of Christians. There are people who hear God’s Word, read God’s Word, and they are just gazers. Gaze, gaze, gaze, gaze. I’m not looking for anything for me. This would be good for someone else.
Or it’s kind of that attitude, A chapter a day keeps the devil away. Or, I am going to read seven chapters because I felt holy.
I’ve got news! God is more pleased with you reading one verse and acting on that one verse than reading the whole Bible that day. In fact, Jesus would even say, are you ready for this? Jot down in the footnote there: Mark chapter 4. That’s an awesome passage.
He teaches, remember the parable of the seed and the soil and the four types of seed and it goes in the ground and three aren’t good and one is good? And then He gives us the disciples, and He gets to the disciples and He said, “Gentlemen, if you don’t understand that parable,” and the whole parable is about how you respond to the truth of God’s Word. He said, “If you don’t get that one, you can’t get any of them.”
Now, think of this! He gave one little parable, here are His closest followers, He says, “If you don’t understand what I just said, from now on, you’ll never get anything else.” I don’t know about you, but I read that and I thought, I think I’d like to figure this one out.
And when you look at the seed, the seed is God’s Word, and the parable is about how we respond to it. And there is only one good response: A good and honest heart that puts it into practice.
And then He gives a couple more little pictures, it’s like a light and you wouldn’t hide it. And then He gives another picture of how, if you use it, you get more truth; but if you don’t use what He gives you, even what you have will be taken away. And then He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
See, what Jesus is saying is, it’s the application of God’s Word, not the knowledge of God’s Word that He is looking for in the human heart. And, by the way, there are a lot of really smart people who know a lot about the Bible, whose lives do not reflect Jesus. They are deceived. And they are deluded.
Because maturity is not about how much information you have about God or how much of the Bible you know. Maturity is about a love relationship with your Father and out of love, when He speaks to you, you respond in love and in obedience.
And so there are some people, he says, “Hey, are you a hearer? Are you auditing the Christian life? Or are you a doer? Are you practicing it?” If you’re a hearer, you’re just glancing at the mirror, you see, Wow, you know what? This living together isn’t really in alignment with God’s Word. Well, so what? And you remove yourself from the blessing of God, you remove yourself from hearing His voice.
Oh, you know what? It says my finances really need to be in order and mammon is going to be my god unless I give the first portion of my income as an act of worship. Eh, I don’t do that part of Christianity. And you remove yourself from the blessing of God. You’re a gazer.
And he said, “When someone crosses you the wrong way, it’s a non-option that you go make it right and you tell them you’re sorry. And as far as it depends on you, you go make that relationship right. You own your part, you tell them you’re sorry, and you look for reconciliation.” I’m not doing that. I don’t do reconciliation. In fact, I’m going to hold a grudge. In fact, when I see her, I’m just going to go the other way. She can stay on that side of the church, I’ll stay on this side of the church.
And then we pray and read the Bible and we make dumb decisions and we blame God and, Where are You God? And I don’t know if things are working out and this relationship is falling apart and there is no blessing on my job and I’m having problems over here and my kids are struggling over here and I’m feeling kind of down, I feel depressed. Oh, God, where are You?
God is going to say, “Right here. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. You go nowhere into the next levels of your relationship with Me until you come back to, remember that area I talked with you about? About dealing with that relationship? Remember that thing about sexual purity? Remember that deal about your finances? When you act on that, then you’ll see Me.”
That’s why seventy-one point six million people can read their Bibles, lift their hands, and sing praise songs; buy tons of tapes, buy all kinds of Christian books, ask God to be their little genie and make their life work out and divorce at about the same rate, lie at the same rate, cheat at the same rate, and be involved in things that don’t look any different than the world.
Fatal deception. This word deceive has the idea of kidding yourself. And I entitled this message: Fatal Deception: Are We Kidding Ourselves to Death?
But notice, if you are a gazer, did you notice the four characteristics of people who want to apply God’s Word? There are four characteristics. Look at them very carefully with me in verse 25.
First, he looks intently. So there is reflection, okay? You read the Bible. By the way, it’s like you’re reading it. If you’re not in the Scriptures, and hear me, I said that too strongly, okay? Okay. I asked God to help me be really loving tonight, because I am passionate about this, but I care about you.
And I don’t want to say this like, “If you’re not in the Bible, why aren’t you reading the Bible?” And some of your personalities, you’re going to just feel really guilty, Yeah, I know I’m not reading the Bible and Chip is really mad and God must be mad.
Okay, that’s not, I didn’t mean to have it come out like that. What I mean to say is this: God loves you. And the power of transformation is rooted in the living and active Word of God and if you, on a very regular basis, like every day or every other day, if you don’t have a steady diet of reading through the Bible and saying, “Oh, God, will You speak to me?” and then seeing something and taking specific steps as you read it and put it into practice, you will never grow.
You will never experience God’s love. You will never see answers to prayer. You will never see the fruit and the intimacy and all these things we talk about in the abundant life. You won’t get it.
And so that’s why I get passionate and say, “Are you in the Bible, or not?” Because God really cares! Thank You, Lord, for that reminder.
But notice that people who do this, one, they reflect. They look intently in the perfect law, that’s God’s Word. Why? Because it gives freedom. Notice the second thing. It goes on to say that he continues to do this. So they abide. They practice it. They apply it.
Third, “not forgetting what he has heard.” They memorize some key passages. The only way you cannot forget is some of the key passages you memorize. And then, finally, doing it. They figure out specific steps to apply.
Now, I’m sure there are some people here who are saying, I would like to do that. I don’t know how. I’m glad you said that, okay? Are you ready? Inside your notes, pull them out, will you? It’s not rocket science. If you can read Ann Landers, if you can read the sports page you can read the Bible and get a ton out of it.
This myth that you need to know Greek and Hebrew and all this jazz, da, da, da, da, da. Hey. I had to study all that stuff because my job is to show you some things that you can’t get on your own. But all I’m doing is giving you the truth in living color. You can get it as clearly as possible and it’s black and white and some color. And I spent hour and hours and hours and hours in this book because my job is to feed you and to love you.
And if I don’t get something out of this, and you don’t get it, then we both have a big problem. But ninety-eight percent of all that you need, you can get by yourself. It’s called: How to Apply God’s Word to Your Life: The 2PROAPT Method. And that’s just one of those little acronyms.
But you stick this in your Bible and you say, What is 2PROAPT? Well, it’s P-P-R-O-A-P-T. So do this, okay? In fact, turn to the back page, because I have a little to-go package here for you.
Here’s what I want you to do. We’re starting to apply. I want to apply and then I’ll give you a little test. I want you, in your heart of hearts, as I’m talking, to determine a regular time and place and a book of the Bible to begin reading and studying. And if you don’t have one, start in the book of Mark, New Testament, okay?
I just chose that because it really talks about becoming a real follower. If you read that, you’ll do great.
Second, set aside twenty minutes. Turn Oprah off for twenty minutes in the afternoon, put the sports page down for twenty minutes in the morning, allot twenty minutes before you go to bed, forget the news for a week and see how it goes. And then here’s what you do. You pull this thing out and you do the 2PROAPT. And so you bow your head and you say, God, will You please speak to me. This is Bob. I am here to hear Your voice. But for me, I would say, “Chip,” for obvious reasons.
Then you “preview.” And I don’t want you to read a whole bunch. Read through the passage quickly for an overview. If this is new to you, don’t even read a whole chapter. Read three paragraphs and just read it really quickly.
Second, read the passage a second time slowly and contemplatively. I encourage you to do it out loud. So just maybe three or four paragraphs. Or if you’re used to it, a whole chapter is okay. And now you read it slowly and out loud.
Now, the “observe,” go back and underline key words, circle words and phrases that are repeated, highlight the most meaningful verse to you. So I’m going to read it, first, quick; read it, second, out loud slowly; and then, third, I’m going to go back and say, Hm, this word is repeated and I don’t know why, this third time this kind of sticks out to me. I’m going to underline it.
Fourth, choose one specific way to put it into practice, the truth you discovered. Here are two or three, God, what would You like me to do? This whole thing is talking about encouraging people. Gosh, what should I do? I think I’ll just jot someone a note today. Just respond. I’m going to jot someone a note of encouragement. Or, This says I am supposed to be thankful. How can I remember to do that? I am going to put my watch on my other wrist and every time I look at this wrist and it’s bare, I’m going to go, “Thank You, Lord, for something.”
If you can just figure little ways where you start applying God’s Word, I am telling you, the Bible is going to be so alive, you’re going to have so many answers to prayer because God is waiting, He is longing for you to begin to not read it, but to apply it.
And then you decide what you’re going to do, then you “pray.” And you say, This is Bob again, or if it’s me I’m going to say, “Chip.” And I say, God, will You please give me power and wisdom to follow through on the application I decided?
And then finally, “tell.” Share with at least one person what new insight, truth, or application you have made in response to God’s Word. Just tell one person. You do that little 2PROAPT and give it twenty minutes a day, do it for three weeks in a row and then you email me and say, “It was the worst thing you have ever had me do! I wasted twenty minutes for seven days, let’s see, that’s one hundred and forty minutes multiplied by three, man, I am so ticked off at you.”
Or you take the three week challenge and you apply God’s Word and give it twenty minutes and then you email me and tell me what God did. Because I am telling you, God wants to speak to you. He wants to help you. He wants to encourage you. He wants you to be a doer, not merely a hearer of His Word.
Now, the final thing here is he is going to give you a little application. He is going to give you and he is going to give me a test.
Because you might be saying to yourself, Yes, I would like to know. I get it. Deception is powerful. I heard that. Deception is dangerous. I heard that. If I am deceived in my relationship with God, it could be deadly. Actually, there could be people here who think they are believers who really aren’t. That would be scary.
And you said there are two steps, Chip. You said the first step is I have got to receive God’s Word objectively. I’ve got to peel away the sin in my life and deal with it, and I have to have a humble heart and receive it.
And then step two you said if I really want to not be deceived, you told me that I have to respond to it practically. Every time I read it, I have to do something. And then that’s the command and then you gave me this picture about the mirror and that was pretty clear.
Now here is the application. He is going to give you three tests, he is going to give me three tests so you can know at what level you’re deceived and I can know at what level I am deceived.
And so he says, “if,” and it’s in the first-class condition, which means: assumed to be true. “If,” or, “since” – “If anyone considers himself to be religious.” A very interesting word. The word religious here means: who practices external worship. He is really on to, “If anyone is involved in,” Yes, I go to church. See, what has happened in America, people think being a Christian is going to church regularly and trying to be a nice guy.
And so they think, Well, am I a Christian? Well, I go to church. I’m trying to be a nice person. I’m trying to keep my nose kind of clean. Compared to everybody else, I’m doing pretty good. That is not a Christian.
A Christian is a person who has had a supernatural, born again experience who is a follower of Christ, whose life revolves around the person of Christ, who believes and follows the commands of Christ, and is radically about transforming this world.
But he says, “If anyone thinks he is religious or has this right worship and yet doesn’t keep a tight rein on his tongue, he” are you ready, it’s a different word, “he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
This word for deceived means: to be led astray, fooled, seduced, and it has overtones of to enjoy oneself, to have pleasure, and associated with having fun with sin.
He says, “If you think you’re religious but out of your mouth comes gossip, out of your mouth is sarcasm, out of your mouth come swear words, out of your mouth comes put down to other people, out of your mouth comes things that break people down,” he said, “you know what? That external, little church service isn’t doing much for you. It’s not cutting it.”
The second test is not only the test of the mouth, but it’s the ministry test. Verse 27. “Religion,” same word, or this external worship, he goes, “worship that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
Notice how action oriented that is? Isn’t it amazing that we are going to send eighty people to Romania to help orphans? Isn’t it amazing that during Christmas around here that people’s hearts poured out, we sent, I forget, three hundred and fifty boxes to kids who were needy and hurting around the world? Isn’t it amazing that we have a prison ministry that helps people? And we do the Angel Tree because kids have their dad or their mom in prison.
See, as a church, we have got to be committed to people who can’t give back. Otherwise, we are just a little social club. See, the ministry test is, widows and orphans, when you love them and the tense of this verb means you visit them regularly, and connotes not just you, your time, but you give money. It means you really care. They can’t pay you back.
See, the test of real worship is, first, you get a handle on your tongue. And, second, you start loving other people with no expectation of return. That means God is in it.
Third is the moral test. “…and keeps oneself from being polluted by the world.” He says, “You want to know if you’re deceived? How do you know?” The test of the “Three Ms.” What is coming out of your mouth? What kind of ministry? Do you realize the great majority of believers, the great majority of evangelical believers in America, and then can I be really candid, and in this church have no ministry. They are not involved in ministry. They think fairies and genies come up and show up and set up the chairs and that invisible people work on songs and somebody somewhere just must love all of our kids and direct the traffic in.
There are about twenty percent, twenty-five percent of the people in this church, maybe a little bit more, who are really involved in ministry. And the great majority of us are what America calls “consumers.”
And we actually don’t come thinking of ourselves, often, as a body. I am trying to be really loving, but I am trying to be really honest. But we tend to think of ourselves as consumers.
And so comments when you walk out are things like, “Well, Chip was pretty good tonight. What did you think?” “Ah, pretty good. About an eight point five. He’s done better. What did you think of the music?” “Well, I kind of like it when they do this instead of that. A little more hymns or a little light on the choruses. Or, I like the guitar better.” “Oh, great. What are we doing?” “Oh, let’s stop for coffee.” “Great. We’re done. We’re done.”
I come, I see, I sit, I sing, I go, I am a Christian.
And God says, That’s why America is going to hell in a hand basket. Because seventy-one point six million people, you know what? They’re not bad people. They are deceived people. They are deceived. They are deceived.
Maybe some of us are deceived. It’s counterfeit Christianity. It’s not about being a consumer, it’s about being a worshipper. It’s about being a follower. And lest you think I’m going to end on a negative note, will you look at the, “But when you do it,” look back at verse 25, “but when you look intently in the perfect law,” that’s God’s Word, look what happens, “it gives you freedom! You’re not a slave to sin. And the person who continues to do this, acts on God’s Word, he doesn’t forget what he has heard, but doing it, he will” – put a big circle around this, will you? “be blessed in what he does.”
God’s heart is never to push people around, never condemnation. God’s heart is He wants to bless you. I don’t know where your marriage is at, I don’t know where your singleness is at, I don’t know where your parenting is at, I don’t know where your emotional tank is at, I don’t know where your relationships are at, but I’ll tell you what, they’re not as good as God wants them to be. He wants to bless you. He wants to bless you, He wants to love you, He wants to encourage you.